All my Littles in 2011. L-R, Samantha (5), Kendra (9), Patricia (5), Christian (5), John (4), Jayna (7), Madelyn (2)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Trash Bag Snack Mix

I don't know about your kids but mine tend to get bored with snack foods.  We end up with mostly eaten bags of chips, cookies crackers and cereal sitting around the pantry.  So what we have come up with is a trail mix type of snack.

Here is what I started with:
In this batch we had pretzels, marshmallows, several mostly eaten bags of cereal (don't you hate when there isn't enough to to have a bowl, but too much to throw away), cheese puffs, a crushed pack of ice cream cones, several single serving snack bags, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, and crushed up Christmas sugar cookies.  Other ideas we've added in the past are nuts & chocolate chips. It's really just for whatever you have laying around.  We also almost always add freshly popped popcorn.  The heat from it causes the crumbs to stick to it, which creates a great flavor.  

We dump all the ingredients in a clean trash bag and mix.  (We all love this part!)

And this was what we ended up with:

I use a soup ladle to fill cheap ziplock bags 1/2 way to create take and go bags for the kids.  This batch made 30 bags.

This is a great money saver since most of these items would've ended up in the trash anyways.  The kids love it!  Enjoy!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weight Watchers

I have been on the road to get in better shape for quite some time .  In January of this year we started trying to eat better.  We stopped drinking pop and switched from white bread and pasta to whole wheat.  We stopped bringing sugary snacks into the house and started bringing in fruits & veggies.  From January to March I lost 20 lbs.  I was pleased! Then... I started to gain it back, blah! I had gained back 4 lbs when I decided something had to give.  I joined Weight Watchers in the beginning of May and have really enjoyed this experience so far.  I want to tell you about what I have learned, as well as some tips, tricks, and strategies I have implemented, thus far.  Please keep in mind that I have done this for only 2 weeks, I am not a Weight Watcher professional, or success story (yet.)

Things I have learned:

1. Subway isn't nearly as healthy as I thought.
My normal sandwich is a heated, foot long, oven roasted chicken on wheat bread with light mayo, sweet onion sauce, and pepper jack cheese.  Anybody wanna guess about the point value on this healthy sounding sandwich?  Anybody?  Well it is 22 points!!! 22!!! 

2. E-tools & meetings are awesome!
I have tried WW before, but didn't want to fork out the extra cash their e-tools subscription and/or the going to the meetings every week.  Now they have the option where you can buy a monthly WW subscription to the e-tools and get unlimited meetings for only $44.xx.  They have 3 apps that I use on my iPhone & iPad.  The tracking app can be used on both.  It allows you to easily track all your food with the aid of the scanner app (only on iPhone.)  It will scan the barcode of most any item and tell you how many points it is.  There is also a recipe app (only on iPad) that allows you to incorporate ingredients of you own recipes and see how many points they are per serving.  

3. When you start working out, you will have a slight weight gain.
The 1st week I just dieted and didn't work out at all.  I lost 5.5 lbs. The 2nd week I decided to step it up a bit and got back on the treadmill 4 times that week.  Well on weigh-in day I had gained 1.5 lbs.  However, all my clothing is fitting loser and I can tell a difference when I look in the mirror.  It will come out in the wash.  I will be down next week, I know it!

4. Many of your recipes are probably already healthy (or can be by changing only a few things.)
I have put many of my own recipes in the recipe building app and have been pleasantly surprised at how healthy most of my recipes are or how easily they can be made healthy.  I will share some of them in a couple of days.  

For now the kids are calling and life is happening.  Blessings to all!   


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Getting in Shape- The Beginning

Disclaimer: I am nowhere close to a fitness expert and have developed my own plan on the fly... Please do not hold me accountable for any injuries or problems you may have if you try to follow me. Also I know there are many different ways to lose weight, if you would like to offer words of encouragement, please feel free.  If you would like to criticize or tell me a better or faster way PLEASE keep it to yourself!!!!  Thanks!

I decided last week that I have got to lose some weight!  I am about 50 lbs from where I want to be.  With having a house full of kids I have really let my health go.  I am doing far too much parenting from the couch & feel like I'm missing out on good times with my kids.  It is getting harder to get down in the floor to play & I don't even want to talk about getting up!   

I have traded convenience for health more than I care to admit.  I am ashamed to admit that last week we ate out (fast food or dine-in) 8 or 9 times!  Besides killing our budget, it has killed my energy level and patience.  Something has to give!  In addition to that I have made it up to 4 or 5 glasses of soda a day.  It is no wonder I am in such a mess physically! 

A Beginning: The past 3 days...
My first change was to cut out soda completely.  I am trying to drink at least 4 bottles of water a day (16 oz each) additionally I have also enjoyed Crystal Lite & Lemonade.  I have not and do not plan on cutting caffeine out completely.  I just can't give up my 2-3 cups of coffee a day!

