Monday, December 31, 2012

Not Resolutions, per se...

But there are changes that I'm wanting to make, ones that I have been contemplating for a little while and that I would have been implementing regardless of the date, so here they are:

My best friend, Bree, and I are planning to do Scripture study together and separately. We plan to do Seminary reading assignments and then meet up together once a week and discuss them. We're hoping to get a couple more friends involved in it as well. It should be quite a bit of fun and teach us a lot.

I rearranged my house this past week. Partially to accommodate a few Christmas gifts and partially to change things up and get areas neat, straightened and organized. I plan to continue to purge (a MAJOR part of what I did this past week) and to continue organizing as well. I plan to tackle a particular area of the house each week. I think the first week will be the den, as that is where Hubby and I spend most of our time. We got the furniture rearranged in here, but now there are some items sitting around in piles that are now, well, homeless. And they need homes. They deserve homes. I'll post more about this tomorrow, complete with pictures.

I also plan to start doing meal planning again. It works out so well but lately I have really dropped the ball when it comes to doing it. I mentioned in my post from the early morning hours today that I plan to have the family sit around and pick out recipes that they'd like to try and we will incorporate them into a monthly meal plan. This way, I can set a meal plan for the whole month. We can always tweak it a little bit based on changes for that day, but even still, it's much more helpful to have an actual plan in place.

And I have been working hard to set aside some money for savings. I have a goal this year to save up $1200, which isn't so bad. That's a mere $100 per month. I know that I can do it! And the idea is to not dip into it for any reason at all. So far, I have $300 saved up, which really isn't much. But this new goal to save $1200 would put us at a savings amount of $1500, which would be wonderful to have on hand just in case we should need it.

Our chore system is going well. I have tweaked it here and there and may need to slightly tweak it again here soon, but it will be after some additional thought and evaluation and a discussion with the Hubby to see what we like about it and what we want to change about it. But overall, the kids have done extremely well with it.

We have skipped the gym and all associated activities with our membership since, oh, I don't know, July maybe? Something horrible like that. We fully intend to use our membership at least once a week starting this week now. I would seriously like to lose 40% of my body weight, but probably it wouldn't be practical nor safe to lose that much in a year's time, so I'd settle for losing 2% per month, each month from now until I am at that 40% lost mark. That's a goal that will take 26 months to accomplish. Just over two years. I'm okay with that. I have to be. It took me awhile to get to the point where I am now and it will take me awhile to get back to where I was. At the end of this year, I should have lost (according to my goal) around 12% of my body weight. Regular gym activities, eating more meals prepared at home and as a family and cutting out soda (even diet soda) should help these things out tremendously.

So that's my New Year's "Not Resolutions, per se" post. Tonight, we are going to have dinner, pick out some recipes, maybe bake some banana bread, then curl up on the couch with our pajamas on, watch a movie, eat some popcorn (none for me, thanks, I'm not a fan) and just spend time together as a family. Sounds like a wonderful way to start a new year!

Happy New Year

Yet again, another unintended hiatus from blogging. You know, I plan to blog regularly and I do really well with it for awhile and then something comes up and I miss a day. Or two. Or a week. And the longer that I break from it, the harder it is for me to come back from it. I wait for the perfect project or the right theme to come back to or whatever. And that frustrates me. I don't need a theme or a project to blog. I just need to take a few minutes whenever I want to and just sit down and write something. Funny, I shouldn't have to give myself permission to skip a day without feeling guilty. Yet, that's the way that I feel. I'll work on it though. :)

Well, I have lots to tell you all about to catch you up with life as we know it. Cephas is now a full-ranked Boy Scout. He has had his Court of Honor and received his ranks and is ready to begin working on his Merit Badges. Way to go Cephas! He has also developed a major passion for photography, film-making, production and videos.

Koren's birthday was October 6th (the day AFTER my last post here) and my brother-in-law married his fiancee that day. They had an absolutely beautiful wedding and a great reception - during which all the guests sang Happy Birthday to Koren. He also received his own personal birthday cake (made by the caterer). It was wonderful! He was embarrassed but he loved the attention too. And sweet boy that he is, he maintained that the best birthday gift this year was his newly acquired Aunt.

Oralee. Wow, she was all sassy and spice the last time I blogged about her and she has now settled down quite a bit into a very sweet and mostly compliant, helpful and caring person. She has also gone very girly girl in a not-so-little girl way. Not that she's six going on sixteen or anything like that. But she's honing in on her own personality more and her own sense of style. She prefers her hair long and curly (and she has very straight hair!) and she prefers leggings and wearing long layers that can mix and match to the little girl cutesie matching outfits. I hope that makes sense. She's just so much older in some ways than she was just a few months ago.

And then there is Jeriah. He is excelling wonderfully at school. It is just amazing how much he has changed and how far he has gone academically. No matter how much we questioned whether we were doing the right thing with him in regards to enrolling him in Kindergarten a year early, I am absolutely certain that we made the best choice for him. He loves it! He's reading on a mid-first grade level or maybe slightly higher. His math skills are around the same level. He has even done his sister's homework for her. (I thought it was an extra, skipped over on purpose lesson from school but apparently, it was Oralee's current homework assignment and she was VERY offended that Jeriah had done her homework!) His social skills are coming along quite nicely as well. We have all noticed some instances of him "scripting" some behaviors of other children. But as long as we can nip that one in the bud, we should be fine. Thankfully, he has an amazingly wonderful teacher and he'd had an amazing practicum student from the university working with him as well (she is gone now, though, and he misses her.)

Hubby's job is going well and all that. I'm still babysitting for his co-workers, although not nearly as frequently as I had been. Angel's mom and dad have gotten back together and now her dad is working at the same place as Angel's mom. Their schedules are mostly opposite, so they haven't needed me to babysit and the best part is that Angel spends her time with at least one of her parents.

I have an interview set up to meet with someone about taking care of her son part-time in her home while she is working. It's a great set-up. She lives close to me, the hours she needs me are while my children are in school and she has another provider as well for the opposite days who is able to be flexible and switch with me for days that my kids don't have school. I'm excited to meet both the mom and her son later this week. Hopefully, it's as good of a fit as it seems to have been so far via messages and such.

But for the most part, I'm really digging this stay-at-home mom thing. I'm getting better about keeping up with all of the daily tasks. The biggest thing has been consistency with the kids' chores and bedrooms and for me doing my daily and weekly tasks. I still struggle (constantly!) with laundry, but I'm pretty sure that I can overcome that issue soon.

