By Stacey | Posted on April 19, 2011 | No Comments
Lately I’ve noticed in my blog reading that a lot of people are starting to avoid traditional shampoos. This intrigued me, and so I started a shampoo experiment of my own.
For years, we went to Walmart and bought the cheapest generic shampoos for adults and babies. We felt proud that we were saving money. But as my concern for all the nasty junk that was in those products increased, so did my willingness to spend lots of money on natural shampoos. My kind husband allowed this, though, $7+ per bottle was painful to us both. $7 a bottle times 8 heads of hair times thousands of showers equals. . .
Recently, I’ve read about ladies just rinsing their hair, using baking soda straight or mixed with water, and making their own natural shampoos. What they report is that once their hair adjusts to not having the oil stripped out everyday as with traditional shampoos, their hair slows oil production. Some have been able to extend the amount of time between shampooing.
I’m already a huge fan of the tremendous number of things you can do with baking soda. Vinegar also has an impressive list. So I took my 2 household “friends” and mixed up some natural shampoo and conditioner. I used 2 of the kids’ old juicebox-style sippy cups. In one I squirted a small amount of natural shampoo, put in a few tablespoons of baking soda, filled the rest of the space with water and mixed. In the second, I filled about 1/4 of the cup with apple cider vinegar, added 3 drops of lemon oil and 3 drops of orange oil, and filled the rest of the space with water.
Actually, we originally tried straight baking soda “scrubbed” into our wet hair. My husband enjoyed that and still uses it out of an old recycled parmesan cheese container. My 14-year-old daughter and I felt that it was too harsh, and it was bothering the skin on the backs of our hands.
That’s when I tried the above mixture, and we’ve really enjoyed it. My daughter can shampoo every other day now if she wants, and her hair doesn’t look greasy or unwashed.
The vingear rinse is pretty strong. You definitely want to keep your peepers closed while using it. My 8-year-old daughter says the vinegar rinse helps her comb her hair easier. That’s a big deal for a girl that hates combing wet, tangled hair. The rinse doesn’t seem to make a difference on the boys’ short hair.
This whole hair-y experiment has been really exciting to me! We will be saving lots of money every month on shampoo and conditioner – like at least $14-$21 per month. We are able to keep a large amount of (cheap!) baking soda and vinegar on hand and mix it up at any time. We can experiment with different essential oils if we want scent variety. I want to be more self-sufficient and less dependent on trips to the store. This is a practical way!
Have any of you tried anything untraditional with shampoo or conditioner?
By Stacey | Posted on June 2, 2010 | 1 Comment
I made a dish for lunch today that I really, really enjoyed. I thought I’d share the “recipe”. (I don’t always have exact amounts since I cook by the seat of my pants!) This is a great way to use up the veggies that are going to be piled up in your ‘fridges or on your counters if you or your generous neighbors have gardens.
- In one pot, make enough brown rice for about 6-8 servings.
- In a large skillet or another large pot, simmer together:
- chopped zuchinni
- chopped onion
- chopped green pepper
- chopped tomato and green chilis (I used a can of Rotel tomatoes.)
- 1-2 cans of black beans with the liquid
- 1-2 cups of fresh corn or a can of corn (I didn’t use corn today, but it would’ve been yummy.)
- 1-2 tsp. of real salt (Real salt provides a bunch of trace minerals.)
- 2-3 tsp. of no-MSG taco seasoning (You can mix this up yourself, but today I used a prepared mix.)
- minced garlic or garlic powder to taste (which for me would be about 1/2 to 1 tsp.)
- When your rice is finished cooking, mix it into your simmering vegetable mix. Stir and add a little water if necessary to make it a stew consistency.
- Serve in bowls with shredded cheese and tortilla chips. DELICIOUS!
By Stacey | Posted on May 19, 2010 | No Comments
In an earlier post, I talked about my difficulty in implementing my preschool/kindergarten curriculum and the accompanying guilt. I want to help you think through how to teach the same skills and make the same happy memories as a top-notch preschool just by including your children in normal life. With a little thought, many of your activities can teach and entertain your young children.
Let’s look at the way many preschools/daycares organize themselves and discuss how we can not only do these things at home with our children, but do them better(!) than someone else can do in an artificial setting. Most of the following categories were taken from a teacher resource site offering signs for the various learning areas in their classrooms. Since this could get lengthy, I’ll put this into a few posts.
