Thursday, June 22, 2017

Affording Such A Large Family: Clothing Edition



Our kids must all be wearing clothes with holes in them and ratty shoes. There seems to be an idea that clothing children is expensive. And, yes, I guess it could be. That depends on you. We chose to shop yard sales, thrift store, clearance aisle and totally accept hand-me-downs.

Yard sales are great to find mostly springs and summer clothes. At least around here, you don't find a lot of pants and long sleeves a lot. But you can find crazy amounts of shorts and t-shirts and the occasional new with tags shoes. I buy our clothes here as well. Two of our kids are in "teenage sizes." I do have trouble finding trendy young men clothes at yard sales but that's where thrift store come in.

Thrift stores are awesome for finding non clothing items as well, but that's not what we are talking about. I find handbags, shoes with tags, teenage boy clothes, junior miss clothes for me (too young to wear misses and too old to wear juniors... the struggle is real!), I have even found make up that is still seal and in date.

Clearance items are amazing. I don't have a lot to say about this but use coupons and store rewards to make it last.

Hand-me-downs. I am very lucky to have some amazing friends who pass their kids out grown clothes on to us. We do the same in return. We hold the outgrown clothes out until the next kid can wear them and when DS4/5 out grow them. We see if we have any friends who need them. After our friends pick through them the rest we put in a yard sale and what doesn't sale goes to Goodwill.

Gifts. We ask family and friends for Christmas and birthdays to please not get the younger guys clothes because they honestly have so many. For the bigger guys we ask for gift cards so they can buy their own clothes (they are at that age).

On average we spend about $200 clothing and shoes.
Here are a few of my tips:
  • Find a good stain remover!
  • If stains don't come out or the idem cant be fixed, throw out, repurpose or compost if you can.
  • Fix small things like missing buttons.
  • Vacuum bags are amazing.
  • Repurpose clothes into cloth grocery bags, cleaning rags or even family cloths.
  • Look for events at local thrift stores... a couple times a year our thrift stores will do free or donation "fill-a-bag" events. We each get a bag to fill so we often end up with more than we can use so we donate it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An Open Letter To My Sons' Future Girlfriend

To my baby's future girlfriends,

I know there will be two types of girlfriends coming into my sons' lives, the ones I like and the ones who don't matter because I don't like you. I'll address the ones who don't matter first, so we can go ahead and get past you... you won't be around long.

I see you with that little I'm hot shit attitude. You think that you are his number one, that you are important and that you'll be around for a long time. You are snotty and demanding of my son. You don't appreciate that they were raised to respect you and treat you like a queen, not that you deserve it. He's my child and I have taught him to have respect for himself and he won't put up with it long. If you get to comfortable being around, don't. I allow my children to make their own decisions but they also respect mine as we have a good relationship. So I won't be quiet.

To the ones I like. I know he's a handful but he such a good young man. He's his own unique person and you like that side too. You are your own unique person too and I promise to help you nurture your passions. He will always treat you with respect and if he doesn't you'll have my number and I'll deal with him. Treat him equally as well or I'll be a nightmare for you.

My ultimate wish is for my children to be happy and to make someone happy. If you are good to him, I will love you forever. If you go on to marry my son, I will gladly take a backseat to someone who treats him right.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How To Survive A Road Trip

We have to travel a lot as we have family scattered all over the country. Here is my family's favorite tips to save your sanity on these trips.

1. Travel DVD player- We have a built in dvd player in our vehicle. I hit up thrift shops or yard sales in the weeks leading up to the trip and buy a ton of kids dvds that my kids don't own. I put them aside just for the trip. I also bring the kids dvd book so they have their favorites.

2. Each kid gets a travel bag with snacks and drinks and a few entertaining things: Coloring book with colored pencils, a mini puzzle, I bring cookie sheets that they use as lap desks.

3. Mini games. We have a small version of scrabble, hungry hungry hippos and yatzee. These are great to keep them entertained.

4. I charge the electronics the night before and they do not get them until we are at least half way so I don't have to deal with the whining long if they die before we get there.

5. Playing Ispy will buy you 15 minutes of quiet.

6. Play the game of concentration. It is a clapping game where everyone goes in turn listing things in a category but you can't break the clapping rhythm. We play it like this *pat right thigh, pat left thigh, clap, snap right, snap left, repeat* "This is a game of concentration, with no repeats or hesitation. I go first, Brad goes second the subject is (animals, colors, pokemon)" This buys us about and hour.

7. We run parking lot races when we stop for bathroom breaks or to get gas. Everyone has to try to pee when we stop.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Importance Of Family Meals

My children adore eating dinner as a family. We do not have a big enough table for all of us. So here is what we do.

We cook together. Little guys might tear lettuce for a salad, while big guys chop veggies and Brad and I cook the main dish. We set the kids at the table and Brad and I turn the couch to face the table so we can be apart of the discussion. The kids say grace and we eat. While eating we talk about our peaks and pits, one good thing that happened and one bad thing that happened.

Family meals are so important in the age of technology we live in. It's rare to have time where no one has their nose in a screen and we just can sit and talk. We learn so much about our children this way and they learn a lot about us. Our family is no where near perfect but we are super close to our kids and I believe this to be the reason.

Even when we eat meals at someone else's house, they ask to eat together with the other family at their table, which is not always feasible. We do try however. There are so many reasons to do this:

1. Research shows that children are more likely to learn better nutrition this way. Kids are more likely to try their veggies when they see a parent or sibling eating it. It has also been said that families that cook at home have less fried or sugary foods. It is a win-win.

2. I remember reading somewhere that children who eat with their family are more likely to graduate high school.

3. It's just a short period of time to spend time together in this busy world. Take the time to turn off cellphones, TVs and videogames and just enjoy each other. My father in law used to do this at family meals and as a young adult I was rather annoyed by it. But looking back now, he was more right than I knew.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Baby Sitting Co-op

Babysitters are so expensive for a family our size. We have came up with a solution with a group of friends to rotate sleepovers at their house. So while that family host sleepovers with all the kids, the other sets of parents go out on a date night. We do the rotation about once a month so everyone can enjoy their partner one night most months.

