When all else fails, I make soup

By Mir
January 30, 2008

I have just a few things I need to take care of today. I have work, cleaning, work, an interview, work, laundry, work, errands, and, OH YEAH, work.

So I decided to make soup. You know, because I wasn’t busy.

There is something primal, to me, about throwing things in a pot and letting them cook all day and turn into something you might actually want to eat. When I first came to Georgia it was approximately 110 degrees every single day, and I found myself looking forward to the winter so that I could start making soup again. I waited. And waited. And the kids were still going to school in shorts in November, and I realized that I should probably stop “waiting for winter” and just make some soup anyway.

Right now it’s about 32 degrees out, which is POSITIVELY ARCTIC by Georgia standards, so I think I’m good to go.

My dad and stepmom are arriving tonight for a visit. The children are just a tiny bit excited. (“GRANDPA CAN DO LEGOS WITH ME!” “GRANDMA CAN PLAY DOLLS WITH ME!”) Me, I am looking forward to it as well, but I just have these seven hundred things I need to finish, first.

For example: Chickadee has the big bedroom. The deal with the big bedroom is that she gets to have it—and Otto’s old queen bed—but her room becomes the guest room when we have visitors. She then gets to spend the week sleeping on her old bed (which is now on a daybed frame) in the playroom. No biggie, right?

Except, it is a biggie. It’s a GREAT BIG HAIRY BIGGIE. Because it’s HER ROOM and it’s NO FAIR and HOW COME MONKEY NEVER HAS TO MOVE and WAH WAH WAH WAH. None of this is the truth, by the way. The truth is that she really doesn’t mind giving up her room, but she positively hates cleaning it in preparation.

And so things sort of went like this: On Saturday, as we cleaned up for Monkey’s party, I suggested she go clean her room. “Oh, no,” she said, with a little flap of her hand, “I don’t need to.” I gaped at her. “My room is OFF LIMITS,” she explained.

“Ummm… yes,” I agreed, “but Grandma and Grandpa are coming this week. You need to clean up, anyway.”

“I’ll do the bookcases!” she offered, and the bookcases did rather look as though a giant had been perusing them for a good novel when he was overcome by a particularly violent sneeze, scattering books all over the couch and floor, as well as haphazardly topsy-turvy all over the shelves. So I left her to do that.

On Sunday, I reminded her again. But she was too TIRED, you know, from the excitement of the camper show. Monday? Homework and piano lessons, and DO I HAVE TO TAKE A SHOWER TONIGHT? (yes) and whoops, no time! Yesterday? Well, that’s when things got interesting.

And by “got interesting” I mean “I found things I couldn’t identify underneath her dresser.”

My parents will be quick to tell you that I did much the same thing when I was her age; my room was a hazardous waste pit and I didn’t see why it mattered. My preferred method of disposal was to shove stuff under my bed. She doesn’t do that, perhaps because the bed she had until recently was one that didn’t have an underneath. But her dresser sits up on wee little decorative legs, yielding a handy storage spot underneath!

Here is how I think room cleaning should work: Together, we pull out everything that’s somewhere it doesn’t belong, and then while I pick out the garbage (really, are we saving this Sun Chips bag for something special? Hmmmm?), she can take the things she wishes to keep and sort them and put them in their proper places.

Here is how Chickadee thinks room cleaning should work: She sits on the bed and weeps that she’ll never get it all done, becoming progressively more hysterical as I continue on, because that plastic penguin from a Happy Meal, that one is SO SPECIAL AND HER FAVORITE, DON’T THROW IT AWAAAAAAAY!

I’m trying to see her side of things, truly, but I’ll confess I’m just not quite there.

By the time I sent her to bed, we’d picked up enough that I no longer wanted to go in there with a trashbag and just chuck everything. This morning she put on a brave face and told me she’d tidied up a bit more, and please please please don’t throw anything else away, and I agreed to just straighten up while she’s at school.

And now I’m putting off going up there for as long as possible.

So, soup! It will be delicious. I like to use the split pea recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, but because I’m not a vegetarian I make it with a ham bone, which I’m sure is not what Mollie Katzen wants me to do, but too bad, because, pork fat = yum.

And I deserve some pork fat after what I saw in my daughter’s closet yesterday.


