3 Quick Tips to Keep Your Laundry Pile in Control


Hooray! A solution to our never ending laundry piles >>Light your laundry on fire. Sprinkle ashes on garden beds/compost.

There, it’s settled.

The reality is that there is no secret to getting laundry done other than just doing it. Kind of annoying, right?
I’ve never had a laundry room that had space for anything other than the appliances, so I would generally  remove the laundry from the dryer and carry it to my bed.  A perfect folding location, yes?

Unfortunately, every night when we’d get ready for bed there always seemed to be at least 1 load of clean laundry still unfolded on the bed. We would consistently take the pile of laundry and move it to the floor or a nearby chair.

One night after removing the laundry from the bed once again, Bryan says, “My marriage bed has been defiled!” I laughed. (Not that marriage bed defilement is funny, mind you.)

As our family grew, so did the laundry pile. Pretty soon that one pile of laundry on the bed was looking more like Mt. Everest each night.

Eventually I got sick and tired of the “marriage bed defilement” and decided to do something about it.

These 3 simple tips help me tackle the mountain on a daily basis:


 1. Make it a specific daily chore No matter what day you show up here:

1. Laundry switch (starting loads and switching to dryer)
2. Laundry fold
3. Laundry put away  are on my kids’ chore list. (Yes, I do sometimes help them with it.) It’s not a chore that is up for grabs or left for me to maybe get it done. It’s always on the list of daily chores and always has a specific person(s) doing it.

Maya (7) rocking out to Lifehouse and doing her laundry chores


2. Unfolded laundry is not allowed in the bedroom  My clean laundry is now placed in a public area in the living room. I don’t put it in my bedroom or some hidden, out of the way hamper/basket.  When laundry is finished, it gets placed  in the living room. Why? Because when something is taking up space in my living room and constantly in my sight, there’s a way better chance it’s going to get taken care of, pronto.


It’s also nice to have my bed back


3Limited wardrobe With any number of kids laundry gets backed up, but with 8…..yeah. I have found that by limiting how much clothes we even own helps in minimizing laundry pile up. After 2 days of not laundering, there’s pretty much nothing that’s worth wearing in my kids’ clothes drawers, so if I want them to have their 1 or 2 pair of good jeans, shorts, shirts, dress, etc. they need to be washed as quickly as possible ie; daily.


This is a guideline made to help me, not control me, so don’t think laundry is forever complete and perfectly done around here.

It’s NOT always finished, and if I’ve procrastinated, been extra busy, or the kids haven’t completed every chore and people are about to show up at my house,  I’ll disregard my own rule and throw a load of clean laundry into the master bedroom, out of sight and out of mind. (Gasp)


Do you have any laundry tips and secrets for us? Where is your “go to” spot for placing the unfolded clean laundry and does it affect the time in which you get to it?

Maybe you’re wonderfully laid back and truly don’t mind if the laundry is everywhere… If so, please send me some of your medicine. :)


6 Tips for Brightening Up the SAHM Life


Do you ever feel that your SAHM (stay at home mom) life lacks some luster?

A stay-at-home mom can easily feel stuck doing the same thing day in and day out, your creativity levels seem low, and when you have  little kids and are limited in your ventures, you can start to feel like your abilities and options are zero to none.

That’s not true, but our vocation is a simple seeming one and generally we don’t have a boss or any competition breathing down our backs to get moving with new projects or checking in on how our progress is, etc. (Sure, now and then we’ve got a spouse who may insert a thought or two. That’s good, btw.)

You have to learn how to be content in your field and simultaneously push yourself in ways to stay purposeful and excited about your “stay at homeliness” .

In case you didn’t already guess I’d feel this way>> I think that if you’ve chosen to stay at home to raise those little kiddos….you’re doing AWESOME!

Think of a couple of reasons why you stay home and do what you do

For me:

1. I’m a Mother-Definition: To bring up a child with care and affection

2. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity-I’m taking those first 18 years and, yes, maximizing on the opportunity.

3. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8)
Hey, Solomon is telling that kiddo to pay heed to their mama, I better be there giving them something to learn about.

4. I seriously love being with my kiddos. Not because I or they are perfect, but this role of motherhood is something I cherish and am grateful for.

Anyways, the list could go on, but we’re just making a quick point that we love our job for multiple reasons, so now we can get on to how we can add some color to it this week.

Think of one or two things to incorporate into your home life that isn’t there, currently.

Here are a few that pop up into my mind:

1. Be creative and try a new DIY. No, not just pin it, DO it. In case you didn’t ever see my  attempt at a DIY, take a look here: Checkerboard Table

2. Teach your kids something aside from the regular routine. Depending on the ages of your kids the options will vary, but any age child can learn something new. This past week I picked something quite simple and decided to teach 4 of my kids how to iron. It took about an hour  for me to stay focused on the safety and basic guidelines of ironing. A couple of them really took off with it and have continued to work on it this week.


3. Pick an area in your house to organize. This week I chose a master bedroom closet.( P.S. Throw out a few lot of things.)