When we host, we try to do fun and creative things to wear them out so they will sleep. We usually have them decorate their own pizza or build a taco. Then we take them outside and do silly string fights and run races. Then we come in and eat popcorn and watch a movie and then bed time.

We pick the kids up before breakfast, so the host family only pays for dinner and snacks. It really is beneficial for everyone involved. It is incredibly important to always keep a focus on your relationship and this allows all of us to do just that.

Would you do a babysitting co-op?

5 Creative or Favorite Dates

We have to make the most of the time that we get together. Here is a list of favorite date.

1. Go to the lake in the late afternoon for a picnic and swim. We like to schedule these dates when there is meteor showers.

2. Penny date. Choose a number and flip a coin that number of times. Heads left tails right. Turn that many times and that's where your date is.

3. Hiking. We love just being out in nature and AWAY from electronics.

4. Learning something new. Cooking class, ballroom dancing, Frisbee golf.

5. Sporting events.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Affording Such A Large Family: Food Edition

So I have recently touched on how to feed a large family on a budget. Honestly there is so much more to it. I probably should have (and may) do a series on it. As previously said, we believe that God will provide for us. Often, we are in prayer as we do our monthly budget. Our sons eat like horses! I have never known children that eat as much as they do! Where do they put it? I have prayed for ideas to help manage the food for our house and have received answers. I have been sent a group of friends with equally large families and they have blessed me and I them with our shared ideas. Here are a few more thing that I have discovered that has helped it tremendously:

1. Make snack packs: Left to their own devices, my children will go through 4 cans of Pringles. DS2 and DS4 proved this last week. I have bought sandwich bags and filled them with the "snacky" foods and they are allowed to get ONE... at snack times. Any more than that requires approval from one of the parents. We filly baggies with: pretzels, chips, mini muffins, cookies, kale chips, half sandwiches, crackers, etc. We also have a fruit bowl. I also will buy cereal in large quantities when it is one sale and fill small plastic containers with the appropriate amount. Plastic containers are also filled with: homemade pudding, jello, applesauce, sliced fruit, veggie/cheese "tray." Portion control is EVERYTHING with our kids.

2. Car snacks matter: How often do you get in the car and hear I'm hungry/thirsty. So often I would pull through and get one of those nasty dollar burgers or stop at a gas station and pay dang near double the price with my first. Four kids later, I carry a thermal backpack with water and some snack that wont melt. I hate when the kids eat in the car because of the mess, but sometimes it is just easier than hearing the fussing.

3. Bring snacks to events (as allowed): We will pack a tote full of snacks when we go to the lake, festival or the drive in movies. They offer concession but do not mind you bringing your own food... so that is exactly what we do.

4. Freezer cooking: I will buy groceries every two weeks and cook according to our meal plan. Then I will put them in the freezer and if there is a good sale, I will make a double batch (which is awesome to keep on hand for if we are invited to a potluck or need to bring a meal to a friend). Freezer cooking has eliminated our "need" to go out to eat. I will lay the meals for the next day out when I am doing my night time routine. Then pop them in the crockpot the next morning (when I can, I love the crockpot. Its energy efficient and honestly I can put it in and forget about it) or in the oven.

5. Again take up on free food offers: We have had Bible school all week and our church has offered a free dinner to all the kids and parents each night this week. It has been a wonderful budget saver and time saver. We are Methodist and we love to eat-- haha. So we often have meals at church. We have the opportunity to eat on Wednesday nights for $35 but we just can't rationalize that recurring expense in our budget.

6. Split meals with friends: We often go to my best friends' house for game night. We let the kids play and we have adult conversation and it's great. We will split the cost of the meal and usually buying larger quantities saves all of us on the cost per meal.

So that is how we feed them...budget everything. And as you can probably tell from our chunky guys they are fed well.

DS1 and DS2 not shown for privacy reasons.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When should kids get their first phone?

All of the kids are insistent that they need a cellphone. Why? They are 11,9,8,6&5. They don't drive. They don't go hangout with friends. They are always with a parent. The older guys don't know it, but I think they are going to get iPods. They only want phones to play games on. I like the idea of them being able to text me while they are with their other parents or with friends. But when should they get a phone?

With as many kids as we have I don't want to raise our phone bill by 5+ lines! That would be crazy expensive. The solution we found... We will get iPod when they are old enough to be responsible for them. We will get a landline for them to use to make calls, because really who calls anymore? If they find a way to pay for their line consistently, then I will add them to my plan. I want to teach them work ethic so they will be getting jobs as soon as they are old enough.

When should kids get a phone?

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Go To Stomach Bug Remedy



So after last week's Bible School and nonstop running, DS5 ended up with the stomach bug. While camping with my parents, he got very pitiful. We brought him home and gave him some activated charcoal caps. He slept all day Saturday, but woke up yesterday feeling 100%. To keep the rest of us from getting it, we have all been drinking grape juice three times a day. It's a hack we saw on Facebook, but I swear by it. When the bug went around last time, none of us got it but the one kid who started with it.

We all started taking the activated charcoal, as well as diffusing thieves oil. Of course like with most illnesses, hand washing is key! We only do soap and water, because I have little faith in hand sanitizer and some germs are good for you. Unfortunately, it looks like the bug may have a long incubation period and we might have spread it to my friend's family. I feel horrible.

What do you do to keep your family healthy?

Disclaimer: Although I am a licensed nurse, I am not a doctor. This post is not intended to diagnose, cure or treat any illness and is not guaranteed to work. This post is intended to state what works for our family. Seek medical attention as you would with any illness. If this is a life threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Food Waste Friday

So I didn't get a picture this week of food waste Friday because I am simply horrified. This week we had a full trash bag of items thrown out. We had half a watermelon, a whole cantaloupe, 4 heads of cauliflower, two chicken legs, half pint of strawberries (because the raw chicken leaked on it), two onions, two bulks of garlic, 6 apples, a container of beans and rice and about two cups of mac and cheese.

This is ridiculous and I am so embarrassed. We have to do much better, but at least our compost is banging this week.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Affording Such a Large Family

Aside from the glances and sheer curiosity that having a large family causes, large families are often questioned as to how we can afford our kids. You stay at home with the kids while your husband (soon to be for me) works? How do you contribute to the family? Kids are expensive how do you afford all of them? I can only imagine how much food you'll go through when they are teenagers?

