Friday, September 28, 2012

What a Life (Class)

One of the most memorable classes I ever taught at a homeschool co-op was a life management class for high school students. It was named “Life”, appropriately.  It was a research and hands on class with most of the work done at home during the week.  We had about 18-20 students. To be honest, I cannot remember how many without going back and looking at the class sign-up sheet.  This was seven or eight years ago.  My memory of last week is fuzzy, so several years ago is all a blur.

Each student was asked to select a career before the co-op session began.  As the careers were chosen, my co-teacher (Deb) and I began creating assignments based on their chosen profession.  Actually, they not only chose a career, but they each filled out a “Profile Sheet” simulating an age and life situation.  We gave them no limits or boundaries, simply asked them to choose an adult age, a career, a marital status and whether they had children.  Most simulated they were young adults.  About half had children. We didn't pair them up as married couples or make them carry babies around.  They were simply given scenarios based on their profiles.
Each week, they were given 4 days’ worth of assignments taken from about 10 categories.  The categories ranged from their careers to childcare responsibilities to insurance issues.  There was also a category pertaining to health issues and one on household management.

Here is an example of two assignments out of four given to our “Astronomer”:

q  Life Navigation:

It is time for your car to have a tune-up.  Research the cost of tune-ups from various mechanics versus you or someone in your family doing it.  What is involved in giving a car a tune-up?  Record this info and file it under Community Living

q  Career:  Community Interaction

Nicole, a writer and friend since childhood, is writing a children’s novel about a young girl whose hobby is stargazing.  In order to capture her character’s emotions, Nicole will have to do some stargazing for herself, but she doesn’t own a telescope.  She is willing to purchase one, but she doesn’t know where to start.  As an astronomer, you should be able to make some recommendations.  Make a list of several types of telescopes and their costs. What type of telescope would you tell her to purchase and why? 

And two assignments for our “Writer":

q  Time Organization:
Think about what a typical day in the life of a writer and mom would be like.  Make a schedule to describe your day.  Begin with what time you wake up and end with bedtime. Include time to write and a play date for your daughter. This can be in the form of a day calendar or as a journal.  (Examples shown in class)
*Call Hayley for haircut appointment 392-7446.
q  Physical Health:
Since your daughter was born, you really have to watch your weight and health.  Your daughter keeps you very active and because you have to find time to work on your latest novel, you sometimes neglect to eat healthily.  You don’t seem to have much energy and you have become underweight.  It’s time to evaluate your diet. 
Keep a food journal for 2 days of all the food and drink you consume.  After the 2 days, look at your journal and think about what changes you need to make.  What healthy foods do you need to add?  What junk food should you eliminate?  Are you eating your meals on a regular time schedule, or do you sometimes skip meals?

 You will notice that we had a “Cosmetologist “also.  Part of her assignment that week was to receive phone calls and set up a schedule for haircuts. No, we didn't allow her to really cut hair.  But she did do a makeover!

Looking back, I cannot believe how much work Deb and I put into that class.  Not one of them shared the same occupation or family situation; each week all of the assignments were quite different.  The only thing they had in common were two out of the four weekly assignments.  Those usually covered a topic introduced in class. We introduced health insurance plan options and asked them to take the information home and choose a plan. Another week, we introduced lease agreements and had them bring leases home to study and decide if they would sign it. Thankfully, I realized that the work was worth saving.  It is all on disk, ready to be taught again by me or anyone who would like to use it.

If I ever taught the class again, or gave the lesson plans to anyone, the only thing I would change would be for the students to be given a simulation to choose from instead of choosing.  With 18-20 possibilities, there should be something for everyone.  That way, no new material will have to be written.  The assignments may have to be updated, but the bulk of the work is done. Maybe someday I will rewrite it all as a unit study.  For now, I will hold onto it and the memories.

Contact me if you want to know more. fourelevenrox at gmail (dot) com

As far as the students: our “writer” is now happily married and finishing college.  She is taking accounting courses.  Oh, and she has a beautiful baby daughter.

Our “cosmetologist” is a nurse.    

 Not sure what our astronomer is up to, but I will find out. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could track them all down and find out where they are in life. I think I’ll do that….

