Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Jesus!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas to you from our crazy clan!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lamplighter books giveaway (2 books!)

Congratulations to Channonsworld, you were the randomly drawn winner for this giveaway!  

Lamplighter books are some of our favorites for our children, and our family.  We love to read them out loud as a family.  Every one that we have read so far has captured our hearts. We love that they are not only sweet stories with good morals and values, but most also point to Christ. We give these beautiful books to our children as Christmas gifts. With Christmas just around the corner I thought I'd post a list of our favorites to give you some ideas for your own children.

Books we have read and loved
Teddy's Button
Me and Nobbles
Jill's Red Bag
Willy's Trunk
The Robbers' Cave
The White Knights
The Giant Killer
The Little Lamb
Little Sir Galahad
The Three Weavers
Fire in the Sky
The Basket of Flowers

Books we own and are looking forward to reading
The Unexpected Guest
Jack The Conqueror
Rosa Of Linden Castle
Basil Or, Honesty and Industry
Jessica's First Prayer


Books that are on our wish list
Paul, A Herald of the Cross
The Vanished note
Amy and Her Brothers
Charlie's Choice

Now for the fun! I'm going to give away two of our favorite Lamplighters- The Little Lamb and Me and Nobles. When you enter please make sure I will be able to contact you either through e-mail or your own blog. Here are some ways to enter....

-be a follower of this blog for one entry

-Facebook this blogpost/giveaway for one entry

-Blog about this giveaway on your blog for one entry.

-Go to Lamplighters site, look around, and tell me what you found there that looks interesting for one entry.

- What Lamplighters have you read and loved?  Tell me about your favorites for one entry.

I'll Choose a winner on December 12th.  If I get your contact information quickly the winner could have these in time to put under the tree!

Also, if you haven't helped us win a different giveaway by visiting Saddleback Leather's homepage, please do so!

 *We are Lamplighter affiliates.  If you make a purchase through clicking on our links we earn a commission off of the sale.  We are affiliates because we love these books so much and love that we can offer a 15% discount to everyone that purchases through our links!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Help Us Win Saddleback Leather (Again!)

Rob here. You may remember how Gabe won the awesome Saddleback Leather "Beast" for me with her funny video about using Saddleback Leather straps. Well, they're having another giveaway. Look at all the loot!

Please click through to their homepage using this link (opens new window). The counter resets each Wednesday for three weeks. "Click early, and click often!" to misquote Mr. Wrigley.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

From our family to yours.  May your day be filled with much love and joy as you reflect on all you have to be thankful for in the past, present and future!

"Oh give thanks to the LORD for He is good, his mercy endures forever!" Psalm 107:1

Friday, November 9, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

Christmas is coming up; even so it caught me off guard to find that the Operation Christmas Child boxes are due next week!  This is a great way to show Christ's love to a child in a tangible way.  It is also a great project to do as a family.  My kids had a great time shopping; then we came home and dumped it all out on the table.

Then we sorted it all to make it easy to split up into the boxes.


Boxes are all filled, labeled and ready to be dropped off on Monday.

There are loads of ways families can serve others during the Christmas holidays.  This post is to get you thinking now.  What are some ministries that you could help out near or far?  Friends or neighbors that you could minister to?  Get thinking!  Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget what we are celebrating.  It is Christ.  His birth.  His life.  His sacrificial death, and more importantly his Resurrection; the gift of salvation that he offers all who believe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Large family comments

Well meaning strangers, friends and family often make comments about our large family. This is something that, for the most part, we are used to. Many of the comments are kind, often joking, but sometimes rude. Sometimes the comments bring tears to my eyes, mostly because it saddens me that others don't see my children for what they are. They are blessings. Gifts from God. Lives that we hope and pray will be lived for Christ. Instead they see burdens, hard work, mouths to feed etc (or it's just not normal and can't think why we would do this). From those thoughts often come hurtful comments.

Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Today while shopping a woman made a comment that brought tears to my eyes. I really struggled not to cry. This was different though. This woman sweetly leaned into me and said "you have a beautiful family" then she softly touched my arm and said "thank you for choosing life."

Psalm 139:13-16 
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

The tears came to my eyes. This woman got it! We choose life. We thank God for being the author and creator of life and for giving us these precious lives to care for, for a time. We choose to model every day that we really do believe that life is a blessing and well worth the sacrifice to make the choice for life with open hearts.

It took me a minute to catch my breath and go to the woman who had already moved on and thank her for seeing my family for what it is. A blessing, and a choice for life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Preschool Activities in a bag SWAP

Preschool Activities in a bag are exactly what they sound like; they are activities geared towards preschool aged kids that can be stored in gallon sized zipper bags.  They come in handy when little hands need to be busy with little supervision.  I like to use them when I need to be cooking dinner, helping older kids with school, or waiting at a doctor's office etc.  The activities focus on various skills that children are developing at this age such as fine motor skills, matching, memory, alphabet and numbers to name a few.

I recently put together a swap of these bags with a group of friends.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many were interested and as we were doing the swap people started thinking of other friends and family that would have been interested in participating.  For our swap we had 12 ladies.

