Thursday, July 20, 2017

Affording Such A Large Family: Vacation Edition

When you have a large family, vacations can be crazy ridiculous. We don't always go on vacation as our family has grown but when it was just my biokids and me, we'd travel multiple times per year. We are actually working toward a cross country trip for next year. In the mean time, here are a few of our vacation trips and "how we afford" them.

Staycations: Family time is the whole point of vacations for us. Luckily, we live very close to a tourist town and in a decent sized city in a good location for make day trips or overnight trips. We are close to Nashville, Asheville, Atlanta. We are in a good location. We like to sleep at home to save money on food and lodging. We will go to semi-local water park, amusement parks, museums, concerts or attractions. We will sometimes have themed days: back yard olympics, Mountain pay, lake day, lazy day. These vacations are fun.

Travel: We do travel with them too. My biokids have been to Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. But how do we afford it? Below are a few of my tips.

1. Plan In Advance: We plan everything from destination to plan activities and dining. This way we know how much to plan to spend.

2. Go in the off season. During non peak times, there are many discounts available.

3. I bring my crockpot! We may eat one or two meals out and the rest of the time we eat in our room.

4. Look online for coupons.

5. Stop at the visitor center and get coupons and discounted tickets.

6. Haggle. You can argue the prices of lodging at the time of booking and it's great. I have been known to get beachfront pent houses for $1000 a week.

7. Check out goosgle for free activities and events going on at your destination.

8. Get a gas app. Lower priced gas makes a difference.

9. Coin bucket pays our way. We pay cash for everything. All change and $1 bills go in the bucket.

10. If flying, take as little luggage as possible by packing several kids together.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Affording Such A Large Family: Baby Edition

So recently in a budgeting accountability group I asked how much money we should put away before having our "ours" baby. There was a unanimous decision that babies are only as expensive as you make them. From my experience this is true. As I have said before, we believe that babies are a gift from God and that He will bless us for having them and He will provide for them. Here are a few things that are helpful to know when having a baby:

1. A crib is not a necessity. We bed share with our babies. No, I am not up for debating this issue.

2. Buy a good car seat. Car seat safety is everything! I prefer to buy new, just because you never know if they have been in a wreck.

3. Breastfeeding is free. I know that not everyone can breast feed, but local mom groups are great to donate milk as well as WIC will help supply formula.

4. Babywearing is a lifesaver. I don't buy strollers. They just get in the way. I can throw a baby on my back and do chores or go for stroll and have hands free for the other kids. I have never needed a swing either, however, we have always been gifted one.

5. Even if you don't have a shower, people will gift you items. Being a parent is like a fraternity. We are all in this together and know the struggles. You will get hand-me-down everything from half packs of diapers to I only used on scoop out of this formula or she doesn't like the peaches and we have 20.

6. Cloth diapers are cheaper.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Affording Such A Large Family Fun Edition

Feeding ducks at the duck pond.
I actually got them in order by age too!
That NEVER happens.
What do we do for fun? You name it! No, we don't have a lot of money but we are super creative. I love researching and finding free events in our area. Facebook has made this much easier.
We attend a bunch of free activities. Barnes and Nobel does story and craft times on Saturdays. Lowes and Home Depot offers building workshops. The gyms sometimes do family swim and movie night. There is always some kind of free festival going on downtown.
We go into nature. We live near the lake so we love to go swimming. We will go hiking and do a picnic. We feed the ducks (PSA: Bread is bad for them). We go on bike rides. Shaving cream fights out side. Side walk chalk. Bubbles. Races. Trampoline. We have even done backyard Olympics. Camping. Bon fires.
Family Movie Night. We have Netflix movie night with popcorn or we will go to the drive-in ($30) when they are having a double or triple feature. We look for Redbox codes. Our will just pull out an old favorite or a movie from our extensive collection. We buy movies by the box at yard sales. Unfortunately, we get a lot of scratched movies due to little hands.
Family cooking night. We will do ice cream sundae bars. We will do build your own taco bars or make your own pizza.
Game Night. We will do this as a family or with friends. We have even found an organization that will allow you to do a game (video, board or card) as a marathon fundraiser. You get donations just like you would if you were running a 5K and that money goes to our local children's hospital. We taught the kids chess, which is actually apart of their third grade curriculum, and they have excelled and kick our hind ends.
We are even go on vacations. We are currently planning a trip across country. We will travel the upper US to the west coast to visit family. Go down through California to Disneyland. Come home via the lower half of the US and visit the Grand Canyon, The Alamo and New Orleans and end with a weekend at the beach. We are saving for this trip and couponing. We will be tent camping at KOAs across the country to save on lodging. We will cook our own food, except at Disney, well because DISNEY (everyone needs a Dole Whip in their life). We are actually looking at taking a train from east to west and then renting a car to drive back (but I feel like we will miss out on stuff that way)!
In February, I took the three younger guys to the beach. Though it was to visit a dying family member, so not really a vacation or happy time, but we still made some great memories.

