Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pre-school Supplies!!

I am teaching a pre-school for B in our home.  There will be 4-5 other kids from church attending.  It will be 2 days a week for a couple of hours.  I am so excited!!!  I already have the calendar and schedule of lessons ready.  I also have a good start on the lesson plans for the first couple of months.  I have to do some fine tuning and get to the library to check out all of the books we will be reading, but I am pretty close to being ready to go.

Yesterday I got a HUGE box of goodies from Oriental Trading Company.  I orderd some crafts and school supplies from them.  If you haven't ever been to their website, you should check it out.  You can get things in bulk (usually groups of 12) for very inexpensive.  I haven't had any issues with quality and I have been very pleased with the products.  I was able to order all of the craft/activity supplies for our group from the start of school through Christmas.  The best part?  The max I will have is 6 kids, so I will have enough to use again in 2 years when I teach 3 yr old preschool for C.  I'll post some pics of the finished projects throughout the school year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What do you get when you mix a 3 year old and food coloring?

You get a daughter who looks like a 3 year old incredible hulk.  Sometimes I think B is going to do me in!  She is so sneeky and quiet it is unreal.  I could be gone for 2 minutes and come back to find my entire main floor destroyed...and I never heard a thing.  This particular time she got into my baking supplies and found the food coloring.  She smeared it all over herself.  It was shoulder to fingertips and hip to toes.  If she isn't wearing something pink and frilly, then she takes it off and runs around in her panties.  I guess it was lucky this time because she didn't ruin any clothes.

Now before you think I am a terrible mother, I do have to say that I keep anything that has the potential to make a mess in the pantry which is LOCKED because of her.  One of the older kids got into the pantry and left the lock undone.  She checks it multiple times a day just to see if it is open and this time it was.  All I did upstairs was make 3 beds.  I came back down and she was covered!

We scrubbed her little body until her skin was pink.  Then I let her soak in the kitchen sink (which is huge) for a while.  We got most of the color out, except on her hands.  They were tinted green for a couple of days.
What am I going to do with this girl?!  I don't want to crush her spirit.  I just want to learn how to help her use it in a good way.  Any suggestions?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preschool Schedule

I have been sorting and organizing like a crazy woman for the last couple of weeks and I think I might actually go crazy if I don't take a break from it for a minute.

Here is my 3 year old Preschool daily schedule and I thought some of you may be interested.  Including B, we will have 5 children.  With my older kids I was a part of a couple of different preschool co-ops where the moms switch off teaching and it rotates between houses.  It is nice for the days that you don't have to teach, but I found it to be a little frustrating too.  This year some women from church started asking around to see who was interested in doing a co-op and I seriously considered it, but in the end I decided I would rather do it myself.  I invited all of the other families to join my group and most of them did.  I'm so excited!!

Daily Schedule

9:00 - 9:20 Welcome and circle time. After the basics of calendar, weather, etc. we will introduce the theme of the week and the letter and number (up to 20) of the week. We will also do a "show and tell" once a week and it will be done during this time.

9:20 - 10:00 Instruction. This will be where we cover the theme and letter and number of the week. It won't be 40 minutes of sitting and listening to me. It will be broken up into smaller sections where we work on different things, read stories, sing songs, etc. This is specifically where the structured play comes in. I think kids can learn their letters or to spell their names with play dough or finger-paint better than seeing it up on a white board. This is one of my favorite parts because I get to be creative.

10:00 - 10:15 Snack time. I plan on providing healthy snacks which will include fruits, veggies, homemade muffins, crackers, etc. Sometimes the kids will help make them as part of the lesson.

10:15 - 10:40 Craft/activity time. We will do some sort of craft or activity each day. It may revolve around the theme, the letter and/or number of the week, or be a fun activity that I think the kids will enjoy. Count on them bringing at least one thing that they have created home each week.

10:40 - 11:00 Free-play. This may include play dough, coloring, puzzles, books, blocks, etc. This time is very flexible depending on how long it takes us to do our craft. When the weather is warm, we will most likely be outside. We have a large, completely fenced backyard with a swing set, sand turtle, play house and lots of grass.