Most of us picked two activities to put together.  We looked for good deals on the supplies we needed (back to school time is a great time to pick up these supplies!).  Children were happy as could be to help put these together.
*Some of my kids helping to put together the "b" and "d" activity, it helps kids put to memory these two letters that often get mixed up, something we are working on here!
Our swap was a social swap with the understanding that some of the moms may not actually be able to make it to the swap.  I just asked that anyone that could not make it have their bags to me before the swap.  About half of the ladies were able to make it.  We had a good time visiting and letting the kids play.
*Bags lined up in my dining room waiting to be filled.  I set them up a couple of days before our swap date so that bags done early could be put in right away.  I put each lady's name on a bag.


I enjoyed coordinating this swap.  It was a bit of work up front, but once that was done I simply answered a few questions and sent out some reminders.  I was so happy to put out that bit of effort to be able to have so many wonderful activities for my kids and to bless some friends with this as well.
*A bag full of activities just waiting for little hands!
Our group is looking forward to putting together a science experiments swap for the older kids in a few months and then another preschool one next year!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

HappyBaby Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to KatiO who won the giveaway!
I was recently given the chance to review some of HappyBaby's toddler foods, and I'm excited to get to post this review along with a giveaway!

I normally make baby food for my little ones.  However I will generally buy baby foods when we are going on a trip or have something planned where the convenience is important, but I still need something healthy for baby to eat.  That is how I ended up trying HappyBaby in the first place....We were out running errands, I realized I had forgotten to pack lunch for baby (and a spoon too).  I figured one of those new baby food pouches would be the best bet.  The HappyBaby one caught my eye because of the fruit/veggie combination, then the price, AND it was organic!  My baby loved it, and had fun eating from the pouch too (and it was so much easier than a dish and spoon while out).

I wrote to HappyBaby and they offered to let me review some of their HappyTot products.  Since I have two "tots" I had both of them try each of the products.

The HappyTot Plus pouches were a big hit with both my 10 month old and my 2 1/2 year old.  The pouches were intended for the baby, but my toddler kept trying to sweet talk the baby into giving it to her.  If you are wanting to get more veggies into your toddler, or just want a quick easy meal on the go this is a great choice.  I love that they are organic and that there is (little to) no mess with these!  My kids loved every flavor.

We also tried the Toddler Meal Bowls.  I was happy to see real chunks of veggies (mostly peas and carrots) in the bowls and my baby was happy to eat these meals.  The portions were more than enough for my 10 month old.  My two year old on the other hand was not interested.  I can't say that I'm surprised, she has been eating table food for over a year and did not seem to find these meals novel enough to excite her into eating them like the pouches did.  My baby's favorite?  He LOVED the Vegetable Ravioli, but it wasn't exactly a convenience/on the go meal with the mess he made.

The results from my review?  The HappyTot pouches have made it into my cart since the review and will be something I go to for trips and other times when we are out and about (or recently when little ones were sick).  The little ones loved them and I'm happy that they are getting a healthy meal on the go.  The Toddler Meal Bowls were good (or so my baby seemed to think), but not as likely to make it into my cart (mostly because they just don't fill a need for our family).  Thank you HappyBaby for letting us do this review!  Now to the fun...

I get to give away the same package I reviewed!  If you win you will receive coupons in the mail for free products (4 toddler meal bowls, 3 HappyTot plus pouches). To enter the Giveaway you can....

1.Follow Happy Family on Twitter @HappySuperFoods

2. Go to the HappyFamily facebook page and answer one of the questions on the page.

3. Sign up for Generation Happy

*Besides receiving the product to review I was not compensated in any way for this review. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Busy Homeschool Mom's guide to Romance Review and giveaway

As moms of large homeschooling families it can sometimes be difficult to make your marriage the priority that it should be. Homeschooling can take a lot out of us, and sometimes our husbands get the leftovers (if there are any), when they should be getting our best.

I loved reading Heidi's book. She writes as if she is talking to one of her best friends. Sometimes saying the hard things, and definitely hitting some of the topics that often get ignored. Her passion for Christ, marriage, family and homeschooling certainly come through.

Reading this book left me feeling like some pressure had been lifted off of me, instead of adding yet another weight on my shoulders. It was such an encouraging book to read and full of Biblical conviction as well. I loved that it was a fairly short read, which was also great. I highly suggest this book for any mom that is getting sucked into the "homeschool mom vortex" and could use some encouragement in keeping her marriage a priority (as well as some practical advice for making that happen).

The security of their parents marriage is one of the most importnat things we can give our children. Truly the pain of a broken family is long lasting. The scars left are ugly. The consequences last for generations. Despite what the world may say our happiness is not the most important thing, nor is "feeling loved" the way we think we should be.  The covenant made between husband and wife before God is one He uses to His glory and to sanctify us; it is not always easy but it is right!

I'm so excited that I get to give one of these books away! Here are a few ways to win this book.

1. Follow this blog via GFC

2. Tell me something you do to keep your marriage a priority; remember this is a family friendly blog ;)

3. Head over to Heidi's blog, tell me something interesting you learned/found there.

4. Like The busy Homeschool Mom on Facebook

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Uncle Eric books review and giveaway!

