Monday, February 28, 2011

Five Below Challenge

Yeah!! It is the end of the month! Here is a fun activity when funds are low...This is what we call the Five Below, Five Dollar, Five Minute Challenge.

Purpose: To help DDs learn to make decisions quickly. (And to get out of the house :)

DDs1 and 2 went in with a timer set for 5 minutes. They pressed start once they entered the doors. They only had five minutes to decide what they wanted to buy (with their money of course). I stayed in the car with the other 3 kiddos. Here is the before:

Here is the after....

It was really fun!! I thought it would be a great b-day activity too. Just give everyone 5 dollars to go buy themselves whatever they want (or a present for the b-day kid).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Can You See What I'm Saying?

I do A LOT of parenting with my face - especially my eyes. Here is what they say...

The above picture is my classic raised eyebrow. When my girls see this it means, "You better rethink what you are doing/saying." It is nice to have this, because I can parent without saying a word. (I feel like I talk ALL DAY LONG!)

Another BEAUTIFUL tool is what I call the "Look me in the eye" technique. I got really tired of repeating myself over and over, and the girls ignoring me. Now I say, "Look me in the eye." When they are looking at me I know they are listening. I usually ask them to repeat what I said so I know they understand, or they have to say, "Yes mom" to signal that they are going to obey. (That sounds so dictator-like doesn't it?)

The last is when they are whining about anything, eg. work, no candy, playtime, screen time, etc. I point to my face (or my raised eyebrow) and say, "Does this face look like it is going to change it's mind?" They answer, "no" then I say, "Stop asking then, or you will get a mood." (see how it all fits together?)

The hilarious thing about all of this is that the DDs have eyebrow lifting contests to see who can do this look the best. It is really funny to watch, and I give them pointers too.

What do your eyes say?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

72 hr. kits - Shelter

I just ordered tarps, from It was the Foremost tarp 5'x7' for $1.99 plus shipping. I ordered 7 and it came to around $24 with the shipping. I ordered this size and weight because it seemed big enough that I could wrap up in it (I'm almost 6 feet tall) and still small enough to fit into our packs.

One of the most important things to have is shelter in an emergency. Tarps are great because they are water proof, cut the wind, and keep in heat. They are better to have than the emergency blankets. (We've heard those are junk. Thank you for the tip Kellen.)

I am also getting together the 2 tents we own for the family pack. I'll post a pick when the tarps come.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Watch Your Tone

This is one I LOVE! In our house we have the rule that we don't yell at each other (parents included). It's okay to be frustrated but you aren't allowed to yell. If the kids start yelling, I just say, "Watch your tone" and they know it means they better try a different voice.

This is also really helpful when they start to talk back to me. (Why do some parents tolerate this?) I raise my eyebrow which means - you better rethink what you are doing. Then I say -with an edge in my voice - "Watch your tone. I'm your mother." They know they better try again.

How do you handle frustrations in your house?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Speed Cleanin' - The Tools

I have been so excited to do this post - I hope you have been too. What I am about to show you has completely changed my cleaning life! Let me introduce you to the tools of Speed Cleaning.

First and most important is the apron. This has four pockets that carry all the tools that you will need as you clean. One carries cleaning cloths (or white cloth dinner napkins). Second, holds a plastic non-scratch scraper (for caked on messes), a razor blade holder (for paint and tape) and a toothbrush. The bottom ones are lined with Gallon Ziploc bags that are held - just on the front flap of the bag- by heavy duty paper clips. One is used to hold a non scratch sponge and the other is for garbage. The apron also has two loops that are for holding two cleaners, an all purpose grease cutter, and a glass cleaner.

One of the keys to speed is to have only a few cleaners. A tote is also necessary for ease of transport and to keep the cleaners together so you don't waste time hunting the house for them. So frustrating! Here is furniture polish and dust cloth, Red Juice (all purpose, non-toxic, which means no rinsing), shower cleaner, comet for kitchen sink shine, and windex.

The other tools are a heavy duty scrub brush (I have only found this through The Clean Team website), a duster (either swiffer or ostrich feather), a little hand broom.
Now, here to model them for you DH! (It takes a real man to model a pink apron:). Notice how the two cleaners hang from the loops? Also notice the clips to hold the baggies. I use the spaces behind the baggies to place small items that need to be put away. This makes it SO easy to put all the kids' small toys back in their place. It also saves me from treking around the house over and over. Time savers - that is what makes this system ROCK!

