Sunday, May 31, 2015

Our Time at the National Chess Championships (Spoiler Alert...We Came Home with a BIG Trophy)

I didn't really want to write this post.  Generally I'm not a fan of vacation recap, look at our trip posts. It's just not my thing. 

I will never subject anyone to 1000 pictures of our trip to the Grand Canyon.  And not just because we've never been to the Grand Canyon. 

However, when I made my 7-post promise I couldn't think of anything else, so here we go. 

 I'll try to make this as painless as possible. 

And, if you want to skip...I TOTALLY understand. 

A few weeks back we took Greta and John to the National Elementary Chess Championships.

It was fun/not-fun.

To tell you the truth, I'm not really the vacation type.  I don't enjoy sight-seeing and not having access to my own kitchen stocked with all my healthy foods I like to eat. 

I don't like long car trips or hotels.  And to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of waiting around at chess tournaments.  Because unlike other sporting events (yes, I did just say that chess is a sport), you can't actually watch the kids play. Although to be honest, I would find that totally boring as well.  

It's a lot of waiting.

And, I'm afraid to say the waiting can be a bit nerve-wracking. Confession-time.  I'm THAT mom and I care just a bit too much whether my kids win or lose.   There were A LOT of THAT moms and dads and chess coaches there.

However, John did come away with this!

That my friends, is the 12th place trophy which was actually a tie for 3rd place in K-1 section.   You see in chess tournaments you play a certain number of games (this one had 7 games). Everyone who won 6/7 games tied for 3rd place.  (The first place won all 7 games and 2nd place won 6.5 games).   

The tournament was held at Opryland in Nashville.  And since Ben is from Music City (although he HATES country music), we had free lodging with family.

So off we went, packing  little clothes but tons of food since we had to be at the hotel just about all day, every day for 3 days straight and eating out all the time is not in our budget.

In between rounds, we spent a lot of time in the indoor (thankfully air-conditioned because it was 90 degrees outside) garden at Opryland. 

Picture ambush ahead.  

Couldn't resist the selfie under the sign with my name.

That  stuffed tiger is Hobbes.  Obviously named after the famous comic strip character. John took it into play all his games.  Guess Hobbes gave him some good luck. 
That is pretty much all there is to tell.   It was a fun family time, but we were all more than happy to get home again.  
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stop Telling Me the Cleaning and Scrubbing Can Wait Till Tomorrow Or How to Keep a Clean-ish Home.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue, Lullaby, rockabye, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peek-a-boo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
– Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Did you know that this is the longer version of that famous poem?

I didn't know there was any more to it other than the last verse until recently.

I like the longer version better, although I'm not a huge fan of the poem, overall. 

Oh sure...I think it has a good message for some people.  I think it is geared towards Type A housekeepers. 

I am NOT a Type A housekeeper. I'm not even a Type B housekeeper. I might be a Type C housekeeper. That might be overly generous though. 

I don't like cleaning.  I don't like organizing.  I enjoy absolutely NOTHING about cleaning.

That said...I DO enjoy being in a clean house. But, I don't like cleaning. 

So, I really do NOT need any encouragement NOT to clean. 

Yes, I get that babies need care and that caring for our children is important.  I get that we will never have perfectly clean homes while we have kids around. However, I've used my kids as an excuse to avoid housework for far too long.

We just moved two weeks ago and since getting everything put away and unpacked, we've been working together as a family at keeping the house clean.

This means stopping really bad habits that contributed to mess and starting newer, better habits.

You see...previously, I viewed cleaning as an "event."  It was something you did.  You were either cleaning or you weren't cleaning.  The kids would make messes all over the place all day...and then spend 2 hours cleaning them up each night. We never cleaned anything, unless it was specified cleaning time at the end of the day...and then it was a big event.

It was pretty much super stressful for everyone and no one was happy. 

I would occasionally get around to scrubbing the toilets or vacuuming the bedrooms but it was an event.  Something I did on a certain day, as in tomorrow, I'm going to clean the bathroom.

The problem is that, more often than not, tomorrow didn't come. I didn't get around to cleaning the bathroom or dusting anything.

Sure, I could keep up with the laundry and the dishes, but everything else, I just let go....because I viewed cleaning as something you do at a specific time, and that specific time just never came around. 