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BFF’s (Between Friends)

I have been blessed by the honor of having TWO “BFF”s. (Best Friends Forever)

With one of them, I tend to get a little carried away.  She is so much like me in that we both have a weird sense of humor and our thought patterns are …not typical. If we are not careful, we tend to float off into LaLa Land like two balloons escaping from a circus tent. Happy, free, and totally lost without supervision. Let’s call her Weirdo.

I need Weirdo in my life, but sometimes, I need to be tethered.  That’s where my other BFF comes in.  Actually, she doesn’t keep me tethered; she's more like an anchor.  And considering the fact that I get sea sick in the ocean (and I am deathly afraid of heights) I REALLY need an anchor.  Let’s call her Whipsaw. Now don’t be fooled, she’s an anchor- on a party boat.

Life without Weirdo or Whipsaw would be difficult, without both-impossible. I’ve been through an incredible amount of ups and downs, and these two women have been by my side for most of them. Weirdo for 15 years. Whipsaw for over 25. The Lord gave me a double blessing, they’ve been like “Jesus with skin on.” We love to laugh, but we also cry, pray, and talk, talk, talk. I haven’t seen either of them in over two years.  This weekend, I get to see them BOTH.  Watch out Wilmington, here we come!

This is the weekend for the Between Friends art journal meet-up.  Though there are 10 of us in the project, only 7 will actually be able to attend in person. We plan to skype or facetime or video as the journals are revealed so that all of us can share the special time.  I’ll be posting online albums soon to showcase each of the Between Friends Journals.

And I will be taking more recent photos of Weirdo and Whipsaw.

Hey Weirdo, Why is the only picture I have of us?

Me and Whipsaw, at the beach, of course.

Here's a picture of the REAL Whipsaw.  It is a charter boat, the best at Wrightsville Beach. Check them out here: Whipsaw Charters.

Whipsaw Charter Boat Wrightsville Beach, NC

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homeschool Co-op Class Ideas

Looking for class ideas to teach in a homeschool co-op?  Take a look into our past LIFE and see what we had to offer.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing the class schedules from previous co-op sessions along with some highlights of our most popular classes.  As I add to the list, I will keep the HOMESCHOOL CO-OP page updated for a quick reference guide.
Many Homeschool Co-ops organize classes by age groups.  For me, grade levels are much easier to keep track of, it’s just the way my mind works.  The other parents have been gracious in allowing this sort of organization, so as you view our lists of classes, keep in mind that the important thing is to keep children with like-minded age and skill levels together. 

Spring 2010 Classes

Kindergarten – 2nd Grades

Patricia Polacco Storytime and Activities
Young Science Explorers : Experiments and activities
P/E and Games
Book Making II: Creative Writing, drawing, bookmaking
Addition and Subtraction Facts: Lots of physical activity to help with memorization
American Sign Language:  K-5th

3rd-5th Grades

American Sign Language: K-5th
 24 Game Math 
P/E and Games
Human Body 
Exploring the States 
Intro to U.S. Military 3rd-high: Learned about each branch of service, training, drills, and special guests

Middle and High School Classes

Intro to U.S. Military 3rd-high: Learned about each branch of service, training, drills, and special guests
Fallacy Detective: Middle school students; Intro to Logic
Forensic Science: Middle school students; included visits from scientists and CSI
Music Appreciation
American Art History Survey: National Endowment for Humanities program
IZZIT!: Current events, discussions and activities using IZZIT videos (
Educational Games: spelling, math, vocab, and logic
The Art of Drama:  Exploring elements of drama 

It is hard to choose which classes from the above list where the most memorable, because they were all so good, but three favorites were so popular, they were requested to be scheduled again.

Math 24 Game:  I cannot say enough about this game, especially in a co-op class setting.  When my daughter took this class, she was the oldest student and her math skills were below average. She was very reluctant to take the class. By the end of the semester, she was on top of the game!  All of the students showed remarkable improvement and they had fun doing it. Find out more here: Math24 game

Another popular Class was Fallacy Detective.  Using the book, students learned how to recognize bad reasoning.  Great introduction to logic, we've taught this class more than once. Read more about it at their website: Fallacy Detective

What middle school student can resist a chance to play with hissing cockroaches, meet a bomb detection robot, and talk to real CSI agents? With lots of visitors from the community, experiments, and hands on activities, the Forensic Science class was loved by all.  

