Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family Project & Gallery Update

I am sooo sorry that I have really been slacking on all my blogs.  I am going to try to do more, annnnnnnd...  We are in the process of starting a family vlog.

What that means, in theory for our situation, is that we will be posting snippets of our daily life along with the typical "interview" style of video blogging.  I'm hoping and praying that stage-fright will not hinder us.  If it does, then we will have a problem.  The other hinderance we may have is overload.  There is never enough time in a day to begin with.  Adding a project like this could bog us down.  I will be praying for better time management.

On the other hand, if this vlog works out, we will have a very cool account of our daily lives and I think it will be neat for our friends and family as well.  So, we'll see how it goes.  I will post all my vlogs on this site as well as YouTube.  So, stay tuned...

And, here's the link to our new pics:

Monday, September 8, 2014

20 Lessons Learned From Hosting A Kid's Birthday Party

1) Don't plan too many activities.  
Chances are you will be so busy setting up activities and rounding up kids that you won't get to them all.  Something I didn't think about at JM's party was that he actually wanted time to just talk and play with his friends, and that is an activity all by itself.

2) Don't go overboard on party favors.  
I spent a lot at the Dollar Tree on favors, and I didn't realize how quickly it adds up.  I think the kids would have still be pleased with a little less.

3) Start prepping big projects at least a week in advance.  
As you can see in the picture above, I made a punch out piñata (as pictured above.)  I found the idea through Pinterest.  Here's the link:  Anyway, I made a few adjustments to mine. I used a fold-out foam science-project board, which made it harder to cut.  I had to cut both sides with an X-Acto knife to actually make the holes.  That left rough edges, so then I decided to cover the edges and the whole board with yellow duct tape.  All of that took a long time.  I did start in advance, but I finished the night before.  I wish I would have had it done several nights before the party so I could've focused on other preparations the night before.

4) Freezing cake helps hold the shape.  
I had never heard of this before, but a friend of mind told me that she had frozen her cake before she needed to cut it into the final shape she was making.  Well, my cake wasn't an odd shape, but I did make brownies to put on top in the shape of Legos.  I wish I would have frozen the brownies, because they would not cut into perfect rectangles.  I made it work, but it could have been prettier.

5) Dominos and Little Caesar's have cheap pizzas.  
If you're hosting a home party and you want cheap food, order pizzas from these places.  We ordered to Dominos special.  You could get 2 medium 2 toppings for $5.99 each.  We ordered 6 pizzas for $38 total.  I think this is a good deal as compared to going to a place like Chuck E. Cheese.  I'm not knockin' Chuck E. Cheese, but I'm trying to be thrifty.  On a related note, I considered hot dogs, but we had too many little kids and I didn't want the possibility of a choking hazard.

6) Use canned drinks, juice boxes, or juice pouches.  
It was more trouble for us to fill a bunch of cups with ice and pour.  I realize that sounds lazy, but hey, 1 less thing to do is 1 less thing to do.  Next time, I'm getting an ice chest of cans and boxed drinks, and everyone can get their own drink.

7) Decorate the house and have the cake baked the night before.
I did have my cake and brownies done the night before, but I didn't have the party area all clean and decorated. That would have helped out a lot.  As is was, I didn't have time to hang the streamers and wall decor.  (I have 5 kids, so... yeah.)

8) Stuff the party favor bags the night before.
I thought it would be cool to have the kids pick the color or design of their party favors.  Sounds nice, but as it turns out, it's just more chaos and wasted time.

9) Keep games simple.
Next time for us, I'm thinkin' potato sack races, bean bag toss, and of course, I will recycle the punch-out piñata just by refilling the tissue paper and the back part.

10) Check the weather beforehand.
This is really important for pool parties, fun jumps, and outdoor games.  Have a back-up plan if the weather doesn't cooperate.

11) Find reusable party games.  
I'm going to be able to reuse my punch out piñata, and a few other things.

12) Put labels for each child's name on the loot bags.  
People were losing their bags and getting bags mixed up at our party, because I did not do this.  Also, it would be good to have a place to put all the bags while the kids are doing other activities so they won't lose them.

13) Use individual snack bags of things like animal crackers and gummy fruit treats instead of candy.  
I mainly did this because some parents are not keen on too many sugary treats.  It's also less messy than candy.  I found some Star Wars fruit gummy snack bags at the Dollar Tree and also some a box with an assortment of animal/graham cracker-type cookie bags.

