wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Rabbits Like Bananas, and Other Who Knew? Moments

Queen, the lop-eared rabbit with the patchy springtime fur, was a little surprised when Rita offered her, instead of the daily pile of dandelions, a very overripe banana. It was a “let’s see if the rabbit will eat this” experiment. She delighted us by chowing down the peelings, leaving the fruit until last. Queen is lonely. She eats dandelions endlessly, just for the pleasure of company outside the cage. We plan to find her a boyfriend so she can belong to a family.

Last week I bleached all my baby broccoli plants in a sincere attempt at protecting them from the elements. Folks, it got cold as anything so I lovingly set buckets and quart jars over all the plants. Apparently the sun was bright enough to heat it up to cooking temps inside the jars and that was the end of the windowsill starters.  I went to the green house this morning and at first I thought my old-order Mennonite greenhouse lady was sold out of broccoli. All I could find was purple cabbages and cauliflower. Score on purple cabbage. I love it.But not cooked. It looks sicky grayish then. Anyway, I stumbled upon some really little broccoli plants being coddled in a corner and brought them home with me because the lady sells out of broccoli every year, and I think to myself, “Why wouldn’t you learn that you need twice as much?” Of course, I don’t say it, because she has been greenhousing for 25 years and if she wants to run out of plants, that is her business. This morning she was telling me her new scheme of lining her planters with Depends under the soil to keep them from drying out. It’s brilliant, wouldn’t you say?

Addy in bike helmet

Our baby learned to ride her bike solo tonight. As you can see, she felt mighty pleased with the accomplishment. Someone dug an old helmet out of a muddy spot and she wore it with pride. If you would like to see a short video of her efforts, with an amused mother giggling in the background, click here.  After her first successful wobble across the lawn, she rushed to her sister with a mighty hug and said, “Tell all my friends I can ride a bike, will you? Tell Anicia and Kiersten and Gretchen and Jenna and Allison.” I might mention that the child will definitely be needing a proper helmet. She is as accident prone as anyone I have ever seen, sporting bandaids and bruises year round.

Today is my dad’s birthday. Every day we have discussions about how soon Rita will be 7 and what about Addy turning 5 and what shall we give Doddy for his birthday. After a small tiff this afternoon, Rita said, “I know what. Let’s give Addy to Doddy for his birthday and then we can babysit her when he goes to Florida.” Addy thought that would be fun. She was seeing an endless vista of marshmallow peeps and Tom and Jerry episodes. But Rita changed her mind, “That would be giving away the present God gave us and that wouldn’t be right.” I thought that put it rather well.

This forenoon I was working on assignments for the last 10 days of school. After lunch I took a break, looked around at my house and realized in a sudden fit of depression that every single room feels grubby and tired from much occupation over winter. I was standing in the kitchen, looking up at the ceiling, wishing for Mary Poppins someone to just tell me where to start when I saw the cobwebs above the curtains. So there I was, and there was the thing to do, and I just did it. After I scrubbed down the walls and shined the windows, I looked around and felt real good. One room down, five to go. I wonder if I can pull it off- get my house shined up before we finish school so that I can do my annual Week of Loafing without any guilt. I aim to try!

How about you? Have you made any interesting discoveries lately?

8 Comments »

How to Clean Your House in One Hour

cats cleaning, color(source)

The house was a wreck. I am hardened to mess, but this? It was what my mom would have called a Royal Mess. The sun was shining outside and I knew I needed to harness the man-power before it disappeared out the door. My strategy was a simple cleaning blitz, which is what we do when somebody calls and says they would like to stop by in a little while. It’s all hands on deck swooshing away toys and marching shoes to closets. It’s fast and looks great, though not totally thorough, if you know what I mean.

We had six rooms on the main floor to contend with and six people to be contenders. I divided us into three teams. Alex got the little sister who adores him unequivocally. I got the little girl who tends to sit and sigh despairingly at the sheer scope of what she is being asked to do. The two middles got each other and a kitchen with a lot of problems.

