Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

I just love special days like Father's Day. We don't do big extravagant gifts, so there's no pressure to get just the right thing. I work with the girls leading up to the day on thinking about the person we are honoring(for birthdays, father's day, mothers day) and ways we can make them feel extra special. We have done lots of things in the past. One of my favorites is from last Father's day when I put together a little video of the girls talking to me about their dad and what they liked best about him. Looking back on that this year I see how much they've grown, and changed, and matured. It's amazing to me the smart things that come out of their mouths!
This year I had each of the kids use watercolors and paint on a sheet of cardstock. After they were dry I used a tie template that I made out of another sheet of cardstock and cut ties from each of their pages. We worked together to thank about what we wanted to say and settled on, "We Love Our Dad!" After that I had them help me string on the ties and we made a simple banner that I hung on Sunday morning while Scotty was in the shower.=)

Notice the homemade cinnamon rolls waiting to go in the oven. We have recently started making our own because I was about to have to take up stock in Pillsbury we were going through so many for Sunday morning breakfast. We make a variation of this recipe. Scotty actually makes them. He makes up two batches at a time then freezes them. They are OH so GOOD! We've been having cinnamon roles on Sunday mornings since Emma Claire was about 18 months old. She started asking for them every Saturday evening, and now it's just a tradition that we all enjoy. ANYWAY, back to Father's day!

I taught the kids a little song to sing to Scotty first thing in the morning. They love to sing, as most kids do, and it is so easy to make songs from tunes they already know and get them to remember them. We often use "Mary had a Little Lamb", "Happy Birthday", and "Are you Sleeping" for our songs, but you can do any song they are familiar with, then add in easy lyrics for a sweet way to bless someones heart. People LOVE to hear kids sing!=) Here are my littles singing to their dad. Notice brother starts to cry at the end! He got embarrassed, I guess, but it makes my heart melt that he reaches over to hold his sister's hand! OH SO SWEET!! Gotta love that sibling love!

After the song, we had our breakfast and the kids each took turns praying and thanking God for Scotty. It was such a special time. Addison simply said something like, "Thank you God for Father's Day and please help daddy to have a GOOD day!" Emma Claire thanked God that "daddy takes us to church and makes really good cinnamon rolls." Zaiah said "Dada Thank you" Then it was Olivia's turn and what came out of her so freely made me want to kiss my man right there on the spot and reach up to heaven with a PRAISE JEEESUS! She went on about what a great leader Scotty was to our family and how he always wants to point us in the way of Jesus. It was just beautiful and completely accurate. I think that God allowed Scotty that moment to prove that even in the chaos of five kids we are doing SOMETHING right and that HE(God) is getting glory! Love that precious girl.

After breakfast we had church, then went out to Scotty's favorite, Los Amigos for lunch. We came home, put the kids to bed, and rested the rest of the day. Such a great day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Welcome To the Family

Since I've started blogging again and have gained several new readers(Hi! And Welcome!) I thought that I'd post a reintroduction of our little family. Feel free to ask any questions as I'm limited on time today.

First is Olivia, AKA Sister. You'll hear me refer to as Lulu or Lucy most of the time. Luc is 6.5 and just finished the first grade and is a reading WHIZ! She's a fantastic oldest child and dreams of one day becoming an Animal Rescuer. She recently lost her first tooth. It was such a big night in our house. Lulu and I both cried happy tears and I cried a few(ONLY A FEW) sad tears. I can't believe she's growing up so fast. I've always thought I'd like it as she got older because she's such a good helper to me, but now that she's actually getting older I want to freeze her in time so she'll always be my baby girl!

Next comes Emma Claire, AKA KK. Emma Claire is 4.5 and is the single most hysterical child you'll ever meet. She's VERY smart but lacks common sense which makes her a hoot to be around. She dreams of a day when she can eat whatever she wants whenever she wants. She has plans to become a "McDonalds Worker" someday. You can ask KK anything about the Bible and she can answer it.  She's amazingly beautiful and loves to sing really loud. KK is a typical middle child and always wants to do everything her older sister does. Emma Claire had a rough first start in life, but she's very strong and brave.

Then there's Addison Faith AKA Addi. You may hear me call Addison Fae. Most of the time she's Addi Fae to me. Fae will be three on the fourth of July! She's a little firecracker, that's for sure! Addi is the fair maiden in our house. She's sweet and darling and I could just sop her up with a biscuit. Sweet and SASSY. She can be sneaky and mean, but I'm hoping this is just a phase!!AND, this child could talk the bark off of trees. She NEVER stops talking. She's very articulate for her age and is as sharp as a tack. She knows how to get what she wants. I picture Addison being a mommy some day and if you were to ask her that's probably what she'd say too. She's often found "nursing" her babies and singing to Amelia. She's my blue eye baby girl!

