3 year Blogiversary

 

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Growing a large family 3 year blogiversary

 

It was 3 years ago today that I decided to start a blog. A place where I can vent and connect with the world. I also did many searches for large family blogs and couldn’t find any. So I decided that that was the direction I wanted to go. Over the years it has morphed into an eclectic collection of moments in our lives from homeschooling to homesteading. I try to keep it real, but classy and positive at the same time. I hope I have provided some humor along with some ideas and tips to help with your lives. All I ask is that you spread the word.

 

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Now let’s take a look back at my top post over the last 3 years.

First Day of School 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

Building our Coop de Ville

 

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My Favorite Post:

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits

This is my favorite post because I always ask myself why can’t I make biscuits. I grew up watching Grandma make them. I have tackled some pretty difficult recipes and have honestly impressed the heck out of myself sometimes. But biscuits are my Achilles heel! UPDATE: I still haven’t found and made a good biscuit yet!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

 

Theses are the post that sum me up as a person. These post show who I am perfectly.

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

City Girl living a Country life

Check in with my flock

Family Dinners

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Let me know your favorite post and what you would like to see more of.

 

 

A new level of frugal

Hubby and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this past May. Since the 2 of us haven’t been on vacation without the kids since our honeymoon, we thought it would be the perfect time. We had a nice relaxing long weekend at Disney! It was wonderful. But I am not sure we were prepared for what happened next.

A summer of togetherness. 24/7 togetherness!

Since our return from vacation, Hubby’s business has slowed down like 100%. He is only working a handful of days out of the month for the last 4 months. So as the months past by, we have had to really tighten our belts and cut out unnecessary expenses. Of course, me being me, cut out all of my beauty expenses or at least went the cheaper route. Back to dying my own hair and waxing my own eyebrows. And no recent hair cuts. But having 2 boys in the house that needed haircuts every month was getting expensive.

So I bought a clipper set at BJs and learned how to cut hair.

I started with my son. I figured if I messed up then no big deal he was 5 and wouldn’t care.

 

Before

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After

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Not too bad for my first time.

Then my youngest daughter wanted bangs. So back to youtube I went.

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Before

 

After

After

One side did end up a little shorter than the other. But for my first time, I think it was good. She was happy.

Since this I have done my son’s hair many times. I have to say I prefer cutting the boys hair, much easier and if you screw up just shave it all off. I have even started cutting my Hubby’s hair. Which was nerve racking because he is so particular about it. But I have done it twice and he was very happy. So I have saved us at least $100 so far. The clippers only cost $30. So far a $70 profit. And the more I do it, the better and faster I get. This past Monday, I did both boys in an hour. That beats have to go to Fantastic Sams and wait, not to mention the time and the cost of gas it takes to get there.

Beginning a new school year

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This is from a few years ago, but totally captured how I felt beginning this new school year.

This school year has had so many ups and downs that I am scared to see what the next 8 months bring. I just couldn’t get everything going. I had no motivation. Plus I was lost trying to homeschool 3 kids at 3 different levels. This was a first for me. Even when my girls were all home, they were close to each other that I could teach them all and then give different activities. But this year was different.

I have a High schooler,Cailin, as if that isn’t stressful enough. All the questions of am I doing the right thing? Am I screwing her up for life? Am I giving her enough classes or too much? What about college?!?

Then I have my special needs daughter, Brianna. She learns something but still struggles with 1st to 2nd grade math. We haven’t moved past basic division because she get so frustrated. She loves Science and Nature but hates writing and history. She gets frustrated if I try to help and then in the same breath frustrated that I didn’t help. *SIGH*

Last is my darling son, Dakota, who is extremely smart and retains things very quickly, but HATES SCHOOL!!!!! He would rather play with video games and toys or watch Disney Jr than pick up a crayon. He can write his name and recognize most letters. He just learned to count to 25 but would rather learn adding and telling time. Like I said extremely smart, but also my “I can’t” kid, which I have never had to deal with before.