I like to think that these people are well meaning and not just being jerks. Are we wealthy? Hardly! Do we struggle? Sure who doesn't. We believe that children are blessing from God. In fact, in the Bible, we are instructed to multiple and are told that our children are blessings:

Psalm 127:3-5 New International Version (NIV)
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.
 
Now, I know that this scripture has been linked to a famous large family and the quiver full movement. Let me make this super clear that we are not associated with that movement and do not tolerate the structure of this movement. I personally feel that the husbands role is abusive and controlling. Brad would laugh at the thought of me controlled. Also, blanket training is cruel and leads to robot children who have no sense of trust and to me is abusive. Who hits a child let alone a baby!? But I digress...
 
We believe that by following the Bibles teaching that we will in deed be blessed by our children. Every time that we face a financial struggle, God ALWAYS comes through and we receive an unexpected check or are gifted something that we need.
 
We believe that if we use our money (God's money) wisely that we will benefit from that. We also use our time and resources to bless others and in return we are blessed beyond measure.
 
Over the next few weeks we will talk about my tips for affording our children and how we plan to afford future children.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One on One Time


It's rare that we get to take a kid out on a one on one time, despite our best efforts. Well tonight, we had to skip out on Bible school. This little guy didn't feel well, and though we are 99% certain that it was due to over eating, it is against the rules to bring a sick child (as it should be). So while brothers were are VBS we went to IHOP.

It was such a good experience. The server was from a large family (the oldest of 7). So she understands what dining with children is like and was super attentive.

We had such a good time. We just talked and laughed. He told me he wants to be a WWE Superstar one day. He even has a plan to eat right and get in shape to achieve his dreams. I hope you see him on the TV one day.

We value this one on one time with our children. It isn't often that we get to do much of it. We may stay up late with an older boy or two and play a game or watch a movie, but the little guys don't go well being up that late. He was so happy for this 2 hour break without sibling and just mama time.

It got me to thinking, which is a dangerous task, about how to fit in more one on one time with the kids. In the past, we have had a rotation that once a month would be date night and that child got to go. The following month would be the next. But with as many kids as we have now, how do we go five months in between one on one time?

DS3 gets a lot of one on one with Brad and I. Brad takes him to Trail Life and I do all of his school stuff. The others don't. We are going to start a weekly rotation. The kids can run and errand with us or choose to go do a small activity (go for a walk or play a game).

How do you fit in one on one time with each child?

Chores

We are often asked by random strangers, usually, how we manage to keep our house standing with so many children. Usually, I have some sarcastic answer to reply, because most of the time the people asking are judging us for having a large family instead of being genuinely curious. But we do have friends and family tell us "I don't know how you do it."

The brutally honest answer from my stand point is... how does any parent do it?
The truth is 1 kid or 10 kids being a parent is hard, but for us when we have all of our kids with us life goes smoother. They keep each other entertained. But we also make even the smaller children do chores! They live here they can help.

Here is an example of how we divide chores:

2-3 years
Help older sibling set the table by doing spoons and forks
Match socks
Help dust
Wipe baseboard with soapy rag
Help pick up trash
Help pull weeks
Scoop dog food

4-7
All things on list above
Make bed
Pick up toys
Bathroom every other day alternating with the big guys
Put away laundry
Clean and Vacuum/dust mop bedroom
Vacuum or Dust mop living room
Bring laundry to laundry room on assigned days
Set the table
Help put away groceries
Help harvest garden
Clear and wipe table and chairs after meals
Mop every other day
Help cut coupons

8-12
All things on lists above
Clean your room including vacuum, dust and make beds
Bathroom on assigned days
Wash, dry, fold/hang up/ put away laundry on assigned laundry day
On laundry day strip linens and wash them and remake bed
Dishes
Help cook during assigned meals
Feed/Water/Walk and Bathe pets
Mow the lawn during your week
Rake the leaves
Help with the garden
Carry in groceries from the car
Help coupon, meal plan and shop

We do not "pay" for chores. If a child wants to earn money they can do that a variety of ways: straight As, bringing grades up, being kind when its hard to be, extra chores.

Another way that we keep things decluttered is to throw away toys when they are broken and can't be fixed or dvds that are scratched. There is no need to hold on to junk. Clothes that are too small are brought to the give away box when they are tried on and don't fit. If they wore an outfit that no longer fits right, they put it in my laundry basket and I know that it does not fit. I will wash them and either put them in the give away box or in a storage bag to hold on for the next kid. If we no longer use items they go in the give away box or yard sale box.

What chores do your kids do?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Garden

I am very excited to say that I finally have some plants of my own that I am growing! I have wanted a garden for as long as I can remember. Needless to say, living in a home with no yard makes that a little hard. So urban gardening it is!

A while back Brad built me some planter boxes. I found some starter plants at farmers market and decided that they would work great in our small area. I get 4 tomato plants, a leek plant and a chamomile plant. I already have some herb plants and a citronella plant.

When we eventually move we will be buying enough land to have a garden. I think that this is great for the kids to learn. It is skills that you are not really taught in school. Everyone should know how to grow their own food and preserve it and should be taught hard work and responsibility.

What do you grow in your garden?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Micheal's Camp Creativity


I love keeping the boys busy during the summer! Basically anything to get them off of screen time... the struggle is real I tell ya! So this morning I was researching and came across this gem. Michael's is doing this craft camp this summer.

 
 
 
This is pretty affordable. I love that it encourages creativity and writing with a journal. I also love that it breaks the monotony of summer vacation. Check it out, here!
 
 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Toys R Us Pre-Memorial Day Event


Sunday, May 21 from 1-3 PM Toys R Us is going to be a having an in store event where you will go home with a FREE collectible Radio Flyer mini wagon. There will be a couple drawing for NERF guns and a bike blinker.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Struggle is Real

Here in the interwebs we all try to make ourselves look like that family from "Leave it To Beaver." Think about your social media timeline... all those pictures of your friends' families. They look so clean, well behaved and shiny! "Oh I wish I could walk on her shoes for just one day." Here is a look at what you'd see around our house.