- Magnet board: You can definately handle this one. Let your children arrange magnetic letters, numbers, animals or other homemade magnets (made with magazine pictures reinforced with cardboard and stuck on pieces of magnetic strip) on the refrigerator, washer, dryer or cookie sheet. Obviously, this will happen while you work where the “board” is. This can be a free-play activity or you can suggest some type of learning game. “Let’s sort these food magnets by food group.” or “Can you put these letters in ABC order? Sing the song to help you.” or “What comes after each of these numbers? Stick them on after each one.” Keep it fresh by rotating the magnet sets and making the children put them back in a zipbag when you leave the area.
- Puzzles: If your puzzles are getting boring, borrow some from one of your friends. For an added challenge, you can take the pieces out of two or more puzzles and have your child sort them into the correct puzzle. Make your own puzzles with magazine/catalog pictures glued onto cardboard and cut into age appropriate shapes. Keep your puzzles in a place where they can be used regularly near you while you do something else. For example, you could put a puzzle shelf in the living room (for the little ones to use while the rest of the family watches videos or reads aloud), or by your computer, or in the kitchen to be used while you cook. Puzzles should be easy for your little ones to transport to a flat surface without dumping them or they may tend to avoid them all together!
- Cooking: Let your children join you in the kitchen! I know they make messes, but you’ll survive. Talk the whole time: tell them what you’re cooking, why you chose it (“Daddy loves this casserole.” “These beets are so great! They even fight cancer!”), what ingredients you are using, what they do (“This baking soda makes the biscuits rise.”), what utensils you’re using, etc. Let them dump ingredients, stir, and anything else they can handle. Even a two-year-old can cut some raw vegetables with a regular table knife. My kids love to do this. Today my four-year-old stood near me in the kitchen and helped peel carrots for lunch with a peeler. She did great!
By Stacey | Posted on May 13, 2010 | No Comments
From the time I was a first-time Mom with one child, I dreamed of providing “preschool-like” experiences at home for my toddlers and preschoolers. I used to drool over those daycare supply catalogs that somehow made it into my hands. I had been collecting children’s picture books since before I was even married!
When my oldest was three, I read a fantastic homeschool catalog that had lengthy segments to train newbie homeschool parents and provide thoughtful recommendations on many products. I was captivated and bought many things that they recommended. One of those was a preschool/kindergarten curriculum which was very basic and affordable. The author laid out a great plan on how to teach “preschool/kindergarten” simply and easily in the home. I was pumped! Unfortunately life set in. I would start boldly with each new preschooler, and meet defeat every time!
Now, I would recommend this book to anyone. It wasn’t the book’s fault. It was mine. When I only had two kids (close enough to do the curriculum together), I wasn’t organized and disciplined enough to do it regularly. As we added more children, just doing life and keeping the older ones learning always seemed to prevent me from carrying out a regular preschool time with the preschool-aged children.
I felt so bad! My shelf full of cool preschool supplies and activities seemed to mock me. When would I ever fit it all in?
The rigors of teaching a large family at home cannot be understated. In my house, the older children often eat up almost all my teaching time. Now, I know there are large families out there where the Mom schedules 30 minutes or so with her littlest members for a “school time” to get their little love tanks filled before she switches focus to the older kids. I have tried this, but I’ve never been able to keep it up.
So, are my little ones deprived, empty-hearted and way behind when they enter kindergarten or first grade? No! I’ve learned to make “preschool” more of a lifestyle. That’s in no way a put down for the Moms who clear time for it on the schedule. I applaud them. But if you are like me, I want to encourage and inspire you on how to accomplish the same things as you go. Be sure to come back for the next installment of Lifestyle Preschool.
By Stacey | Posted on January 19, 2010 | No Comments
We are very blessed that my husband’s workplace is only a few minutes down the road. Therefore, most of the time he is able to come home and eat lunch with us. It’s really nice to see him, even though he’s usually kind of distracted and rushed. It gives him a break, and a decent meal. It gives the kids a chance to hug him, and tell him what’s gone on so far that day.
The other day right after lunch, my three-year-old daughter said, “This is a happy meal!” Of course, I was delighted at her happiness and said, “I’m so glad you’re happy.” Later my fifteen-year-old son brought up the fact that most kids think “Happy Meals” come from a drive through. I thought about that and was so amused.
This little girl lives in a world where she is surrounded by people who love her and watch out for her (sometimes read “boss her”). She has at least one parent immediately available to her almost all the time unless we’re out together. She is warm, safe, and regularly fed. She climbs in clean sheets at night, with clean jammies on. She has a big sister right near by if she’s scared at night. There’s always something going on around here to join in on. There are usually potential playmates available. Even Daddy has been known to play dollhouse! And this day, after a lunch with her family, she stood up on the bench and told me she had just had a happy meal.