I've recently changed my mindset about cleaning.  We've implemented the following house rules, and they are actually working wonderfully at keeping the house reasonably clean at all times.  It's not perfect, but it's clean enough.

1) Keep stuff to a minimum and have a place for everything.  We moved from an 864 square foot house to a 3000 square food house. And oddly enough, our house is not that empty.  In fact, it is nicely full, without being overly crowded.  Which just goes to show you, how crowded our smaller house was.  And we really didn't have that much stuff. It's just that when you have 6 people in 860 square feet, it's going to be tight. 

The second part is having a place for everything.  We didn't used to have that. We used to keep our books just in bins and clothes in laundry baskets and you can imagine what a mess that was.  We didn't have the space for dressers or bookshelves.  We didn't have enough closets.  And now we do, so everything is put away and it makes a HUGE difference. HUGE.  So minimize your stuff and make sure you have a place to keep everything.  If you don't have a place to keep something...get rid of it.  Or get a bigger house. You decide. 

Plus, I don't know about you, but I don't see things out of place when a house is cluttered. I just don't. My eyes skim right over the paper on the floor or the pencil in the corner.  But when a house is less cluttered and more empty-ish, I do notice those things.  And, I do something about them. 

2) Not eating away from the kitchen.  Never, Ever.  We have a nice, big kitchen table, and I have no problem if the kids take their books or laptop or whatever over there so they can continue doing what they are doing, while eating.  But we always eat or drink in the kitchen.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  Because I know soon as I start making exceptions, there is another exception and another one and another one and soon there is food and dishes all over the house and it's a huge mess.  Eating away from the table contributes to mess in a major way, so now I'm super strict that all food and drink is consumed in the kitchen and that is IT.

3) When you are done with something, put it away.  Immediately.  Right away.  Put the pencil back, put the crayons away, put the book away, put the toy away, pick up the towel. Put the dish in the sink. It takes awhile to form this habit, but it is SO worth doing. 

4) Shoes off in the house and on outside.  This is big.  Wearing shoes outside, but not inside significantly cuts down on the amount of dirt in the house.  But this only works if kids put shoes on to go outside.  For my typical barefoot children, this has been an adjustment. A major one.  But they are learning. 

This rule has another big advantage.  We keep all our shoes in the mudroom, right off the back door.  Which means they are always there.  We know right where they are.  NO MORE LOST SHOES. Shoes don't go into the bedrooms or family room or basement or any other room.  They stay in the mudroom when not being worn out of the house. 

5) If you see something out of place..put it away, right away...when you see it.  It really doesn't take that much time and does make a HUGE difference. 

4) If you see something is dirty..clean it..right away.  A quick swipe of the mirror or swipe of the toilet or wiping down of the counter or sweeping of the floor or mopping up of a spot or dusting a windowsill makes a huge difference.  You don't have to make a big deal out of dusting on Monday and mopping on Tuesday and cleaning the bathroom on Wednesday.  Although you can do that if you want to. But that doesn't work for me. What works for me, is cleaning something when I notice it is dusty or dirty or messy.  It honestly doesn't take much time to wipe down a bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth, or swipe the toilet real quick after using it or wipe down the dryer if I notice it has a lot of lint on it or wipe the fridge if I notice dirty fingerprints. It helps immensely to keep cleaning cloths and other supplies handy in each these things can be done quickly without having to gather supplies.

I don't notice the time it takes to do those things if I just do them as I am going along.  Using the carpet sweeper really quickly on a rug when I notice dirt takes less emotional strain on me than thinking oh no, Monday is vacuuming day.  I have to fit vacuuming in tomorrow.  And I have so much stuff to do. Aaargh.  I'll do it Tuesday.  Then it never happens of course. 

This is another reason to keep everything picked up.  If everything is picked up, it's easier to notice dirt and clean real quick. 

I personally do not do well with the whole, do housebreak on specified days thing.  I do much better if I just clean as I notice something is dirty. 

I don't like cleaning, so if I have to think about it too much, I'm not going to do it.  But I can do a quick swipe here, a quick dust there.  I'm much better at cleaning on the fly than planning out a cleaning schedule.  

And this is how I'm managed to somewhat reform my former, messy, slovenly ways. 

