Adventures in Cleaning the Fridge

A Step by Step Guide, or a Cautionary Tale Depending On Your Perspective

I wrote this as a helpful guide for my millions of rabid readers out there who have always been wondering how I clean my fridge.  Now you can know, and die happy.  (But please don’t die just because you know this now.  I just mean, you can be fulfilled in your life.  Don’t die.)

Step 1

Make yourself a frappe.  This is my version of a glass of wine to make things more enjoyable and/or bearable.

Blend:

6 cubes of frozen coffee (or really strong cold coffee and ice)

1 Tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk (I used 2 today because … hello!  Cleaning out the fridge …)

1 Tablespoon Nestle’s cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon of protein powder to make this drink good for you

water so that it will blend

Pour into a glass, get a pink straw, sip it and take a deep breath

Step 2

Cue up a good station on your Pandora.  I listen to one entitled, “Hey There Delilah”.  Don’t judge me.

Step 3

Run a sink of hot, soapy water.

As an added bonus, get your game face on.  This is my game face.  I look so confused because I rarely clean my fridge.

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Step 4

Take every single thing out of the fridge and set it on counters.  Have a brief panic attack knowing that you won’t be returning things for at least 45 minutes (you’re not really being realistic there, it’ll be like an hour and a half,) and how many days should you be deducting from your milk’s expiration date by letting it sit out so long?  In the next nano second have a good, hearty belly laugh when you remember that you just bought this milk yesterday, and it will most definitely be gone by tomorrow.

Click here to see what a good belly laugh looks like.

Throw all the bad stuff directly into the trash can and wish that you hadn’t put so many things into containers that you’re unwilling to part with.  Put the disgusting containers in the sink full of soapy water.

Step 5

Pull all the shelves out.  This could take a while if you wait as long as I do to clean out your fridge because your shelves are sticky with something dreadful that someone spilled who knows how long ago.  It has also pooled and congealed at the bottom underneath the crisper drawers.  Suppress your gag reflex when you realize there is also a refrigerated fly stuck in the bottom of the muck.  A fly?  What on earth?!  Spray the empty fridge with Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Multi Surface Cleaner and close the door.

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Your kitchen now looks like you set a bomb off in it and you can’t imagine it ever looking good again. Take a deep breath, and a sip of your mocha.

Step 6

Wash all the shelves and drawers.  This is problematic if you have a sink as small as mine, because none of them actually fit into the sink all the way, and the parts that stick out shed water onto the counters and the floor.  As a bonus step, you may want to mop up the water on your floor.

Step 7

Open the fridge and realize you forgot to empty the door.  Sigh and empty the door taking a brief moment to ponder why someone who lives in a household with only one person who likes mayo, and even they only use it like twice a year, has so many opened jars of mayo in the door.  The mysteries of life…

Step 8

Wash out the goo on the walls and floor of your fridge.  Feel a brief moment of sadness for the fly who either froze to death, or starved to death stuck in the goo.  Then remember that flies are disgusting little carriers of disease and that this very fly could be the reason you had the stomach bug last week.  Suppress the gag reflex again as you wipe him out and all his legs stay in the sticky mess.  It’s no worse than all the gross food containers you just emptied though.  Get over it quickly.

Step 9

Pat yourself on the back because your fridge is now sparkling clean and ready for the return of your shelves.  Now it is time to try to figure out all the exact spots that they go in, especially the door guards because for some unknown, god-forsaken reason, they are all customized to specific moldings!  Why?  As you work, compose a letter of complaint to the manufacturer:

Dear Director of Operations at the Frigidaire off brand fridge plant,

Why do you hate us?  We are your customers, and the reason you have your job in the first place.  I mean, not me personally.  I was given this fridge by my brother-in-law who found it on Craigslist from a college student who was giving it away, but that’s hardly the point here.  Cleaning out refrigerators is complicated enough without you specializing every single shelf and door guard. (Are those shelf holder thingies in the doors called door guards?  I feel like I just made that up to sound smart.)  Shelves in fridges are fairly straightforward, so just stop with all the custom molding nonsense.  We look into these fridges like 18 times a day and still can’t remember where they all go once they’re taken out.  Help us out here.  Things are tough all over.