I also have the school year calendar with what we are doing each day, but I am having trouble getting it to load to blogger.  I'll see if my husband can help me and I will try and post it for anyone interested.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Organize Your Pantry

I know not everyone has a pantry, and not all of them are very big, but the ideas I am offering here can be tweaked a little bit to make these suggestions work for your situation.  I have been doing our food this way since we got married (8+ years) and it works in a closet, in your cabinets, under your bed, in the basement, or wherever else you can think of to put your food and we have thought of some pretty random places.

There are a couple of reasons why I do our pantry this way.  First is that I HATE grocery shopping and second is that I find great comfort in knowing that if my husband looses his job or something unexpected happens, we still have food to eat.  I am also really lucky because our pantry is pretty big so I can keep a lot of food actually in the kitchen without having to use any space in the cabinets.

I like to do grocery shopping only once a month.  If you are making a monthly menu or list of meals, it will be pretty easy to figure out what you need to buy to make those meals.  Of course you will still have to buy perishables more often, but everything else can be done all at once.  I get most of our canned goods at Aldi.  Almost everything we have tried from there tastes just like the name brand stuff, but it is WAY cheaper.  The only thing I don't buy from there are their canned/jarred fruits.  Aldi does not offer (at least not at my store) a sugar free version and I don't want my family eating the heavy syrup.  I get our fruit at Walmart.  I buy the Walmart brand and I get the kind that is unsweetened or packaged in pear juice.  My kids have never once complained and I feel like it is much healthier.

Once we get home, I take a permanent marker and write the month and year I bought them on top of the can or box.  I know there is an expiration date on most things, but I like to do it based on when I buy them.  Besides it is easier to see with the date right on top and it makes rotating your supply much easier.  Then next month when you go shopping you can pull all of the old stuff forward (there shouldn't be much there), and put the newer stuff behind it.  It works like a charm.

I am to the point now that I do all of my major shopping every 6 months and then I just have to do the perishables every week.  I can do that pretty quickly...even if I have all 4 kids with me.  This is what 6 months worth of canned goods from Aldi looks like.  This leads us to longer term food storage.  I will be doing a couple of posts on that a little later.

If you have questions or want more detail just email me at  I'm happy to share and to help you get your food organized too!

I am linking up to this site.  Go check out what everyone else has done.

Organize and Decorate Everything

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fantastic Bread Recipe!

I love to make my own bread.  Sure it takes time, but it is soooo good and it makes me feel like I am doing something good for my family.  There is just something about grinding my own wheat and turning it into something that my kids beg me for that is so fulfilling!

I thought I'd share the recipe.  If you scroll to the bottom, it tells you how much you need to store to be able to make this bread for an entire year.  So handy when trying to plan out your food storage!  Also, a friend of mine converted the recipe to make 2 5" x 9" loaves.  If you want the conversion email me and I'll send it to you.  pumpkinpatchdesigns at hotmail dot com.

I don't know where it came from.  A friend passed it along to me.  I have tried to find an author, but no luck.  So, if you know who created it tell me and I will give them full credit.  Until then, thank you person I don't know...

Easiest Whole Wheat Bread

2 (8"x4") loaves

3 1/2 cups Whole Wheat flour
1/3 cup gluten
1 1/4 Tbsp instant yeast
2 1/2 cups steaming hot tap water (120-130 F)
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey or 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Mix together first three ingredients with a dough hook.  Add water all at once and mix for 1 minute; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  (this will not mix it completely...that's okay)  Add salt, oil, honey or sugar, and lemon juice and beat for one minute.  Add rest of flour, 1 cup at a time, beating between each cup.  Once the flour is mixed in, beat for about 6-10 more minutes.  Until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl and dough "bounces back" a little when you touch it.  This makes very soft dough.  Pre-heat oven to 350 for 1 minute and turn off.  Turn dough onto oiled counter top; divide, shape into loaves and place in oiled bread pans.  Let rise in warm oven for 10-15 minutes (I do it for 15) until dough reaches top of pan.  Do not remove bread from oven; turn oven to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.  If you do not have a mixer with a dough hook and are kneading this by hand, gradually add last cup of flour to keep dough from sticking to counter.  You will add more flour when kneading by hand than when using a mixer simply to be able to handle this moist dough.  With wheat bread, always add the least amount of flour possible to keep bread moist.  Knead 10 minutes before shaping into loaves.