4. Work outside in the yard; weed, organize stuff, etc. Okay, you northern folks don’t have that option. Sorry.

5. Try out a new recipe. This week I made ghee and some healthy energy bars. They were awesome.

image image


Check out  NotCrazyHealthy on Instagram for some healthy good stuff! Here’s her recipe for the above bars Energy Bars Recipe    Sea Salt Caramel Recipe

6. Put some fitness into your routine. If you’re like me, a membership at a gym and going multiple times a week is NOT conducive to my current schedule/lifestyle, so I find ways that I can make it happen without having to leave. There are all sorts of options, and though I don’t always stay perfectly consistent, the times that I do it really helps boost my emotions and give me a sense of motivation in other areas as well.


One thing I love about our  SAHM vocation is that each and every one of us have distinct and individual experiences and circumstances.  Your days will look different than mine. Our projects and interests will vary.  I hope we all remember not to look at someone else’s scenario and feel we should copy them. Be inspired by one another, but be YOU.

It’s healthy to stretch ourselves and get out of our comfort zone, but not for the sake of living up to someone else’s expectation. Personal growth, purpose, and taking action on training our kids are healthy reasons for doing new things.

This week I hope that you can take a fresh look at your awesome vocation and have fun with it!

Is there something you’ve taken on recently that may inspire some of us here? Or maybe you’ve been mulling around an idea in your head. What is it? Don’t hoard your thoughts, share them!

Here’s to getting out of our pajamas,




Meal Planning: Saving Husbands and Kids From Starvation


Why plan meals?

Because we all have hopes of eating every single day for the rest of our lives.

Having food on hand for 10 people without planning doesn’t work very well for me, so meal planning has become a way of life

Even when there was just two of us I remember a weekly plan being beneficial.

Cooking isn’t one of my favorite things to do. Over time I’ve found ways to take something I didn’t love to do and turn it into something I’m beginning to like more and more.

Trying new recipes, training my kids to work in the kitchen, coming across a delicious dinner meal that costs less than $7 to make for 10 people, watching cooking shows, reading food blogs, and  inspiration coming from one of you are ways that have brought delight to me in the kitchen.

It’s great!

Gone are the days of not having the right ingredients and making a quick run to the store and still being able to have dinner on the table at a decent time.

Now that I have 8 kids and moved to a more rural area where the grocery store is 20 min. away, when I forget an ingredient…..

We don’t eat.


3 reasons that meal planning rocks

1. You always have something on the menu
2. You stay within your food budget
3. You eat better for you and better tasting food


I have one small freezer/refrigerator combo and a less than spacious pantry, so I only plan food  for one week at a time.

When I gain space for an extra freezer. Oh. My. Gosh. I’m going to have a meal freezing/planning party. At my house. You and I. Making a mess. Finishing with 10-30 meals to store in our freezer(s).

Doesn’t that sound awesome???

Anyways, back to reality.

This is my grocery/meal plan:

1. Get on a food budget. This will help you know what kind of meals you are able to afford and will also stop you from grabbing groceries willy nilly.

2. Pick a day of the week that you’re going to do your grocery shopping. I do mine on Wednesdays. Try to stay consistent with the day that you do your main grocery shopping trip.

3. Plan your menu  the day before you go grocery shopping It will give you a little bit more time to look at recipes online, cook books, etc.

4. Have a list A menu without a detailed grocery list can be virtually worthless. Document every ingredient you’ll need for every meal as you’re writing down the menu.

5. Involve your kids Some weeks my meal inspiration tank is really low. I’ll call on the kids and have them give me some ideas. As my kids have grown older, they are often on cooking duty and when they get to pick the meals that they help cook, it makes it a genuinely positive experience.

6. Plan snacks I didn’t used to  think ahead  about what food my kids would eat between meals because I’d just grab something we had and bam! snack consumed.

But when you’re planning for meals and you don’t buy the whole grocery store anymore, sometimes an easy to grab snack is part of something you needed for a meal, and when that’s gone, your meal plan is altered. Therefore I like to have some sort of snack plan.

It’s really pretty simple: Budget. Pick Meals. Write a list. Buy the food.

By implementing this I:

  • Only go to the store ONCE A WEEK (Except for those times I run out of Talenti gelato and/or milk, and when that happens I text Bryan. He’s obliging. Most of the time.)
  • I’m not scrambling around trying to decide what’s for dinner (and breakfast and lunch)every single day
  • I stay within my food budget (most of the time)



Yes, I made a PDF weekly menu document that you can print out. Just click on that link below and download it. Sure, there are thousands of them online, but this one I made, so it’s custom and quite possibly lame. BUT, if  you’re OCD about neatness, it’s ‘fillable’; meaning you can fill it in with computer text.

Weekly meal planner

I also made a ‘printable’ for my waffle/pancake mix recipe below:

Waffle Recipe

WAIT! There’s more. One of my favorite recipes from allrecipes.com is  Curried Coconut Chicken. It’s simple to make and bursts with flavor.  Here’s a link to the recipe on their website:

Curried Coconut Chicken

I hope this helps you get your weekly meal planning going. It has aided me greatly in being more organized. There are  times I still forget stuff, run out of planned food, spend more money than I had hoped, and don’t do what I say I’m going to do, but thus is life.

