Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Homemade Dishwasher Soap Revisited

A while back I posted about making your own natural dishwasher detergent. We have been using this exclusively for nearly 2 months now so I feel like I can report back.

Sadly, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with the results. Often, the powder turns into a gelatinous mess and gets stuck in the detergent cup. Then the dishes don't get so clean and we have to remove the old detergent and try again. I did discover that using white vinegar as a rinse agent does seem to help prevent this a little.

Another thing that I discovered is that the citric acid that the recipe calls for can get expensive. I have not been able to find a really cheap source for this. I did try the recipe's alternative which was 2 packages of lemon flavored kool-aid mix. This seems to add to the whole icky blob stuck in the detergent cup. Next I decided to just leave this ingredient out all together which seemed to work just fine for the most part.

Several times I nearly broke down and just bought some commercial dishwashing detergent, but I really like the idea of making my own. Not only is is cheaper, it is convenient to be able to mix up a new batch at my convenience when I am getting low (eliminating a run to the store), and there is one less chemical concoction sitting in my cupboards.

This morning I stumbled upon another recipe for dishwasher soap. This one uses Borax and washing soda. I think I may just give this one a try and see how it compares. This article also includes other uses for Borax and washing soda including a link for homemade laundry detergent.

If you try any of these recipes, be sure and comment and let me know how it goes for you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Pajamas

Here is a little of my Christmas show and tell that I promised. One of my big handmade projects this year was to sew PJs for each of my 5 kids for Christmas. We have a tradition of giving the kids new pajamas each Christmas Eve. It is the one present from us that they get to open. Usually I just buy them, but with finances tight this year, I thought maybe I could save some money and make them special by sewing them myself. (BTW credits for the scrapbook page can be found here.)

I got this idea one day when I was at Wal-Mart. I found this cute flannel kitty fabric that just cried out "Anna" when I saw it. So I found an inexpensive, easy PJ pattern and bought the fabric.

Patrick's Pjs are from the same pattern, but the gown is shortened to a shirt and I made pants with it. The fabric was actually 2 fleece blankets that I found at Menards for $3.88 each. That worked out to be cheaper than I could even by fleece fabric on sale at the store. He has been practically living in these since Christmas Eve.

The girls' nightgowns are made from some Noah's Ark print fabric that was in my stash. Note that these gowns match the nightgown I made for Abi's birthday doll as well as some of the fabric used to make the quilted sleeping bag.

Here are my goofy children modeling their new duds on Christmas Eve. Elizabeth's nightgown was also created from 2 fleece blankets like Patrick's. I did cheat on the big girls' sleep pants. I found the set of 2 pair at Sam's Club for cheaper than I could sew them.


I think perhaps Elizabeth is the only sane one in the group. What do you think?
I have to admit that with all that has gone on in our house, I was down to the wire to complete these. I finished Elizabeth's and Anna's on Christmas Eve morning. I was thankful that I used the same simple pattern for all of them because I had it practically memorized by the time I got to theirs.
I am off to an OB appointment today for a non-stress test. Will share more later.
Have a great day!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not there yet...

Back to normalcy, that is.
I got all the children up and made sure they had clean clothes for church, but Rachel didn't stir when her siblings started making noise. After getting everyone else ready including myself, I woke her up to get her ready only to discover that she seemed feverish, stuffed up and has a weird rash all over her body. So, Barry took the rest of the gang to church and I am sitting here at the computer trying to figure out what my daughter has. It could be a bunch of things: roseola, fifth disease, rubella...I don't know. None of them are all that terrible for her. Rubella could be bad for me being pregnant if I was earlier along, but I'm not and I am fairly certain that I have been tested and am immune to it.

This is not so bad. Rachel is loving the one on one time and I get to stay home and relax. Perhaps this is just a little gift from God giving me a day (or at least a morning) of rest.


I'm craving normalcy...whatever that may be for an 8 month pregnant homeschooling mom of 5 who's just been through a fractured elbow, explosive stomach flu that has rocketed through her family of 7 during a 4 day power outage as she prepared for and celebrated Christmas.

My head is still kind of spinning. I did not get all of my handmade Christmas items done and I had to give IOUs, I have an intimidating mountain of laundry piled up, and my house looks somewhat like a tornado went through it. I am at a loss as to where to start catching up on it all. My body still does not feel 100% and I have lost the energy and stamina to get much done. I am praying for that nesting urge to kick in. Perhaps from that I will get the strength to push through this all.

Even the weather around here has been far from normal. Just a week ago our temperatures were below zero with wind chills below -20. Yesterday, the temperature reached 67 degrees. 67 DEGREES! It's a shame our power loss wasn't during this weekend instead of last. We would have been a whole lot more comfortable!