Next is Isaiah. AKA, Brub, Brubby, Brubsy, Bubba, and just about any other variation of brother you can come up with. Isaiah is 16 months old. The only boy in the mix, Zaiah is our rough and tumble dig in the dirt child. He plows over his sisters and yells and throws things. We're working on the meaning of gentle right now. He LOVES his sisters though and is always trying to be right there with them wherever they go. He makes me laugh and I want him to always be a baby. He's so squishy and lovey. Isaiah was born with a condition called Congenital Esotropia, but had corrective surgery at 7 months. I can see him being a politician some day. He has a winning smile and great personality.

Last for now is Amelia Joy. AKA Mimi, Mia, and Minnie. Amelia is 5 weeks old. Mia is our first child born full term and was birthed at home with a midwife. It was a wonderful experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. She's been a sweet cuddle bug so far and I can't wait to see where she fits in to things as far as her brother and sisters go. Isaiah is very protective of her, so I'm thinking she's going to just adore him.

I guess I better include the MM and me. I'm married to the love of my life, my darling, Scotty Smittle. I most often call him MM or the manly man. He is strong, faithful, kind, caring, tender, loving, and HOT! He's a hard worker and a fantastic father. He works as a behavior therapist for UAMS KIDS First. He's also involved in the Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health(I probably got that wrong), and a new program coming to Arkansas called Court Teams. Scotty also teaches psychology classes for a degree completion program called PACE at our Alma Mater, Central Baptist College.  He loves me even though I'm crazy and tired most of the time and he tells me he'd take care of me if I was ever mauled and disfigured...
I just recently turned 30, but have felt old since about the time that our third child came along. I love to sing and create things. I'm an organizing junkie and a perfectionist. Some day, when all my kids are grown and gone, I'd love to move to Africa and take care of little African orphans. I have a heart for raising our children to love God and love each other. I'm loud, rarely wear make-up, and like to wear long dresses so I don't have to shave my 90 foot long legs everyday.

I hope you'll enjoy your time here!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Great Tool

It's hard to know how to discipline Little's. When you have more than one child, the job gets even more difficult. Today I thought I'd let you see a little something we made up for discipline in our home. Discipline is very different from punishment, as punishment doesn't really teach a child anything. Discipline is defined as TRAINING to act in accordance to rules. Sometimes, in discipline, it's necessary to punish in order to teach a lesson. This should be the exception and NOT the rule. You don't want to wound you child's spirit or crush who they are blooming into being. You simply want to TRAIN them to make good choice.

We're going to start using this as soon as I go buy new ink for my printer. I first saw something very similar to them at the Homeschool Convention I went to in Memphis. I HAD to have them, but they weren't quite right for our family, so I made my own. You are free to snag them here and change them up for your family or you can look at the original by Doorposts on their site or catalog.

The first is the "If Then" chart. It gives common behavior problems our kids have(or we expect could come up.) and a clear consequence for each behavior. There is also a verse for each behavior that we plan to teach the kids so that when they are tempted to do one of these said behaviors they will remember the verse(hopefully) and make a good choice.

Next is the Blessing Chart! I just love this one! We want to teach our kids to be blessings to others. Children really do desire to please their parents. Scotty and I believe that most of the time kids don't KNOW what they are SUPPOSED to do. We have to discipline them to do the RIGHT thing so they don't do the WRONG thing. One way to help encourage them to do the right thing is to reward good behavior. Think about it. If you worked at a job your whole life without being rewarded with a raise or recognition you would start to not care too much about the job you did. Special rewards can be just the thing to encourage a child to go ahead and make a good choice. In this case we have a point system. We'll keep a tally on the fridge of each child's good choices(we're talking about going out of their way to make a good choice). Once they hit 10(that's our number for now. We may have to raise it if they get to 10 too fast!=) ) they'll get a special reward. That could be candy(something we don't have very often in our house) or a dollar to spend at the dollar store(a kids paradise and a safe place to say, "YOU CAN PICK ANYTHING HERE!!!") The great part is you can pick what the points are for. It could be that the points are for a night out at the movies for 100 points and all the kids have to work together to get 100 points. You can make it be whatever you want. Just be clear with your kids when you are showing this new system to them because they'll be listening to the blessing chart. They WANT to be rewarded and they'll remember whatever you say, so be sure to write it down before you tell them so that you remember. I'd encourage you to also work with your kids on remembering these scriptures. Filling their minds with these positive scriptures is such a good tool to get good behavior. You could add that to your reward system too if you wanted. Be sure to really make a big deal when you add a tally to their chart. You want everyone to know what a good job they've done and making a big deal about it will encourage those who are really having a hard time getting a tally!=)

page two of the blessing chart.=)
If you have problems with printing these or seeing them on the site email me(or leave me a comment with your email) and I'll send them to you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let Dinner Make Itself!

Ahh, that wonderful thing you are likely to get 4 of at your wedding shower. The one, the only...CROCK POT!! I ended up take probably 5 crock pots back when Scotty and I got married and now I kind of wish I had kept at least a few more of them. I've only recently actually started using my crock pot on a regular basis, so I'm still somewhat of a crock pot novice, but I thought I'd share some ideas I have or have recently come across.