If you’d like to share any helpful tips and ideas for meal planning, or have a favorite recipe, feel free to comment on the blog . (And if you want a weekly update on posts, sign up/subscribe with your email and they will be sent to you directly.)

I always enjoy hearing your feedback.

Love, Peace, and Chicken Grease,




5 Ways To Kick Overwhelm in the Butt



Have you ever been overwhelmed?

Maybe you’re a mom of 1 kid, or a mom of 3, 5, or 8 kids, an employee or an employer, a child, a young adult….we’ve all felt overwhelmed despite our varying situations. (And if you’ve yet to experience that feeling, please comment on the blog and I’ll give you a cookie or something.) Such circumstantial differences and yet we often end up feeling the same.

Not long ago I hit “maximum loading capacity” with life. Or so I felt at the moment. I had a meltdown. It was kind of lame, but looked something like me sitting in the car by myself at around 10pm and crying and saying very intelligent and sensible things like “I can’t do this”, “woe is me” “my life is a waste” “my house is so ugly” and quickly followed by,  “Shut up, Leilani, you’re crazy blessed, you’re more than fine, you just feel like crap .”

Truth be told, I am ridiculously happy and blessed and I am more than fine.

I do feel the pressures of responsibilities in a very real way, and if I’m not conscious of my thoughts I can easily  get in a mode where the amount of tasks or things going on around me cause me to freeze up and feel as if I can’t do anything.

And that’s where the throwing back of the head and wailing comes in. You know, sort of like a 5 yr. old who is learning phonics and is going along happy go lucky and then all of a sudden hits a spot of confusion and difficulty in understanding a new concept. She feels like she just. can’t. do. it.

Anyhow, have you ever felt this way?

Ah, such a shared experience.

Do we dare to admit that circumstances may not actually be the main role in how we’re feeling, and maybe, just maybe being overwhelmed has a whole lot to do with how we approach difficulty in our minds?

5 ways to stop being defeated by overwhelm

1. Don’t become overwhelmed by the feeling of being overwhelmed Nothing is wrong with feeling overwhelmed, in fact it may be a sign that you’re either trying something new, maybe you’re having to deal with a little bit more than you thought you’d have to deal with, or you’re just tired. Whatever the reason, calm down and focus on how to address it, not how to suppress it.

2. You can’t control everything We tend to spread our ideas, endeavors, dreams, and comparisons in many directions, and I’ve learned that focusing on too many things and all of the world’s (or maybe even just my own) problems can put me in overwhelm mode very quickly.

Pick the few areas that are priority to focus on and walk one step at a time.

Discarding the stuff that isn’t in my direct control is fundamental in gaining more energy to put forth in the things that are mine to do.

3. Do not disdain hardship and difficult things. “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”  It’s important to realize that our journey in life is meant to be an experience of learning and growth. The more we embrace that, the more we see difficulty as part of our path and an opportunity for progress, and less of something to run away from because we’re overwhelmed by it.

4. Focus on your why  Ahhhh…..I love how no matter what I’m walking through or dealing with, my why’s stay steady. It’s been vital to me to have a strong why in the things that I value and invest in, because through ups and downs and despite emotions or circumstances, I fall back on the truths of my purpose, and it hems my emotions back in.

5. God is my rock  I have to be spending time in prayer and enjoying the presence of God in my life on a regular basis in order to keep my mind in the right place. It’s not all about me and when I am reminded of that fact through His word, all of the things that seem so puzzling, annoying, and difficult become less burdensome, and the joy of my salvation and my life, and all that has been given to me burn bright and clear.

That ^was a really long sentence.

Walk in grace, my dear. Draw on His strength daily. We can’t control everything and things may often feel difficult, but you have a purpose and are capable of walking it out.


Newlyweds On a Budget! Thriving On 1 Income



Last week I wrote a blog post on how we dated and  got married at a young age, Bryan being just 18yrs.old  and me being 19yrs.old.

I thought I’d follow that up  with a post on how we budgeted and thrived that first year on one income (a fairly low one at that).

I sat down with my dad prior to getting married and we went over the cost of living on our own and what our lowest annual pay would need to be for Bryan and I to survive. Dad and I were kind of dorky over stuff like that. We still are. For just the 2 of us in 2001 we tallied up our *must have* expenses to total somewhere around $15,000 a year that we’d need to net (after taxes).

It wasn’t necessary to live quite that scantily, but it was awesome to see how little we could get by with. This gave us a healthy realization of the difference between “needs” and “wants”. Something that is very helpful to recognize any time you’re doing a budget no matter your age or stream of income.

Bryan had purchased a used car that was paid off previously to getting married so we started out debt free and had a surplus of a few thousand dollars that I had brought in to the relationship. (Lookey there, I actually did contribute to our finances once a long time ago.)