What was so great about that meal in particular? I don’t know. The lunch fare wasn’t special. No exceptional things had transpired. She was just happy about having shared a meal with all the faces that fill her world everyday. That’s the kind of happy meal I can afford, and the kind I can feel good about providing. We all have so much to be thankful for. I’m glad my little girl told me about her happy meal.
By Mark | Posted on July 25, 2009 | 3 Comments
Phew, just got back in from playing basketball with the kids….it was a blast.
They asked me to play earlier today but I was too tired so I took a nap. OK, yeah, I really was tired, but the truth is I just didn’t feel like it. Being tired was just an excuse. It sounded better than I don’t want to.
When you’re a good hearted little boy and your dad says he’s too tired, it feels sad, but its hard to argue with him. Instead you just wilt a little bit inside and try to figure out how to go on with your life. If that happens too many times, some kids just stop asking. The flower inside them dies and its a ton of work to try to grow a new one later on. Most of the time it never happens.
Anyway, after dinner I felt guilty about not going out earlier. I believe the word I heard in my head was slacker. Yeah, I was and I knew it so I ventured outside to the driveway. The first thing out of the kids mouths was DAD! ARE YOU GONNA PLAY BASKETBALL WITH US!?! Like the domestic superstar I am, I mumbled Well, we can shoot some hoops… not sure about a real game. What a schmuck. (can I say that here?) Oh well, its true, I really hadn’t turned my heart yet. I was still being lazy.
Awww, c’mon Dad… pleeeease can we play a game?
Ok, that did it. The pressure was really on and the path of least resistance had switched from no to yes. I was already out there. They were already out there. What-da-ya-know the basketball and hoop were already out there. It was either give in and actually play a game or keep saying no, no, no and face the visible wilting in the eyes and smiles. I couldn’t do it. I gave in and said Ok let’s play a real game!
From then on… it was awesome. I got sweaty. I love getting sweaty. I taught them how to pass a ball the right way. I love teaching them stuff. I stole the ball and blocked a few shots. (I let a few shots get through – that was more fun). We had a blast and they spent the rest of the evening telling their mom about it.
I’m such an idiot sometimes. Why did I waste all that time? I LOVE playing basketball. I’ve always loved it. Ugh.
We’ll no big speeches or sermons here. Maybe I’ll say “Yes!” earlier next time.
By Stacey | Posted on July 10, 2009 | 3 Comments
Today for breakfast we had cottage cheese and cinnamon raisin biscuits. It was perfect! It was raining outside and it seemed just right to pull those biscuits out of the oven and serve them to the kids. (Hubby was already off to work.) Several years ago I got a great cookbook that had a very basic biscuit recipe in it. I have used that one recipe more than any other in the whole cookbook! (Remember the old days, when you had to have a cookbook to get recipes because the Internet didn’t exist yet?)
Biscuits are a great addition to any meal. They are economical and customize-able. You can adjust the recipe to accommodate dietary needs and preferences as well as the theme of the meal. We usually trade out some or all of the flour for organic wheat or spelt flour. We buy this in 25 pound bags for less than a dollar a pound! We use aluminum-free baking powder instead of the kind you can buy at Wal-Mart which contains aluminum. Instead of butter or shortening, I use organic plain yogurt. And I always use the drop biscuits option which simply calls for more milk so you plop dough instead of having to knead and cut your biscuits. Sprinkling a little cornmeal on your pan will help keep the biscuits from sticking.
From your basic recipe and dietary adaptations, the sky is the limit! Try one of the following additions:
- Raisins, cinnamon and sweetener of your choice
- Shredded cheese and onion powder
- Shredded cheese and taco-type seasonings
- Dill weed
- Rosemary, basil, oregano and garlic powder
- Seeds or nuts with or without sweetener of your choice
- Oats instead of some of the flour
Cooking from scratch can seem daunting when you have a house full of people to take care of! Who should deserve to buy premade foods and mixes more than you? But honestly, you will feed your family higher quality food at better prices if you are willing to “make your own”. A great thing to do with some or all of your children is have a mix-making session. Measure out all your dry ingredients into large Ziploc bags or left over containers and label “biscuit mix”. With our family of 8, we have to double the typical recipe. You can whip out 4 or 5 mixes in no time. The kids love to measure out the flour, salt and baking powder and dump them into the containers. You will love the convenience of pulling out your homemade mix when you want to make breakfast or a tasty side dish. Your family will love the fresh, hot biscuits.
By Stacey | Posted on July 8, 2009 | 2 Comments
Tonight’s menu: Salad bar! Have you ever tried this at your house? There’s almost nothing that can’t be put on a salad. Tonight, we’ll have lettuce, cucumbers, red (it’s really purple) onion, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, croutons, shredded cheese, boiled eggs chopped, and strips of natural beef lunchmeat.