**lemon juice in this recipe acts as a dough enhancer which gives bread a fine, light texture.  Gluten, a natural protein derived from wheat, provides elasticity and strength and added texture, helps retain moisture, prevents crumbling, and extends the shelf life of the bread.  If you do not want to store gluten flour, you may substitute whole wheat flour in it's place.  I buy my gluten from here.

**1/4 Tbsp is = to 3/4 tsp.

** To make a 2 loaf recipe of this bread every other day for 1 year (1 loaf per day), you will need 275 lbs of wheat ground into flour, 4 gallons of oil, 46 lbs of honey or sugar, 8 (1 lb) pkgs yeast, 61 cups of gluten flour, 3 2/3 qts. of lemon juice and 7.3 lbs of salt.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Organize Your Toy Room

If you have kids, then you have toys. If you are anything like us, you have more toys than your kids could possibly play with in a day.  When we moved here 2ish years ago, we were one of the younger families at church.  We moved from a town home into a single family home and all of our stuff could fill about 1/3 of our house.  Several of the families at church took pity on us :) and gave us tons of clothes, toys, furniture, dishes, etc.  Before long our house actually had stuff in each of the rooms.  We also had more toys than we knew what to do with!

My husband and I both grew up in large families...8 children in his and 7 children in mine.  Both families were middle class, but fell closer to "lower income" than "upper income".  We were given hand-me-downs all the time.  I remember it being like Christmas whenever someone gave us something they didn't need anymore.  I also remember hating to throw perfectly good stuff away.

It has taken a good bit of effort to be okay with getting rid of things we don't need or use.  I know that sounds silly, but I'm sure some of you out there know what I mean.  So, what does this have to do with organizing your toy room?  Well, I had to sit down and go through everything.  I had several tubs and some bins to sort things into as well as some trash bags and boxes.  First I pulled out everything that was ratty and/or broken and put it in the trash.  Then I went through and pulled out all of the toys that I didn't really think we needed and they either went in the trash or in a box for Goodwill.  At this point there were still a LOT of toys left so I went through all of them again and only pulled out the things that my kids have played with more than once in the last month.  Everything else, no matter what it was went into a box for Goodwill.

As I went through them the final time, I sorted them into tubs and bins and labeled them all.  I think I cut our toys in half, but I know that everything in there are things that are in good shape and that my kids like to play with.  Now it will be much easier to clean up each time because the containers are labeled and because there aren't as many toys to clean up.  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

**One word of caution:  This job is much easier to do when your kids are not home or are in bed.  If they are around, they will want to "help" you by pulling out toys and moving them into different containers.  Also, don't load up what is going to the garbage or Goodwill with them right there.  It will most likely cause crying and temper tantrums.**

By the way, this picture is just to show you how many toys there are left and how they are organized into tubs.  We don't keep them stacked up like this in the play room.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Organization--back to school

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try you are always running a few days or a week behind?  When E was in preschool and I was pregnant with C and while he was a newborn I felt this way constantly.  I was frantically trying to keep a handle on everything, but not really doing it very well.  Several times I sent her to school without a snack or without returning things that needed returning.  I was so tired and sick and then had a sick baby that I was COMPLETELY unorganized.  I'm surprised that we made it through that school year at all.  I wanted Kindergarten to be a better experience for both of us.

I spent some time getting myself organized and things went much more smoothly. We spent a lot of time trying new things to see what worked best for us and by the end of the school year; we had a good system going.  I have spent time this summer fine tuning my system to the point where I feel like I can share it with others.

There are several different ares where organization is helpful.  I am just going to run down the list and explain why they are important and how to do it.  I have pictures of most things, so it should be pretty easy to follow.  I fully recognize that some of the steps are not really very fun, but a little bit of time now saves a ton of frustration later.  I promise that if you take the time now to get organized you will thank yourself later.  If you find this post and the school year has already started, it isn't too late--just do it and you will be glad you did.

