Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Cold Blues


I struggled all last week with a cold. My nose was a faucet, my throat was scratchy, I was losing my voice. This wasn't just any cold that drains your power and makes life miserable. This cold knocked me on my rear and said, "STAY!"

It took me a while to head back up the road to health again. The first step was I had to actually admit I was ill. I know, I'm a mom and I CAN'T get sick. It's not in our frame of reference! There was laundry to do, dishes to wash, meals to cook, faces to wash, school work to check and more. I labored on, pretending I wasn't ill until I was at the point of collapse. Are any of you nodding because you've done something similar?

So, I spent two days resting. Are any of you gasping in horror and disbelief? I know, I still feel a little guilty because, let's face it, society screams in our ears that we must be perfect robots and any weakness is unacceptable. Well, I took two guilt-free days and rested. My husband took care of most of the meals, the dishes piled up in the sink and the floor got dirty. The kids survived the ordeal by snuggling with me for a few minutes here and there and I concentrated on staying hydrated while trying NOT to rub my nose off. (Thank goodness for my lotion bar! It really soothed my aching nose.)

You know what DID happen? I woke up the third day with energy. I tackled the dishes (with little hands helping), I started a load of clothes, I felt emotionally available to my children and I am ready to tackle the world again.

I might just schedule a "sick" day every month if these are the results of a sick day (or two)!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Hard Lessons of Life

When you walk down the grocery aisle and pick up a package of chicken breasts, it's easy to forget where the meat comes from. It is very easy to displace your ability to consume meat from the reality of the life that is lost obtaining the meat.

Yesterday, my husband and I killed the big rooster and introduced our children to death. Part of me wants to curl up in a ball and hide from the responsibility to guide my children through the sad parts of life. Part of me knows that hiding from it doesn't make the rough patches disappear for my children. They will hurt and mourn whether I show them the tools to deal with it or not.

The back story: We purchased chickens mostly for the eggs. John and I built the chicken coop ourselves then populated it with life. When John bought these chickens, he wanted 1 rooster and 3 hens. When he picked up the chickens, the seller handed him two more adolescent chickens and said no charge. The gal had too many chickens and wanted to be rid of them so we made them part of our family.

1 month later and I noticed that one of the adolescent "females" was revealing very male qualities. The feathers were turning colorful and a red waddle was developing. We finally understood why the other chickens picked on this young chicken more -it was a rival rooster.

After a lot of discussion, we decided we wanted to let the younger rooster take over the flock. The older rooster wasn't as friendly as we wanted and we wanted a break from his constant crowing. We considered giving him away but didn't know anyone who needed a rooster. We then decided to butcher him.

I have to admit, writing what we did feels harsh. We don't take pleasure in killing. We don't enjoy the thought of ending a life. We had to face and own the actual source of the meat we so easy throw into our shopping carts.

After much blundering about, the deed was done but helping our children through this loss will take longer. Only our oldest was around for the process. He was the only one we felt was old enough to see the death. He had to leave several times and we let him come and go as he needed. My heart ached as I watched him mourn the rooster. Tears fell from all.

The younger two didn't see any part of the death so they only understand the rooster is gone. I think the concept the the rooster died isn't concrete yet and I think it should stay that way for a few more years until they have more maturity and life experience to handle death.

As we work through the loss, I feel the most important lessons I am teaching my children are:

  • It's OK to hurt. Accept the pain. Avoiding your feelings does not make them go away. Take all the time you need to process what happened (death, injury, heartbreak, etc.). We have talked about why the rooster died, what they think of the rooster being gone and more several times in just 24 hours. I'll talk to them about it as many times as they need to work through this new trial.
  • Death is a part of life. While death is sad and birth is happy, we will experience both as we live. We talked about how one day we'll get chicks from some of the eggs and as the chickens get older they will die too.
  • We did not kill for fun. We made sure everyone understood John and I did not kill the rooster because we enjoyed it. We killed the rooster for meat to nourish us and so the little rooster could grow up. While watching videos to get ideas on how to kill and butcher the chicken efficiently, we found videos of drunk guys laughing and rejoicing over the deaths. That was not the message we want our children to receive.
How do you handle guiding your children through the hard parts of life?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homeschooling . . . wait, what?