If you love the rich higher calorie dressings, there are plenty to choose from. Newman’s Own brand dressings impress our family because there are a bunch of yummy flavors and they really do have nicer ingredient lists. We can buy these at Wal-Mart. We also buy those spray-on kind of dressings that don’t really compare to “regular” salad dressing but help you hold down your calories. At this point in my life (and weight) I’d rather eat more salad and toppings with skimpy dressing than less food with luxurious dressing!
Salad can only be considered a meal at our house if the lettuce becomes the base for a vast assortment of other veggies, crunchies (like seeds, croutons, broken pretzels or tortilla chips), protein (like eggs, beans, meats or cheeses), and dressing. I have had some delicious salads with fruit added in, but that is not an opinion shared by everyone at my house. Even pasta or rice can be delicious mixed in with all the other salad goodies.
This is a great meal to serve during the summer months when gardens are flourishing. But we have salad with toppings year ’round. The possibilities are endless depending on the options you provide. You could have a Mexican, Asian, or pizza themed salad. Be creative! If you provide enough protein options for the salad, you should be able to satisfy people until the next meal, or at least the next snack!! (Did I mention we’ll probably eat popcorn tonight while we listen to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader?)
By Stacey | Posted on July 8, 2009 | No Comments
“Stay focused!” is something my children hear regularly from me. It seems like when it’s school time, chore time, or transition times (like before bed), our children have an amazing capacity to socialize with one another. Sometimes it’s almost painful to tell them to stop talking or playing because I’m so glad they enjoy each other and are friends. Realistically, though, there comes a time to buckle down and just get stuff done.
It is an important character trait to be able to stay focused and persevere in the tasks we do. And yet, we as parents have to balance our task list with the never-ending task of nurturing other humans. I could often use a little of my kids’ ability to set aside the task at hand and just focus on the people around me for a minute. How about you?
Spousie and children NEED us to be able to stop sometimes and really focus on a new discovery, misplaced item, trick on the trampoline, problem needing a solution, reinactment of a scene from “Curious George”. . . or whatever. When I am being talked to in the middle of something else I’m doing, which is often, I try to LOOK at the person talking to me and give eye contact. I’m not perfect at this, by any means. But this simple tool accomplishes so much in the way of communicating genuine interest and love to the person talking.
This is not to say that children should come to expect that they will be the center of your attention at any time for any reason. No one enjoys children or adults that try to dominate every conversation or situation they are a part of. Teach your children to interrupt respectfully and discreetly if Mom or Dad is talking to another person. But when you are doing something like peeling veggies, or using the computer, unless you’re on a time deadline, you probably have the minutes necessary to connect with the person desiring your focus. Put down your book, look up from the laundry pile, pause at the dishwasher. LOOK at the person talking to you and focus. Show genuine interest in what they say and when appropriate, make your eyes sparkle and smile really big.
By Stacey | Posted on June 17, 2009 | 1 Comment
I am always telling my family and others to get rid of unnecessary extras. The less you have to manage, the less time managing your stuff takes. Since there’s more to life than managing things, we should always be ready to do with the least that is needed to make our life work. Well, usually. Over the years I have decided there is a list of exceptions to the “less is more” rule.
- Groceries, soaps and paper products: Within the constraints of your budget and good planning regarding expiration dates, etc., it’s practical and useful to have extras of food, all kinds of soaps and paper goods. We have had way too many close calls on toilet paper. You know, when you go to rob a couple rolls from one bathroom to supply the other and realize you are holding the LAST PRECIOUS ROLL. Enough said. There are lots of people these days storing up food and the like for various reasons. You can adopt some of their techniques or create your own strategy to begin creating a surplus on your own garage shelves. Practicality, not fear, can be the motivation.
- Diapers, wipes, baby care essentials: Same as above except trade the LAST PRECIOUS ROLL for the LAST PRECIOUS DIAPER! Yes, dampened paper towels can replace wipes in a pinch, but wipes are undeniable handy. Also, make sure you have an extra of your favorite diaper cream or you and spousie are going to be deciding who holds the crying child with miserable bumster while the other makes a run to the store (usually when it’s dark or raining).
- Vitamins, medicines: Our family has a cabinet stocked with vitamins and natural supplements the way some people have a full medicine cabinet. When sickness strikes, our immune-boosters are ready to go.
- Bandaids: We have six kids, three are boys, and we allow running in the house. Any other questions?
