Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I loved this idea and had to share... The Creative Homemaker has a system for FHE (Family Home Evening) themes and organizastion for the year. Here's her pic and below is her breakdown of themes/topics.
FHE Themes
Jan- Order and Goals
Goal Setting/Priorities, Responsibilities, Work/House of Order, Word of Wisdom.

Feb- Love
Kindness, Repentance, Forgiveness, Morality.

Mar- Family Unity
(Communication), Manners (etiquette), Reverence, Missionary Work, CTR (honesty/accountability/example).

Apr- Becoming More Spiritual
Review of Conf., Resurrection/Second Coming, Prayer, Faith/Revelations.

May- Self-Reliance
Talents/Gifts, "Mothers"(including Eve, Mary, etc), Being Prepared (temporal & spiritual), Testimony/Trials, Temple.

Jun- Membership in the Church
 Baptism (covenants), "Fathers" (Adam, Lehi, etc), Leadership/Callings, Patriotism.

Jul- Patriotism and Pioneers
Agency, Diversity, Pioneers, Searching the Scriptures.

Aug- Following Christ
Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, Atonement, Sacrifice, Armor of God, 6 B's.

Sept- Purpose of Life
Plan of Salvation, Creation, I am a child of God, Godhead/Holy Ghost.

Oct- Obedience
Listening and Following Church leaders/Review of Conf., Budgeting, Commandments, Fasting/Fast Offering.
Nov- Gratitude
Restoration of the Gospel, Music & Hymns, Pat. Blessings, Sacrament.

Dec- Charity
Service, Stories of Jesus, Birth of Christ, Review of the Year.

 For a couple of years I've clipped articles from the Friend magazine and put them in a binder to use for FHE lessons, now I'll use these themes to organize them. Loved this!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Menu & Chores

More about cooking and cleaning, right... just what we all need, because they are a couple of the things that NEVER stop! So I am thrilled to report that the new chore system we are using is working REALLY well... kids know what's expected and there are clear consequences that do not involve me being the screaming bad guy. I still find myself wanting to squeak and give them their star for the day even if they didn't finish everything, but I'm working on not bending the rules ;) The kids have had a few good learning experiences too as they realize to get privileges they have to complete their responsibilities, and we've already done most of their "special dates". A couple chose a movie night with mom and dad, and the others chose walks, and Tally has the next 5 of her dates nights already planned out ;) It's so nice getting that one-on-one time with them.

I listed a bunch of our main menu items a couple blog posts back, but I had to share our new spin on it. I've always wanted to have "Taco Tuesday". Can't remember where I first heard it, but it was catchy and fun, but I always tended to miss it by a day or two. So one day, on the way to softball practice I told the kids about it, and since half of them have or are learning about alliterations in school they thought it was fun and started spouting off ones for other days. So now we have an alliteration menu plan with dinner as follows:

Macaroni Monday (Italian)
Taco Tuesday (Mexican)
Wonton Wednesday (Chinese/Asian)
Thankful Thursday (Just be grateful for whatever you get)
Fast Food or Fish Friday (Fast meaning home-made flatbread pizzas or something we buy pre-made)
Soup or Salad Saturday
Simple Sunday (a reminder to me that it's supposed to be a day of rest and not an elaborate feast)

We've had so much fun with it that we branched out to breakfast too:

OatMeal Monday
Tiny-Pancake Tuesday
Waffle Wednesday
Thankful Thursday (why not carry it out the whole day, right?!)
French Toast Friday
Cereal Saturday
Special Sunday (this is the day I like to take a little more time and make something special, like crepes or ableskivers; or if I'm really lucky and get to sleep in, German pancakes are great time-saving treat)

So there you have it... it makes me smile and since today was Tuesday we tried out our tiny pancakes and they were adorable! Better yet, I didn't have 4 kids waiting for me to cut their pancakes up... who doesn't love finger food :)

Busy, busy, busy and Loving It!

So it's taken me two weeks to post this, so forgive the out of date info, but it's been a little busy around here: To give you an idea (two weeks ago) we had Samantha's B-day, General Conference, Family Pics, General Conference, softball game, Scouts, Softball practice, Soccer Practice, a Wedding I decorated for and a Saturday Easter Bunny Siting!

