little critters, a clear porch and zip ties.

The Saturday before last, we learned we had critters invading our back porch. Little critters. And not cute critters like squirrels or chipmunks or hamsters. Bigger than hamsters. We had foolishly left birdseed on the porch in their original bags. First, we vacuumed up LOTS of sunflower seed shells. Then, after blocking up all the possible entrances to the porch and laying out a few appetizing cubes of poison, we discovered that critters were not INVADING our porch. They were LIVING IN IT.

So, Sunday afternoon was spent COMPLETELY purging the porch of critters and their warm cozy home – which happened to be underneath an old portable hot tub. The hot tub was buried under a mountain of junk and clutter. These photos are from August of last year, so add about 2 feet to the height of the junk and clutter:

porch before1

porch before2

Amazingly, after a only a few hours of digging through the pile, it was clear. I went inside like a total girl, and watched as FirstHusband tipped the hot tub on its side. The critters immediately ran out and scurried around the porch before finding the open door. FirstHusband and FavoriteSon rolled the hot tub out right behind them and it sat in the back yard for a week.

The NEXT Sunday afternoon, FirstHusband hauled the hot tub to the dump. My porch is so CLEAR!

porch after1

porch after2

Now I need to clean and organize the shelving unit behind the teak screen – but the screen has been pushed back more than 4 FEET! I was finally able to move my chair under the ceiling fan! It has been very peaceful sitting out there this last week.

The evacuated little critters have been munching on poison cubes every night for the past week. We’re pretty sure they ran into a shed on the side of the house, so unless they politely go off somewhere in the forest to die, finding their remains in the shed should be fairly easy. FirstHusband bought some stackable bins for the bird seed, so hopefully, the temptation to invade our porch is gone.

2. Speaking of birdseed. FirstHusband is still working on his raccoon learning curve. He has once again modified bird feeders with zip ties in an effort to thwart the raccoons and squirrels. I’ll let this photo serve as his notice that we’re down to three zip ties on this bird feeder.

bird feeder zip

And we did buy a new bird feeder for thistle. The label said “Squirrel Proof.” Shhhhh. I think I just heard a bunch of squirrels laughing. Yes. I’m sure of it.

We did figure out a way of preventing the raccoons from dragging the suet feeders up into the tree. We hung a big ol’ wooden birdhouse to the bottom of the suet feeders. Raccoons may be smart, and they may be persistent and they may have some chewing capacity – but they cannot lift this bird house unless they join paws and pull together.

bird feeder house weight

Short of taking down all the bird feeders – which I REALLY enjoy having, due to all the BIRDS they attract, we’re not going to get rid of the other visitors to our yard. We back up to a small pond and beyond an embankment, a RIVER. There is a forest behind our house. At night, we get deer, raccoons – and last night, for the first time, we saw a possum. Unless we leave cheap feed out on the ground – AWAY from the house and easier to get to than the bird feeders – these visitors vandalize the bird feeders. If they don’t find any food out in the yard, the deer will come right up to my porch and eat my rosebushes down to stumps. Very rude.

So, we usually buy a 50 pound bag of cracked corn for $6.75 and leave the corn in bowls under the tree – again – AWAY from the house. We’ve learned that when we are diligent about that, the bird feeders stay intact, the more expensive seed remains in the feeders for the birds and I have roses in vases in my kitchen window (for the cats to eat, of course).

To find out what others learned this week, check out What I Learned this Week hosted by Musings of a Housewife.

academically challenging and domestically unproductive.

That would be our weekend.

I came out of it understanding how and why some parents do their children’s homework FOR them. It would have been so. much. easier.

These children are SO ready for summer. Homework is actually painful. For all of us. In addition to regular homework, this weekend FavoriteSon was working on an outline for a research paper on McCarthyism and PinkGirl was working on a “shoebox book report” on killer whales.