- Hairbrushes and nail clippers: This may just be a personal quirk of our family, but we are always looking for hairbrushes and nail clippers. “Don’t you people ever put anything back after you use it?” you legitimately ask. I’ll be honest, sometimes yes, sometimes, no. We’re working on it. If one of the girls brings me a brush and I sit in the kitchen or living room and fix 1-2 girls’ hair, I sometimes lay it down so I can begin school or whatever right away.
- Silverware: Dishes are like laundry and sometimes even the best homemakers get behind. An extra set (or two, or three) is not hard to store and can be such a blessing when the last meal’s dishes didn’t get cleaned and dried for one reason or another. And how are you going to host a gathering with your favorite large family if you don’t have a huge amount of silverware?
- Bowls and Plates: We have ceramic tile in the kitchen, so we lose a bowl or plate about once a month! Even if this is not the case at your house, having extra dishes on hand can be so nice! My focus has been on acquiring extra bowls because we regularly buy paper plates. If there are no real plates clean, paper is always there. But disposable bowls are more expensive, and so we rarely buy them. If we eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, and soup for lunch, it’s really nice to have a double set of bowls. I have Corelle dishes in a beige color so I can buy extras for about $3 each at the store and replace them when needed. Your taste may not be suited to any Corelle styles, but if it is, I highly recommend them. They are lightweight, resist breakage (except on my ceramic kitchen tiles!) and can be replaced piece by piece.
- Children’s books: We LOVE books at our house. We love all kinds of books, but I want to focus on children’s story books here. We have some that are almost a part of the family because they have been read and reread to our children. Now our olders can read them to the youngers. We usually acquire our books at garage sales, used homeschool curriculum sales, used book stores, or for gifts. The department store, Kohl’s, has been selling some amazing hardcover books for only $5 each! If you go there anyway, look for displays near the front doors. Books are instant cuddling and interaction tools. Grab one or ten, whatever you have time for, and call some or all of the children! You can read word for word, or improvise with silly additions. You can pause and ask questions, or use dramatic voices. We have almost always had a daily reading time with our little ones before their afternoon naps. When children are older, they love to hear chapter books read aloud. A good story is just as good as a good movie, and the whole family can sit in the living room and do things with their hands (like sew, sketch or color) while one person reads.
- Peelers, hand-held can openers: Peeling goes a lot faster with more than one person doing it! Employ your eager helpers in the kitchen and let them join your peeling or can opening party.
- Salt and pepper shaker/napkin holders: If you serve your food or part of your food from the table (vs. buffet-style on a counter or bar) meals will go much smoother if people can reach what they need quickly. In addition to 2 sets of salt and peppers, you might consider putting out multiples of condiments or butter.
- Large stainless steel mixing and serving bowls: I couldn’t function without my 2 huge bowls. I mix in them, wash veggies and fruits in them, and serve in them. We try to avoid putting hot things in plastic bowls, so these are perfect for mixing my hot rice with other ingredients to create a casserole.
- Toasters: I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, or have had to resort to the old-fashioned cookie sheet and oven method.
- Cloths for kitchen and bathroom: You’ll never have to do without, no matter how behind on laundry you are. You could always dry off on a clean pillowcase or sheet. (Yes, I’ve done this! Will you still be my friend?!) But there’s no easy replacement for a cloth!
- Undies and socks: This is the same thought as the cloths above. When the going gets tough, having extra undies and socks means that even if most everything else is staring at you from the dirty laundry mountain, your family members can at least bathe and put on clean undies, even if their outer wear could use a wash. (Can anyone else relate to having the laundry get that bad? For us it usually follows days of everyone being sick and Mom and Dad just trying to keep everyone comfortable and hydrated and “vitamin-ed”.)
- Pillow cases and sheets: Children provide us a host of opportunities to change sheets: bed-wetting, leaky diapers, sickness, etc. Be prepared with extra sheets and cases, even if they don’t match! In a perfect world, we would strip all the beds, walk straight to the washer, wash and dry all the sheets, and replace them on the same day. I don’t live in a perfect world, and maybe you don’t either.
- Pillows: Bed-wetting has not been a big problem on the whole, but one thing I’ll tell you. Pillows often ended up getting wet when the sheets did! I never could understand how this happened, but we were glad to have clean, dry pillows waiting in the wings. We won’t even talk about all of our bouts with stomach flu or bloody noses. . .
- Blankets: See above. These are also great for tents and impromptu picnics on the living room floor.
- Crayons: Siblings color together better when they don’t have to grab for the only red, or orange, or black, etc.
Buy your extras a little at a time. Your budget and your spousie will react less strongly.keep looking »