I also had a huge lightbulb moment the other day while looking at some newly-acquired cookbooks to have the family sit down together once a month - most likely the last Monday of the month - to have each person look through and pick out at least two main dishes and two side dishes and one dessert to try out that month. I figure that would provide us with at least twelve full meals, so that would also alleviate the pain of trying to menu plan. Plus, if it is something that they pick out and choose for the family to eat, the kids are going to be more willing to try new foods and new recipes. Then, at the end of the new meal, we'll determine if we liked the recipe. If it was a hit, it will get written into my recipe book that contains all of our favorite recipes. If it wasn't so hot, I'll put a sticky note in the book that we tried it, when we tried it and note who didn't like it. Or something like that. Because our kids' tastes change so quickly, six months down the road, whatever ingredient they didn't like in the dish may be something that they now just LOVE. For instance, in the past few months, Jeriah has decided that he doesn't like ketchup, but that he loves mustard. A lot. His cheeseburgers? Mustard only. 100% of the time. No ketchup, no pickles, no onion. Just mustard only.

Okay, well that was a really random hodgepodge post about nothing and everything all at once. But hopefully, I'll get back to a more rhythmic timing on my posts. Until next time!

Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days...Day 5...Chores for Mom

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 5 - 

Today is Friday, October 5th, 2012. Today's topic is "Chores for Mom."

Yesterday, we discussed the concept behind my kids' chores. As such, you may be wondering what my chores are. My chores go into much deeper cleaning than the kids' chores. Their chores call for them to simply pick up a room (or areas of multiple rooms), but does not actually require any cleaning.

That's where my chores come in. And trust me when I say that the kids' chores are going to start incorporating some of this stuff as well. I just want them to get to a mastery point with their current chores, if that makes sense. You know, the point where they can look around the room and know for certain that it is done, as opposed to coming up to me or Hubby and asking, "Is this done enough?" or some similar question.

So today, we are going to talk about MY chores and for a little bit of time management, we'll also talk about when I do these chores.

Now, with the above list being my Daily Checklist, it is the list that I refer to when I am at home, working on tidying everything up. This is what another blogger I know, Rachel Anne refers to as Minimum Maintenance in a home. It's the least amount of work you can do in your home to just keep it maintained and looking neat and welcoming. Ideally, by the end of each day, every single item would have been done on this list. You notice that I say "ideally." Let's face it, life happens and there are days that I don't even go into certain rooms to do any work. It happens. I don't stress over it (too much) and make an effort to make the skipped room my top priority for the next day. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

This next list is my Weekly Checklist. I also have a Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Checklist (all on the same page) but I'm not going to get into those right now. Similar to the Daily Checklist, in an ideal world, I would hit on each and every item each and every week from this list. But when life happens and something comes up, I just suck it up and try to get the missed items done first the following week.

For the weekly schedule, I generally try to get the items accomplished one of three ways. Everyone has a process that works best for them.

Way numero uno is the way that I was taught to clean when I was growing up, going room by room.

Option numero dos is the way that I was taught to clean by my grandma when I was growing up, doing all of a certain chore type throughout the house.

The third option is to just attack everything on the list in a particular room that is either in the most need or the one that is about the be in the most use. I learned this method on the fly as an adult when the other two methods didn't work (or rather, when I didn't use either of the other two methods!)

Actually, now that I think about it, there is a fourth option. It's actually a combination of options one and two and to be honest, one of my more favorite approaches to cleaning. First of all, it requires the minimum maintenance to be complete. Next, you do all of the dry work throughout the house. Dusting high and low, dusting surfaces, vacuuming furniture and carpets, organizing areas, emptying trash cans, etc. All the so-called "dry work" throughout the house. Then, you move on to the "wet work", cleaning and disinfecting in the kitchen and eating areas, the bathroom and the laundry, then sweeping and mopping the floors.

Things like washing windows and cleaning mirrors are negotiable. They can be done as dry work or as wet work. I personally would be doing them as wet work, but that's just because the cleaner itself is also wet. Oh - and carpet cleaning. My Hubby does that chore (which is why it isn't on my list) would be considered wet work to me.

And even though, the fourth option is my favorite, most of the time, I use option one. I feel like it doesn't all get done nearly as quickly though if I use this method. Using the fourth method, I can clean and disinfect my 1300 square foot home from top to bottom in just under four hours by myself. That being said, usually the minimum maintenance isn't done enough to be able to do it in that time frame. And I get stopped by kids or activities or appointments or whatever. 

The one piece of equipment that I highly recommend for cleaning is actually not a cleaning tool or supply and you might be surprised to learn what it is. I think the number one product that helps me get the most done around my house is my bluetooth. I can leave my phone on the top of the armoire in my den. It's the most central location in my home and from that spot, I can walk throughout my home and talk on the phone, hands free, while cleaning. The only thing that I can't do with it on is go around to the far side of my bed in my bedroom. I can go up to the far edge of the bed, but if I stand up on that far side of the bed, I lose the ability to have people hear me speak. Highly, highly recommend it! (I got this idea from Bree as well)

Let me know if this has helped you at all or if there is anything you are wondering about that I might be able to answer. Til tomorrow....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Days...Day 4...Chores for Kids

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 4 - 

Today is Thursday, October 4th, 2012. Today's topic is "Chores for Kids."

It is my strong desire that when my children are grown and move out of our home, that they are able to keep a home. I want that for my boys as well as my girls. At this season in our lives, while we are getting this housework monster under control and I am getting back to teaching them how to clean and maintain a house, this is the end goal that I have in mind. I want them to be able to keep a home.

At this point in time, I am not even working on the actual cleaning of a home. At this point in time, my goal is simply for them to learn what it means to just thoroughly pick up a room. And to teach them the responsibility to do it well, with a sense of pride in having a clutter-free home. Or at the very least, one where it is kept in check. That's been a long road on my part and I'm still traveling down that path to a much more clutter-free home.

Anyhow, to instill the idea of what a clutter-free home should look like, to gain some assistance around the house, to give the kids some ownership over our home, I have given them each a series of chores that reflect their ages.

Cephas is eleven. So he has eleven chores. They are all in the living room (well, I guess one is on the front porch) and they basically just cover keeping flat surfaces from getting filled up and to keep an eye on the hotspots that occur over time. One in particular, the space under our sectional. I don't know what it is about that area, but it constantly has to be cleaned out.

In addition to his chore room, he also has five regular chores to do in his bedroom (as do all of the kids). I expect them to do these chores, in their entirety, every single day, with only a rare exception. For the most part, it happens as planned.

Now, you may wonder what chores I would give to an 11 year old in a single room that would just include tidying it up, but not actually cleaning the room. I'll show you.

