Monday, February 28, 2011

Dr Seuss Week

I know that a lot of my readers are homeschoolers or are interested in how we homeschool, so I thought that I would share something fun that we are doing.

This week is Dr Seuss Week. Dr Seuss was born on March 2nd. So we are doing a bunch of fun things related to Dr Seuss. We are reading some of our favorite Dr Seuss books - The Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham - and doing coloring sheets and crafts and other fun things related to the books.

I will be taking pictures and will share with you guys at the end of the week.

Today we are doing The Cat in the Hat. We read the story, colored his hat, did a "spelling test" with "at" words, are going to do coloring sheets, and are going to play tic-tac-toe with cats and hats.

Other fun things we are going to do:

Hop on Pop - coloring sheet and hop on daddy
Fox in Socks - coloring sheet and tic-tac-toe with foxes and socks
Grinch - coloring sheet, door hanger, Grinch mask, and make ornaments for a tree
Green Eggs and Ham - coloring sheet, tic-tac-toe with eggs and ham, and attempt to make green eggs and ham

I love homeschooling!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Recipe Binder

When I was learning to cook, I would comb through cookbooks and online recipes for hours trying to find something that would please my picky husband. It would be challenging as there were a good amount of things (and still are) that my husband would not (will not) eat. It felt so daunting to look at books and see one thing that would make the recipe a no-go. I would be lucky to find a couple of maybes in a book. That coupled with the fact that I thought I had to come up with a creative and elaborate meal each night made cooking such a hassle.

I had a lot of trial and error in cooking as I had to learn technique as well as please a picky eater. So I came up with an idea. I would make a meal and then quiz Lee on it. I would ask:

"What do you think of the dinner?"

"Would you like to have it again?"

"On a scale of 1-10, what is your impression of it?"

"How often would you want to eat this meal?"

If he liked it, I would work to make it better. If he loved it, I would just keep making it. I decided that instead of trying to have so many recipes that I had dabbled in, I would find one recipe for each type of dish that Lee liked and make it a lot. So I found great recipes for pasta dishes, chicken casseroles, marinated meats, and comfort foods. Once I found the tried-and-true yummy dishes, I stopped looking.

I decided to type them up in Word so that I could easily email them and share them with others. I put them in a binder in page protectors so I could splatter and wipe. I organized them by category:

Appetizers
Soups
Breads
Breakfasts
Beef
Chicken
Pork
Fish
Side Dishes
Desserts

Now I just pull my binder out, turn to the recipe I am making, and make the same recipes. I'd say there are about 100 recipes in there. I will usually make the same tried-and-true recipes and might try a new recipe every few weeks. If we love it, I add it to the binder. If not, I don't make it again.

This method has really made my life easier. My husband is happy to eat the same types of things a lot. I try my best to have at least 2 weeks between the same dish. After we finish the freezer meals, I have a monthly plan I am going to try so that we don't have the same meal more than once a month. I think it will be good because it should be simple, take less time, and give us some variety.

How do you organize your recipes? Do you have tried-and-true recipes? Do you mind sharing?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bringing a Meal to Someone

I think one of the nicest things someone can do is bring a meal to a family when they need it. Whether it be a death in the family, the birth of a baby, sickness, or just a nice gesture, bringing a meal is so great. You don't have to grocery shop, prep and make a meal, and clean up the mess. It's great.

After we had Nathan and lost Alexis, people brought us a meal nearly every night for 6 weeks. It was awesome. We only had to go to the store for milk, bread, and fruit for those 6 weeks. Every night some awesome person would come by and bring an entire meal (usually including a salad, main course, bread, and dessert). There was always enough for leftovers. We had sooooo much food. It was awesome.

I love bringing meals to people because I know how much I appreciate and enjoy it. It is so nice to be able to bless another family when they need it.

Here are some tips for bringing a meal:

1) Try to make the food yourself (if you aren't a cook, picking up a meal is just as appreciated).

2) Try to make meals that are pretty simple and basic (not too many "weird" things).

3) If the people have kids, try to bring something kids would eat (we had someone include a few chicken tenders for Luke - that was so nice).