We had just one car, but because Bryan was a service technician at an HVAC corporation he had a company/service vehicle to work out of; that made having one car really easy. Trades rock!

A month or two before the wedding we did some furniture shopping. A leather couch, a table that comfortably sat 6-8 people, Bryan’s bed and dresser from childhood and BAM! we were set. All the basics were covered. Camp chairs ladened our living area when we had guests over.

Bryan’s pay rate was $10 hr. and he generally worked between 40-60+ hrs. a week. In the A/C trade in Florida you have slow months (winter, obviously, due to mild weather) and crazy summer hours, so your income isn’t always consistent. I remember we set aside more in the summer to offset those slower months of winter.

Dave Ramsey may be the financial  guru now, but back in the 80’s and 90’s while Bryan and I were growing up and within our social circle, it was Larry Burkett from Crown Ministries. Anyone remember him? Ha! Growing up he impacted my family a lot. My mom and dad were quite the couple when it came to knowing how to live simply and kick debt in the butt.


My dad worked as a busboy at Walt Disney World and on his annual income of $25,000, he and my mom raised 10 kids (at the time), never had a car loan, and paid off their home mortgage by the time he was 40 yrs. old.


So, though Larry and Dave are semi-famous, I’m giving the award to my dad and mom for being the greatest example to me of living out “How to live simply, be debt free, never complain, and be happy”

I love making up and giving out awards.

Anyhow, Bryan and I started off our first year together with renting a home. We found a cute little place for $500 a month. I still drive past that 4th street house every now and then and smile.

Yes, that’s  my husband. Who looks like he’s 15yrs. old.

Here’s what our monthly budget for 2 looked like back in circa 2001:

Housing/rent-$500  The landlord said that if we maintained the yard ourselves we could lower the monthly rate by $50. Yes, please!

Utilities-$140 The house we rented didn’t have central a/c and heat. Sometimes we’d run the window units, sometimes we didn’t. They’re stupidly inefficient. We used a space heater in the winter.

Home Phone bill-$23 We dropped all long distance and any other extra services and would use a prepaid phone card for calls out of state. We didn’t have personal cell phones back then. Bryan had a work pager and eventually got a work phone. A Nextel! So old school and cool.

Food-$200 $50 a week seemed easy  peasy: 2 people, spaghetti, tacos and pb  & j all week, every week; the organic section wasn’t even a thing 14 years ago

Gas-$60  I know, that sounds fake, but one little Toyota Camry that was strictly for personal use and gas being at $1.09 a gallon….$15 pretty much filled up our tank on a weekly basis and covered our local traveling needs.

Health Insurance-$240  This seemed like an exorbitant expense to us at the time. We considered dropping it… Now it sounds like a pretty good deal

Charities- 10% of income  We found it important to stay firm in setting at least this amount aside no matter how little or how much we ever made

Recreation- $120  $30 a week seemed like just the right amount for 2. We were able to get a bite to eat and rent or go to the movies now and then. So spoiled were we! :)

Car insurance-$90 This is the one expense that has actually gone down thanks to maturity and not being young anymore

Savings- Every now and then we were able to put some $ aside. Not much, but a little bit here and there

This x 12 (months) totals about $19,000 and it was fairly close to what Bryan’s W2 tax form showed as net income that first year.

 Why only one income? We had planned on starting a family right away and mutually agreed that I’d stay home with our babies. That first year was a lot of fun. I focused on keeping house for 2 (after coming from a family of 14 this was a totally fun and new experience), when Bryan wasn’t working we were off visiting local friends and family, hanging out at home together, and waiting with anticipation the arrival of our first baby.

I prefer not to find an old pic of being pregnant with my first baby…..

I’ll never forget that time I was out exercising trying to control that hefty 40-50lbs. I tacked on surprisingly quick during pregnancy;  I was on one of the sidewalks near our house speed walking and I saw Bryan’s work van driving down the road towards me coming home earlier than expected. I waved and smiled like crazy.  He glanced at me, gave no response, and drove past. The nerve! I arrived back home sweaty, panting and so ready to have this baby.

I questioned his reason for lack of responding to my wifely friendliness….

He honestly thought I was just some stranger waving incessantly and being weird.  I now know for a fact that he doesn’t wave back to every waving female. At least not the chubby ones. 😉

Anyways, that has nothing to do with our first year of budgeting! Unless it would be an indication that I indeed did spend a little bit more than necessary on food.


Right after that first year Bryan got a significant pay raise and our budget adjusted and we were able to save a little more money.
Shortly thereafter we found a fixer upper house for $65,000 and got our first mortgage with an interest rate of 5%. Can hardly beat that! (Well, except for paying for a house with cash.)

image image

Thanks to my father-in-law who found this gem of a place for us!

It was pretty rough and disgusting at first but after  4 months of working on it, we were able to move in. Quite excited were we!


image image

Over the past 14 years  it’s been simple steps like these that we’ve continued in financial freedom

~Always recognizing needs vs. wants

~Living simply

~Paying for things outright or not having them at all

~Working diligently

~Sacrificing in small areas

~Not placing our trust and happiness in finances, but in God. For real.

