Great-Great Grandmama Olene would be so proud (maybe)

I really have no idea if Grandmama Olene was crafty. I do know that she joined the Mormon church in Norway with her husband Andrew. They came across the plains to settle in Utah, but they didn’t stay long. Perhaps it was the cushy locomotive transportation then available rather than the soul-refining hardships of the handcarts that led to Olene and Andrew making off for the bright lights of New York City.

Or maybe she just couldn’t keep up with her neighbors when it came to vinyl-ing heartfelt messages for every wall in her house.

You might prefer a white or silver backbone; black is surprisingly elegant.

But I have mastered the art of the Mod Podge (kind of), so Chrysanthemum showed me these cool snowflakes you can make. (And by “you” I mean: anyone who can handle the chenille stems formerly known as “pipe cleaners” without getting punctured or scraped).

Stem and Bead Snowflakes

Step #1: Buy chenille stems and bulk plastic children’s beads. Resist the urge to buy these at a craft store such as Hobby Lobby, even if a trusted blogger raves about the Hobby Lobby. Certain craft supplies like, say, bulk plastic children’s beads (just for example) are FOUR DOLLARS cheaper at Wal-Mart. And no, I’m not at all bitter about paying FOUR DOLLARS more at the Snobby Lobby.)

Push beads firmly to the center to make strands rigid.

Step #2: Cut 6 stems in half and then gather the 12 short stems. Twist another 1/2 stem around the middle, securing the snowflake/star shape. Let kids thread the plastic beads on — this is where chenille stems are great for kids, because unlike bracelets and necklaces (which kids also love to make), the stems catch the beads; much less frustrating for “little” fingers than that slippery stretchy cord used for making jewelry.

Though where there’s a will to properly adorn one’s special pets, little fingers will find a way:

I blame repeated viewings of The Aristocats.

I blame repeated viewings of The Aristocats.

Step #3: Only let the kids have a few beads (Like, 10. Or maybe 20. Okay, 30 MAX) at a time, otherwise you might get this:

I believed it was an "accident" at first.

and this:

Getting more suspicious here. Bits of plastic hitting fake wood sounds a lot like rain.

If you do end up with beads all over the floor, boy, have I got a tip for you. And here is where I would expect Grandmama Olene to be proud of me because? Cleaning up the bead mess? Baby, I rocked that part of our craft experience.

Are you ready? Okay.

To pick up small items, first hope and pray that the floor upon which said small items are scattered has been vacuumed sometime in the last month. Then put a fresh vacuum bag in your vacuum and simply vacuum those puppies up.

Ninety percent of household dust is sloughed skin cells.

Sift in a colander to remove the (miniscule amount of) stuff that actually belongs in the vacuum (which apparently settled on your floor right after that mopping you gave it last night).

I ran these beads under some water. If I weren’t anxiously engaged in exposing my children to immune-boosting household germs, I could’ve soaked them in bleach. But I believe in germs. And convenience. Amen.

What works for you?


Confessions of a Martha

In high school, Melinda and I petitioned the guidance counselor to waive our vocational class requirement. AP chemistry and biology should count, we said, because they are vocational if you’re delusional enough in your youth to assume that of course you’ll become a doctor. And how lame would it be to have to take Foods I and Home Economics and Shop and Finance? When are you ever going to use classes like that in real life? We wanted to focus on important things.

{insert maniacal laughter}

We were almost as serious about school as we were about church. We even went to a nursing home every week and sang. Tracey came with us, and that was good for the poor residents tortured by our efforts, as Tracey was the only one of us who could carry a tune.

When we studied the New Testament, I thought that Martha, the house-owner sister of Mary and Lazarus, the woman who would rather clean and prepare meals than sit at the feet of the Savior and hear the gospel from His own mouth, was inconceivable.