4) Try to bring the meal in throwaway containers if you can (or at least dishes that can be put in the dishwasher). It's nice for the family to not have to hunt you down to return dishes. I like to use those cheap ziploc containers and don't care if I get them back. It's especially helpful if people get a lot of meals to not have to remember who brought which containers.

5) Call ahead and ask what they like or dislike and try to accommodate.

Here are some good meal ideas:

- Meatloaf

- Salisbury steak

- Pot roast

- Chicken casseroles

- Spaghetti

- Baked pasta dishes

What are your tips for bringing meals? Favorite recipes?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just When You Make a Schedule...

Just when you make a schedule...

THINGS CHANGE!

It seems like around the time I think I have a pretty good schedule, things change. Sometimes it's for the good, sometimes it's for the bad. This time it is both - Nathan is sleeping through the night (12 hours) and Luke isn't consistently napping anymore (some days he does, some days he doesn't). So, back to the drawing board.

I have decided to be a little more flexible as I can't completely control everything (even though I would like to).

Here's my basic routine:

Everyone wakes up between 7:00am and 7:30am and eats breakfast (Nathan gets a bottle and some baby cereal)
Lee leaves for work and Luke, Nathan, and I play and watch cartoons until Nathan goes down for his morning nap
Nathan goes down for a morning nap between 8:30am and 9:00am
During Nathan's nap, I do some laundry, clean up, and homeschool Luke
Nathan wakes up from his nap at 11:00am and eats a bottle and plays
Nathan goes down for a nap around 12:00pm
During Nathan's nap, Luke and I eat lunch and do art projects and play and I will finish up laundry and cleaning if I have some left
Nathan wakes up from his nap around 2:00pm and eats a bottle and plays
Nathan and Luke go down for a nap or rest at 3:00pm and I have my rest time (I Facebook, check email, blog, watch TV, read, research things, etc)
They both get up around 5:00pm and Nathan eats a bottle and plays
Nathan goes down for a nap around 6:00pm to 6:30pm
While Nathan is napping, I make dinner, Lee gets home, and we eat dinner and clean up
Nathan wakes up around 7:00pm or 7:30pm and eats a bottle and some baby cereal
Lee plays with Luke while I feed Nathan
We all play for a little bit
Lee gets Luke bathed and ready for bed and I get Nathan bathed and ready for bed
We put the boys to bed around 8:30pm
We relax and go to bed ourselves

What does your schedule or routine look like?

Cleaning the Bathrooms

Here is another installment in my "Cleaning by Room" posts. Cleaning bathrooms. Some people hate cleaning bathrooms. Really, what is there to love about it? LOL! I really don't mind cleaning the bathrooms as a whole, I just don't enjoy scrubbing the shower. It's a little awkward and takes some muscle and time.

That all being said, here is how I clean my bathrooms:

Step 1 - Remove everything from the surfaces (stuff on the sink, the back of the toilet, the tub, the shelves in the shower, and the floor mats and other things on the floor.

Step 2 - Vacuum the bathroom. I actually take the vacuum and do the floor, the tub, the shower floor, around the toilet, and even the top of the sink. If you get the dust and hair up, when you go to clean, you aren't rubbing dust and hair everywhere.

Step 3 - Put toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet to sit for 10 minutes.

Step 4 - Spray the sinks down and scrub.

Step 5 - Scrub the toilet with the scrub brush and spray down with cleaner and scrub the entire thing.

Step 6 - Scrub the tub. I usually can get away with just bathroom cleaner and a sponge, but if it needs it, I'll use soft scrub and a scrubby tool.

Step 7 - Scrub the shower. Again, I can usually use bathroom cleaner and a sponge for everything but the floor. For the floor I use soft scrub and a scruby tool. A tip for cleaning the shower. You can do it while you are taking a shower. Get in there and scrub before you clean yourself. I've heard if you do that a few times a week, you won't really have to scrub it too much.

Step 8 - Glass clean the windows and other things that need glass cleaning. Here's a tip - I like to take the paper towels and wipe the bathroom down so it is dry after cleaning everything.

Step 9 - Mop the floor.

Step 10 - Empty trash.

Step 11 - Refill everything.

Step 12 - Put everything back (including fresh towels).

Step 13 - Launder the dirty towels.

