Thursday, October 06, 2011

It's time to move on with life.

When I originally created this blog I thought it would be a unique way to put encouragment out there for other moms of many and to record the interesting things in my family.

I never imagined that I'd also be documenting the loss of a child. While MaKayla is still alive and hopefully well, thank God, we are still no longer allowed to have a relationship with her. There are times when I think that I am healing well and as okay with the present as I can possible be, but then something will happen that bring the pain to the surface and it feels like it will never be okay again. I am told this is normal in the grieving process. I wish I could tell you all that someday I will be fully healed, but I think these wounds will always live.

 Someday I pray to have her back in our lives again. For my children to once again be able to truely know their sister, as opposed to her being a picture on the wall or a series of stories from before they can remember.

Yet it is so important to all of us that through this pain that we see that God has a purpose to all that happens in our lives and that we must push forward through our tears and embrace all the good He has in store for us.

 As always it seems like life has been hard. This summer Steve was hit with another bad bout with his illness, P.O.T.S. He was unable to keep working and it was a struggle for us to go the summer with numerous doctor visits to work on getting it under control again. Thank God it is now under control and hopefully he will soon have another job.

 The funny thing is shortly after he came down with being sick God showed us that He was in control and gave us a huge blessing....a new baby! I am currently 21 weeks pregnant with our new baby, a boy we are going to name Hayden Michael Thomas.

We are so excited to meet our newest little blessing and that it's a boy after such a long time of only having girls. LOL. It's weird to think we are going to have blue clothes and little cars again. Steve actually said he never thought he'd have another boy, just girls. He adores his girls and was perfectly fine with that, but God shocked him!

In closing I guess it is obvious that this blog is about a regular family who is blessed by God with a life full of lessons, both good and bad, so that we may draw closer to Him and praise Him in all things.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Homemade laundry soap

When it comes to frugal ways to keep costs down for a large family, homemade laundry soap is one of my new favorites. A few years ago we tried a version that was dry. It worked okay but didn't have that clean fresh smell.

Then we tried making the liquid. The first time I tried I don't know what I did wrong, but I must have done something wrong because it was was too watery and didn't really work. So we moved on to a new recipe again. This one worked well at cleaning the clothes but didn't have that fresh smell either.

Then a friend of mine from another large family told me the best secret to make it work. Adding fabric softener right to the recipe! This last batch that I made I used the Gain Island Breeze fabric softener and boy do our clothes smell great!

Fels Naptha soap $0.99
Borax about $0.20
Washing Soda about $0.70
Gain Fabric Softener $4.20

Total about $6.10 for a huge 5 gallon bucket of soap that will last me about 3 months.

Want the recipe? Here it is:

1.Take the fels naptha bar and grate the whole thing into a saucepan. Cover with water and heat until all the soap is dissolved.
2. While dissolving the above soap add 1/2 cup borax to a 5 gallon bucket that has a lid, along with 1 cup of the washing soda.
3. Add the hot soap mixture to the 5 gallon bucket and dissolve the powders into it. Now put your bucket in the sink and fill the whole bucket almost to the top with hot tap water. (leave enough room to add your bottle of fabric softener later)
4. Put the lid on the 5 gallon bucket and let it sit overnight.
5. The next morning add the whole bottle of your favorite fabric softener to the 5 gallon bucket.
6.Now mix everything up. This will help get rid of the globs of soap that formed in the bucket and get the fabric softener all mixed well 3/4 cup to 1 cup of this liquid per load.

 We also do the Downy fabric bar in the dryer for added fluffiness and fresh smell, but you don't have to if you don't want to.  We have an old fashioned top load washing machine and we use about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of this soap per load of laundry. I believe this recipe is based loosely on the Duggar Family laundry soap recipe so if you ever wanted to try their version you could.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Date Night

I know many couples struggle with what to do to spend time with each other. And I've spoken of this before. Yet I wanted to mention how well this can work without spending any money. Friday Steve had training, which meant he was able to be home in the evening. We knew we needed some alone time together but weren't sure what to do. So we checked Netflix and found a good movie to watch.

(This is my plug for netflix too. I LOVE netflix!!! The little kids like to watch Veggie Tales and right now there are several of those movies available. And for us older ones who like to watch movies there is a wide variety too.)

 The next hurdle was what to do to keep the kids occupied so we set them up with a movie too. Some people may not agree with it but we have a tv in our bedroom for helping us have a separate haven if we need it. Next you need the idea in your head of a "date". If your attitude says "I'm just at home, this isn't a date" then you won't enjoy it. Instead you have to get in the right frame of mind. I put on makeup, did my hair, and put on a cute outfit for my husband. He set us up with popcorn and pop.

So I guess the next question you might have is: was it a fun date? Absolutely! We had a blast. We got to sit and talk.  ( Almost completely uninterrupted.  Natalia still is learning about Mommy and Daddy time. Smile.) And we got to make each other feel special.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What I've been up to...