Clear off side table
Clear off TV stand
Clear off cedar chest
Clear off couch
Clean under couch cushions
Clean under couch
Clear off entry table
Straighten entry area
Pick up floor area
Straighten shoe area
Tidy the front porch
* * * * * * * * * * *
Tidy bed
Clear off bookshelf
Clear off dresser
Pick up bedroom floor
Take dirty laundry to bathroom

I'm sure you can guess, but the five chores at the bottom are the ones for his room.

You may be asking yourself why I have such a laid out and detailed (when it is a no-brainer) list of what to do to merely pick up a room. But you see, this is where the ADHD comes in for Cephas. It is where the Aspergers comes in for Jeriah. And the possible Aspergers for Cephas. And the slight OCD tendencies that Koren shows. For Cephas, it helps keep him on track and keeps him from asking me very couple of minutes, "Is this good now?" I can simply redirect him to the list and ask him to look at the list, then look at the room. If there is something that is not neat and tidy, it still needs to be done. He is eleven. By all means, he should be able to look at a room and tell what needs to be done to it on his own. But he doesn't., because he can't.

For Koren, this kind of list helps him to reduce his OCD tendencies. He needs some kind of guideline to know that okay, this is enough. He doesn't have to continue working on it indefinitely. He doesn't have to get it all perfect. As long as the items on his list are neat and tidy, even if the vacuuming isn't done, the windows aren't washed, the frames aren't all dusted, the books on the bookshelf aren't perfectly lined up, it is still okay. He needs this. Jeriah needs the list as a visual idea of what he has to do. It's a motivational thing for him. For Oralee, it keeps her on track most of the time. Which she needs, because her chores are spread out. She has two in the kitchen, three in the dining room and one in the hallway. She can easily lose her place. This is a tool to help her.

I will post later on "Motivating Kids" and tell how we use these current sets of chores to motivate our children.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

31 Days...Day 3...Time Management

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 3 - 

Today is Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012. Today's topic is "Time Management."

As a work-at-home mom, I find my time to be a difficult area to, well, manage. I think the biggest issue with this is simply in the fact that I have a hard time with "at home" portion of my role. I feel like I am gone more than I am at home, and some weeks, that is definitely the case. Other weeks, it may not be the case, but the house still suffers due to lack of time management while I am here.

So, this is what I have done to combat that issue. It has worked for me, it may or may not work for you. I'm sharing so that if there is something in this that might work (or that might work with some tweaking of what I do) that it could help you.

One of my issues lies in the fact that during the week, I have a number of places that I need to go. In the morning, I need to take my children to school, three mornings a week, I pick up the little girl that I take care of from her mom. And on a fourth day, I drop her off at the same time in the morning. This does not line up with the time my children go to school, however. It happens two hours later. So I have a two hour window where I can either run errands alone or come home and work on the house. My problem was that I often would run a few errands and then waste a little bit of time, just sitting in the lot at her mother's work, waiting for them to show up.

Instead, I have changed that to coming home and cleaning up what I call "the four outer rooms", which would be our living room, our den, our kitchen and our dining room. They are all open to one another, but don't exactly have the whole "great room" thing going on. They are very separate rooms, except for the den and the living room. My goal most mornings is to come home and do a quick pick up in these rooms. Doing things like, clearing off flat surfaces, unloading/reloading the dishwasher, picking up the floor areas (somehow, they end up with random things on them during our morning routine that don't get picked up before we leave - I know, I'm still working on that), starting a load of laundry, wiping down the table and counters, sweeping and vacuuming. Things that are quick and easy and that don't take much effort but make a huge difference.

On Thursdays, though, I often meet my best friend, Bree, at the grocery store in that time frame to do our weekly shopping. It's a stolen moment during the week that we have together. But there will be more on that in another post (Friendships).

After I pick up the little girl, two days of the week, I have to run her to school. This also happens to occur almost two hours after that point in time. So on those days, between the time I get her to my house from her mom's work and the time we have to leave to take her to school, I have about an hour and a half. I have been using that time to do baking projects with her. She enjoys it, I enjoy it. The kids have afterschool snacks that way and it also gives her some valuable lessons on working in the kitchen. Plus, it's just plain ol' fun.

In the afternoons, if I have used my mornings well, I have very little that I need to do and can spend that time on projects around the house, handiwork, craft work, planning, blogging, reading, or even occasionally, taking a nap (on the days the little girl isn't here in the afternoon). And once a week, having lunch with Bree (another stolen moment - also in "Friendships")

After school, Hubby is usually the one to pick the kids up from school. They come home and we spend time on homework, snack, chores, dinner, then our evening activities (of which until next week, has been mostly sporting and scouting - this is our last week of sporting for about a month) then getting ready for the next day. Some of this will be touched on later as well, in posts entitled "Chores for Kids," "Chores for Mom," "Meals and Menus" and "Family Activities."

So our basic daily routine runs like this:
  • Get up and get myself ready
  • Get kids up and get them ready
  • Take kids to school and drop them off
  • Go home and do some quick, light housework (or Thursday grocery shopping with Bree)
  • Pick up or drop off the little girl (Angel)
  • Go home, work on baking or housework
  • Make lunch, eat and clean up
  • Take Angel to school
  • Come home, continue to work on housework or home projects or personal projects (once a week, have lunch with Bree)
  • Hubby gets off work, spend some time with him
  • Hubby gets kids from school
  • Homework, snack, chores
  • Make, eat and clean up dinner
  • Evening/family activities
  • Kids' bedtime routines (also a separate post "Bedtime Routines")
  • Personal time
So hopefully, that will give you some idea of the importance of planning and making the most of the time you have available. Right now, I have four kids, I take care of six additional children throughout the week. All four of my kids are in sports. We have two different sports at three different fields and life is just busy. I also Visit Teach once a month (or twice, depending on how scheduling works out with everyone) and I am Primary teacher in church. Needless to say, my plate is full. But it is all do-able and every so often, I find that something isn't working and that I have to adjust it a bit. So I do and it works again until it doesn't and then I readjust again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 Days...Day 2...Friendships

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 2 - 

Today is Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012. Today's topic is about Friendships. Now you may wonder what Friendships have to do with Homemaking, and I will tell you about a couple of mine and how it relates to this month's chosen topic.

This is a picture of my Grandma K (on the right) with her best friend, Granny T (on the left, looking at something going on in another area). Granny T is the Great-Grandmother of my best-friend, Bree. These two ladies were incredible on their own and their friendship was awesome! They were great role models for Bree and myself.

These two ladies were a huge support to each others and to their families and to each other's families as well. As such, Bree and I learned a lot from them about doing this as well. At the point in time when these two fine ladies were best friends, their grandkids were having kids, so they weren't at the same stage in life that Bree and I are but the same principles apply.

