My three children and I are triumphantly declaring the beginning of summer. Thank God! No more rushed mornings, alarm clocks, searching for missing shoes, or racing for the 6:30am school bus. All that craziness is over for the next few months. (I believe I am more excited than they are, if that’s possible.)
By my count, there are 76 days of summer, which equates to 76 days of adventure, travel, boredom, probable sibbling sqaubbles, and guaranteed heat. This year, we are shooting for a simple-sounding goal: one new or fun thing every day for 76 days. My goal is to keep a running series with all of our attemps at adventure. I hope to make a new post every day, but life happens. I will keep an updated, running list at the bottom of this post, so it will all stay together.
The internet has a ton of ideas. My craft room has an embarassing amount of random collections and supplies. Our community has things in and around it, many of which we’ve never considered exploring. And I have a passion for being
cheap frugal. Most of these ideas have to be wallet-friendly, and something that will work for three kids, ages 4, 6, and 9 (two boys and a girl). No pressure, right?
We were already planning on some vacation bible schools, and a three week road trip from Tennessee to California. The plan is to still have some ‘other’ activity planned for each day. (Meaning, I can’t just claim VBS as the ‘thing’ for five days in a row.) Sometimes it will be a craft, a recipe, a field trip…basically anything to distract them from beating the tar out of one another every day. Playing Teacher sounds much more fun and productive than playing Referee.
The main goals are to keep their brains and bodies active, to foster a passion for their community, and to see possibilities, lessons, and solutions in their surrounding world.
Wish me luck!
76 Days of Summer
- Hot Rock Crayon Art
- Kid-Friendly Shooting Range
- Flag Placement at Stones River National Battlefield
- First Pool Visit of the Summer
- Craft Stick Flags for Memorial Day
- Kick off the Summer Reading Program at the Local Library
- Visit the Local Children’s Museum
- Tour the Vet Clinic
- Breakfast at the Donut Shop
- Tie Dye with Kool Aid Experiment
- Sponge Bombs
- Visit the Wilderness Station
- Scour the Local Thrift Store
- Ogle the Pets at Our Favorite Pet Store
- Begin a 5,000 Mile Family Road Trip
- Have Two Picnics in Two Different States
- “Learn the Finer Art of Tagging” & How to Make Your Own Spray Paint for Kids
- Visit the Grand Canyon
- Scavenger Hunt
- (Coming soon…)
In an effort to catch up on my Days of Summer series (I am hopelessly behind!), I have decided to start posting things that we would love to do. Or have done. Or are planning to do soon. Either way, I had a lot of things to blog about that would take a lot of time and a lot of images (which also take a lot of time to get right). I was computerless recently for about a week. And honestly, being a perma-referee to the littles is sucking out whatever ‘spare’ time I once had. This is called the Reality Check of summer.
Without further ado, today’s featured activity is a scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts can be done virtually anywhere. In your backyard, inside your house, out and about in your city…just about anywhere. It can include just your kids or (if you are uber brave) throw in some extra neighborhood kids.
You can do this different ways. Here are just a few:
Option One: You can give each kid a list with specific items to find. (i.e “Find a leaf, rock, flower, bug, blade of grass, etc.) He who finds the most wins.
Option Two: You can give each kid a list with general items to find. (i.e. “Find something blue, soft, round, slimy, cold, etc.) The findings could be hilarious.
Option Three: This is one of our faves, but takes a little more prep work. Start off by giving the kids a “clue”. The clue will give them an idea on where to go first. (“I live in the backyard and am full of stuff you find at the beach. What am I?”) When they run to the sandbox, they have to dig in the sand a bit to find the next clue, which instructs them to go to another stop. And so on and so on. Set up as many stops as you think will be fun for the kids…the last clue telling them where they can find their treasure (“I am in the freezer in the garage”). When they go to the freezer, they will find a little paper attatched to the popsicle box with an ‘X’ on it.