Check out more from this series:
Affording so many kids: school edition



Monday, July 3, 2017

Chicken and Dumplings


This is a favorite at our house! Plus it makes so much that I can feed us all for at least two meals or have left overs to send Brad for lunch for the week!

Ingredients:
2 boxes chicken broth or about 5 cups bone broth
4 chicken bullion cubes
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Thyme
Rosemary
Basil
Chicken breasts
2 cans of carrots
8 cans biscuit dough

Instructions:
Season broth to taste. Boil chicken in broth. You can cube it before or after. I do after because I don't like to handle raw meat. Tear biscuits and roll into little quarter sized balls. I put them in a separate bowl until all are ripped. Add to broth. Cook on medium for about 25 minutes. Add carrots and cook another 5 minutes.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Organizing Our Closets


Wonder hangers are on of my favorite things! They free up so much room in our closets! With three boys in different sizes sharing a room (with one of the tiniest closets I've ever seen) it helps to fit all of the clothes in there. I plan to color code them but haven't done that yet.  They are fairly affordable and I've had luck finding them at yard sales for quarters! I honestly don't know what we would do without these wonderful hangers!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fanboy


This past weekend DS3, K, and I had the greatest time at FanBoy Expo! We were so happy to have just a mama/son date. Brad was working. My mama kept the younger two guys. K really wanted to cos play but I didn't have time to see costumes. Maybe next year we can! There was so much to do and see. We saw the original Green and Pink Power Rangers. We saw Chris and Joey from *NSYNC, Wally from Leave It To Beaver, two Star Trek guys, several wrestlers and the rock god Gener Simmons!!!

There were vintage and collectible toy vendors. There were some amazing cos players. Did I mention Gene Simmons!? K's favorite part was seeing R2D2 and buying legos. My favorite was *NSYNC and Gene Simmons.

After leaving, we went to lunch and shopping at JCP's $10/10 coupon sale. I got two pillows for $3.27!!! Then we went to Old Navy for $1 flip flops and I may have bought a pair of shorts and a new dress.

Then we met up with nana and the brothers for free video game day. Each one of us got a free XBOX360 game! It was such a good weekend!







How to help a mom under the weather

This week I have found myself in a flare up. I have psoriatic arthritis (PSA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). What those million dollar words mean is that I have an autoimmune disorder (well 3 actually). When I have a flare up, I find myself bedridden and unable to perform my daily tasks. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am forever blessed to have a large family and group of friends, that jump in to help me when I am down. We've been dealing with my conditions for a while and have a game plan in place, but it got me to thinking about how to help other moms when they fall ill. We all need some help at times. Here are a few ideas of ways to help based on my wonderful support system.

1. Childcare- Having smaller children makes it harder. Luckily mine are old enough to play alone at times. Having someone to come sit with them or better yet pick them up and watch them helps greatly.

2. Run errands- Offer to go to the grocery store. Take children or mom to doctors appointments. C, my 5 year old, does multiple therapies through the week and we have had to miss risking him getting put out.

3. Meal trains are wonderful. I am unable to cook for the kids. I have had family order pizza and bring stuff for lunches and breakfast that the kids can make themselves.

4. Offer to clean- my kids can destroy the house in a matter of minutes. This creates a huge fall risk for me. For example, one of my little lovelies knocked over the trash can earlier and is refusing to pick it up. We are waiting for Brad to get home from work but he is on call this week and won't be home for at least 6 more hours.

5. Pet sit- it would be a lot less worrisome if someone had Scooter the wonder hound! Plus his barking and me having to yell at the boys to take the dog out or feed him is stressful.