Samantha turned 7... we found her this amazing musical carousel at an estate sale and gave her a package of Shrinky Dinks. She's had so much fun with them.
Family Pictures were a success

Despite all the grumbles of the week before, the kids really had a good time with general conference. Last minute I found some new kids packets for the older kids that was great... it made up a mini-book and they had to cut out the apostle's pic when they spoke, glue it on to their book, color in their tie and write what they talked about. I even wanted to do it :)

Somewhere in the midst of it all I finished a craft project I'd been wanting to do for a very long time... a Family Home Evening chart that has something for everyone to do.

Along with all the fun I found this cute little guy crossing the street in front of my Suburban so we brought him home and had a pet for the weekend before we let him go in a safe place.I kinda miss the little guy... we named him Shelly/Yurtle since I really don't know whether he was a she?!

This is the final product of the wedding we decorated for... a lot of work, but I was most happy the ceiling canopy did NOT fall down :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Progress & Projects

Doing projects and marking things off my list makes me happy! I would say 75% of the time I feel like a ping pong ball being bounced from kids to cooking to errands to getting glued to the mindless black hole of a computer or blah blah blah blah blah blah. Any mother knows exactly what I mean. But occasionally, I have those blissful days when I'm like an arrow... I get projects done, I conquer my list, my house is clean and maybe my kids even behave ;) Well, yesterday was one of those days and I finished a project I'd been working on for an entire week.

So here it is, our new and improved chore system. I shouted out for ideas on kids keeping their rooms cleaned and got some great ideas. One of that was a system my friend used that I copied to make this. Each child has a peg board... peg 1: Chores to do. peg 2: Chores done. peg 3: Tickets earned. peg 4: Special date card (12 spots for each day all jobs are done, when full, child gets date with mom or dad). peg 5: Extra chores for allowance. I'm very excited to see if this can streamline our day in a way that won't require constant reminders and and psychotic screaming mother.

This last weekend I got to make a bouquet for a wedding I'm working on. It's been a while, so it was nice to have her bridals as a sort of practice run. First time doing lilies and I learned a lot and will be doing a bit different next time but she was happy with the results so far. Sometimes it's scary what I dive into, but it wouldn't be fun if there weren't any risks involved. Stage 2 of this wedding is all the bridal party flowers and decorating an LDS building gym with a fabric canopy and some draped walls.
Here's Emily... almost 7 months old now and such a good baby! She's squirming all around now and her bottom 2 teeth broke through this last weekend so toothy pics on their way ;)Here she is posing in her Halloween costume Lori, one of our AZ friends, made... it is so adorable. She's got some crochet talent for sure!

I am overjoyed to announce that we now have a fenced backyard!!! Now the kids can play without the stress of keeping Ryan contained. We got these great fence sections from Lowes that Ben and the kids put up in a few hours one Saturday. It was such a fun family project.
Our PJ crew... love these goofy kids :)
We found a lost Yorkie that we got to babysit for a couple of days before we found his home. I must say that I really like adopting dogs for a weekend.... you get all the fun without all the mess ;)
Our first downtown Dallas adventure took us to a Heli Expo at the Dallas Convention Center. Ben & I and little Ben, Alaura and Emily rode the light rail (DART). That may have been the highlight of the day for them, but the heli's were pretty cool too. One even had a pegasus paint job.
Woo hoo... another long overdue project... a lemonade can turned headband holder... I glued it onto a candlestick to make it a little prettier.
I hung up iron knobs with ribbons for their bows, which filled up way too fast.
Exciting and sad days of cutting hair. I trimmed the older girls hair and Anabelle said she wanted her hair cut like Alaura's. She was so excited and loved her hair and I nearly cried... goodbye Rapunzel hair!
Tori's B-day was sooo much fun... Sushi, noodles, cupcakes, brownies and girl movies!
Anabelle turned 4! Dad got her a collection of gems because she loves little sparkly things. She had a super fun time shopping with the money Nana gave her, getting all sorts of things (umbrella, craft kit, treasure box). At school Tally got to make a Dr. Seuss hat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simple Things

Earlier this week Sam's teacher came up to talk to me after school and passed on a compliment from the Vice Principal about my kids. She said my kids were as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside :) Then they were saying how we have so many kids, yet there are some who only have 1 child and they don't know what to do with them. They wondered how we did it. Well, at this point I felt the Spirit welling up inside me and I had to tell her, "It's because we're Mormon and we live it!" I know I am nowhere near to being a perfect mom, and my kids are anything but perfect themselves, but I am so grateful for the gospel that teaches us to do our best, pick ourselves up when we make mistakes and never give up. Through and with Christ all things are possible!