  1. liz

    Hey, at least you didn’t FIND pork fat in her closet.

  2. Megan

    Yeah. Kinda hate that as ye sow so shall ye reap crap. Because from being a clutter-bug somehow I became a neat-freak with a passion for lovely, uncluttered surfaces and yet I am still lumbered with three delightful pack-rats who firmly believe walking two feet to the trash can was one of Torquemada’s favorite methods of torment. Just this morning one Child informed me it had lost its jeans (jeans?? you can LOSE an entire pair of teenager-sized jeans?) and its sibling announced that said jeans weren’t in the top layer of its floor but could be in the sub-strata. Doom descends this afternoon…

  3. Leandra

    I was just about to say what Liz said! Soup is yummy. I can eat it all year round, though. Maybe because I’m acclimatized (is that the right word? Dang where did my vocabulary go?!) to the Georgia summers.

    And hey, if she gets upset that you threw away her plastic Penguin, I have AT LEAST four at my house that could serve as a handy replacement.

  4. Sara

    I am printing this out and nailing it to my eldest daughter’s door. She will wonder why it is there and then stare at me with mouth agape when I breezily mention that I found some similarities between she and Chickadee. Then she will stomp in indignation when she reads the part I have highlighted (The whole part about Sunchip bags and sitting on the bed wailing)because she will be CERTAIN that she has never done ANYTHING like that in her WHOLE LIFE. Then she will call me “Mother” and cross her arms, roll her eyes and thrust out her hip and jaw. Yeah. Maybe I’ll just keep the similarities to myself…

  5. Amy-Go

    You have been spying at my house again.

  6. birchsprite

    Umm I think you are describing me… and now I’m feeling really bad for my Mum during my teenage years!

  7. All Adither

    You made your daughter clean her room? And now you’re going to feed her something from the Moosewood cookbook??? You’re mean. ;)

  8. Jenny

    You were at my house 20 years ago, weren’t you?

    Oh, lord. I should call up my mom and thank her for not throwing ME away instead of the plastic penguin.

  9. kidzmama

    This past winter break I decided that our nine year olds room needed some serious cleaning up. She saves EVERYTHING! I brought in a trash bag, a box for donating, and a box for keeping. It was totally up to her what went where. It was cleaned in two days. I do have to say that there is still one “keep” box in her room of things she can’t part with but have no real place to put them. At least they’re contained to one small box. Good luck!

  10. Stephanie Chance

    Two weeks ago when my husband was on a business trip I cleaned the entire house as a surprise for when he came home. (If you knew me and housecleaning, you would know that would be a big surprise.) All except for my daughter’s room. That was the dumping ground, since most of the mess in the house was caused by her toys. I can’t see the floor in there.
    It seems like every few months I go in there and clean up and come out with three or four trash bags full of stuff to give away. Where does it all come from? I’ve stopped buying her toys long ago except for birthdays and holidays, and she only gets what she pays for herself with her allowance. But grandparents! You can’t stop them! And it is futile to try to persuade them to leave whatever they buy for her at their house. And most of it is just dollar store junk since they know I am going to throw it away after awhile anyway.
    I give most of the stuff to my mother-in-law who will sell it at her booth at a flea market. She keeps some of the stuff in the girls’ playroom, though, and every once in awhile we will go over there and Vi will come out with a toy and say, “This used to be mine. Can I take it back home?” Gahhh!

  11. Crisanne

    I had the pleasure of cleaning my daughter’s room myself for my in-law’s most recent visit because she was sick with Strep. The only good part was not listening to her whine as I threw things away!

  12. Flea

    Soup! I made a lentil stew last night, which is huge for me. Eleven years in Florida and one stops eating soup altogether. Yes, it’s just too dang hot. And I’m going to make chicken noodle tonight.

    Are you sure Chickadee’s only nine and a half? She sounds an awful lot like my 14 year old. Oh, and my ten year old. We actually made a chart for the ten year old and hung it on the back of his door. Now he cleans his room step-by-step. Awesome. No fighting.

    Have fun with grandma and grandpa!