Bryan dislikes stinginess and I will give him great credit for not allowing us to spend our lives counting every dollar and penny and trying to see a pile of money grow bigger and bigger.  I know that we could  save more than we do, but we’ve both come to a place of  *mostly* mutual agreement that other than being responsible and embracing simple and contented living habits money comes and money goes.

We all have different cash flow and circumstances, but by embracing healthy work ethic, finding the simplest areas to cut expenses, and living within your means it will help lead a life of, well, fullness. Not necessarily meaning getting rich. Because that shouldn’t really be the goal (in my estimation). And that won’t always be an option for some. Simplicity is what brings about freedom.  For some that may mean ending up with a surplus of $, and for others it may just mean every bill always gets paid.

“A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.”-Jonathan Swift



4 things that will STOP you in 2015


Do you use the beginning of a year as an opportunity to start or end habits?

I have a few times, but January 1st doesn’t always inspire me to make changes. Sometimes it’s in February, May, August, etc.  This January, however, I have decided to put a few extra things on my focus list.

Whether or  not you start in January or July, have you noticed these tendencies when it comes to making change?

A. So excited about a new idea!  We are sick of where we’re at, and we want something different.
We are inspired by someone else’s story. We have these great ideas and we’re ready to take action.

Not long into the journey we may feel 1 of 2 things:

1. BURNOUT-We start off positive and passionate, but the sacrifices we have to make weren’t thought through with a realistic perspective. Maybe we didn’t calculate what it would take along with our other responsibilities and life’s circumstances, so though we start off fast, happy, and totally inspired, we become overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the expectations or plan that we made.

2.BOREDOM-Often when we make decisions solely based on how we feel , we start off pumped and excited, but as we all know, real change requires us to stay on track whether we’re emotionally charged about it or not. After awhile of disciplining ourselves, the excitement wears off and the new habit/idea just becomes lame and lackluster, so we quit.

Real change usually needs a deeper ‘why’ than “Because I’m excited about it!”

Then there’s the issue of not even getting started-

B.We are often intimidated and threatened about making changes and we allow these to settle in:

1. FEAR-That thing that questions everything. What if I start and then fail and end up feeling more discouraged than ever? How will I ever be able to actually do this thing? If I start this will that mean I’ll have to change all sorts of other things?

2. APATHY- I really don’t care. I’m fine with how everything is. It works. Change often means getting uncomfortable; I see no urgent need, so why? I’ll pass.
I’ve pretty much felt all of the above at least at some point.

Regardless,  I spent some time over the last month or two considering what it is that I want to work on in 2015. Here’s my short, personal resolution list:

1. Teach 3 of my kids how to play the piano
2. Be a more patient person
3.Eat more vegetables
4. Practice writing everyday

Although there are unlisted items that I hope I shall be working on, these 4 are ones that have top priority of new things to focus on.

Those are pretty simple things and in some ways they sound like stuff I’d hardly even need to put on a list, but you know as well as I do that if we don’t prioritize even the simplest things, they fall by the wayside.

Cool stuff happens when we start things. A butterfly effect if you will. What starts as one thing will have multiple positive outcomes and paths. I am confident that even just those 4 items I listed will be enriching our lives in more than 4 ways.

It’s one of the reasons I encourage to start small, be realistic, pace yourself, stay focused  Think through your ‘why’ and make it something worth sticking with. Because if you stay on track with just ONE thing, you’ll end up with good results. If you start the race with a gazillion things and have high expectations for everything, you’ll likely fall in category A and may find yourself not finishing anything.

2015 is going to be awesome. Rock on!


Shopping with kids 101



With the mayhem that combining kids and shopping can bring, do you choose to leave them at home, or take them with you for the experience?

Since being a first time mom I’ve pretty much embraced the kids/shopping combo. I don’t like wasting a week night or a weekend when Bryan’s home to leave for all the grocery getting and errands, so I generally make it a mid week daytime experience.

You know those crying, flailing, screaming tempter tantrum having kids?

Yeah, every now and then that would be us.

To be honest, though, most of the time my kids do pretty well at the store, but there are still those times that looks something like this:

My eldest was gone, so I had the 7 younger ones, 10 yrs. and under to help me with shopping. I had about 4 different stores to visit. Easy, right? Run in, pick up the  items on the list, purchase, load back into the car. Mission accomplished.