Needless to say in the last month and half that we have been suppose to be doing school, there were a lot of struggles, tears and me saying I was done. I sat down with the kids a few times and tried to brainstorm what would help all of us. What I heard was

  • I hate being in my room reading from 10 different textbooks (Cailin)
  • I want more science ( Brianna and Cailin)
  • I want more projects or hands on stuff (both again)
  • I want more art (both again)
  • I like stickers, painting, storytime, circle time, fun games and toys, BUT NO COLORING! (demanding  darling son)
  • Cooking (all 3)

For me, it was research time!

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Maybe we were unschooling all along! Snow ball fight in Florida!

 

Unschooling
Unschooling was one of the first methods I checked out. I knew I was tired of worksheets and blah reading. And I also knew I was burned out. And I knew I just didn’t have it in me to be stressed out and worrying about curriculum deadlines. But I was worried about Cailin not having enough credits or requirements to get into culinary school. I knew she would read and learn on a daily basis, but what about Brianna. During the weekends all she does is sleep, walk around the yard or sleep and watch TV. She has no goals, interest, hobbies or independence. She needs me to lead and direct. Then there is Dakota, who as I stated earlier would play video games all day long.
I didn’t like the couple of days we tried it and neither did the kids, except Lil Man. At the same time, there were some readings about how unschooling is letting go of everything. No chores, no rules, eating whatever they want, basically letting them make their choices. Again this is not going to work in my house.
  1. I am a control freak and so is my hubby.
  2. My kids will eat junk food instead of making healthy choices.
  3. I am trying to go organic and that stuff is expensive. If I let my skinny mini special needs child go on free will by the end of the day my groceries will be gone. She doesn’t eat because she is hungry. She eats because it is 8 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock or because she is bored.
  4. I have a VERY hard time getting the kids to do their chores as is, if I let them choose then nothing will be done, other than me listening to Hubby complain.
  5. I have a large family and I am only 1 person!

So some of the ideas didn’t sit well with me.

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Doing a fun project just because we can!

 

Project based learning
Project based learning was next. I liked how it was very hands on and I knew my kids would love that. But it was once again child led. We tried this for a few days. My oldest began a project, did very well, but hasn’t touched it since. My youngest just wants to read the Mo Willems Pigeon books, but no activities to go with them. And Brianna refused to read the book, picked out a cat, started to make a cat but then got frustrated. Once again I helped too much and then not enough.
Meeting time
We sat down again and went over everything we liked and didn’t like about the last few weeks. The things we took away from this meeting were pretty simple. My kids liked when I was teaching them and planning the activities. They didn’t want to have all that responsibility, but they do like a say in what we learn. Which is fine because I love Pinterest and planning all those activities.
My kids hate writing! So I will include that in with other subjects.  Brianna loved Little House in the Big woods and Cailin wants to read Shakespeare. UMMM OK!!! Everyone wants more science. Heck, if all day, everyday was just science they would be happy. Cailin was doing Biology and she liked what they were teaching just not how and Brianna is very interested in animals, insects and plants. Take away textbooks, add some hands on activities, videos, interactive notebooking and field trips~ you got yourself and very fun science curriculum.
I struggled with History and Art. That is not my thing. American history, YES! World History, NO! So I have my mom helping me to put that together and make it more hands on. They liked our curriculum, Story of the World, but wanted art tied into it and more videos and hands on. I have to admit in my we have to finish this now, I would skip a lot of hands on activities. Yup bad mom of the year here. But it’s okay, because I am reformed now! And again, thank God for Pinterest and lovely homeschool blogging moms who have the answer to my struggles.
This helped with my older kids, but what about Dakota. Well for one, he likes to say he is smarter than his sisters. So I being the mom I am told him if he doesn’t do school and they do school eventually he won’t be smarter. Don’t judge! He is my stubborn one and if it works it works. But seriously, I also noticed that if it is something that catches his attention, he will participate. The other day, the girls were observing and drawing in their nature journal outside, which was his idea (a miracle). He had to have a nature journal too. And so he sat, drawing and from time to time running to catch butterflies. That in my book is a success!
In the end
We can’t and won’t be labeled. We are Unschoolers. Everyday is learning if you really pay attention and think. We think we are just living, but living and learning goes hand and hand. So me explaining why the dumbass who just cut me off in the car is a dumbass is learning. Or why we need to go get this for the chickens or why we don’t buy this brand or version of the food. It is valuable information that they are soaking up and storing away.
We are Project Based because we love using our hands and really being able to observe and process it. We love a good project but also know when to move on. It doesn’t consume our lives.
We are Teacher led because my kids want to spend time with me and listen to my knowledge. And let’s be honest, I don’t know how many more years I have with them and I am going to enjoy them. They are getting older you know.
We are Curriculum Based meaning we follow a curriculum but it was set up based on suggestions from the kids. Which must mean we are Child Led also.
Look I don’t know about you, but recently the reality has hit that my kids aren’t staying little. I have a year and a half until my oldest public school daughter graduates and goes off to college and 4 years with Cailin. Those years are going to fly and I just want to enjoy. I want to make memories and laugh. I want to have fun and live. I want to enjoy this season of my life before the next comes around. So I am not looking to check off a box of another school subject done. The only boxes I want to check off is moments lived!
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Picnic time