  13. Ann

    Ever since a tornado destroyed our house ten years ago (a bessing in disguise – really!), my kids have had their bedrooms on the second floor. If I had a way to get food to them, I would never see them again, what with their TVs, computers, phones, etc. My daughter’s room always looks like a photo spread from Martha Stewart magazine – perfection! My son is content to live in squalor. I do not enter his room more than twice a year. It is just too much to bear. I give him a gentle reminder whenever it seems I have run out of dishes and that’s pretty much it. Thankfully, his room is where visitors will never see it. And at least the health department does not do home inspections!

  14. Jenni

    Oh, thank goodness, this isn’t just me and my step-daughter. Her mom makes her keep her room CLEAN, not just picked up but CLEAN. We decided that since really, neither of us (my husband and I) particularly care too much if her Pollys are laying on the floor and therefore the cat is chewing on them, that as long as there is a pathway from her door to her bed to her closet it is okay with us. Every couple of weeks we’ll tell her she needs to pick it up and she’ll get around to doing it. The trick my mom taught though is to set a time amount (30 minutes) and make her clean up for that long. If it’s not done, that’s fine because the next day she’ll be doing it again…and so on until it is picked up. Losing 30 minutes each day from her playtime is a huge motivation to clean.

    We’re planning to rearrange her room sometime within the next few weeks and at that point we’ll probably do the throwing away and giving away of things she doesn’t really need.

  15. Crista

    mmmmm, soup, or chili, or spaghetti sauce. I love having something simmering on my stovetop all day. I love my crockpot, too. And fresh bread, yum. Can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet? :)

    You sure brought back a memory here–“Moooommmm, why are you taking stuff out from under the bed? My room is already clean, now you’re gonna mess it up again!!”

  16. MomCat

    Tell her it builds character. That’s the line my parents always used as they handed me a broom, bucket and mop.

  17. MomCat

    I have also my daughter (in addition to telling her it builds character) about an interview with Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). Since Ms. Fisher always had a maid to clean her room and her bathroom, she never cleaned anything as a child. So when she moved into her first apartment, she was horrified to find that the toothpaste in the sink, the socks and dust bunnies on the floor, the dust on the blinds never went away! Things weren’t put back where they were supposed to be! Dishes obstinately sat in the sink and didn’t magically get clean! Horrors!

  18. jennielynn

    That is exactly why I do a deep clean in Drama Queen’s room when she goes to her Dad’s house.

  19. StephLove

    Every time I clean my son’s room I think, he’s six now (okay almost seven), I really should involve him in this process. Then I think how much longer it would take (at least in the short run) and I think well, maybe next time. I know I’m not doing him any favors by letting him out of this chore, but I think you’ve made me postpone it a bit longer.

  20. Katherine

    Similar scenario here – we were cleaning for younger son’s birthday party and I asked older son to clean his room. “But they won’t be coming in here, so why do I have to clean?” Umm, maybe because I can’t get from the door to your bed without stepping on things.

    The only thing that really seems to work is explaining that if there is stuff on the floor, I can’t bring a cat to his bed – I might trip and hurt the cat. This at least causes a path to be cleared the next day – until entropy causes the mess to expand.

  21. Jodi

    It is too funny that you wrote this because I JUST sat down from “cleaning” a bedroom that my messiest girls share. It is an 8X9 room so it is TINY but they seem to fill it to the brim with crap.

    And I wasn’t so forgiving of the happy meal toys, wrappers, and even some old toys. Two big black bags of garbage are sitting on the curb waiting for the garbage man. And I am pretty sure neither girl will notice anything is missing. They will just stand with mouths agape because OMG THEY HAVE A FLOOR! Who knew?

  22. Wendy

    Damn, you mean this gets worse. My daughter is 5.5 yrs old and I am already yelling, ur, nicely asking her to clean up her pigsty, ur, room. I think I will just lock the door and never enter, again. We don’t need a guest room, because no one comes to visit. Hmmmm, maybe it is the stench coming from that pretty little girl’s room.

  23. Jamie AZ

    My room was crazy messy growing up, too. I shared it with my sister and it was a pit. My kids’ rooms are fairly clean now, but only because their dad is rather anal about it and makes them straighten up constantly (sometimes a little too often to me).

    Ah – soup! YUM. I made split pea the first week of January – I love it (hubby won’t eat it, kids did try it)! Sadly, this year, it produced uncontrollable gastro-intestinal effects that I just couldn’t deal with, so I had to chuck it after eating on it for two days. I was sad.