So maybe the reality was more like this:
It was a crisp, cool morning, the Christmas and wintry cheer was detected in the air; a perfect day for shopping! We stroll through the store, picking up our needed items, and though Jude was delighted to be there, he kept disappearing around corners with a gleeful and mischievous way about him. I had thought I would allow him some independence and leave him out of a cart.(What was I thinking?) Margot’s pacifier had been forgotten in the car and as we were taking a bit longer than expected she started fussing (albeit in a low tone, but a tone that was starting to sound fairly desperate to my ears). As we meandered and clamored  around the store we finally headed to the checkout line. I  felt as if my head of dark hair now had silver lining to it. We place our hodge podge group of 8  into the already swarming checkout line. I try not to fixate my eyes on the lady in front of me who from head to toe looked as if she just walked out of the modeling studio, coupled with her one calm and beautiful daughter who was a mirror image of her mother; my ears then tune in to the lady behind me who was shifting her weight from one foot to the other, eyeing me as if I most definitely did NOT come out of a modeling studio as she glanced at the 7 kids rummaging around me. I finally make it up to the cashier in hopes to get out as quickly as possible, because by this time Jude was in my arms wailing and flailing,  the other kids were being touch sensory active and exclaiming about all the shiny and twirling  doo dads that were jingling at their eye level. The cashier came across a technical issue and the prices were ringing up higher than what was listed on the sign by the product. No, I can’t ignore this issue; I am a Dutch woman, mind you!. Annora decided to just start heading out the door before I received my bags and receipt and as I strive to pretend to feel calm and normal while sweating under the jacket that I was originally so excited to wear…..Why the heck did I wear this jacket? It feels like 150 degrees in this place! I ever so sweetly say, “Gavin, please get Annora.”  My eyes and body language I’m sure looked nothing similar to relaxed and calm.

Anyhow, that was yesterday. It still happens to me, but generally we’ve got our routine and things go pretty smoothly.

I’m at the point where I see someone’s else’s  screaming kid and just think “It happens”.

Maybe it’s one of those other gazillion ‘challenges’ I create in my head (I’m a stay at home mom, I’ve got to pretend I have competition and challenges that I must participate in), but I do like taking chaos prone activities and making them work with all of us.

This has been my “shopping guideline” for the past many years that has over time helped me with my shopping experience. More often than not shopping with kids is not mayhem, and actually turns into a pretty positive outing.

1. We do NOT operate under a reward system for being decent citizens of the U.S. Can you imagine if every time I went out with the kids I started out saying, “If you’re good today, I’ll buy you a treat/toy.” Hello, not gonna happen. Not with 8 kids, not with 1.  It generates into their adult life. It’s called an “entitlement” mentality. Yuck. I know it’s tempting, because initially it does sort of work, but over time, it crumbles. And could get expensive! Mind you, reward systems do have their time and place, but I think they often end up being used more for bribery rather than healthy encouragement of character and efforts, so play on the cautious side when giving “stuff” for errands, etc.

2. I lay out simple reminders for my kids beforehand:” I don’t want you pulling stuff off of shelves, I want you to stay fairly close to me, don’t ask me to buy toys, certain foods, etc; see what you can do to be helpful, respond to adults when they talk to you, and please, please at least try NOT to pick your nose or run at breakneck speed around the corner aisle and ram into some innocent passerby. :)

3. If  they end up throwing a tantrum or blatantly disobeying me, I will take a simple measure of consequence for them when we’re through with our trip (and don’t forget this part), but you do have to let kids be kids. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of a Utopian experience.

4. We go regularly, and it becomes normal and routine.

5. Always bring a list when shopping with kids 101. I’ve got to have something concrete to  rein in my thoughts. If I don’t make a list I either come home with a boatload of stuff I didn’t actually need or I come home with nothing because my mind couldn’t recollect what it was I needed.

6. These outings CAN be enjoyable. Stop somewhere other than a store; a library (that in and of itself can be a crazy experience, but older kids love it), a park, a quick visit to a friend, get a bite to eat if you’re out during a meal time, whatever. I don’t always have the time to do that, but now and then I’ll combine our store errands with a more frivolous activity.

What is your craziest store experience with kids? I’ve got more than a few, and looking back I am kind of glad I’ve had to walk through it. It’s real life. It’s another opportunity to develop character and patience in me. And my young kids are observing the basics of what we buy, how much it costs, and though it seems silly, these simple economics give kids a better understanding of money and real life choices. Besides all that, we’re learning to do life together.

Here’s to grocery shopping, Christmas shopping, oil changes and beyond!


5 Ways To Improve Your Marriage (without a dime or a date).



Common ways to improve your marriage:

Go to dinner at a restaurant
Go to a hotel for the weekend
Go to a coffee shop
Go shopping
Go to a movie
Go for a drive
Go for bicycle ride

The word GO  is what I currently find myself feeling overwhelmed by.

To “go” places when:

1. We live 30 minutes from town
2. We have a lot of very young kids
3. Organizing a sitter for above kids isn’t as easy as it sounds
4. My husband’s work schedule isn’t 9-5, and if he does come home from the office/field by 5pm, there still may be work to complete once he gets home.
5. We are often on a budget

And a few other circumstantial difficulties people may encounter:

1. They don’t know anyone that can babysit their kids
2. They know people that can babysit, but they don’t feel they’re trustworthy options
3. They don’t have a car (yes, some people don’t have a car, so be thankful for the one or three that you have).
4. They don’t have any extra money to spend
5. Your spouse is in the military or other field of work that requires being gone for sometimes weeks at a time
6. They HATE going out with their spouse (okay, that one IS a real problem)

So do all these people who live in the above situations have only doom to look forward to in their marriage?