You see, my Grandma K would call Granny T every morning and they would chat for a few minutes before starting their day. Granny T would call my Grandma K and they would chat for a few minutes every evening before calling it a night. No day was started or ended without this phone call. Now, Bree and I aren't quite like that, but rare is a day that goes by without us talking on the phone. (And I don't even like to talk on the phone.)

Our grandmas would have lunch together 2-3 times a week at one of the local senior centers. My Grandma K would stop by Granny T's house and pick her up and off they'd go to the senior center, where they'd enjoy their meal and good conversation, cards and (on Fridays) Bingo for prizes. It was just what they did.

Bree and I don't have the opportunity (most weeks) to get together 2-3 times, but we are also in a completely different season of life than our Grandmas were. However, we do make it a point to get together once a week for a lunch. We rotate weekly where we eat. One week we eat at my house, one week at her house, one week, we eat out at a restaurant. (Rinse and repeat all year long.)

My Grandma K would also pick up Granny T and together they'd "get along to town to do their trading" aka go grocery shopping. And just for the record, we live in a sizable city. There was no "getting to town" involved. They lived one mile from the grocery store. Actually, one mile from multiple grocery stores, just saying.

Bree and I often meet up and do our shopping together. Most of the time it is after we drop our kids off at school and we will each drive to the grocery store and do our shopping. We visit while we shop and it is wonderfully zen time for us. No kids, no husbands, just us. And I suppose there are other shoppers there as well, but for all that we notice, we are the only ones around.

We also have our kids in some similar activities and we see each other there as well (though we usually have kids we are busy corralling or trying to keep quiet or something similar) and that is a total bonus. As is the fact that her seven year old and my six year old are becoming quiet the pair of best friends themselves.

But the nice thing about all of this - and how it relates to homemaking - is that we have the chance and opportunity to share our lives with each other. We share the good and the bad. We comfort and are comforted by the other, we bounce ideas off each other, we meal plan, we share cleaning tips and tricks, budgeting ideas, parenting helps, marriage stuff. It all works together to help mold us into better wives, mothers and homemakers. I think everyone should have someone like this. My Grandma K had Granny T, I have Bree, Oralee has S (Bree's daughter). It's great.

Who is your best friend? Do they help you to become a better wife, mother, homemaker or person? How?

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days...Day 1...Budgets

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 1 - 

Today is Monday, October 1st, 2012. First of all, today is Jeriah's fifth birthday. Happy Birthday, Jeriah! Secondly, today's topic will be "Budgets," as it is an area of our lives that I have been working hard on.

I am going to share more on this subject than I have ever planned to share online about such a private matter, but here goes.

Our monthly income is $2641.00.

This is how we break our income down:

-765.00 food

- 500.00 savings
- 240.00 fuel
- 335.00 lot rent
- 200.00 electric
- 200.00 cable/internet/home phone
- 125.00 phone
- 125.00 student loans
-   60.00 household supplies 
-   30.00 gym membership
-    10.00 netflix account

Now, you may notice that I have taken this line by line through our budget. But there are a few notes I want to add in about.

Our food budget is high. We have six people in our family and the budgeted amount is based off of "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2012" guidelines using the thrifty plan. While those guidelines put us at an average of 915.30 for our family of six, our budget is $150.00 less than that. I still think that $765.00 seems like quite a bit as well, but we just carry over the food budget from month to month for when the price of food increases (last year from flooding, this year from drought, so on and so forth). We also have additional people that eat with us as well. In a typical week, we have at least 11 meals shared with at least one more person, but most often, it is more meals and more people.

Next up, is our savings plan of $500.00 per month. This is a recent addition to our budget. I think this is a nice even amount to deduct each month. We have it divided up though. Part of it (40%) is long-term savings, part of it (20%) is short-term savings (for big ticket items), part of it (20%) is savings for gifts and such, and another part of it (20%) is for unexpected expenses or infrequent expenses (insurance premiums, home repairs, car repairs and maintenance, etc.)

We both have vehicles (paid off) and our only monthly fee for those are for our fuel. I based our fuel cost on roughly $4.00/gallon. Lately, it has been closer to $3.75/gallon so we are keeping the excess reserved for those times when the price may increase to more than $4.00/gallon. We roll the excess allotment over from month to month, when there is one and we use the excess when we take road trips to visit family or friends here and there throughout the year. If we accumulate a fair amount of money in this area, we will use it toward a down payment on a newer vehicle when we need one.

Our home is paid for free and clear. The only housing payment we have is for the land our home sits on, which runs us a mere $335.00 per month, which I think is pretty reasonable.

I over-budget for our electric bill as well. We roll this amount over from month to month as well. When we have enough excess in this area, we will use it for things like new windows, new appliances, new HVAC unit, etc. to help with our energy efficiency. I'd love to use it for solar panels, but not sure if that is realistic.)

Our cable bill is also over-budgeted. We do have basic cable, digital cable, DVR service, internet service with a faster download speed and home phone. And even with all of that, our budgeted amount is still almost double what our actual bill is. I really have no plans for the excess amount in this area, unlike the other areas, but it's nice to know that it is there. I suppose that amount would eventually be used toward the purchase of new electronics (TV, computer, audio, etc.)

Our cell phones (two of them - both smartphones) run $125.00 a month, with no contract and unlimited everything. We love our plan!

Student loans. What can I say? Blech.

Household supplies is a small portion of my monthly budget because we really don't spend all that much on this department. I buy in bulk as needed and usually, I don't have to replace big bulk items all at once. Some of our household supplies come out of our grocery budget (things like baking soda and vinegar) and I can get many personal care items for free or next to nothing by watching the sales and the coupons and pairing them up together.

Our gym membership is SO worth it to me. Between the activities for the kids, the fitness and activities for us, the free childcare, etc, it has well proven it's value far beyond the cost.

We have a netflix account. This has been a lifesaver! We stream mostly through our Wii or our computers. I love being able to go in and watch complete seasons of TV shows. Tonight, we used it for a show that we don't have recorded on DVR to settle down a toddler that was going to be staying the night here for the first time. It worked very nicely!

And that leaves us with just a small amount unaccounted for. Hubby and I use that amount for our rare date night dinners out or things like that.

I think the key to budgeting is to get an idea of what and where you spend your money each month, by tracking it for a few months and then make your decisions based off of that. You can see where you need to trim your budget and where you should just cut things out of it.

I also make a small, varying amount of money each month, but since it varies, I don't factor this in to our budget and just stick it into savings or use it for extra things that the kids need or that we want but don't want to take it out of our regular budget, etc.

The hardest part of a budget isn't really so much of coming up with it or setting it, it's sticking to the budget that is really hard. I don't have any real tips for that. I still feel like I get to shop quite often, but I tend to really watch for sales, buy used from other people (which saves money and reduces waste) and once you get started trying to save as much as possible, it becomes almost like a challenge, trying to save more and more each month. I love it!