14) When deciding who goes first in line for activities, order the line little kids to big kids, with the exception of the birthday child who goes first.  
Expect chaos when lining kids up.  Letting the littlest ones go first works well so no one gets run over, and they can have extra help on the activity if needed.

15) Search Pinterest for party ideas.  
Yeah, I'm gonna plug Pinterest.  They really have great ideas for anything party-related.

16) Simplify your guest list.
Wow, I really struggled with this one.  There were lots of people we could have invited.  In the end, we went with my child's closest friends and people we see most often.  That meant leaving some people out.  I would have loved to invite everyone, but that would have be an uncomfortable zoo, and no one would've had fun.  Not to mention, the more guests there are, the more money you spend.  I had to bite the bullet and edit down the list for my sanity and the sake of a comfortable party.

17) Dollar Tree icing is great for mixing decorating colors.  
I mixed icing for 4 different color Legos for cake toppers.  It was cheap and worked well.

18) Set a party time limit goal for the invitations.
Personally, I find long parties exhausting for everyone.  I think 2 hours is a great goal to set.  No worries if people stay a little longer.  But, if you plan a 5-hour party, expect to be pretty worn-out and possibly stressed.  You might want to even set the time for an hour or 90 minutes with baby/toddler parties.

19) Don't forget that kids are more easily entertained that adults are.
This is important, because the temptation to go overboard and the desire for perfection can really lead us astray.  In the end, it's a kid party.  It's YOUR kid's party.  My kid really just wanted some special time to play with his friends.  Don't try so much to people-please. 

20) Expect a clean-up aftermath.
There's gonna be some mess.  Keeping this in mind is definitely motivation for the whole less-is-more philosophy of party-throwing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oh Yeah, I Am Having A 5th Child In 2 Months

I was talking to my Mom yesterday, and she was telling me that one of our relatives was concerned about me having a 5th child.  Then, the strangest thing dawned on me.  For probably every other pregnancy I would always be excited, but also scared.  I could think of so many things that were going to be challenging by adding another child.  And of course, there is always the newborn no sleep phase.

Anyway, this time it's different.  I am actually really excited that I am having a summer baby.  For one thing, we will be on a homeschool break. That will make things a little easier.  For another thing, this ain't my first rodeo.  I already know the realities of having a newborn and juggling other kids.  It's also nice that JM and S are old enough to do more things for themselves.  I dunno.  Maybe it's just blissful ignorance.  I am excited, confident, and ready for whatever lies ahead.  I truly feel like this is my calling at this point in life.  Can't wait to meet that beautiful, sweet baby.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Motherhood: How To Keep Your Cool

Okay, so this title about keeping your cool is perhaps a tad misleading.  As Moms, we don't always keep our cool.

Let me start by putting in a short bio in here for readers that don't know me.  I'm Misty, age 35, married to a train conductor/engineer, a person of faith, homeschooling Mom, and I have 4 kids and 1 on the way.

It's a misconception that I have it all together, though most in my circle already know that.  I am not always cool, calm, and collective, but I am a work in progress.  So, how do I get through those rough days or just any day?

1) Mommy "Coffee" Break
Back when I was in the workforce (and many of my readers still are in the workforce), people used to take 10-15 minute breaks.  There might be an outside area or a break room for employees to escape the environment.  As Moms, we don't usually have break rooms, but we might still need a change of environment.  When I am getting cabin fever, or just need to de-stress, I often take a drive and go get a drive-thru coffee or even just a soda.  Sometimes, my husband is here, and I just get him to stay with the kids.  Sometimes, he's not.  Today, he wasn't home, and I needed a break.  So, I loaded up the kids in the van and gave them juice pouches. (I keep a special stock of juice boxes or Capri Suns in my cabinet for emergencies, fast food runs, and special occasions.)  I put on some good Mommy music, and we drove down to Sonic to buy me a cherry Dr. Pepper.  That's right, just for me, not them.  (Juice pouches can save you a lot of money on days like this.)  Anyway, the 15 minute outing was "just what the doctor ordered."  Heehee.  I really enjoy these little breaks, and the kids are always up for a change of scenery, too.