Do you have any tips for keeping a clean-ish house without actually cleaning?  Because I still hate cleaning, especially when it becomes an event.
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Friday, May 22, 2015

7 Tips that Save the MOST Money on Food

I promised you a post on saving money on food. are my 7 best tips for saving grocery money,

1. Shop at Aldi.

I feel sorry for those of you who don't live near an Aldi.  Aldi is by and far, my largest grocery saving tip. Unlike other discount stores, they sell pretty much all the basics, plus they have an extensive line of gluten-free and organic foods. And their staples, (milk, eggs, meat and produce) is almost always cheaper than the mainstream grocery stores...even the mainstream grocery stores on sale. 

2. Make My Own Yogurt.

This is a HUGE money saver for me.  We eat A LOT of yogurt and it is actually very easy to make yourself.  You don't need a fancy yogurt maker...all you need is a crockpot, a thermometer and a strainer (if you wish to make Greek yogurt, you can skip the strainer if you don't want Greek yogurt). You can find tutorials on line, but here is what I do.

1) Heat one gallon of milk to 84 degrees (Celsius).
2) Cool the milk to 40 degrees (Celsius).
3) Thoroughly mix the cooled milk with 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt in your crock pot.
4) Put the lid on your crock pot and stick it in the oven with the heat OFF, but the oven light ON.  The heat from the light keeps the yogurt at the perfect temperature.
5) Let the milk culture for 8-24 hours. 
6) Place the yogurt in the fridge and strain if so desired. I usually desire this, because we like thick, creamy yogurt.  

3. Avoid Snack Foods, Deli Meats and Extras.

These are foods which offer very little nutritional value or satiety, and just add "fun."  They are okay as a treat occasionally, but making them a regular part of your diet, will kill your budget and isn't too good for your health either.

I consider these foods to be things like
-chips (although I do make an exception for corn chips used in tacos). 
-deli meats

Now, here me out on the deli meats, bacon and pepperoni things. Those things all add taste, but they don't add much nutritionally. None of them contain much protein and they are all quite expensive if you buy the healthier versions without all the junk in them (like nitrates, etc.).  And I only buy the healthier versions, because nitrates scare me. 

That one slice of bacon with your eggs or pepperoni on the pizza or few slices of turkey in a sandwich really don't add that much benefit, nutritionally speaking. Although they can be quite tasty.  However, if you are on a tight food budget, spices are a less expensive and healthier way of adding taste. 

So, for the most part I skip them and they really are only an "occasional" food for us.  Because, ultimately I'd rather go for health, than taste....most of the time. 

4. Produce on Sale.

This is sorta  no-brainer, but it makes sense.  Buying seasonal produce on sale, saves a lot. We eat A LOT of produce, but certain things I only buy certain times of the year, when they are on sale.

5. Whole Chickens.

Whole chickens are a great deal!  For about $5-$6, most families can get at least 2 meals out of a whole chicken.  Roast it one day, and use the bones for soup, the next. 

6. Shop your Pantry/Freezer First.

Food that you don't use, is just wasted money.  So, when planning meals, take stock of what you already have and then replace those items as they go on sale. Many people ONLY recommend buying pantry staples on sale...and when they are on sale, stock up for at least 6 weeks worth.  I have heard that grocery stores rotate what is on sale, on a 6-basis, so buying 6 weeks worth of something on sale, should get you through to the next sale.

One of the best ways to save money, is to only buy what you actually eat.  If you are buying tons more than you are consuming, then a lot of that food will end up going to waste. 

Disclaimer:  I'm not a prepper and I'm not into food storage.  I try to keep between a few days to a 2 weeks worth of food in the house at all times, but nothing more than that. Usually by the end of the week, we have a few days worth of food left, but I really need to get to the store.  I mean, we might have a lot of a particular item, if I had recently stocked up on that, but we don't have a lot of EVERYTHING. 

And actually, Aldi tends to have low prices all the time, so you don't need to stock up when on can just count on getting the low prices whenever you go. 

7. Shop Less Frequently.

This is a biggie.  Quick trips to the store add up quickly.  I shop weekly, and that's it.  Some people are able to shop only twice a month, or even once a month, but I find that I need to go weekly. But, I almost never go more than that.  Unless it's something we absolutely NEED (like toilet paper), we make do until the next time I go to the store.

Do you have any money saving tips to share??  I'd love to read them!

Linking up with Kelly for 7QTF. 
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New House Tour

Here is the first of my promised posts.