So as you can see the crickets have been chirping on here the past few days. Meanwhile I've been busy starting physical therapy, getting kids to dentist appointments, and just in general doing those mom/homemaking/homeschooling things.

Katerina and I finally got to go see Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The new Chronicles of Narnia movie. We've been working through the entire series as a read aloud for school and I promised her we'd go see it as a field trip. We had a lot of fun! The movie theatre was completely empty except for us during the matinee. This was awesome because I could explain things to Katerina as she asked questions. The movie was really scary towards the end though so I'd be careful with young kids. Natalia was with us, of course, and she started crying a little so she ended up on my lap and was starting to fall asleep instead of watching.

Other things we've been doing is working on getting the house back into super clean mode. While it has been kept clean with our new chore system, there are still parts of deep cleaning that need to get done. I'm slowly working my way through the house. Last Friday I got the living room back to normal. This weekend I am working on the kitchen. Basically washing the fronts of cabinets and reorganizing the shelves.

Well I guess that's it for an update. See you all on Monday for Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scheduling 101

Today I sat for almost an hour making appointments for everyone in the household. As I did this I realized that I haven't told you about how I manage our schedules so that everyone gets where they need to be on time (or close as possible to on time.) I have two calendars. One is a small one I carry with me whenever we go and the second is a bigger one that I post on our refrigerator. Both have everyone's schedules on them. They are the "Master" calendars. Other members of the house may have individual calendars and they only copy what pertains to them on their calendar but my master calendars allow me to easily see what is supposed to happen on any one day.

The beauty of this is I can see at-a-glance if I need to call in a relative to help with transportation because I am double booked, or I can see that I need to plan a picnic dinner because we may need to eat on the road in transit to another event. Some may say that for the size of our family we do too much, and maybe that's true. However we want our kids to be able to pursue their individual interests without feeling like the "family" has held them down. Thus the master calendar is an awesome tool in my homemaking toolbox.

To give you an idea of what kinds of events we have scheduled, this week we have: girls basketball practices, hockey practices, gymnastics practice, AWANA (at our church), civil war club, Church, dentist appointments, physical therapy appointments, and then of course the work schedule and school schedule for Steve. Whew. It's a lot but it's our crazy, happy life and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday: Breakfast- Eggs and toast
             Lunch- Leftover pot pie
             Dinner- Spaghetti

Monday: Breakfast- Cream of wheat
              Lunch- leftover spaghetti
              Dinner- Tuna casserole with green beans

Tuesday: Breakfast- Pancakes
              Lunch- leftover tuna cassesrole
              Dinner- Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmellows, and green beans (don't you just love when the store are selling turkeys cheap. i grabbed this one in November for $6 and it's a 21 lb. turkey!)

Wednesday: Breakfast- Eggs and toast
                   Lunch- Turkey sandwiches with carrot sticks and applesauce
                   Dinner- Turkey soup

Thursday: Breakfast- Baked Oatmeal
                Lunch- leftover turkey soup
                Dinner- Baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans.

Friday: Breakfast- oatmeal
            Lunch- PB and J sandwiches with leftover turkey soup
           Dinner- Potato and ham soup

Saturday: Breakfast- Dutch babies (a cross between a quiche and pancakes)
               Lunch- leftover potato soup
               Dinner: Ham and Navy bean soup with cornbread muffins

Friday, January 07, 2011

Homeschooling check up

I know some of you homeschool and some don't, but I thought it might be fun to write down how this first big year of homeschooling is going with Katerina. Someday I will look back and read this and smile as I reminisce about how much my baby has grown.

She loves to be read to and we finished half of the books in the Chronicle of Narnia series to date. However she does not like having to learn to read. Some days it's a fight to get her to sit down and do the few pages of reading she needs to do. She's to the point that she CAN read simple things, she just doesn't want to. Yet she loves working on her Explode the Code workbooks and has only a few pages left in book C. (Every time she finishes a workbook she gets to spend a dollar at the Dollar Tree, one of our favorite stores.)

We have only a few weeks left in most of the Kindergarten curriculum and then we move to the Gallop the Globe unit study. This will finish out our year and part of next year. We are both excited for the change to something else.

It seems that I haven't quite found the right fit for her as far as history goes because she doesn't seem to interested yet. So for next year I will need to switch to a new curriculum. This choice and the decision on what to buy is driving my husband crazy since I, as a history major, love to research but can't quite decide what I want to do. So I ask him all the time for his opinion and he isn't sure what to do either. I guess tune in later in the year to find out what I choose.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Our Chore Chart

So after we sat down and discussed what exactly needed to be done in the house, we realized we needed to come up with a motivation for the kids to want to help. Enter the points. Each chore was assigned a point value and by doing your chore on your day you can earn that point value. There is also a chart listing what the points can be redeemed for.

For some kids the allure of earning money is enough and so there are a certain number of points earn $5, $10, and $25. Other kids are not as driven to earn money yet so they can earn things like extra xbox time or even a night of McDonald's or Burger King for themselves. The biggest thing for us was having someone to stay on top of the dishes each day.