I know there are a million ways to clean a bathroom. This is just how I do it. I think vacuuming up the hair first is the best tip. It makes cleaning up so much easier.

How do you clean your bathroom? Any tips?

Sorry It's Been Awhile

Hey guys,

I am sorry it's been awhile since I have posted. As I said in my last post, sickness came upon our household with me getting the worst of it. I had an upper respiratory infection...yuck!!! Thanks to a Z pack, rest, and fluids, I am feeling better.

I have some ideas for some posts so I might do a posting marathon to make up for not posting for a week. Hope that makes it up to you guys. :)

Ashley

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Moms Don't Get Sick Days

Well the inevitable has happened...every year right around or after my birthday, I get sick. I know having a February birthday sets me up for a higher liklihood, but it is so weird how it always hits. Last year I was sick as a dog (what does that even mean really?) because I was pregnant and didn't know it yet. The first year Lee and I were together for my birthday I remember getting sick in his car before he left to go back to Raleigh (I lived in Boone). It's just so strange to me how it always happens. This year it started as a cough, then a little tingle in my chest, and now I am pretty sure it's an upper respiratory infection coupled with being a woman if you know what I mean.


Well anyways...moms don't get sick days. When you stay home full-time you especially don't get sick days. There are still the absolutes that have to get done. For some reason, kids still want to eat even when you are sick. They still need to be entertained (even if from the TV) and talked to periodically (LOL!). They still need baths and hygiene taken care of. If you have an infant, they still need feedings and interaction every 3 hours.

When my husband is sick, he calls into work, gets in the bed, sleeps until he feels better, and has a lovely nurse to take care of him (that would be me). He gets better pretty quickly because he is doing what he should be doing, resting and hydrating. Same for kids. Moms and dads wait on them, love on them, give them medicines, and do everything they can to make them get better. I feel like I am usually sick about a week or more because I don't take the day off to rest and hydrate.

If only there was a service for moms when they are sick. Maybe I am on to something here???

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What It's Really All About

I know that a lot of my posts are about cleaning, organizing, couponing, and household management, but that is just a small part of my homemaking.

My biggest goal of homemaking isn't to have the cleanest or most organized home, to save the most money, or to keep everything perfect, it's

CREATING A HOME THAT IS FULL OF LOVE, HAPPINESS, AND AWESOME MEMORIES.

I pray that when my children grow up they will look back on their childhood and remember all the awesome things we did on a daily basis as well as on specific holidays to make great memories. I try to keep my home clean and organized so that when we want to have fun events we can. I try to save money with couponing and other methods so that we have money to do fun things like vacations or spoil them on their birthdays and holidays.

One of my favorite holidays is Valentine's Day. I don't think of it as just a greeting card holiday or a time meant for lovers to have romantic time. I think of it as a special day to focus on how much we love each other: moms and dads, parents and kids, grandparents, friends, etc.

Here are our Valentine's Day traditions:

1) Luke (and the other children down the road) gets a Valentine bag or basket filled with fun little dollar items (candy, toys, pencils, cute little knick knacks).

2) We make homemade Valentine cards and other projects. This year Luke made cards for his cousins and friends and we put his handprints on paper and he wrote Happy Valentine's Day 2001 Love, Luke on them.

3) We make homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies and decorate them.

4) We have heart-shaped pancakes or waffles for breakfast and any other heart-shaped foods we can during the day.

What are your Valentine's Day traditions? Other holiday/birthday traditions?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Diaper Bag

I went for almost 2 years without a diaper bag. To say it was nice doesn't even cover it LOL. Babies need lots of stuff. My awesome mother-in-law lives by the theory that mommies need something nice for themselves each time they have a baby (works for me), so she got me a Vera Bradley diaper bag. I had one with Luke but she thought I needed a new one (again, works for me).

I love Vera Bradley because if you are an organization junkie like me, you will love all of the wonderful pockets. You can put different things in each pocket and feel organized instead of digging through your bags looking for something. This diaper bag has a zipper pouch on the outside, a flip side with three little pouches on the outside, two end pouches, and inside it has three pouches on each side. It also has a matching changing pad. It also has a clasp to hook your keys to.