I'm so excited to get to do a review and giveaway for some of our favorite books!  While books on the economy, justice and politics may not sound like the most exciting read alouds or a good fit for a family with all young children; just the opposite is true.

Last year our family enjoyed reading "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy" together, and we all enjoyed it.  It is a book on economy in the form of letters from an uncle to his nephew.  The book goes through the history of economy and money and really helps the reader understand what is happening now and why.  We all learned from this book, right down to the six year old (maybe the 3 year old picked up a bit too?).  Something else I loved about this book was hearing my kids asking daddy to read more from a book on economics!  Who would have thought that would happen?  It also opened up many discussions for us to have as a family.

We started reading "Whatever Happened to Justice" recently and I'm seeing the same things happening with this book as well.  My husband and I are learning so much from it, but at the same time my children are being drawn in and are interested.  We've had so many chances to discuss law and justice and we're only a few chapters in!  We are looking forward to purchasing more of the books in this series.

Blue Stocking press has very generously offered to giveaway the Uncle Eric book "Are You Liberal? Conservative? or Confused" Which is a very timely book to study given the upcoming elections.  I know it is one that is on our list!

There are a few ways to enter this giveaway (please leave a separate comment for each entry and make sure I'll be able to contact you if you win!)

1. Follow this blog through google

2.Head over to Blue Stocking Press and take a look around.  Tell me what books you found that interest you.

3. What are some of your favorite family books that inspire your family to think and discus?

This giveaway is open to US residents only, Thank you!

*The views in these book seem to be consistent with our Christian worldview.  However, my husband finds it interesting that he cant actually tell if the author is writing from a Christian worldview or an atheistic Ayn Rand worldview because the facts on economics and justice are so cleanly presented.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I need a vacation!

When I say "vacation" I don't mean some lovely resort or destination.  Nor do I mean days or weeks free of responsibilities (though that could be nice).  On the contrary, I'm finding that the vacation I'm dreaming of is a few weeks at home reading to my little ones, playing games with my kids, working on projects, school planning for next year and de-cluttering at a slower pace setting aside some of our regular duties.

I think I'm dreaming of finally settling into our home.  We've got a few down weeks here, so I think I'm going to take that vacation now.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks with new posts and even some giveaways!

In the mean time...

What is your idea of a great vacation?

What are you doing this summer?

Done with School?

Any projects you've got going?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Links I love

I liked this one by Michelle Duggar on expectations.  I know my expectations get in the way of enjoying what I have, I really need to work on giving these up to God and living the wonderful life that He has given me.

This one on A Mother's rights is great, it is short and sweet but makes a great point.

Do you desire to live a radical life for Christ? My Wife, A real radical is a good read.

Starch, a mom's traveling companion has some good advice not just for packing up your clothes for a trip, but for helping your clothes look their best in general.  I use starch regularly too, and find that it makes our clothes look so much better too.

I liked this post on Essential Medicines for Travel.  Best of all?  Its all natural!

Should we limit Children?  This post is wonderfully written and filled with wisdom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer breakfast for the HOT weather

It is getting HOT here.  I would rather not turn on the oven or stove unless I really need to.  I'm working on figuring out meals for the hot weather as we get used to this new climate.  Breakfasts were easy to figure out; smoothies.  Sometimes we will have hardboiled eggs or left over coffee cake as well, mostly its just smoothies with some nuts and veggies on the side.

Our smoothies are never exactly the same but here are some things we put in ours to give you some ideas.

Bananas- Our commissary sells the older or bruised bananas very inexpensively.  I'll buy bags of these and either use them right away or stick them in the freezer to use later.

Greens- It can be hard to get enough veggies and greens into kids, smoothies are an easy way to pack in a bunch.  We like to use spinach, this can be frozen too if you are not using it fast enough.

Make it smoother- I've found that by adding avacado, coconut milk, or coconut oil that our smoothies end up with a smoother consistency which we all seem to like.  This is also a simple way to get some healthy fats into this breakfast.

 Fruit or berries- to all of the above listed ingredients we add whatever fruits or berries we have on hand.  We like pineapple for a tropical flavor.  Mixed berries and blueberries seem to be the favorites around here, I tend to buy the big frozen bags at costco.  Sometimes I'll throw in some apples or oranges too.

Honey- if the smoothies are in need of some sweetener we use raw local honey.

Water- I add a bit of water to thin this out.

We have a vitamix that we use to make our smoothies, which I love.  It does a great job with our smoothies, making them a nice smooth consisitancy without chunks.

I got some special toddler smoothie cups for our little girls.  They do better drinking their smoothies from straws.  Strong straws were needed for this job and I wanted the cups to be spill proof.  I'm sure there are many options out there, but I ended up getting these.  I like that they are simple and fairly easy to clean.  The straw does not come out of the lid, which means it does not get lost.  We've had these for over seven months and they have been getting quite a bit of use.  I'm happy with how they have been holding up so far and my girls like them too!