In the end, PinkGirl typed EVERY word of her own book report – WITH her fingers on the “home” keys, thank you very much. (use your left middle finger for the “c” key, use your left middle finger for the “e” key. – repeat.) She also cut all her own (ocean looking and seaweed looking scrapbook) paper, stuck all her own double sided stickers on all her cut paper, stuck her own paper to her shoebox and decorated the box all by herself. I say this because the finished project looked too good for a second grader. But I SWEAR all I did was cut out waves from the lines SHE drew with a wave stencil and put glue on a few pieces of paper for her. She did all the sticking. She’s the crafty one in the family. Regular readers know that crafting makes me break out in hives.

After a weekend that included a Friday night high school district track meet (he’s in middle school) where he placed 6th in the 400 meter dash, (got home after 11:30 p.m), a Saturday morning basketball game, math homework, science homework and yearbook homework (puh leezz), I cut FavoriteSon a break on the research paper outline and typed for him, with him sitting next to me, dictating every word. When he got stuck, FirstHusband or I would ask him a leading question and he would be jump started again. Turns out, the kid knows a heck of a lot more about Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism than I do, he just had trouble organizing all his information.

Domestically? The weekend was largely unproductive. By Sunday evening, our house was trashed. Only patches of carpet visible in places. The contents of both kid’s backpacks strewn from one room to another. The kitchen counter 4 inches thick, the kitchen table covered with craft paraphernalia, library books all over the living room floor, the dryer full of dry clothes, the washer full of wet clothes, the sink full of dirty dishes . . .

FirstHusband and I left it all and fell into bed, exhausted. I got up this morning and, after going to take care of a friend’s cats while she’s out of town, spent more than 2 hours “finding” my house. The kitchen counter is clear, the floors are clear, the washer AND dryer are empty, the sink is empty, the dishwasher is full and running. ahhh. I HATE it when my week starts “in the red” like that. I was finished by 10:45 a.m., just in time for a little coffee/Bible study/prayer journal time before my trainer arrived at 11:30. Then I walked two miles, sauna, shower, lunch and after school pickup.

After school today was intentionally orchestrated. First thing in the door, everyone got a snack and the kids unloaded the dishwasher. Then exactly 15 minutes to do anything they wanted, 15 minutes of homework at the (clear) kitchen table. We rotated that 4 times and all homework was done except for FavoriteSon’s rough draft (due Wednesday). We ate dinner together at the table, all four of us folded the dry laundry together, and we sat back down at the kitchen table, PinkGirl, to show her dad her math, FavoriteSon to work on his rough draft, me to read a book while keeping FavoriteSon on task. Both kids went to bed on time.

I’m ready for summer too.

men: avoid the doghouse

Now, in all fairness, I have to admit that I bought FirstHusband a tape backup drive one year for Valentine’s Day. And he bought me printer memory one year. But we were newly married. And broke. And we couldn’t print anything but text.

But the ONLY vacuum cleaner allowed as a gift? The iRobot Roomba Vacuuming Robot. A few years ago, I got a iRobot Scooba Floor-Washing Robot for Mother’s Day.

I LOVE it. Again. LOVE it.

This video is really great – completely worth the 4 minutes, 45 seconds to watch it! I love subtle, smart humor. The folding, the recorded message in the background, the lunch menu.

Need a few more chuckles today? Check out Friday Funnies hosted by Homesteaders Heart!

kids today . . .

You’ve heard it. Older people (older than ME, of course), talking about how undisciplined kids are today.

umm hmm.

In case you don’t feel like zooming in on the first photo, the 1953 library book plate reads:






And THIS is why it takes me so long to purge excess stuff from my house. I get a little distracted.

Years ago, I bought old books for decorating purposes. I didn’t really care about the title or author, I just wanted vintage books on the shelf. I’m over it. I’m purging. I kept the titles and authors which interest me, but this is one that didn’t. Well, it doesn’t NOW. I’m finished looking at it, so I’ll pass it on to someone else now. Along with all this stuff:


Except the cat. I’m keeping the cat.

from pink to pinkalicous

FavoriteSon was camping with friends last weekend, so it was just me, PinkGirl and her dad. What to do? What to do?

