Wednesday, August 29, 2012

purging...good for the soul...and garage space

i have four boys...this means i have a lot of hand-me-downs, a lot of clothes to store. when we first moved into our current house (a house that has zero storage space...literally), we had a storage system built in our garage to store all of the clothes we are passing down from child to child. thanks to a ton of plastic, labeled tubs, we are pretty organized and we never have to start from scratch for any children but the first two, the oldest boy and the one girl. trust me, that saves a ton of money. we are also super thankful for hand-me-downs from friends.

with baby number 5 (and boy #4), we are pretty sure this is the end of the "nellie" kids line. now as we stare and the mounds of tubs, we are slowly figuring out what to do with it all. if you have tons of stuff of your own, maybe this could be helpful. here's what has worked for me:
  • start one pile at a time. it's kind of ridiculous, but when i open up a tub of clothing, i get instantly sentimental. i'll pick up a cute outfit and picture each of my children wearing it and remember the stage they were in. if i tried to do all of the sorting at once, i'd be a mess. start small and try not to get overwhelmed.
  • work when the kids aren't around. whatever you are going through, clothing, toys, baby items, etc., go through them all when the kids are away. i can't tell you how many items had not been played with for a year...until i tried to get rid of them. then all of a sudden, the items became the things that could not be lived without. my daughter has also cried buckets as her favorite old outfits are packed up to give away. there is much less drama if the sorting is done alone. 
  • make four piles. 
    • garbage: every time i open a tub of clothes, i'm amazed at some of the things i have chosen to keep. shoes that have gone through two little boys already? what was i thinking? as hard as it is, make a garbage pile. some things are just not worth keeping. 
    • sellingmake a second pile of things you can re-sell. there are countless kids' consignment sales out there. i am selling a ton of stuff at one this week. it is a lot of work to get everything together and tagged correctly but i've managed to make some cash off of our things that we can no longer use. do a search for consignment sales in your area and get selling. you're not making any money off of the things sitting in your garage. 
    • sentimentalthird, make a sentimental pile. this needs to be small. i have one or two things from each kid. they are usually items with their names on them or the outfit they wore for their church dedication. keep this pile as tiny as possible. trust me, your kids probably won't want any of the clothes they wore as children for their own kids. it's just going to collect dust. 
    • charity: the fourth pile is the "give away" pile. as long as the clothes are still in pretty good shape, give them to a local charity. if you're not in the mood to do a consignment sale, this pile might be very large. if things are just sitting unused in your garage, give them to someone who will wear them everyday. while you are at it, go through your own closet and find some unworn items as well. for myself, i find it hard to justify keeping something i haven't worn in a year when there are people who need it and could use it on a daily basis. used clothing can be a huge blessing. take the time to take pictures of what you are donating and to itemize these items for your taxes. you'll be surprised at what a difference this will make on your taxes each year.
  • only keep what is necessary. i know that we all want our kids to have nice things. sometimes, though, i feel like we all get caught in the "have more stuff" phenomenon. do i really need two princess bikes on the off chance that a friend comes over to play? probably not. again, this goes along with the principle that there are people less fortunate than ourselves who don't have one bike. do i really need to be holding on to two bikes "just in case"? definitely not. i am learning to look at our things from a different perspective. if a good friend lost everything in a fire, would i immediately be able to find things we could live without? definitely. it's probably safe to say that i don't need all that stuff to begin with and that i could certainly stand to get rid of some extras. 
  • get it out of the the longer i sit with stuff, the more likely it is to be reincorporated into our daily lives. package things up right away. put things into large, black trash bags so you can't revisit the items inside. stick them in your car to take away as soon as possible. 
purging does a household a ton of good. it can open up space, de-clutter storage, and be a blessing to someone else...all in one big clean up. try plastic tub at a time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

friday fun finds: fabulous kids music albums

i don't know about you, but sometimes i just get so tired of kids music. it's true.  i am always on the lookout for fun new albums that the kids (and i) will love. i shared a list of my favorite kids albums with you before but it has been a while and i thought you may be due for a refresher as well. hope you enjoy! 

my favorite song is "my flea has dogs". 

my favorite song on this album is "flapjacks".

my favorite song on this album is "john kanakanaka".