What are your favorite hot weather breakfasts?  If you do smoothies too, what are your favorite ingredients/recipes?  I'd love some more ideas.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Child Training Bible

Be sure to check out my current giveaway!
I saw this Child Training Bible a few weeks ago and thought it looked very interesting.  I showed it to my husband and he agreed that it would be good for our family, and he ordered it for us.

I've been enjoying putting it together.  I've loved going through each category, looking up the verses, reading them, highlighting them, and then putting in the sticky tab.  I've done some of it on my own after the kids have been in bed, but I've really enjoyed working on it WITH the kids.  The little ones have enjoyed handing me the highlighters and tabs that I need.

We use the Bible in training and teaching our children already, but I like that this makes it so much easier to use with the key and tabs laid out so nicely.  I also like that we can easily adapt this for our family, adding in additional verses that we use with extra tabs.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sugar scrubs and a giveaway!

Congratulations to Crystal! Comment #5 was chosen by random number generator as the winner for this giveaway!

My friend Stacy K over at A Delightful Home wrote an e-book called Simple Scrubs to Make and Give full of great recipes. She sent me a copy and I've enjoyed looking through the recipes, making up some scrubs, and using them!

The first scrub we tried was the basic sugar scrub. My 11 year old daughter mixed it up; it was easy to make and called for ingredients we normally have in our home. We both gave it a try and I gave a jar to my mom too. We've all enjoyed using it.

The second scrub I tried was the Lavender Vanilla sugar scrub. It took me about 10 minutes to gather the ingredients, measure them out, mix, and transfer to a jar...all with a baby on my hip! Yea, these are so easy. I loved how this one smells and after using it my skin feels smooth and moisturized without feeling oily.

I also made up the Chocolate, coffee, and Lemon-lime sugar scrubs and gave them to family. I loved that most of the ingredients are ones I have in our home anyways, which make these fairly inexpensive to make up and can be done on a whim. I did order some essential oils I don't normally keep around to make the lime sugar scrub, and I'm glad I did.


I love to make my own beauty products and special gifts for family and friends. I like knowing what is going into the product and what is going onto my skin. Stacy's book is well written explaining everything from the whys and hows to where to get the ingredients (most are easily accesible and may already be in your home) making it so easy to make my own scrubs.

Stacy is going to giveaway a copy of her e-book to one of my readers, and she is also offering a discount on her e-book; the discount code is happyday and I believe it is good through the end of this month.

To win a copy of Simple Scrubs to make and Give book I'll give you a few ways to enter. Please leave a comment for each entry and make sure I'll be able to contact you either through your blog or by leaving an e-mail address.

1. Follow this blog through Google Friend Connect

2. Tell me your favorite beauty/hygiene/medicinal product that you make or would like to make

3. Go over to A Delightful Home and take a look around. Tell me something you found over there that caught your eye.

4. Follow A Delightful Home on Facebook


Friday, May 11, 2012

Large family traveling

In the last few years we've started traveling more.  Most of our travels have included at least 5 children, and on up to 7 now.  Some would think that with so many kids we would stick closer to home, but we've found the opposite to be true.  As our kids get older there are things we want to see and do with them before they head out on their own, this is the time to do those things and we enjoy doing them with all of our kids (no matter the age!).  There are some things that we do to make these travels go smoother.  Just a little thought and planning goes a long way.

We drive everywhere we go as a family these days.  Flying just costs too much and then we generally need to rent a van on the other end which is also very expensive.  Driving also gives us some flexibility. Here are some of the things we do to make it work for us.

Eating on the road- We often bring our own food to eat on the road instead of stopping for fast food and other junk.  Some shallow storage baskets can make nice trays. We bring foods that don't make big messes.

    Breakfast- would tend to be things like sausage balls, bagels, and fruit (like bananas or grapes).

   Lunch- would be things like sandwiches or cheese and crackers and some sort of fruit or veggies (apples and carrots are good).

  Dinner- We do tend to have dinner out on the road, but we've also had a crockpot going while driving at times.  It has been nice to have a simple, healthy, homemade meal when we stop.  Just make sure you are prepared with dishes, and serving utensils and a way to clean out your crockpot (I've used a hotel bathtub before, it worked out just fine).

Overnight stays along they way-  Our trips tend to have a destination that we pack for, but there are also overnight stops along they way getting there.  Who wants to pull all of that luggage in for one night?  We generally only need PJ's, clean socks and undies as well as our toiletries (I have everyone wear the same clothes while on the road, they really don't get dirty just sitting).  I'm able to get all of that into two small suitcases (one for boys, one for girls) as well as our toiletry bag.  That greatly reduces the amount of things we bring in and the potential for mess and disorganizing all of my hard work in packing for the trip.  That also means less time unloading and loading up again.