We have 2 boys and 2 girls.  The boys share a room and the girls share a room.  They do not have dressers because I didn't want their rooms to be too full.  So, we bought sweater organizers to put inside their closets to put all of their clothes in.  Right now this works well because their closets are big enough to hold them and because their clothes are small enough to fit nicely.  The boys' organizer is horizontal because then we can hang their shirts over it.  The girls' organizer is vertical because then we can hang their skirts and dresses beside it.  The girls' room has 2 closets and we are only using 1.  Eventually we will have to split their clothes up, but for now I like having them all together.

The hanging space and the organizers are split down the middle.  There is a spot for short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweaters, shorts, pants, and pajamas for each child.  The little white bins on top of each organizer holds their undies and socks.  We got our organizers at Costco, but I know you can find them at other places too.  Here are pictures of both closets.

Cubbies and Dirty Clothes
Every night we pick out our clothes for the next day.  Each child has a cubby on the landing at the top of the stairs.  Opposite of those is a laundry basket.  The kids know where to go to get the clothes they are going to wear that day, where to put their jammies, and where to put their dirty clothes.  It works like a charm!  We got these cubbies at Meijer and they work great.  They stack on top of each other, but the space to reach in and out is big enough that they can easily put things in or pull things out without any problems.

Clothes not currently being used
So, what do you do with the clothes that they have outgrown?  For me it is an easy answer.  I save the clothes E has outgrown so B can wear them when she gets bigger.  I save the clothes J has outgrown so C can wear them when he gets bigger.  Once B and C outgrow their clothes, I box them up to send to friends and family that can use them.  I also sort out the stuff that isn't worth keeping so I can get rid of it.  I make sure everything is clean and folded, and then I put it into plastic tubs according to size.  I label the tubs on 2 sides and on the top so that it is easy to quickly see what is in each tub.  Then all of the tubs go down into the basement.  They could easily be stored in a garage, attic, closet, or shed if you don't have a basement.

There are also bins for E and J of stuff I have collected that they will grow into.  I like to buy future clothes when they are on sale at the end of each season.  (Actually my sister-in-law does it for me, and I love her for it).  If someone gives us clothes that their kids have outgrown, I sort it and put it in these bins too.  Then whenever E and J need new clothes we can check in the "to grow" tubs first.  If it isn't in there, then we can go buy it.  I always check Goodwill before I go to a regular store.  We have found some amazing deals on really great clothes there. 

Stuff they bring home
What about all of the papers and projects and other stuff they bring home from school?  I have plastic tubs for each school aged child down in the basement.  I regularly go through all of the things the kids bring home and pull out what I want to keep.  Then I put them in the tub downstairs.  I throw away (or recycle) what I don't want to keep.  **One word of caution: don't throw away anything your child makes or brings home when they are awake!  I promise you will avoid lots of tears if you do it when they can't see it**

When your kids are young, you will have a lot of bulky stuff--mostly art projects.  Just put it in the tub.  After the school year is over go through it again.  You will most likely find things that you originally saved that you don't want to save anymore.  Then put a piece of cardboard or tissue paper folded in half on top of everything.  When the next school year comes, you will be ready to put whatever stuff you want to save right on top of the previous year.  Then you will have everything you want to save and it will be separated by year.

Once your kids get older, they will stop bringing home art projects and will bring home lots of papers.  At this point you can get a 3 ring binder with plastic sheet protectors to put everything in.  You can do one per year or you can separate years with the tab dividers.  You can put them in the tub too.  Everything stays organized and in one central location.  Then when your child grows up you can give them their tub of keepsakes to take with them.

The only other suggestion I have is to keep in a separate binder or scrapbook each of your child's report cards and school pictures.  A friend of mine had a scrapbook that she made of all of her son's pictures from Kindergarten through graduation.  It didn't take her long to put it together because she had everything in order and in one place.  She displayed it at his graduation party and everyone loved flipping through it.  My kids are years away from graduation, but I LOVE this idea and have adopted it.