5:00 Alarm clock goes off so Brad can go to work. He hits snooze. I hit him with a pillow begging him to shut it up! In my sleepy state, I forget to remind him to take the lunch I packed for him the night before. Oh yeah, and the bag of uniforms to take to work to be washed since the have to be washed a special way and of course today is laundry day.

7:00 I hear little voices in the living room asking for breakfast. I tell them to sleep another hour. Yeah this mommy doesn't like to start her work day early.

They ignore me.

7:30 I roll out of bed getting them breakfast and begging for a shower. Guess what not even going to happen. But they let me change my clothes! Score: this is going to be a great day!

9:00 The big guys roll out of bed looking like a frat boy who partied too much. I feed them and beg them to shower and erase that stinch!

10:00 Its time for school. We sit down at the kitchen table and someone forgets their pencils for the 100th time this week... ok that someone totally me! Then the whining begins "he has my pencil" "they are all the same" "I want that one" This continues for 10 minutes until I threaten to send them back to public school. They settle down and do their work. DS4 and DS5 get done quickly. DS3 gets highly irritated that his brothers are so loud. The fighting begins. Mommy contemplated if it really is 5 o'clock somewhere! But settles for water because dieting sucks the life right out of you.

Noon: I tell the kids to start chores while I start lunch. I get blank stares. I beg and plead knowing that it not going to get done. I raise my voice, then I feel bad. Side note: they don't clean room and I know it has to be done so I do it.

13:00 Finish school and put dinner in the crockpot. Play board games with the kids and about lose at chess to an 8 year old... I lose to the 11 year old.

14:00 Kids go play and I start cleaning. Oh my goodness didn't I do this yesterday? Was there an explosion? I crank the radio up and sing into the broom. This counts as a workout right?

15:00 Brad texts he's on his way. I take the kids out for a walk. I'm trying to train to be able to run again, despite doctors saying it'll never happen again. It will... I'm more strong willed than they are used to dealing with.

16:00 Brad gets home from work and I'm a sweaty mess. The kids smell and the house is somehow filthy... again. He jumps in the shower. The lucky guy. I clean off the table and reapply deodorant praying it'll at least cover the smell.

17:00 Feed kids in which two refuse to eat dinner, one won't stop getting refills and the other two throw the food at each other. Dinner ends only two kids take their plates to the sink leaving me to clear the table. I tell them I am making a chore chart but forget by bed time.

17:30 Start giving kids baths and making them change clothes and do their chores.

18:00 Kids finish chores and are still rotating in and out of the shower. Three out of five come and ask for a snack. Seriously!??? I did just feed them right? We snack and have family night until the little two guys go to be at 19:00.

19:00---The witching hour! We tell the two littles to potty and get a sip of water and brush their teeth. They do this we tuck them in, say prayers, give hugs and kisses, give teddy bears, and read a story. We know the battle is just beginning. We go to the living room to finish cleaning up because the big guys are good to stay out of the way or should I say hide from any extra work they could be asked to do. The littles get out of bed no less than twenty times, until one of us snaps and turns off the hallway light and shut their door and pretty much tell them they will be forever grounded if they don't simply go to sleep.

20:00 We bunker down and play cards or a game or do a movie with the big guys. I realize oh god we didn't do this assignment today and I run with said kid to complete it.

21:00 We tell the big guys to go to bed and so are we.

23:00 We really do go to sleep... not really sure what time the bigs go to sleep because they are still awake.

Friday, May 12, 2017

EveryDollar App

I am beyond in love with the EveryDollar budgeting app. It is really helping us with our baby steps to get out of debt. Now I have to admit that we are not following Dave Ramsey to a T.  But his baby steps are wonderful. This app is an accompanying app to FPU. I love that it does the math for me because I am absolutely terrible with math and when it comes to the budget there is not any room for errors.

This app is being a lifesaver for us. We are saving money by not only missing late fees but we are keeping our budget at 100% accuracy and putting any spare money in the vacation fund. We are planning a few "lavish" vacations for the next few years. We are also putting money back for a down payment on a new home. We are so excited to be doing this and we will keep you updated on the process.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Free Coupon Book Day

We have made it our mission this year to spend as little on entertainment as possible... with a few little splurges. As always, we took the kids to Free Comic Book Day. This is one of my favorite events each year. My kids love superhero and I love for them to read. They got to see Batman, Cain, Spiderman and Captain America. They loved it! Each kid got three free comic from our wonderful comic book store owner. She is pretty fabulous and very encouraging to the kids. They also got to do something super cool. They got to be apart of a podcast. I'll attach the link once it's posted. I really love free events not only because we get out of the house, which trust me is a major perk, but they get to experience so many new and fun things.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teaching Kids To Have A Giving Spirit





We are a Christian family. This does not mean we are perfect. In fact, it means
that we are far from it but believe that Christ's forgiveness is enough to make up for our flaws. One value that we want to install in our children is to have a servant's heart. Sunday we had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with our church through a program called "Rise Against Hunger." Our church packaged 20,088 meals in 65 minutes to help end world hunger. World hunger is not a production matter, it is a heart matter. There is more than enough food in this world so that no person should have to go hungry.

We and the three younger guys got to help package these meals and what a blessing it was for us as a family. We talked to the boys this past week about world hunger and how blessed that we are to have full belly and sometimes be able to pig out. We talked about how this is one of the reasons that it hurts our hearts when they are picky and refuse to eat what is one their plates. I just wish the two older boys could have been there as well. What a great time we had in fellowship with our church family.

Everyone had jobs. The youngest worker we had today was just 3 years old. Kids were runners. They would take the full bags to the weighing and sealing stations and then the sealed bags to the boxing station. They loved it and I loved watching them interact with the elderly members of our church. Both the elders and the kids' faces were lighting up talking to each other and working together. I was in a filling station. Brad was on refills. He was carrying big bags of ingredients to all the stations. He was so tired but we will be doing it again next year. Our goal for next year... 40,000!!!

We can't wait to help with fundraising and participating next year. I feel so blessed to have children who have a heart for others. This has inspired me to find more ways for my family to be more active in the community and help others.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Teacher Appreciation At Cicis


Today is teacher appreciation day at Cicis Pizza. Bring your school ID and get a free adult buffet. Thank you to all the educators out there for making this world a better place.

Thanks, MoneySavingMom!