Packing for the large family- Packing for our crew is fairly easy.  I like to have my family coordinate while traveling so that we are easily recognized as a group and I can spot my kids.  This is a safety thing more than anything else, though it is nice to know everyone will also look good as we are out and about drawing attention for being such a large group.  I pack according to those outfits.  All clothes intended to be worn at the same time are in the same one (or two) piles in the suitcase, I just have to pull them out and I know I've got all I need.  Socks and underwear are put in plastic zipper bags, one per person, and their names are on them.  Everything I need is easily at my finger tips, I know all I need really did get packed, and it reduces the amount of luggage we are bringing (right now our family of nine needs 2 large suitcases and a separate one for Daddy for a one week stay).


These are just some of the things I do to make traveling easier for us.  Maybe I'll post more after we've done some more summer traveling?  In the mean time.... Do you have any great travel tips?  Any thoughts or questions about large family traveling?

Friday, May 4, 2012

MOTH/Scheduling update (keeping our large family/homeschool on track

I shared here that we had been going through a rough patch and what we were doing to get back on track.  I thought I'd update how things are going and what seemed to work for us.

Something I had learned from past attempts at scheduling was to be realistic.  One can put all sorts of wonderful plans down on paper, and it can look REALLY good....but would it truly work for your family?  Being realistic about what I planned not just for our family as a whole, but for individual children really helped out.  Remembering that while a job/activity should only take x-minutes so-and-so really needs y-minutes.

I used Schedule Breeze which made customizing for each day very easy.  While some may choose to have just one chart they go by I found that having the details of each day on its own chart really helped me, and the kids, stay on track.  We hung the charts in the dining room, this is a central location in our home so everyone could easily check the charts regularly as they were going to and from their activities.

Consistency is huge.  I think that combining the above tips with the consistency we've been better able to stick to this schedule.  While we do not want to become slaves to our schedule resisting the temptation to get side tracked on other things is very important.

I also made sure I planned things into our days that the kids looked forward to (and me too!).  Things that I knew they wanted to do (and we wanted them to do) but it had just been hard to find the time for.  This made us all much more excited about our days and more likely to WANT to stick to our schedule.

I'll be continuing to pray that God would open my eyes to what He wants us to be doing.  I'll also be asking my husband for input and suggestions as he sees what we are and are not accomplishing or is seeing character issues.  I'll also be revisiting our schedule regularly (maybe every 6 months or so?)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Taking care of mom; T-tapp

Check out my other Taking Care of Mom posts too!

After having my 6th baby I realized that the "baby fat" was just not coming off like it used to....welcome to the 30's!  I struggled with finding time for a work out though, and the best I ended up doing was some long walks with the baby.  Those walks helped, but not to the extent that I needed.  By the end of my pregnancy with my 7th I knew I needed to find something that would help me get in shape.

My goal was not to get to a certain weight or even a certain size, those things were not the problems.  The problem was that I knew I was not being a good steward of the body God had given me.  I wanted to get myself in better shape so that I could feel better doing the job God had given me, and just take care of the body God has given me.  I had been hearing about T-Tapp for years.  It seems to be popular with moms of many for several reasons.  It does not take much time and there is no special equipment needed.  It focuses on toning muscles, something most moms of many need help with. ;)

I started doing T-Tapp in November.  I was faithful to keep it up everyday for about 10 days, then went down to every other day for a couple more weeks.  By mid-December my clothes that had been tight fitting after baby was born were now fitting very nicely.  The end of December and early January were rough and I was not able to keep up with doing T-Tapp for couple of weeks.  Once I got back into it though I started feeling much better and I've even been able to go down a size (and since my clothes had been a bit tight before I'll say I went down two sizes!).

I've still got a ways to go, but I've been very encouraged by the steady progress I've been able to make so far.  Something I really like about T-Tapp is that the focus is not on weight loss, but on taking care of your body, getting it functioning properly, and toning it.  I've noticed that when I'm faithful with it I feel much better.  Right now my goal is to continue with T-Tapp three times a week, sometimes that does not work out though.  I've found that if I'm faithful to do it at least once a week I'm able to maintain the results I've already achieved.

I'm not an expert.  I'm just a mom sharing what I'm doing, and what has worked for me.  As with any sort of workout you must be faithful with it to see results, and those results differ from person to person.  You may want to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine if you are in doubt as to whether this is right for you. ;)  I was not compensated for this post, though links are affiliate links.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Links I love

I ran across some wonderful posts this past week or so and I thought I'd share the links.

The irony of the empty nest over at The Mom Initiative was a good read and great reminder of our goal.

I love reading A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and this week she posted links to 10 Ways for Moms to Respect Sons and 10 Ways for Moms to Respect Daughters.  Both were great reads and got me thinking.

I'm wanting to try this recipe on how to make an herbal first aid salve.  I love finding natural replacements for the stuff that fills our medicine cabinet from the store.

And this post on Five Herbs That Benefit the Garden gave me so things to think about for next years garden (or maybe even this year?).

While I hope you enjoy these links as much as I did, they are here for my benefit as well.  I want to be able to find them again!

Edited to add in this one on Sharing and socialism, I just love Smockity!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Taking Care of Mom; Spring/Summer wardrobe

Check out my other Taking Care of Mom posts too!