Yesterday, I decided to download some of our Christmas pictures off of the camera and scrap a page. I chose this photo not because it was typical of our Christmas necessarily, but because I think it shows a bit of normalcy that I am craving. This exchange between my two daughters is so typical for them. Anna purposely annoys her sister and Elizabeth gives her that dirty look. Deep down I know they love each other, but they are not so great at showing it at this phase in their lives. (Credits for the page can be found here.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I feel like I have been kicked while I was down.

I keep thinking that I should write an update here about what is going on, but I am finding it hard to be upbeat and positive even though I know I should be. I last reported how thankful I was that our power had been restored. I was SO thankful!

Then, we went to a Christmas party Saturday afternoon/evening. That was fun until we went to leave and my two year old threw up all over herself, the floor and then me. Ugh! My mind is thinking about how this will probably run through the whole household and I am going to have to deal with puking for days. All I wanted to do is get home and bathe my daughter, shower myself and launder our clothes. As we approached our road, hubby says, "uh oh, I don't see any lights on our street." Sure enough, we had lost power AGAIN. I called the power company and they were saying that it would be on my Christmas Eve night. I just wanted to cry! Luckily, there was still hot water left and Barry powered up the generator so I could at least give Rachel a bath. Poor thing, she is still too little to know not to puke all over herself, so we were up until about 5am dealing with changing PJs and bedding every 1/2 hour or hour. Then she finally fell asleep soundly. Of course, Abi woke up at 7am throwing up. [sigh] The sickies have run right on up through the ranks and it has not been fun, especially with no way to do laundry.

To make matters worse, it was freezing cold outside with horrendous winds and sub-zero windchills. We ran a kerosene heater all night on Sunday and woke up to a house that was 43 degrees. We each had at least 6 heavy blankets on us a piece so we stayed warm as long as we were in bed. All the kids huddled around the gas fireplace and the kerosene heater and we made due. Then the generator stopped working. No more water and no more space heater! I sat there depressed until my sweet BIL and SIL invited us over to their warm home with power up the road. They had dealt with the same sickness and so we didn't have to worry about spreading germs. I can't tell you how wonderful heat, and warm showers feel after going without for days.

They must have been our good luck charm, because that night, the power came back on. Yeah! Our house is now warm and toasty and we have water! The stress must have proven too much for my body and now I am sick. I have so much to try and catch up on and no energy to do it. I keep thinking that maybe by tomorrow I will feel human again and be able to get lots done and save our handmade Christmas. As it stands now, I have gobs of unfinished presents. The bad thing is most are for kids and I fear that I will have nothing to give them on Christmas day.

I am praying that this is it. No more bad stuff needs to be dumped on us. I don't know that I could take it - I am beyond overwhelmed. Right now as I type a new batch of freezing rain is coming down. I am praying with all my might that it doesn't take down anymore power lines. No one deserves that. Hopefully, by tomorrow I can write a more uplifting post. Hopefully, by then I will feel more uplifted.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Yesterday morning we awoke to a world that had been crystallized with ice. Freezing rain had fallen all through the night and left an inch thick layer of ice on everything. As lovely as it looked, it was also pretty devastating to trees and power lines. At 6am our power went out due to a downed power line up the road. Electricity is one of those things that you take for granted until it is gone. For our household it means not only no lights and appliances, but also no heat and no water because we rely on a well with an electric pump.

Within a few short hours our home's temperature had settled to a chilly 57 degrees and I was worried we would be frozen out before power was restored. With over 150,000 homes in our area out of electricity, the power company was estimating ours would be restored by 1pm on SUNDAY. We are actually sitting pretty well. We have a generator so we can periodically run it to get some water and a bit of heat. As inconvenienced and uncomfortable as we were, I couldn't help but think how much worse it could have been. We used to live in a drafty, uninsulated, old farmhouse. I kept thinking how awful that would be. We had an adequate supply of food, water and shelter to get by. God was providing, even though it wasn't smooth sailing.

Thankfully, there was a crew out last night to fix the line and we now have power! I can't tell you the gratitude that I feel. There is nothing like doing without for just a little while to make you appreciate the things that you have. I am so thankful to be sitting in my warm home with my hot coffee in front of my computer at this moment. I say a prayer for all of those who are still struggling without power.