“Okay, guys, we have one hour before the sanitation officer comes! Let’s be done by then.” Dividing the huge chunk of picking up and putting away is the best motivation I know for staving off disheartenment. Even so my helper kept languishing and had to be encouraged with itty bitty jobs, one at a time. The middles very diplomatically divided the kitchen work and churned through it in record time. Alex’s team was done first, sitting on the couch with books long before the rest of us were ready for inspection.

Each person then got to inspect one room and the persons responsible for any problem spots had to accept the critique without fuss and fix the issue. I liked this way, because I always end up being the impossibly picky sanitation officer and now they got a chance to do it. They were quite detailed in their inspections. Even one of my rooms didn’t pass.

Lest you think it was all peaches and cream, I should mention the child weeping because her teammate made the bed with wrinkles and he walked off in disgust because she wouldn’t tell him what was wrong. The team that was done first had toys stashed in corners and coloring pages behind the couch. And some of the things went into drawers and cupboards where they definitely do not belong. Also, you shouldn’t go down to the basement. But that is one way to do it-clean your house in one hour.

 

2 Comments »

Capitulate: Yield, Concede Defeat

Yesterday  I described myself as a sort of free-range parent, by which I mean that my children have the freedom to explore and make stuff and figure out how things work after school is done. But yesterday the boys and I ranged right down to their room with a carpet shampooer after school was done. On the surface things were dusty and disorganized, but not too bad. We hauled all the small bits out, dusting and washing walls as we progressed in the emptying out.

Alex was in a great mood for cleaning, “Mama, do you think I should just pitch this?” My answer was always, “Yes! YES!” Over the years we have had many “discussions” about his treasures. As a two year old he always found a stick or a rock he wanted to keep in the time it took to get from the vehicle to the door.  The treasures changed with age, but there were just too many of them. It felt like a breakthrough in our mother/son relationship yesterday as we chucked out the broken wooden guns, the ancient hummingbird nest, the empty shell casings, the used albuterol inhalers. When I saw those inhalers, about 10 of them, I knew we have a throwback. My grandpa kept empty insulin bottles for decades. We filled a trash bag and put some outgrown things on a Goodwill stack. This is a breathless achievement for a packrat  saving person. The happiest moment for Gregory was finding 9 long lost dollars that he had hidden in a hard cover book and completely forgotten.

After the carpets were cleaned, it was time to reassemble. I had an idea of how I wanted the room to look and they had ideas of how they wanted the room to look, and ne’er the twain did meet. Have you ever seen those Ikea clips, where they do room makeovers and everything just looks so amazing? That was what I would have liked. They wanted a lot of floor space to dump the Knex and wrestle and sprawl.

A memory from childhood surfaced, of how my mom would coach us in getting our space sparkling clean, then leave us to put it back together with never a word about how we had to do it. It was such a thrill to rearrange furniture and we could figure out on our own if having a bed sticking out by the door was impractical. I decided to defer to the boys yesterday, but I wasn’t very gracious about it because I kept making suggestions. I can tell you though, their room now has flavor, with dressers and shelves marching around the walls and the bed stuck tightly into a corner like an afterthought. Every flat surface is adorned with Lego creations and dinosaurs and there is this enormous crane that towers on a nightstand.

But it is clean. All of it. I win.

2 Comments »

Tyranny of the Urgent

So August is over and I have to admit to being a little relieved. August yells too much.

Everything yells. Back to School! Get on board! Buy your supplies! Come on, get excited! And yet.

The garden yells. I am ready! Eat me before I rot! Pick me! Pickle me! Can me! I am going to fall off and waste away if you don’t!

My flowers yell. Water! Then they subside into wilting gasps. Water please. Please. Please…. And even with loving ministrations that only forget them once in a while, they fade away.

My house yells. I have dirt everywhere! There’s fly poop on the windows! There are spider webs in the curtains! There is fur on the fans!

There are picnics and family reunions and a frenzy of things to do. Now! While the weather is nice!

The insects even yell. Have you heard them? Its like they have to get in all their decibels really quickly before the Long Cold.

My children yell in sheer barefoot delight, and that is the only yelling I don’t find wearing. As long as it is outside.

