Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Favorite Things: Lists and Apps

I'm a fan of lists.... I like making goals and checking off my progress. I also LOVE paper. I've had such a hard time switching to any sort of digital lists, I just don't feel the same sense of accomplishment, BUT paper is easy to lose and to forget. So I wanted to share with you one of my most-used Apps: WUNDERLIST! It's free and it's great... you can customize as many lists as you want and CHECK THEM OFF AS YOU GO! I love it.... once checked it grays out and goes to the bottom.

Now my SHOPPING list and KIDS CLOTHING SIZES and LIBRARY BOOK IDEAS and DAILY TO-DO's are right with me all the time, and as long as I don't leave my I-pod at home, my grocery list is always handy. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stop Motion Videos for Kids

My son is in this cool class at school where he gets to do extra projects that he loves and last night he put together a Stop Motion Video to present in class today. It was so much fun, and easy enough that I could help him with so I decided to share. This would be a GREAT summer activity!

What you need:
  • Camera (either a web cam or a camera with a tripod)
  • Computer
  • Monkey Jam (free dowloand)
  • Paper/legos/clay to photograph

It's pretty basic, you take pictures of your cool stuff and only move them slightly between shots. Once you have all your images you may need to convert them to a smaller size like we had to. I used this handy program (FastStone Photo Resizer) that was able to resize and change the brightness/etc that was super easy to install and use.

After the images are ready you open Monkey Jam and follow these steps:

  • Click "File" then "New Xps" (A window pops up and you click "OK")
  • Click the "10" icon at the top to add 2x as many frames as you have images (each time you click it adds 10 frames)
  • Import your images by clicking "File" then "Import" then "Images"
  • A window will pop up and on the left you select your images then press the "Add Files" and you choose to "Copy" those.
  • Now your images should be listed in the box on the right.
  • Click "Import" when it's loaded them, make sure all your images appear in the right order
  • Click the TV icon to see a preview of your film
  • If it's going too fast or too slow adjust the frames per second by clicking "Settings" then "FPS" and then selecting a preset number or your own custom one
  • Click the TV icon again to check
  • Once it's going the speed you want, click the FILM strip icon to export it to .avi (which is a video format) 
  • A window will pop up where you tell it where to save and make up the name 
  • Click "Save Movie" and it will do its' work and you're done
  • Enjoy the show!

My first attempts were not working, then with some testing I realized the problem was my image files were too large. Once I converted them with FastStone (link above) I didn't have any problems.

Ben was able to load it easily on a flash drive and off to school he went :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Have you ever gotten Blog Depression? Or more likely Pinterest Depression? It's that feeling you get when you see how beautiful and crafty and talented all these other women are and look around and feel like that is MILES away from how you are?! I think I went through a few months of that before :) Well, this post is to make sure you don't get that from me... LOL (as if that were possible)!

This is ME ;) 

This is my usual morning attire... at least til I throw on some sweats to take the kids to school, then clean the house, maybe exercise (I hate exercising) and possibly shower around 1pm, at which point in time I may or may not do my hair or makeup.

  • I do about 50% of what I should
  • I spend way too much time on the computer
  • I hide from life in projects
  • I yell at my kids on a nearly daily basis
  • My kids fight ALL the time lately
  • Our house is REALLY noisy (probably why I'm a screamer)
  • I am too judgmental, too full of pride 
  • I desire an extraordinary amount of attention
  • I don't give my children nearly ENOUGH attention
  • The list could go on.....

This is what our house USUALLY looks like:

That being said, this blog is NOT about all the things I do and have done wrong, it's about all the things I'm TRYING to do right. I am loving the stage of life we are in... we have our bumps, but I love my family and my role as a wife, mother and home-maker.

My GOALS with this blog are to:
  • Keep in touch with friends and family
  • Share ideas that have helped me
  • Post more consistent and relevant content
  • Experiment in marketing and promotion
  • Get more writing experience 

 I have been so FORTUNATE to cross paths with SO many wonderful people who have become my friends and it's your comments that drive most of what I decide to write about. So if you're reading this, make a comment below about what you'd like to hear/see more of. I'm feeling a little exposed right now, but it makes me feel more love for you too, so I guess that's a good thing!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Our SIMPLE Laundry System

One thing I've been asked is HOW we do our laundry with all these kids?!?