Because this is so versatile, you can tailor it to any number of kids or situations (birthday parties, for instance). I am thoroughly tempted to make this into a chore scavenger hunt. (Bring five items upstairs, put all the books on the bookshelf, sweep the floor, empty a trashcan, etc.) I am not sure that my kids will fall for that, but it would be worthy of an attempt.
The drive from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon National Park was something like an hour and a half. It was a little longer than anticipated, but the kids made do and seemed to amuse themselves alright.
It was pretty smooth sailing until we go to the main entrance of the Grand Canyon. There was a lot of traffic trying to get in, so we were stuck in a mini traffic jam. Team Motz was starting to fade. Admittedly, being Road Warriors is not for everyone. And even the best have their off days. This was one of our off days.
Once inside the main gate, we immediately headed towards the dog kennels. We were so thankful they had that amenity. Walking a dog around a huge canyon in the desert sounded miserable for everyone involved. She would be much happier resting in her little cell. It took us forever to find the dog kennels…it was a bit off the beaten path. But we were so happy to offload our ever-barking companion.
After getting some much needed food, our attitudes were marginally better. (Which means we were still pretty spiteful towards one another, but we were no longer starving.) For whatever reason, we were having a hard time getting to the rim of the canyon itself. We were semi lost in Grand Canyon Village and were having differences in opinion on how best to get to the canyon. I suggested we try asking at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center. My husband thought that was the lamest, most defeat-admitting solution possible. But I did it anyway.
I saw two rangers standing at the information desk inside the Visitor’s Center. This is the gist of our conversation:
Me: “Hi. Yes, I am hoping you can help us. We kind of came here without a plan. You see, we are driving cross-country with three kids and a dog and thought it would be a great stop along the way. But we have no idea what we’re doing. We’ve been at the Grand Canyon for almost two hours, and have yet to see the canyon itself. We all basically hate each other right about now. Can you help???”
One rager walked away laughing, leaving his poor cohort to handle psycho-woman on his own.
Him: “You’ve been here two hours and haven’t been to the rim yet?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right.” [Forced smile and a head nod]
Him: “Ok…if you walk out of the Visitor’s Center and turn left, there’s a sidewalk. Go up that sidewalk for about 200 yards, and there’s the rim.”
Me: “Ok. Awesome. Thanks! Any other tips for poorly prepared visitors who are on a time crunch?”
He was very helpful and informative, and helped make the remainder of our visit a success. Because of him, we were able to take this picture with smiles on our faces.
One of the suggestions the brave ranger made was for us to take the shuttle. The shuttle has access to points that regular cars aren’t allowed to drive through. So it wasn’t just the lazy option. It was functional too.
Our daughter and I, hiding out in the shade while we wait for the next shuttle to pick us up.
Our last shuttle stop was to the Yavapai Geology Museum. It was air conditioned, and had some pretty cool views. You could take your time to learn about the canyon and its history. I took my time keeping track of kids. It’s a bit like herding wet cats sometimes. It was super crowded in there, so I was only able to snap a quick shot or two of the of the picture below. I think it will look amazing with a little photo editing.
Overall, we survived. The kids claim they enjoyed their visit. Looking back, we are glad we went and think “that was kind of fun.” Fortunately some of the heat-induced-travel-weary-hungry-and-irritable moments are harder to remember than the pleasant ones.
One thing we skipped out on was the Sky Bridge. It wasn’t on our part of the rim we were exploring, and there is no way on God’s green earth that you could ever get me out on that thing. Knowing my luck, I would be the one person standing on it when it freakishly shatters and falls into the canyon below. Which, in theory would never actually happen, but stuff like that happens in my mind all the time. And, at $20+ per person, forget about it.
After seeing what we came to see at the Grand Canyon, we rounded up the family, collected the dog, and pointed the van westward once more. It was around 4:00pm or so when we left the park, and we were trying to figure out where to stay that night. Let’s see…Kingman, AZ (170 miles away) is a possibility, with Barstow, CA (380 miles) being our stretch goal.