May it never be!

You may hear people say……

“You MUST find the time at *least* once a week to go out with your spouse.”

Oh, okay. So should I steal a car, or have a creep watch my kids, or put a hotel/food tab on my credit card even if I don’t have any extra money, or should I tell my spouse to just quit his/her current job so that we can have more time and a better marriage?

Um, no. Don’t go doing any of that ^.

If it truly matters to you to connect with your spouse, but you’re finding yourself in circumstantial difficulties to follow the status quo, here are a few ways that don’t involve the word “Go” and won’t cost you a dime and will still enhance your relationship.

AND, if you ARE able to fit in those dates outside the house regularly– cool and awesome. But if you’re forgetting to do  “inside the home” connecting, don’t miss out on that. It’s vital to your relationship with or without traditional dates.

1. Laugh
One of my favorite things about being married to Bryan is the ability he has to laugh. To laugh at himself. To laugh at me. For real.
My marriage and life has been more whole due to the fact that I am learning to laugh at my perceived AND very real hardships. To find humor in difficulty, to realize how stupid I can be, to chortle at things that are really funny.  To laugh together makes me feel younger and more in love than ever.

2. Listen
Take a few moments to listen to details about the other person’s day: Who they saw, what they did, things they dealt with,  their thoughts about important issues.  Here’s the clincher– Have no response other than a listening ear. Surprisingly simple, but surprisingly difficult at times not to interrupt or give some advice or commentary (at least for this gal). It really helps me learn more about my husband. It also connects me with his life that is away from home. It’s a legit way to enhance our relationship.

3. Hang out while the kids sleep
Not sure what is more conducive to your schedule, but being with each other either in the early am, or later in the evening after the kids go to bed without any interruptions is a great way to take a breather, to recognize that you’re actually sitting next to the love of your life, and just be silent. No tasks, no needs having to be met, no noise. It’s nice. It may only last for 15 minutes before I get up to vacuum and start the dryer, but hey, it’s something.

4. Stop fighting/arguing
Obviously we have disagreements, and may experience anger, irritation, or hurt with each other, but ‘fighting’ sort of feels foreign to Bryan and I these days. What is it that has changed from those first few years of marriage where every little thing mattered sooooo much? I think now we’ve come to realize that fighting and arguing is usually just a waste of time. Maybe we don’t have as much extra time, and to use that time we do have by being in disagreement with each other really stinks and makes for a sad relationship.

So stop the fighting and the punishing silent treatments. Sometimes you just have to give up stuff for the sake of unity. Your relationship will get an automatic boost.

5. Talk about the kids
One tip of marriage advice that I’ve heard that always made me cringe was “Whatever you do on a date, don’t talk about the kids!”
I find this distasteful. As parents, our children are both a source of our sorrow and our joy. Sometimes bringing up funny things that happened with your child while your spouse was away, or bringing up a concern about a child with your spouse can be excellent bonding time, not only as parents, but for your marriage; the two shouldn’t be separated. Sure, if all you do with your time as a couple is complain about the kids, etc., then I guess don’t talk about the kids, but please don’t feel like you shouldn’t bring up the kids in conversation when you have quiet time together. Sometimes your spouse is the best source of inspiration in how to deal with something you’re struggling with as a mom or a dad.

This post isn’t meant to devalue the importance of getting away and getting a break from the routine. There are great benefits from that.

It’s just a post about 5 ways to improve your marriage (without a dime or a date).


Simplicity vs. Stress With The Holidays


I’m not writing a post about how it’s time to start Christmas shopping (it’s only November 3rd for pete’s sake!), but I was thinking that now is a good time as any for a quick pre-holiday reminder:


That word sounds pretty, it even looks pretty, and in my estimation, has beautiful ramifications.

As Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near, we all have different plans and traditions. It truly is a wonderful time of year. Not because I end up with a new car, diamond earrings, a Coach purse, or some drastic happening that changes my life.

It’s just enjoyable to have plans that involve people, plans that involve surprises, and plans that involve anticipation.

Please, please, enjoy what this season brings you.

Some of you may not have extra funds to buy presents this year, some of you may feel the pressure to buy presents this year, but you know after it’s all over, you’ll see you’ve spent:

1. More than you wanted to
2. More than you even have

WhatEVER you do, do NOT spend money that you don’t have.
And if you have money to spend, albeit a little or a lot, why spend more than you should, or more than you want to?

I’ve got a slew of kids, a slew of brothers and sisters, and a slew of nieces and nephews… and did I mention a slew of kids? This is one of the years that I  want to spend less $ than previous years, so…..

Am I really going to try to buy presents this year? You bet!  But it’s going to be stuff like: a cool wooden box from an estate sale that was $2……


I found this for My 8 yr. old daughter last year, and she takes better care of it than most anything else she has.

Go figure.

Or maybe it’ll be a $10-20 item from Amazon.