If you have any questions about lesson plans or activities for any of the above classes, leave a comment or email me at fourelevenrox at gmail dot com

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday 411 on Cleaning: Woulds and Would Nots on Wood Floors

 Time to clean the wood floors!

Beautiful floors covered in dust and grime

This post will be short, more like a list.  

Wood floors are pretty easy to take care of IF you don’t make some of the mistakes I’ve made or I have seen others make.  What’s the best thing to use to clean your wood floors? 


That was a short list, huh? OK, here's more if you want it.

What works:

Sweep, vacuum, or Swiffer.

Water and elbow grease with a terry cloth mop is the safest, easiest way to clean your floors. Also, the cheapest. Damp mop only, not soaking wet.  Remove cloth often and rinse or you will get streaks.

 If you have a lot of dog slobber or foot traffic, Pledge makes a good floor cleaner that doesn't leave a residue on wood or laminate. Get the BLUE BOTTLE. For some reason it doesn't streak but the yellow bottle often does.

Murphy's Oil Soap is pretty good, if you like to use a bucket.  I prefer squirt or spray and go.

The BEST thing I have ever used on wood floors is Bellawood Hardwood Floor Cleaner. No residue, beautiful shine.  Hard to find, you may have to special order it or buy wherever Bella wood floors are sold.

* A friend told me that Bona floor cleaner also does a fantastic job on wood floors.  I have used their tile and laminate cleaner before, and was impressed with how easily it dissolved dried dog slobber. (Yuck!)  I'll be checking out their wood cleaner soon......

What doesn’t work:

No, no Mop and Glo.

Orange Glo may glow but leaves a coating that has to be maintained by their products.  Using something else after you have used Orange Glo makes the floors look cloudy and leaves streaks.  At least, that has been my experience.  They do have the BEST mop for an even sweep. Many mops don’t allow you to apply force evenly and that leaves streaks or causes you to have to keep going over and over the same spots. Their mop heads are easy to put on, take off, and rinse. 

Endust on a dust mop makes them shine….but watch out or you’ll be on your butt often.

MAGIC ERASER does not work on wood floors.  Trust me.

Too much water will eventually make the boards warp. Warped boards are hard to mop.

DO NOT USE STEAM or hot water. Your floors will never be the same again.

I love wood floors.  Here are some photos of the floors I clean weekly. 

Logically, I should cover vacuums next, because I have a lot to say about vacuums.  But at this point I have more whining and complaining than pros and cons. So, I'll hold that info for later. Here's a hint for next week: See the doors in the photos above?  How do they stay clean?

By the way, my friend Paulette at My Urban Pastures makes her own wood floor cleaner.  I haven't tried it yet, because when cleaning for others, I use what they request.  In my own home, the floors are lighter than hers, so I stick to water.  But a picture is worth a thousand words and her floors are gorgeous!  Take a look.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Squirrel Wars Part II: Bed, Bath, and Beyond

If you have not read Part I of my squirrel wars diary, you may want to click here before reading today's post.

Part II: Bed, Bath, and Beyond

I didn’t really give up the fight over the rights to the planter. The squirrels may have think they won, but what really happened is I found a better place to spend my time. I found the smaller porch off of my bedroom to be a much better place to escape neighbors (and children).  That porch had railings on all three sides, so if my dog wanted to sit with me, she could do so without me having to keep an eye on her.  She loved to wander, and if you remember, much of the yard was not fenced.
I found a glider at a yard sale for ten bucks. It was full of mold and dust because it had been sitting under trees for who knows how long.  I carried it home, we pressure washed it, and it became my new throne.  I use the word throne here with the word my because I soon learned that mine wasn’t the only throne on the side porch.