We will not eat out near as much as we did last week.  To my defense my father-in-law passed away and we were traveling back & forth to my husband's hometown most of the last week.  It's about a 45 minute drive each way. And because of all the travel time and the craziness of the week it was much easier to dine out than grocery shop at 1am!  I usually try to keep it down to a fast food breakfast on Thursday.  We have piano practice that morning and it is so much easier than waking up at dawn to cook.  And we enjoy lunch at a local Mexican restaurant on Sunday's.  It is $.99 kid meal day and our whole family of 9 can eat out for about $30!

I have also been praying for the Lord to help open my taste buds to healthier foods.  I was a picky eater as a child and refused to eat most anything that was good for me.  I have carried that habit into my adult years.   I simply do not enjoy leafy greens, salads, & fish.  I want to gain the health benefits of eating these foods so I have asked the Lord for help.  I am excited to see how He works!

I began a workout routine today.  I plan to run on the treadmill, and use my Biggest Loser Bootcamp & Yoga DVD's for at least the next 6 weeks.  I had to make a chart for!  Here is my routine:

(WU= Warm-Up  CD=Cool Down)

I know it isn't that great of a copy.  If you want a better look I would be happy to email it to you. 

I plan on sharing this journey with you to help keep myself accountable for what I have or have not done.  I do not plan to do regular weigh-ins or keep track of my progress in any way during these 6 weeks.  I feel like if I do not make significant progress from week to week I may get down about it and stop trying.  Overall I just want to be healthier!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ready to toss in the towel...

When I began homeschooling I had a 2nd grader, a kindergartner, twin 3-year-olds, and my youngest was weeks away from her 1st birthday (# 6 & 7 hadn't joined our family yet).  I almost never accomplished half of what I sat out to do in a day.  I enjoyed watching the Duggars on TV and asked myself regularly "If they can do it with so many, why can't I?"  I really struggled with what God had called me to do and what I felt I could do.  I went to bed EVERY night feeling inadequate.

Right now we are finishing our 3rd year of homeschool and I finally feel like I have enough of a hold on it that it doesn't weigh on me.  I still have hard days.  My husband will tell you that I call him every couple weeks and tell him that I just don't know if I'm cut out for this.  These calls used to consist of me telling him we would have to re-work the budget so we could send all the kids to the nearest Christian school... so it's improving.  :-) 

So what changed?  I read and read and read!  Many moms before me had been there, done that, and wrote a book or blog about how they made it through.  I found as many as books as I could get my hands on and used their wisdom as it applied to me.  Some were not very helpful but others helped to shape the mom I am today.  I compiled a list of my favorites.

In my personal opinion every homeschooling mom should read these 4 books:

1.  Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe by Todd Wilson will not tell you how to get it all done but will reassure you that you are not alone.  I think about this book often on "those" days and it makes me smile.

2.  Managers of Their Home by Steven & Teri Maxwell will give you wonderful advice on fitting it all into a day.  She has very practical advice for scheduling.  A word to the wise though; after reading this I developed the my most ridiculous schedule.  No one could have accomplished everything I had crammed into it.  Please start simple!  You do not have to try to be a super mom, she doesn't exist!

3.  Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman is for any size family.  I hate that the title is so misleading.  There is tons of wisdom in those pages.  She began the book as notes of what she had learned with the intent of passing it on to her daughters.  Don't get intimidated by its size though; this book is HUGE!  It's chapters are not wrote dependant upon each other.  This means if you want to know more about laundry you simply flip to the laundry chapter, you don't need to read the one before or the one after.  I LOVE that!

4.  Parenting from the Heart by Marilyn Boyer is a small book of wisdom wrote by a seasoned mother of 14.  It is very encouraging & practical.

Other books I have read and highly recommend:

Managers of Their Chores by Steve and Teri Maxwell
Homeschooling with a Meek & Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell
Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
Love in the House by Chris & Wendy Jeub
The Duggars: 20 and Counting by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar
A Love that Multiplies by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar    

Would you add any to this list?  I would REALLY love to know what books have helped with your homeschooling journey?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Menu Planning

I really dislike trying to figure out what I'm going to make for lunch or dinner.  The kids are hungry and will each ask me at least twice "What are we having?"  So I decided there has to be a better way than just going to the cabinet and figuring it out as I go. 

At first I just did one week at a time.  The kids and I would sit down together and they would tell me the different meals they wanted to eat over the following week.  I bought a menu note pad for my fridge.  It worked, but I found us eating a lot of the same meals.  Spaghetti, pizza, & PB&J sandwiches were almost always added to the menu.  Therefore we burned out on our favorite foods quickly. 

Next I decided that if I could do this every week I could take some time and do it for a whole month.  Then I made up this menu.
I have a 4 week menu that we cycle through and a 5th week that we use if money gets tight.  The "Thrifty week" is a lot of pasta and food I would not want us to eat all the time but this menu works great for the weeks when the car breaks down or your water bill goes a little too high.