  • If you haven't, you MUST go to crockpot365. You will find so many recipes there for using your crock pot. AND, the best part is that she's given the thoughts of her family on each recipe, so you know if it's a good one or not. I'm not going to share any recipes today, because I really am pretty new at using mine for an entire meal, but you'll get hundreds of recipes from this site. GO.
  • Use the crock pot for any soup or chili that you'd like to make. This is also a must for beans that sit for the day.
  • If you don't like to smell the yummy goodness of your meal all day take that puppy out to the garage to plug it in. It'll smell IT up instead of your house. I have done this a few times when I was pregnant and the smell of cooking beef made me queasy.
  • Most anything that needs to cook for several hours anyway can be cooked in the crock pot. My new favorite is BBQ chicken. Just throw a whole (buttered)chicken in there with some bacon, brown sugar, and your choice of BBQ sauce and in a few hours(3-4 on high 7-8 on low) you have a GOOOD BBQ chicken that comes right off the bones!
  • Roasts can be thrown in frozen with an onion(or in my case onion flakes) and a few other seasonings of your choice. Once the meat is almost ready throw in carrots and potatoes and you are good to go.
  • Potatoes are GOOD cooked in the CP. Olive oil and seasoning then cook until tender.
  • Cheese dip cooks great in the crock pot just throw all your stuff and stir as it melts.
  • Be sure to use a kitchen thermometer so that you have your meat cooked well. It can be tricky telling when it's done. If you don't have one, get one. You can find a cheap one at WalMart. Just look in the cooking section.
Also, I had some questions about my freezer meal post, so I wanted to address those:
  • Do I cook the extra chicken I throw in bags for fajitas? YES. So sorry I forgot that important step. Usually I get chicken on sale by the large pkg and will use the entire thing. What I don't have need for specific recipes I cook and bag for other meals. To cook you can either boil it or bake it. I have done both, and seem to think that baking is easier, and the chicken seems to have more flavor. The only downside is that you won't get any broth this way. SO, if you are going to need broth for one of your meals boil it, if not, bake on lined cookie sheet at 375 until golden brown. Once it's finished let it sit on the pan and soak in those yummy juices before you take it off and cut it up. Then you'll be sure to have some juicy yummy chicken. Either way you cook it be sure to include whatever seasoning you'd like. I usually just lightly salt and pepper mine.
  • How long can I freeze my cooked ground beef? Here is a simple chart that will answer Best By: questions
    • Tomato/vegetable sauces            6months
    • Meatloaf                                      6month
    • Cooked beef                                6months
    • Soups and stews                          2-3months
    • Poultry and meat cassroles         6months
    • Poultry(cooked, no gravy)          3months
    • Poultry(cooked w gravy/sauce)  5-6months
    • Meatballs in sauce                      6months
    • Dough(raw/homemade)             3-4weeks
    • Muffins/bread(baked)                2-3months
A few other freezer food tips:
  • Don't have much room in your freezer for tons of dishes? Line you casserole dish with heavy duty foil before freezing. Once frozen remove the foil-wrapped food, seal it with a large freezer bag, then return to freezer. When it's time to serve remove the foil-wrapped food from the bag, and place it back in the dish to thaw and bake. This also helps with cleanup!
  • Make sure that ALL the air is out of freezer bags when storing food in them to freeze. Air in the bag will case freezer burn to your yummy fresh food, so be sure to suck out all the air!
  • I talked about flash freezing in my previous post. Use this method for freezing any muffins or pancakes or any other baked treat. This will keep the food from sticking to each other so that you can pull one or two out at a time if you want. Need a good pancake recipe? I recently made this one from the Supermom Guide to Healthier Eating.
    • The Mix:
      8 cups of whole wheat flour*
      2 cups of powdered milk**
      8 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
      4 teaspoons of baking soda
      2 teaspoons of sea salt
      You can store all of this in a Rubbermaid container and put it in the fridge for when you are ready to make the pancakes OR you can go ahead and make them up and freeze them.
    • In a mixing bowl combine:
      3cups pancake mix
      2 cups water
      2 eggs
      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      Mix it up and make those pancakes on your griddle or skillet! Add a little cinnamon, or a teaspoon of vanilla to make these pancakes even yummier!! I usually add chocolate chips so that there is no need to add syrup. The kids will eat these things like they're cookies! If I'm making plain ones we'll top them with powdered sugar and fresh fruit. Yum-OOH!
  • To flash freeze simply put whatever it is you're cooking in bulk on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 1-2 hours. Usually I cook whatever needs to be flash frozen first so that it can freeze while I'm getting the other food ready. After it's been in the freezer long enough to get frozen put it into the container you're using with the other food. You'll LOVE this method on things like pancakes or rolls. It's just like buying them frozen at the grocery store.
  • Find some good freezer cooking websites and cookbooks. I found a cute tiny little book with so much information in it at the homeschool convention and I've been using it each month since then! Getting more information will make you a better cook and being a better cook will save you TIME and MONEY!!
  • Pretty much anything can be frozen. I buy bakery bread at a reduced price because the date is almost up and freeze it until I'm ready to use it. You can get bread for CHEAP this way! When you find it, stock up, freeze, and SAVE  time AND money!
  • Perfect a good menu. This will save you time and money.
  • Freeze veggies that are about to go bad. That will save you...(everybody)...TIME AND MONEY!!