6. Bring something to keep them busy- my last flare up lasted 5 months! 5 months I could not walk. I had someone bring me painting supplies and crocheting supplies. I made two blankets. I've had people loan me books and movies. Which really does help. There is only so much judge Judy you can watch!

7. Offer your services-  I have a friend who is a massage therapist who has been coming over and working on my back and it's helping wonderfully.

What are some other ways to help a sick mama?

Affording Such A Large Family: School Edition

Yes, we have thought about college but first we have to get through primary school. DS1 and DS2 go to public school as they live with Baby Mama during the school year. She does send them to one of the best public schools in our area. DS3, DS4, and DS5 are home school. There are costs to both public and home school. But I am only going to touch on the home school part because that is what I am most knowledgeable about.

We do have cost for school supplies, umbrella school, co-op and curriculum. We try to make it as cost efficient as possible for us. We don't have the Internet, but my parents do. They let me use their Internet, printer and computer to print school work as needed. The boys use Easy Peasy All-In-One curriculum and we love it! It is free and very interesting to the kids. Pretty excited because their science and history is going to line up with co-op this year. We buy our supplies when everything is tax free. Yes, I am a hoarder when it comes to TP rolls and scratch paper. Why throw stuff away when you can reuse it.

But in addition to reading and math, I enjoy teaching the kids life skills. We learn how to budget and coupon and how to use these skills how to help others. We are currently couponing for Operation Christmas Child. Learning these skills don't cost a thing. But it instills values we want them to have. We also let them do community activities. As they get older, they will build a community service portfolio for colleges.

We utilize the library. Most library have a large movie, cd and audiobook selection. So we can find lots of cool things here and the boys think it is a field trip so win-win.

Craiglist often you can find craft things like paper rolls and pipe cleaners. That is great! I also contact our local paper and get newspaper roll ends for free. It's great to draw on and to trace their bodies to make a skeleton.

We also can find supplement curriculum at yard sales, used book stores and the local private school hosts a yard sale and they are a dual school (both private and home school) and we find amazing things there!

As for college, our state offers free tuition for the first two years at a community college. There are also grants for home schooled kids. DS3,4&5 will have their dad's GI Bill as well. They can do work study programs while in college. They all have savings account, which don't have a lot of money, but we ask for CDs for them instead of gifts (or experiences if people insist on getting them gifts). They will have jobs as soon as they are able to work. We want them to have a work ethic and we will be teaching them how to save their money instead of just blowing it. We also hope for scholarships. There is always the FAFSA as they will probably qualify for the Pell Grant. There is always job corp too. Which we encourage all of the kids to go to.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why I am a SAHM

Now I am a stay at home mom. This time last year, I became very sick. I was working full time and a single mom. The illness forced me to go on FMLA and move back in with my parents. I couldn't walk. I couldn't go to the bathroom or take a shower alone. I was completely unable to care for myself. After my FMLA ran out, my specialist told me that my nursing career was going. I turned in my resignation and began staying home.

Brad and my relationship was still very young but we loved each other dearly. He stayed by my side and never wavered on taking care of me. He assured me that he would find a way to support all of us and that he wanted me to stay home and raise all of our kiddos.

Now that I am getting healthy again, I am able to stay home and do school with the kids. I am able to run errands and go to doctors appointments. But what do I do all day?

Here is a little sneak peak into our lives:

Monday:
Get up. Start breakfast. Get the big guys in the shower. Every other week I watch my friend's girls for her. Start school with my three plus her two. Work on cleaning the house even though it's going to be destroyed by the kids soon. Make lunch. Get the baby down for a nap. Start dinner. Get the kids doing their chores. Try to freshen up before Brad gets home. Feed them dinner. Brad takes DS3 to Trail Life. I bathe the littles and put them to bed. I straighten up the house. When they get home, they eat a snack. I get Kaden, DS3, off to bed. I finish cleaning and get school ready for tomorrow and lay out tomorrows dinner.

Tuesday:
I don't have the girls but it is doctor appointment day and therapy day for Carson, DS5. Still have to do school and clean and cook.

Wednesday:
Co-op day, plus church. We are gone almost all day but we still have a home we have to take care of.

Thursday:
The girls are back. Plus therapy day and market day.

Friday:
I have the girls, plus school and house work. Then we have to go pick up DS1 and DS2 which is a two hour drive. I have to make sure that everything is ready and the kids are already eating when Brad walks in the door. They eat slow and he eats fast. I have to have them ready to walk out the door by the time he showers and eats. I have to make sure that they potty before we leave and to check the traffic reports. It's important that we are not late picking them up.

