In a homeschooling house full of 7 kids & 3 guniea pigs....there is never a dull moment! A lot of people show genuine concern for us and want to know how we are doing, as the road we've left behind was not a pleasant one. So, here I am, to tell some of our stories...share some of our days...and open up a part of our world to you! Come join us on our journey so you won't miss the moments that take our breath away!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our improved Workbox System!

I have (not faithfully) used the workbox system for about 2 years now.  This system takes a lot of preparation time and for me, it is not always easy for me to keep up with.   However, when has been a life saver and I'm ready to push myself to use it again.  We started this system when I had problems getting my boys to be more independent.  I also found that it helped my Aspie do much better, by knowing what to expect (how much more work he had, when he would get a break and even when his break was over).  The "workbox system" was created by Sue Patrick.  I did not purchase her book, but yet I researced 100's of blogs about how different people use the system and I created my own system.  Since I've never seen the book, I truly do not know how the "true" system really works.

Since our system worked so well for us, I recommended it to a lot of my friends.  I've helped a lot of people by introducing them to the system and many have used it successfully!  Even though our system has proven successful not only for us, but for so many others I am forever trying to better my own system and this week, it was time for yet another update!

We haven't been using our workboxes for months now because they just weren't working as well for us.  It has taken a lot of thought for me to figure out what wasn't working and what I could do to change it.  Out of nowhere, the solution just popped into my head the other day! 

One of my biggest challenges of teaching so many children is keeping up with everything all of them do througout the day...who has done what, what does each child have left to do, who needs help with what, etc....With 6 kids things can get pretty hectic.  I simply needed a better way to know exactly where each student stands at any given moment of the day so that I'm not wasting time trying to figure out who has done what and what else needs to be done and trying to remember who needed help with what.  

I created this new system to cater to me and my own needs.  I need to know what everyone is working on, what everyone has finished, what everyone has not started and what everyone needs help on.  I don't want to help someone with a lesson right away when I have forgotten that a sibling has already been waiting for me to help them.

Here is how our new system works...
First, the boxes:

Cardinal who was not using workboxes on our old system and still is not wanting to use "workboxes" will be using a wall hanging file folder workbox system. 

Cardinal's Hanging Subject Folders
I chose this for her because we do not have room for more boxes and she is capable of getting the books and materials she needs to complete a lesson.  So, she can simply pull the folder for the course she wants to work on and gather her own materials needed to complete the lesson.  Each course folder will contain the work for the entire week.  This way, she can still work at her own pace. 

Hawk will be using workboxes.  He will have one box for each course.  This is a bit different than he is used to, as with our old system each box contained one lesson and all the materials he needed to complete each lesson.  He has become a very independent worker and he no longer needs to have his boxes set up that way.  His boxes will be set up the same way as Cardinal's folders.  All of his work for the week will be in each course box.  Since he has boxes, his books for each course will be kept in each appropriate box.  He will have one box for his supplies (scissors, pencils, glue, etc).

Eagle will also be using workboxes.  He is still learning how to work independently and he is not capable of gathering anything on his own and as an Aspie, he doesn't deal with change well anyways so, he will be using his boxes the same.  Each box will contain a lesson or activity.  All of the materials he needs for each lesson will be included in his box.  This helps cut down on distraction (just looking for a pencil can be so much of a distraction that he would be unable to do the lesson).  Some things he can work on independently and some he can not.  Lessons that need to be completed with me or Falcon will contain a red square of paper.  This is his sign that he needs a coach to complete the lesson.

Our main workshelf (and workboxes)

Macaw has used "activity boxes" for preschool so this won't be completely foreign to her, but now she is halfway through Kindergarten so it's time to train her on the true workbox system, as next year she will advance to using the system the same as Eagle uses it now.  Since we are making a change to our system, I figured now would be a good time to start switching her over to a new system.  She will be learning how to use the system so that she can learn the routine and she is definately old enough to do some lessons independently.  She will be using a crate with hanging file folders.  Each folder will contain a lesson.  She will learn how to distinguish a lesson that can be done independently from a lesson she needs to work with me on (folders which contain a red square of paper need to be completed with a coach).  Her supplies (scissors, glue, pencils, etc.) will be kept in her handy crate on her school shelf.  Her crate will contain her lesson folders and any games or other materials we will need for the week.