We ended up in PinkGirl’s room. We were pretty sure it was her room. It was pink. After three play dates, one followed by a sleepover – each with a different pair of sisters, this is what it looked like on Sunday afternoon.

Now, I know these 6 other girls don’t have a clue what the Underwear Principle is, but PinkGirl totally gets the concept. And the organization of her room was NOT working for her. The two air mattresses aside, her toys, books, and costumes weren’t stored well. We could have just helped her clean everything up and put everything away, but the fact is, it would have turned out this way again. (I know this from experience.) Let me explain:

Let’s start with books. PinkGirl is her mother’s daughter. She loves books. If you see the pile of books over to the right side of the photo, you can see some cubbies at the head of her bed. (Click the photo to see a larger image.) They went all the way up to the ceiling. The lower cubbies faced outward, the upper cubbies were reversed to provide easy access when she was in bed. Not working for two reasons. See that pink box sticking out of the lower cubbie? We tried to store books in those bins, inside the cubbies. She would take books out (that would be plural) to get to the one she wanted and NEVER put them back. Also, she would bring books (that would be plural) from the lower cubbies into bed with her and NEVER put them back. Not working. She needed access to her books from her favorite place to read. Her bed. She also needed to be able to pull the exact book she wanted without sifting through lots of others. So. Book storage in Pinkgirl’s Room? Not working.

Next, the toys. Little toys. Kid meal size toys. Lots of them. Everywhere. FavoriteSon had a box for each. Tarzan toys? In the box with a picture of Tarzan on it. Toy Story toys? In a box with Buzz and Woody on it. Bugs Life toys? You get the idea. FavoriteSon liked everything separated because he played in a very structured world. PinkGirl, on the other hand, can have Buzz Lightyear marrying Cinderella with Tarzan as the best man, fighting off Zurg while the entire cast of every Disney movie ever made attends the wedding. So. PinkGirl does not store her toys by “like kind.” She likes to dump a box, pick today’s cast of characters, shove everyone else out of the way and play. When she’s done, she like to dump everyone a box. Any box. It doesn’t matter. (Kinda freaks FavoriteSon out a little, but he’ll be okay.)

In addition, PinkGirl has an elevated bed and she LOVES to hang her comforter over the side and make a tent to play in. Santa brought her a Barbie Hotel last Christmas (she calls it “The Tipton) and she has it tucked under there. (It’s pretty cool, I saw one just like it a few years ago at a garage sale for $25.00. That would have been a great deal! 🙂 ) Anyway, she needs a place for Barbie storage too.

So. We bought 4 more cubbie units. One 3 x 3 unit and three 2 x 4 units. Each unit was $39.99 at Target. Each cubbie is 1 square foot. In all, we added 33 cubic feet of additional storage space to PinkGirl’s room. FirstHusband is a MASTER at putting these babies together these days, but this time he had some help.

AMAZING difference. We lined the wall with them, floor to ceiling. Somehow the height of the bed was just perfect. It didn’t block ANY cubbies completely. Check it out four days later. Still straight. (hey. four days is major in this house.)

PinkGirl’s entire library is right within reach when she is in bed. She’s got all her books completely organized. Chapter books together, one cubby for paperback storybooks and another for hardback, one cubby for large Christian books and another for small. Dr. Seuss has his own cubby, Disney has two and “learning” books are all grouped together. She put nearly every one of the books on her new shelves all by herself.

Under the bed, she’s got all her toys in bins, Barbies in the top cubbies, everything within easy reach. And again – SHE put everything in the cubbie bins.