Monday, June 6, 2011


One of the things that I've recently started doing to save myself a lot of time is freezer cooking. I'm not a guru at it yet, but I've decided I'll never go back to regular cooking. Well, at least never while I have a lot of Little's in my home wanting my attention ESPECIALLY when it is time to make dinner!
I usually get the bulk of my freezer cooking done on kitchen day, but sometimes Scotty and I will work on a few meals after the kids are in bed on Friday evenings. It's kind of like a date, only not...
Below you'll find a few of my freezer meal ideas. They work well for us, but I'm not going to promise anything for you!

Zesty Pineapple Chicken Freezer Recipe

2 lbs chicken breasts (I used 1lb cut into chunks)
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Zesty Pineapple Glaze:
small can pineapple tidbits
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 tbsp. prepared mustard(i left this out)
1 tsp. soy sauce

Preheat oven to 375F. In a disposable 9" foil container (or baking dish that is freezable) place chicken breasts with the skin side up. Brush each piece of chicken with melted butter, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes. Just before chicken is finished baking, make glaze. Remove chicken from oven and brush with glaze. Allow to cool completely then freeze.

On cooking day, remove dish from freezer to thaw. Once thawed, bake in preheated 375F for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and glaze is dark brown.

Lime Pepper Chicken Freezer Cooking Recipe

6 chicken breasts(I just use 1lb cut into pieces)
1/2 tsp lime peel
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 c fresh lime juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a freezer container or Ziploc bag. Freeze.

Instructions from Freezer:
Allow to thaw. Pour lime pepper chicken into a casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Serve. Great with rice!


Canadian Maple Glazed Chicken Recipe

2 lbs chicken thighs or breasts (boneless, skinless)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, syrup and sugar, stirring well. Put chicken in a ziploc bag or freezer container and pour sauce over top. Refrigerate for about 1 hr, turning every 15-20 minutes. Place container or bag in freezer.

To cook:
Thaw chicken in refrigerator over night. Remove chicken from marinade and barbeque on the grill, or cook in the oven at 350F for 35-45 minutes (time will vary depending on chicken) until juices run clear and thermometer reads at chicken temperature setting. We had ours in the oven and used the marinade to put on rice.

Pizza Pasta Casserole Freezer Recipe(Makes 2!)

2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 jars (28 oz each) spaghetti sauce
1 pkg (16 oz) spiral pasta
4 cups (16 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
8 oz sliced pepperoni

Cook spiral pasta noodles according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and onion together ground beef is no longer pink; drain fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce and pasta, once noodles are cooked and drained. Spray 2 9"x13" baking casseroles with non-stick cooking spray, and divide mixture into both casseroles evenly. Sprinkle each with cheese and top with pepperoni. Cool if needed, then cover and freeze.

To cook: Thaw casserole in fridge overnight. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until heated through.

I also do a lasagna each month, but you can find any recipe for Lasagna online or in your cookbooks. Lasagna freezes really well and is a great meal to keep on hand for new mommy meals for friends.

In addition, I brown at least 3 pounds of meat to put in 1lb bags for spaghetti or any other meat dishes.

I also cook a few extra chicken breasts that I dice up and put in bags for things like fajitas or salads. I use those baggies a lot for quick meals on Saturdays.

Scotty makes up BBQ steak chunks for kabobs, and I make a steak marinade for regular grilled steak as well. We usually have enough marinade for two meals worth of steak. Simply take a large freezer bag and put the steak and marinade(or BBQ) in it and freeze. On the day of grilling take it out in the morning to thaw in the fridge. Once thawed grill those momma's UP! YUM-OH!

Another easy freezer meal is made with chicken breasts and Italian Dressing. Simply put 2 cups of cubed chicken breast in a bag and squirt in Italian dressing. I usually salt my chicken with a little cavendar's first because cavendar's makes me happy.=) You could also do this with any other dressing. I serve my italian chicken on a bead of rice. Gooood.

Scotty(he usually deals with the beef meals because it makes me feel queasy most of the time) makes up hamburger patties for us, and I also do pizza burgers(just add in tomato paste and Italian seasoning. Top with motz cheese). When I grocery shop I'll get a few pkg of buns and freeze those until I'm ready for them. For burger freezing:make up your patties then place on wax paper or cookie sheet and flash freeze for 1 hr. After frozen, take them out and quickly transfer them into a freezer bag so that you can make as many as you want at a time. Freeze. On cooking day grill or broil as normal.