I then created a master grocery list.  I looked a my menu and typed a list of everything it would take to cook or eat that meal.  I then divided the list into the common categories found in the grocery store.  I considered dividing it into the isles of my most commonly use store but did not like how this limited me to just one place to shop.  This is the list that I came up with:

One of my closest friends calls me the "Binder Queen".  I love them!  I have one for near everything in my life.  So why not have one for my menu as well?  A picture of my menu binder can be seen HERE.  
It has menu cards on the front that can be easily switched for quick changes or to add in a new recipe that is not on my sample menu.  I love to try all those neat Pinterest recipes.  The inside tabs are: shopping lists, recipes, sample menus, menu cards for breakfast, lunch, & dinner, and a tab to store all the extra cards for quick additions.  I also have two clear zipper pouches.  The first contains a highlighter, pen, & sharpie marker.  The second is for coupons.  I am not a big couponer but do hang onto high value and commonly used ones.  The binder has magnets on the back to keep it conveniently on my fridge and for easy removal to the grocery store.  

We have been using this method of menu planning for about a year and seems to be working ok.  Although, I have begun to toy with the idea of shopping for groceries for a whole month instead of weekly.  More on that in the future...

If you would like to have better & editable copies of the menu (MS Excel) or shopping list (MS Word) emailed to you, please comment with your email below.  I will get them out to you in my spare time.  Please be patient though, a homeschooling mom of 7 littles doesn't have a lot of spare time. :-)  That is why I created this menu plan in the first place!  I love letting organization think for me, thus allowing me more time to love on my babies!    

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Big Toy Swap

Yesterday was a fun yet busy day around here... Toy Swap Day! About 6-8 months ago I was fed up with toys. They were everywhere! My children were bored with them and rarely played with any of them. The one toy they wanted almost always landed on the bottom of the toy box and all the toys on top of it became scattered when they began to look for "that" toy. It was near impossible for them to keep their rooms clean. They just had too much. I did the donation thing and got rid of 6 large trash bags of old, misfit, or broken toys, but the problem still existed. I decided to come up with a way for my children to keep their favorite toys but only play with a few at a time.

I divided every bedroom's toys into three different categories. They are:

Older Girls (10 & 7):
American Girls
Sweet Street Dollhouses

Younger Girls (6, 6, & 3):
Loving Family Dollhouse
Baby Dolls
Pets (Zuzu, Little Pet Shop, etc)

Boys (6 & 5):
GeoTrax Trains
Cars & Other Transportation
Action Heros & Animals (Dinosours & Farm Sets)

Each month I switch out the children's toys with a new tote. I get rid of all the broken toys at this time as well. The kids are not allowed to get new toys out until their room is very clean.

We have other places where toys are stored around our house as well.

Toy Room:
Play Kitchen & Food
Work Bench & Tools
Slicky Slide & Playhouse

Living Room:
Tinker Toys
Mega Blocks
Lincoln Logs
Board Games
Play Dough

School Storage:
Geo Safari
Learning Games

All of these are pretty much available whenever they want (except play dough). We also clean out & organize these on toy swap day.

How do you tame the toy monster?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Little Tips & Tricks

I have wanted to share some of my little tips & tricks with y'all for awhile but have not had the time to write a long post about each of them so I thought I'd share a list of them with you and if you would like more info on any of them let me know. 

These are the kid's laundry baskets.  Each child has their own.  I wash and dry clothes then my 6-year-old son brings the load to the living room where each child (even my 3-year-old) sorts the clothes into the correct child's basket.  I bought these at the Dollar Tree and taped pictures of my kids to each one so the non-readers could work too.  Each child puts their basket away after the load has been sorted.  I don't care if it's folded because it will be unfolded in no time.  My kids don't own any clothes that can't be sprayed with water and tossed in the dryer for 10 minutes to get the wrinkles out.

These are the labels on my kids drawers. Each child has labels for all articles of their clothing. Each label is marked with the child's first initial. The labels pictured here belong to my 3-year-old daughter; she is able to her clothes away with minimal assistance.

I repurposed my baby play yard to contain my laundry mountain.  I was so tired of the mess spilling into the floor when I get behind.

This is my menu binder.  It has magnets on the back so I can keep it on my fridge.  I keep my coupons I plan to use (not a big couponer, I tried, just not for me), blank shopping lists, and the small menu cards for the meals we typically eat.  Love the movable cards because it makes it easy for quick changes to the menu.

This is our school cart.  At one point we had a whole classroom complete with desks and reading nook.  Then we realized it just worked better for us to school wherever we land (most of the time curled up on the couch.)  The cart is a audio/visual cart my husband purchased for me at our county public school surplus.
I have plenty more little things that use to make my day flow smoothly. I will publish more as I have time.