DIY Planter Boxes



Brad has spent the weekend building planter boxes for our deck. Where we are renting we certainly do not have the room to put out a garden... so we are doing an urban garden. We are really strapped for cash so we are going about this the cheapest way that we know how. This past week we have been blessed with being able to gather supplies for free.

Brad was able to get lumber out of the throw away pile at work and a 3 gallon bucket. He is going to fashion the lumber into a vertical garden. I was able to get some planter pots from bushes that my parents had purchased for their flower bed.

My mom just purchased some plants for her garden and there were multiple plants in the pots. She is going to give me clipping and extra plants to start our garden.

I am so excited to save money on our grocery bill and not to mention teach the children new skills and have a little more control over what we put in our bodies. I feel so blessed that we have some skills that will allow us to do extra things that we otherwise wouldn't be able to afford.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Feeding Large Family on a Budget

I am often asked how we keep all our boys fed, because they eat like horses! I have been a penny pincher since I was 10 years old so I have learned a few tricks. I decided to share my nonconventional tips as well because they really do help!

1. We don't eat out... hardly ever. As we approach our 1 year anniversary, we have eaten out with kids in toll maybe 3 times. We always eat at home. It's much more healthy for us and saves so much money.

2. We don't do boxed meals. Everything we make is from scratch. This is not only due to cost, but also due to dietary restrictions that we have. We were dairy free though DS3 has outgrown his allergy now and we are less restricted. We are completely nut free and limit gluten intake as I have Celiac disease and DS4 is autistic and DS5 is severe ADHD. We also avoid red food coloring like the plague except on special occasions.

3. We shop multiple stores. We shop according to our meal plan for the week and we stock up when what we need is at the lowest cost. For me this means keeping a notebook with a list of local stores and staples and the average price I have seen those items at. Then when we are preparing our shopping list we cross check sales ads and adjust as needed.

4. We coupon. Yes, I am that annoying lady who has a huge pile of coupons that she treats like her children. We will buy a ton of items when they are an amazing price. I haven't bought deodorant in 6 years and no we don't stink. I found a deal on deodorant where I was paid $.10 a stick to buy it and I hit up all the local store buying as many as I could. A few tips to couponing: be courteous and don't clear the shelf, let people go ahead of you, if you are planning on making a major haul ask to speak to the store manager when you arrive and tell them the crazy amount you plan on purchasing... they typically open up a register just for me so that way you are not holding up other shoppers or frustrating the cashier.

5. Buy in bulk when possible. Shelf stable items that can be bought cheaper in a big box store or online are lifesavers.

6. Grow/Raise your own. Our current rental doesn't allow for a big garden but we have some planters with herbs and tomatoes. When we move next year, we will be finding a place with room for a garden and chickens and possibly meat rabbits.

7. Go meatless. Many of our meals are meatless. Meat is pricy and too much is not good for you. Fresh veggies and grains are filling and good for you and much much cheaper.

8. Waste not want not. We save all of our scraps. I have freezer containers and I put left over veggies, broths, bones, fruits and grains into their own containers. We use the left overs for soup. We will make a huge pot of vegetable soup and the fruit for smoothies and the bones to make bone broth.

9. Crop share. Barter when you can. We have herbs that some of our friends don't and we trade. Our church offers a crop trade too which is excellent. We trade our herbs for squash and peppers mostly. Every penny counts.

10. Meal plan. I am the enforcer when it comes to meal plans. I have four meal plans that I rotate based on season. More salads in the warmer months and more soups in the cooler months. We stick to these.

11. Attend free food events. This not only helps our grocery budget but provides for a change in meals and free entertainment. Plus, who doesn't love free stuff.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chicken Tortilla Soup

We love meals that we can stretch and this meal is definitely one that goes far even with our big family.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:

3 chicken breast (or left over chicken or can be meatless)
2 can kidney beans (cooked dry beans can be substituted)
2 cans black beans ( we use 3 but we love black beans)
2 cans corn
1 bottle V8 juice or tomato juice
1 pack taco seasoning
1 large can diced tomatoes (or of course you can use fresh)
1 bag tortilla chips
Broth/Stock really any kind words. We like poultry bone broth.
Season to taste: we use lots of pepper, garlic and salt and a bit of herb de providence.
1 jalapeno seeded and diced.


We start the juice and stock and seasonings. Boil chicken in the juice. Take chicken out and dice it while veggies cook and add it back and cook 5-10 mins. My kids really aren't soup eaters so we strain the juice off their and serve over tortilla chips with shredded cheese. We call it "taco bowl." We love the soup. My kids usually eat 2-3 bowls each and so do we. Last batch I had enough to feed the 7 of us plus my friend and her three kids.

Super cheap and easy! We stored leftovers in mason jars and Brad took them to work for lunch. This meal last for days!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Laundry Savings


I am always searching for ways to cut cost and save a few pennies. Those pennies add up! One of my more recent endeavors was trying to find ways to skip laundry costs. Below is a list of money saving tips I found while trying to save money:

1. When you are able was in cold water. Not only does it save money on electricity, it saves the integrity of your clothing, causing items to last longer.

2. If you have the space, use a clothing line. There is nothing in the world like the smell of clothing that has been dried in the sun. It saves money on the electric bill. It also is recommended for smelly cloth diapers and undergarments that have been up against thrush and yeasty skin.

3. If you like to use fabric softners or dryer sheets, cut those dryer sheets in half or use sponges cut in half and soaked in a mixture of hair conditioner and water.

4. Water down and lessen the amount of laundry detergent used. Really it's not necessary to use that strong of and that much soap. I love gain and it's one of the few we are not allergic to. I save the last bottle that I am using as it gets low. I then open a new bottle and add a few caps to the existing bottle and add water shake and let sit. Replace the amount taken out of new bottle with water, shake and let sit. Two full bottles. I typically use only a fourth of the recommended amount.

5. We wear our jeans many times before washing. We will hang them up and use them again another day. It saves the integrity of the jeans and they don't shrink as fast. In fact, I haven't ever machine washed my favorite pair. I will hand wash and hang in the sun to dry.

6. Get a sewing kit. Why spend money on a new item of clothing for a missing button or minor tear? Fix them yourself to save money.