2) Make Time For Date Nights Or Visiting With Friends.
This seems like a no-brainer, but when you are a busy Mom, it can be easily overlooked.  If you have the luxury of getting a babysitter, take advantage.  I don't get to do everything I want, and that's okay.  I make my outings count.  I try to get some time away from the kids at least once every week or two.  Here's how I do it:
      A) As previously mentioned, we use a sitter when the option is available.
      B) Sometimes, my husband stays with the kids while I have dinner or coffee with friends.
      C) Sometimes, I just invite friends over for coffee after the kids are already in bed.
      D) Date nights without sitters/money consist of just watching a movie after the kids go to bed.

3) Occasionally, Have a good cry.
Make no mistake, sometimes I don't have an easy time getting through those rough days.  Last week, I was having a several-day stint of difficult issues with my 6 year-old ADHD son, and that was compounded by the fact that I have 3 other kids and the rather potent fuel that is pregnancy hormones.  I had to go to my room and cry.  I am not going to beat myself up about it.  I think that everyone has their limits, and it's okay to let yourself be upset every now and then.  My husband was home, and he helped me out that day.  I didn't go on and on all day, but I got my emotions out, and then got right back in there and became Mom again.  Now, I certainly don't want to let this message be confused with real depression or other emotional issues that need professional attention.  If your are having deeper, or more long-term issues, please seek professional help.  But, if you are just having a stressful day or week, like I was, don't overdo it.  If you need to cry, cry.  If you need to call a friend or family member, call.  If you need to pray, pray.  Take a little time to let the drama of the moment cool down.

4) Don't Neglect Yourself
To be honest, this is one I struggle with.  I often find myself doing a million things for others, and putting off my own needs.  Like I will wait until I am getting so hungry that I become really cranky before I eat.  Or, I might have gotten all the kids dressed, while I am still in my pajamas.  I'm cringing as I write this.  Oh man, do I need to work on this area!!  Anyway, it's hard to be a happy, effective Mom when you are neglecting yourself. 

5) Don't Compare Yourself To Other Moms.
It's easy to look at other Moms who seem to have it altogether, and use that a good reason to throw yourself a pity party.  The truth is, you really don't know what their life is like.  You haven't walked in their shoes.  They might be secretly exhausted from numerous games and practices.  They might have cleaned up 2 blow-out diapers earlier that day.  They might be taming Wal-Mart temper tantrums.  They might be discouraged from the hours of homework their kids are bringing home.  They might be broke, and up to their ears in credit card debt.  We all have things we are dealing with, and I think for most Moms, we are doing the best we can with our particular circumstances.  It's like I tell my boys during homeschool: "It's not a competition between you two.  You each have to strive for your personal best."

6) When All Else Fails, Chicken Nuggets
I am probably going to get some backlash for this, but I don't care.  Hey!  If you are having a rough day, make dinner simple.  No, it's not good to give them junk for supper all the time.  But, I really don't think that a chicken nugget meal every now and then to help Mommy be less stressed is a big deal.  If that's just not your style, that's okay.  You don't have to go that route.  Perhaps, you can find some gluten-free, organic chicken nuggets that can give you a little break while maintaining your standard of nutrition.  This message isn't really about chicken nuggets, anyway.  It's actually about simplifying things.  When you are in a crunch to get through the day, just find ways to simplify, be it through dinner or something else.   

Thanks for reading.  Remember, my blogs are for information and entertainment.  Don't trust me for you mental health and nutritional needs.  Leave that to the professionals.  I'm off to do baths and bedtime.  Counting down the minutes until the sweet sound of silent, sleeping kids.  Yep, this is my Friday night, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  :-)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Getting Rid Of Lice Without Using Rid (Home Remedies)

*******************DISCLAIMER: This is my personal story.  I am NOT a doctor or medical expert. So, don't take my word for it.  Consult a doctor before using these remedies or trying anything on the internet. 

LICE!!!  Aack!!  It's a nightmare I remember well from my own childhood.  Now, with 4 children of my own, I was quite panic-stricken when the the children's director at church told me that they found lice on my little baby's head.  

We went home and checked heads.  We found lice in all the boys' heads.  None found is R's head (my one princess.)

I know standard procedure is run out, buy some Rid, shampoo, and comb a million times with a lice comb.  But, I was very concerned about putting chemicals in my little baby's head.  Not to mention, with me being pregnant on top of that, I try to stay as far from chemicals as possible.  Still, I had to come up with something.  So, I researched home remedies, and did a combination of several. 