Now there are only a few days that I have to hobble in to the kitchen and work on that. And when that happens it's to train the 5 year old so she one day can help. There are also ways to earn extra points. One of them is if a chore is not done promptly then it is offered to the other children. Or one of my favorite is showing Christlike behavior. You can't point to yourself and say, "I did this for him or her" but if Mom or Dad sees you doing something nice we can reward that wonderful behavior.

The results of this month old program are that the house is looking more presentable. (Not perfect mind you, I do have kids who live here. Smile.) And some of the kids are really starting to pick up a do for others attitude. Katerina will now clean up all the toys in the living room or tidy the kitchen and put a table cloth on the table (one of my favorite things to do to brighten the kitchen) just for the joy of a smile on mine or my husband's face.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

It's been a long road, Part 2

So we were quickly realizing that some changes needed to be made in the basic structure of our schedules. Simply asking if anyone wanted to help clean was not working. Nor was it going to work. We had led the kids to believe that it was okay not to do much around the house. The time for them to help with the cleaning was before a big party or if their rooms were messy.

In retrospect I can't believe it took me this long to decide that something had to be done. For so long friends would tell me that I needed to get the kids to help more. I would get so stressed out that it seemed that nothing got done. And this was before the accident. Afterwards we managed to limp by until December.The kids ate a lot of highly processed foods and we ate fast food quite a bit, but we were getting by. Then Steve went back to school full time, along with working full time. I needed to let him have all his spare time for studying, not cleaning and cooking. So we sat the kids down and had a heart to heart with them. What came out of this meeting was a thing of pure beauty. A chore system that wouldn't cost us a fortune from an already tight budget in a weekly allowance, but would allow them to earn a little bit of money or some xbox time. There are also other rewards too but those are the ones the kids were excited about. (They are only allowed a half an hour of xbox per day currently.)

How does this chore chart work? Stay tuned as I discuss it more in depth tomorrow.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Okay so my menus run on a two week schedule but for the purposes of this I'm only going to give you this week's menu and then I'll post more next week.

Sunday: Breakfast- eggs and toast
             Lunch- leftovers or sandwiches
             Dinner- Tacos

Monday: Breakfast- Cream of wheat
              Lunch- taco salad from the leftover tacos
              Dinner- Beef Roasts with baked yams and green beans

Tuesday: Breakfast- Pancakes
              Lunch- Leftover roast or sandwiches
              Dinner- Tuna Casserole (for everyone but Savanna who has to get some teeth pulled since these baby teeth are stubborn and won't come out on their own. Poor thing, right? She gets applesauce, yogurt, and chicken soup until she is ready for solids again.)

Wednesday: Breakfast- Eggs and toast
                   Lunch- leftover tuna casserole
                   Dinner- ham and navy bean soup with cornbread muffins

Thursday: Breakfast- Baked Oatmeal
                Lunch- Leftover ham and bean soup
                Dinner- Baked Chicken, Baked potatoes, with green beans and cranberry sauce

Friday: Breakfast- oatmeal
           Lunch- PB and J sandwiches with carrot sticks and applesauce
           Dinner- Beef Stew

Saturday: Breakfast- Eggs and toast
               Lunch- Steak and pasta salad (this was given to us and needs to be used)
               Dinner- Pot pie


It's been a long road

The past several months have been hard months. The kind that while you are in them you feel so alone and troubled but as you start to lift out of them you realize how much God has used the difficult time to teach you so much about yourself, your spouse, your family.

We've had some really big things happening in our lives since the end of September 2010. We were presented with some difficult news and a difficult decision. We decided we had to go for custody of my stepson James. We won custody but we also lost all contact with MaKayla. My heart breaks and the tears fall as I say that the child we have raised as if she were my husband's own daughter, we are no longer allowed to see per her mother's request. We never were legally binded to her so we must now honor this request although we will still pray everday that someday our family will again be whole. Due to this at some point you may see her name removed from my list of children. She will always be our daughter but it's unrealistic to say I have six children when in fact I will now only be parenting five.

This alone was a lot to deal with and made blogging difficult as words just seemed to escape me, but then I had my accident. On October 30, 2010 I fell off a ladder at my brother's house while helping him do some painting for his softettes. For the distance I fell it's quite obvious that God watched out for me. I had a mild concussion, from knocking myself out when I hit my head twice on the ground, and I broke the talus bone in my ankle. This was a miracle. I was okay and within a few months would recover, but it would also start a journey into self discovery of how my household should run and what my role in it truly was.

 You see I was sold on the myth that the mother should be the one doing most of the cooking and cleaning and diaper changes. Yeah I would have my older children help out but I thought they needed their childhoods and to make them do too much would deprive them. Wow, what a bunch of bologna, right? The first week or two of sitting with a foggy head from pain meds and my ankle up high went okay due to a lot of friends and family stopping by to help with the cleaning and the kids. Then Steve was back at work, the friends and family were back to their lives and we needed a plan.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.