We wound up driving through the night so that we could get to my dad and step-mom’s house. The deciding factor being that we didn’t want to unload the van once more at 11pm, only to get some shortchanged sleep, then pack up and burn another day driving. So, forget it…let’s just drive. (We arrived at my dad and step-mom’s house, 812 miles away around 6:30 am.)
It appears that my attempts to stay caught up with blogging while vacationing were a complete failure. My grand vision before packing up the van and leaving for California was this: have tons of new adventures, millions of stories and places to share, blog nightly, and keep up with the 76 Days of Summer series.
The reality was: that was a totally ridiculous vision.
Driving I-40 to California, there are many areas that don’t offer internet service or data of any kind. And when we did have data abilities, we were usually spending it trying to find dog-friendly hotels or something similar. Pair that with the long travel days, an anxious dog who whines every time you change lanes, and being “mommed” to death every 32 seconds, that blog thing went straight out the window.
“I’ll catch up tomorrow.”
But ‘tomorrow’ was always full of ‘stuff’. We were thankful to visit with our families (which was a minimum of 55 family members alone). There were three completely different family reunions in the two weeks we were there. Trying to cram 20+ years of places, memories, and people into 14 days also proved to be impossible. Ultimately we weren’t able to visit all the places and people we wanted to. Every night was a late night, so blogging at night wasn’t even a thought when I was given the chance to hang out with the loved ones we miss the remainder of the year.
“I’ll catch up when we get home.”
Our homecoming went something like this. We woke up in Tucumcari, New Mexico. After hitting up the dinosaur museum there, the plan was to drive all the way home to Murfreesboro, TN, stopping long enough for food, gas, and bathrooms. That was just shy of 1,100 miles. Things were going decently well as miles of asphalt successfully slipped away behind us.
And then there was Little Rock, Arkansas.
Little Rock was the site of the now notorious Momma Meltdown two years ago. (We drove from AZ to TN in one fell swoop that time. Never again!) In fact, simply mentioning the word “Arkansas” is enough to elicit a half gag and an upper lip curl from me. (My apologies to friends who are from there, or who have moved there. Honestly, it’s not a reflection of you.) We were sure that Little Rock would not cause my undoing this time. We were almost out of Little Rock when we came to a dead stop on the freeway. For an hour and a half. At 1:30 am. While we never reached the infamous meltdown levels of two years ago, we were quite irritated. We were NEVER going to get home.
But we eventually did get home. We rolled into the driveway around 8am with three well-rested kids and two deliriously exhausted parents. We had just enough energy to unload our over-packed van, dumping the entire contents just inside the front door in one unceremonious front-room-sized heap. We quickly flipped on the air conditioner, and flopped down on the couch. We left our home a complete disaster three weeks prior. (Leave now? Or clean for two hours before getting on the road? The first choice seemed like an awesome idea at the time…not so much when you had to come home to it.) We also came home on Day 3 of the great Tennessee heat siege (it was 114 degrees the day before…a/c had been off the whole time we were gone).
Blogging clearly wasn’t going to happen that day. Or in the next week, as it was going to take at least a week to find our floors and counters again.
And there is something truly amazing about the human body. Sometimes, you have absolutely no idea how exhausted you are until you get home from some place. And we had three weeks and almost 5,000 miles of exhaustion stored up.
We have been home for 11 days, and are still catching up on the house and our energy levels.
There have been a few times I came on here to blog, and was completely overwhelmed by what to write. We had a lifetime of memories and stories to unpack from our adventure. So here is where I am leveling out. I will write what I can when I can. The 76 Days of Summer series has not been forgotten, but I am definitely going to modify my game plan with it.
Thank you for understanding my lack of dedication with the daily writing. We were busy making memories. And that was the right choice.