I've been working on de-cluttering my closet.  There were too many things in there.  Many of them were ok, but I didn't love them.  Many did not fit quite right.  Others just didn't work well as team players.  I wanted my wardrobe to work together as a team, and more importantly, work for me.  Here are some steps I took to minimize the clothing I needed, and to help them work well together, and for me.

1.  I wanted everything to be simple to take care of.  I've got too many sweet grubby hands, cute runny noses and silly messy faces to have to worry about hand washing or dry cleaning.  I do iron, but I'd prefer my clothing only need a quick once over for that.

2. I prefer to wear skirts most of the time.  I found a pattern that I liked from Marie Madeline Studio and made all of my summer skirts.  It can be hard to find modest skirts, and then to find them with pockets? That is hard (If you don't sew, or don't want to take the time NewCreation has great skirts, and many do have pockets!). Once I found this pattern I decided I'd just make my own summer skirts!  ***I do have some jeans, sweats and capris for the times that I need them, but those are put away in a drawer and only come out for big work days or things like camping.

I'll do a post later on how I messed with the pattern just a bit to make these skirts accommodate my waist line that seems to be in a constant state of flux.

3. I settled on some basic colors for my spring/summer wardrobe....white(or off white), brown/tan, and denim.  I also chose an accent  I chose red because of these skirts.  In a couple of years when all of the girls have outgrown their skirts and mine is looking tired I will pick a new color.

4.  I wanted to limit the number of shoes that I need as well.  Limiting the colors of my clothing made that much easier.  I decided that a good pair of walking shoes was in order for around the house, walking and most other casual times.  Having one nice pair of sandals would most likely work out just fine for my errand days as well as church or just about any other dress up time.  If I need to go to a ball I'll get myself a pair of glass slippers or something, until then I think these two pairs should work out just fine.  I also have a pair of fuzzy pink slippers that I love to wear in the evening and on slow Saturday/Sunday mornings. ***I did keep an older pair of shoes for hiking/camping/gardening.


5.  Accessories help make an outfit.  You'll notice that most of my clothes are very simple, I like it that way. I usually have the ultimate accessory on of my kids. ;)   While I do like jewelry it does not work so well for me at this stage in life.  Necklaces can get in the way while cuddling or nursing and they tend to get yanked or pulled.  Earrings can really hurt when yanked on.  I do have a couple of special necklaces that are saved for special occasions.  All of that being said, here are my accessories that I've been using....

I tie the scarf around my neck or in my hair as a head band.  I love the flexi from lilia rose, they are jewelry for my hair!  I like the lila rose hair bands as well when I feel like wearing my hair down.


 My mom picked up a couple of cute purses for me that blend well with my clothes, but add some color and fun.

Of course there is always the diaper bag.  I don't carry it with me as much now as I would with a newborn, but it always goes in the car when we go out.


Lets not forget the hat!  I've had this hat for years, but I didn't wear it much.  It is getting more use here in Arizona.  It is a ribbon crusher hat, I love that I don't have to worry about it getting bent, squished or even sat on.  I think this is the one I have.

I've been using this wardrobe for about two months now and I'm really enjoying the simplicity and flexibility.  Since I like everything in my closet it all seems to get equal rotation and I've not yet had an "I have nothing to wear" day yet.  Any one have tricks they use for simplifying their wardrobe?  What are some of your favorite items of clothing or accessories?

What?  You want to SEE my closet?  Since it is all cleaned out and nicely organized now; I'll be happy to show you!  Keep in mind that my fall winter clothes are pushed to the middle where they are out-of-sight-out-of-mind.  In a few months I'll do a post on what I've picked for those seasons.


The bin at the bottom holds maternity clothes.  I'm wondering if I'll be able to get rid of some of them if my expandable waistband skirts work out well.  I'll just have to wait and see though.  

Growing Home

Friday, April 13, 2012

Teaching many levels at once; lapbooks for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Butterflies

We enjoy doing unit studies for our group school times.  As my older kids get older and I still have little ones I'm needing to tweak how we are doing this.  As we are getting back into the swing of things I put together a unit study on butterflies geared to two different levels.

My younger kids love The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I figured putting together a lapbook based on that book would be fun for them.  I wanted to include a memory verse and I wanted to keep my first grader interested.  I made sure I had some handwriting for him to do, and planed to have him help teach the younger ones (he is a leader, so this was going to keep him interested!)  We made our own Very Hungry Caterpillar books, and I used this link for many of the pintables.  This lesson included days of the week, shapes, colors, a puzzle as well as talking about foods (healthy vs. junk) and the butterfly life cycle.

I had my older kids make up their own lapbooks doing a study on butterflies.  I checked out plenty of books for them at the library, and I printed up various pages and ideas for them to use.  This link had some good printables.  We used many parts from this lapbook.  The big kids presented their lap books to us at the end of the week.  This allowed my big kids to share what they were learning and an opportunity to show off their hard work.  It also gave my little kids a chance to see what their older siblings had been doing so they could learn from them and be inspired by what they saw.

