Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What I Wish I'd Known...

I am NOT a "B.O." as FlyLady would put it! (For those non-fly-ers, that's a Born Organizer). I am NOT one of those people that cleaning and organization come by naturally. I'm more the "borrow-the-brilliant-ideas-off-Pinterest" kinda girl. I also borrow a lot of ideas from friends, and today I'm going to share with you my FAVORITE MOP!

Wow, this is SO exciting! (no sarcasm intended... wink, wink) But it MIGHT actually be exciting if you were like I was....

I HATED MOPPING! It takes forever, the floor feels sticky afterwards, I get super paranoid about my kids dropping ANYTHING on the floor for the next few hours, or minutes, since that seems to be how long it takes before it's DIRTY again. Argh! Not to mention... What is that YUCKY SMELL coming from my mop that I made sure was thoroughly cleaned between use, thoroughly dried, and nicely soaped up for the job? This is why I HATED mopping!

Well in our last move this WONDERFUL woman from church came to help us clean and she is a cleaning GENIUS. She was smart, and brought her own mop ;) After watching her work her magic I knew it would be one of the FIRST purchase I made when we came to Alabama.

You can order it from Amazon here, or I just picked mine up from Wal-Mart for under $20. I LOVE this mop! One side can catch all the dust bunnies and the other side can scrub. Best part: the cover is VELCRO, so when it gets dirty, you pull it apart and rinse it out with some soap in your sink then throw it back on to finish the job. THEN, when you are DONE, you throw it in your washer and hang it up to dry! SOOOOO EASY!

The HANDLE is nice and LONG and has a great PIVOT joint at the bottom so you can maneuver it really easily. It's so easy to get out and use that I can have my room mopped in less than 20 minutes, setup and cleanup included.

For the Cleaner I did a hack on the Swiffer WetJet "Open Window Fresh Scent" bottle. I just took some pliers and popped off the white cap then screwed on a standard squirt bottle sprayer and it fit PERFECTLY and the smell is WONDERFUL! (Goodbye Pine-Sol, not sorry to see you go.) The kids love to spray the floor for me then we just mop over the Swiffer spray trail and if they get a little TOO much spray down, we'll mop over with a  water spray after. 

I love it! Mopping now makes me HAPPY! My floors feel cleaner, my house smells AMAZING and it's FUN to do!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kids and Chores

I have been through a LOT of different systems of chores with our kids, but I'm loving the new one we started. It's just a tweak on what we've already doing, but it combines allowance too. I'm not one that believes a kid should be paid for everything they do at home, but I also think they need to learn how to handle money. And, I found that I had to keep forking out money for a bunch of different things that would come up that should really be coming from their allowance. So here's what we're doing:

The famous Pie-Chart... my mom used to do these with us as kids, and I keep coming back to it because it is so nice. We rotate ours on a daily basis, and the amount of work done for each job varies by age of the child. For example, when my 6-year-old is on dishes, she only has to put away the clean dishes, but my 12-year-old would have to load the dirty as well.

Now comes in the allowance part of it. I have to thank my sister Maria, because this is brilliant! Each week my child has a certain amount of tasks I expect them to do. Their allowance is based on age... we have a tight budget and a lot of kids, so they can earn up to 25 cents/week/year old. So my 12-year-old can earn $3 a week. The percentage of their allowance they get is determined by the percentage of jobs they complete. But her's the exciting part... IF they complete 100% of their chores, they get a bonus! Yes, that's free money for just doing your job. We set our bonus as 25%, but you can decide whatever works for you. I track it weekly on a laminated chart with a wet-erase marker. Here's what our chart looks like:

You might not be able to read all of those, but for 6 days of the week they have to:
  • Make Bed
  • Clean their Room AM
  • AM Chores
  • Put Away Backpack/Coat/Shoes
  • PM Chores
  • Clean their Room again

Once a week they have to do their Laundry, and then Saturday they have an Extra Chore.

(The other little checks at the bottom are bonus money they get for practicing the piano... it seems to help motivate them and that makes me happy to hear them practicing nicely.)