In my diaper bag, I use one end pouch for my wallet and one for a bottle. I use the zip pouch to put papers. I use the flip side pouches for my keys, cellphone, and hand sanitizer/tissues. I use the inside pouches for diaper cream (which we have never needed PRAISE THE LORD), those mini trash bags for bad diapers (we have needed a few LOL), pacifiers (we don't really use them, but I have them JIC), and nose bulb aspirator and saline drops. If Nathan is sick and needs medicine, I would put that in there as well.

In the main part, I keep a big stack of diapers, a travel pack (or two) of wipes, two extra outfits, two extra onesies, a couple of extra burp clothes, a bottle of water, a formula dispenser with enough formula for 3 bottles, and an extra bottle (sometimes I have more if I am going to be away from the house longer than one or two feedings. I would also put a travel bowl of cereal and a spoon if we would be feeding that while we are out. Sometimes I might have an extra toy or two if I don't want it on his carseat (it's not fun to sleep with toys whacking you in the head).

I always bring the diaper bag in the house after we go somewhere. My rule is: Go through the diaper bag as soon as you get home (or get a chance) and pull out dirty clothes, burp cloths, and bottles. Then replace what needs replacing (clothes, burp cloths, bottles, water, formula) and sit the ready diaper bag by the door. I know you could pack it before you leave to go somewhere, but I find that I am always in a hurry so this makes it easier. Plus if you have an emergency, you are ready to go.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cleaning Caddies

The first couple of years that I was married we lived in apartments that were one floor. It made cleaning really easy because 1) we didn't have much space to clean and 2) I wasn't schleping stuff up and down the stairs. It was pretty nice. Then we moved to a two story townhome. It was a decent size but I could still clean pretty quickly, but didn't like carrying stuff up and down the stairs.


Once we moved into a 3 story house and I got pregnant, I decided that it was worth the extra cost to set up each floor with a homebase cleaning stuff space. I decided to put a cleaning caddy, vacuum, broom vac, and mop on each floor. It came in handy when I wasn't allowed to lift things. I could pull the vacuum out of the closet and vacuum in very little time and not hurt myself.


Here are my cleaning caddies:


Like I said, I have one for each floor. Each one has bathroom cleaner, toilet cleaner, multipurpose cleaner, a toilet scrubber, a sponge, carpet cleaner, dusting spray, dusting cloths, and air freshener. In the caddies for the 2nd and 3rd floors I put tub scrubbers and trash bags to collect the trash.


The caddies were a few bucks and the way I look at it all of the cleaners, sponges, and scrubbies will run out in the same amount of time as having one set for all of the floors to share.


What do you think? How do you store your cleaning stuff?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Homeschooling a 3-4 Year Old

In keeping with my previous post, I thought that I would share what I did to homeschool preschool Luke when he was 3-4 years old.

My goals were:
1) That he would read the Bible (a kids' Bible) through and learn about the characters
2) That he would learn his letters - what they were, how to write them, and what they sounded like
3) That he would learn his numbers 1-9 - what they were, how to write them, and how to count to each number
4) That he would learn his shapes - what they were, how to draw them, and what things were the shape
5) That he would learn his colors - what they were and what things were that color

I decided to do 26 weeks of school:
We read 2 Bible stories and did a coloring sheet and/or craft each week
We did one letter each week - traced and wrote them
We did one number each couple of weeks - traced and wrote them
We did one shape each few weeks
We did one color each few weeks

I got a ton of learning workbooks for letters, numbers, shapes, and colors and photocopied them (so I could reuse them or make multiple sheets if he wanted to do extra). I just grouped the worksheets by category and put them in the order we would do them. It was pretty organized but also pretty flexible. I also went through his Bible and printed coloring sheets and craft ideas from the Internet. We also talked about each month and holiday and had coloring sheets and crafts for those as well.

It was a great way to start school as we didn't do that much and most of it was pretty simple. The goal wasn't perfection but getting a start for future learning. We also read, colored, did Play-Doh, did fun crafts, and did puzzles and games a lot as well.

I hope that has helped. I would love to hear how you homeschool your 3-4 year old.