My Throne

On each side of the glider, I placed matching green plastic chairs, like they ones you get at Walmart, the nicer ones with a fancy back. When we lived in the little house, our back porch was not covered, so when it rained, the chairs got wet.  I liked these chairs because there were tiny holes in the center of the seats, for drainage. They dried quickly, no puddles to accidently sit on.
I liked to keep the side porch swept and occasionally I mopped it.  Yes, I mopped the porch.  One day, on my way to the glider, I noticed a puddle in the seat of one of the chairs. Funny, I don’t remember it raining. Even if it had rained, the wind would have had to be blowing pretty hard to get water on the chairs, it was a fairly wide porch. Plus, because there was a puddle, it would have been a very recent rain. That day, the sky was clear. I didn’t think much more about it, but a little while later, as I was sitting there admiring my kingdom and clean throne room, I noticed somewhat of a stain on the wood beneath the chair.  I got up to inspect it further. Moved the chair, got a rag, wiped it….the stain was YELLOW.  Huh? What the heck IS this? I cleaned it up and forgot about it.  Until the puddle showed up another day.  And then another. And then I stopped cleaning it…because I REFUSED to clean up the TOILET OF A SQUIRREL! Ew! When I realized what it was I was totally grossed out.  I did hose it down at times, but wiping it down made me feel angry and creepy all at the same time.  Plus, I just knew they were in the trees laughing their stupid little heads off.  We simply avoided sitting in that chair. 2 points squirrels.  I am moving very quickly towards hate at this point, but not quite there.

Squirrel "Throne"

Somewhere in the time frame between like and hate, I became fascinated with a new discovery I had made.  It was totally unrelated to my war with the neighbors.  It was simply an observation I allowed to get the best of me.
Have you ever been driving down the road and had a squirrel jump out I in front of you and you just KNOW you are going to hit it, but when you look into your rearview mirror, not only do you not see a dead squirrel, but he seems to have vanished into midair?  I had always wondered about that.  It is like they have some sort of magic disappearing trick. One day, riding behind a car, I had the pleasure of seeing what happens and witnessing the “magic” for myself.  I watched a squirrel dart out, but then, just barely landing in front of the car, he JUMPED about 10 feet!  Who knew a squirrel could jump so far?! Actually, I have learned since then 8 feet is about the norm, but with a running start, I’ll bet they can reach ten.  So that’s how they do it. That’s why they seem to disappear.
As I drove along, I began to realize that IF someone actually hit a squirrel, it could be considered a real talent.  The timing would have to be perfect, I was sure it took special skill. What a challenge! What if I could actually hit one of them? I am a lousy aim at darts or baseball or anything sports related, but surely with a car I could hit a squirrel.  Especially now that I knew their clever little secret.
Now before you get all upset, please remember that I really didn’t hate squirrels at this point, and really, they rarely get hit.  They know how to navigate the streets, and I was lousy aim anyway.  So it isn’t as if I was chasing them down (yet).  I simply would have been proud of myself had I actually hit one.
Weeks and months rolled along, they with their comfy bed and pretty toilet, me with my eyes glued to the wheel and ready for action.  I never hit one.  I swerved and tried a couple of times, but they were too fast, jumped too far. 
Then, one day as I was driving down a back road at 55 miles an hour, I spotted one!  He was just standing there, in the middle of the road.  I saw him from quite a distance away, so I didn’t get very excited.  I knew he’d be gone by the time I got closer so there was no sense in wasting gas accelerating.  He was in the middle of my lane, on his hind legs, facing the opposite direction. As I got closer and closer, I began to realize that this was no ordinary squirrel.  No, this was a DUMB squirrel. He never moved, he never turned back to look, he just stood there looking off into the distance in the middle of my lane.  I knew what was going to happen.  But I couldn’t even get excited about it. Really? After all this time, you are just going to STAND THERE? HELLO…Aren’t you paying attention?
It was the biggest disappointment. There was no thrill of the chase, no victory won, just a dead, dumb squirrel on the road and me feeling somehow cheated out of a really good adventure. Still, 1 point for Rox.

Oh, the story continues.  They were still not satisfied with what they had gained, and I am convinced that the news got back to my squirrel neighbors: “Rox hit cousin Dumbo with her van. Pass it on…” because it was at this point the hatred began…..

Part III: Invasion and Allies
(stay tuned)

Friday, September 14, 2012

LIFE Begins

Ah! Friday mornings for the next ten weeks will be all about packing up and heading out… to class. Actually, it is more like three classes. Twice a year, fall and spring, we attend L.I.F.E. Co-op Classes.