I'm linking to The Modest Mom.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Old Navy Ruffled Maxi Skirt

I was in Old Navy today and ran across this skirt in the store on sale for only $15!
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Almond Butter
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On line it is listed at $25 which is still great for a long skirt that has pockets!!!!!  I'm not sure if it is on sale like that in their other stores, but thought I'd pass on the tip since I'm always on the lookout for long modest skirts with pockets.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Getting back on track (large family scheduling/planning)

Most of us have our rough patches, the times when life seems to be a struggle.  When you know that you should be able to do more, but it just is not happening.  Durning those times our family tends to fall back on our basic schedule, which goes well enough.  Things are maintained around the house, school is done (but not as much as I would like).

We've been on that schedule for nearly a year now.  That is too long.  First we prepared for a move, then had a baby, then my husband finished his PhD, then we moved.  Just as we were feeling like we were settling in and maybe life would look "normal" my dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly.  The last few months have been rough, but things are starting to go better again and it is time to buckle down, get a new schedule going, and dig into school.  That can't just happen though, it takes prayer, lots of thought and some dedicated time.  Here is what I did these past couple of weeks to help us get back on track.

Prayer- I prayed about this for a while.  I asked God for wisdom, asked him to show me how we should be using our time.

Husband-  I talked to my husband about these things.  Did he have any thoughts/advise?  I thought about the things he wants our kids/family to be doing.  What things are important to him to have done.

MOTH- Years ago I had purchased the MOTH book, used it and liked it well enough but it just did not seem like I NEEDED it, so I passed it on.  It seems this large family/homeschooling thing gets harder as you have more kids and they get older....go figure!  I purchased a new copy and re-read the book.

Schedule breeze- This is a computer program designed to be used with your MOTH book to help you put your schedule together.  It has a $15 a year fee, and so far I feel it is well worth it.  I enjoyed putting our schedule together much more than I remember doing so in the past.

Planning week-  We took a week off, sort of.  I planned our days well.  Kids had activities/jobs planned all week.  I paired little ones up with big kids.  We pulled out games and toys that are not played with often.  They did yard work.  I also made sure that I did not neglect them, I planned in times to spend with the kids.  This planning was done with our fallback schedule in mind with large chunks of play time, not much school so it was easy for me to plan out in a short time.

Quiet time- I also asked my husband if I could go out every evening to do some of that planning in peace and quiet.  I headed to our local library or Starbucks each evening for about an hour.  Just long enough to get some good work done, but not so long that I missed out on family time in the evening.

Test week- Next week will be a test week for us.  I expect that there will be some excitement about this schedule, I planned in some things I know my kids have been wanting to be able to do, but have not been able to regularly.  I expect there will be some bumps and a learning curve that will require extra attention from me.  I expect there will be some things that will need to be changed.  I'll watch what is working, what just needs more practice and help, and what needs to change so that I can tweak things on Saturday.


Have you had those rough patches?  How did you get through them?  How did you bounce back?  What are some of your favorite tools for managing your family A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making space for a large family; decluttering

Betsy asked a couple of great questions in relation to an organizing post.  I answered her first question here, and now I'll try to answer her second question.

How do you choose what stuff to keep and what to get rid of? What about kids toys, do you let them pick or just get rid of it? What about hubbies stuff? Does he go through it or do you just get rid of it for him? We are a family of packrats in a small house so stuff is a constant issue.

First off, I think everyone struggles with this to some degree or another.  We are living in a very materialistic consumer centered society.  It has its blessings; just about anything you or I could need are just a quick trip down the road or even a click away!  However the drawback is that we often are tempted to pick up things we don't really need or we enjoy the thrill of the hunt as we find a great deal only to find that the object does not bring any joy, does not really make life easier and ends up being a waste of money and sometimes even causing more work.  How do we get away from this? How do we know what should stay in our homes and what needs to go?  How do we de-clutter?  

What to keep and what to get rid of- When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of ask yourself some questions.  Do I/we love it?  Do I/we use it?  Does this help our family glorify God?  Is there something else that also serves the same purpose this does?  Do I have more than one (and if so do I need more than one)?  Does it fit easily into the space we have?  If I get rid of this will it really save me any space/time (as an example- my husband has a bin of straps.  He uses some of them, but could get rid of some.  However he would still need that same small bin to hold the ones he does need.  He chooses to keep the others since getting rid of them will not save any space and they COULD come in handy some day).

What about kids' toys- That really depends on the toys, child, and situation.  I can safely de-clutter the baby toys with no objections from the baby.  Toddler toys are fairly safe, but I need to be more careful.  However; my goal as a parent in de-cluttering with my kids is to teach them good judgement and organizing skills, not to get rid of their stuff.  We talk about the questions I listed above and help them answer those questions so they can come to their own decisions about their things.  Sometimes when they live out what we are teaching they end up teaching us. We talk about the fact that when we have more stuff we must spend more time taking care of that stuff.  Which would we rather spend our time doing-- taking care of our stuff or with each other?  Do we enjoy our home more when it is messy or when it is neat and tidy?  I've found that in going through this with the kids they have usually come to some very wise decisions on their own.  That being said my husband and I reserve the right as parents to remove any toy, book, object etc that is causing problems (too many fights, not being well cared for, left out repeatedly) or does not align with our family values. 