Now, when I say “tagging”, I am not referring to the in vogue use of the word (“tagging” a friend on a Facebook picture of comment). Nor am I speaking of a playground game. No. I am speaking of the straight up, old school version of tagging. Spray paint, baby!
Now, just to give fair warning: Using the real deal spray paint is probably not one of those recommended activities I would normally suggest you do with your kiddos. But if the opportunity (legally) presents itself, then press on!
***If you are looking for a way to make your own kid-friendly spray paint, click here to use food coloring. Or, you can click here to find other ways to make it using tempura, acrylic, or poster paints. Personally, if I were at home, I would ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY use a homemade version.
But, I wasn’t home.
And I had a rare opportunity to go against the typically uptight parenting mode that I tend to dabble in. So, here goes…
On the 17th day of summer, we woke up from our exhausted, motionless sleep in Amarillo, TX. This was the beginning of the second day of our road trip. The novelty had worn off a little, and the reality had set in that we were almost 1,000 miles away from our home and even more miles away from our destination. We tried to brighten that reality with a stop at Cadillac Ranch, which sits just outside of Amarillo, TX. If you’ve never heard of Cadillac Ranch, it’s one of those little quirky places that one must see if they are venturing out on a half-planned, cross-country road trip.
If you’re a parent, chances are this image looks familiar to you:
This is one of the views seen in the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars”. The mountain range in the background is called Cadillac Range. It was inspired by the real-life artistic venue of Cadillac Ranch (below).
For a history of Cadillac Ranch, click here. Basically, Cadillac Ranch is a roadside attraction that beckons many a weary road traveler. It stands confidently and uniquely in the middle of a corn field. (Or, at least it was a corn field two years ago…this year it’s a huge field of dust.) The idea is that you bring your Krylon or Rustoleum or whatever, walk up to a face-planted Cadillac, spray paint to your heart’s content, then leave. It is perfectly acceptable (and expected) that visitors will do exactly that.
And we were more than excited to hoodlum-ize the kids.
We learned of Cadillac Ranch the last time we drove through Amarillo, which was two years ago. So we were already armed with the how-tos…and three cans of spray paint. Each kid got to pick their own color, in exchange for some explicitly clear instructions: “Look, this is the only time and place in your life you can use this stuff. Do NOT get any ideas otherwise. Understood?”
Three little heads nodded up and down in unison in the Amarillo Wal-Mart. It was just enough to convince me that they may actually heed our instructions.
After arriving at the site, we set about removing a minivan’s worth of humans, spray paint, camera, and dog. We walked down the dusty dirt path to the ten maltreated Cadillacs. While we were walking, I couldn’t help but think of one of the quotes from the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Granted, this quote was originally intended for an entirely different set of circumstances and group of people, but I couldn’t help but snort a laugh when I realized how completely applicable it was to a cross-country bound minivan, packed to the gills…filled with more males than females.
We finally got to our destination and started the multi-faceted effort of training, observing, photographing, and aiding our littles as they operated their various cans of paint. Our oldest caught on pretty quickly. At nine years old, we figured he could self-manage…
Our six-year-old had an immediate plan for her art. We supervised her pretty closely, but she proved to be very responsible.
And then there was our youngest. He needed some hands-on help. He probably thought we were the nuttiest parents on earth, and simply didn’t have the strength or dexterity to push down the nozzle. Being four, and the most ‘adventuresome’ of the three, this was probably the best possible outcome a parent could pray for. With help, he was able to do a bit of tagging. His eyes were the size of saucers when he saw what a spray paint can could do.
All in all, the kids thought this was a great stop. The dog was a barking fool, which was aggravating to an extent. But her barking was far less abrasive in an open, dusty field, and much better than the deafening in-your-ear version we were accustomed to while in the van.
As parents, we enjoyed the stop too. It’s not often you can teach your kids the finer art of being a hoodlum. (Well, it shouldn’t be, anyway.) We also liked that we could illustrate how art can take on many forms, and can be ever-changing. Basically, whatever art you leave will most likely be covered by someone else’s art within a day. If I had more time, it would be fun to just sit back and watch the steady stream of visitors come and go as they continually change the art. The sedentary layers of spray paint are truly amazing. There’s a pretty deep crust of paint coating what once was a car.