If you have any questions about my budget or about making or setting your own budget, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out as well.

This post is part of a series hosted by The Nesting Place. You should go and see what others are posting about this month as well!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 Days of Homemaking

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

I have been working these past few months on doing things to make our home more comfortable and more of a sanctuary for those who live here (as well as for those who don't live here apparently - but that's another story completely!) and now is the time to post about some of those things. So welcome!

You can also go and visit The Nester to see other blogs and what people are doing for their 31 days as well.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Just Because

I don't really have anything to type about right now, but I can always come up with SOMETHING. Just because my brain works like that. It's 2:00 in the morning and I should be asleep. I'm exhausted to be honest, but I'm up waiting for Hubby's work pants to get done in the dryer so that I can take them out and lay them out with the rest of his clothes for the morning.

Normally, we would have had all of this done quite a while before this point in the night, but tonight, not so much. We are house-sitting for my inlaws. They are off backpacking in Colorado or Wyoming or somewhere. (Their initial plan was for Colorado, but they weren't sure if they would be able to hike any 14'ers there so they figured they might have to go to Wyoming instead.)

But anyhow, the kids and I had a busy day cleaning house and getting things nice and neat because I knew that we were going to be coming over here sometime this evening. I also knew that I had some errands to run that I didn't get done earlier in the week. I tell you, I like to group my errands together, but when the heat is the way it has been, I am good for an errand or two, as long as they are somewhat in the same area. I don't like to be outdoors any longer than I absolutely have to. It's just miserable. Plus, I have always had a hard time releasing heat from my body, so that makes it even worse.

When Hubby got home, I ran out to do our errands while he and the kids stayed home and did some things around the house. Cephas wanted to mow. He has been begging all week to be allowed to mow, so Hubby let him do it today. Hubby also took the seats out of our van and loaded up some laundry into the van. Now, when I say "some" laundry, what I really mean is like ten totes worth of laundry. I had been going through clothes and then something came up and then the clothes got moved to the floor instead of my bed and then they got stepped on and then they got left there, so on and so forth. Anyhow, he gathered a bunch of it up and brought it over. Now, I am rewashing everything again so that I can go through it all and make sure what I am going to do with it. I know that there is more there than what we need for our six family members, plus the babysitting kids (I always have a few extra items on hand for them - just in case something were to happen) but even still, it's a mountain.

Well, Hubby's work shirt went into the first load I washed and somehow, his work pants went into the third load. Sigh. One of these days I will get it together. Maybe. Okay, probably not. But maybe I'll get better at pretending that I have it all together. Nah. :)

Tomorrow, I am going to continue to work on the mountain of laundry that Hubby decided to bring over here and go through it all. I am also going to be going back to our house and have the kids work on some extra chores there. It was so easy to see some extra things that needed to be done when I ran back there this evening to grab hangers (yeah, we forgot to bring the hangers. I could fold everything but then that just creates more work yet again, and believe me when I say that I don't need to borrow extra work). The house was just so empty and quiet. It was weird. I did a few things while I was there but since it was already late, I didn't want to take too long to get back down here, so now I have a list in my head of things that I want to go home tomorrow during the day and work on with the kids.

Tomorrow night, I am picking up BabyCakes from his daycare center and bringing him back to the inlaw's house. He'll spend the weekend here with us. While we are here, I am just doing laundry, watering the yard/plants/garden/whatever (I do NOT have a green thumb whatsoever so I'm doing my best!) and just making the house look lived in. Saturday afternoon, I want to go home and work on some stuff there and maybe even leave the kids here with Hubby while I do that. It will give BabyCakes a chance to see his dad too by doing that.

Then on Sunday, it's off to church and then take BabyCakes back to his dad and then work on our house some, come back here, tidy up the inlaw's house and then head on home in the evening. Thankfully, Hubby has Sunday off each week, so I can plan on him to help out with this stuff. After that, Monday will be my slowest day of the week and Tuesday begins the million mile a minute roller coaster ride that will be my new normal for the next few weeks.

I am so excited to have Calla and Angel around. I just can't wait. I'd like to get my house all caught up and organized and spotlessly cleaned, but let's be honest here. That isn't going to happen. So I will be happy with the house being neat and appear to be clutter free until the time comes this fall when I can make the reality much closer to the vision in my head.

See? I told you that I could make words happen even though I "didn't really have anything to type about," like I said earlier. It's now about half an hour later and I only have another half an hour to waste before checking on Hubby's pants. Maybe I might try resting for that time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks and Meltdowns

There are so many different things that the title of this post could possibly refer to, such as: the heat around here, the wildfires in surrounding states, the fireworks, whatever. But this isn't about any of that, although they may all make it further into this post before I'm done.

I'm talking about emotional meltdowns. When my kids really get going, I fully and completely expect to see a big ol' puddle of Cephas or Koren, Oralee or Jeriah just laying there on the ground. Thankfully, it is a figurative term and not a literal one because with the heat around here, they probably would have evaporated in an hour's time. (Heat - further mention - 1 for 3)

Our city allows fireworks to be sold and lit only on July 3rd and July 4th. There are nearby towns that allow fireworks sales prior to that (something like up to ten days in advance of the 4th?) but here in the city, you are out of luck til the 3rd. (Fireworks - further mention - 2 for 3)

Our city's big holiday hoopla actually happens on the 3rd as well. Multimillion dollar display, free activities for the day for families, it's a great event and a great idea. However, with the heat indexes being over 100 and the humidity making it dangerous to even be outside (your body cannot efficiently cool itself), we had made the decision not to attend this year.

We went last year. Hubby, myself, our four kids, Shea, her hubby and their four kids. It was an absolute BLAST! (pardon the pun) We had discussed doing it again this year, but due to the fact that Hubby was scheduled the 3rd and the 4th and that we would be having BabyCakes overnight on the 3rd and into the 4th (weekday daycare took a holiday), we weren't planning on going to it. Add to that the fact that with two children on the Spectrum, one of whom needs a VERY consistent schedule - at minimum a regular sleep schedule - and the other who has developed some sensory processing issues, and how that would affect them, we made our choice.

Cephas and Koren wanted to spend some time outdoors yesterday (3rd) watching neighbors do their fireworks. I was completely fine with that. I gave them some very specific instructions. Stay away from the fireworks and ABSOLUTELY no holding or lighting fireworks. They both disobeyed and got caught. They both were given one more chance and did well with it.