Learning in Family Education (L.I.F.E.) Co-op Classes began 4 years ago in a park, under 3 picnic shelters, the result of about a dozen Moms who wanted a class setting to teach American Government.  While the high school students met under one shelter, the middle school students were covering an introduction to American Government. Their class included more hands-on activities.  The younger elementary grade students did arts and crafts, and the little ones played on the playground.  All of the mothers were assigned to a group.  They either taught or helped.  Humble beginnings, sweet memories.

Because it was so successful, I told the group about the large homeschool co-op I had been a part of for many years before moving to Florida.  Instead of one class, students were given a choice between two classes.  Instead of one class period, there were three.  It was a little overwhelming to think about doing that much, so we decided to try two periods.  Some groups call them “blocks”.  Basically, that means 2-one hour classes, for each age group.

I explained the process, four other mothers agreed to be co-leaders, we put the word out, and before you know it, LIFE was born.  We met in the spring of the same year and it was a great success. The following year, we moved to three class periods. We’ve had as many as 36 families, 100 students, and 22 classes all together in LIFE.

The types of classes offered at LIFE are usually enrichment classes.  They often include subjects or activities that are best suited for a group, rather than one to two students at home.  P/E is a good example, but we’ve also had drama classes.  There have been science and history unit studies, sign language, and even sewing classes.  The list is endless.  One of my favorites was Claymation. Middle school students created clay figures and an animated story to watch on video. They did a really good job.

A parent from each family (occasionally fathers have been able to attend) usually volunteers to teach a class or subject for which they have special skills or strengths. For our older students, we have offered electives and supplements to core classes. For instance, we have taught Economics, Shakespeare, Biology Lab, Auto Shop, and more.

One of the best parts of our co-op is the end.  On the last day, we have a presentation time open to all family members and friends.  During this hour, projects are displayed; we hear music from a chorus or a guitar class.  We watch skits or plays. Almost every class presents something. It is truly a cooperative event.

Another favorite is park time.  Many of the families pack a lunch and we meet for 2-3 hours after co-op. It has been a great way to solidify friendships, discuss class ideas and relax.

This year, I am teaching Current Events and an Art Journal class. I’m looking forward to lively discussions and creative fun. This may be my last semester, and I would like to cherish each week. That said…I will be blogging on Fridays about LIFE.

LIFE will go on without me, with great leaders and wonderful, caring families. If you are in the Tallahassee area and are interested in joining LIFE, leave a comment or email us -tallahasseelifecoop at gmail (dot) com

If you are interested in learning more about how to start a co-op similar to LIFE, click here.

Sign-Up for LIFE Classes

Arts and Crafts:  Papier-mâché  

Simple Machines Class
For an idea of what types of classes we have taught in the past, here are some links:

Spring 2010
Fall 2009

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Birthday Candles at The Body Shop

Have you ever had a memory of something that was so funny, you laugh out loud?  I had one of those today.  First I laughed, and then I hung my head in shame.  It was one of my most embarrassing moments.  Maybe THE most.

When my daughters were very young teenagers, I didn’t know much about today’s secular music.  Really, I knew nothing.  We listened to Christian radio, silence or books on tape while in the car.  Sometimes we listened to oldies, sometimes I let them play “their” music, but on CDs, not the radio.  I was, and still am, your typical “uncool” mother.  The slang I grew up with meant something different in this new generation. I often need explanations about many words.

My middle daughter had a friend who had recently recorded what I thought was the most AMAZING song I had ever heard.  I loved the lyrics and the music and the melody.  I was so proud of her for actually recording something and putting it on myspace. We listened to it often.

My oldest daughter had never shown much interest in jewelry until she reached the age of 16.  Near Christmas, she asked for a few long, silver necklaces, the kind with a single charm or dangle.  Teenage girls are sometimes very difficult to buy for, so I was pretty determined and excited to shop for something so easy.  One day while at the mall with the younger two, I made arrangements for them to go shopping with friends while I set out on my own.

My girls had never really been girly or frilly and they had always been modest, so usually I did their shopping at JC Penny, or Sears, or Target.  OK and Walmart.  As they were getting older, they found places like PacSun, and Charlotte Russe, but many of the shops in the mall were pretty much off limits.  Well, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the usual shops, so I decided to try some of the more modern stores.  Walking by The Body Shop, I looked past all of the weird looking clothes (in my opinion) and spied a whole rack of long, silver necklaces, the kind with a single charm or dangle. With tunnel vision, I headed straight towards them.  