Homeschooling has never been on any to-do list I created. I never dreamed of the possibility of teaching any of my children at home. I needed my "me" time and it was never a possibility.

Unfortunately, my oldest is having difficulties in school and his behaviors are escalating. In good conscience, I couldn't let him continue disrupting class and without being at school, I can't tell the teachers what was triggering his behaviors.

We jumped into homeschooling rather fast and I am still determining what curriculum we will use but the lessons we have done so far are working well. Spencer is much more relaxed and we get through the material quickly.

So, how many of you home-school? How did you decide on the curriculum? Any tips for a newbie?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DIY: Jasmine's Space

Jasmine has been sharing the large bedroom with the boys for several months now. While it could be worse, she really needed her space away from boys and boy things. I decided that the landing at the top of the stairs was just the right amount of space for a young girl . . . with a catch.

One of the agreements I made with my parents was that I would help them get the house we are renting from them ready for other renters. That means helping update the house and clean out mom and dad's things. I knew that I was committing to a lot of work but sometimes I wonder if I'm slightly insane or something.

So, the first order of business was to empty out the space for Jasmine to use. This meant two days of organizing, packing, moving and cleaning.

I took the first picture after packing and cleaning a day. The second picture is halfway through day two and I had dug out enough to work on the closet area.

I repeated over and over to myself that it would be worth it. Jasmine would have her own space and everyone would sleep better and argue less.

Packing, packing and more packing . . . moving, sweeping, cleaning.

You can see my big helpers here cleaning the floor.

Finally, we hit a point where we had basically everything out from upstairs, everything off the walls, the closet swept and mopped and the walls ready for prepping.

In case you have never prepped walls for painting, part of that is filling in holes. It's not hard really. Grab a putty knife, slab on the wall patch and scrape off the excess.

The walls were covered with holes so this step actually took quite a long time. *sigh*

The next step I did was to paint the bottom of Jasmine's walls. Jasmine loves Tinkerbell, fairies, princesses, butterflies and any thing that is cuddly or pretty. She has a comforter that is a sky over grass with flowers so I loosely imitated the blanket. Here's the first coat of the bottom green.

The top we did in a light blue. For the paints, when Menards had the free after rebate gallons of white paint, we bought as many as we were allowed. When it came time to paint Jasmine's room, I found the colors I wanted then I picked the color at the bottom of the sample card and bought a sample of that color. When I got home, I mixed a gallon of the free-after-rebate paint with each color sample. Two gallons of paint ended up costing $5.00 after tax.

I bought a Tinkerbell boarder and it divides the room really well! The fairy stickers Jasmine enjoys tremendously and is a nice touch to finish the wall. They aren't organized like I would prefer to have them, but they are Jasmine's so I let her arrange them.

One addition the space desperately needed was a fan. In the summer, it gets stuffy in this area because of poor insulation and the lack of a duct vent.

I didn't take any pictures of the process but I cut a hole in the ceiling, ran wiring to the wall, encountered many problems in the wall getting the wire to a power source but eventually, I had the wiring ready and I hung the fan. It is the perfect size for the room and adds light where Jazzy needs it.

There are a few more details I am working on like adding a rod so Jasmine can hang clothes and finishing the painting in a couple areas but you can see by Jasmine's smile that she's a happy camper in her own space!

I'll update with more pictures once I have all the details in her room sorted out.

Garage Sale-ing with a Purpose for Kids Clothes

A while back there was a post on Money Saving Mom about how to garage sale with a purpose to save money and gather supplies with a purpose and a plan. The post was specifically about getting deals at garage sales for kids clothing. While reading the post I had slap-the-forehead moments and I wished I had thought of things years ago! I cringe to think how much money I would have saved. (If I can find the link to the awesome article, I'll add it to this article later.)

The first step is to decide how many of what your child(ren) needs. Depending on where you live, you might need more shorts than pants or vice versa. I decided that I want 10 short sleeved shirts, 10 long sleeved shirts, 5 pants, 5 shorts and church clothing. They need underwear and socks too but I'll buy those new.

Second step is to inventory what you have now. What sizes and what gender do you have in the closet already? Once you have a list, make a spreadsheet on paper or on the computer listing what you need and what you have. When you garage sale, this list is your guide to ensure you get what you need and avoid impulse buying.

