Blog Archives

C’mon People Now! (or: siblings cleaning their shared bedrooms)

Ay yi yi.  It’s that time again. Every day, around 4 or 5 o’clock (depending on how the day has gone), I call out “redd up time!”

This is the signal for the children to clean their room as well as their “zone”  for the week. I have divided the house up into seven “zones”, one for each child still living at home. They are responsible for their zone for one week at a time. When I say “redd up”, they need to put away anything that is out of place in that zone,  dust or wipe down or clean certain things that apply to that zone (there is actually a list of instructions posted surreptitiously in each zone), and then vacuum that zone.

This brings next to zero problems. They know the drill quite well, they know the benefits we all reap from having a tidy house, and they know that I will tolerate no nonsense about not doing your job well.

Their bedrooms, however, are, for some reason, a different matter. I think it’s because they consider their bedrooms “their space”, and to an extent, they are correct. I try to give them as much ownership as possible (even if we disagree about what looks good 😉). But I require certain things that we still need daily reminders and practice on. One of the biggest problems we have in the shared work spaces is the division of labor. Who is responsible for what?

At first glance, it seems simple: each of you clean your own things and whatever mess you are responsible for. That leaves the pile of dirt, trash, and odds and ends that no one wants to claim responsibility for. AND the arguments about “yes, that is actually mine, but I’m not the one that got it out/left it out”. If any of you have the answers to this, feel free to let me know! For today, I chose to play this song. LOUDLY.  😝

KonMari and Family Closet

We have a family closet in the laundry room. It’s one of the things I love most about our new home: I’ve wanted to do a family closet for over 10 years and it’s only now worked out. We moved in here in the summer and things were grand. Now that we’ve pulled out the cool-weather clothes but not yet put away the shorts, it’s pretty crowded!
Tonight I’m working on applying the KonMari method I’m so fond of and looking forward to much easier laundry jobs and more appreciation and care of possessions 😊

If you haven’t read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I definitely recommend it!

Screens! Atten-HUT!

Early morning school prep. More than 1/2 our school is online at Ambleside, so I like to save time by preloading everyone’s tabs for the day. Now that we’ve bought a house, & won’t be moving anytime soon, I hope to buy the dead-tree versions of the books we read for school. Meanwhile public domain e-texts & kindle books are what we use.
We’re only 3 days in, and I haven’t put in all the formal classes for the kindergartner and first graders (giving it a week or so to acclimate them to the schedule), but so far we’re having no problem finishing before lunch! I’ll let you know how that’s going in a month or so when the novelty has worn off 😄

Adventures in Gardening

I thought I’d bring you along on my newest adventure:


It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but this, that, and the other always took a higher priority or had more urgency. (7 babies in 10 years anyone?) Actually I know many women (really, I know them, in real life) who have had babies just as fast and furious as me and huge, healthy, prolific gardens right alongside, but I just couldn’t attain. I comfort myself with knowing that most of them grew up alongside their mom in her garden and that gardening is as simple as the alphabet for them.

I’ve given gardening a halfway try a few times, but never really stuck it out for a whole season. This year, I’m  going to really try. My baby is almost 3, my dog is fully grown and housebroken, and I don’t have any other big projects going on.

I thought it might be fun to blog about it, share what I learn, what mistakes I make…

To be clear: this IS NOT a “How To Garden” blog series, it is a “What I’ve Learned About How To Garden” blog series, or maybe even a “LOL What Was She Thinking?!” blog series 😉


To begin: I ordered seeds from The Seed Guy, because having non-GMO, open-pollinated “heirloom” seeds is important to me, and I really think that’s part of the reason I haven’t taken my previous attempts at gardening too seriously. I always bog down at trying to decide what to plant, and how much of it, so this time I just bought a package. I’ll plant about half of what I bought, and store the rest for next year’s attempt, when I’ve learned a bit more.

Yesterday I borrowed my lovely neighbor’s tiller, and tilled up last year’s garden plot, plus a bit, because there are a LOT of varieties in the package I got and I want to try a new garden layout: irregular beds instead of rows or square foot beds. Thanks to our entire septic tank and drain field being replaced last fall, there was very little grass or weeds for me to contend with (our landlord didn’t think it necessary to plant grass and we straight up couldn’t afford it!)