Then I had a husband, and an apartment of my own, guests coming for dinner or to stay. I had a kid and then a couple more, then a house of my own, and I wanted to say (as reverentially and humbly as possible):

“O Lord, hast thou ANY IDEA how much time, energy, anxiety, and preparation it takes to make mine hospitality ready for the succor of mine honored guests?”

Can you imagine the housework you’d undertake if the Lord were coming to visit?

A couple Sundays ago I baked six dozen chocolate cookies, two pans of rice krispie treats, and five dozen oatmeal butterscotch bars. I yelled at the kids, warned Dick away from the goodies. I scrambled to get ready for church and felt frazzled throughout the service.

When I saw Dick reading his scriptures on the couch as I slaved in the hot kitchen I snapped. (I may have said that one naughty word that Susan keeps repeating at the most inopportune of moments).

That evening, as Sally and I sat at the church ‘do (baptism preview) I’d baked for, I finally relaxed enough to listen to the hymns and feel the Spirit. I squeezed Sally’s hand and considered my life.

Holy cow, I’m a moron.

So my motto for this holiday season comes from Psalms 46:10:

Be still, and know that I am God.

I’m going to be still. Stare at my kids. Snuggle with Dick. Use paper plates. Simplify gift-giving. Bake only four kinds of pie.

And I’m going to realize that the only “experience” I need to give my kids is somehow helping them to know that He is God.


That’s what (I’m hoping) works for me.

Poor Mother Hubbard

Yesterday I came home to find Dick emptying the dishwasher. He’d been pushed that far by an exchange we’d had over Twitter. (Twitter = Communication = Great for Marriage).

Dick: My left wrist feels like someone ran over it with a car, but I have no recollection of any injury to it.

Jane: @Dick Hope it wasn’t all the dishes you did last night. WAIT. You didn’t do any dishes last night (ever). Probably carpal tunnel :(.

(Sidenote: In going back to get this word-for-word, I noticed the tweet Dick had written two hours before the wrist thing. “Just thinking that my blogging life with Jane is the natural extension of a marriage of two English majors. Love reading her blog everyday.” Boy, I’m starting to look really bad here, huh? In my defense, all I can say is that Dick had played basketball the night before, and that he truly hadn’t washed a single dish since we moved into this house one month ago.)

Now, I recognize the wisdom in the advice given to women that they shouldn’t criticize the way hubs diapers the baby or barbeques the chicken or washes the dishes. I know just enough behavior modification to realize that criticizing the way someone does something they don’t enjoy anyway is not a good way to encourage them to keep doing it.

But. Dick does dishes the wrong way.

He does.

Plus he hasn’t cooked (yet) in this new house, so I was prepared to be exasperated when he started hunting through cupboards looking for the mixing bowl’s home. And I blushed deep red half-way through saying NOT THAT ONE:

Not that beautifully empty, extra-deep cupboard that I . . . completely forgot about when setting up my kitchen four weeks ago.

If I weren’t feeling so sheepish, I’d be overjoyed at the thought of an EMPTY CUPBOARD. That’s like a $20 bill in your coat pocket, waiting for weather cold enough for you to discover it.

What will I put in that cupboard? The possibilities are staggering, and endless. I’ll probably keep it empty as long as I can, opening the door to admire its rich blankness whenever I feel cluttered and overwhelmed. It’ll be my secret place. A reminder that now we have more: more space, more possibility, more home than we need.


(and thanks for doing the dishes, Dick. You’re the best. (husband and father, not dishwasher).

WFMW: Real Tips! Microwaves, Snopes, and Diet Coke Bombs!

I hesitated to post this tip, because I am probably the last person on earth to know about it. But I finally tried this method of cleaning my microwave, and IT WORKS! (Thanks Mom; it wasn’t that I didn’t believe you. It just sounded too easy).

If your microwave looks like, say, this:

[Oh, I give up. Dirty stuff just doesn’t look as dirty in pictures as it does in real life. I wonder if this is sort of like a dirty-anorexic-distortion, where instead of looking fatter that your really are, things look cleaner/dirtier than they really are.]