Challenge update~Harder than I thought, Not giving up

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When I started out on this challenge I thought I had it all planned out and it was going to be fun and exciting to eat new and healthier foods. But, boy, was I wrong. It has been difficult. I have met resistance from my family. Even my kids are saying it is not worth it. Hubby thinks I am crazy. And Grandma doesn’t care one way or the other as long as she is fed 3 times a day. My son has had plenty of meltdowns because Mommy won’t buy him poptarts anymore. At least once a week, I have wanted to just give up, throw the towel in and let the family have back all their favorite junk. Hubby hasn’t helped by wanting to eat out ALL THE TIME.

I am not giving up! I am just rethinking my plan.

First, I am focusing on one thing at a time. I know I said not to overwhelm yourself and it was a case Do as I say, not as I do.

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Step one: Eliminating as much GMO’s from our diet as I can. 

So there are 4 specific items that I have heard could be GMO.

  1. Corn
  2. Wheat
  3. Sugar
  4. Potatoes

Corn is the number 1 thing I keep hearing warnings about being GMO. Which sucks because it’s the only darn vegetable I can get my son to eat. I have tried finding organic frozen corn and haven’t had very good luck. I emailed Publix and asked about their corn. They said they try to stay away from buying GMO corn. But this isn’t a 100% fix. I have also read you can’t even trust the corn from your farmer’s market or fruit stand. I contacted our local farm stand and sure enough they said yeah it probably is. WHAT!?!  So with that being said, I am just limiting our corn intake. Instead of every week, I am doing once in a while. I was able to find a very small bag of organic corn (frozen) at Publix for an insane amount of money. It would take 2-3 bags to feed my family, but worked out great for my corn casserole which only calls for a small amount.

Wheat is the next on my list. I have been going crazy looking for reasonable organic flour. We go through  A LOT of flour because we make most things from scratch. And $5.99 per 5 lb bag was not going to fit in our budget when I am buying 10-20 lbs a month. But after much research, I found that the King Arthur brand is Non-GMO. I pay $4.99 for a 10lb bag of regular flour and King Arthur is $7.99 for the same size bag. I can live with that. Plus I love that it is unbleached and the texture is light and fluffy.

Sugar was the next thing that perked my ears up. Some sugar is not made from sugar cane, but rather sugar beets which is GMO. So I did buy a few small bags of organic sugar that I found at Walmart on sale and added my coupons to it. Wasn’t too bad, but again I go through 10+ pounds of sugar a month. So not feasible. BUT after more research, Domino states on their facebook page that they do not use GMO sugar and it is from Pure sugar cane. Any sugar stating from Pure Sugar cane is good, anything else stay clear of.

Potatoes haven’t gone GMO yet. But the potato big wigs are petitioning to get GMO potatoes approved. Plus it is on the dirty dozen list so I figured let’s be safe and just go organic. I have found the best place is BJ’s for organic potatoes. They had a much bigger bag for the same price of Publix.

So out of my top 4 (and I am sure as I learn; I will add more) 2 items I can keep buying the brands I love, one item I will cut back on and the other I found a good deal. AWESOME!