Then there were the gourds. Last year, we planted a lot of watermelon. A LOT. But, somehow (I blame buying seeds at a dollar store), we grew pumpkins and gourds. By the time I realized what was growing, the rest of the garden was a very lush weed-bed and I just didn’t care. I read a bit about how they dry best right on the vine, so I let them try. We picked up most of them, wondering about bird feeders and ladles and whatnot, but the kids ended up just smashing most of them in their games. (I still haven’t asked WHAT games called for that…) There were several that lay hidden though, and they were just on the safe side of the digging and resulting mudpit of the septic tank debacle. I found them as I was tilling. Just after I burst them and scattered their seeds. So I’m sure quite a bit of my gardening this year will involve plant identification in order to get rid of the gourds before they take over!

Today I sprayed the tilled area with apple cider vinegar. I’m told it will kill any vegetation it is sprayed on, and I want to kill out what little grass and weeds are there before I put my little precious plants and seeds in. I’m not very heavy into the “organic” label, because I know some people who have jumped through the hoops of becoming “certified” and they said it was really just an honor code and it came down to the farmer’s honesty. But I do want things to be as natural and chemical free as possible, which is why I just smile and nod when family and friends give me their recommendations for RoundUp or Se7en or what have you. I realize that they’ll have a better yield than me with my apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth and cayenne pepper, but for me gardening would feel pointless if I started using chemicals.

Here is what the grass and weeds that I sprayed with vinegar looked like today. I’ll post pictures of them in a few days to share whether the vinegar really works 🙂

343 344

We’ve got cups and egg cartons full of dirt on a table in our entry, which has one entire side of sliding glass doors facing the south, and that’s where we’re starting our seeds. While they are getting their start, I’ll keep spraying the plot with vinegar every few days and I’ll till it a time or three more to get the dirt nice and soft. I’ll stop with the vinegar about a week before I set out plants, and between now and then I’ll be stringing up a few kinds of fencing: orange webbing discarded from a construction site helped a lot with keeping the deer and rabbits and groundhogs out last year (those 3 completely demolished our attempt at a garden the year before that). I’ll also string some jute twine outside that with pie pans and pinwheels and bars of Irish Spring soap dangling at intervals along it. I saw some of these deer repellent stakes at the feed store last week, and I’m trying to decide if I want to try them. (There are a LOT of deer around here, in case you didn’t know.) I haven’t made up my mind, but if I try them, I’ll let you know what I think of them. Of course, there are so many variables in this little experiment, I may never know what actually worked. But if it keeps the critters from eating my garden, I’ll feel that it was worth it all!

I also have a new-ish “weapon” in my critter-deterrent arsenal:

This fellow!


He’s been hanging around the garden with me, and, um, “marking” it as his territory. Hopefully all the other animals with respect that? (and just because I’m so proud of his size: that’s my daughter’s soccer ball that he was playing with, and yes, he’s available as a stud!)

That’s about all I’ve got as far as a garden so far, besides a head full of dreams and visons and hopes, and ideas about where to get mason jars if I actually grow enough to can! Stay tuned, and either learn alongside me or laugh as I muddle through 🙂 Either way, it’s all fun and good healthy play in the dirt and sunshine!

Seeking Sponsors!! (& a chance to win free stays at a bed & breakfast in Maine!)

I’ll be right up front and let you know that this is a selfish endeavor, not for charities or medical research or anything otherwise philanthropic*, so if that turns you off, feel free to click away- no hard feelings 🙂

*(unless you consider making an effort at acquiring more financial security for my family to be unselfish and philanthropic.)

I am entering this contest, it’s an essay contest and the winner becomes the owner of a beautiful & successful bed and breakfast in Maine. The current innkeeper won it in the same way, by winning an essay contest, and felt that it would be fitting to pass it on in the same way, now that she is ready to retire.

I have lived many of my dreams. I have joined the Amish and lived sans electricity and learned to drive a horse and buggy into town to buy my groceries. I married the man who has the key to every portion of my heart and mind within months of meeting him. I have lived, with a rapidly growing large family, in a travel trailer for approximately 4 years. I have 8 children, that I’ve birthed at home and that I homeschool. I have a vibrant friendship with my 19 year old daughter. I am successfully teaching myself coding and have already designed one website as a business woman.