First, I want to back up one of my remedies with a source.  This is an article about it from Medpage Today:  I found from several reputable sources that blow-drying can be particularly effective in killing BOTH lice and eggs!  This is really great, because not even RID kills the eggs, hence re-infestations.  But, use caution and discretion, and consult a pediatrician before trying this on kids.  Kids are more sensitive, and there is a risk of heat burn.  The other important info worth mentioning is a) some lice are resistant to products like RID, and b) ***VERY IMPORTANT****  YOU STILL HAVE TO NIT-PICK.  Okay, onto my methodology.

Here's what I did, and I did NOT have a re-infestation.  Nope, we rechecked heads periodically over 2 and a half weeks, and got nothing.  It's been several months since they've had it, and still no lice.

1) After checking heads, we decided to home buzz-cut all my boys' heads.  We used the size 5 comb on them all.  The picture at the top was a commemorative picture of the post-lice buzz-cuts.  R did not get a haircut, but her hair happened to be short already (another story for another day, but let's just say her brother decided to play barber.)

2) I invested in a lice comb, and started combing out bugs and nits.  (This is a must-do.)

3) The next day, we put olive oil on all the boys' heads.  (Again, R avoided this, since she had no lice present.)  The theory is that the oil is supposed to smother the live bugs.  Some people swear by mayonnaise, but that really grossed me out.  I also read that you can use baby oil.  So, you leave this on their heads for several hours.  Some say you should do it for most of the day.  I think I did at least 5 hours.

4) Clean out the oil (rinse), comb out the lice.  (I did NOT shampoo their hair afterward, because leaving a little oil theoretically keeps it a hostile environment for lice.)

5) Nightly nit-picking.  Every night for at least 3 nights, I checked heads and nit-picked.  Be sure you check the crown of the head (where girls would wear a fashion headband), because that's where lice are most comfortable temperature-wise.

6) Speaking of temperature, that brings me to blow-drying.  I blow-dried my own hair, and I did mine on the highest setting for the a long period of time.  I didn't have major issues with heat-sensitivity.  Having long hair, I didn't wanna take any chances.  As for blow-drying kids' hair, check with your doctor to make sure it's safe to do it.  Kids are more sensitive than adults.  Plus, blow-drying can cause a heat burn.  They also make a dryer that is supposed to be safe for kids and made especially for treating lice, The Louse Buster.  Here's a link about it, if you're interested:  I don't have one, so I cannot comment on its effectiveness, quality, or safety.  Research these methods further on your own.

That's basically it.  I think I did re-apply the olive oil to the baby, because he had it the worst.

****But this is super important:  

7) Maintenance:  Of course, I washed all the linens, packed away stuffed toys and certain pillows, and all that.  But, the main info I got on putting away stuffed toys was that you really don't have to do it for weeks.  The lice can't live outside the body for more than a few hours, because they need to feed and they need the proper temperature.  
************VERY IMPORTANT************
YOU MUST RECHECK HEADS AGAIN TO MAKE SURE THAT NONE OF THOSE EGGS HATCHED!!  The worst thing about lice is that it's easy to miss an egg here or there.  Then, they are notorious for hatching a week and a half later.  So, it's important that you recheck.  I checked mine a week later, then again like a week after that.
There were a few things I forgot to wash, but they didn't use them for a few days, and nothing happened when they did.

Additional Info: 
I had read online that some people use tea tree oil, and it works as a repellant.  But CAUTION: I also read that one lady poured it all over her daughter's head and while it actually did remedy the lice, it ended up putting her daughter in the E.R.  Turns out her daughter was allergic to it.  So, rather than use tea tree oil, I found a shampoo that contained a very small amount of tea tree oil, and I have been using it for the older kids' hair.  It's Herbal Essences Tea-Lightfully Clean. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Generic Life Update

Most already know that we are expecting #5 in July, and we just found out it will be a baby girl.  We are surprised and thrilled about that.

If all goes according to plan, Kyle and I will be taking a week's vacation by ourselves to NYC next month.  Our parents have been gracious enough to provide childcare, and we are very thankful for that.  It's been 5 years since we took a trip alone, with the exception of a night here and there.

Kyle recently moved up in his career, and I am so proud of his accomplishments.