So yes stay at home moms work hard too!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why I was a working mom

In 2009, I graduated from nursing school. It was a life long dream of mine to be a nurse. DS3 was 9 months old. I entered the working world. I wanted to give him the world. The dreams that our family had required multiple incomes.

I worked long hours caring for someone else's family, while missing mine. We had a wonderful nanny who would send me videos and pictures throughout the day so I wouldn't miss as much.

I heard so many negative comments about how I abandoned my family to further my career. That my place was in the home. How would my marriage make it with me working?

Well the truth is that yes, you do miss out on some things with your kids while you are at work. But you are also a person, not just a mom. You are allowed to have dreams and goals and want to pursue a career.

My job wasn't to be bare foot and pregnant in the kitchen. As for my marriage, at the time my ex and I liked our own space so it was a welcomed break for either of us to go to work.

So stop judging working moms. They have a job, family and home to worry about.

Monday, June 26, 2017

What Autism Moms Wish You Understood

DS4 is autistic with multiple sensory issues. We often have issues when we are out in public, despite him being high functioning. People always have comments whether they are meant to be helpful or to be judgmental at times they all feel condescending. Here are some things we wish you knew:

1. It won't just "go away." It is going to be a lifetime of issues for him. He can learn to adapt to them and overcome the sensory overload that he experiences on a daily bases, but it won't go away.

2. Nope, he's not a brat. He actually is probably the sweetest child that you will ever meet. He gets told "no" and gets disciplined just like the rest of the kids and guess what!? You can't spank the autism out of a child. So your comment about "somebody needs a spanking" is absolutely the closest thing to fighting words you could say to a mom who is already struggling to comfort a child from something that she may not actually know what that something is.

3. "Just leave him at home" Yes, because one this is totally how to teach him to socialize and overcome his issues and two yay thanks does that mean you are going to run all of my errands. Just because a child is special needs doesn't mean that they don't need the social exposure. In fact, they probably need it more than typically developing children. Just because a parent has a special needs child doesn't mean that they can stop running errands or going to the grocery store.

4. Staring just makes the issue worse. Look away.

5. Smiling and saying how sweet the child is despite the massive fit they are throwing is so kind and often is a good distraction for him.

6. Just stop. If you have nothing kind or helpful to say. Don't say it. In fact that is a quick way to get a box of mac and cheese thrown at you. I admit to nothing. Just don't be a jerk.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Modern mom vs classic tv moms

I have always been slightly obsessed with the old school TV moms: June Cleaver, Laura Petrie, and Carol Brady just to name a few. They get up in the mornings early and get their hair and make up on. And those dresses! They are so cheerful. They cook and clean. They send the kids out ride their bikes after their homework is done. Their kids coming running when they call for them. You never see them lose their mind and just start screaming at the kid for not listening . They make us normal moms look bad.

Most days I roll out of bed with my hair a mess. It's a good day if I get a shower before the kids get up. Breakfast... Thank god for pop tarts. My day consists of begging children to remember to flush the toilet and threatening to kill the Xbox with the lawn mower to get them to do homework. There is no sending them out to ride bikes. There are too many scary people, mean people. I'm great at being the playful, silly mom. I love to play with the kids. Being cheerful and well put together, not so much.

So what has changed? These women lived in a time where most families could thrive on a single family income. They stayed home because their husband made a good wage. Now most families have to have two incomes just to make ends meet. Cost of living is sky high and wages are not. Many women have chosen to have a career and that's awesome! But why are we still held to the same standard as these women? We can't send our kids out to play by themselves. There are too many mean people waiting for an opportunity to be mean.

As for their clothes, I love the vintage dresses and would rock them happily. Unfortunately, most of the modern clothes require me to show off my boobage and nonexistent butt. No thanks. Maybe I will learn to sew these dresses and then have some pretty classic dresses to wear, but don't expect me to wear my pearls while scrubbing the toilet.

I would like to start changing my habits and be up early enough to make him breakfast before he goes to work. I would make him coffee, but he doesn't drink coffee. Not sure that I fully trust anyone that can function without coffee.

This could be a fun project to do!

Are you more of a modern mom or a classic tv mom?

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.