I have another dream, that I have dreamed since childhood. I have long fantasized about running a bed and breakfast, as a way to support our family while working together in a homelike atmosphere and simultaneously teaching my children business administration, work ethics, and hospitality. I get warm, goofy smiles thinking of being a facilitating part of many people’s happy memories of enjoyable vacations. I get excited at the thought of being in a situation that would enable me to offer love, comfort, good food, & comfortable rest to so many people.

I want to live this dream. I want to use it as a part of helping others live their dreams.

There is a $125 entry fee to enter this contest. I am writing my essay, and scraping together my pennies. I want to ask you to join me in dreaming my dream, and offer you the chance of sharing the joys of dreams coming true if I win. For every $10 contributed, I will, if I win, grant one free night at the bed and breakfast every year for your lifetime or as long as I am innkeeper.

Click here for a chance to win!

Click here for a chance to win!

Frugal Kitchen Tip #1

A friend of mine asked me for some frugal tips on how to manage their food budget for their growing family. It made me start paying attention to all the little things that I do that seem to add up to helpfulness in that area. It also has made me think about how frustrated I get with blogs about frugality and money-saving. It seems like so many of the tips, while helpful in saving money, really don’t apply to people who are trying to save money. I mean, “cut down eating out to only three times a week”???
If I could afford to eat out three times a week I wouldn’t be looking at for frugality tips trying to save money! Well, I suppose I probably would-I’d be broke no time flat! Anyway, the tips that I’ve often found really seem inapplicable to someone in my situation or situations that most of my friends are in. So, I’ve kicked around the idea of posting a series of frugal living tips on my blog. Mostly that’s as far as I’ve gotten-kicking around the idea and then forgetting it again. I’m still not sure if I’m ready to commit to a whole series, but tonight I caught myself doing something and trying to remember to tell her about it next time I see her. I figured I’ll just blog it 🙂
What is working for our family right now in the meal department is this: I make a week or two of main dish entrées at a time, put them in gallon size Ziploc bags, and either freeze them or store them on a dedicated shelf in the fridge. At supper time I pull one out, cook it up according to the directions, and steam a few veggies for a side dish. Voilà! Dinner is served without that crazy what-am-I-going-to-have-for-dinner panic that can hit at 4 PM. Today was the day that I did all the prep for those meals. All of the onion peels, apple cores, potato ends, carrot scrapings, celery leaves and ends, and other produce leavings that we don’t eat went into one big bowl. After I got the kitchen all cleaned up, I dumped that bowl into a large stockpot, added a teaspoon or two of salt, filled it up with water and put a lid on it. I popped it on the back burner to simmer for a few hours, and then put the resulting vegetable broth into a few quart jars and freezer containers I have sitting around the kitchen. Those will go into the freezer to be broth or stock for recipes the next time I cook. The last time I checked at the store, it was almost 4 dollars a quart, so just by using things I would have thrown away, instead I made/saved $16!
via Do Note

How Many Hours ARE There in a Day, Anyway?

In all my planning and re-prioritzing and scheduling/routine-mapping, I’ve learned something quite surprising about myself.
I’ve been reworking a lot of things, for a lot of reasons.
We (I) have been feeling driven,
like a hamster in a wheel,
like I hit the ground running every morning,
only to fall farther behind each day…
only to see, at the end of the day, all the things I didn’t check off my to-do list.
I’ve been running our home on a routine that just doesn’t fit all the changes that we’ve made since I crafted that routine for us. A routine that was made to accomplish goals I either don’t have any more, or never really had to begin with, but felt (self-inflicted) pressure that I ought to have.
True to my own way, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about routines, schedules, priorities, planning, and the like. Not to allow others to dictate my goals, or to try to emulate someone else’s routine or schedule, but to get my mind into that gear, and to get ideas that maybe I haven’t thought of, and to learn from others’ mistakes. In my reading, I found this post:
Time Management Without A Schedule
In it was a profoundly simple concept that really should have been my beginning point in my endeavors to create a routine plan for myself. It is this:
(are you ready?)

Each day should only have 24 hours of accomplishments planned!!!