  24. Megan

    Oh, and soup? My Children just last night were reeling around the house singing “Sooooooop of the EEEEEEVening beeeyoooootiful soooooop.” Yes, I did read them Alice at far to young and impressionable an age.

  25. Nancy R

    I have three daughters, and the two oldest have both mastered the art of pack-ratting quite beautifully so I feel your pain.

    My husband’s grandmother was famed for her Pea Soup and Pancakes meal – pancakes made with just flour and water, turning out very thin and bland. The first time I saw pea soup in all it’s…greenness…when I didn’t like peas to begin with, I thought I was going to have to just pick at my pancakes through the meal and somehow make it look like I was eating the soup. But the soup? It ROCKS! And I STILL don’t like peas.

  26. Becky

    MMMMMmmmmmm, SplitPea!

  27. D

    From what I’ve heard about Ms. Katzen, she’s not a strict vegetarian – she’ll eat meat. So, enjoy your pork/ham hock … she’s all for it! :-) [no, seriously, do a search for her name and interview – you’ll see she really is like that!]

  28. Mallory

    Now playing at Mir and Otto’s house: “It Came From The Closet!” a Chickadee production…

  29. Simi parrot wrangler

    When I was 13 or so , having made the fatal mistake of admitting I was bored during the first week of summer vacation, my mom assigned me the coveted project of cleaning my 8 yr old brother’s bedroom. After having difficulty moving his bed I discovered the entire underspace was solidly jammed with (insert favorite items here). Imagine my screams upon discovering A HARDBOILED EASTER EGG!!(shell thankfully intact).I had never run so quickly to the outdoor garbage cans in my life. Magically, I was never bored for the rest of the summer!!

  30. Jamie

    I clean my boys room when they are at school. It doesn’t get very messy though because the only time they are in there is to sleep really. With school and the urge to ride bikes, they act like I am punishing them if I tell them to go play with their *gasp* toys that they have in their room. I am sure it won’t last long as the teenage years are going to come soon enough.

    I actually cleaned their room this morning. Every time I clean I get rid of a bag of toys and odds and ends…they never miss it.

  31. saucygrrl

    Oh man, I remember the days when I used to do that. Why? WHY? Did I used to do that? Such a weird little quirk.

    My sister still has all of her Happy Meal toys, btw, and she’s 34. I imagine she thinks she’ll be selling them on eBay soon.

    I cannot abide by pea soup (THANKS MOM for years and years of scaring my fragile psyche) but I am quite addicted to Tyler Florence’s Mexican Chicken Tortilla soup… always have it on hand. Mmm… Tyler… errr… I mean soup…

  32. Kristen

    My 3.5 year old sits on his floor and cries that he’s going to be there “forever” because there’s too much. Yes my love, those 5 cars sitting by your bed will take hours and hours to put away. He knows that if he refuses to do it his father and I will load up a trash can and “throw everything that is on the floor away” (read: shove in the attic once he’s asleep) because he obviously doesn’t want it. All the older boys know this as well, but the fight went out of them a long time ago. I just hate being woken up by a screaming kid in the middle of the night because they have stepped on a toy while on their way to the bathroom.

    Occasionally we also do a full room clean-out, during which time we throw out any garbage/broken toys and get rid of anything they do not play with. Of course, the twins want to keep EVERYTHING (“No, I NEED the packaging for a toy that was thrown away 6 months ago because I broke it! I haven’t seen/thought of it in months, but I may need it someday!”) so we tend to go through their rooms when their mother has visitation.

  33. Rebecca

    A couch and a queensize? Jealous!

  34. Heidi

    I join you in the Soup Love. Just last weekend I made roasted mushroom soup and tossed in bone of hammy goodness…

  35. Tootsie Farklepants

    And this is why there is a no food in any room but the kitchen and family room rule. Also, no food or drink in my car. I know that I’m quite possibly the meanest mommy on the planet but someday they will thank me for not, you know, injuring them.

  36. Susan

    When my brother and I were young, we shared a room. A disasterous mess of a room. One day when my parents had had enough, they grounded us in our room until it was all cleaned up. And that’s when the most ingenious plan of my youth was hatched. Why clean when you can just pile everything in front of the door so your parents can NEVER get in and see that you didn’t actually clean??? And that was the day that all our toys got taken away. Sad but true.