Our neighbors decided to go to the lake nearby to just watch the fireworks display. It happens maybe only a mile or a mile and a half from us (as the eagle flies) but there are a lot of trees and hills between here and there and we wouldn't be able to see the display from here. They asked if Cephas could join them. I reluctantly agreed. Our bedtime around here is 8:30 year round. It seems really early in the summer, but the kids NEED it. Granted, there are times when it gets pushed back to 9:00 or sometimes even 10:00, but not much later than that at all.

The fireworks display doesn't happen til 10:00pm. It's a 22 minute show. Then there is traffic. So on and so forth. Cephas got home just before 11:00. He wanted to stay outside and watch the neighbors do some more of their fireworks. The fireworks are actually supposed to end at 11pm, but I didn't know that. I found that out afterward. But I let him and Koren both go over and watch the neighbors. The little kids were asleep inside and Hubby was too.

I sat on the porch and watched the kids and waited for BabyCakes to get dropped off as well (they had also gone to the show and had to walk back home after to drive over here). BabyCakes got dropped off, I brought him inside and put him to bed. He was out instantly. He normally goes to bed around 8:30 as well. I called for the boys to come in just before midnight. They were asleep within ten minutes as I figured they would be.

Today, everyone was up at their normal times. My kids have never figured out the whole sleeping in thing. Well, except for Koren. He'd gladly sleep in til 9am, usually. But the rest of them are usually up pretty early. They did their chores (most willingly, might I add) and earned their game time. I lost track of time and they ended up with double the amount that they were supposed to have.

Then, this afternoon, the friends starting showing up at the door, all asking for the boys to come out and play, which we allowed them to do. After awhile, we had them come in to cool off, even though they said that they were "just fine". Sorry kiddos, it is my job as your mom to be the parent and as such, I need to make sure that you ARE just fine. With this heat, you may not be able to tell the difference.

Then, they started asking if they could watch this person or that person do fireworks tonight. I told them that we would see. I knew that they were already short on sleep and after playing outside, it REALLY showed. I suggested that they go lay down and rest for a bit. They vetoed that suggestion.

They started talking about how they wanted to just be able to light this type of firework or that type of firework and I told them again, "NO fireworks. You may watch them and that is IT"

Shortly after that, they went outside to play again and both of them broke the rule and were caught lighting fireworks. They were told that if they were going to be allowed to watch fireworks in the evening, it would be from our porch. They had broken the rules again and they were done. They were not allowed to play outside, they were not allowed to watch the fireworks unless it was from our porch, they were just DONE with outdoor activities for the day.

That is when Cephas melted. Koren is eight, almost nine and he sat there, listening and quickly and quietly took his consequence for it and moved on. Cephas melted. He cried, he complained, he whined, he nagged, he kept at it. We explained, we reasoned with him, we remained firm on the issue. No matter how much he tried and tried to get his own way about it, we didn't budge. I told him that if he kept it up, he'd end up with an 8pm bedtime and miss out on everything altogether.

So then the evening came and the boys were outside on the porch to watch other people light their fireworks. I had the little kids inside, watching different displays on T.V. I asked the boys if they wanted to come in and watch the displays as well. They didn't at first. But then Cephas decided to come indoors and melt all over the living room again. So that was the end of the outdoors for him. I gave him the option of going to his room and watching out his window or laying on the couch and watching on TV. He chose his room. Koren came in as well and went to lay down because he was tired.

Cephas then came out and melted again, saying that he couldn't see anything. All the good stuff was every direction but the one that his window faced. I told him he still had the option of watching the display on TV. Koren came out and asked if he, too, could watch the TV display. We agreed to it and they fell asleep watching the display on TV (around 9:15 or so).

I know that this is an issue that will be coming up soon with Cephas' therapist. We see a behavioral therapist every other week to work on various issues with Cephas. Well, technically, we see her for Jeriah as well, but this whole post is about Cephas. So anyhow, we will see her soon and I know this will come up. I know that she will back me on these issues. And that is reassuring to know.

I am feeling a bit stressed myself right now though, because although I know that the B.T. will back me on this and Hubby obviously does as well, my mother-in-law probably won't. She is constantly pressuring me to "give him some additional freedom" and to "make his bedtime just a little bit later than the others, maybe an hour or so" and various other things like that. And it angers me. I am the one that has to make these decisions, I am the one who has to live with the consequences of my decisions on how I raise my children. Yes, I agree that my 11 year old should have a later bedtime than my 4 year old. But you know what? He can't handle it. He melts the next day if loses more than half an hour of sleep. He doesn't sleep in. We have finally gotten to the point where he is willingly staying in his room quietly (and usually without waking his brother) until 8am. He has room darkening curtains. There really isn't much more that I can do, so his bedtime will remain 8:30. He will not be allowed to play with fireworks. He will need to stay in his room quietly until 8:00am for the remainder of summer. These are all things that I am not going to budge on.

Also, with regard to the firework issue, basically, my thought on it (in addition to these ones that I had mentioned the other day) is that allowing my children to light fireworks is giving them permission to play with fire, which I don't think is okay at ANY point in time. Also, if I were to ever allow them to do it, they would have to show me that they could be personally responsible. They need to be able to be responsible and accountable for their actions - and by that definition, Koren would probably be okay to light fireworks but he's only eight. No way is he going to be allowed to do that.

Cephas mentioned camping and the fact that he is allowed to start fires in that instance. I explained that fires during camping are a tool, not a toy. It is used for warmth, for food in addition to enjoyment. But the first two are the primary reasons for a fire during camping. He is also a Scout and they have the "Leave No Trace" policy that they practice. And the last point about it, campfires (done correctly) are CONTAINED.

Speaking of fires being contained, the fire that was raging in our state's national forest (which I didn't even know existed until recently) is now 100% contained. I'm so thankful! (Oh - and wildfires - mention - 3 for 3 - got 'em all in here!)

Apart from the meltdowns, I'd say it was a pleasant 4th of July. It was a quiet day, mostly spent with just our immediate family here at home. I got some personal and family planning done, finalized some details for the remainder of the month (or mostly finalized) and just relaxed as much as possible.

How was your fourth? Did you go to a professional display or stay home and do your own? What is your take on kids and fireworks?

Monday, July 2, 2012

July kickoff

We are kicking off to a busy start here in July. This month, we have a lot going on. We have swim lesson registrations. Cephas leveled up AGAIN this session, so now we are going to have swim lessons at a whole new YMCA location. Only two locations where we live have deep enough pools to practice starts and dives. But out of those two, only one is a consideration in my book. The neat part about that, though, is that Cephas, Oralee and Jeriah will all have swim lessons AT THE SAME TIME! Koren won't, as he has opted to not participate in swim lessons this session. He has been complaining about the chlorine and the swimming bothering his asthma.