Macaw's workbox crate

Emu and Duckling will be using their activity boxes during their independent work time.  They have 6 boxes to work from.  Each box will contain an activity which they can work on independently.  Each week, the activities will change.  I will post more about these boxes and what they contain very soon!  In addition to their boxes, they will also have their structured lessons.

On to the Status Board...

This is where our big change comes in.  I have never seen this idea or one similar in all the blogs I frequent.  This idea was a solution I came up with for our family and our circumstances...but I can see how many would love this board! :) Instead of completed assignment stips (where a velcro number is removed from the workbox and put onto a strip), we have a board for Cardinal, Hawk & Eagle.  I will explain how this works the best I can :/

 Instead of velcro numbers that would be switched from a box to a strip or assignment students will use this board.  Each student has a pocket for each subject.  The top row belongs to Cardinal.  Her pockets are multicolored because they cordinate to the matching colors of her workfolders.  The second row is Eagles row.  His pockets are all green because usually all of their folders, pencils, scissors, etc are color coded (one color for each student).  Eagle's color has always been green.  The third row is Hawk's.  His "color" is blue :)  The fourth row has 3 red pockets and 3 yellow pockets each with their names.  Next the red pockets is an orange pocket.  This orange pocket contains index cards numbered 1, 2 and 3.  The red pockets are the "help" pockets.  When they need help, they will draw the first available number card from the orange pocket and put the numbered card in their red "help" pocket.  This way, I know who has been waiting the longest for help!  The yellow pockets also have each of their names.  These pockets serve a dual purpose...first...they hold their "status cards" and they serve as their "chore" pocket.  The orange pocket next to these has an index card labled "done".  When they are finished with their chores, they place a "done" card into their yellow pocket. 

They will begin their day with their first box or folder.  They will take their "working" status card from their yellow pocket and place it in the appropriate subject pocket.  Then I will know what subject they are each working on.  When they complete a subject, they will place a green status card into that subjects pocket.  If they need help with  subject, they will place a red status card into that subjects pocket.  Each time they finish or move past a subject they need help with, they will move their "working" status card to the next subject they are working on.  If they are not scheduled for a subject for that day, they may find a fun activity, message or treat in their folder or box along with a note that instructs them to put their status to done for that subject.

Status Cards...
Sorry, the pic won't turn

At just a quick glance of the status board, I can see who needs help (and who asked for it first), I can see exactly what subjects they need help with, what subjects they are working on, what subjects are done and what subjects they have left.  Not only do I get the information that I need to make our day much more organized, but the kids have a visual on how their day is going as well.  Falcon teaches all of the Algerbra and when needed will pitch in on teaching other subjects as well.  This is a great communication tool, as he will not even have to ask what needs to be done when he comes home!

Subject pockets with status cards (red = help, yellow=working, green=done)
I am confident that we found a solution that I have been dreaming of!  I am so glad this idea came to me and I hope it helps a few others run their day a bit more efficiently!
Please comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, December 19, 2011

New clothes are NOT clean!!!!!

I couldn't think of a better time to post a post like this than around the holidays...when everyone is sporting their new holiday best, or unwrapping all the new clothes that this time of year brings!

Here's the deal though people....
New clothes are NOT CLEAN!!!!! (I am shouting this at the top of my lungs)!

The following information was taken from these websites...

Please read on...

Did you know that new clothes can contain things such as:
  • vaginal organisms
  • yeast
  • fecal germs
  • respiratory secretions
  • lice
  • chemicals such as Formaldehyde
Many clothing items are unintentionaly contaminated when people try them on in the store or purchase them and wear them then later return them to the store where the tags are often put back on and the item put back on the shelf.  With evidence of feces, viruses such as Norovirus (a nasty stomach virus) or even MRSA (a serious staph infection) can be passed along by infected clothes.  In a sense - if you put on "new" clothes before washing them - you are touching someones arm pit, groin or even their buttocks :/

ABC News even did a segment on this subject.  To summerize their article...
They bought numerous clothing items from three popular clothing chains and had them tested for germs by Dr. Philip Tierno, director of microbiology & immunology of New York University. 
Tierno found disturbing results...

On a blouse he found:
  • respiratory secretions
  • skin flora
  • fecal flora
On a jacket he found:
  • feces
  • skin flora
  • respiratory secretions
On a silk blouse he found:
  • vaginal yeast organisms
  • fecal germs

A few of these items had extremely high counts of germs, far above normal.