  37. la blogger gal

    Ahhh…I love me some soup. It takes a while for me to make some as well considering SoCal doesn’t get all that cold. But, I do have some chicken tortilla in the crockpot now (and plans to make some black bean tomorrow). The goal is to freeze the leftovers this time.

    I do think though that your daughter and I just might be related. I was horribly messy as a kid. I’m still not that great now (at least in the bedroom and my home office) as I love to stack and hate to dust. When things are way crazy, try asking her to pick up only three things – papers, clothes and whatever else the big mess might consist of. It’ll give her something to focus on and well, three seems manageable. It was the only thing that worked for one of my clients.

  38. Contrary

    I have a five year old whose room is invariably clean. If I ask him to go clean his room, he goes and does it. And I don’t mean he makes it ‘look’ clean. I mean, he cleans it. And it only takes him a few minutes, because he puts his stuff away when he’s done playing with it.

    I’m pretty sure God sent me this child to make up for the previous two, who could sleep quite comfortably in the city dump because it felt like home.

    I just hope it lasts.

  39. Christy

    Hey Mir! I follow you on twitter and wanted to let you know about a great single mom blogger than I read- http://iservethequeens.blogspot.com/

    She is fantastic and a beautiful writer!

    Btw, I moved from Oklahoma to the Atlanta area in May and am still getting used to the school system here. It is a bit of a shock!


  40. Tracey

    Hold on and hope, Mir. There truly is hope. Yesterday there was the most miraculous role reversal in our house when my 14 year old daughter (not known for her tidiness in any way) helped AND LED me through sorting through mountains of clean laundry/ironing that had .. em… accumulated. There she was tutting and shaking her head… It was extraordinary. It was something a mother dreams of.

    Won’t mention the playroom mess perpetrated by the other two. (Nor her bedroom for that matter)

  41. Vane

    Of all the wonderful traits my princess inherited from my ex … being extremely messy is the most annoying … by far!!! It is impossible to go through her room without tripping on something and she could not put her shoes away in her closet if it saved her life, I swear. I love her dearly, but I do hope she outgrows the messy-ness (is that a word?)

    Glad to hear mine is not the only one!

  42. Burgh Baby's Mom

    I’ve been cleaning all wrong. I need to do it Chickadee’s way–it sounds so much more fun!

  43. the elder

    HA! reminds me of the time we had to pack up and move huse when I was about 14. I procrastinated, as all good teens do. and in the end, my parents gave up and just threw EVERYTHING in boxes. including mouldy old school lunches.

    needless to say that i regretted their decision. my clothes didn’t smell too nice for a while there.

    on the upside, when i had to unpack, we found most of the teaspoons which had gone missing…..

    and my room was tidy for a while….. i kept most of my belongings in the boxes….. until we had to move to brisbane nad i had to go through everything and decide which i wanted kept in storage in brisbane, nad which stuff i wanted to stay with me while i lived with my best friend for grade 12.

    even now most of my stuff is in storage… but i still manage to accumulate random and odd bits and pieces…..

    i think next week i’ll go through my closet and decide what clothes i don’t wear and give them to charity.

  44. BOSSY

    Did you say something after soup? Must. Have. Soup.

  45. Little Bird

    Ok, this will sound REALLY bad. I’m 33 and my closet still looks like a sizable, though localized, tornado hit it. And the various bit of crap do tend to build up in the room too. My mother tried and tried to get me to be neat and tidy, it never took. Good luck though!!
    And Yay! for soup. I do the same with chili.

  46. mck

    Homemaker= The most creative job in the world involves: Taste, Fashion, Decoration, Recreation, Education, Transportation, Psychology, Romance, Cuisine, Designing, Literature, Medicine, Handicraft, Art, Harticulter, Economics, Government, Community relations, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Entertainment, Mainteneance, Purchasing, Direct mail, Law, Accounting, Religion, Energy, and management. Anyone who can handle all those has to be somebody special.

  47. http://www.kerrianne.org

    I maintain 32 degrees is positively arctic by ALL standards. All of MY standards, anyway. I can’t wait for Spring. Until then, here’s to soup!

  48. Daisy

    32 degrees? You are suffering. It’s not supposed to get that cold in the south, is it? Good thing your New England memory still holds the Soup skills. :)

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