my favorite song on this album is "a, b, c, d, e"

my favorite song is "can you canoe?"

my favorite song is "life's a happy song"

my favorite song is "twistification"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

signing on the dotted line

school officially starts today for my 9, 6, and 5 year olds. if you hear the sound of clinking glasses, it's coming from the party being held at my house. don't get me wrong, i love summer and time with my kids.  there's just something about having them in separate rooms with their own friends occupied all day on someone else's watch that makes me blissfully happy. 

monday we met their teachers and were handed the packets of mindless paperwork to fill out before the first day of school. i've sat for hours doing "mommy homework" and have came across three similar sheets, one for each child. it is the dreaded volunteer sign up triplicate.

don't get me wrong, i want to help out in my children's education. i've sent in extra school supplies, party supplies, pretty much any supplies asked for. i try to chaperone one field trip a year. i write checks on what feels like a daily basis. i'll even cut out projects for the kindergarten classes. still, i've never had any commitment beyond what i can accomplish generally within the walls of my home.

this year is much the same. i have two little people at home who are my built in excuse. having a two year old and a six month old in tow is somehow frowned upon when heading in to volunteer in the classroom (can't imagine why). still, this year i'm somehow compelled to try to do more. i think there must be something wrong with me. maybe it's the sadness over sending three of my kids off this year (*see the party reference above...i'm clearly not that upset by it). maybe i just feel guilty that i haven't signed up for anything like it before. maybe i just want my kids to know i've got their backs. 

regardless, this year i'm checking the "room mom" slot. i'm not sure if i'll get it. maybe there's a lot of competition out there for room mom. i have no idea. this is uncharted territory for me. still, i think i can handle it. 

after feeding five kids dinner every night, could it really be *that* difficult? i will definitely keep you posted. if you have room mom experience, help a sister out. if you think i should back out and run for the hills...there may still be time. if you think i'll love every minute of it...i'll take that too. just let me know i can make it to the room mom island and survive. at this point, that's good enough for me.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

teacher introductions

tomorrow school starts for my three oldest kids. for my daughter's class, we were asked to send in a letter describing our child. i wrote a lengthy missive detailing my daughter's life. i closed it with the following paragraph. i figure any information on my daughter's faults will be helpful.

She has four brothers. We are trying to help her understand what is appropriate and inappropriate outside the world of boys. The 23 year old youth pastor at our church was teasing her and telling her she was such a little princess (knowing full well it would rile her up). She told him she knew kung fu and she could kick him in the nuts. Not one of our prouder moments as parents. Still, she is learning. She also used the word "balls" when changing the baby's diaper. in progress. Hopefully she'll come out on the other side unscathed. Please let us know if she is ever on the wrong side of appropriate. We are definitely working on it.

too much for a new teacher? i guess it's too late now. i'm pretty sure my daughter will seek therapy at some point...if not for having four brothers, for having a mother who shares that type of information. at least i thanked the teacher before i signed my name to the bottom of the page. that must count for something.

happy start of school, everyone. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: the pizookie

photo credit: white on rice couple

the pizookie may be the most perfect dessert on the planet. a warm, ooey-gooey, deep dish chocolate chip cookie with cold and creamy vanilla ice cream on top? sign me up!  

while searching how to make them myself i came across this fabulous blog and this recipe that seems simple to follow--my mouth is already watering. 

head on over to white on rice couple for the recipe and let me know what you think. enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

friday fun finds: summer salads

summer is coming to an end but the weather certainly hasn't gotten the memo. try some of our favorite summer salads to help cool down. enjoy!

pasta salad with roasted bell pepper, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and basil from 

southwestern summer salad from skip to my lou

summer veggie pasta salad from budget bytes

thai summer salad from recipe girl

broccoli, grape, and pasta salad from my recipes

summer salad from my fridge food

summer corn salad from mels kitchen cafe

orzo salad with chickpeas, dill and lemon from my recipes

quinoa salad with fava beans, fresh peas and balsamic vinaigrette from 
sreelu's tasty travels

summer tortellini salad from my recipes

shepherd's salad from a couple cooks

strawberry spinach salad from the girl who ate everything

grilled peach salad with buffalo mozzarella and arugula from 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

have kids, will travel...the long plane ride

planning a cross country plane trip with five kids can be overwhelming. planning a trip with one kid is overwhelming. over the years and with numerous cross country and overseas trips with my kids, i've gained experience if nothing else. once you get the packing of the suitcases done, here's the next step.

the thought of spending five plus hours on a plane with five children is enough to send me into the fetal position in a corner. it is daunting. still, i have done it several times and have come out (almost) unscathed. 

here is how we managed. 