Our new house tour...and I am just mean enough to subject you to a bad video with terrible filming skills starring my lovely kids and my even lovlier voice. <smile> (Kids are lovely, my voice is not!).


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Friday, May 15, 2015

7 Posts I'm Going to Write....That's A Promise

We've had a busy few weeks... closed on a house, went to Nashville for the National Elementary Chess Championships and then moved to a new house.

So I haven't had much time for blogging. 

Never fear though...I haven't forgotten about my loyal readers.  I know that all 10 of you are waiting with bated breath for my next post. 

Well, I don't have a real post, so I'll just leave you with a teaser...a promise of posts to come....what you can look forward to in the future. 

So here are 10 future posts you can look for soon (or sorta soon, or before next year.)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Going once, going twice...SOLD!

We went to an auction the other day.  A real auction.  The kind where the auctioneer talks a thousand miles a minute and is all 10dollarsdoIhear10dollars10dollars1250doIhear1250,125015doIhear15151515soldto864for15dollars.

It was loads of fun.  I think I could turn into auction junkie.  Except that's just not in my nature to turn into a junkie of anything.  But it was surprisingly fun.

We were looking for furniture.  My husband is furnishing an office and we are furnishing a house that is 3 times bigger than the house we currently live in. 

So, we were looking for furniture.

We tried Craigslist.  Nobody got back to me.

Secondhand Furniture Stores. Still too expensive.

Thrift Stores. Nothing that we want.

Yard Sale. Too time consuming, people want too much and just overall too annoying driving around and to all different sales.

And then a friend tuned us into the auction. So we went.

It took us a little while to figure out what was going on.  But once we did. 


Do you see those finds!  A gorgeous dresser and vanity for $60!

An executive desk for $80!

After all the time we spent scouring thrift stores and Craigslist and yard sales....I can say with confidence that these items would be at least $300 in those venues..

So...if you need furniture...I highly suggest checking out estate auctions.   

Plus, they are just a country sorta of way.  Standing around in a hot barn, people watching, seeing what people do and don't bid on.  It's fun.    

While I was in the bathroom, my husband got this rocking chair for $5.

Perfect for wild kid rocking.

It was great fun until my own husband bid against me.

He bid $10 at the exact same time I bid $5 on this cute little dresser.   And then the auctioneer called me cheap.  Humph.  True..but still.   Anyway, we got it for $10 and it's perfect for holding all of John's clothes. 

So, go check out at out an auction.  Just don't let this happen to you.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Letting Go of Mama Guilt in 3 Easy Steps

Mother's Day is fast approaching. 

And I think what most mothers want more than anything is validation that she is a good mom. 

One of the biggest trials of motherhood is that it is rife with guilt. 

Yelled at your kids.  Guilt.

Didn't teach them x, y, or z.  Guilt. 

Spent too much time playing with them...they never learned independence.  Guilt. 

Didn't spend enough time with them.  Guilt. 

Let your son run around the playground with shoes on the wrong feet.  Guilt. 

Let them eat junk food.  Guilt.  

Didn't make happy memories with impromptu ice cream stops.  Guilt

Let's face it.  No matter what we do, we're messing up our kids. 

Or not. 

You see...we are imperfect mothers raising imperfect kids. 

So, things are going to get messy at times.  

In the history of all time, there has only ever been one perfect mother who had a perfect child. And the most perfect mother and saintly father actually lost their perfect child in the temple.


So, if that can happen to the most perfect mother...just think of all the mishaps that could happen to imperfect us.

Sometimes, our kids will get hurt or feel misunderstood or resent us or make bad choices or not clean their rooms.  And sometimes we'll yell or be impatient or feel like we just can't tolerate  ONE MORE INTERRUPTION or ONE MORE NIGHT WAKING or ONE MORE ACCIDENT.

And we don't need to feel guilty about all that. 

Guilt is about looking backwards.  And we can't change what was, we can only learn from it. 

Mama guilt seems to be almost universal.   We've all done something wrong.  Maybe lots of somethings wrong.  I feel guilty a lot. Maybe you do too. 

Mothering is HARD.  Especially when life gets in the way...which is all the time.    Because there is always something.    

Some trial.  Some difficulty. Something. 

And when that something is's hard to be patient and kind and loving.   So, we feel guilty when we fail. 