But we couldn’t stay terribly long. Our goal was to drive 600 miles to a hotel in Flagstaff, AZ by that night. We were also hoping to do a quick drive through tour of Tucumari, NM (one of our favorite Route 66 towns). After getting a late start that morning, we had to get our happy butts back on the road.
Honestly, this isn’t something I would consider posting as a daily thing to do for the summer. Not many people will be able to do this as a time-kill. But…we spent the entire day driving, so crafting was out of the question, and the highlight of the day was this. So, here you go…
After driving all night from Murfreesboro, TN, we finally arrived in Oklahoma City, OK. It was time for breakfast, and we still had 260 miles to go until we reached our hotel in Amarillo, TX. This was the perfect time to eat and change the kids into daytime clothes.
We had our first picnic behind a visiter’s center in Oklahoma City. Breakfast consisted of Pop Tarts, milk, and a double dirty Chai Tea Latte for mommy. (Feel free to nominate us for parents of the year.)
We let the kids burn off some energy at the playground before loading up. They also checked out some of the on-site attractions, including a pond-type feature, and an AT-38 (which we later learned the ‘HM’ on the tail stands for Holloman AFB…we were stationed there in the early 80′s, and my dad flew a plane very similar to this one. Small world.)
After the appropriate amount of leg-stretching and fresh air, it was time to load up the crew and press on. Two hundred more miles, a traffic warning from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (oops), and a missed naptime or two later, and it was safe to assume that Motz: Party of Six was over it as for as traveling was concerned. Unfortunately we were still 45 minutes away from our hotel. So….another picnic it was. This one was in Groom, TX. We love Groom because they provide a little bit of relief from the northern Texas I-40 monotony. For one, it’s part of the old US Route 66. For another, they offer some completely out of the norm attractions that are sure to get you to stop.
They were well-known for a long time for their leaning water tower.
One of their newer things they are known for is The Cross. It stands 190 feet tall. We could see it from 9 miles away, but that was on a hazy day. You can see it on a clear day from 20 miles away. More than 1,000 people visit it each day. These are some pictures of it. Our two younger kids are crouched at the base of the cross in the first picture.
We ate under a tree on the property of The Cross after looking at everything there was to see there. It was super windy, and admittedly not the most favorite picnic ever. But it got us re-centered enough to make it the next 45 minutes to Amarillo, TX. We said a quick good-bye to Groom and snapped this quick picture before continuing our journey.
After hemming and hawing over flooring, I think I finally have a plan.
For one, I cannot stand laminate. It creeps me out, particularly when it creaks and sounds hollow when you walk. So the next logical option was hardwood. It is beautiful, but there’s a dramatic price increase from laminate to hardwood. And we have a concrete foundation. I have heard that there are potential problems with installing hardwood on a concrete foundation. Although it sounds like there are ways to make hardwood work on concrete, it also sounds like a huge pain and only adds to the cost of the already expensive hardwood floor. And to pay all that money and do all that work, I would really hate if my dog’s claws gouged it.
So, hardwood was out too.
And to replace the carpeting (which I loathe) with brand new carpeting sounded like absolute madness. It would just get destroyed again in a few years.
The solution seemed to come when I took our dog to the vet several months ago. Yes, THE vet. Our vet had moved to a new location, which is beautifully built with brand new everything. While waiting for our dog’s checkup, I remember looking at the lobby flooring.
It got me thinking. It was pretty. Was it…could it possibly be….laminate?? I tried to be sly while doing a little jump test. Hey, wait. That’s concrete underneath. And there was no chintsy creaking. No way…
I watched one of the staff members roll out a mop bucket and slop a soaking wet mop on the floor. Another dog was busy digging his claws into the flooring while his owner tried to drag him into the exam room. The flooring looked flawless, despite whatever abuse the pets could dole out. I immediately adored this flooring, for it was 1) attractive, 2) mop-able, 3) dog claw proof, and 4) soundly installed on a concrete slab.