Back packs, coats, and shoes
When E was in preschool her shoes, coat, and back pack ended up in random places in the house when she got home.  Every day we frantically looked for one or all of these so she could go to school.  It was crazy.  When she started Kindergarten I told her we weren't going to do that anymore.  It took a few months of daily reminders, but she got to the point of taking her shoes off and putting them in the "shoe house", hanging her coat and bringing me her back pack.  This is our routine each day.

We took a shoe organizer and put it inside the closet so there is a place for everyone's shoes.  We also bought a bench and a shelf with hooks that are in our foyer so that the kids can hang their coats and have a place to put their back packs.  Now when they get home, it is routine for them to take care of their stuff so it is right where we need it the next day.

If you want more info on our daily routine, you can check out this post.

I hope this was helpful.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please share!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

The month of August means lots of things to me.  It means summer is almost over, school is about to start, the weather will soon cool down, the leaves will soon start changing.  It is a bittersweet month for me.

It is also the month that I blitz my house and take care of everything that needs attention so I can start the school year off organized and ready for anything.  I think I will take the next few weeks to focus on organization and how I do it.  Hopefully you will get some good ideas and can share a few with me!

Let's start with a weekly cleaning schedule.  I know it doesn't sound very exciting, but it is quite helpful in making sure that I don't get behind on anything.  Playing catch-up is never fun and I try to avoid it.  There are things I do everyday and things I only do once a week.  I'll list the every day stuff first and then show you how it fits into my weekly schedule.

I do laundry everyday.  When I had less kids I did it once or twice a week, but if I were to do that now, it would never get done.  I try and do 3 loads a day Monday through Thursday.  This pretty well takes care of the clothes and towels.  On Friday I wash all of the sheets.  Yes, I do them every week.  This is just a personal preference.  I do all of the loads in the morning and try to fold them as soon as they come out of the dryer.  Sometimes this isn't possible, but I try.  I try and get all of the laundry put away as I go and hope to have it all done by lunch...if not by lunch, then by the time the kids get home from school.

I vacuum and sweep the main level (kitchen, family room, dining room, and living room) every day.  We don't wear shoes in our house and I hate feeling "stuff" under my feet while I walk around.  Vacuuming and sweeping every day seems to take care of it.  I do this after dinner every night.  Then we are able to start fresh each morning.

Monday:  Laundry and Mopping.
  • I put a load of laundry in while I make breakfast.  I switch while the kids are eating and then again after the kids go to school.  Around 9 am I put the last load in the dryer and when it is done I put it all away.  While the laundry is going I mop the kitchen floor.
Tuesday:  Laundry and Dusting.
  • I like to use Endust and an old washcloth.  Feather dusters don't really dust.  They just move the dust around and stir it up.   I have to admit that dusting is the one that is easiest for me to slip on, but my son has allergies to dust, so I try and keep up on it.
Wednesday:  Laundry and Bathrooms.
  • I scrub each bathroom every week.  I like to use Clorox disinfecting wipes, The Works toilet bowl cleaner, Comet Mildew Stain Remover.  After I scrub everything, then I sweep and mop the floor and clean the mirrors with a generic window cleaner.  I have tried generic cleaning supplies, but I really do like the way these clean better.
Thursday:  Laundry and Kitchen.
  • Clean out the fridge and wipe it down, scrub all of the countertops, and wipe down all of the cabinet doors.  I also have to take all of the little piles of paper and other randomness that has found its way onto my kitchen counter over the last week and clean/sort/throw away/put away all of it.
Friday:  Laundry and Vacuuming.
  • This is the day I do the sheets.  The kids don't have to make their beds this day and they think that is pretty cool.  :)  I also vacuum my entire house including the stairs. I do the edges too and if I remember, I check for spider webs.
Saturday:  Outside, special projects, and family time.

Sunday:  Day of rest and after a week of hard work, you deserve it!

One of the benefits of doing your cleaning this way is that everything gets cleaned every week.  Then if something crazy you get sick, or break a leg, you don't have to worry about your housework.  Everything was just cleaned last week, so it can wait until next week if needs be.