There are other reasons why you should wash new clothes. 
  • One reason is to wash out the extra dye that can be transferred to your skin.  This alone is important in our family, as I have numerous children with sensitive skin and eczema. 
  • Another reason is to remove chemical finishes that manufactures put on clothes.  These chemicals are put on clothes to enhance color or texure.  Formaldehyde is often used to prevent mildew on clothes.  Regulations are not the same for other countries such as Asia and often one washing will not even remove these chemicals completely.
Many people are mislead to think that because they purchase an item at a fine clothing store in "new" condition with the tags attached, that the item arrives to their home "clean".  If you are one of these couldn't be more WRONG!! 

Washing new clothes is an important skill you NEED to aquire!  Please don't be one of the millions of careless people who don't wash clothes before you wear them.

New clothes are NOT as clean as you expect!  Spread the word, share the knowledge and enjoy that new sweater this holiday season, without it being a health risk!

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Happy Holidays!
~Mother Goose

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memories will never fade...

Yesterday, one of my worst nightmares happened.
Yesterday, I plugged my external hard drive in....and.....
Now, I'm no computer expert by far...but I knew by that noise that my hard drive was shot. 
 Nearly 4 years ago, I had that same feeling, when every picture and video was robbed from me.  During the search warrant of our house (as you may know, my husband abused at least one of my children and I turned him into the police) the police took every computer, laptop, server, video camera, camera, sd card, flash drive, hard drive, dvd, etc.  With the investigation went every picture and video I had of my precious children. More than a year later got my precious photos & video's back, but I will never forget what it felt like to be robbed of them in the first place. 

During the following year there were many "firsts", many special moments, holidays, Baptism, etc. and one day, my sd card got corrupted.  I lost an entire year's worth of precious pictures.  As a busy mom, I never backed them up...they were gone.  I learned an expensive lesson...back up my pictures!  So, since then I've been sure to download my pictures/videos to an external hard drive.

Now we are up to the other day.  I went in search of pictures for our new blogs, so I went through every picture on my hard drive.  I had so many pictures!  I smiled as a remenised with each picture I looked at.  "Oh, I remember that"..."Aww, look at ..."  I even came across a video folder that I didn't remember I had.  All of the video's that were downloaded off of our video camera.  When the police gave me back the laptop, I cut them off of there and put them on the external hard drive.  I didn't have time to mess with figuring out how to open the files, but I couldn't wait to go back to them later.  Even though Macaw's birth was the most horrific birth experience I have ever encountered, I couldn't wait to watch it.

Yesterday, my heart sank.  I felt my world come crashing down.  I felt an immediate emptyness.  I felt completely lost!  Even though I knew my drive was "gone", we took it to get an opinion from the "Geek Squad".  The news was, our hard drive was shot and the only way to retreive the data from it would be to send it out to a "clean lab" where it would have to be completely disassembled.  The cost...$2,500.  At this point, I literally thought I was going to puke.  I knew exactly what I had lost, because just the day before I had looked through every last picture.
Gone!  All of them....forever Gone! 
I never printed any pictures, simply because I couldn't afford to.  I never backed them up because I never took the time to.  I cut them from my camera card and put them on my hard drive and that was it.  Stupid, this I know.  So, to save myself from this heartbreak I felt done...done with cherishing my "stupid" photos.  Falcon had just gotten me a new camera for Christmas.  He gave it to me early so that I would be familiar with it and be able to use it for the holidays.  I didn't like it wasn't a good "fit" for it made it a bit easier to say "I don't want to take pictures anymore because I don't EVER want to feel this way again.
We got a few more estimates on our drive.  Most of them bring the same's going to cost around $3,000 for me to get my treasured photos back.  Now, I did do some research and it seems I may be able to put it in the freezer and be capable of getting the data off of it.  When I can think with a clearer head and be sure I'm making the best decision, I just may try it!
 For now...Falcon talked me into keeping my camera (although we went and picked out a new one).  From now on, I will never delete a camera card, I will put a copy on a hard drive and I will download my pictures online to an account such as photobucket, picasa web albums, etc. and every few months, I will burn my pictures to a cd and maybe somday, we will be able to afford to get our pictures back.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vote for US!

Our blog was accepted at Top Mommy Blogs...and don't forget we're on the fence too! :) 
Please take a minute to vote for us...especially all of you "lurkers" who don't follow me ;)

Sonfish Gear

I thought some of my readers would find interest in a new online store.