Whatever it is, when we keep things simple everything is so much more fun.

Simple doesn’t necessarily equal cheap, so if you’ve got some plans for a really special thing that’s expensive, great! I think that expensive or high quality is fine and good as long as there isn’t a “Have to” price tag on it.

If your kids (or spouse, ha!) are used to getting a ton of stuff and you want to change something this year, why don’t you talk about it?

Just be straightforward. Kids and adults actually operate really well with honesty. They may even have an embarrassing temper tantrum that has you befuddled and terrified. So what. Sometimes keeping things simple is just recognizing that kids and adults have tempter tantrums. Move on. See, that was simple

For the next 8 weeks I hope to remember:

1. Enjoy the people and traditions that you decide to participate with and in

2. Plan to stay within some sort of price range or budget with all the food/gifts

3. Now actually make a plan and budget

4. When you see your aunt or uncle or cousin or mom, you don’t have to engage with them on things you *know* you don’t see eye to eye on (unless it’s about a change of plans with simplicity vs. stress with the holidays, then engage)

5. Drink a lot of water and exercise as I plan to sample more than a few foods






Checkerboard DIY in 6 Hours or Less (or more)


Are you a crazy, DIY/Pinterest project sort of person? As much as I like browsing on Pinterest, I do NOT find a lot of allotted time in my days to do creative, Pinteresty projects.

Now and then something will cross my mind, and usually it’s when I’m looking at something ugly in my house that I want to change, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on. I found a gross table in my house this week, and I had paint already on hand, so I decided to give it a whirl and upgrade the table.

Here’s a simple checkerboard DIY, that even *I* could complete.


I had some white paint on hand, and I also had Plaster of Paris on hand due to homeschooling science projects, so time for chalk painting!

Here’s a quick, easy, chalk paint recipe:

1 cup paint (any color)
1 Tablespoon Plaster of Paris (found at craft stores)
1/4 cup hot water.
Mix the paint and paris until smooth, add the hot water and mix well; you’re ready to paint! (As long as you have a paintbrush)

That down there is what plaster of paris looks like, and see how I have a cup of paint in that plastic tub?


I had lame paint brushes on hand, but if you want to spend a few dollars on good brushes it may be worthwhile. Or not.

Start painting! 


This picture is to remind you I have kids around me. And I did allow them to be glued to the Wii. Margot doesn’t care for the Wii, she wanted to eat the sheet that I had the table set on.

I did this in the house for 2 reasons:

1. I live in Florida, so it’s hot and humid. I figured the paint would dry quicker in A/C,  and it did.

2. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the kids, and since they were glued to playing the Wii and with house toys, doing it indoors was the best option.

One layer is on. That took like a whole 15 minutes. The cool thing about chalk paint is that it dries FAST!


After letting it dry for about 25 minutes, I applied a second layer, pronto!


All finished with the second layer. So easy and smooth. You may be wondering why I took 6 hrs. for this DIY since the table is already painted and it’s been less than an hour…here’s the thing, painting the black, checkers squares is the tedious,  fun, and annoying part, which made me feel like it wasn’t fun anymore.


For the checkerboard: My table is 32inx32in, I wanted  there to be 6 inches leftover on each side of the checkerboard, so a 20in. square was just right. I measured that out and penciled the square onto the center of the newly painted, but dry table.

A checkerboard has 8 rows of 8 squares, so divide the length of the row (20 in.) by 8 and that’s the size each individual square should be. For mine that means they were 2 1/2in. squares. Since 20 divided by 8  is  2 1/2…..
To make life easier you could buy a pre-made stencil, but of course it may not be the size you want. I didn’t have a stencil so I made a really tacky and poor man’s “stencil” out of cardboard.

Look how tacky and poor man it is


Now pencil/stencil in your rows of squares, I did mine one row at a time.

I had a quart of flat, black paint from something I had painted 5 years ago, so I used flat, black paint. You really could go with any color. Blue, red, gold, yellow….you get the point.

I used  a really tiny brush to paint the edges of the square, and then I used a slightly larger (but still small) brush to fill in the rest of the square. I don’t have to remind you to offset the color and the white squares, do I? I bet you know that about a checkerboard.

See that checkered row coming to fruition?


Every now and then straighten your back and check your work.  My back was killing me. Actually it wasn’t killing me seeing as I’m still alive, but I sort of felt like maybe I was never going to be able to stand straight again. It took me a looooong time to do this as I’m not a natural artist and had crappy paint brushes.


At this point I wanted to stop and never start a project again. These 4 rows took me 2 hours, no joke, and I was only halfway done.  I’m kicking myself for not having a perfect straight edge tool and better brushes…..*please don’t use cardboard that was outside and brought in for this project to make your stencil.


After 6 hours of focusing on this project, I was able to finish!


Somehow the kids did awesome. My boys got dinner started, and though the house was a wreck when I finished, I was happy, oh so happy that my task was complete. I could now go and clean the kitchen…..while being bent over like a scary creature.

Now I should go and recover the cushions on those chairs^………or not.