  • prepare activity backpacks for older children (readers)  i pack a backpack for each child old enough to carry one. they are full of things to do on a plane ride. each kid has their summer "homework" book by grade, something to color, markers and pencils, books to read, flash cards and at least one electronic devise. this is my daughter's backpack and hers included a *ds* to play. each child also has their own chargers in case there are plugs under their seats as well as their own head phones in a plastic bag inside their backpacks. the head phones also work on flights that have individual tv screens for each passenger. we were fortunate to have one of those planes for one of the legs of our flight. these have kids choices for their viewing pleasure. i think i had "good luck, charlie" on one, "phineas and ferb" on another and, "mickey mouse clubhouse" on a third. that's heaven for at least an hour or so but you'll need those head phones.

  • prepare activity backpacks for older non-readers. this was more challenging for me. i have one child that is just entering kindergarten this year and a two year old. for my older non-reader, i packed much of the same items that his older siblings enjoyed. he still has a school workbook to enjoy, i brought two smaller books for us to read to him, he had coloring books and markers and a leap pad to play on the plane. he had is own charger and headset as well. i wanted to find a book that he could enjoy while the other kids were reading. i was so happy to discover an old "where's waldo" book. this was fantastic! he spent a solid hour searching for things and the older kids even got involved to help in the search. cheap and easy enjoyment.

  • prepare activity backpacks for toddlers. my two year old's backpack looked different than his siblings. here's what worked for him
    • coloring books and crayons
    • small toys: matchbox cars, play airplanes, etc.
    • a toddler size head set (ear buds don't fit into toddler ears. buy kid-sized headphones)
    • a leapster (ours is broken but still has the coloring function)
    • flashcards for toddlers (these just are vocabulary building)
    • a lift the flap book - this one was a life saver. it filled a really long time as he had to open each flap on each page. this one has 50 flaps. that's a lot for a two year old.

       the key for entertaining any of my kids in their toddler stage was 
       attention and a lot of changes in activities. my husband and i usually 
       trade off who sits with the two year old just to keep things moving. 
       i also use my iphone and ipod to help entertain him. i have downloaded 
       his favorite movies onto each. if one ran out of batteries and i wasn't 
       able to charge it, i could use the other. i also try to avoid even opening 
       the backpack until the plane is in the air. there is enough excitement just
       watching the plane take off. if you can just occupy air time, that's easier. 
       don't forget a favorite blanket or whatever will facilitate in a successful 
       nap time on the plane. nothing makes time fly faster than a toddler 
       napping. bring whatever will make this happen.

  • car seats on the plane. we brought our car seat on the plane for our two year old. i've heard of people bringing car seats into movie theaters. this is sort of the same principle. the kids are used to sitting in car seats. they know when they are in them, they have to be seated and stay strapped in. besides just being safer, it eliminates the constant discussions about why a child has to stay in his or her seat. this worked wonders for us. we have a *brica* car seat transporter. it's like a dolly for your car seat. the seat straps onto the transporter and you lean back and go. we even used it to get around in the airport. here's my son's cute shoes poking out while he sits and waits for us to head to security. i can't tell you how many parents stopped me to ask where i had purchased mine. it made life *so* much easier.

so great, right?

in case you are looking for your own, here's where you can find one:

  • bring food! i packed a ziplock bag full of goodies for each child's backpack. frankly, if they snacked the whole trip and ruined their dinner that day, i didn't care. i like to pack things that take a little bit of time to eat. hey, anything that makes the flight move along faster is great by me! i also bring an empty water bottle for each child in the side pocket of his or her backpack. i fill these after going through security to make sure they have plenty to drink on the plane. i also pack peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. you can make these the night before and freeze them. on the morning of your trip, transfer them to a disposable plastic container and bring it along. it will thaw by lunch time. sometimes plane rides don't work around meal times. it's not fun to have hungry kids. here are some other great food items to pack:
    • raisins
    • goldfish
    • fruit snacks
    • lollipops 
    • cheese & crackers
    • applesauce in the squeeze packets
    • trail mix
  • dress warmer than you think. planes can be chilly. it's easier to take clothes off if you are hot than to find something to keep your kids warm. dress them in layers and let them peel them off if necessary. 
  • bring any possible medicines you may need in case of an emergency. this one may sound extreme but we learned the hard way. we have a couple of kids with asthma and within the first hour of one of our flights, one of our boys had an asthma attack and all of our meds were packed in our suitcases under the plane. luckily, his attack wasn't severe so we just rode the rest of the trip out and then got the medicine and gave him a breathing treatment in the airport. it would have been a lot easier to have it on hand and eliminate the problem. better to be safe than sorry!
  • bring all the infant care items...and then some. packing for an infant isn't that much different than packing diaper bag would be on a normal day. just pack extra. make sure you don't forget a change of clothes in case of a big baby poopy or spit-up. disposable bags for dirty diapers are also a must on long plane rides. i also do something crazy. i bring my boppy or "my breast friend" on the plane. babies that do not have their own seat are held...the whole, long plane ride. this is so much easier if there is something you can lay them on. it is also a life saver when they fall asleep. before i thought of bringing the pillow, my arm would fall asleep along with the baby and i'd have to shift which would inevitably wake the baby up. baby and mommy are so much more comfortable this way.

that's it! i hope this is helpful and that all your travels are good ones. the more prepared you are, the more relaxed you'll be once the plane takes off. don't worry. it's just one day. you've got this!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

have kids, will travel...the packing experience

we have recently returned from a close to one month trip to california. yep...traveled with the masses. i traveled by plane with a nine year old, a six year old, a five year old, a two year old and a four month old. i'm no expert, but having lived overseas when the three older kids were born and taking many a trip across the u.s., i figure i can lend a hand in the packing process for anyone who may be a first timer.

here are my tips:

  • get started early. as unsightly as it may be, lay out your suitcases in advance. try to cram the kids things into half a suitcase. for most airlines, it's $25.00 for the first checked bag per passenger. might as well save money when you're packing little people clothes. 
  • pack by outfit. when i'm on vacation, the last thing i want to do is search through the luggage for my kids clothes each day. i pack their suitcases by outfit. for the boys, shorts go with matching top and into the suitcase they go. this gives me a clear idea of how many days worth i need. it also helps so that i don't over pack. as you are packing in advance, as soon as an outfit is clean sometime in the week before, pack it. there is nothing more miserable than trying to do laundry the night before a trip. if an outfit is in a suitcase, it for sure won't be worn in the days immediately before a trip.
  • don't forget to pack the basics. make sure you have socks, underwear, shoes, swimsuits, hair bows, accessories, leggings and pajamas or each kid for each day. sometimes i get so excited packing the outfits, i forget some of the essentials. 
  • purchase items upon arrival. don't waste space or weight bringing a giant pack of diapers when you travel within the u.s. wherever you are going, some place or another will have the basics. this is true of children's shampoo and body wash, wipes, formula, and baby food. take the items you need to get you through your flight and the first day or so. within that time, take 20 minutes out of your trip to make a quick run to the store. you will probably be there anyway as it's nearly impossible not to forget something.
  • make a check off list for the night before. there are several items you can't pack until the night before. make a list and set it on the counter for the morning of your trip. these are items such as the favorite blankets my small ones like to sleep with, a night light from one of their bedrooms, medicine they might take in the morning, toothbrushes, etc.
  • become familiar with your scale. suitcases need to weigh less than 50 pounds or you will get charged for the extra weight. make sure your suitcases fall within that 50 pound margin. if you are like we are when we travel and you end up purchasing things on your trip, aim for 40 pounds a suitcase so you have room to add up to 10 pounds for your return trip. if you are at the 50 pound margin for all of your bags, seriously consider packing a cloth duffle bag in one suitcase to fill for the trip home.
  • don't forget your stroller and your car seats. with small kids, a stroller is a life saver in an airport. even if it becomes a catch all as you are going through the different gates, bring it along. you can wheel it right up to the gate and drop it off as you enter the plane. thanks to the little magic airplane fairies, it will be right outside your airplane door when you arrive. if you are renting a car, you can rent a car seat through the different car rental companies. if you are visiting family and using one of their cars or you don't want to rent a car seat, travel prepared. my family had extra booster seats but i brought my own car seats for my littlest kids. you can check your car seats when you check in your luggage without any extra charge. i have a car seat cover and i *love* it. not only does it protect my car seat through all the baggage check in and the claiming process, but it has wheels, straps to wear like a back pack, and a little zippered compartment to put last minute items you don't want to carry on the plane. if you are going to check your car seat, seriously consider getting a protective cover. car seats are too expensive to get damaged in baggage. 
here's my favorite protector:
  • be realistic about transportation to and from the airport. there was no possible way we were going to get to the airport in one car. with five kids, adults, two car seats and two boosters, we were at capacity. make sure you have a way to get to the airport, both coming and going. we had great friends who drove their truck with all our bags to the airport while we drove our car. on the way back, due to a sickness my dad was recovering from as we were leaving, we were struggling to find a way to get to the airport, a two hour drive from my parent's home. no joke, this is how we got there.
totally ridiculous, right? still, cheaper than an airport shuttle, 
easier with all the kids and realistically about $50.00 
more than it would have cost my parents in gas to 
make the two hour trip with two cars, there and back again. 
a little embarrassing? you bet. a solution? without a doubt. 