7. I love hand-me-downs. Invest in a good stain remover. Again fix those clothes and pass them down.

8. Always run a full load. It saves on water, electric, and soap... not to mention time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Inbox Dollars

Inbox Dollars has been one of the coolest discoveries of my life! Get paid to read emails, take surveys and watch videos. You get paid out at $30 and it's the greatest thing to help out with our debt free journey. It only takes a few seconds of my time each day and in a weeks time I am a third of the way to cashing out.

*Disclosure: clicking link above will lead to sign up page under my referral code. I am not a paid endorser for Inbox Dollars and the opinion stated is my own.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Glimpse Into Our Life

We had so much fun this past week. We were able to have DS1 and DS2 for five days because they were on spring break. We kept those babies so busy, but we had a blast.

Friday night: We had family game night. We played chess and rummy and BS and video games. We snacked and watched movies. The DS1 and DS3 have expressed interest in learning to cook so they got to help me make chicken enchilada soup... and it was really yummy. They did a great job.

Saturday: It was plasma day for Brad. So he got up early and did plasma and while he was out the kids had breakfast. We got everyone ready and we went to Marble City Comicon. It was so much fun. The kids got to meet the ghostbusters and halo characters. We got to stop by the local libertarian party booth and volunteer to help with campaigning. I think this will be a great learning experience for DS3 because he is an activist at heart and has very strong political opinions for an 8 year old. DS4 made a new "best buddy," Josh "TKO" Turner of wrestling and The Walking Dead fame. He is a warrior for fighting autism. He and DS4 made a great connection and he gave him a necklace that has still yet to come off. After comicon, we went to my parents' house for a little bit because DS2 wanted to see "my" nana. Then we had an early bed time.

Sunday: We had Palm Sunday service at church followed by lunch and an Easter Egg Hunt/Carnival. We got there early to help set up. After the carnival was over, we headed downtown to the Alzheimer's walk. I have been an Alzheimer's nurse for 10 years and lost my papawl to this awful killer in 2013. So we walked 3.3 miles to honor him. While we were there, DS3 met Phil Fulmer, former and national championship coach for the Vols. He was stoked. DS5 saw a person dressed as a frog and freaked out. We laughed a lot. After we got home we had another game night.



Tuesday: We had family lake day. It was such a blast. Watching the two youngest learn to swim and watching DS2 and DS3 overcome their fear of water.


Needless to say we are worn out but had a blast.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April Financial Checkup

We are in Gazelle Intensity Mode for getting out of debt. We have started using our money envelope system. We are picking up every bit of overtime that we can get. I am babysitting three wonderful little girls three days a week for a friend. I am also doing some online surveys and side gigs to earn a few dollars here and there. Brad has been donating plasma twice a week and will be receiving a bonus at the end of the month. We are also doing the surveys for the plasma center and we can save for gas cards and extra bonuses.

This month we have finished paying off the dog deposit on our rental. We have also paid off our credit card debt!!! We have came up with a game plan and budget for the next year. We should be able to pay off $20000 in debt over the next 12 months if we are able to follow the plan.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Refurbished Patio Furniture




So I got a sewing machine for Christmas. Between kids, moving and life in general I haven't had a chance to use it until recently. My mom is trying to salvage her patio furniture and make it last one more year... that is when the brilliant idea was born. She bought sturdy table clothes at the dollar store and we used the tattered cushions that were already on her patio furniture and we refurbished them back to life and now they are water proof.

So we measured the cushions to make a pattern. Since each of the cushions were slightly different in shape and size we could not use a standard pattern.

After we cut the fabric to match our needs. We folded them inside out and sewed them with a straight stitch leaving one open wide side. *Double stitching was used for durability.

We then turned the covers right side out and stuffed the cushion in. Once we had placed the cushion in and made the material smooth. We made it too tight to be reasonably stitched on the remaining open side. We used gorilla glue to seal it shut.

This was a fun and simple project that was relatively inexpensive. Cushions for her patio furniture was pricing out around $20-$30 per cushion. The total project cost $20. That's a huge win!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Life loves to give us smackdowns

Life is really good about putting us in our place. We've been on a financial roller coaster this past month. One step forward... off a giant cliff. We've started our "Dave jobs" baby sitting, plasma donation, flipping "junk". We did make our first $150 this week with flipping. We were like yay we are getting ahead of debt but no... we learned of a detrimental set back. We are trying everything possible to fix it. We shall see.

One thing we have learned is that every time we get ahead and get our lives straight and active in church, Satan allows footholds to come along and try to pull us back. We will not lose, but we will chose to have courage and faith. We know that there are blessings to come.

Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Been A While

We have had quite a few bumps over the last couple of weeks... but I'm back. So we moved into a rental trailer for the time being. We are wanting to stay below our budget in hopes of fixing our credit and saving up for a house. It's very small for our large family... just under 1000 sq ft. But we are  making it work for us. DS1,2&3 are in one room and the littles are in the other. I'm very thankful because my grandmother is letting me store stuff we don't have room for in her garage. That is saving me $100 a month in storage unit fees. We have been getting his boys every weekend since we moved in and are so thankful! DS1 has been having sleepovers every weekend lately but hope to have him stay with us soon. We are loving finally being under the same roof! We are making our little family work.

Goals for the month:
▪️Have a budget meeting and come up with goals for this year
▪️Get a joint account to better handle our finances
▪️Work on baby step 1 of Dave Ramsey (we got off track)
▪️Quit smoking both of us
▪️Get a "Dave job"... a side hustle to help with our budget
▪️Start couponing again and work it into a lesson with the boys
▪️Return to church (I have been unable to attend due to my engine in my van blowing up)
▪️Have DS5 birthday party and make his cake

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Struggles of A Homeschooling Mom

Today is one of those homeschooling days that I am pretty sure that I am going to be bald by the end of the day. The kids are struggling with not wanting to work and whining today. I am kind of at the end of my rope today and I have to admit it was a pretty long rope. I have to say that homeschooling is very rewarding as I see all three of my homeschooled kids exceed expectations for their grade level.

We have implemented some new homeschool tricks around here and yes, most have hidden lessons. One of the classroom management techniques is they will be earning a paycheck for their effort and grades. They will get a paycheck of classroom money every week. They will be able to deposit them into their account and buy rewards with them. They will learn how to balance a checkbook and write checks with this method.