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How I did my research.
I realized instead of reading a million books and each one saying something different; I would go straight to the source of all info, the internet.  I would search the name of my favorite brand or food item and add GMO at the end. It was literally that simple and in moments I would have my answer. This all started with my stress over oats. I heard all Quaker and Kelloggs were GMO. I assumed my oats were crap and I was looking for an alternative. I was stressed over the price compared to how much we eat, plus I give them to my chickens. Then I did a simple search; which said several times; there are no GMO oats. Which is why Cheerios can say they are GMO free! From here, I started thinking so what else have I been spending extra money on unnecessarily. Thus, my research began. Another tidbit I just learned is Popcorn is safe. No such thing as GMO popcorn!
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I am never going back
There were a few items that I found I loved and will be keeping in our regular diet. Coconut oil is my new favorite oil. I love the smell and it taste so clean. I did realize that I need to buy the bigger size at Costco compared to the one at BJ’s because we use it for everything. Frying, baking, seasoning my cast iron and most importantly making popcorn. Grass fed hamburger is the other item. For months, I kept complaining that the meat had a raunchy smell to it. And when I would make burgers, my hands had so much grease that I had to use dish soap to get them clean. It was gross. Well grass-fed meat has none of that. Plus I made an amazing steak the other day from grass-fed beef and my hubby loved it so much he ate the leftovers 2 days later and said it tasted even better.  And that is enough to make me a believer. Butter from Grass fed milk is another one. Yes I have to remember to sit it out so it softens but totally worth it. I have never tasted such wonderful butter. And let me tell ya, we love our butter. But now I am in Heaven.
Now the things I can’t make a commitment and change to a healthier item. Mayonnaise~ I bought this non-Gmo, organic, expensive brand and I hate it. The texture is funny and the taste is blah! We don’t use mayo a lot so I am willing to compromise and buy Duke’s olive oil mayo.
Organic dirty dozen fruits and vegetables are a must; along with any other great deal I find on organic produce. I sealed the deal on the decision the day I was driving down my back roads with my family. We drove past a strawberry field being prepped for planting season and we got hit with this awful smell. At first, I thought it was a skunk dead in the area, but then Hubby said that’s the stuff they spray on the fields. Needless to say, I was grossed out! So we are trying to grow a lot of own, but if we can’t then organic is the way we are going as much as possible.

 

Cooking with kids~Pumpkin Cookies

Today is the beginning of a brand new series here. Cooking with my kids is something I am trying to do more of. Sometimes it is easier to just get in the kitchen and do it myself. But other times it is easier to involve one of them because then it cuts down on the fighting from boredom.

In celebration of hoping and wishing for fall here in the deep south, Lil Man and I made Pumpkin Cookies. I have to admit I have never tried these. I don’t like pumpkin! *GASP* There I said it while everyone is counting down to Pumpkin this and that, I am looking forward to apple flavored items. But my family loves these easy cookies. And they don’t last long at all, so they must be good.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It only takes 2 ingredients can of pumpkin puree and box of spice cake mix.

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Mix them up real good.

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And bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool. These are a soft cookie so they won’t take long to bake and less likely to dry out.

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I am a huge fan of Pinterest! You can follow me at http://www.pinterest.com/jeanetteford/.

Enjoy!

 

Getting challenge ready

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Creating a Master Menu

In my household, it is very easy to jump into the day and get caught up in all the things that need to be done. Homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, chickens and then there is meal time, by the time I get a chance to breathe it is 4:00 and I have no idea what’s for dinner. I need a plan. It’s one of many ways I keep my life organized and our budget on track.

This summer I took my meal planning to a whole new level. I went through my cookbooks (believe me there is a lot!) and made monthly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner of all of my families favorites. I have enough menus for 5 months worth of dinners. We only have 1 or 2 months for breakfast and lunch, but are trying to expand on those also. We will begin using these menus in September. I love trying new recipes so the weekends are left opened for those. I also only use these during the school year. Summer is all about finding new favorites.

 

Creating a Monthly Grocery List

Another thing I am starting to do is a beginning of the month huge shopping. I make a grocery listing everything I need and then go through and cross off what I already have. From there, I go through and add things that I am getting low on that I know are necessities and we will need before the month runs out.

Now I break down the produce items by the week. Obviously, buying fresh produce for a whole month and expecting it to stay fresh until the end of the month is unrealistic. So I do a quick produce and milk shopping every week.