Homeschooling My 4-5 Year Old (The Year Before Kindergarten)

I did a post a while back about homeschooling and how I organize our homeschool space. It seemed like people enjoyed it, so I thought that I would take the time to break down what we are using for Luke's 4/5 pre-Kindergarten curriculum.

Curriculum can be so overwhelming. It's hard to know what is right for your family/child. It can be expensive. I am currently trying to figure out what we are going to use for kindergarten and it always takes me forever. I look at it all, think about what our goals are, think about what method we will use, etc. Even when I get it and start using it for a few weeks, it seems crazy, but once we have settled in, I am usually pretty pleased with what we are doing.

This year for 4/5 pre-K we are using Sonlight's P4/5 Core program which includes tons of great books (lots of reading aloud), learning skills workbooks (that focus on motor skills, listening skills, memory, and other learning skills), a Bible and Scriptures to memorize, and lots of creative ideas for further fun/study. It's broken down into 36 weeks (requirement for schooling) and can be done for 4 days a week or 5. We usually do 3-4 days a week (I just combine).

We also use Horizons K for mathematics. I love it because I am big on him learning math skills. It came with two workbooks and we are going to finish one this year and most likely do the other workbook next year. We do math 2 days a week (we do one worksheet each day).

We also use Handwriting Without Tears K for handwriting. I think it is pretty good, but I think you could achieve the same goal with some lined paper. We do one number or letter each week (that corresponds to the math or CORE). We do handwriting 2 days a week. We do the HWT page one day and he does a row on lined paper one day for review. The math has writing numbers so he writes a lot.

We also use Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! It's broken down perfectly. You start with short vowel sounds, then consonant sounds, then long vowel sounds, then blends, etc. I love it because it is simple, has cutesy ways to remember stuff, and does a ton of review. We do reading lessons 3 days a week. The book is pretty big so we are going to just keep working through it until we are done. I have a plan to do 3 lessons a week but we can cut down if he needs more time to learn some concepts. I highly recommend this book!!!

Basically our schedule is:
Monday - CORE, Reading
Tuesday - CORE, Handwriting, Math
Wednesday - CORE, Reading
Thursday - CORE, Handwriting, Math
Friday - CORE, Reading

When we need to combine, it works well because we do 2 days of CORE, Reading, Handwriting, and Math.

School takes less than an hour. I like that for preschool because he doesn't need to sit at a table for more than one hour doing worksheets and reading. He also spends a lot of time coloring, doing crafts, doing projects, playing with Play-Doh, and playing games (lots of memory games). We also read a lot.

I hope this has been helpful for those of you who might be interested in homeschooling.

I will do another post about our plans for next year (Kindergarten). As of right now, I am planning to keep working through Horizons K mathematics, Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, and work on handwriting (probably just going to do lots of writing especially as he learns how to read more and spell words). I am not sure what else we will do, but I do plan to do projects for Science and Social Studies. I am also thinking about joining a Co-Op one day a week. I've heard of a great one that sounds really good. We will see.

I would love to hear how you homeschool your 4-5 year old preschool student.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Division of Duties

I know that everyone has different households and families, so I thought it would be fun to see how you divide (or don't divide if you are single) your duties. Please give us a background: whether you are married or single, whether you work (part or full-time), whether you have kids (how many and ages), whether you homeschool or if your kids are in school and/or preschool, and anything else about your life that might give us a glimpse into your life.

Background:
We are married, I stay home full time, my husband works full time, we have two children (here with me) - boys, ages 5 and 4 months, I do preschool homeschool with our 5 year old, our newborn is on a 3 hour routine during the day and is formula fed, and we are pretty traditional in our household.

Let me start by saying that this is a general list of how we do things. My husband, Lee, will chip in anytime I need help and when I was pregnant carried a lot of the load.

Division of Duties:

Bringing Home the Bacon (LOL) - Lee works full-time and brings in all of our income. He is away from home about 50-55 hours a week so I try to take care of anything I can to make it nice when he gets home.

Meals - Lee doesn't cook (unless you count reheating food or PB&J), so I take care of the meals. I cook most nights (we say he cooks when he reheats food or we go out to eat LOL). We take turns making his lunch for work - if I have time, I make it.