The boys are doing great in school, though we do struggle with conduct at times.  R is still princess, and she has her 3rd birthday coming up next month.  A is doing well.  He has battled allergies and colds a lot, though.  But even so, he's a happy-go-lucky little trooper.

Fall tennis was a great experience for the boys, but we are taking a break for the spring session, and I am actually thinking about putting them in a late spring session of ice skating lessons (for future hockey players.)  I'm looking into it, and we'll see if that might be something worth doing.

In the coming weeks, S is singing in the choir for another church musical (and I think JM may be, too.)  JM is really enjoying his RA's group every week, and they have a camp coming up.  We're doing a field trip with our homeschool group next week.  I've also recently gotten involved with another small group of homeschoolers of younger kids.  It's a neat thing, because it's small enough to just decide to get together whenever, and one of my college buddies is involved.

The last half of 2013 was quite challenging.  Kyle had hernia surgery, and was not working for about 6 weeks, then he trained for his new position.  While he was in training for 5 months, we were on training pay, which was quite a pay cut.  We knew that it would be worth it once he was finished, but financially, things were tough for a long time.  Then, there was the miscarriage in early fall.  Through it all, we were still blessed with everything we needed.  We were still able to give the kids a good Christmas, and we had some great freebies and blessings thrown our way.

We are just now coming out of our financial slump, and things are definitely looking up.  I know great things are ahead.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homeschool Fall Semester 2013

Just thought I'd post something on here, since I have been so unfaithful to this blog for a while.  Life has just been too hectic, but I would like to find more time. 

Anyway, this year JM just turned 6, and S is about to turn 5.  In reality, S shouldn't even be in kindergarten yet, by public school standards.  He would start next year due to his late birthday.  But since he's in school with JM, he's in 1st grade-ish.

Last year, I did Sing, Spell, Read, and Write Level 1, which had some difficult days and some great days.  I found out after I had started that Level 1 for that program was actually a 1st grade level.  But, it started off with the basics and went really far with how much it built up.  So, this year, although the boys are in 1st grade, they are actually doing a 2nd grade language arts curriculum.  I researched a lot and found one that seemed to fit well with where they are at.  We are using Lifepac grade 2 language arts.  I am actually very encouraged by how well they have transitioned to this curriculum.  S is making a lot of progress on his handwriting.  They are both doing very well.

For math, we are using Horizons math, and we've stuck with 1st grade level.  I like the books and the pacing.  They are doing well there, too.  We are using Real Science 4 Kids - Chemistry, and I like it but I kind-of wish there was a little more to it.  But, I am glad that it introduces difficult concepts in an easily digestible manner.  We're using Explorer's Bible Study - Beginnings II for a Bible Curriculum, and we are enjoying that.  I don't do tests in Bible, but we are having some very good discussions.  I like the fact that there is a definite focus on God's love.  But, I will say that some of the material may be slightly mature for them, especially S.  My social studies curriculum was a bust.  It has been back-ordered for months, so I gave up on it ever coming in.  I am looking into getting something else for that.

This year, I have given up on the idea of "perfect structure" in my homeschool.  We have a basic time of day we do school and a basic routine, but I'm not keeping a strict hourly schedule.  As much as I want to have the idealized perfect schedule, things just come up daily.  I mean, there are still 2 other kids here, and there's always an element of chaos.  So, I decided I'm not gonna be so hard on myself if we are running behind and one day we don't finish before time x.  The things I'm focused on are that we are consistent in our daily work, that the kids are learning, and that they are where they need to be, and hopefully, surpassing the standards. 

We just rejoined our homeschool group that we were in last year, and the boys have a great opportunity to learn tennis with the group.  There are some really great coaches, and though my kids are by far the youngest (except for 1 other kid), the coaches are really good with them.  I am really excited to see how they do.  In addition to our homeschool group, which does field trips and tennis, the boys have some fun stuff going on at our church.  JM is in RA's, which is kinda like boys scouts, but with a Christ-centered focus.  They are teaching them outdoor skills, doing camps, and field trips through the year.  It's for 1st through 6th grade.  And, both of the boys are in children's choir, which has opportunities for several performances throughout the year and a children's musical in the spring.

My little girl, R, is busy doing 2 year-old things like ABCs and counting, and she's definitely charming all of her teachers at church.  My little A is about to turn 1 year-old in October, and he's walking and jibber-jabberring. 

This is a very busy time, but I'm loving it.