Sincerely,

Mom of five who’s barely hanging on by a thread

P.S.  Your CEO probably makes $800,000 a year or something, right?  Despot.

Now that you feel a little better, and hopefully have figured out where all your shelves go, smile.  You’re almost done.

Step 10

Return all your non-spoiled food to the fridge, categorizing things to your heart’s content.  This is actually a fun part.  I put fruit in one drawer and veggies in the other.  I put all the cheese and meat that wasn’t petrified or fossilized into the actual cheese and meat drawer.  All dairy goes in one little section, tortillas in another.  “I will keep it organized like this forever,” I croon softly as I work.  “This shelf will always be where leftovers go. This perfect little customized spot in the door (mentally redact angry letter to Frigidaire conglomerates) will be where jams and jellies are lovingly replaced. And seriously, with all those mayo jars?  For the love of Hellman’s.”

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Step 11

Look around your kitchen and realize you still aren’t finished.  There are nasty containers to be washed and trash that stinks so badly, because the smell is why you cleaned the fridge in the first place.  Heave the trash out to the dumpster and wish your husband was here so you could pretend you can’t lift it and could make him throw it in.  Throw it in like a boss and then rush inside to make an appointment with your chiropractor.

Step 12

Now you’re finished.  Take a picture.  Vow a vow that you will do this more often.  Make a mental list of which shelves you will clean each week so that it never gets in this condition again.  Pretend you don’t hear the fridge chuckling at you as you leave the kitchen, and whispering, “yeah right, Jules.  See you next year.”

Then remember that you were going to clean the freezer out today as well.  Meh, there’s always tomorrow.  After all, it wasn’t the frozen stuff that was stinking. I’m sure the freezer looks awesome.

Also …

I edited out additional steps which included stopping approximately 85 times to make snacks for the little people, and three lectures on the starving little kids in China who would be HAPPY to have half of a recently defrosted cinnamon and raisin bagel for a snack.

You’re welcome.

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The Only Love That Works

I should just stay off of Facebook.  Really.  And I would, because it’s definitely what my husband would call a “time suck” but I just CAN’T for some reason.

So, here’s what I learned from Facebook this week, in no particular order: I don’t love Jesus, because I just kept scrolling instead of sharing (really guys?  How can this still be a thing?).  The Patriots are still on trial for murder … or deflating their footballs or whatever.  Shutterfly is offering something wonderful that I should be getting for my kids because I want to make memories and put them on magnets and coffee mugs.  I love my kids more than anyone else in the world loves their kids because I homeschool.

Okay, so here’s an actual comment as close as I can remember it from someone’s Facebook post about school starting.  “Parents in my community are throwing a Back to School party because their kids are going to be ‘out of their hair’ starting next week.  Does anyone else find this heartbreaking?”

There were so many funny comments that I can’t even attempt to describe them all.  Most were appalled that these horrific parents were excited to be “free” of their precious babies who are growing up unloved and unaccepted and blahdy blah.  Some of them were a little more get-a-gripish in nature.  The one that struck me as the most hilarious and disingenuous was the precious mom who wrote “I cherish every moment with my children.  This breaks my heart.”

Wow.  Cherish every moment.

I did not comment because I was being good.  Trying to stay positive and not make enemies with a million strangers. Also my two and a half year old was hitting me on the leg with her sippy cup saying “Mo noke” (more milk) for the seven hundredth time and I had to stop and get her a refill.  All these moments to cherish.

I really like homeschooling, and my children, and keeping house (sometimes) and all the things.  My life is full of awesome.  I want to puke when I hear the word cherish, but there is definitely a lot of love to go around in this household … and then there are those days that the school bus rolls down our street and I want to run after it screaming, “Wait!  Wait!  Take mine too!”