Once they get their allowance PAID OUT, they put 10% into tithing, and 10% into savings, and what they do with the rest of it is up to them. I give my advice and influence as I can, but the ultimate choice is theirs. It was SO nice when we had the school book fair and I didn't have them all whining for me to buy them a book... they had their own money, they had to choose a book that they could afford and it was a HUGE success!

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Favorite Things - Budgeting

I came into our marriage MONEY STUPID! My first experience with a budget was when my mother-in-law sat down Ben and I and wrote out a basic list of the money we make and the bills we would have. What?! Money just doesn't appear? It doesn't just cover everything you need when you want? Really, I just hadn't THOUGHT about it. She was the beginning of my thinking. Since then I have thought a LOT about it and tried a LOT of different things to make our money work for us and it has been HORRIBLE!

Luckily, there are much smarter people out there, and with a lot of help and good influences I think I've finally found it... you know, the way to look at a budget and feel empowered, not stressed. So in hopes that any of you out there might be MONEY STUPID like I was, maybe my experience can help.

My money journey:
So I told you about my first budget already, it was kept like a checkbook, just paper lists. For the next SEVERAL years, I used Quicken, which was great, because I could show my husband EXACTLY "where all the money went." But it stunk as a budget program, and I always seemed to come up short.

Then my sister-in-law told me about some finance books she'd read in High School. They actually MADE all the students take a personal finance class... genius! So I read those books... the first was The Richest Man in Babylon. It was great on a conceptual basis and I'd definitely recommend it. The next one was what really changed my mindset and that was Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. So many principles rang so true and the stories were very motivational. He outlined the steps to getting started and highlighted amazing stories of people with INCREDIBLE debt who got out of it at unnatural speeds.

The Ramsey method is that you start by telling your money where to go... also called a zero-based budgeting system. He says to use CASH in ENVELOPES. You take the money, put it in the right budget envelope until you have 0 left. When the money is gone, you're done spending. You then build a $1000 EMERGENCY FUND so you can stop going into debt with every bump in the road. I LOVED this method, but found cash in envelopes a hassle, not very efficient, confusing, and HARD to TRACK.

So, I still used his concepts but I found different ways of implementing them. I found this video VERY HELPFUL, and if you are NEW to BUDGETING, this is a GREAT place to START:

These things worked, but not perfectly, and I was still frustrated. Which led me to YNAB! OH MY GOODNESS... it SERIOUSLY is the VERY BEST BUDGETING TOOL I have every found! The concept was similar to Ramsey, but the software is amazing!

Here are the YNAB Rules:
1) Give Every Dollar a Job (aka zero-based budgeting)
2) Save for a Rainy Day
3) Roll w/ the Punches - By far THE BEST RULE EVER
4) Live on Last Month's Income - This one right here is PEACE OF MIND

I've been using it for 9 months now and LOVE it! It has a month FREE TRIAL, after that, yes, you pay for it, but you pay ONCE... no subscription, no yearly fee. And I swear, you'll probably save the amount of the software in the FIRST month you pay for it! Oh ya, and it sync's to your Iphone, so you can see what money you have, when you are out on the go.

I know I'm a dork that I get so excited about this, but the feeling I get when I do my finances now is worth getting excited about! I'd be happy to help you out if you decide you want to try it.... happy budgeting :) If you wanna give it a try, you can use this link and get a $6 discount:
YNAB Discount Link

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our Trip to Memphis - Part II

Day 3 continued...
After our adventures at Brooks Museum, we drove around the corner to Overton Park. The Shelby Farms park was impressive, but the park at Overton is AMAZING! I even had to get out and play. The kids could have stayed here the rest of their vacation. In fact, we did go back the next day because it was so much fun!


On our final day we went into town and took a trolley ride around the downtown area. I LOVE the urban downtown scene... the shops, the architecture, the amazing interlacing roads! In my design studies at BYU we looked at a lot of different architecture and art that you just don't find in Utah. So one of my favorite things in our travels has been getting a taste of those!


Our trip to Memphis was SO much fun! We loved spending time with Chris & Jessie and kids and seeing so many things that Memphis had to offer. It's crazy where all of our travels have taken us :) Hopefully St. Louis will be our next vacation spot!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Trip to Memphis - Part I

 For Spring Break we drove Ben up to his new job in MEMPHIS, TN! Just to show what a SMALL WORLD it is... the apartment his work had for him was in the SAME building as our good friends Chris & Jessie. We've know them since flight school and both of us have moved a few times since then, and are working for different companies, and still we ended up RIGHT by them! So luckily, their Spring Break and work schedules aligned so they were able to drive us around the town for the week.