I have several other ideas, but I'm tired from a busy weekend, so I'm going to try to get a little nap while the littles are sleeping. Happy freezing. And, as usual, let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

To Every Child, Turn...Turn...Turn...

When we really started to do the weekly schedule the way it works best for our family I thought it'd also be nice to start a child rotation too. It's hard to give each child their special time with so many little ones with constant needs, so giving each child a special day works out great for us. If you only have one or two children, or haven't started a family yet this won't be an issue for you, but you may find some special ways to show your child your full attention.
We give each of our children a day of the week starting with oldest first and ending with Amelia. On their special day they get to help choose what we'll eat for the day. This is a great honor in our home because that means they get to have what THEY like best.=) Because everyone will get their own day it cuts out on being upset about not getting what each child wanted. The special day child also gets to either go get the mail(if old enough) or go with mom or dad to get the mail. This is another big deal for our kids for whatever reason. They really like to see what we got in the mail. The special day child gets to help with dinner, set the table, and go on any special trips that mom or dad may need to make in the day(or evening). They get to choose where they'd like to sit at the table first, and where everyone else sits.
There are also some special things that make each child feel extra special in their own "language" in our family. For instance, Emma Claire's day is Tuesday, which is town day. If you know EmC you know that the child LOVES food. Since town day usually involves a special treat at the end, Emma Claire gets to choose what it is(within reason, because that child would choose the biggest anything if I'd let her). I'll point her in the right direction of the .50 candy and let her pick what she thinks looks the best, then split the candy among the three girls. For now Isaiah is still fine with graham crackers or a banana. Ha! Lulu really likes to help in the kitchen, so when it's her day(Monday) I usually try to really let her cook something good. She recently made our entire meal on her own(with me watching over her shoulder). Addison really likes to cuddle, so I always try to let her choose the book and sit in my lap for reading time on her special day. Isaiah just wants to have my time, so on his day I will take him to his room, dump out all the trucks and cars, and spend time on the floor showing him how to make cars go vroooom. Try to think of what will make your Little's feel extra special on their day. Sometimes Scotty will leave them a little note before he goes to work. It's little things that will fill their tiny cup up and overflowing with love and happiness.
Small things like who's going to sit by momma at story time and who's going to get me a burp rag for Amelia when she spits up are solved by me saying, "Who's day is it?!" They quickly remember that on THEIR day they'll get special privileges too and are ready to let the special day kid have their own glory! It's been a really good way for us to be sure to give each of our kids the attention we think they deserve.

We also have a buddy system that is in the making as we speak. We've waited until now to start it because I didn't want to give too much responsibility to anyone until they were ready. Now that Olivia has been around FOUR times for a new baby I thought we'd try it and see if she's ready. If not, we'll wait and maybe pick it back up another time. Most people who use the system start with child #5 or when the oldest child is 8. Olivia is almost 7, so she's still a little young, but we are on #5 already, so we'll see...Olivia is the big buddy and Amelia is her little buddy.

Here's how the trial run is working so far:
  • Big buddy helps change little buddy's diapers(Olivia will help more with this when Amelia is a little older. Newborns are so stiff it's kind of hard to change them!) She does help though.
  • Big buddy gets little buddy dressed for the day.
  • Big buddy helps feed little buddy(she can't do this yet, but will help when we get to baby food. She's REALLY excited about this one!)
  • Big Buddy makes sure little buddy is in her carseat.
  • Big buddy helps with little buddy while driving in the car.
  • Big buddy holds little buddy while mom is busy with dinner.
  • Big buddy gets to take part of any activity little buddy get to do on their special day.
  • Big buddy gets to eat the food little buddy doesn't eat(if appropriate).
  • Big buddy helps little buddy with chores.
  • Big buddy helps little buddy with school work.
As you can tell from this picture, Olivia is pretty sure of herself with Amelia. She is GREAT with her.
Like I said, we haven't had much experience with this yet, but The Duggar's Book and LFL both talk about how they use the buddy system in good detail. I'd say read up on those if it's really something you'd like to start in your own home. If you have any questions on it I'll try and answer though.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Fun

Cleaning day is done and now all the darlings are sleeping while I eat my vegetable soup. =)

A few things for today.
First of all, I decided after putting the chairs up on the table to vacuum underneath that we should make a fort under there, so after I was finished I ran upstairs and got the kids to clean up the toys they were playing with and we grabbed some blankets and came downstairs. They quickly decided that their bear animal snuggie was going to be the bear skin rug and soon after that their imaginations were running WILD! While I was making lunch I heard them calling Isaiah "Meeko"(Pocahontas' pet raccoon). Of course Olivia was Pocahontas herself. Who else could fill that important role. Addison was her friend, but we couldn't remember her name, so we called her Natsu, which sounded like a good Indian name to me. Emma Claire, of course, wanted to be the chief. ;) I made a good "Indian" lunch of beef sticks(cut turkey dogs), dried apples(actually not dried at all, just ran through the corer, slicer, peeler), fresh cucumbers(pickles), and cheese. They thought this was hysterical and I let them eat in their "tepee" because of course that's where Indian's eat. Olivia is resting under there right now. They are so excited to show "Father" when he gets home. I know you are wondering what role I played in this. Well, don't tell anyone, but I was John Smith...