This is new thinking for me.
I really never thought about looking at the time I have and figuring out what I can do in it. I always looked at what needed to be done, what I wanted to get done, and tried to move at a speed that would accomplish as much of that as possible. I never, never, got to the end of my list.
Every single day was a failure, that ended one of two ways:
with me staying up late until my eyes were crossing and my back and feet were aching, trying to cross off as much as I could from my list, knowing that whatever was left undone would be added to tomorrow’s list.
guiltily and ashamedly quitting for the night, things undone, trying not to think about how far behind my tomorrow had just become, and, consequently my week and even my month, since all that is exponential…

So, me-fashion, I sat me down to work out a similar plan, limiting myself to 24 hours. I started out with a plan like the one one the site linked above, filling in the blanks with the way I already spent my days, sure I was going to find a lot of frittered-away, wasted time that could be put to more productive use. Here’s the link if you’d like to use it too, or see what it is I’m talking about :0)
Guess what happened.
I filled in all the little cells on the table, of things that I do (or attempt, rather), and the time I intend to spend on them. Then I added up the hours in each column (day). They were supposed to add up to 24 (hours). Mine all added up to 30 or more. Some as high as 36!
After I re-did my math several times, sure that I’d forgotten how to add double digits after teaching first grade math, I realized that I really am attempting too much!
Oh, how I laughed. It was somehow relieving, to know that the reason I was always behind wasn’t because I just move to slow, or don’t focus enough, or whatever. I just really plan too much!
Now I’m working on the gritty (and honestly, sometimes frustrating and discouraging) part. Paring away those plans/goals/priorities, weaning myself down to only expecting 24 hours in each day.
My husband graciously agreed to babysit for a few hours so that I could work on this uninterrupted (after smiling at my shocking discovery that I try to squeeze 30+ hours into 24, and telling me that he’s been trying to tell me that for a while now).
So I’ve been sitting here at Starbucks with a few documents open on my netbook, with tables and formulas and highlighted cells, and a sketchbook and some markers beside me, figuring out just what is it all that I do, and what to trim here and there, to get it to all fit onto the table.
After 2 hours, I’ve got several days out of my week down to 24 hours. I still have some over 24.

and now… I have more that I want to say, but time is up and I’m going to follow through on my decision to just hit “publish” rather than try to perfect each post..

Morning Energy!

If you follow me on Twitter or read my tweets here on this blog, you’ll occasionally see something with #hellomornings in it.
What is that all about?
SO glad you asksed. :0)
I don’t officially “do” HelloMornings, as in sign up and have a team captain and all that, it’s a little too socially organized for me. But I definitely love the inspiration in the Maximize Your Mornings free ebook that gave birth to HelloMornings, and I enjoy occasionally interacting with others who are doing the same thing. Reading the ebook made a huge impact on me, in giving me courage to try. I had the ideals and hopes, alright, but just didn’t feel like I could do it. Kat (the writer at Inspired To Action, who put together all this) is so good at breaking things down into very manageable steps, and being so uplifting and encouraging without being saccharine and without using guilt or a superiority/inferiority ploy. That’s a gift, in my book, and she exercises it well. If you haven’t ever been to her site, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Inspired to Action is well named!
I’ve started Maximizing my Mornings over again several times, either after a new baby, a series of sickness roaring through our tribe of 9, other interruptions, or simply falling off the wagon. Every single time, I wonder why I thought it would be hard to start again! I’m at the victorious wrap-up of another “restart”, and loving it all over again. I have a list of things that comprise my HelloMornings:
Read the rest of this entry

Free online tools that make homeschooling easier (for us)

For me, actually.
These are record-keeping, lesson-planning, sanity-saving free downloads that I use every school day. I’ve used them for several years now, and they’ve served me well. I thought I’d share them for anyone that might be interested. Read the rest of this entry

Where is my “To-Do” List on my Priority List?

I am a bit list addicted…
I learned a while back that the best way for me to stop that droning litany in my head of what I have to do that so often drowns out the quiet little jewel-moments that creep up like little gifts, without demanding my notice or competing with the “so much to do, so much to do” is to make a list. Then I can banish the repetition and trying-to-remember from my mind and I am free to focus on those treasures that disappear so quickly as my children grow from one beauty to the next.
But then I fall into hyper-organizing my list, trying too hard to streamline, and complicating what is simple… I try to put it in order of priority, of time required, of oldest to newest… and in reverse. Sometimes I spit on my hands and make a list of things that “I *will* get all this done today”. And again I miss the moments of joy; in misapplied efforts to serve, I fail to enjoy those I want to bless. And what they really want, what they really *need*, is to be enjoyed.
I am learning to walk the line between two things I see as important. Read the rest of this entry