New flooring is not realistically in our budget, so I put it out of my brain for awhile. Not too long ago, I came across a post on The Yellow Cape Cod‘s blog. My flooring selection was immediately confirmed when I saw this:
Long story made short, it sounds like this is very similar to what I found in the vet’s office. It is slightly larger planked, looks like individual pieces of wood, and has a color variation that seems perfect. I am leaning toward the darker version of this flooring, and have decided that I will start my Momma-Needs-a-New-Floor fund immediately once we get home from our cross-country road trip.
We spent the 15th day of summer panic packing, panic cleaning, and tying up some last-minute errands. It was a mess. The plan was to leave in the evening sometime and let the kids sleep in the car overnight while we drove from Murfreesboro, TN to Amarillo, TX (870 miles, give or take).
We woke up that morning, largely unpacked and totally unprepared for the evening’s agenda. I knew the night before that we would be taking on a day of mammoth proportions. Instead of me personally packing every single thing, I thought I would enlist the children’s help. I made a few lists of what they needed to pack for themselves, and what they needed to do. I figured it was good lesson in personal responsibility, and in teamwork. (Something like that, anyway.)
Here are their lists.
Each item of clothing listed has a number next to it. The idea was to essentially hand the lists to the kids and let them do the majority of the work. I followed up afterword to make sure their clothing combinations and selections made sense. After a few minor adjustments (and a lot of help for the four-year-old), we had everything we needed. The pros to this system were two-fold. It took some pressure of me from making all the decisions, while helping them feel good about packing their own stuff. It also gave them something productive to focus on, instead of fighting or keeping me from doing the other million things that were required. It wasn’t a flawless system, but I will do it again in a heartbeat on future trips.
The kids seemed to have a limited attention span for helping mommy pack up and clean the house. But sometimes, being a family member requires some extra effort that is not always classified as ”fun”.
Eventually we were ready to leave. The house was left a wreck, and we had packed most of what we needed. (We had the important stuff, anyway.) We originally planned on leaving at 5pm, but it was more like 7pm. That was much better than the last time we tried this…I think we left at 9:30pm instead of 5pm. Yay for experience!
Our kids love animals. (You’ve probably gathered that by now.) They particularly adore cats. My husband and (as of recently) our oldest son both have cat allergies, which explains one of the main reasons we are not cat owners. There are other reasons, but that’s the main one.
One thing the kids love to do is visit the nearby pet stores. They are happy regardless of which one we go to, but their all time favorite is this Animal City Pet Center in Murfreesboro:
It has a bird who says “Hello!” when you walk in the door.
They also have a lot of birds. Our kids love birds. Mommy doesn’t.
There are at least two resident cats. The kids love to find the cats whenever they are there. It’s their version of Where’s Waldo.
And then there are the cats you can adopt. Which we never will. But the kids can get their fix here.
It’s also a pet store where you can adopt puppies, and snuggle with them a little. I don’t see many pet stores like this anymore.
This pet store is fun because it is unlike the big chain pet stores. It is more hands on and seems to draw people to the animals a little more. You can pick up the dogs without asking. It has a basement with more animals (rabbits, chinchillas, more kittens, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, etc.) Overall, it’s a lot more intimate feeling than those big, brightly lit, cookie cutter pet stores. The staff is friendly and informative, and you can generally find whatever random item you need for whatever random pet you may own.
Pet stores are free to wander around in, and it entertains our kids for a good hour or so. We already have a dog who is 10 years old. This gives us an easy out when it comes to more pets. “Sorry, Chloe won’t do well with a puppy.” Having cat allergies seems to be a permanent out for adopting a cat. “Sorry, daddy and big brother will have a hard time breathing with a cat.”