this should get you packed so you can finally proceed to security. check back tomorrow for how i pack to survive a five hour plane ride with five kids. we come! happy travels!

Monday, August 13, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: grilled eggplant

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or oregano leaves
salt and ground black pepper
1 large eggplant, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into strips


light your grill. combine oil, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. place eggplant on platter and brush both sides with oil mixture.

grill eggplant, turning once, until both sides are marked with dark stripes, 8 to 10 minutes. serve at any temperature. enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

simple solutions: getting out baby poopies

you cannot have a newborn or an infant without a few diaper explosions. with five kids, i've had my fair share. my record was when i had to clean out behind my son's ear and inside his shoe...from the same dirty diaper. it happens. what can i say?
i've tried several things to get that distinctive baby poopie out of clothing. somethings have definitely worked better than others. with my last two babies, i have finally found the perfect soap. there is nothing like it. something about the dish soap's grease fighting power cuts through all the yellow slime and brings back the shiny white colors like magic. i still run the clothes through the washer after i use the dish soap. i haven't had one stain that hasn't disappeared.

here's my current favorite dish soap. besides being all natural, it smells fantastic!
any other simple solutions to everyday problems?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

mmmmm...buttons and bowknots

there are few recipes out there that carry more memories for me than the one that follows. we have been eating "buttons and bowknots" for as long as i can remember. i can still picture my mothers 1960's cookbook being pulled out time and time again to prepare these for us. they were a saturday'll see why...and they frequented many a sleep over. they were so popular among my young friends when they spent the night that i recently received a message from one of my childhood friends telling me that her daughter just made a batch for her own sleep overs. when we gather today at my parent's home, my brother still manages to get my mom to make a quadruple batch to feed all of our families. don't be searching for any health benefits in this recipe. it's pretty horrible. still, for special occasions, my kids believe there's nothing yummier. the memories continue...

buttons and bowknots

basic recipe (this will make one small plate full. this is the basic recipe to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. to feed that masses.)

2 cups bisquick

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

1 cube butter, melted

1 bowl sugar

in a large bowl, mix bisquick, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and egg until a thick dough forms.

pour onto a floured surface. knead a couple of times and then roll out with a floured rolling pin to about 1/2 inch thickness.
using a donut cutter (shown) or two small circular cookie cutters, cut the dough into 1 inch rounds for the buttons and donut shaped rounds for the "bowknots". 

twist the donut shapes one side over the other to create a bow tie shape. place the buttons and bowknots on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

continue until all the dough is made into either a button or a bowknot.

when the buttons and bowknots are cooked, (here's the part where it gets really unhealthy, really fast) roll the buttons and bowknots in butter and then in sugar. 

serve, enjoy and get ready for you kids to be a mess! like i said, memories in the making!