When I stand back I realize how blessed we really are, and I can't help but feel grateful for all the little things that are so big to me.... for example... I am SOOO excited that last month I was under budget in EVERY spending category! I don't think I have ever done this before and I cannot begin to tell you how good that felt. The cash thing is totally working!

Another little thing that is huge to me is our "Page a Day". For about 4 years now I started reading a page a day out of the Book of Mormon with the kids. As schools and schedules have changed we've had to adjust our reading times, and what works now is as soon as all their breakfast is served and they start eating, I start reading. I give a brief review of where we're at and we stop and talk about new words and concepts. We're almost through the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time (obviously we've missed lots of days in those 4 years ;) and I love getting a small slice of gospel pie each day with them. I never get my breakfast warm and there are always a few "pass the syrup" interruptions, but it has worked. They are getting a little older though, and 3 of them can read on their own, so it's time to step it up another notch and I think we're going to start the 6am pj readings on the couch next week. Should be good.

The next thing I'm trying to figure out is how to get them to keep their rooms clean! Screaming is not working, reminding them a million times is not working, the whole "go pick up 10 things" prodding is not making enough of a dent so I think it's time to start the Gunny Bag. I'm not quite sure how to approach it though... specific times of the day it comes, 5 minute warning. I don't know, so give me your ideas of what you would try or what's worked for you! I would so appreciate it.

Lastly today I have to share my little lemon bar miracle. I'm working on getting the kids into the magnet schools in our area (like a charter they have to test into) and I've gone to one of them a couple times to check on things and I told them I'd bring treats the next time I came. So a couple of weeks ago, completely out of the blue, I felt the words "lemon bars to Vial". (Vial is the school). Weird, but ok, so I wrote it on my menu board and the next Sunday I made lemon bars. Which, by the way, the kids hated, but that's ok, more for me. The next day I took a small box of them into Vial and handed them to one of the secretaries and the other secretary said to her, "Oh, lemon bars, your favorite!" No kidding, lemon bars ended up being her favorite! I don't know why it mattered, and by no means does it affect the outcome for my children, but apparently God wanted her to know that she was love and He wanted me to learn to trust and listen. I was so overwhelmed and happy and grateful! Now to her I'll be the lemon bar lady, and I'm ok with that.

So budgets and cooking - I can credit staying within my food budget last month because I shopped from my menu. First I looked at my leftovers, figured what I could re-make them into, then checked out my pantry, then made my shopping list. It worked great, now this month I'm going to step it up by adding a bit of ad-shopping and simple couponing. But I thought I'd share with you my menu idea I look at when I'm trying to remember what to make. So here's the list of dinners that we like and I can refer to when planning my menu:

Menu Ideas

Chicken Basics:
Season-All Baked
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Ritz Chicken
Parmesan Chicken
Chicken & Rice
BBQ Chicken
Hawaiian Haystacks
Hawaiian Chicken
Broccoli Casserole
Chicken Pillows

Beefy Basics:
Meatballs (Pasta/Sub)
BBQ Casserole
Pot Roast

Ham Basics:
Ham Fried Rice
Ham Roll/Strombolli
Bean Soup/Lentils
Hawaiian Chicken
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Chef Salad
Ham & Funeral Potatoes

Chili Plus
Hard/Soft Tacos
Taco Salad
Taco Soup
Chicken Tacos
Quinoa & Bk Beans

Beefy Veg. Soup
Taco Soup
Baked Potato Soup
Lentils & Rice
Chowder Clam/Pot/Corn
Chicken & Rice Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup
Thai Salad
Strwberry Summer Salad
Chef Salad
Oriental Chicken Salad
Spinach/Pasta Salad

Pasta & Red Sauce
Leftover Pasta Bake
Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Curry
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Ham/Chicken Fried Rice
Stir Fry
Thai Salad
Beef & Broccoli
Teriyaki Chicken

Veg to Remember:
Brussel Sprouts

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I find myself over the last couple of days spinning again with all the errands, the clutter, trying to work in business and maybe find some pleasure and I'm not doing so good at it all. Today was a deep clean and re-group day and my kitchen and floors are shiny and I feel so much better. I'm so grateful for all our blessings. Life is good :)

A couple of weeks ago Ben texted from work about a great bike trail, so here's a pic as we took a break on the way back from our biking outing. We had such a good time... and yes, Emily is missing in the pic, only because she was strapped to my front ;)

She's growing so big! Almost 6 months but happy as can be.