We pretty much have a No Scales/No Fins policy at our house. Basically, anything that needs to be fed, cleaned, or maintained in any fashion is not coming home with us. The three kids and a dog are lucky enough to have made it this far with my nurturing skills. (Many gardens and houseplants have met their demise with me.)
But coming to a place like this gives the kids the fix they are needing for the pets they cannot have.
Disclaimer: If you are eating anything right now, I suggest you stop before reading any further.
We have used the Rug Doctor numerous times for our house. We may have used it on a car mat or two on our former car. But I never really stopped long enough to try it on our van.
We own a 2006 Honda Odyssey. We bought it two years ago, and it looked pretty clean at the time. The floor mats were a little worn looking, but it was five years old by then. Even the salesman mentioned something about the floor mats looking a little dirtier than normal. He suggested we might look into buying new floor mats soon. We tried not to suppress the laughter. But he was talking to a family of five who already had experience in filthifying the floor mats of minivans. (Mommy totalled the previous minivan two years ago, which is why we bought the Honda. Our previous minivan’s carpets were dirtier than the said Honda’s.) But in our minds, we knew the van had just been detailed. While the carpets didn’t look great, we sort of chalked it up to “clean dirt”. The carpets were “clean”, but stained.
One of the seats. I believe that’s a chocolate milk stain near on the lower back and near the seat belt. Sort of a brownish, subtle layer of muck. Perplexing to me, considering there is a child’s car seat covering it at all times.
Am I embarrassed about posting pictures like this? Not at all. I figure that most people who own minivans and who claim one or more dependents on their taxes probably have a similar situation going on. The sad thing is, our van was considered clean before I did the carpets. Clean as in, “honey, I just cleaned the van”. Which translates to hauling three WalMart bags of trash, toys, and crayons out of the van, vacuuming the inside, and washing the exterior. To us, that’s cleaning the van.
But…we rented this machine for a little incident inside our house. (See today’s earlier post: Using Vinegar in a Rug Doctor.) And I decided to take advantage of it, and get our money’s worth out of the rental. Plus, we’re putting 5,000 miles on our van in the next three weeks, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some deep cleaning. (Yes, I was avoiding the huge mountain of laundry that needed to be folded.)
To clean the floor mats and seats of our van with the Rug Doctor, I used the same solution in the Rug Doctor that I did while cleaning the carpets in my house. I also used the upholstery attachment for this job.
- 1.5 – 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- Hot water
- 4 – 5 drops lavender essential oil
I sprayed each mat down with full strength vinegar first (with a spray bottle), then let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. While that was sitting, I filled the Rug Doctor with the above ingredients. I then went over the mats and seats (and a few other spots in the van) with the upholstery attachment.
Shampooing floor mats and seats helps me understand my OCD friends a whole lot more.
I was prepared for some muck to come out of the car mats. I was NOT prepared for what was going to come out of the seats. At first, I thought the brown gook was from chocolate milk. But it was like this on all four captain’s chairs (the other three looked pretty clean to me). The rear seat wasn’t as bad, but it was still pretty gross. Mind you, I went over each chair about four times. It was so so sooooo gross. You really have no idea what kind of grime you’re wallowing around in until you clean it. Blech!
I went over the floor mats about four times also. I could have been there all day with some of them, but I was running short on time by this point. The end result is not perfection, but they are much better than they started out. And they are seven years old, so I am having a little grace with it…
And if you are having a hard time deciding if there is a remarkable difference or not, here is the (horrifying) proof.
I have NEVER seen black water come out of the carpet in my house. I’ve seen brown. I’ve also seen gray. Black made my stomach churn. This was just from my van.
We knew a carpet cleaning was due. We are leaving in a few days for our roadtrip to California and had every intention of waiting until we got home. But then a full cup of coffee got spilled on our carpet, meaning that Project Carpet Cleaner Rental was bumped a lot higher up on the priority list.