In early 2012, a new online Christian apparel and accessory store will be offering many products for individual purchase!  For those who are involved with their church, Sonfish Gear is offering a unique fundraising program in which groups can purchase products at wholesale prices and resell.  They promise a wide range of apparel and accessories, so there will be something for everyone and if you'd like a sneak peek, you can grab up a Sonfish Car emblem which is already available to purchase (just in time for a last minute stocking stuffer)!

The Sonfish emblem reminds Christians that Jesus, the Son of God, is always shining his love upon us.  Check out Sonfish Gear HERE!

To learn more about The Message of the Sonfish click HERE.

Tips for Homeschooling with a TODDLER!

How to entertain and incorporate a toddler/preschooler into an older child’s school day!
Anyone who has tried to school an older child when there is a toddler in the house, knows that this is quite a task! As a homeschooling mother of 6 children (three of whom are all almost exactly 1 year apart) I have learned some creative ways to keep the little ones busy!

Someone was asking for tips and as I typed this up for them, I decided there may be other people who would find some of these tips useful, so I decided to share it with everyone.

When I had the room, I had a big storage bin of rice with sand toys, and also a play doh bin with tons of cookie cutters, etc. I sat the box in the center of a plastic baby pool. It kept my little ones entertained for quite some time and when they were done, I just swept the rice up and dumped it back in the bin. Now we have about half as much space as we used to, so we have a plastic shoebox bin full of beans instead. They use measuring cups and bowls and just dump them back and forth (if you put them on a cookie sheet, clean up is easy). It is sometimes hard for them to control themselves, but when they start throwing the rice it gets taken away.

Keep a box of toys that they are only allowed to use during "school time". I always reserve more educational toys such as shape sorters, puzzles, lacing beads, stacking cups, building blocks, Lincoln logs, legos, etc.

I have found that if I spend some one on one time with my younger ones first thing in the morning…read a story, do a workbook page, play a game or something...and they will tend to entertain themselves much better and you can work with the older one.

I also take full advantage of nap time!!! You can sometimes get half or more of your school day done while a little one is sleeping.

It's amazing how much the little ones pick up just by sitting in on lessons. Here are some ways to include them:

Have some scrap pieces of paper and let your little one write when the older kid is writing something, assign the younger one something to write too…be sure to give them a stamp or sticker for their hard work and job well done!

Try and find a color page for whatever you are reading about in LA and let the little one color while you read the story.

We almost always find some craft or activity to go with the story we are reading and the little ones understand that if they don't sit and listen to the story they don't get to make the helps to let them turn the page.

Go to the $1 store and get some magnetic alphabet and numbers and if you don't have an old cookie sheet, get one of those. When you are doing phonics let your little one either play freely with their own "phonics" kit or you could pick out the letters you are using that day and limit him/her to using those letters just like you.

Put shaving cream in a gallon size Ziploc bag and zip and tape it shut (to keep them from being tempted to open it). Put it on a cookie sheet (just in case it leaks or breaks and to provide a nice flat surface) Let them use their finger to copy the letter you are working on (chances are they will get caught up playing with it and forget all about you an your phonics lesson (don’t be offended).

My little ones also have their own whiteboard to write on and they love that or you can get wipe on/off board books with letters and let them use those during phonics as well
Let them use their magnetic numbers and cookie sheet during math. It’s fun for them to try and find the numbers and model the numbers you are working with.

If you are using manipulatives with your older one, try dividing them and allowing your little one to work along side or you, or get them their own counters, etc. Just today, my little ones had a blast with the plane figures, they even built a castle.

During math, let your little one use pattern blocks, there are a lot of free printable templates for them to use…my little ones stay busy with these for quite some time!

We love “Learning Resources” learning toys…we have the Counting Cookie Jar (teaches numbers and counting), Rainbow Color Cones (teaches colors and counting), Sorting Shapes Cupcakes (teaches shapes and matching).

Dinosaur counters are a great tool for math

Lacing beads

Plastic sorting buttons

Little ones love to cut! Give them a pair of safety scissors (the ones that will ONLY cut paper) and draw some lines on a sheet of paper….this will buy you lots of time!

Join or start a Preschool Activity Bag Swap and if you can’t, make your own! A few hours of your time will provide your toddler/preschooler with countless hours of self entertaining! If you have a toddler or a preschooler, activity bags are a MUST have, trust me! ( I will have a list of activity ideas at a later time).