Laundry - Generally speaking, I do the laundry. If I get behind, Lee will help me out. We all chip in on the sorting out and putting away.

Cleaning - Generally speaking, I do the cleaning. Again, if I get behind, Lee will help me out. For the last year Lee has taken care of scrubbing the showers and tubs. Everyone chips in on the straightening up and putting things away.

Grocery Shopping - We do this together. I generate our list (with Lee's input of course) and one or both of us goes shopping. Before I was pregnant I pretty much handled the grocery shopping, but when I couldn't carry stuff, Lee and I started going together or he would go. He knows what specific things we buy (ie Nature's Own Double Fiber Bread vs wheat bread).

Dishes - Generally speaking, I do the dishes. This is because I am home and do the breakfast and lunch dishes, and I clean as I cook so I wash dishes as I go. Lee and Luke clear the table and Lee will rinse and load, but I do the majority of the dishes, especially the scrubbing ones (pots and pans).

Nathan Feedings - Since I am home during the day, I do all of the feedings obviously. I do the 8:00pm since Lee is playing with Luke (this could change at some point). Lee does the late night feeding since I am usually in bed. If he requires a middle of the night feeding I do that one.

Kids' Baths - As of right now, I give Nathan a bath each night after his 8:00pm feeding and get him ready for bed. Lee gives Luke his bath. We try to sync it up so we are each getting one of the boys ready for bed at the same time.

Homeschool - I homeschool Luke. Down the road Lee will probably help with projects.

Vehicles - Lee takes care of the vehicles. He does the cleaning and washing and usually takes them in for maintanence (sometimes he does the maintanence himself). I will help him clean the van sometimes.

Yard - In general Lee takes care of the yard. Luke will eventually help as well.

Household Maintanence - Lee takes care of changing the air filters, changing the lightbulbs, building stuff, installing stuff, and fixing stuff.

Big Projects - We usually work on these together.

I can't think of anything else right now. I am really looking forward to seeing how you do things in your house/family.

Sleep

I don't know if you are like me, but I really love sleep. I think my body requires about 8-9 hours to feel really rested. Well since Nathan was born, I don't think I have gotten that but a handful of times. Some days I feel like I would love to take a nap or go to bed early, but something stops me from doing that.

That thing is GUILT.

I feel an immense amount of guilt if I lay down for an hour or two in the afternoon or go to bed early.

Guilt says:

"How can you even think about taking a nap? You have..."
Laundry that needs to be folded and put away
Dinner that needs to be prepped
Straightening up to do
Bible study that needs to be done
Coupons that need to be clipped and filed
Dishes that need to be washed or put away
Cleaning that needs to be done
Bills that need to be paid

"How can you even think about going to bed early? You have..."
Any of the above
To spend time with your husband

I don't know if anyone else ever has these guilt-laden thoughts, but I know that I do.

Well yesterday was one of those days were I was exhausted and should have taken a nap. I didn't get enough sleep the night before. I was out with the kids all morning (doctor's appointment and playdate). But when we got home, guilt set in and told me to unload and reload the dishwasher, change out laundry, straighten up, unload and reload the diaper bag, and do my Bible study.

Well I did those things and then the kids woke up and I was in my rush mode again to get us to church for dinner and Bible study. Nathan usually falls asleep on the way to church but he didn't last night. He fussed and needed to be held so I ate with one hand and didn't finish my dinner. Then Luke miscalculated time and distance and had an accident. We decided that we should just head home, give Luke a bath, put him to bed, and do Nathan's nighttime routine. We got home and did all of that and I decided that guilt wouldn't win and I would go to bed early.

As soon as I laid Nathan down (around 8:30-9:00pm), I got in bed (no TV) and Lee and I both went to bed. God rewarded my effort to go to bed early by having Nathan sleep 12 hours last night (just got up once - Lee fed him). So, I got a good night's sleep and woke up feeling great. I have more energy and a better attitude today.

So, the moral of the story is, get some sleep. Don't let guilt control you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crock Pot Rice

Crock Pot Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 Tbsp butter

Spray crock pot with cooking spray.
Put ingredients in the crock pot.
Cook on high 2 hours.
Put on warm for the rest of the time until ready to eat.

:)