The other day I wrote about struggling through Christmas. I really feel like God is teaching me and growing me through all of this. Just when I feel like things are starting to take a turn for the better, some new difficulty presents itself. I keep finding myself saying, "It just is what it is." Things have been tough lately for no definitive reason and there is no use sitting around belly-aching about it. All we can do is the best we can do and rely on God for the rest. Deep in my heart I know that He is watching over us and we are still in His tender care. He has opened my eyes to how much we have to be thankful for. So, I guess I have to say that there are blessings hidden amidst the trials and I am so thankful for that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Christmas and I am at the end of myself

It has been a crazy week. I woke Monday morning, tired and achy and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by Christmas, my immense to-do list paired with my lack of energy, my lack of finances to throw at my to-do list to simplify things, and my stack of bills. Bills not for fun Christmas things but expenses associated with having a home and running a business that all seem to fall due during the last couple of months of the year. It saddens me that this is what Christmas is. At a time when I should be filled with joy over what we are celebrating, I am instead overwhelmed and stressed. I find that I am at the end of myself.

There have been many negative things that have been happening this week. I am feeling under the weather and my body is fighting off something. My sinuses ache with pressure, my one eye is bloodshot as if some sickness has decided to settle there and my body is tired and achy. Whose to say how much of that is from sickness or pregnancy. Then Monday night, I pulled a doosey. There were about three flakes of snow on the ground and I managed to slip and fall, injuring myself. Thankfully, the baby seems just fine. I, on the other hand, hurt my elbow. The x-rays showed fluid on the elbow which the ER doctor said is usually a sign of a fracture, although he couldn't actually see one. So my right arm is in a sling for a couple of days. Hopefully it will then feel well enough to start using gently. It is a struggle to accomplish anything with only one arm and I am not a lefty. Everything seems to take me three times longer than it should. So, that's the negative.

On the positive side, though...I have amazing people surrounding me. My family has been so helpful at a time when I feel helpless. They have been my extra hand without complaint. My dear friend who is incredibly busy herself took the time to make a wonderful dinner for our family and bring it out to us, braving the slippery snowy roads to do so just so I wouldn't have to struggle to cook one-handed. Also, before this week even began, my dear sister-in-law wrote me the most encouraging heartfelt note over the weekend. She said she did it because of God's nudging. I am so thankful she let herself be nudged because, obviously, God knew what kind of week I was heading into. I can't even begin to say how touching it was and is to me. Through all of the bad, the good shines through. I know that God is using this time to grow me although I don't thoroughly understand how right now.

Last week I was chatting with my mom. We had been discussing some of my handmade Christmas projects and the lack of finances that has necessitated them. She said, "You are getting to experience the true meaning of Christmas." I didn't think too much about it then, but this has been stuck in my head all week. And I wonder, what really IS the true meaning of Christmas? Is it the giving of one's self? Is it a warm fuzzy feeling or is it in actuality a struggle.

Thinking about the very first Christmas, it was very much a struggle, wasn't it? There's a young couple traveling for days on foot and donkey to appease a foreign ruler, circumstances out of their control. This is at a time when Mary should have been home resting and making preparations for a baby. A baby that she believes is the Saviour of her people. I'm sure her desire was for everything to be perfect for His entrance into this world. Instead she is laboring while bouncing around on the back of a donkey. I'm sure she is desperate for a place to rest and the only place that can be found for her is in a stall amidst the animals - surrounded by their muck, smells and their filth. A merry Christmas, indeed! But in this horrible situation, God brought forth the greatest gift of all time, His own son, the Messiah.

So, I sit here pondering these things, thinking about Christmas and what it really means. I think most of us have this image of what a perfect Christmas is supposed to be. It is an unreal scenario where our perfect homes are decorated festively. Perfect gifts are wrapped beautifully and nestled under the tree while we gather with friends and family and have warm fuzzy feelings galore. How many of us actually get to this place? I might have glimpses of it, but in actuality, I am usually running around stressed and frazzled throwing mediocre, overpriced presents into gift bags as we race off to another Christmas function.

So, what should Christmas be like? Maybe it is finding grace in the midst of struggle; blessings in the midst of trials. Perhaps, it is remembering the difficulties of that very first Christmas and the joy that it birthed. I think it is opening our eyes and seeing God at work through all the muck surrounding us. Perhaps it takes coming to the end of ourselves to look around and see that God is right here with us through it all. I think that would be the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade Holidays

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I believe that. Because our funds are on the short side, it has necessitated that I become a bit more inventive as to how I am going to come up with the many gifts we have to give this year. With 5 kids the gifts add up, not to mention that one of them has a birthday this month, too.

So, I decided that this year as going to have to be a mostly handmade Christmas. I have a rather large stash of fabric and craft supplies that I have collected throughout the years. I figure if I use that as a base for my projects, I can eliminate a lot of cash outlay. This little doll in the photo is the perfect example of that.

I have been working on some felt play food for my daughter for her birthday this year because I know that grams and gramps are getting she and her younger sister a play kitchen for Christmas. But as I looked at what I have made, it looked pretty paltry, so I decided I needed to come up with something else. I got the idea that she would love a special little doll and set forth to find inspiration on the web. I LOVE the internet. Within a half hour, I had not only found inspiration, but a pattern, directions and a video showing how to make this little cutie. I had the doll pretty well put together that afternoon out of some of my scrap fabric.