I'm feeling my age... Ben entered his first Science Fair this year with a flower dying experiment. It was a lot of fun to help him with. We did all the different colors and even split one of the flowers into 4 different colors... awesome.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Money, money, money by the pound :)

So I'm nearly finished reading The Total Money Makeover and I'm kind of sad to be almost done. I found myself really enjoying the bits in the morning and evening that got my mind thinking and helped me feel so motivated to be better with our money. As I was reading it though, I did realize how the scriptures should hold that sort of a place in my heart as well. So I started to read a little from my church magazine before I broke out the money book and now I'm doubly benefiting.

I've started to realize how I've been slowly rationalizing our way down to hell (aka financial bondage). I've read about spiritual bondage but I'd never thought about how satan's played his part on me when it's come to finances. I've believed his lies about "Oh, a little spending won't hurt" and "we'll never be out of debt so we might as well enjoy what we can" and so on. I'm starting to realize that every little bit counts and it WILL make a difference. I'm coming up with our game plan and excited about the goals we're working on. Meanwhile, it's Jan 20th and I still have about half of my monthly cash budget left! So for once, I'm right on track. It may even be the first month I won't go over on my budget.... that would be incredible. Even better, I'm not feeling strangled.

One of the questions the book poses is, is 5 years of sacrifice worth it to change your financial destiny for the rest of your life? (aka, being debt free and in the process of building wealth) It got me thinking about what I've learned from the gospel as well and on to my next new mantra.... Sacrifice brings blessings! I know it's not magic that makes it happen, but I've seen it as we've paid our tithing and it feels magical. When times are really tight and we choose to pay our tithing blessings are poured out. Somehow the numbers become more than they were. So even though our debt is so large, I'm putting faith in the fact that Sacrifice Brings Blessings, and trusting that God will help us find a way!

Monday, January 9, 2012

January Ramblings

I used to fight routines like crazy. I felt constricted by them, but over the last couple years they've become my lifesaver. I don't stick to them exactly but I use them as a general guide to keep me on track. Last year my theme was getting my home in order. I wanted it to look nice and run smoothly all the time, not just when guests come ;) I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting so much better at it. Really I have to give credit to my friend for repeatedly pushing me towards FlyLady.net. Wow, the baby steps from Fly Lady makes it like a game and breaks it down into small steps so it's easy and fun to plan, clean and de-clutter. My mantra through the whole thing was "Maintain and Add a Little". When I'd feel behind and overwhelmed I'd tell that to myself over and over and I'd have a little more hope.

Now that we're all moved in and Christmas is cleaned up and put away I've been feeling a new burst of energy and a new theme coming on. This year is time to tackle the finances. Ben's graduated to a big boy job now, so it's time to face our student loans head on. There are two parts to that. First of all the know-how... a.k.a. knowing what order and how much we'll need to pay while still planning and saving for the future. 20 years from now I don't want our only financial accomplishment to be that we're finally back to zero! Secondly the means to do so. Ben loves his job, but he definitely did not choose it because of its amazing earning potential. From the very beginning we knew his happiness in a career would be more important than being rich.

So the way I see it, we have a couple of options; either spend less or earn more. With so many young children my job has been to work on the spending less portion. So Tori told me about a book she read in her high school finance class, The Richest Man in Babylon. I thought it sounded cool, so I picked it up from the library along with Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I finished the first already and am a quarter of the way through the next and I love it! What I liked so far:
  • Save 10% of your income (this is repeated over and over again). So you can have "a couple of gold coins to rub against one another."
  • Live on only 70% of your income
  • Use the remaining 20% to put toward your debts
  • Put your savings to work so that it earns and its earnings earn
  • Finances are 80% behavior and 20% know-how
  • Debt is not necessary, and it is possible to have all the luxuries and be debt-free.
I would STRONGLY recommend both of these books! Wow, I'm looking at finances in a whole new light. I'm also realizing all the lies that have become acceptable about debt and financing. As well as all the bad information and advice that gets passed around even by myself. You hear things enough and you figure they're true, whether they are or not... scary.