The store wasn’t very crowded.  Only 2-3 women were near me.  I had chosen a couple of necklaces and was searching for a third. I was very focused, trying to find just the right one, when I heard a familiar sound.  The music.  I know that music.  At first, I couldn’t place it, but when I heard the voice and the words….it was HER!  My head shot up.  I looked up towards the speakers, I looked around frantically. To my left, to my right.  Oh. My. Gosh!  It was HER! I could hardly contain my excitement.  My daughter’s friend was singing on the radio!  I wanted to call my daughter and tell her to come quick…they were playing the song, but my daughter didn’t have a cell phone at that time and I knew the song would be over by the time I found her and came back.

But, I HAD to tell SOMEBODY! 

So, I rushed over to the gal nearest me and said, “I KNOW her! I KNOW her! She’s my daughter’s friend!” all the while pointing to the speakers! She looked at me strangely, and backed away slowly.  I realized that perhaps she didn’t quite understand my excitement, so I wasn’t offended.  I found ANOTHER gal to tell. “I KNOW her!” I KNOW her!” (point up, point up). Same response.  

Man, I gotta find somebody to tell who will really appreciate this.  I was so proud of her for making the “big time” and I wanted people to know she was a local girl.  So I ran over to the sales counter.  Two young women were working. I slammed my (empty) hand on the counter (my other hand still holding the necklaces) and announced, loudly: “I KNOW HER!

One of them gave me the look, but the other just smiled real big and said, “Yeah, that’s my girl”.
I responded, rather loudly, “ YOU KNOW her TOO?!” 
“ Yeah,” she said, “Colbie Caillat”. 
Colbie Caillat?

Now before I go on, I must tell you that when I get stressed, I have trouble recalling names.  Even with my closest friends, I often stare at them for a few moments before I can remember their names.  When she said Colbie Caillat, I drew a blank.  I couldn’t remember my daughter’s friend’s name.  All I could remember was her myspace name. So, it went like this:

“Birthday Candles, I KNOW her! Where did you get her song? Is it on the radio?”

"I don’t know about no birthday candles, but the music is coming from our home office in California.”


“Yeah, girl-Colbie Caillat”

 She was beginning to get the same look as the other glas.  Like I was a nutcase.
Then it hit me.  Like a bucket of water, only not cold water and not all at once.  It was one of those slow dribbles that start at the top of your head and slowly seep down your back and legs until suddenly you have a horrible, sinking feeling and you are soaking wet.  

It wasn’t her song. 

“Birthday candles” was simply singing a “cover”.  
I smiled weakly, put the necklaces on the counter and walked as quickly away as I could without looking back.  Honestly , it was 4 years since I EVER walked into that store again.

For those who are wondering what a cover is, here is the definition from the Urban Dictionary:
Cover - A version of a song that is done by another band than the original. A band can cover another band's song.

The song? “Bubbly”

I can’t listen to that song anymore.  If it comes on while in a store, I leave.  On the radio, I turn it off.  It was days before I could even confess to anyone what I did.

Today, “Birthday Candles” is known as "Until Eleven".  She is still awesome, and she writes her own songs, too.  If you want to listen, here’s a link to their newest song: Picture Perfect

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday 411 on Cleaning: Tile Floors….and My Magical Discovery

When I walk into the kitchen of my Tuesday house, this is what I see.

Why am I here?  I ask myself that question almost every week.  Not only in this house, but often, in the others as well. The families I work for keep things tidy. I’ve had one of them tell me that it is not always an easy chore. My coming to clean often helps them keep things in order.

The biggest problem they have in common is that they all have Labrador Retrievers who spend a lot of time inside.  Dog hair.  It doesn’t bother me because we were lab owners for years.  I know where the hair hides.  It hides well in this house.  Why? Because of the color of the floor.  Looking at the house, you’d think they didn’t need help, but this is what this floor had on it:

Dirt, dog hair and food, crumbs, etc. Doesn't include what was shaken off of the rugs.

This was only after mopping less than 1/3 of the kitchen.