That evening, I was reading Bend the Rules Sewing which I got from the library. There are instructions to make a cute lap quilt. The light bulb in my head went off and I decided that I would make a quilt for the doll. I used the same fabric that I used for the doll along with some scraps of fabric from the nightgown that I made for my daughter for Christmas. I have never made a quilt before and this was so much FUN! I am glad I that my first quilt was doll size because it was great to see this come together in just one afternoon. It is pictured here with the binding only partially finished. I machine stitched one side on and hand stitched the other. I am going to turn this into a cute sleeping bag for the doll because my daughter is really into her own sleeping bag right now.

I have enough fabric scraps to make the doll some PJs that will match my daughter's and I am also going to make my daughter a little tulle tutu and a matching one for the doll. I just know that she is going to love this. And the best part? The only thing I purchased for this was the quilt batting and stuffing. Everything else, I already had, so it only cost me my time. LOVE that!

I'll have to show it all off here once it is all done because I am pretty excited about it. If you are wondering about the doll pattern, it can be found here on the Martha Stewart site.

I have LOTS of other projects in the works, and it is my plan to start showing them off here as I get things done. Some I will have to keep hidden until after Christmas, though, because my older children actually do read this blog. (So nana boo boo, I am not showing you girls anything!) So do some of others that I am creating for, so I suppose that I will have to watch what I say!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Motherhood, Christmas and Sniffles...Oh my!

Motherhood, Christmas and Sniffles...Oh my!
Lately my time and energy has been stretched. The tasks of mothering my children as well as carrying this soon to arrive little one, preparing for a mostly handmade Christmas, and wiping the inevitable running noses that have invaded our home have taken just about all that I have.

So, I have not posted to the blog in a bit. Even if I could find the time, I feel like I am lacking the mental capacity to compose a sensible post. My brain is full of to-do lists and projects, schoolwork and laundry, cooking and cleaning...all of the stuff that fill my days to capacity.

In my quiet time this morning I was reading from a wonderful blog that I have recently stumbled upon called Holy Experience which is written by a God-seeking mom of six. She has been blessed with the gift of prose and is able to write the deepest thoughts in such a beautiful way. I have thoroughly appreciated so many of her posts, perhaps because she and I reside in a similar place - not physically but emotionally and spiritually - seeking to serve God through this process of motherhood and life.

Today, I was reading an older post called Strange Disappearance of SAHMs which discussed the idea that even though we may choose to fore go the paying workforce and stay at home to raise and nurture our children we are not stay-at-home-moms. Instead we ARE workers, employed by GOD Himself, working in a sacred domain. I think this so important to keep in the forefront of our minds. Society tends to place little value on those that do not earn a monetary wage. We are JUST housewives or stay-at-home-moms. But there are many days when I think it would have been so much easier to join the workforce and have a career. The 9 to 5 workday sounds so much simpler than the chaos I struggle to bring order to each day. BUT, I don't think it would be near as rewarding. What could be more rewarding than to feel the warm breath and soft skin of a newborn sleeping at your breast. Or the sticky hands that gently caress your cheek and as the words, "I love you Mom." are uttered. Or seeing the fruit of your labors as your child makes responsible choices and seeks God of their own free will. I don't believe any amount of money could be worth more.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's a.....BABY!

It's a baby. It appears healthy. And that's all we know. After taking a family vote, we decided not to peek at this little one's privates and wait to be surprised as to whether this little blessing is a boy or a girl.

This ultrasound was actually done last month (11/4), but I am just getting around to scanning these photos. I honestly do not know where the time goes. Barry joined me for this and we had the opportunity to count ten little fingers and ten little toes, so at least that is taken care of already. I know that I am prejudiced, but isn't this little one adorable! I can't wait to meet him or her in just about 7 weeks.

I had been feeling pretty good for a while. The extreme tiredness I always struggle with during the early weeks of pregnancy had passed and I began to feel like a productive human again. I fear that this blissful pregnancy period is passing because I have been starting to feel tired and achy all the time. It is probably is somewhat due to being extremely busy lately and also fighting off a sinus infection. I guess this big ol' pregnant body can only take so much.

As we head into the busy Christmas season, I would really love to get my mojo back and feel like I can keep up with all there is to do. We are cutting back on our decorating this year. I keep telling myself that anything I get out will just have to be put back away in a month. I am sure I will not feel up to hauling much more than this big ol' belly by then. As it is, my abdominal muscles and my back are aching quite a bit already. BUT, when I look at these pictures, I know that it is all worth it. The discomfort is a short lived thing and soon I will be holding this special little creation in my arms instead of my belly. What a joy that will be!