Anyway, to clean even gunky dried-on spaghetti sauce, exploded black bean soup, and splattered sweet potatoes, simply place a glass container full of water in the microwave and turn it on High for about 5 minutes. Then wipe off the soggy ickies, and, voila:

In other news, Danielle sent me a video about a bioluminescent Mountain Dew experiment. Boy! Was it exciting, and Mountain Dew by itself is practically glow-in-the-dark, so I assembled the necessary ingredients:

I had to try it for myself even after Dick looked it up on and found that it was a false urban legend. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly, I guess, though seriously disappointingly), Snopes was right; it doesn’t work. (I’m glad I’m not as cynical as Dick; I’m sure he misses a lot of fun anticipation that way.)

But never fear, I know a fun soda pop trick that does work! The Diet Coke and Mentos Bomb is fabulous, and would make a great Last-Hurrah-of-Summer family activity.

Diet Coke and Mentos on the 4th of July from jane on Vimeo

Look at that! Actual tips for Works-for-me Wednesday:

1) Clean your microwave with boiling water.

2) debunks too-good-to-be-true tricks.

3) Diet Coke and Mentos make for FUN TIMES.

You can thank me later.

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Man Laundry

works-for-me wednesday logoLike the Man Cold, Man Laundry is similar to Woman Laundry, yet inexplicable in execution. Why can’t a man do laundry like a woman?

It’s not a matter of intelligence, of course. Dick went to graduate school at an Ivy League Institution, but really that is nothing compared to the fact that last night he cleaned up copious amounts of Sally’s spaghetti vomit. He even threw the bedding in the washing machine.

I know, I know: I should be happy that he knows where the washer and dryer are, and stop with the quibbling about how it gets done. So, I will restrict myself to giving one simple tip for Man Laundry. A tip that I know Dick is eager to learn.

Eager because he actually asked me today why I buy liquid detergent when it has such a serious design flaw. And he might have a point. Men often approach household matters from a fresh, innovative perspective.

The wisest thing my brother-in-law ever said was in defence of hanging the toilet paper the wrong way. “It’s harder for the kids to unroll it that way.” I ran some experiments to test this theory, and, much as it pains me, I have to say he’s right: It is harder for a malevolent 18-month old to waste an entire roll of toilet paper if it is not flapping on the top.

Man Laundry Tip

To avoid this:

And this:

Rinse the dispenser in the water as it fills the washer. To be more specific: 1) dump the detergent in the washer, 2) fill the dispenser with the water pouring in, 3) dump the dispenser (in the washer), and 4) repeat as necessary.

Dick says that he does rinse the cap once, and I conceded that it often takes seven or eight rinses. Whenever I stand at the washer and rinse the cap, I remember Mr. Raine’s chemistry class, and how he taught us that scientific principle where each time you do something like rinse a cap, you never get all of the detergent out. Instead, each time you get a certain percentage, and so you have to do it over and over to get that same percentage of whatever’s left. You’d think that since I remember this from high school that I’d remember what it was actually called and be able to describe it coherently, but then you’d remember that I have three kids and am lazy.

Anyway, Dick thinks the fact that you have to rinse the cap eight times means that it’s engineered wrong. All I know is that our water is so hard that powdered detergent often doesn’t dissolve, and since I am a granola-girl dropout, I don’t see homemade detergent in my near future. I did buy this liquid stuff at Costco, though, so all the free food samples surely cancel out the flagrant misuse of monetary resources.

Next time we’ll cover:

1) Hot water is for whites, only.

2) Building relationships with pre-wash treatments.

3) Sorting by color is not really optional, especially if #1 has not been mastered.

4) Not drying shrinkable, favorite pieces of clothing (especially if your wife is getting fatter anyway).

5) Removing crayons from pockets BEFORE placing in dryer (bonus points for not mentioning that your wife has done that one before).

Any other ideas for Man Laundry Tips?

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