Just a note here, the white, plastic bins were from Walmart. At a $1.83, they are a great option for these cubbies. Target does sell canvas boxes in different colors but I HATE them. They are thin and cheap and they don’t hold their shape. I got the dark pink canvas bins (shown below) at Big Lots for less than half the price -and they are heavy, strong and hold their shape. They don’t go all the way up to the top of the cubbie, but we like that because we can see inside without pulling them out. I would have gotten more instead of using the white plastic bins, but Big Lots didn’t have the colors we wanted right now. Maybe later. For now, all but one these bins (in the photo below) are EMPTY!!! So we have the flexibility to rearrange some things as we figure out what works and doesn’t work about our latest organization of PinkGirl’s stuff. Most of the stuff in the photo below is for playing school and for creating art (With everything except paint. No painting in the bedroom.)

We also have some completely empty cubbies at the head of the bed. (she was eating a snack at her table – we don’t usually store ketchup in her room)

So. In less than a day, for less than $200, this room went from a pink explosion to pinkalicious. So far. So good.

We even manage to box up over 50 books, lots of toys, outgrown costumes and an old, giant Fisher Price doll house for charity donation. I’ve already entered it into It’s Deductible! Now if I can just get it all moved from the hallway to my van. And then to the charity drop off. Baby steps. Baby steps.

freakish junk drawer

This is my freakish “junk drawer.” You know the drawer. At my house, it’s in the kitchen. It used to be a mess. The place you put something when you don’t know where it goes. So full of stuff it sometimes gets jammed because something is sticking up inside.

Today it looks like this: (click to see a larger and more detailed image.)

But the BEST part is that it has looked this good for YEARS. Seriously. YEARS. How? By applying the Underwear Principle and answering the question “Where Does it Go?”

The drawer went through more than a few changes before it finally ended up in this particular configuration. The key to its long term organization was to pay attention to what happened inside the drawer after I organized it the first time. One glance and I could tell what was and was not working for my family. What were they stuffing in there? Was it consistent enough to make a “home” for it in this drawer? For all the things currently stored in that drawer today, the answer was yes. For all the other stuff they were tossing in there? I found a “home” for it someplace else. (like receipts, cough drops, business cards, cell phone chargers . . . you name it. It all has to have a home or it will end up in the junk drawer. Or worse. On my kitchen counter.)

In case you can’t tell what’s in here, let me give you a little tour. In the top back left, we store extra tape and staples. Along the back, from left to right, we keep lip balm, rubber bands, safety pins and paper clips. Back to the left, in the white rectangular bin we keep tools (screwdrivers, a little hammer, usually an emery board and often a Tide pen). Next, in the tan rectangular bin we keep highlighters and a staple remover. In the large black drawer organizer, we have pencils and markers (I love my Sharpies). Below that are pens and mechanical pencils, separated by a small plastic bin holding pencil lead. Below that, in the bottom left corner, it’s pretty easy to see what’s there: Tape dispenser, stapler, sorted change and calculator. Then over to the right, we have colored ink pens, a stamp dispenser and extra stamps, and in the front, we have scissors and hole punch. You can probably see the rulers we tuck along the right side of the drawer.

Notice that everything is in containers and none of the containers are round. I hate round containers. They waste space.

I know.

I’m a freak.

But it Works For Me. Thanks Shannon, for hosting Works for Me Wednesdays!

5 minute sink

I used to be all cranky about doing housework, until I started doing two things:

1. Timing myself. (I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many tasks took less than five minutes.)


2. Practicing a concept I’ve used with my kids for yearsbreaking big jobs into smaller jobs.

For instance, instead of “cleaning the kitchen,” just clean the countertops, or the stovetop or . . . just load the dishwasher. (click on a photo to see a larger image and check out the little red clock)

5 minute sink before5 minute sink after5 minute sink after2

Since I’m not only freakishly organized, but freakishly competitive with myself, I can get so much more done – so much faster! microactions, gotta love ’em

Check out more great ideas at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Tammy’s Recipes!