Daddy and Ella love

We are too hard on each other, parents.

There are parents who go to the park with their children and dog their every footstep.  They hover over them, hold out nervous arms as children climb up and down high things, call out advice while they slide down slides … we’ve all seen them, some of us ARE them.  And then there are the ones who go and sit at a picnic table and look at their iPhones as their kids climb, slide, jump and whatever else.

Some parents breastfeed.  Some wrap their babies around their bodies and wear them everywhere, some opt for strollers.  Some homeschool, some pay for private school, some send their kids to public school and then attend parties to celebrate their newfound freedom.  Heathens.

So which of these truly loves their children?  Um … all of them.  I rarely meet a parent who doesn’t love their children.  Also, I’ve NEVER met one who actually “cherishes every moment” with them.  We feel like whatever path we’ve chosen is best for our kids, or we wouldn’t have chosen it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other paths.

Helicopter parenting would exhaust me.  It makes me tired just to watch them at the park.  I admit though, I have to shut my eyes and just breathe when my children climb higher than I want them to fall.  I get up to push them on the swings for the last ten minutes of park time.  If they beg me to, I’ll slide down the slide with one of them.  Other than that, I usually stand to the side and observe.  I don’t generally sit with my iPhone, but sometimes I do … because I’m fried, and I brought them to the park so I wouldn’t have to entertain them.

My kind of love is working so far, because they still kiss me goodnight, give me big hugs, want me to sing 20 songs to them before they’ll go to sleep.  My kids love me, and they feel loved … also, if another person was going to get them all out of my hair for a big chunk of the day every day, I might throw a party.  Because then I would have time to go to the post office, address Christmas cards, get a haircut for the second time this year, clean my kitchen. A clean kitchen would make anyone want to throw a party.

kids in the bus

Plans and Other Futile Attempts at Sanity

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Jason and I when we were just married
 Getting married was a hugely eye opening experience for me.  Not so much from learning how to live with another human every day, I’d been doing that all my life, more from finding out things about me.  Weird, I know.  You’d think it was revelations about HIM that would make the whole business upsetting, but he’s actually remarkably tame.  It’s me we all need to worry about.

So, here’s the thing about me that I never knew until I got married.  I want to be super jovial, go with the flow, happiness is stopping in the middle of your carefully ordered life to smell the roses.  I always thought I was like that and then Jason came along.  And I’m actually not that easy going.  Who knew?

My normal when I’m traveling somewhere is to have a carefully ordered itinerary in mind and charge ahead toward the destinations, plowing over whatever obstacles dare to get in my way.  The reason I always thought I was spontaneous and easy going is that I actually mentally plan normal stuff along the way.  There is a destination in my brain called “lunch” and “rest stop” and “historical marker”.  But don’t add random things in!  Now you’re just messing with my mind!  Jason’s idea of traveling is … well, enjoying the journey.  What?  Who even came up with this idea?  In my defense though, while It sounds great in theory, when the wedding is six hours away and you’re already running late, I’m not a super fan of stopping at every creek and river from Waco to Lubbock to see how the water’s flowing.  This is what I get for marrying a man who kayaked from Maine to Texas.  He just can’t pass water without looking at it.  Sigh.

 

I am a planner.  I love it!  I buy planners, I make my own planners, I make lesson plans that would be the envy of elementary teachers everywhere.  It’s truly something to behold.  I follow through on about 35% of everything I plan to do.  I know.  You all want to be just like me when you grow up.  By sheer volume though, of all the things I write down, 35% still turns out to be a lot.

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These pictures do no justice to how detailed this planner is

If you think I’m uptight when traveling, you should see me at New Years.  I start planning my yearly goals a couple of weeks into December.  This is when I get a planner, or refills, or here lately I make my own.  Those store bought ones just do not have all the things I need.  By the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve night I have categories and subcategories for every one of the months of the upcoming year.  It’s May right now.  I have no idea where that planner is.