This makes me kind of chuckle, because I FIGHT structure and systems, but with 7 kids I've really been FORCED to get into some simple routines merely to SURVIVE! This is why I say having a lot of kids forces me to be a better mom... ONLY out of NECESSITY :)

So I am by nature a BINGE and PURGE type of a person... I will let things pile up, like laundry, until I have a GIGANTIC mountain and spend 2 whole days just WASHING, SORTING, FOLDING... and maybe putting away :) That's IF I don't get distracted and forget to switch a load of wet, then they get stinky and I have to wash them like 3 times to make them smell normal again. (Which, by the way, I've found that if I dump in a little baking soda and vinegar I can knock out the smell in one wash.)

So, I don't like spending 2 whole days doing laundry... so I finally resorted to the whole LOAD-A-DAY school of thought, and here's how we do it, and it seems to work.


1. Every ROOM has it's own BASKET for dirty clothes. My kids all share rooms so between 2 or 3 kids, they fill up their basket about once a week. They get washed together and when done, they end up back in the same room, so less sorting needing to be done.

2. I DO NOT sort LIGHTS and DARKS for the kids clothes. (Occasionally I will pull out something really white and do it seperately, or if I have new darks, I'll wash them alone, but otherwise they ALL go in together.) I wash in COLD and really haven't had a problem.

3. I run a LOAD-A-DAY, roughly speaking. I follow loosely the FlyLady routines where you ask yourself morning and night, "Where's my Laundry?" Start a batch in the morning, switch it sometime during the day, and sort it... sometime.

4. I DO NOT FOLD or HANG UP the kids clothes. Each child has 2 drawers.... one that holds SOCKS, UNDERWEAR and PJ's; the other holds SHIRTS, PANTS, SKIRTS, PLAYDRESSES. (Sunday clothes do get hung up in the closet.) Sometimes we put PICTURE LABELS taped on the drawers so the littler ones know where to find things.

5. My KIDS have to help out, the amount is based on their age. The OLDER ones can wash, switch to dry, sort, fold, put away... you know, they do it all, and then they can decide how they want them put away (folded, rolled, piled). The YOUNGER ones can HELP loading the machines, HELP sort the clean, and then THEY put them in the drawers themselves. Sometimes when I want to speed up the process I only make them PUT it away.

Sometimes their clean laundry will wait in their room in a basket until they are in the MOOD to put it away, but they don't get their CHORE CHECK until it's done.

The ADULT LAUNDRY is fairly simple too.... 2 baskets in my closet, LIGHTS and DARKS... as the clothes come off they get sorted. Once the basket is FULL I wash it and make GREAT efforts to DRY, SORT, FOLD/HANG it all that same day.

Once you've got this down, it's easy to throw in that extra batch of TOWELS or BEDDING and our house runs smoothly. 

Despite what I USED to think, doing a LITTLE each day really does work well, keeps us supplied with clean clothes, and makes me happy! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Egg Wars

Before Easter arrives I want to share with you our FAVORITE Easter Tradition:

This is something Ben's family did for quite a while growing up, from what I understand, it was adopted from one of his uncle's, in-laws family tradition. Either way, it's AWESOME and maybe you might wanna give it a try this Easter with your family.

  • 2 Hard-boiled and dyed eggs per person
  • 1 Large, smooth table 
*One year we did do it on a trampoline, and that worked pretty well too.


Everyone sits around the table and places their arms out to create a protective "bumper" around all the edges; to prevent any misfired eggs from falling off the table and cracking prematurely ;) Sometimes we have too many littles and have had to improvise barriers.

Now tournament style, people take turns 1-on-1 rolling their eggs toward one another in the middle of the table. Naturally 1 egg will crack while the other remains unscathed. Then the eliminations begin. After everyone has rolled once, the un-cracked egg winners of round 1 roll against each other 1-on-1 again, repeating each round until you have 1 final champion of the EGG ROLL.


Each egg has a pointier side (head) and a more rounded side (butt). In teams of two, one person holds their egg in their hand, only revealing the HEAD. Their challenger takes the HEAD of their own egg and hits it against the other person's egg. Again, naturally one will crack and the other will stay whole. Then those same people flip their eggs around to the BUTT and the person who did the "hitting" already will cup their egg while the other one gets to take a turn hitting with their BUTT. Sometimes one egg stays whole, other times they'll each have a whole/broken side.

Once each team has competed once you have remaining WHOLES challenge each other, then remaining HEADS challenge each other, then remaining BUTTS challenge each other, then finally any HEADS to BUTTS left or WHOLE to HEAD or BUTT.


The winner of the EGG ROLL and the winner of the HEAD BUTT WAR challenge each other in a final Head/Butt war and the winner is the GRAND CHAMPION.

Sure this may seem like a process, but it is HILARIOUS and so much fun! Hopefully this was clear enough. If you're left with any confusion just leave a comment and I'll try to clear it up for you.

Happy Easter and let the Egg Wars begin!

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.