Also, I've had several requests for my laundry soap recipe. Any time I mention it I get lots of responses. We use a variation of the Duggar Family recipe, which can be found on their website here.  They actually have lots of interesting things on their site. Anyway, when I'm making mine I double the Borax to 1 cup and since I can't ever find the Fels-Naptha bar soap I usually just use whatever I have a coupon for. This last time I used Irish Spring and my soap has had a nice smell. I don't want it to be too strong, but I do want it to smell nice and clean. The secret to getting the soap to clean as good as I need it to is by adding at least a scoop of Oxy Clean(or a cheap knock-off) to it before adding the water. I also add 1/2 scoop of Oxy Clean any time I have REALLY nasty clothes. It's also important to pre-treat your stained clothes.
I keep my soap in a big bucket either in the garage or the laundry room, but I have the manly man fill up an empty tide container full so that I don't have to try and lift the giant bucket for each load. I just need to shake my container up before pouring it into the washer. Let me know if you have any problems or if you find a bar soap that works nicely for you. I'm always on the look out for improving my recipe and have recently found the oxy clean to be a BIG help.
Last, I use a little vinegar as an odor remover and fabric softener. I don't use it in all my loads, but especially on towels and sheets and those sorts of things. It's also really good for the hoses in your washer and will keep it running nicely.=)
Good Luck!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day By Day

Now we're rolling along. We have our house set nicely, our kids in bed "sleeping their life away" as Scotty's grandmother would say. Now it's time to make the most of each day the Lord gives us! That's right. Seize that golden day!
So, I've recently fallen in love with a system that we use that I got from a book I read called Large Family Logistics. The book is a nice read for anyone who'd like to manage their home. Not just those with large families. The system is also one that Emilie Barnes talks about in some of her books. I don't know which ones, but I do know that it was brought up in a Bible study I took part in several years ago(in the arm pit of the world-NW Arkansas). When I first heard about it(back when EmC was just a screaming newborn) I thought, "THANK YOU LORD! A way to get my life in order, but WILL IT WORK!?!" I tried it back then on a very small scale and guess what??? It DID work! So, what is this blessed system that keeps even ME, the mother of 5 children 6 and under in order?? I'll tell you.

Take everything DAY BY DAY! Give each day a special task so that you aren't spinning out of control all the time trying to get everything done. You may remember your grandma having a washing day where she got out her iron and mended anything that needed mending and washed all the dirty clothes, sheets, and underwears? Or maybe your family hitched up the old buggy piled in the family Buick and all headed into town once a week to go to the Piggly Wiggly and the Wal Marts(by the way, WHY does everyone add an S to store names!?) ANYWAY, this is, yet another key to help you manage your home. Below you'll see how it works for our family.

Wash day! This is the day that I do ALL the laundry for our house. That's right! EVERY SINGLE LOAD of laundry is done on this day. Now, there are a FEW times when something has to be washed(like Amelia has a blow out on my new dress or Isaiah pees through his diaper onto his bed) on another day of the week, but on a normal basis I only go into my laundry room on Monday. This is also the day I try to get any ironing done and...SCOTTY does the mending, so I don't worry about THAT!=) I have three little helpers that get all my folding done for me. We do each load as it comes out of the dryer so that it doesn't pile up and take a really long time(which causes my kids to loose focus and end up throwing daddy's underwear around the room!). Olivia helps with the hanging up too. Addison is my load swapper, which means that when it's time to switch from washer to dryer I call her in and she helps me get the clothes out of the dryer and the fresh load into the dryer. This isn't really something I need help with, but I'm training her to do it herself. We'll just stop what we're doing for a few minutes and get a load finished, then go back to what we were doing. I have baskets with each member's name on them, so the kids just put the clothes in those until we are finished at the end of the day, then we take the baskets to the correct place and they are put away nicely.
This is also the day that I spend a few minutes making sure I have enough detergent(which we make homemade). If I need any supplies I make a list so that I can remember when it's time to shop. This is also a good day to clear out closets when you put the clean stuff in just take a look and make sure there isn't something you can sell or get rid of. This is also the day I give my laundry room a good cleaning. It doesn't take long. I just wipe down the washer and dryer with a rag that's already in the laundry. I also take a minute to check for dust and lint around the baseboards. Since I do it once a week this really only take maybe 10 minutes total. About the time it takes to check facebook.=)