They now have to earn video games an hour at a time. Now... I am letting them have the TV going while they do their independent worksheet time. I have always been able to focus better with background noise. It seems that they do too. One of the rewards from their paycheck is to be able to buy an extra half hour of video games.

DS3 is wanting to start a blog as a school project. We shall see how that goes. He wants to do a video game blog. I think its a trick to get to play more video games. Mama is on to you mister! But in the spirit of unschooling, I will help him and maybe advise him to expand to other things as well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January 2017 Financial Checkup

We are starting to get settle down into getting ourselves out of debt. We are working our butts off to get ourselves to where our family has everything they need. We had to jump around baby step 1 this month to get ready to move. But on a side note we did pay off some debts. We did our first of the month money meeting... Yup, we are that couple...and came up with our game plan. Here are a few things that helped our budget this month: 

We discovered that our cellphone company was over changing us for over 8 months! We definitely will be paying more attention to the bills. I called fussing and begging them to fix it. They credited my account $197 dollars. So that paid this months phone bills. That helped. We quit smoking. This saves us over $320 a month and almost $3900 a year. That really increases our monthly budget. That could be a car payment. I've learned to do my nails myself. Thank goodness for Pinterest and YouTube. This saved me $60 this month. I also learned to cut the boys hair at home. This saves my $45 a month. That is $425 a month savings and with the cellphone $622 this month. That all went to closing costs, but starting next month we can put that back into our emergency fund and it will be fully funded in just over two months. Next month we will get our taxes back and have our two big bills paid off and have a lot extra in savings.

Every Dollar App is most definitely a life saver for me. I can just type in our budget and it does the math for me. It lets me know what I am over or under budgeting on. I really love it. As I am saving money, I am going to be able to lower our bills and put more back in savings.

It's tax season. While we are not able to get our refund back until next month. The place that does it for us, will advance us $1500

With mile up I have been able to earn a little money toward Christmas so yay for saving for Christmas!

Money Matters:
Pest and Home Inspection: $397 we have to start paying on it next month
Savings: $27
Christmas: $6.75

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool

I love that I am able to homeschool our babies. I am very thankful for the Easy Peasy curriculum. It is what I used when first starting out homeschooling and working full time. Then I switched to an expensive curriculum. The kids hated it and now we are back to EP.

It is free. It is computer based which my kids love. I love that it includes Bible lessons. It goes all the way to high school. We do supplement because they lessons are a bit short for my kids. But Pinterest has some great ideas for that.

What are some fugal homeschooling sites you use?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Banana Ice Cream

DS3 has had a dairy allergy up until recently. This limited us on what we could cook or eat. I have found several alternatives to ice cream that I will be happy to share. One of our favorites is super simple. Banana ice cream as I mentioned in my Meal Planning post.

Banana Ice Cream:

What you need:
Bananas
Blender
Ice

Instructions:
Peel bananas... I do one per person
Freeze bananas. A couple hours work, but honestly I just peel and freeze in a bag as they are about to go bad and pull them out when we have enough.
Put in blender and mix until creamy. If too runny add a few ice cubes.
Enjoy :)

Pretty easy right!? We use this with the kids for cooking lessons. Ok who am I kidding... we are homeschoolers, its cooking, math, reading, economics and science and possibly greenhouse.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Food Waste Friday

This week is more realistic...

What got tossed out this week:\
  • 2 20 ounce diet cokes that one of the kids opened and refused to fess up to
  • half of a hamburger
  • half of a petro
  • a full plate of spaghetti
  • a hamburger bun
  • two half sandwiches

Menu Planning

With a big family comes lots of hungry bellies and lots of running around. I love to keep life a little more simple. Hey, mama's got to have her time too, right? Our kids will eat pretty much anything that doesn't eat them first and that is a bit of a burden on the budget but also not good for some of them. We have two of our precious boys that are heavier. We don't want them to struggle with their weight so we are trying to teach them to eat healthy. I have turned to meal planning and grocery booking (price book) to come to the rescue.

I do my meal plans a little differently that other ladies I know who meal plan. I use a word document and divide up to breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  I have it on four 4 week cycles... one for each season. We do more soups and stews in the fall and winter and more salads and grilling in the spring and summer. I include a weekly shopping list for each weeks menu. I then go and check the sales ads as to where I need to go. I laminate them so I can cross what I already have or have already put in my cart off the list. I like to be able to reuse my list and menus.

I include two left over days on our menus. One is always Thursday for dinner. We have scouts that night and really pushed for time that day. It is so much easier for us to do that. The other day is Sunday lunch time. That way we can all come home from church and relax and it clears the clutter for where I make a large Sunday dinner. Plus I hate food waste. It is a major pet peeve for me! I actually save left over veggies and fruits out of the serving bowl, bones, soups, broths, meat, and grains without sauce. I put them in separate bags in the freezer. I use leftover bones, onions, carrots, celery, peppers to make bone broth. I save left over broths and veggies, grains and meats for soups or casseroles. I save fruits for smoothies or compote. I will freeze yogurt and milk right before it goes out of date and will mix it will the fruit and some ice to make fruit sherbet or ice cream (we love banana ice cream).

I use a lot of ziplock bags. I do rinse and reuse until they are on their last leg. Once I realize I am only going to get one more use out of it, I will use it for raw meat. I do not reuse bags that have contained raw meat.

What are some of your meal planning tips?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Scouting Life



We are a homeschooling family. DS1 and DS2 are in public school, but the other three are homeschooled. The biggest concern that gets expressed to us is concern about them socializing. Well for one with as many siblings, cousins and playmates that they have, they socialize a great deal. Not to mention that we also attend a co-op. I admittedly did not enroll them in co-op this semester due to not having a car to take them to school on Fridays.

Another social activity we do is cub scouts. DS3 wants to be an Eagle Scout one day. We are definitely a scouting family. We include some of the activities into our school day. I am a pack leader. We love the scouting life.

I love that it teaches the kids love for themselves, their community and the Lord. DS3 loves the camps and camping trips. He gets excited to do archery, BB guns and slingshots. I have to brag... my kid is a very good shot. He wants to be the most decorated kid in the pack. DS3 is my blah kid. He doesn't really get excited about anything, but he does with his scouting. He puts effort into it and I love that. I love that he could potentially get a scholarship to college.