It’s just too much yelling. I find it hard to stay serene with so much racket. My diary reads like a sprint through August. I am not sure whose fault it is, but it’s time to slow down a little before I have heat stroke. How about you?

My friend has a wedding anniversary in August. They have been married 25 years, I think she said, and hardly ever can they manage to celebrate until later when life slows down, and how her mother consented to an August wedding, she has no idea.

Still. There was a day when I was doing bushels of tomatoes and it felt so surreal because I knew my sister-in-law was at her mom’s bedside in the hospital, watching her suffer in acute pain while she waited for a diagnoses. Cancer.

Sometimes something yells so loudly that all the rest seems relatively quiet.

I do have some defenses when life gets so urgent. I fix my coffee exactly how I like it, and if I am fortunate if I got up early enough, I get to drink the whole cup in quietness while I shore up my soul for the day. Some days I have to reheat a couple times, and it is still in the cup at lunchtime. I just try not to think about it.

I go on walks by myself whenever I can. Even a half hour is rejuvenating. Sometimes it is the only time in a day that I can think an entire thought to myself and I spend the first 15 minutes just trying to get used to the sensation.

I stop what I am doing every day after lunch and read my little people a story. I need it as much as they do. Sometimes I even fall asleep. One day I woke up at 4 o’clock and felt oddly gratified that nothing yelled that entire time. That was the day Gabe took the boys along to Ag Progress.

We are not supposed to let the urgent dominate and squish out the really important things. I struggle with that. We had a speaker at church recently who talked about about redeeming the time. It comes down to priorities and soul care, first of all. Everything else flows or gets stopped up there. He suggested that the best question is: What does God want me to do right now?

It might not be the house or the tomatoes. What is going to keep my head above water, cleaning the ceiling fan or taking a breather to quiet my heart? Being a self-confessed Martha, I know what yells loudest, and I know what He wants me to do right now, too.

Here’s to a Serene September!

3 Comments »

Not Your Average Weekend

So we have been out of water for a few days. Our hick-town water company is working hard to find the problem, but meanwhile we walk to the faucets multiple times a day and turn them on. Nothing. Last night a company volunteer called and explained that there was no water coming out of the spring; they had been digging all day to try to find the problem; the earth may have shifted in the freezing weather and redirected the water. It wasn’t especially reassuring, but we still had drinking water because as soon as we noticed it starting to trickle, we swiftly filled dishpans and pitchers. Happily Addy had just gotten out of the tub and didn’t remember to drain it, so we could dip out of that for flushing the toilet.

Still. This morning Gabe had to go to work with just a spit bath. I didn’t begrudge him the half gallon of water he used, but there was no way I could get five children presentable for church with the remaining half gallon.

I told the little guys to eat cereal while I gathered up their good clothes and shoes to go over to my parents’ house for baths before church. Olivia objects to cereal. She wanted to fry an egg for herself but I said, “No extra dishes. We can’t wash them.” So she ended up going to church with only a banana to sustain her.

After the service, we came home, checked the spigots. Nothing again. We couldn’t wash hands or dishes or laundry. I had enough. Okay, kids, let’s gather up our stuff and go over to Doddy’s house again. Gregory collected all the dirty laundry. Addy whined about being hungry, so I gave her an apple while I assembled food for our lunch. I knew there was little in my mom’s fridge because they have been away for awhile. Olivia whined about being hungry. Eat an apple. But I don’t like apples. Well then you just have to be hungry until the lunch is served. She settled for another banana.

Meanwhile Alex was unloading all the ski gear out of the back of the Suburban: poles, Gabe’s patrol pack, helmets, boots. Everything got piled inside the basement door so that we would have room to take the puppy’s portable kennel and all our wash and food. A few of the children thought they would want to go skating, so in went the skates. It was snowing at the time and I thought I should probably throw in their gloves. I gathered up a basketful of muddy snow clothes, discovered that Addy was coatless and barefooted in her car seat, grabbed my purse and the laptop and the puppy food.

Deep breath. Are we all in the car? Yes. But someone was weeping. Another person was refusing to buckle and Gregory was repeatedly admonishing her that she would fly out and die if we crashed. Someone was upset because another person whacked his nose. The puppy was extremely nervous.