The MOST important thing you can do is reserve these things ONLY for school time! Rotate your ideas so that they do not get bored and NEVER give in and let them play with any of these things outside of school time.
Get about 6 plastic shoebox storage bins from the $1 store. Pick 6 things from the list above and put one activity in each box. Let them sit in with your older child and pull the boxes that coordinate best with your older child’s lesson.

There are many wonderful sites/ideas out there…here are of my favorites:

I hope you find some of these ideas useful and it gives you some ideas as you experience and try to survive homeschooling with a toddler in your house! Remember, you are blessed and you will get through these days!  I often have to remind myself of that!

~Mother Goose

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A whole new look

Do you like our new look?  It's amazing how much time and effort can go into this blog, but it was time for a few changes!  I've worked really hard on it and I hope you like it :)

I've also decided to give Duckling and Emu their own blog.  It will take me a while to really get them going, but I thought it would be a better way to educate people on their medical conditions and that it would also be a great tool in keeping friends and family members up to date on what is going on with each of them.  It will also help me to be better able to concentrate on other things going on in the Life With My Flock! 

Eagle also wanted to have his own blog and he was so excited to take his own pictures and put them on his blog, I don't think Cardinal realizes how much her siblings look up to and learn from her but it really makes me proud.  I was so proud of Eagle trying to figure all the technical things by himself.  I think he did an awesome job getting his blog all set up.  It will be fun to watch his blog change as he gains new knowledge and figures everything out.

Macaw already wants her own blog too, lol.  I'm not sure what we could put on her blog but I'd best be thinking of something!

New Age Mama: Holiday Gift Guide - Say Anything Family Edition Review & Giveaway

New Age Mama: Holiday Gift Guide - Say Anything Family Edition Review & Giveaway

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Macaw alters her own curriculum!

The power of a 5 year old! 
There is nothing more amazing than watching my children learn...except watching them come up with their own way to learn!

Yesterday, Macaw and I were working on Language Arts.  Our lesson was interrupted and I returned to find this on her desk!
I see my foot.
She is working on high frequency words with word and pictures as part of her Calvert curriculum.

As you can see in the picture...there is an entire stack of "picture cards".  She set up her sentence using a piece to her new pedicure set she got the other day.

This routine continued as she changed her sentence simply by adding a new object.
I see my cup.
We went on to read..."I see my nail clippers", "I see my pencil", "I see my nail file"....

This small alteration made this lesson so much fun for Macaw!
It's wonderful to see her make changes to her own curriculum.  That's what homeschooling is all about...tailoring the curriculum to meet the needs of an individual child and there's nothing better than seeing them tailor it themselves!

Great Job on to today's lesson!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Puddinhead - A Christmas Tradition

Many years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a Christmas tradition that she grew up with and still enjoys with her own children.  

Did you know there is a mysterious little Elf who appears on Christmas Eve? 
His name is Puddinhead...
and he leaves pajamas on children's doorsteps when Santa is on his way to YOUR house!

This is such a heartwarming tradtion that I have always hoped to have the ability to do with my children and this year, I'm going to try so hard to make it happen!  You learn more about The Puddinhead Tradition here.
You can even buy The Story of Puddinhead to teach your kids about this tradition.

Before your pajamas arrive...why not prepare some cookies for Santa!
We love baking a variety of cookies to make up trays for family and friends.  Here are a few recipes for some yummy treats!

Melting Moments Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup butter
3oz. cream cheese
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Combine dry ingredients.  Cream butter until fluffy.  Add to flour mixure and beat thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten with lightly floured fork.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are just lightly browned.  Don't overbake!  For the icing...combine the cream cheese and extract blend until creamy then add the confectioners's sugar.

What kind of unique traditions do you share with your family?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm not a complainer but...

I rarely take my complaints to a store manager, even when I have a rightful complaint!  I am just not a compainer (though my children and boyfriend would beg to differ).

On Friday, we took Emu to Chuck E Cheese's to celebrate his birthday.  I did not have time to bake him a cake that day, so we picked him up some cupcakes and went off to Chuck E Cheese to play and celebrate his big day.