What are some extra curriculars that your kiddos love? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Problems Only Blended Families Will Understand

I love my big, blended family and would not change this life for the world. But there are just some things that you encounter as a blended family that I was not prepared to tackle. Whether it is the looks or questions strangers ask or the emotions you feel that you are not sure that you should feel.

1. They are mine! All of them!
One question I get all too often is "are they all yours?" No, sweet cheeks, I just kidnapped a few kids and decided to test my ability to grocery shop with extra hands grabbing and extra "buy me" whines to boot. For the record, I am a grocery champion! Where's my trophy? Of course they are all mine! Even if they weren't, is that really anyone's business? No, they didn't all come from my body. But they each have my heart and that is what really counts.

2. The Case of the Ex
I did not realize that strange relationship that I would have with baby mama. It's such an uncomfortable relationship. He loved her first. It didn't work out for this reason or that. But he did love her first. I loved Ex first. I still love him just not in the same way. I actually did pick Ex over Brad 11 years ago. When Ex and I were engaged, I met Brad at a place where he worked. He flirted and I told him to take a hike! This little anecdote just got brought to recognition recently by a story we were talking about. It's fun how our paths crossed. But I digress. We both loved someone else first. I am best friends with Ex. It's awkward. It has to be. I get very protective over Brad. I hate when he has to go to Baby Mama's without me. There is a weird sense of jealousy that I just cannot rationalize.

3. My Kids are Perfect
I have the strange need to stand up for my kids, even when they are wrong. They have been through a lot since their father and I split and I will try the rest of my life to make it up to them. So naturally, I want to protect them, even when they are way out of line. I want to keep them from harm. They have a new man in their life and that is hard for them to accept. So I find myself wanting to stand up for them even when Brad is right.

4. There Are No "MY" Kids
They are our kids. We love them. You will love your added children. For some people this is an instant connection, for some it takes a long time. I know one family that the kids couldn't stand their stepmom and she tried her best to love them but it really didn't happen for them until they were adults. Now they love her through and through. I am blessed. I love DS1 and DS2 with all my heart and they love me too. In fact, I got upset that they had to leave the other day. It's really hard for Brad and I not to be under the same roof. I started crying when I was saying goodbye. When they left DS2 asked if they had done something to upset me. Brad told them no that I just hate to see them leave. DS2 said I hate when she's sad and wish I could fix it. They have my heart and I would protect them with my life.

5. Sibling Rivalry on Steroids
 While our kids adore and love each other, they want to strangle each other half the time. The older ones get upset because the littles are hyper and loud. The littles get upset because the bigs won't play with them. DS1 and DS2 get upset if their dad pays more attention to DS3,4,&5 and they get upset if I pay more attention to DS1&2. It's a balancing act and assertion of dominance over the territory of the bio parent. They don't share us adults well. Sometimes, I feel like stretch Armstrong being pulled 1000 directions because the kids want me to do this with them and another is shouting look at me and another is saying they are hungry.

At the end of the day, we will survive this. We will get through this. We will grow in love and as a family. It will just take a little time to make it smooth sailing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stopping the Soda Habit

So I have been wanting to stop drinking soda for a long time! I want to be more healthy and lose weight. Soda is terrible for your teeth as well. I would like to lose 43 pounds. I really want to get in shape. So I am walking away from the soda pop. I am drinking bottled water like crazy but the tap water around here is nasty. You can taste the chemicals even after filtering it. I have been infusing the water with cucumber or lemons or limes to make it taste better. I am determined to get healthy now that we have stopped smoking. I read somewhere that if you stop drinking soda you will lose up to 20 pounds in a year. I will not drink diet soda either. Aspartame is horrible for you and I am incredibly sensitive to it... headaches, tummy aches, etc.

Kombucha has been a wonderful alternative to soda pop for me. It is rather expensive to buy. I have learned how to make basic kombucha, but I would really like to make flavored alternatives. It is really tasty and very good for you and your gut health. It is easy to make and inexpensive to make.

I really need to drink more water though. I am going to set timers on my phone to remind me to drink water.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Coke Rewards



I love my soda, but I am way to cheap to pay full price for it if I can avoid it. I use my coke rewards to help get some discounts. My whole family is coke people not Pepsi people. They do not use my coke rewards however. They save their codes for me and I go pick them up and enter them in as much as I can in a week. We enter codes religiously. We save up and order coupons. I like to order them 4 coupons at a time, because most sales around here are 4 for $# so that gives an even bigger discount.

I advise using my coke rewards even if you don't want to use the discounts or coupons. You can donate your points to your child's school which is wonderful! I love finding ways to give back, especially when it doesn't cost a penny!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Food Waste Friday

So I don't actually have a picture this week for Food Waste Friday! We had a tight week and nothing got thrown out. This is definitely not the norm for us. I wish it were though!

Tune in next week for a more realistic picture.

Being Productive

Adjusting to our newly blended family is taking some work. I am very type A personality and I truly do have OCD (like actually diagnosed with it not someone who just claims to be) so I like organization... I need it. I am working on a way to make our machine finely tuned and running smoothly, while saving time and money. This does not come naturally. It takes work, patience and lots of love. I am working on a family binder (series to come), color coding system, chore schedule, laundry schedule and daily routine schedule. To make this work we will all have to pitch in. I am in the process of making menu plans and collecting ideas from the kids as to what foods they will absolutely not eat. DS1 and DS5 are impossible to please with foods, yet they are my chunky kids who like to eat a lot.

I really need to get this machine fine tuned and everyone on a schedule. Of course it will be easier once we are able to get under one roof. I am greatly appreciative of Brad's communication skills. He calls to tell me all the changes in his plans and when he will be out of town working and what not so that way we do not double book ourselves. I will be posting a series on our method of running a family as large and as crazy busy as ours. I would really like to do some video blogs at some point this year, but it will be a bit difficult until we get internet. Right now, I have to use the library or my parents' internet.

I am finding it difficult to allow my kids to be somewhat free range and have control over what they do and when AND have a controlled semi sort of organized home life. I do not want to infringe on their personal desires for their little lives but I can not stand chaos!

What are some ways that you keep your family organized?