Another deep breath. “Children, we are going to reset here. Nobody may say anything while we are driving unless it is pleasant.”

There was blessed quietness for a few minutes until Addy piped up, “Mama? Something seems to be bothering me.”

I said, “Really, and what is that?”

“I think that I need a horse. I just really need a horse. To ride.”

Sometimes you have to just seize the moment and have a good belly laugh. The day got much better, especially once the hangry  (hungry-angry) people were fed.

I did laundry all afternoon with my mom’s old-fashioned washer that agitates like no tomorrow. I want one like that again. Eight loads in a high-efficiency set up would take all day.

The water company says they hope to have things flowing after midnight tonight. Apparently there was a tree root interfering with the pipe that comes from the spring. It seemed a little vague, but I am truly grateful that the spring was just diverted, not dried up.

And I get to start my Monday with the laundry all done. It should be an interesting sensation. Not only that, Gabe has off! We are going to have Saturday on Monday! Have a great week, everybody.

7 Comments »

How to Clean up Spilled Milk in Twenty-two Steps

A Public Service Bulletin

When we accidentally spilled nearly an entire gallon of milk in the Suburban earlier this summer, I needed just one website or one person who could say with authority, “Do this. This works.” My frantic google searches produced only suggestions of a tentative nature, “Try this. If that doesn’t work, try this. Or you could sprinkle this on it…” It was as if people only hypothetically spill milk and never have more than theories for cleaning it.

The milk had run from behind and under the driver’s seat along the the edge of the door all the way to the gas pedal. It was… epic… Somehow, by the grace of God and a whole lot of work, I blundered on a process that really did work. Not a trace of sour milk smell wafted around our vehicle even on the hot days, and you can believe that we did a lot of suspicious sniffing.

  1. Whimper pathetically, “Oh. No. No, no, no, nooooo.”
  2. Panic and pour about a half gallon of vinegar on the spill site.
  3. Blot, blot, blot, blot, blot with towels.
  4. Scratch towels. Get ShopVac and start sucking up the milk.
  5. Look at amount of liquid in ShopVac and cry a little when you see that you may have 2 cups out of a gallon.
  6. Pull off all plastic molding pieces around spill site so you can vacuum the padding under the carpet and the floor under the padding.
  7. Notice that the vinegar has turned the milk into cottage cheesy blobs, effectively stopping it in it’s runny tracks. 
  8. Get a bucket of water and a rag and start cleaning up the cottage cheese, one blob at a time. 
  9. Pour a bottle of Peroxide on the spill.
  10. Take a break to clean up the kids for a supper invitation.
  11. Garner lots of sympathy from other people, as well as cautionary tales of carpets replaced, even vehicles replaced due to sour milk stench.
  12. Go home at bedtime, tuck the kids in bed and get out the ShopVac again.
  13. Vacuum that padding until it is frayed.
  14. Sprinkle a box of baking soda on top of the carpet and on both sides of the padding.
  15. Stuff plastic bottles under the carpet to lift it up and allow airflow. 
  16. Pray about the areas under the seat and up the console that couldn’t be reached effectively.
  17. Go to bed and forget your troubles.
  18. Have your dad pick up an oxy-based carpet cleaner at the auto store the next day. Spray it on liberally and scrub it in.
  19. Call it good enough: please, please, please, Lord, don’t let this car stink.
  20. Wait to remove the plastic bottle air spacers until the carpet is dry.
  21. Replace the plastic molding pieces around the door frames.
  22. Buy air fresheners and be astonished that you don’t even need them.

After doing a bit of research, I found that by using enzyme cleaners I neutralized the lactobacilli that would have caused the sour smell. It cost us about 10 dollars, vinegar, peroxide and baking soda included, versus a hundred dollars for detailing. I actually think the oxy carpet cleaner wasn’t necessary, but better safe than sorry. 

May this never happen to you, but if it does, here is hope in 22 steps!

baking-soda-and-vinegar   Unknown

(Remember, these are your friends. Keep them on hand and you are home free! Almost.)

3 Comments »