We played for a bit first then returned to our table to find our table cleared off.  A book with booklight and our cupcakes gone!  A crew member saw us looking and he motioned to us to hold on, as he ran into the kitchen area.  He came out (laughing) and handed our cupcakes to us.  They were in disarray and one of them was missing (although, they were kind enough to leave the Spongebob ring topper in it's place).  I noticed this immediately and I said to him "someone ate one"!?  He laughed and said "it wasn't me".  Not wanting to upset my son, I laughed it off like it wasn't a big deal...although, I kept saying things like "someone really ate one" or "I can't believe someone ate one".  It was almost like I was a skipped record. 

We left the restraunt to go home and celebrate Emu's big day with 11 dishoveled cupcakes in tow.  As an Aspie, Emu of course wanted nothing to do with his cupcakes, as what he expected had been disrupted.  He later adjusted, but the "damage" had been done.  The more I thought about it, the angrier I got that something like this even happened.  I emailed Chuck E Cheese's corporate office with my complaint.

Later that day, I was talking to one of my best friends.  She was highly upset and protective over my little man and she (knowing that I wasn't good at this complaining thing) insisted that we three-way call Chuck E Cheese and speak to the manager.  After a phone call explaining our complaint, the manager spoke to the employees who were on staff that night and called me back with an offer to resolve the problem.  We were given 1 large pizza, 4 drinks, 100 tokens and a Birthday Cake.  I graciously accepted the offer, not thinking at the time that 1 large pizza would even come close to feeding my flock of 6 children and 2 adults...but I guess it will make a nice snack! 

As if that ordeal wasn't bad enough....on Saturday, Falcon took back a Christmas Tree to exchange it.  You see...last Sunday, we bought a pre-cut Christmas Tree at Kroger's (a large grocery chain).  When we brought the tree home, the branches wouldn't assume a natural position, but instead remained in an upward position (as if the tree were still wrapped in bungee's or secured in a net).  After watering the tree for two days, it remained in this position.  I went into the store and spoke to them about rectifying this problem.  I was told I could exchange the tree and left my phone number for them to call me when these new trees came in.  I never received a phone call, but noticed some 5 days later, that they had new trees in stock.  So, yesterday I sent Falcon back to exchange our tree.  He was refused the exchange, as he was told they don't exchange trees!  So, we are left to somehow deal with this horribly ugly tree that really can't be decorated!  Not only that, but we were blatantly lied to about exchanging the tree and we went through the inconvience of taking the tree down and taking it back, only to bring the same tree back home to set up again!  I have filed a complaint with their corporate office!

So, here we are on December 11, 2011 and I think those are the only two complaints that I have voiced to any company this entire year!  I guess you could say, it hasn't been our weekend!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pop Art Pixies Giveaway!

Pop Art Pixies are a wonderful line of products geared toward tween and teen girls.  Gosh, what I would give to get my hands on some of these fabulous kits!

This giveaway is being offered at Raising Olives to one of their lucky readers!  Check our Pop Art Pixies and see what all they hype is about...then enter to win the prize pack yourself! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Detergent

After everything we have been through, I have been so fortunate to be able to continue to stay at home with the flock!  We live on a very limited income and we have learned to be very frugal!  People are always asking me how we do it and I'm always eager to share a frugal tip.  Things that we take for granted, others are glad we shared, such as our Uncrustables and our homemade Lucky Charms Treats!

I have made our own laundry detergent for the past 2 years.  I've used different recipes and finally found one I like better than all the rest.  Having a large family myself, I am a Duggar fan and I love their recipes!  Now, when I first started making laundry detergent, I turned to their website and made a 5 gallon bucket full of their liquid laundry detergent.  After this formula sat overnight, I found myself with a 5 gallon bucket full of detergent that had set like a bowl of jello :/ it ended up getting dumped outside!  I then turned to their powder recipe for laundry detergent and I used this for about a year.  I was then given a different recipe from a friend and while I was never really happy with the consistancy of that formula, I used it for about 6 months.

The other day, I decided to compare the ingredients of the recipe I was using and the recipe that the Duggar's use.  I was surprised to see how similar the recipes were.  Basically, the amount of Borax (Duggar's recipe uses 1/2 cup less) and water (Duggar's recipe uses more) and the way the detergent was prepared were the only differences!  Also, the recipe I used was only yielding about 2 gallons of detergent and the Duggar's recipe claimed to yield 10 gallons.  WOW!!! What a difference in quantity!!!  Who wouldn't rather get 8 more gallons when using the same amount of soap, washing soda and less borax!