Easy -and fast- to pull the cleaners out of the loops. He thinks he's fast, but we both know I am faster.;)

In the back you tuck the duster into the apron strap to keep it handy. And the hand broom in a back pocket. This is handy to sweep under the couch cushions or the seal on the fridge. Oh, I love it when that is clean!

Can you tell that the key to this is having every possible tool you need on you? Then you only need to work your way around a room once. No walking back and forth to get stuff!
If you are going to clean like this, you have to have these tools. You can try to modify a cooking apron, but it isn't worth it. I suggest just buying the apron, scrub brush, and Red Juice from The other things you can pick up other places. Or you can order a kit already put together from them. Oh, and one more thing, look at their sh-mop. That is important too, but I forgot to take pictures of that.
Get your tools together and stay tuned for the method...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Garnishing Wages (Allowance)

This was too good to wait. So you get a double post Friday.

Tonight I had to pick up some of the DDs things. I told them they had to pay me fifty cents to get each thing back. (That is double of what it usually is. I'm tired of messing around.) DD1 decided that she wasn't going to pay for her math workbook. She thought that was pretty cool. That's when DH came back with, "Remember Jen, you have the power to garnish wages." BRILLIANT!!

The DDs looked a little confused. DH explained that when you don't want to pay something, the government (or their parents in this case) could take the money out before they even get paid. Great life skill lesson! You should've seen the look on their faces. PRICELESS! DD1 conceeded to pay and I feel that I have a very powerful playing piece in my parenting arsenol.

Dusting off Old Skillz

Years ago, in my glory days, I worked at a custom upholstery shop. It was one of the funnest jobs I have ever had. I learned enough skills to be dangerous - a.k.a. I can fly by the seat of my pants (or by the seat I am working on).

You can save a lot of money by recovering furniture and it is easier than you might think. All you need is a flat head screwdriver and a heavy duty stapler. Here are the before and afters:
Before: Urine stained fabric. I could not get this off fast enough! Don't ask how I ended up paying for this. Let's just say I am getting soft in my old age.
After: Covered with drop cloth. It seems to be very hip right now to use drop cloths for everything from curtains to upholstery. It is a great way to get a lot of fabric for cheap. Just remember to preshrink.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gardening System

It is this time of year that I start dreaming of spring and...gardening. This makes me laugh because I used to think I would NEVER garden. I wasn't any good at it. Then I found a system. I HEART SYSTEMS! Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. (p.s. so many of you like my Speed Cleaning post that I am going to make demo videos. stay tuned for those...) So here is a tour of my gardens...

Boxes made of untreated 2X8 wood. Outsides painted white to appease the HOA - ugh. Wish I would have done the boards that aren't wood and need no maintenance. Oh well... On this side (sunny side) we have 3 of the 4'x4' then 2 3'x3' for the DDs. They each have their own box to take care of. On the shady side of the house we have two more for cool weather crops.

Last year we installed the trellis system. Growing vertically totally increased the amount of things you can grow. This year we are going to try melons. Hopefully it works...
Mel, has many other variations on this so that people in all stages and places can garden. You should check it out!

A closer look at how we set the netting up. This stuff is so strong. Just make sure it is secure in the ground so it won't tip.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Speed Cleanin'

Happy Valentines Day to all of you. I did a special post with LOTS of pics...enjoy!

A few years back I came across a cleaning system that cuts cleaning time in half. I'm a sucker for systems so I gave it a try...It is amazing! It really does what it says. Here are some before and after pics along with my times....