The dusting rags look pretty rough when I am done also.  The bathrooms clearly need cleaning.  But the floors, they look fine to me.  Good thing I don't have this color in my kitchen or I would revert to my earlier ways. I need white tile floors. Speaking of my white floor, this week I made a magical discovery!  Since the day we moved into the house, the tiles had scuff and scratch marks in several places.  I could never get them to look completely clean.  I thought they were the result of the finish rubbing off.

Last week, while taking a photograph of my dishwasher for the blog, I noticed the floor was a little nasty underneath.  So, before taking another photo, I grabbed the closest thing I had on hand, a damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (Kitchen). I wiped down the spot, not to get grime up but to sweep away some crumbs and dirt.  Where I wiped….something magical happened.  The dark color disappeared!  I moved over to the refrigerator, where the stains were the worst.  I started wiping and it started coming off!  

stains on floor 

The first thing I thought was maybe I haven’t been doing a very good job with the mop.  So I took a wet paper towel and scrubbed the area.  Nothing came off.  Next, I sprayed Windex and wiped.  Still nothing.  

A little better, but they are still there.

The magic eraser got it all off with hardly any effort!  It did leave a little residue, but I followed up with a mop, water and a splash of ammonia which is what I normally use.

It's coming off like magic

In other homes, I use whatever they have on hand to clean the tile floors.  Usually, that is Armstrong floor cleaner or Fabulosa.  Do not use Mop and Glo.  It leaves a residue that even Ajax won’t rub off. My step-dad used to say that expression a lot.  “I’ll put something on you even Ajax won’t rub off!”  That meant straighten up or you’re going to get it.  We never took him seriously.

Well, now you know that the trick to having floors that look clean is to pick the right color.  To clean them, simply sweep or vacuum and mop, and for some MAGIC on spots, use Mr Clean’s kitchen eraser.  But don’t use the eraser on wood floors.  Bad idea…I know from first-hand experience.  That was the flip side of the “magical discovery”. Yeah.  It said so right on the box, but I told you, I’m simply not good at following directions.  Cooking sometimes is disastrous.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I found this tip on how to clean tile grout.  I hope to try it soon. When I do, I’ll keep you posted.

Next week’s Tuesday 411: Wood floors

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Am a Recovering Slob

I am a recovering slob, who cleans houses for extra money. I used to be a complete slob and flat broke. So what happened? Well, the key word is: MONEY.  I needed it and when I got a little extra, I liked the idea of keeping it.  Well, maybe not keeping it, but using it to supplement our income. Now before you begin to think I am being totally materialistic, let me explain.

I have already confessed to you in an earlier post, how messy I was as a child.  My teenage years were no different, and even as an adult I struggled with keeping things tidy and clean. A friend recently asked me how to clean 10 year old abused linoleum floors.  My response was, “What’s the use?” I had the same floors when my children were younger and it is part of the reason why I didn’t do floors.  And that all goes back to money.

When I was a young adult on my own, before I married my husband, I did OK.  I didn’t have a lot of “stuff” and I was never home.  There was nothing to organize and little to clean.  Having a roommate helped. It was OK for the family to know my true identity, but I didn’t want to reveal it to anyone else.  Later, when I married, it was pretty much the same thing:  Tiny apartments, sparse furnishings and both working full time. Except for the kitchen, particularly the sink, our home didn’t really get very messy.  OK, not just the sink, but the kitchen counters as well.

Add a dog and a baby and the floors started being neglected too.  But, in my defense, they were the UGLIEST floors EVER!

Our first dog in our first rented house.
The beginning of my floor cleaning avoidance.
After a couple of years, we bought our first home.  We liked the house, we loved the yard, but it was not a house we would have chosen to buy except that it fit our needs and budget. My mother was going to move in with us so we needed a house with a separate apartment. The purchase was a joint venture. It was an older house and from day one it always needed repairs.  It started with the well pump, and then the sewer system (which was an on-going headache), and continued progressing from there.  Appliances, a new roof, hurricane damage…it was always something.