We rented the Rug Doctor, as we have many times before. Light colored, cheap carpet is the bain of my existence. This particular one runs $25 to rent for 24 hours. Normally, we buy the Rug Doctor shampoos to use with it, but we were already grumpy about shelling out money to rent the machine in the first place. I vaguely remembered my friend Kelly saying that she used vinegar in a Rug Doctor before. She had amazing results, and it got rid of some wretched smells that they inherited from the previous renters. I called her, and she stated she used a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. She then did a second pass with the machine filled with water and liquid fabric softener.
We didn’t have a huge issue with odors…just stains. And we also can’t use liquid fabric softener in our washing machine. (We have a weird washing machine and it states not to use it. Odd.) I did a few internet searches and found a few people who stated that they used 1 cup of vinegar in their machine with good results. I also found someone else mention the use of essential oils. Hey, I have that. (We use it in our homemade laundry detergent.) This is what I eventually used:
- 1.5 to 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- Hot tap water
- 4-5 drops lavendar essential oil
I put all of the above in the machine. By using the essential oil instead of the fabric softener, this also meant I didn’t have to go over my carpet twice. I love time savers.
I wasn’t sure if I should post about using these items in this machine. Rug Doctor explicitly states to only use Rug Doctor solutions in their machines. But, this is how their website states it:
Can I use products other than Rug Doctor in the carpet cleaning machine?
Products that are not made specifically for water extraction method cleaning of carpets should NEVER be used. Damage can occur. Carpets need a specific pH range of cleaning that is effective and won’t damage fibers. As well, products that are not made for the kind of simple rinsing and extraction provided by the machine will leave residues that attract dirt. Through extensive testing we have found no products that compare to Rug Doctor in terms of the 3 essential elements for complete carpet cleaning: (1) effective deep-cleaning to release embedded dirt, bacteria, and allergens from carpet fibers, (2) a pH balanced formula for safe cleaning and (3) clean rinsing ability. For these reasons, we do not recommend the use of any cleaners other than Rug Doctor solutions in Rug Doctor machines.
It doesn’t say anything about ruining their machines, which I didn’t want to do, nor did I want to encourage others to do that either. The only concern the manufacturer states is for my carpet. Which is eight years old, and has admittedly been ruined several times before.
I’m going to position it this way. I don’t claim to be a carpet expert. I don’t work for the industry, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of carpet pH balance and whatnot. And I am not telling you what to do to your own carpet. (Use your best judgement, but you are assuming your own liability on this one.) BUT…I am a mom. We have kids and a dog. Life happens, and my carpet was grody. Vinegar is generally regarded as a safe go-to cleaning supply. I was willing to chance it.
If you have not used vinegar before for cleaning, try not to freak out. Your house will not smell like an easter egg dye session. I promise. You might smell some vinegar smell while using it (I didn’t in this case), but that goes away fairly quickly and it will actually neutralize whatever odor you might have had hanging around beforehand.
Here is an example of how well it worked in our house
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this is what my coffee stain looked like after the carpet cleaning
It is marginally better, at best. Before cleaning the carpet, I tried flushing it with water (then blotting). I also sprinkled baking soda on it. After vaccuuming that, I tried a mixture of OxiClean and warm water. The OxiClean solution sat on the stain for almost an hour before towel drying it. And, finally, I sprayed it with straight vinegar (as a stain pre-treater), and cleaned it with the Rug Doctor. This one is stubborn. I have some friends who are recommending Folex (found at Lowe’s) or Solumel/Prespot (by Melaleuca). I may give those a try down the road, but I am honestly looking at starting the fast track to my floor replacement fund as soon as this roadtrip is done.
Overall, I am super happy with the results. I would do it again (but am secretly praying that this was my last carpet cleaning session ever.)
And you should also see what same machine and home-made solution did to my van’s interior! Click here for the post titled Using the Rug Doctor and Vinegar in Your Car’s Interior.