Why I do a monthly shopping
I live out in a rural area and it is not economical for me to be driving to the store multiple times. Not only that but I have a big family. So I choose to take one weekend to do my huge shopping. One day I drive North to BJ’s and stop at a Publix. And then a few days later, when I go to my mother in laws, I stop at Costco, Fresh Market and a Meat market if need be. These are all close to her house. I am technically not making an extra trip because I have to go pick up which ever kids are at her house anyways. Plus this just works for me. If I lived in the city or closer to these places, I probably wouldn’t shop monthly.

 

Where I Shop

I usually shop at BJ Wholesale, Publix and Walmart. In doing my research of the variety of products, I have decided to drop Walmart stores. The stores are very limited on in store organic or natural products, but online they have an amazing selection with some items cheaper than Amazon. Plus by shopping online and using the mypoints.com website you will earn points towards gift cards for Amazon, Walmart or Visa. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this site. But that is another post.

 I also just recently purchased a Costco membership after reading many blog post about the amount of organic items and doing a walk-through of the store. I also did this through an email deal from MyPoints and earned extra points. So September will be my first month shopping there.
Near Costco, there is a meat market that sells grass-fed beef for the same price as regular beef at Publix. I am driving by so of course I am going to stop there and get my beef and anything else that looks good. Again I haven’t been there yet. This is based off of my research.
But I have been to the new Fresh Market by my Mother in Law’s house. AMAZING! It was a real food culinary dream. I will definitely be stopping there when I need fresh seafood. Very little meat is prepackaged, it all gets wrapped by the butcher when you order it. Plus they have an amazing bulk section.
I will post updates on my Facebook, instagram and of course here as to how this worked for me.
Throwing out all the junk
Now is the time to begin. Go through the house and throw out all the junk and buy all organic and natural items. NO!
The frugal side of me cannot suggest or even fathom doing this. I hate waste! It drives me crazy! Use what you got until it gone and then switch to the healthier version. This summer, we had already made the switch to organic milk because I was buying a half gallon for me, but realized it would be cheaper to just switch out our gallons for organic. My eggs are 90% farm fresh because my neighbors have been letting me buy their extras for next to nothing. Once in a while I buy eggs at the store and get the vegetarian eggs.
I am finally getting low on some items and I will be switching them over in September. I knew how awful vegetable oil is but I didn’t toss out what I had, I used it up and now can switch to coconut oil. My sugar is almost gone so I am switching to organic. And I am finishing up the meat in the freezer, but am hoping to buy 90% all natural, grass fed or wild for what I need to buy.
If you have some stuff that is unopened and really want to make the switch, then maybe donating to a local food bank is a great option for you. Remember no waste!
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. There will be times when the kids are starving or your out running errands and you just NEED to have that Pumpkin Spice Latte to get you through. I know for a fact that this coming month is going to be hard for us because our Disney passes are back and we will be going almost every weekend. But we are going to try our hardest and not fret over the times we can’t. My goal is 80/20. If I am at home, I want to make a meal instead of loading everyone up and going out and then feeling yucky afterwards. I want to feel better not be strict. I want to know I am feeding healthy options to my family, instead of crap that does nothing to for the mind and body. But am I overly crazy about it? NO, just doing the best I can do. One day, week, month and food choice at a time.

Fun weekend!

It’s the little things in life that make me smile. This weekend was one of those times that just made me giddy.

Saturday was the big day! The day I have been waiting for since April, when I bought all those fuzzy chicks home. That’s right folks! I got an egg!

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Here is proud egg layer!

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The first egg arrived on Saturday morning. I happen to hear one of the other hens singing the egg song so I went rushing out there thinking she laid an egg. But really she just likes announcing when others have made a nest and our laying their eggs. That is when I found Thing 1, not in the nesting boxes, but in her own little homemade nest. So for about an hour, I kept peeking at her and finally it was there. And I squealed like a girl. But hey, farmer’s can be girly!

Then Sunday, she took almost all day to lay again. And I sent little man out to gather the egg. But she wasn’t done yet. So we found these beauties in the garden instead.

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Thirty minutes later, little man and I went out again and found our 2nd egg.

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Needless to say, my kids are so excited about having to check for eggs everyday.