The floors were ugly in this house, too.  It needed new carpet in the living areas and new flooring in the kitchen and baths. It was in the plan to update these things when we bought the house, but within a year, Mom moved out and I was laid off from work.  We were stuck with a great yard, but a house in need of repairs and updating.  Don’t get me wrong.  I grew to love that old house, but it had so many challenges and we did not have the income to meet them. Thus began my endless mission to work with what I had.

The floor wasn't in great shape. Add 10 years, a few produce stickers that always fell and stuck, and a black lab.
Get the picture?

Except for the bedrooms, there were no closets in the house.  No pantry, no laundry room.  The washer and dryer were in the main bathroom and the sink and tub were OLIVE green in that bath. With the addition of our third daughter, we had begun to accumulate all the stuff you accumulate when you have children.  Then more stuff when we started homeschooling. I played with the kids a lot and I enjoyed reading, so needless to say it was a bit of a mess.

Yucky color, cute kid, and rust stains from too much iron in our water.

Now, if you came to visit me (announced) you may not have known it.  Remember…I wanted to keep my little secret.  Had you opened my dryer you would have found quite a few things in addition to at least 3 loads of laundry.  Not all of the items would have been clothing either.  Same for the washer.  Great hiding spots, huh? I had a few more hiding spots I may reveal later.  Once I got the clutter taken care of, I could clean quickly and the house looked great.  Sometimes, I left the clutter and didn’t clean.  It depended on who was coming and my mood.  So that’s how it was.  I always had to choose.  Did I want clean, or tidy?

My husband was pretty patient and tried to help when he could, but he picked on me about it often.  His favorite thing to do while he was videotaping the kids was to pan out, get a good sweep of the room, and say, “This is how we live.” He joked, but often, when I was at church with the kids, I came home to really clean kitchen floors and counters.  That was the only time the floors were ever done right.  Besides an occasional sweeping, my idea of mopping was to throw a cup of water on it and walk around on a towel.  Then I figured out to let the kids walk around on the towel and I got out of that too!

One day at the library, I found this book: Organizing From the Inside Out. It looked interesting and I knew I needed help to organize because the dryer was beginning to be too small for all of our stuff. Really, with the exception of the Bible, if I had to say a book changed my life-this was it. I didn’t simply learn how to organize; I learned why I was having a problem in the first place.  I de-cluttered, BIG TIME. It turned out to be a blessing that I did it, because a year later we unexpectedly found out we were moving to Florida.  Isn’t God great?  He knew we’d be moving.  Had I not de-cluttered and begun to keep things tidier I would have been overwhelmed.

So, our home began to be less messy, but it still wasn’t the cleanest house on the block and I still had those ugly floors and bathroom.  We did manage to update the master bath in between major repairs, but cosmetic changes were not in the anytime soon plan because our back porch was a health hazard. We needed to build a new one soon before someone came over and broke a leg. My husband and I had a long talk and I suggested me finding part-time work cleaning houses.  He thought that was funny, but agreed it just may work.  We could hopefully get enough money to repair the porch within 2-3 months. When I found a couple of houses to clean, I started feeling a little guilty.  Here I was cleaning other people’s homes while mine was dirty.  So, I made an announcement.  We were going to start cleaning the house on a regular basis, not just when company came.  Mondays would be the day. Once we got going, we pretty much had a clean and easy to maintain house.

That was in the spring of 2007.  By the end of the summer, we were packing to move. I told you money was what motivated me to change my ways.  Money was also what helped me to keep them changed. We decided to rent long term in Florida.  We did not want to be house poor ever again.  We needed a larger house and the only way we were going to get that was to rent.  Renting requires a deposit. A deposit is returned IF YOU TAKE CARE OF THE HOUSE.

The first house we rented had brand NEW tile floors.  They were WHITE.  UGH! Turns out it was the best thing for me.  White shows dirt.  Once I could see it, I couldn’t avoid, it so I kept it clean. Also, when we moved, we basically started over as far as furnishings and stuff.  We sold 75% of our stuff in Wilmington and came to Tallahassee with a fresh start.  At the request of my husband, we made a commitment to not allow things to get out of hand ever again.  With a lot less stuff and a newer house, it was easy.  Once it became a habit, moving into an older home and accumulating lots more stuff hasn’t been too much of a problem.  It was a 2-3 year process but, I can now say, “I am a recovering slob.”  (It is a never-ending battle.)