So why am I not president yet, or at least, like, Secretary of State?  I mean, it seemed inevitable at the start of January.

Here’s the deal about my plans and my life.  Life is like the anti-plan.  It is the arch enemy of everything I write down in my carefully organized, personalized, categorized notebook.  I actually feel kind of cool though, having an arch enemy.  It makes me think I’m a little closer to being like Sherlock.  But anyway, back to my point.  You just can’t fit your actual life into those little plastic page protector things.  Trust me, if it was possible, I would have done it.  I love page protectors.  One of my favorite quotes ever is by John Lennon who’s song lyrics state “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  My life in a nutshell.

You should have SEEN my plans at the start of this school year.  Jack should be doing quantum physics right now.  He should speak Spanish fluently and have had a thorough introduction to French and Latin.  A compulsive planner should never read “A Well-Trained Mind”.  It literally makes us crazy.  The other day we learned some stuff about graphing that was pretty fun.  And we played with play doh.

I know there are ways around these disruptions, because planning works for some people.  My friend Susan (name was changed to protect the potentially embarrassed), has a very orderly life and when she plans to get pregnant at a certain time of year so that it coincides with her teaching schedule, that is what happens.  Really, she even gets PREGNANT on a schedule.  It’s just wrong.  Also, using only the natural birth control known as the “Rhythm Method”.  If you’re unfamiliar with birth control, that method is 100% drug and procedure free.  It works beautifully if you want to have four kids in four years. My husband and I employed it with pretty much all of our children. And, it could actually work if you’re Susan.  So yeah, some people’s plans work out.  I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to learn to deal.

So what do we do about plans that go amiss?  Personally, I take lots of deep breaths.  I remind myself that there is Someone’s plan that IS working out in my life and I don’t have the whole picture yet.  I remind myself that no one’s plans work perfectly, (even Susan’s) and that life is still good anyway.  Sometimes I cry too, and yell at people.  I forgot to mention that.

But be all this as it may, I’m still going to make New Year’s goal charts and add more tabs and page protectors to my planners. I’m still going to buy more curriculum than I could possibly need in all four of my children’s life times and make more attempts at teaching them dead languages!  Some of my plans work out too.  I did write and publish a 400 page novel last year.  That’s not nothing.  Zig Ziglar taught me all growing up (through his tapes, not personally) that you reach 100% of the goals you never set.  So … I guess it’s pretty inevitable that if you do set goals, you won’t reach all of them.  Still, I get more accomplished when I plan to accomplish something.  And then I try super hard not to get too emotionally attached to my checklist.  I remind myself to live the life that is happening to me right now.  Smiling at my kids and so forth.  I write that on my list too sometimes.  I know.  I need therapy… and chocolate.  Oh, and more play doh, if anyone has extra lying around.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

Cameras: AKA the World’s Greatest Liars

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My mom is the biggest proponent of getting professional pictures of your children ever.  JcPenney studio should start paying her.  Seriously.  It’s that ridiculous.  She had very little money for this when we were babies, so now she insists on a pretty regular basis that she and I take my children and have them photographed and she always pays for whatever I can’t afford.  These outings are fun-filled hours of constantly getting onto/bribing/timeouting and doing whatever it takes to get four squirmy five-and-under children to sit still for a nano-second and also maybe smile.  Maybe.  But that part is optional.  They’re all looking at the camera, just snap the picture for the love of all that is decent!  The results are usually big fun though.  I posted my latest “perfect” pictures on Facebook to be lauded and praised about how adorable and angelic my children are.  It was delightful.