We also have registration for Koren, Oralee and Jeriah to play soccer. Cephas is already registered for Midget Football. We also have Scouts that meets year round. Cephas is an 11 year old Scout and about halfway to his 12th birthday. He has one more activity to do and he will have earned his Tenderfoot and his First Class rank as well. Then he will be working on his Second Class rank. When he turns twelve, he will be ready to just focus on the merit badges. I'm so proud of him! Koren is also very close to finishing his Wolf rank and being able to earn his awards for his electives. We had a really neat Pack meeting the other night, in which my friend, Bree's son, earned his Wolf rank. It was such a cool presentation, complete with drawing on the kids' faces with markers and eveything!

We have had BabyCakes again. His mom was going to start taking him on the weekends but she has once again backed out. It makes me so sad for him. I wish that there was something more I could do for him, to provide him with the mother that he should have in her, but I can't. So I just love on him and treat him like one of my own.

I have also started teaching in the Nursery class at church. This past week, our Nursery class consisted of only BabyCakes. Do you know how weird it is to have just ONE child to teach a lesson to? Or to add to it the fact that the ONE child happens to be the one that you are responsible for anyhow? I was so tempted to just skip the lesson but my teaching companion, Kat, said that we should teach the lesson anyhow, so we did. Since she had prepared the lesson, I decided that I would take the time this week to write out a letter to the parents of the kids who weren't there, summarizing our lesson from this week and including our handout/art project for them. Next week's lesson is mine to teach.

Speaking of teaching, my visiting companion and I spoke about our visits coming up this month and she asked me to teach the lessons. Since we have been companions, she has done most of the teaching or we have traded off and on for the visits, but this month, she specifically asked me to teach. Courage anyone? I'm so scared. It will be fine though.

Let's see, what else is there? Angel will be back with us soon (mid-month), and so will Calla. I can't wait. I miss Calla so much! I'm going to be so sad when she goes back to her mom's house after her July visit because we most likely won't see her again for quite awhile. (Boo.)

Let's see, for me personally, I have discovered that the YMCA offers a VERY EARLY morning water exercise class. As in, one that will allow me to go to the class, work out, shower, get dressed, come home and be able to still be there before Hubby's alarm goes off in the morning. Now, that's my idea of a way to start the day.

Also, since the little kids will all be having their swim lessons at the same time, it frees up the childcare option at the YMCA for me to be able to do some exercise classes or whatever. I know that I definitely want to do the early morning water exercise class, but it is only available at our normal location two days a week. I do plan to check into the other location to see if they have it on the off mornings, so that maybe I can get it set up for four days a week. Then, I plan to utilize the childcare center to do land exercise classes or cardio workouts. I haven't decided yet. I just know that I really need to get moving.

As I sit here typing this, I am hearing some fireworks going off outside. I have a very unpopular opinion about fireworks. I feel that fireworks should be left to the professionals and should only be done for the big displays. Needless to say, my children have (VERY RARELY) lit fireworks or even had sparklers, etc. I just don't like fire that could harm my children. I love campfires and firepits and fireplace fires, but in all of those instances, there is a CONTAINED place for the fires and they (usually) stay within those contained places. When you couple my fear of fires harming my children with the drought that we are currently experiencing, the high temperatures, the wind, the wildfires happening in many places across the nation, fires scare me. I was outside just a bit ago, watering our yard and flower beds and spraying down our roof. Yes, I am THAT person. I'm just doing my best to keep myself and my family safe. It may be a futile effort, it may be an unnecessary effort, but it makes me feel better and eases my mind, so I'm going with it.

We have some home projects in the works here soon. Our back deck has eroded and there are huge, gaping holes everywhere in it. We really need to replace the whole thing, but when we priced out the cost of lumber to rebuild it, we discovered that we were looking at around $300. For a SMALL deck! Ridiculous. I found a solution that I think will work out nicely. Or at the very least, keep people from falling through our deck until we can fully replace it next year (which is going to take some major saving effort between now and then!).

We also have plans to enclose our yard. Initially, we were looking at a wood privacy fence. That is mostly for Jeriah's safety (wandering) and for the ability to let our dogs out to just run freely. Right now, they are VERY much indoor dogs and they will remain that way even after we fence in our yard, but it would be nice to be able to just let them out and let them run around and exercise too.

However, once we realized the cost of putting up a privacy fence around our yard (once again, a small area), we have discovered that it is something that we are going to have to save for. These two combined amounts are going to be a HUGE financial investment on our part. HUGE. To fence in our yard with chain link, we are probably looking at something in the $500 range and to do it with privacy fencing, we're looking at closer to $2,000, which is a scary amount to me.

I'm thinking about going back to school as well. Or maybe getting a part-time job while the kids are in school. I would love to get a job as a para with our school system, but I need to make sure that a) Jeriah gets accepted into kindergarten and, b) I would be able to be off work by the time Bree's kids get out of school - they attend an "early start" school and my kids attend a "late start" school and Bree is also thinking about getting a part-time job and hiring me to pick up her kids from school, keep them for an hour - while I go to pick up my kids from school - and then she'd either pick them up from me or I'd drop them off at home for her. Cephas will be attending a school that has the same dismissal time as Bree's kids but he already has plans and people to walk home with and most likely, he'd get home around the same time that I would with Bree's kids. And by that time, Hubby would also probably be home as well, so then either he could go get the other kids from school or I could, but someone would be here at home with whichever kids were here as well. In the cases where he wouldn't be off in time, we also have a family friend who could pick the kids up as well or Hubby could even leave work long enough to go pick up kids and bring them home and then return back to work. We have done that before too. It's not our favorite option, but it's an option that works in a pinch. And then our last ditch option would be to have my mother-in-law pick up the kids from school.

I am not looking forward to the end of summer. It feels like it just started and it's almost over already. There are a few things that I am looking forward to though. I'm looking forward to my house being cleaner again. In fact, it will probably be the cleanest it has ever been since before we had kids. We have had little kids that needed our attention and that made messes, etc. etc. etc for the last eleven years. For the first time, we won't have kids around for a major part of the day. My house should be nearly spotless, I think. I don't know what to expect exactly. But I am looking forward to that. I can paint rooms and organize cupboards and drawers and closets and do home repairs and updates and all of these other things that I have been wanting to do but haven't had the time or opportunity to do. Oh, I could even take a nice, luxurious bath, I could shave my legs more (which would mean that ...... which would have a ripple effect on everything else at home), I could read a book or utilize my gym membership more often, I'm seeing lots of positives about the school year starting here in just over a month. But for now, I just want to hold on to the (HOT, HUMID, EXHAUSTING, BUSY, FUN!!!) summer with my kids. Afterall, we only get one summer break each year. I don't want to waste it!