The afters came before sorry (technical difficulties). The next ones are better
Living room/music room:
Details: Picked up, dusted, blinds and curtains dusted, all furniture pulled out and vacuumed under, couch chushions cleaned above and under.
Time: 19:04

Dining Room:
Details: Picked up, everything dusted (chandelier, chairs wiped, blinds, swings, etc.), table wiped, etc. However no floor work (that comes later)
Time: 8:39

Details: Picked up, blinds, shoe tray cleaned, rug shaken, even security boxes dusted, and door. (No floor work)
Time: 4:30

Details: picked up/decluttered, 1/2 of fridge cleaned out, cabinet fronts wiped, microwave inside/out, oven inside/out, blinds, paper shredder emptied, pencil sharpener too, dishwasher inside/out. No floors yet...
Time: 34 min

Hardwood floors throughout and sink:
Details: vacuumed (including all baseboards), mopped, and above kitchen cabinets vacuumed as well. Sink scrubbed and shined.
Time: 29:27
If you add all that up it comes to 95 minutes. Yep, 1 hour and 35 minutes to do all that. I can clean my entire house (minus the girls bedroom and bathroom) in 2 1/2 hours and it is a detailed cleaning. With what I was paying my cleaner I am saving/making about $35/hour. Love it!
*I use the Speed Cleaning method by Jeff Campbell. Visit his website for more info. Happy cleaning!

Friday, February 11, 2011

FLYing Update

FLY Lady says to start with the kitchen sink if you want to keep your house organized. I have tried this time and time again, but it just wasn't jiving. There are days I don't even see the kitchen until 10 am. Plus I have to let the dishes pile up during the day if the DDs don't empty the dishwasher in the morning.

The place I have been focusing on is my laundry room - and it is working. If I don't let my laundry pile up my whole house stays so much cleaner! It only takes a few minutes, literally, to fold the laundry when it comes out of the dryer, and another few minutes to put it away. But consistently doing it makes such a HUGE difference.

Try it, look around your house at a place that seems to spill out into other places. Then work on keeping it clutter free and clean. Remember, "By small and simple things, shall great things come to pass."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Emergency Preparedness - Water Complete

Last month we focused on getting our water needs taken care of for our 72 hour kits. These are the things that we have:

Seychelle water filter bottles for each pack
Katadyn backpack water filter (for cooking water, etc. Put in family portion of kit.)
Iodine tablets
Collapsible 5 gallon water container with spigot
Case of water for each car
Four water bottles for each person's backpack

This month I am focusing on shelter. Stay tuned...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Poor Man's Snow Shoes

I came up with this in a moment of desperation. My newly planted trees were so bent with snow I was afraid they would break. However, I don't own snow gear and I didn't want to go truding through the deep snow. These sleds were on the porch and whala! I had snow shoes.

I step on top of them and use the strings to help place them in the snow before I take each step. They work wonderfully! I can stand fully on one while I use the other one to whack the snow off of the trees as well.

The orange one is actually a boogie board I snagged out of my neighbor's garbage, the green a sled that I got at a yard sale for $1. Not a bad price for snow shoes! Just hang on if you come upon a hill!! :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Shopping

I finally have a post with pics..Yeah!! My grocery shopping has morphed again since the twins. I thought you might like to see how I shop when they are with me.
They (the twins) take up all of the grocery cart, so my groceries have to go around on one edge and the front and back. I have special clips that are made to hold grocery bags (got them at Wegmans) but you can also use heavy-duty S clips from the hardware store. I prefer the bags from Superfresh because they are actually woven, but the other non-woven ones held two gallons of milk just fine.

I have to say this worked out great. It is amazing what inspiration God gives during times of need.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meet My Mood

You may know this feeling...You've asked about 6 times - calmly - for something to be done. And NOTHING happens. Then on the seventh time your blood starts to boil, you explode, and start screaming at your kids. They then look at you like they don't understand what is wrong.

It was after doing this one too many times that my "Mood" walked into my life. I LOVE this thing! It is so simple to use, but it give me huge results - and I hardly have to scream anymore. I use it as a warning, a threat, and a joke.

Warning: When I feel myself starting to boil I say, "Girls, I have been patient and now I'm starting to get in a mood" or "I feel a mood coming on". It is at this point they know I am about to become a micro managing monster. They usually start to move.

Threat: "Girls, do you need a mood to get this done?"

Joke: When one of the girls gets sassy, I say to them, "are you in a mood?" They say yes. I say, "as long as you label it and warn people." They usually laugh at this and the mood dissapears.

Now what does a Mood look like? I get an edge in my voice and raise it, but not to screaming level. I spurt out warnings like, "If you don't clean this stuff up I will, and you'll have pay me." I tell them every little thing they need to do and ride them like crazy to keep moving. They HATE this and so do I. But I usually don't have to do this very often because the warnings are enough. That is a beautiful thing.