So this year's mantra is "No Time Like the Present!" I'm working on the know-how, refining my budget and going to the "Cash Method" of paying for things. So in order to make it a little more FUNctional, I made these cute envelopes:

I made them by taking a regular envelope, sealing it shut, and cutting off the two sides just below the width of the bills. They were easy to label and fit in my wallet so I don't fall back to my card.

This morning someone mentioned that when you have a plan and it's what God wants, He helps make it happen. Well managing our money would only take care of half the problem, and I knew one key to this being successful was for me to supplement our income and my goal was to start work in January. I hadn't decided what it would be yet, but in the last 3 weeks I've had 3 different opportunities come up where I could earn some money. One of those was a woman wanting to hire me to decorate and help furnish her home. I'm really excited and kind of nervous too. I'm so grateful I have a skill that can help others and provide for our family, but I'm nervous about being able to balance. Before I get too deep I'm trying to make a plan so that I can have the right kind of focus towards work and keep my family and home first priority.

I'm excited about the prospects of my business starting again, but I also know I want to do things a little different this time. I want to offer more of the whole package, while still specializing in window treatments, but I don't want to sew my own. I know that here in Dallas I'll have every resource available to me, I'm just not sure where they are or how exactly I'll find them. I just feel so blessed to have this fall into my lap. Word of mouth is the only way I've gotten business before and it's been the best and I know this is the beginning. It will snowball out from here and I just need to make sure I have the plan in place so I don't get trapped into it taking over my life.

So these are the things going on in my brain these days. Family, Home, Kids School, Finances, Work. It's good to be alive and it's nice to know that God is watching over us. We may have approached this the stupid way, but it was right for us and we're being blessed because of it. "My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure." -- Tennyson

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ben's Birthday and New Years Eve

Ben turns 10... finally BEN 10!

Our New Year's Eve shindig... having a big family is soooo much fun, it's a party everyday, but to make the night special we made sure to have the spattering of yummy food. Tori and Blu came by and joined us later for games until midnight. We were the only ones in our neighborhood outside banging pots and pans. Hopefully we didn't give any old people heart attacks :)While us girls played games the boys played video games... little Ben was inadvertently teaching Ryan that while playing video games one must jump up and down uncontrollably ;) You wonder why little Ben's screen name is jitters?

Christmas 2011

We were blessed to have someone do the 12 days of Christmas for us at the beginning of the month, and then Christmas Eve someone Secret Santa'd us leaving some great presents for all of us, including the American Girl dolls for Alaura and Sam. It was their favorite present for sure. I've never actually seen theses dolls in person before this, but they are really well made, you can style their hair without it getting yucky and the size and weight are everything you want in a doll. I think we may need to get more of these for the other girls some day.

December 2011

Visiting a mini-train display at the North Park Mall in Dallas... umm, scary.... we were walking past stores like Gucci and Coach... "don't let the kids breathe on them". And I didn't realize how sheltered we've kept our kids, the younger ones had no idea how to maneuver an escalator :)The week before Christmas we got an awesome rain storm on the cusp of a warm front so we rolled up our pant legs and played in the gutter... it was so much fun. I even got in, and the fact that I let them do it made me "the best mom in the world!"

The older kids helped me out with an enrichment activity by being a live nativity.
I broke down and we made ravioli to have for Christmas Eve dinner.

Dad practicing the balancing act with Emily who is now 4 months old!

Life in Dallas

It's so amazing living in/by such a large city... and I love it! This is 10 minutes from our house. It's also super weird not having any mountains around.
The Dallas Zoo
The kids lineup... Emily's already growing so much!
Tally's first awards ceremony at her Pre-K school with her new Bestie Afton.
Ben's new scout group. It's good to have such a great network already.

Halloween 2011

Pa drove down to drop Tori off to stay at our house while she goes to culinary schoolHalloween... no new costumes this year, good thing we had a stock pile. Ryan's wearing an outfit handed down from Great Grandma and Grandpa de Hoyos (I think).