IT'S TOWN DAY, YA'LL! This is the day I load everyone up and we go run around town getting things done. We stop by the bank, post office, Target, WalMart, consignment pick-up or drop-off. This is also the day that Olivia goes to Arts School, so I'd be getting out anyway. Throughout the week I make a list of things that need to be picked up or taken back to a store. The night before I make out my route so that I can best manage my time. Before we go in each store I make sure to let the kids know what the rules are and what the reward will be for making good choices.*
*You don't always have to have a reward, but when you have several little kids and you dangle a reward you'll find that it works. So long that you don't use that all the time. For me, I use it on town day so that I can secure we won't be having a melt down on aisle 10. Using an occasional reward doesn't make you a bad spoiling parent. It makes you smart.=)
You should try to plan your town day around when the places you'll need to go will be open. Because we have to drop Olivia off first thing in the morning, there are times when I have to waste a little time in one place so that I can wait for the next to open, so try to be aware of opening times. We always try to be finished with town day by noon, but if you aren't going to be try to pack a lunch for the car the night before so that you don't have to spend the kids college fund getting McDonald's for everyone.=)
This should also be the day that you go to any appointments. If you have a day in your mind then it's easier to plan a sitter if need be.

This is the day I call Office day. This is the day I make any important calls or set up appointments for dentists and the like. I also use this day to tweak lesson plans for school with the kids and to look at my menu and new recipes. Just think of it as a day at the office getting things checked off your list. Make lists of things you'd like to accomplish around your home. Make a honey-do list. Set goals for scripture memory. Anything "clerical" you need to do should be done on this day. I LOVE my office day! I also use this day to be sure my work area(roll-top desk in my bedroom) is nicely organized.

This day is my kitchen day. This is the day that I prepare any meals that need to be prepared or frozen. I've recently started doing a lot of freezer meals. They work out really well as long as you have a time to get them prepared. Having a time to be in the kitchen each week allows me to also keep an eye on my pantry to know when we are running low on anything, so I keep a list on Thursdays of things I need to pick up at the store the next week.
This is also the day that I give my kitchen a good deep clean. This is a good thing because I'm going to have to clean up after myself once I'm done anyway, so I might as well clean it well. Again, since you are doing it each week it really only takes a few minutes to get it looking like Mr. Clean just left the room. I'm always dreading the clean-up after meal prep, but after working each week it goes so fast it isn't a big deal anymore. Since you'll be prepping meals I suggest a crock pot meal for this day or one of your quick freezer meals. You won't want to cook dinner after cooking earlier in the day.=)

This is my ONE and ONLY cleaning day. Yup! The only day I "clean." The rest of the week I maintain my home, but on Friday's I vacuum, dust, sweep/mop(the kitchen is the only room that gets a broom blessing more than once a week. It's usually swept about 4 times a day with all these crumb grabbers nipping at my heels! On Friday mornings I usually get started around 9 or so and I'm ALWAYS done in about 2 hours sometimes less. Now that the kids are really helping out it doesn't take very long. AND, we reward ourselves with a fun girl game after we're done. They like being part of the process on Friday's and I LOVE their help! I'm not sure what all you'd like to know about this process, so let me know and I'll talk you through it.

This is our project day. Usually it includes some yard work each week, but we also use this day to get other big things done. Washing cars, cleaning out the garage, painting the dresser, shampooing the carpets. All those projects that you need your manly man for can be scheduled ahead of time on your family calender so that he knows you need him to do                 on this day. We try to get everything done either in the morning or the evening, so we have lots of time as a family. We also try to let the kids be part of whatever we're working on. Sometimes that means they are picking up sticks in front of Scotty before he mows. Sometimes that means they get to hold a paintbrush and paint with us. Use this day to get BIG things done.

This is the day that we set aside to do NOTHING but rest and spend time with family. We get up and go to church, then come home and EVERYONE takes a nap. In the afternoon Scotty and I usually read the paper while the kids read books or we'll play outside with the kids or something, but always together and never any WORK. Scotty won't even let me wash the dishes.=) He does them at the very end of the day or first thing Monday morning.

So, that's the bare bones of our week. Know that these activities don't take up my entire day and don't keep me from my kids, quite the opposite, actually. My little mommas LOVE kitchen day because they get to taste some of my creations. Today Emma Claire sat on the barstool for a long time chatting away waiting for a taste of chocolate chip pancakes for the freezer!=) You have to think of ways to bring your kids into your life so that you can teach them how to live their life. You'll make them feel so important! More on that another time...

Something I forgot...