This was an awesome park with some HUGE play structures that we'd never seen before. They had a little bit of everything. The park even has a herd of Bison... random!

We were a little early for the flowers to all be in bloom, but it was still BEAUTIFUL. Like a very small Thanksgiving Point, but we got a taste of the greenery as well as a small display of ART!

You can imagine the looks on the Security Guards faces as they saw 3 adults and 11 CHILDREN come walking in their MUSEUM! I love ART and ARCHITECTURE, so I drag my kids along for the ride, hoping that they might get a love of it too. They didn't get too bored, and it helped out that they had a hands-on section along with their Salvador Dali display featuring Alice in Wonderland.

It totally cracked me up, we were trying to get a picture with 10 of the kids and Emily was the ONLY one who wasn't looking at the camera. So when I told her to turn around and look at the camera she did that (note the middle picture in the collage)... LOL... and she would NOT turn around... oh to be 2!

Stay tuned for our next installment of Spring Break in Memphis... I'm sure the suspense will kill you :)

Stop and Go

The last 7 months I've just wanted to hide my head in the sand. We came to Alabama thinking the future was nothing but BRIGHT! Then we got a rude awakening... 2 months into his BRUTAL training, Ben got laid off... thank you government cuts :(

It's been really hard to come to terms with things. It's really SHAKEN our faith. We felt SO good about this job. We left our first home, the new tree house we'd JUST finished and WONDERFUL friends. We have MOVED around a LOT. We've enjoyed our experiences but we've really wanted to SETTLE down for the sake of the kids. We really thought Alabama would be our new HOME.

The last thing in the world I wanted to do was shout it out to the WORLD what was going on. At times it's been so heart breaking, but at the same time, we have been so blessed and lifted up through this whole experience. I know we were helped because of our faith in tithing. Kind people from his work pitched in money to help us out. One of Ben's old students flew out here to share some of his generosity. Anonymous gift cards arrived in the mail. Our children's teachers were keenly aware of our needs. It brings tears to my eyes just recalling all the big and little miracles that have helped us survive.

Six months to the DAY of when Ben was laid off, he got a job offer. We still don't know what is going to happen. We don't know what our future will hold. But for now, I am grateful that PEOPLE are GOOD and I CHOOSE to BELIEVE that things will work out for the BEST.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Goodbye Dallas Hello Alabama