But really, cameras are such liars!  Now you can even use photoshop and increase the velocity of the lie.  Smudge out those wrinkles and zits.  Enhance your eye and lip color.  You can even make yourself look thinner. I’m dying to learn that trick!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pictures of yourself and your family.  Of course you should, and you should smile for them because smiling makes everyone prettier except for Vigo Mortenson.  Vigo, if you’re following my blog, you are much better looking when you’re  serious.  Anyway, where was I?  Smiling for pictures is good.  Remember life’s happy moments.  No one is a bigger advocate of keeping an upbeat and positive attitude than I, however, I sometimes wonder if I am too good at the show.  I do an excellent job at “smiling for the cameras” of my life.  Let’s get real here.  You shouldn’t go through pictures on Facebook and believe that they are the sole indicators of the picture taker’s happiness level.  So here is my unphotoshopped reality for anyone who looks on Facebook, this blog, or at my sweet kiddos and thinks, “I certainly wish my life was perfect … like Julien’s”.

1.  Sunday mornings

Camera version:  My four children arrive at church scrubbed and beautiful in lovely outfits.  The girl’s hair is usually fixed in some way.  My hair is fixed and I have makeup on.  My clothes are clean and my husband’s shirt is pressed and I sometimes even wear heels.  Jason and I teach our Sunday School class, smiling and laughing with our college and career group.  It is all just precious.

Real version:  I am up super late the night before trying to find SOMEthing clean that both fits and matches and is appropriate for church.  Special bonuses if the outfits include underwear and possibly socks.  Tights are the bane of my existence because they are always dirty, holey, too little or too big.  Who MAKES these things?  Sadists.  That’s who.  Baths happen before bed Saturday, or they may not happen at all.  Jason and I drag ourselves out of bed before the sun is up, feed our children something from a can (sweet rolls usually, but recently I’ve switched to biscuits from Immaculate Bakery, because I tell myself they are slightly more nutritious.  At least they aren’t leavened with aluminum,) and then we dress the children.  Even if I have stayed up late, this can be a real nightmare.  I scramble around for clothes while Jason catches little people as they streak through the house laughing and screaming with glee because they aren’t wearing anything.  We pull clothing onto their reluctant bodies and try to figure out why every shoe has no partner. I iron Jason’s shirt while he looks for shoes and then shake the wrinkles out of my own clothes and throw them on.  We yell a bit at the kids, sometimes at each other, then we gather up everything and everyone and throw them into the van.  I run back into the house to grab two cups of coffee that we can drink on the way to church.  Jason feeds the chickens and ducks while the van warms up.  My makeup bag is permanently in the front seat so that I can dab a little bit on my face as we drive, in an attempt to look like a human.  Jason glances at me, then does a double take and says, “wow, you look really pretty!” Translation:  I didn’t recognize you without the scowl and with your eyes all the way opened.

2. Homeschooling

Camera version:  Jack, Ella and I sit in our clean classroom with books opened and smiles on our faces.  I pray and start the morning with the pledge of allegiance.  I follow my carefully detailed lesson plans throughout our day.  Jack learns to read; Ella colors in the lines.  My two-year-old and one-year-old play peacefully in the corner with all the things in my “busy little hands box” that I got off of Pinterest.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… on days like this.

Reality version: Jack and I sit on my unmade bed with a stack of books that I’ve carried in from the classroom because it is piled high with clean clothes that need folding and putting away.  My two-year-old is planted firmly in front of the TV watching “Bug’s Life” for the millionth time with a pile of goldfish crackers in front of him.  My one-year-old is in her crib with her second bottle of milk which she has thrown onto the floor, while she screams at the top of her lungs in protest to her morning nap.  We dive into Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  because I want to finish the book.  I warn Jack we can’t read his favorite book The Human Body until we have done our reading and math.  Ella runs into the room screaming and crying that Caleb hit her.  Caleb saunters in after her grinning while he says he’s sorry.  I tell them to go shut their bedroom door because I’m tired of listening to Lily scream.  Ella and Caleb fight over which one will go and then run to the bedroom to slam the door frightening the wits out of Lily who screams even louder.  I storm into the situation and order everyone to sit down and be quiet.  I get frustrated with Jack because when I come back into the room, he’s making paper airplanes instead of doing his work.  Jack starts crying.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… I mutter through my teeth as I google “Boarding Schools in Switzerland” on my laptop.