But we don't have to do that anymore.....feel guilty that is.  We can learn from our mistakes, and look forwards instead of backwards. 

And we can take these 3 easy steps to let go of guilt.

1. Stop reading parenting books.

Parenting books are notorious for being guilt-inducing.  I used to love them, but not so much lately.  Now, I just find them confusing and guilt-inducing so I'm avoiding them, 

2. Stop comparing yourself to others.

Just stop.  We usually only see the good things people show us...and not all the messy, chaotic, difficult parts of their life.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  A wise person once told me that. Although I think Teddy Roosevelt said it originally.  Not that he said it to ME or anything.  I don't commune with the dead. 

3. Catch yourself being good.

It's a common parenting technique.  Catch kids being good.  Well...I say...catch yourself being good.  You answered 50 million questions without losing patience.  Good for you...that's hard.  You didn't grumble through a night-waking..that's an accomplishment.  You read Fox in Socks without tearing your tongue out.  Go you!  It's okay to recognize all the good things we do. 

We're just like our kids.  If we tell ourselves we are good...we will be good.  It actually works.  If I remind myself of all the times I actually am patient...I'm more likely to be patient.  While if I focus on all the times I lose patience and yell...I'm more likely to keep losing patience and yelling.

Give yourself credit for all the peanut butter sandwiches made, and glasses of milk poured and diapers changed and baths given and meals cooked and stories read and questions answered and babies rocked. That counts for a lot.

And it's better to celebrate the good rather than dwell on the bad.

So, drop the guilt.  You deserve it.   

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Friday, May 1, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday....What's Going On

 We close on our new house on Monday.  MONDAY!!  That's so soon.  It's very exciting.  We aren't moving in until the following Monday however.  That's because the current owners want 5 days to move out.

And because right (right!) before we move, we are going to Nashville for 3 days so that John and Greta can play in the National Elementary Chess Championships.  I think we're crazy, but it's CHESS...and John is super good at chess, know, you do what you do.  Hopefully he'll bring back a trophy.  Maybe Greta too...although her competition is going to be a lot tougher. Although there is still some tough competition in the 1st grade at National Chess tournaments.

Ben started moving into his office last week.  He still doesn't have any furniture for it.  We've been scouring thrift stores and Craigslist and will try our hand at auctions and estate sales to find used desks, chairs, etc.   Wish us luck, because it's incredibly hard to find good furniture at affordable prices.
Speaking of Craigslist, why doesn't anyone return my emails when I ask about an item??  It's super annoying.  Would it be so hard to send a quick email with "This item has been taken."  I mean, really??

So we've switched all our prayers now.  Instead of constantly praying for Ben to find a job, we're constantly praying for his law firm to succeed.   So, that's different.   Even with the scariness of starting his own business, it's somewhat comforting to be settled down and to be buying a house.  I don't mind short-distance moves, but I'm so done, done, done with long-distance moves. 

It's nice to finally feel settled, even though we are still poor.

Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. So it's a good day to be thinking about this


I hate antibiotics.  I mean, I love them and I hate them.  So, as you might remember, Heidi was on antibiotics for 2 months due to a bone infection.  Well, that was cured, her back pain is gone and she's fine now.  So that's good.  However, those  2 months of heavy-duty antibiotics seemed to have triggered new allergies, so know we have the fun of figuring those out.  Dairy definitely seems to be a culprit.  Which is hard, hard, hard.  Last night I tried making mashed potatoes with coconut milk.  It was.....okay.  Not bad,....but not like buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes either. 

And this is why I try really, really, really hard to avoid antibiotics.  Sometimes they are needed (and she did need them), but they definitely have their risks and downfalls.   So, we try to avoid them unless absolutely necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary after trying all my herbs, and essential oils first  And usually the herbs and essential oils do the trick. 


Just in case you are interested in some homeschooling talk, I think I figured out what we are going to do next year.  I'm planning on keeping John (will be 2nd grade) and Greta (will be 5th grade) using (not enrolled) Mother of Divine Grace and enrolling Heidi (will be 8th grade) in Seton.  I've never done Seton before, but I really feel like I need transcripts and grading and someone else to do all the work, for the older grades.   And yes, I know Mother of Divine Grace offers all that, but for a variety of reasons...including cost and schedule flexibility, I think Seton will work better.

And that's all....go see Kelly for more quick takes!

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