Our final family picture in our tree house which we finished in May... half way through we knew we might move but decided to finish it so the kids would at least get to play with it for a while, hopefully someone else gets to love it now! Another small miracle... this was as we were packed up ready to drive off and I prayed that we'd have someone show up to take the picture and up drove my friend!
 This last month we took the leap... in a matter of very short weeks (that felt like days) we changed EVERYTHING. Although to most of our friends and neighbors this came as a total surprise, to us this had been in the making for the past 4 years! To tell you our life story, minus a few details, Ben NEVER like the idea of debt, even for student loans, until he felt guided to become a Heli pilot, which all my other Heli pilot friends (at least those without a super rich daddy ;) know what kind of debt I'm talking about. Despite the debt, he loves what he's doing, and as the wife I can attest that he is happier doing this than anything else, especially when he can teach. Training was step 1, step 2 was getting a job, which we were very blessed to get right away, but the search for a place that he can do what he loves and get paid enough to pay back loans, and still allow a decent family life has been tricky. Along comes Fort Rucker... Home of Army Aviation. Almost 4 years ago exactly we heard about this job... good pay, BENEFITS, great schedule, oh ya, did I say BENEFITS :) So he applied, and was short on hours, so no go. Later, talked to some people, said they would only hire those with military experience, again, no go. That's when we moved to Dallas where Ben was replacing their Assistant Chief who got a job at Ft. Rucker... say what? No military experience, how'd he do that. BUT, we'd bought a house and moved already, so no go. After almost two years in Dallas and working looong hours, no benefits, too much stress, time came to look for another job. We didn't know what to do, but in March we knew one thing, Ben needed to look for a new job. Our options were Ft. Rucker or the Gulf  (aka flying to and from the oil rigs and being gone from home half of the year... yuck). So we talked to the kids and decided to apply for Ft. Rucker. We did NOT want to move again... but especially I prayed that I didn't have to move the kids mid-year again. And we heard NOTHING. Then we heard Ft. Rucker would probably not be hiring for a long time, budget cuts, and realized our only option left was the Gulf. So new plan, finish his UVU degree, then get ATP, then apply at the Gulf. This is when the miracles started to happen. The first day of the kids summer vacation Ben was getting ready for work in the morning and was talking about Fort Rucker. I don't remember what he said or why he was talking about it, just that he was. Then that afternoon he gets an email from Fort Rucker HR asking for him to send more information come to find out Ben was not in the hiring system, they were hiring, and the man "stumbled upon" Ben's email with resume while he was looking for something else. At that moment we knew we were moving. We felt such peace with every decision from then on. We didn't go by the book, but by our guts, really by the Spirit. He gave his notice before he interviewed, a lot scary, but we felt right about it. We booked the moving truck before the job offer, and our house was on the truck and shipped out before everything was official, but we knew what we needed to do and we did it. IT WAS HARD WORK! We literally packed our house in a week and squeezed it into an ABF trailer but we had a LOT of help for which we were SO grateful. My phone ring tone used to be the song "Sweet Home Alabama" and now it really is our Sweet Home! Ben's nearly done with his training, which everyone warned as being really difficult... big understatement. He says it's been the hardest thing he's ever done. But we hope it will be worth it and that this place will be a place we can call home. We've been here 4 weeks and we're just about all moved in. I've given up the idea of ever settling somewhere forever, but I'm ok going where we are called, because I know we'll get the help we need. And for now I'm glad we've been called here.  

So Ben is almost a Primary IP (Instructor Pilot) at Ft. Rucker... he gets to wear all the army gear... looks a little hot, but at least the Heli he flies has AC ;)
The front of our house... we live on the outskirts of a small military town.

As you walk in the front door... this seemed like a ridiculously long and wide hallway, but the kids have found it a great place to rollerblade. The first door on the right goes to the boys teeny bedroom and the next door on the right is a bathroom.
The first room on the left as you walk through the front door... it's our library/study/piano/game room.
First room on the right as you come in the front door. Supposed to be a formal dining room, but since our table doesn't fit in the breakfast nook of the kitchen so this is where we eat dinner.
Office nook between the kitchen and the dining room.

This is the wall opposite that office nook above, and I have to admit that one of the reasons I love having so many kids is to see all their cute things lined up in a row!

This is what you come to at the end of that long hallway, taken from the kitchen angle. The master bedroom is through that little doorway at the back and there are two opening on the sides of the fireplace that go into the bonus room.

This is obviously the kitchen, and I'd love to tell you those food storage boxes acting as bar stools are only temporary but that'd be a big fat lie... lol... I thought about doing a whole blog on all the furniture we've made from our food storage but it's just tacky.

This is the bonus room that shares a fire place with the great room. the kids LIVE in this room all day playing legos.

This is taken from another angle... there's a wet bar on the right which will hold all my craft stuff, but for now it's holdng all our camping gear since we have no garage, but more on that later. I get a sewing corner by the hiding window.

This is the view out our backdoor... I LOVE it! The yard is actually very large, then at there's a wire fence that starts a field that houses about 100 cows. So far no stink ;)

Down the other hallway are two bedrooms, with a jack and jill bath, a laundry room and then this little beauty of a man cave.

Yes, it's a movie theater, which you'd think would be awesome, and it is, except that it was the garage meaning we have no garage, and no storage shed, so our tools and camping and holiday decor are homeless... aka on our porch and in my craft corner.

So this is Ben's man cave, even though he says we'd rather have had a garage there, but that's why we're renting and not buying ;)

Theater room from the other side.

This is what our street looks like.. only about 30 houses on a country road. I'd say it's quiet, but we're in the path of the Blackhawk training pilots, so we see those all day, and hear them half the night, but I still think it's cool... even saw a Chinook the other day.