3. Being a writer

Camera version:  I sit at my computer and write in three hour increments, skillfully seeing to the needs of my children at regular intervals.  Every month I receive a large royalty check in the mail and my husband and I spend every summer in Italy while my children learn the language, have unforgettable international experiences and sink their refined palettes into every delicacy Europe has to offer.

Reality version:  I kick my children outside to play and run to my computer in a desperate attempt to “just write something today”.  Periodically I throw raisin boxes and peanut butter sandwiches at the kids.  At least I buy whole wheat or gluten free bread and natural peanut butter, so that’s something.  I add honey to the peanut butter because it is so dry and yucky on its own.  In the few precious moments of quiet I blog, work on my Twitter following, advertise and Facebook.  I get to spend about 15 minutes a day writing.  I actually recently received a small royalty check which was super fun and it almost covered the electric bill last month.  I also make spaghetti on a pretty regular basis and sometimes there is also salad to go with it.  So I feel all set in the refined palette department.

Conclusion: My children are definitely precious, but taking their pictures is an exercise in dealing with imperfection!  I do truly love homeschooling and some days are so fun.  I enjoy writing and reading and think it’s a fabulous way to pay the electric bill.  I show up at church one way or another and fellowship with my friends and family.  There you are.  My perfect life.  If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re a wonderful person and I want to hug you.  Friends, life is just life.  Everyone has the camera version and the real story.  And sometimes even the camera fails us!  That’s why most moms don’t even take pictures of themselves for the twenty years that they’re raising their children.  I think reality keeps us humble.  It keeps us manageable.  Can you imagine living with someone who is as perfect as they appear in pictures?  I can’t.  Thankfully, I never have to.  I only associate with real people.

My friend, Anna Stallcup (you can also follow her on http://www.thestonecups.com/) is a huge propenent of honesty in our Christian walk.  She calls it, giving people the gift of “going second”.  Being honest about our struggles is a present we can give to each other.  It allows another person to see that they aren’t the only one that fights against anger, depression, guilt, yelling at our children etc…  They get to “go second”.  We are honest first.  I love this.  I’m not very good at it.  I’m much better at smiling as if I’m being followed around by a 24 hour camera, so that everyone will think I have it all together all the time.

Of course we can overdo the honesty thing.  You don’t have to update your Facebook status every time you stumble.  Unless your friends are all medical professionals, very few people want or need to hear all the details of your health issues. For instance, if I can’t see the body part in a normal appropriate setting, I don’t want to know any detail about how it’s malfunctioning.  I didn’t go into nursing for a very good, very weak stomach related reason.  Just tell me it hurts.  I’ll get the point and be sympathetic.  I promise.  You know what I mean, if you’re ALWAYS having a bad day or everyone you work with are jerks or your life just never seems to go right for one reason or another, perhaps your perspective needs a switch.  I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that when someone has no friends at all, it usually isn’t everyone else’s problem.  That’s a whole different topic … for someone much more qualified than I at dealing with hurting hearts.  Of course we should find a good balance between being honest and wearing people out with our problems.

So, maybe we could go easier on each other.  Give each other less of a reason to pretend that we’re always looking into the lense of a camera.  Let people “go second”.  If you don’t buy into Christianity because you’ve met imperfect Christians, join the club. I’ve never met a perfect Christian.  There was only one perfect person to ever walk the Earth and we crucified Him.  There’s a cheery look into the human condition.

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Everyone is finally smiling, looking sweet and lovely … Lily is looking at the shelf full of props. *Sigh*

My world is a good one and even better when I realize that life, things and people don’t have to look like a magazine article to be wonderful.

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