So, the above picture is the fruits of my first effort. I did a craig's list search for garage sales in Lincoln that advertised children's clothing. Then I did a search in the Lincoln Journal Star for the same thing. I looked at a map of Lincoln and decided which garage sales I would visit and which I would skip. Basically, I looked for several sales in the same area to maximize my time and efforts.

I didn't stop at all the sales I looked up and not every garage sale I stopped at had anything worth while but I did find some amazing deals. I found one garage sale with size 6 girl's clothing. I checked the Excel sheet and I needed all things in girl's size 6! These were name brand clothes so the asking price was higher than I would normally prefer. In the article I found, it talked about the fact that there isn't anything wrong with asking people to take a lower price.

I grabbed the 5 shirts that were the right size and the total sticker price was $7.75. I pulled out $6.00 cash and gathered my courage. I asked if the gal would take $6.00 for all. After she did the math in her head she said yes! So, 5 shirts marked of my list for $1.20 a shirt. I'm not a label snob or anything but these shirts are high quality material. They aren't going to rip easily like the shirts I find at Walmart and might last long enough that I can resell them once Jazzy has outgrown them!

After many strike outs I found a garage sale where clothes were marked .25 each! The girl's clothes were size 10 which I didn't have and there were boy long sleeved shirts sized 5 and 6 which I needed for Scotty. I grabbed everything that wasn't stained. I spotted some shoes that were $1.00 a pair and thought of my nieces. All told, I spent $7.00 at that garage sale and I basically have Jasmine's wardrobe when she is 10.

I spent a total of $13.00 and walked away with 19 shirts, 5 pants and 2 pairs of shoes. That's .50 a piece of clothing on average! When I consider that I would have paid at least $3.00 each at Walmart, I saved over $65.00 by garage sale-ing with a purpose.


My mom and I spotted a great deal on plums at the store and we went a little crazy. At least, I'm sure that's what the check out girl thought. She gave us a funny look. :)

Mom and I spent a lot of time cutting out pits and creating freezer bags full of plums. I decided that I wanted to make jam so guess what I pulled out first? Yup. My handy-dandy juicer. Have I mentioned how much I love my juicer?

After grinding up two colander's worth, I realized I needed to be somewhere. I grabbed my freezer bags and measured out the correct amounts for a batch of jam and poured it into the freezer bags. I labeled them and threw them in the freezer. When I am in a jam mood again all I have to do is dump the jam in the jam pot and add the pectin. Viola!

Did you notice that I have my bag hanging inside a blender jar? It's a trick I learned online (probably from Money Saving Mom) to prevent the bag from collapsing or spilling while you are trying to fill it. Put the bag in a jar, bowl, cup or anything else that the bag's zipper will fit over and it stays open while you are pouring. (Make sure you take out the blade if you use the mixer.) I am just in awe of how smart people can be!

Laundry Soap Follow Up

While I'm on the subject of laundry, here's an update on the laundry soap I made. This morning whenI started my one load of laundry a day, I shook the laundry soap bottle that I reuse with the liquid laundry soap and realized there were only a couple of drops left in the bottle. I opened the 5 gallon bucket I filled with detergent and realized it was almost gone.

I find myself waning nostalgic about it. I made the first batch in June and this is the third time I have filled up the big jug with detergent. I expect it to last through October which is fantastic. These huge jugs of laundry detergent cost $10.00+ at the store even when you purchase the generic brands so filling it 3 times for $3.00 has saved me at least $27.00 for these last 4 months.

I also have to be completely honest with you . . . I've been using much more detergent that I actually need in each load because I wanted to use up the liquid and start using the powder version of this laundry soap.

Instead of 1 cup (I use the measuring cup that came with the jug), I have been using a cup and extra. If I weren't impatient, I think this batch would have lasted at least 6 months.

Think about that for a moment. $3.00 for 6 months of laundry. Isn't that incredible?

Add to that the fact that I didn't buy 3 jugs of laundry soap and use up plastic containers makes me feel glowy about how "green" I can be when I try.

Now that I'm down to my last jug of liquid soap, it's time to make the dry version. I'll post on that process here soon.