So, I decided to give the Duggar's recipe one more try!  Here is their recipe:

4 cups water
1 bar Fels-Naptha Soap
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax

I didn't have a 5 gallon bucket, so I used a clean, empty garbage can instead.  This is how I made mine...

Grate soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water.  Stir until soap is disolved.  In my garbage can, I added 2 1/2 gallons of hot water, washing soda & borax and stirred until powder was disolved.  I added my disolved Fels-Naptha mixture and stirred well.  Then I added 2 1/2 more gallons of hot water and stirred.  Instead of leaving it sit overnight to thicken (since this did not work well for me last time), I allowed it to sit until it began to set.  Then, I filled my containers (empty 1 gallon Hawaiian Punch containers, 1 gallon milk jugs, empty laundry detergent containers....).  I filled them half full with the soap mixture and the rest of the way with water, shook them up and sat them aside. 

I am so much happier with the consistancy of this detergent!  The other stuff I was using was sometimes so thick, it wouldn't pour out of the container!  This recipe turned out with about the same consistancy of store bought liquid detergent.

I love this detergent not only because it is CHEAP, but because contains no dyes or other irritants that we can not use due to numerous family members who suffer from eczema, and in our house it serves as a multi-purpose detergent, as I also use this in my Rug Doctor (not sure if it's good for my machine, but it works).  In our cloth diapering days, this made a wonderful detergent for our nappies! 
This recipe yielded about 6 1/2 Gallons of ready to use detergent and 4 quarts of concentrate!  If we bought this amount (aprox. 1088 oz.) of Tide Free and Gentle we would have spent approx. $176!  To make this detergent, we spent about $2.00!
I love being FRUGAL...and that my friends is one way that I "do it"!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mmmmmm! Chicken-etti

Once a week, my family is forced to try a new dish!  We started this a few months ago and I think only once dinner was so horrible that we had to rush out to get pizza.  It is very difficult to come up with new things and/or venture outside of our comfort zone but I must say, we have been introduced to some great recipes! 

Tonight, we tried Chicken-etti.  I found this recipe on Josh & Anna Duggar's website.  It was absolutely amazing!  Once again...SCORE, everyone in the flock liked it!

I decided to double their recipe and I'm glad I did because it left us enough for leftovers (that doesn't happen much around here).  It was just my lucky day because Diced Chicken was on sale, so I cheated a bit and thought convience was definately worth saving a few $. 

While I was waiting for my spaghetti to cook, in a seperate pan, I added a bit of vegtable oil in the pan and heated the chicken up.  I sat that aside and then using a large saucepan (I melted my sauce on the stove because I didn't have a big enough microwave safe bowl), I mixed the Ro*tel, Velveta, Cream of Chicken Soup and Milk and stirred until it was melted.  By this time, my spaghetti was finished and sat aside.  I spread the spaghetti in the baking dish, then poured the cheese sauce on top.  Then, I sprinkled the chicken over the top of the noodles 

and covered it all with cheese! 

It baked until the cheese was all melted!

It was so yummy!  I've already had requests for the, here is how I made it!

2 cans of Ro*tel
2 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups of Milk
32 oz. block of Velveeta Cheese (cut into cubes)
2 packages of Spaghetti Noodles
1 bag (22oz) Diced Grilled Chicken Breasts
2 1/2 cups of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in frying pan, add chicken cook until heated through, set aside.  Combine first four ingredients in saucepan and stir until melted.  Boil spaghetti noodles, drain and spread in a 9 x 13" pan, add cheese sauce and mix throughly.  Top with chicken dices and mozzerella cheese bake in oven at 35o until cheese melts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

This is the way days should be :)

Today, Falcon started a new job.  This change will help us stay more on schedule around here because my day is guaranteed to start somewhere between 5:00am and 5:30am. 

This morning, Macaw woke up at around 6:30am.  This is very early for her, but she couldn't go back to sleep because the poor thing was so disturbed about a horrible dream she had.  So, after I did a few morning chores we started her school day!  She was finished with school at 9:30am  at which time Eagle had already begun his work.  Since Eagle doesn't take to change very well, he had quite a struggle today with us being back on a strict schedule.  His day took much longer than it should have, but he managed to get all of his school work done, including Art!  In Art, he studied the life and art of Henry Rousseau.  Rousseau was born more than 150 years ago in France.  He was an artist who loved to paint rainforests filled with wild animals.  Eagle studied some of Rousseau's paintings and he learned about how he used different colors, shapes and patterns in paintings.  He also learned how to use "overlapping" as a way to show distance in his artwork.  He did a fabulous job on his Exotic Animals Project in which he put his overlapping skills to work.