What about our husbands- That really depends on your husband.  If he does not want you going through or getting rid of his stuff, don't.  I've found that when I start de-cluttering my husband is inspired to do so himself.  Sometimes he asks me to help him.  He has also asked me to tackle a certain area that includes much of his stuff.  When that happens I do make some judgement calls, but usually unless it is obviously trash or something I KNOW he wants to get rid of I will set items aside for him to make the final call on.

Something I've really been working on lately is just being content with what I have.  Trying to find ways to help our things serve us better.  Even if I would enjoy something and have the money; is it something I can do without?  Usually the answer is "yes."  I'm trying to purchase only the things my husband is actually encouraging me to bring into our house, and even then really think long and hard about it.  "Stuff" will always be a struggle to some extent.

Another thing to think about is that just because you could find space for something does not mean it needs to come into/stay in your home.  Really think about how much time you are spending dealing with your stuff.  How easy is it to find the things you really want to use?  Could the space be used better without so much stuff?  Just because I can cram a bunch of stuff in my garage does not mean I really should keep it all (yep, I REALLY need to get brutal in my garage.  Thats for another post; soon I hope!).  Our garage could serve us much better if we had less stuff in it so that my husband could use it as a work shop and so that I could have the freedom use part of it as a pantry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toys; who what when where and why!

Betsy asked-
How do you rotate your toys? What is assigned when, what kinds of toys do you have, what about different toys for different ages, etc. 

Instead of just replying in the comments or by e-mail I thought these questions deserved a post of their own (she had another question that also deserves its own post!).

Rotating toys-  I started rotating the kids' toys when I realized that despite the large amount of toys in our home, the kids seemed to be bored with their toys.  It was all just too overwhelming.  What would tend to happend is that they would pull everything out, make a big mess, but not really focus on any one toy (or set of toys).  I realized that they needed their play to be more directed and their access to toys limited. This really can be done in so many ways.  I used to have a large rubbermaid bin for each day of the week.  Every day a new bin would be taken out and only that bin, all day.  Now I tend to have smaller sets out for shorter periods of time. The important thing here is helping your kids learn to be content with what they have and to help them use/enjoy what they already have.

What kind of toys- We tend to stick with the classics.  Toys that promote open ended play and imagination.  We want toys that encourage our kids to think and even explore.  Toys that allow children to just sit and watch it do its thing don't last long in our home (if they even make it in!).  Here are a few examples for you

Blocks- There are so many differrant types of building blocks-large/small, wooden/plastic, brightly colored/natural all of them encourage kids to use their imaginations and think.  

Playmobil- This is a classic and while they tend to be expensive I think they are worth the price.  They appeal to a wide range of ages (here they are played with by all of my kids ages 2-12, and my baby likes the ones geared to toddlers!) and interests.  Grandparents tend to enjoy adding to these sets. ;)

Fisher Price Little People- These are great classic sets (we only have the barn and house, but there are many other great ones too).  I love that my baby can play right next to my 4 year old (and even older kids sometimes) and they both have a great time!  They can enjoy some role playing and use their imaginations with these toys too!

Kitchen/baby dolls- My girls love these things and the appeal is obvious; they get to do what mommy does!  My boys have enjoyed these at times as well.  Adding some playdough in with the play dishes can add some extra fun and add a new dimention to the play.


Weapons- This one CAN be controversial, but I don't think it should be.  Our boys are young men.  It is ingrained in them to want to go out and conquer the world.  Practicing hunting, battles and protecting the girls are great ways for them to be playing now.  Our girls enjoy this play as well, and we encourage them in it.... Why?  Well the short answer is that it is a blessing to be able to protect and provide for your family no matter your gender. We also want them to be comfortable with the idea of guns.  We do teach gun safety and expect them to follow gun safety rules with their toys.  

Games- Kids love to play games.  We like to have games that teach our kids something.  Sometimes games serve the purpose of teaching our kids to follow rules, play well together, honesty, and good attitudes.  We have games that appeal to various ages and interests as well as games that most of the family can enjoy together.  Some favorites are Candyland, Sorry, Apples to Apples, SkipBo and chess.

We have so many more, but many are either outside toys or are used for school. Maybe I'll get to them in another post?

Different ages- Toys do need to be appropriate for the children playing with them, both for safety reasons and to encourage growth and development.  I have a small bin of toys for baby as well as "gear" for the baby (maybe its own post as well?).  Often toys can do double duty appealing to more than one age range; I find that toddlers and pre-schoolers often enjoy the same types of toys, their play just looks different.  As kids get older they start developing their own interests and hobbies.  We tend to encourage their "toys" to be tools to help them develop those skills while they continue to enjoy the many toys we already have available.  My oldest daughter loves to bake, so she uses my kitchen and enjoys having some of her own cook books.  My older boys like to build, hunt and explore their "toys" reflect those interests.  Some of the toys are appealing to a wide variety of ages such as legos, blocks, playmobil, really just depends on your child's interests.  Keep in mind that many toys that appeal to older kids may not be appropriate for the little ones because of small pieces, use good jugement here.