My darling husband had these words after reading my last blog:

It may be helpful for your readers to know that the alarm clock was originally implemented because the kids were getting up so early and we'd wake up to see tiny faces staring at us; faces which would begin asking about breakfast the moment our eyes opened. Once we started the alarm clock and told them they couldn't open the door until it beeped, their little bodies started getting used to that wake-up time (for the most part). I recommend the alarm clock strategy for parents I work with, especially the ones who struggle with their kids getting up early and getting into stuff they shouldn't be getting into (like the pantry!).
That is something that I did not communicate to you and it brings up a really good point. Please know that I'm not trying to paint a perfect picture of our family. We are anything but perfect! I just want to share my ideas on how I've made it through the past few years in hopes to help someone else along their way. My kids have nights where they want to get out of bed and nights when they, for whatever reason wake up crying or wake up too early and think it's morning. They are not perfect little machines that do whatever we say whenever we say it.=) They are normal "childish" children who have been trained to do what we think is best for them and best for our family.
All my ideas won't work for you. You'll have to adapt some things to fit your life. I hope the things I share here are helpful to you, and judging by your recent comments both here and on facebook I'd say they are, so I'm going to keep writing. HOWEVER, I want you to know and understand that we are just normal people and I am fully aware of that. AND, I want you to feel comfortable asking me any questions! I'm almost certain to answer anything.
You've been such a recent encouragement to me. Thanks for reading and sharing with me!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Go to Sleep, You Little Baby

So, one of the biggest reasons I'm able to do all the things I do and stay sain(most of the time) is because our kids are great sleepers. Kids need lots of rest, but only after consistency and trial and error can you get them to do it on a regular basis!=)
We established that we liked the kids having an early bedtime when Olivia was a toddler. Scotty and I loved the quiet time alone after she was in bed in the evenings, so we have kept a pretty early bedtime for all the kids since that then. They all(with the exception of Ameila, my 4 week old) go to bed at the same time. We try to consistently keep that 7:30pm. Sometimes it ends up being slightly earlier, but sometimes it's a little later depending on what all we need to get done on a particular evening.
From the time the kids are born we train them to self soothe and put them to bed awake. Because of that we don't spend a lot of time trying to get the kids to go to sleep. We do the same routine each night which consists of: brushing teeth(and bath on bath nights), going potty, family worship time, praying, reading a chapter book, and singing a song or two. Once this is done we kiss those Little Smittles goodnight and we are on our way.
We know that Isaiah will go straight to sleep every night. The girls lay in their beds and talk to each other most of the time for a while before going to sleep. As long as they can stay quiet I don't mind them talking, but I want them to know it's resting time and that they need to be winding down. Their conversations are special to them and I can only imagine what all they talk about! They MUST stay in their beds once the lights are out unless they are going potty.
They get to choose two things to sleep with each night. Most of the time they have the same "friends" for a few weeks until they are ready to change out for something new. Addison and Isaiah still have special "lovies" and Isaiah still sucks a paci(mostly just at bedtime), so they get these things as well.
For both kids rooms we use a sound machine. These are a great tool with lots of children or a small house because it shuts out any noise that may keep your child from going to sleep. It will also keep them asleep. You may want to consider dark curtains or thick blinds or both to block out early morning bright sunshine. We have wood blinds, so this is enough for my kids, but some may need those eclipse curtains or black out sheets in the window.
Now, lets talk morning time. I know you might be wondering if my kids are up at the crack of dawn and the answer is no. Well, depending on when you think that is. If you like your mornings in bed until 9 then an early bedtime might not be for your family. For us, early evenings are best, so I have to be OK with early mornings. The girls have an alarm that goes off each morning at 7:30AM. They are usually already awake by then, but have already made their bed, gotten dressed for the day, and are playing quietly with their sleeping toys or reading a book. They didn't just start doing that, I had to train them(like any behavior you want out of your kids). When they come down at 7:30 I always try to be ready and able to start breakfast. If Isaiah isn't awake by 7:30 I will wake him up when breakfast is ready. Usually he wakes up right about the time the alarm goes off though.
Because we do the same wake up time every day the kids  are always ready for nap at about the same time every day. I can tell with the two little kids that they'd probably rather go to bed a little earlier, but for my sanity sake, we do everyone at the same time for nap too. We usually have lunch at 12:30 and nap at 1. The two little girls sleep in their beds, and Olivia gets her sleeping bag out in the playroom with a few good books to read. Olivia doesn't sleep very often any more, but the two little girls usually sleep about and hour and a half at least. Isaiah will usually sleep the full two hours until 3. Isaiah also still has a morning nap, but I'm thinking he won't be doing that much longer. That boy loves his sleep though!
Because Olivia has that resting/reading time on her own she isn't craving time alone while the other kids are awake. We had been running into that a lot and couldn't figure out how to best work that into our day. Life can be tough for the oldest in a larger family, and this special quiet time on her own is just the thing to give her that much needed SPACE! Any time Scotty is home he'll take a magazine or paper up there and read along with Olivia. She likes that a lot too.=) Because we've been working together on school all morning she's usually ready for a little break from ME too!
So, that's how we do sleep. We are still able to skip naps some days if our schedule demands it and there are some nights when we aren't home until late and the kids get to bed later, but overall I'd say the number one thing to remember is consistency! Your kids need to know that it's important for their little bodies to rest and you need to help them make the best of the time they have to do so.

Next up:
A day for everything
Freezer cooking
Monthly menu

What else do you want to know?=)