So, our day is halfway over...two kids are schooled, one is sleeping.  Eagle is trying his hand at making a batch of cookies all by himself (and it seems to be going well)!  Emu and Macaw are eagerly waiting to do an art project (rock painting) and I'm going to take advantage of the quiet time to get a few chores done before dinner.  It's about time for Cardinal and Hawk to begin their school day...this cold and gloomy weather has made them quite lazy today (that and the fact that Hawk isn't feeling well).  Our entire school day should be done by now, but that's the beauty of homeschooling...we can adjust our schedule as we need to and even though we are quite off schedule, we are having a picture perfect day!

Good to be back on track!

Whew....for the past 3 months, we have been living in complete disarray!  We no longer started school and we were packing for our vacation.  When we returned from our vacation, it was time to switch out fall/winter clothes...then there was catching up on all that school work, more clothes, doctor appointments, surgeries.....and well, yes...we are just now back on track around here!  Most people don't understand why it would take so long to get life back in order, but then again, most people aren't large homeschooling families!  We are especially busy this time of year, so it's such an awesome feeling to be back in a routine!

Last Friday, we met with our small homeschooling group and made Greeting Cards that we donated to be sent with care packages for soldiers for Christmas.

Each month we participate in events with our deaf community.  Unfortunately, this year we have not been able to attend most of the events (due to illness or schedule conflicts).  On Saturday, we were able to celebrate Christmas with this wonderful community of people!  The young members of our flock especially enjoyed visiting with the signing Santa!

On Sunday, we were suppossed to meet with a few of our close friends and visit a Christmas Lights Display, but the weather didn't cooperate and we had to postpone our outing.  It was a good thing because Hawk came down with a sore throat and a terrible headache.  We took advantage of the unexpected time at home and got all the cleaning done that we could.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Triplets!

There couldn't have been a more perfect time for one of our Guniea Pigs to have babies! 

Just this week, Eagle has been working on his "Life Cycle" unit in Science!
This was not something we planned to coincide with his lesson, it just happened that way.  While we missed the birth of these babies, we caught the show so soon after it started that when we caught our first glimpse of the babies they had not yet been entirely cleaned by their momma and one of them even still had her full umbilical cord and sac attached.

Two of the babies seemed to be in danger at first one of them was very limp and lifeless and they were both cold.  They had wandered away into their own little corner of the cage but we promptly put them both back with momma and they ended up just fine.

We have raised 5 guinea pigs over the course of the last 7 years and while we were on our cruise the last of our herd had died.  We just couldn't live without that piggy kind of love in our house for very long and in no time we had adopted 7 new cavy's.  We had every intention of breeding our new herd and we got very young females for this reason, but one of our females unexpectedly came to us already pregnant.  We were so upset and worried about her because she was far too young to safely breed.  Our plan was to breed her in December, when she was old enough to do so.

Things don't always happen as planned and instead of pairing her for mating this week...she delivered instead!  She gave birth to three healthy babies! 

While it's really too soon to tell, it appears she has two boys and one girl.  We are fairly certain that we will not breed this poor girl again, as we feel like she has been through enough already!  She came through it all like a champ and she is such an awesome mommy!

What an amazing experience it has been for my children to watch over her and take care of her during her pregnancy...learning what she needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and always making sure she had everything she needed...getting to hold her and feel her babies moving and now watching her as nature takes it's course and she cares for her young.  It's amazing how she just "knows" everything to do, from cutting their umbilical cords to constantly grooming them and keeping them clean and feeding them.  My kids were all so full of excitement, concern and curiousity and luckily homeschooling offers no time restraints on at sometime after midnight, my Kindergartener sat contendedly holding one of our new babies!

The boys were reserved before they were born!  Their new owner is so excited and we hope that the boys will be ready to go home just in time for Christmas!  Parting with them will be tough, as everyone is growing attached to them already. 

We are so glad that we decided to take this journey!  Cardinal very much wants to be a vet and we are thrilled to have the capability of feeding into her passion of her love for animals!  Soon she will be shadowing a vet, working with service animals as a volunteer and entering into program at our local animal shelter and in the meantime, she will be breeding, raising and possibly showing her guinea pigs...learning all she can along the way!