Wow, talk about a hodgepodge mishmash post. I do believe that is called a "train of thought" piece, yes? Anyhow, it just feels good to write again and be able to get some stuff down on the blog. And kudos to all (any?) who made it through this post. We'll "talk" soon, I am sure!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On teaching children to do laundry

Recently, my oldest child, Cephas, decided it was high time that he learned how to do laundry. I have to admit, I didn't argue or try to dissuade him in the least. He's 11 and absolutely capable of doing laundry from start to finish. I made sure that he knew how much soap to use and reminded him to double check the clothes before putting them in the washer to make sure he didn't get something mixed in to the load that didn't belong. He knows how to run the washer and how to switch laundry over and run the dryer. He also knows how to fold laundry. So, I let him loose and he did six loads. Mostly it was his and Koren's laundry and bedding that he did. Koren also helped him. To be extra helpful, they threw in some random pieces of everyone else's laundry. They sorted, washed, dried and folded. They had a huge amount of laundry in baskets on Cephas's bed. And then things got busy here.

It was a couple of days before I had gotten back in to their room to deal with the laundry (yes, I needed to "fix" a few things. I'm particular about folding and I don't ever put anything away inside out, small details that the boys overlook and they had also folded a number of items that normally are on hangers, which I figured they knew since they know where to go to get the items, but regardless...) and guess what I found?

The clothes weren't dried. Or at least not completely. Oy! So I have had the pleasure today of re-washing every single item. I let the boys know (gently - I don't want to deter them from wanting to do laundry) and they were so sad that they had created extra work instead of less work for me.

I have decided that from now on, I will do the laundry and each child will have opportunity to help me until I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are capable of doing the work. With Cephas, he just needs to be more observant about the dryness of clothes coming out of the dryer. Koren needs additional training in that area as well, but also needs to learn how much detergent to use, as well as which setting to use for both wash and dry. Oralee and Jeriah need to learn all of it yet, except for the sorting. They are pretty good at that already. And all of them need to learn how to fold clothes Mom's way and which items get put on hangers and which get folded and placed in drawers.

I think I am going to make a laundry cheat sheet for the kids and put it somewhere near the washer and dryer. That should make it easier for everyone (Hubby included).

Finishing up the laundry and putting it away is our plan for tomorrow, along with their regular chores. I will post tomorrow about our chore system that had been working beautifully for the last month and a half. I think that is probably the longest a chore system has worked for us (to the level of effectiveness that those one has). I'm excited to share it with you. It works really well with our ADHD child as well as our Asperger's child. Which in my opinion, makes it a winner!


I have been MIA, I know. You have summer and the craziness that goes with it to thank for that one! I feel as though we need a little bit of a catch up, wouldn't you agree?
Growing up, my best friend was a boy, Melvin. We have known each other since we were two, so nearly twenty-nine years now. His parents treated me just like I was their child and my parents did the same towards him. On May 5th, his dad retired after 28 years of service in the Army National Guard. He had been on at least three tours (that I can remember-two of those homecomings resulted in Melvin's younger siblings) and had earned the highest rank possible without being an enlisted officer - if I understand it all correctly. He was a CSM. He was and is my hero. If I could pick a father, he would be it. I can recall him being harsh and (extremely!) strict when it was needed and a shoulder to cry on when I needed that as well. I love that man and am proud to call him my pseudo-dad.
Earlier that week, Oralee turned six and we had a nice get together for her the day after pseudo-dad retired. Just a small family gathering plus Melvin and his daughter, Calla. It was fun and have Melvin and I a chance to catch up. We spent a good chunk of the day, sitting on the back deck, watching the kids play and talking. Interesting fact - it was also Hubby's birthday. He spent most of his time indoors, playing a video game with his dad. But a good time was had by all and that is the important part.
Koren's class had a field trip to the large zoo about an hour from where we live. He and hoods teacher had both asked if I would come along. I agreed to, of course, because I love that class. They are my favorite class! It was a blast! I walked 12 miles that day according to the pedometer app on my phone. Loved it. We each had our own group. I just had Koren and a buddy of his and we were able to branch off and just go explore the zoo at our own pace. Wonderfully magnificent time and a perfect way to spend a nice spring day. I'm so glad we didn't have to stay together as a group.
School let out early this year. Earlier than any year Hubby and I can recall. Our last day of school was May 24th. On May 23rd, Cephas's grade took a field trip to watch our minor league baseball team play their home opener. Guess who the parent volunteer was for that trip? Yup, twas me. It was a blast! The teacher, though, had taken some medicine that recommends staying out of sunlight. It was an 11 am game, in May, with unseasonably warm temperatures and a UV index of a 10 out of 10. So I got to play class monitor. The kids were bound and determined to do what they wanted to do and I was bound and determined that they were going to follow the rules. (I won that battle, just for the record. I was there to make sure the kids were safe and had a good time. I was not there to make friends. And the kids DID have a good time.) I also got the worst sunburn in recent history. But for the first time (probably EVER), I also got a tan.
Since school has let out, we have had a number of kids stay the night, have done some movie nights, we've gone to a number of baseball games, we have had swim lessons, I have babysat a myriad of children. BC is my regular, Friday-Sunday kiddo, but I have also had a 4 year old, Angel, three year old twins, Oliver and Olivia, and then Calla as well. Thankfully, not all at the same time.
Surprisingly enough, my house has never been cleaner. Well, not true, but with that many children plus random neighborhood children traipsing through at any given point, my house has stayed surprisingly tidy. We have developed a great routine and system for the kids and myself. I knew I was excited for summer and this is part of the reason. I love it when it all just flows so smoothly.
And we are only a little over a month in. We still have lots to do and see and explore.
Calla will be back in July to spend some days with us, BC is here every weekend, Angel will be here with us during the day Tuesday-Friday beginning mid-July.
We have more baseball games to attend, zoos to visit, we still have scouting each week. We are planning a Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun trip coming up in August. We also have a wedding to attend in August, as well as flower girl dress fittings for Oralee. (We have also been playing a lot with hairstyles for Oralee.) Jeriah has his early admittance to kindergarten testing coming up here soon.
And this fall, Cephas is finally going to play football for our city's midget football league, Koren and Oralee are going to play soccer and Jeriah is going to continue with swim lessons. He would have passed his class each of three last three sessions if he would just put his face in the water for three seconds. But he won't. It is an Asperger's thing, as well as a sensory disorder thing and he just won't do it. Thankfully, we have great instructors at our YMCA who are patient and willing to work with him. I think we might also do gymnastics for Koren, Oralee and Jeriah for this fall. I just want to make sure they aren't too overloaded. We'll see what the schedule looks like though.