Thankfulness: Part 1

November is upon us already – it is hard to believe.  In this busy season of life, it seems I no sooner get used to it being a new month than it’s time to turn the calendar page again. I’m sure I actually blog just as often as I always have – it’s just that the time in between is passing quicker than it used to!

November always feels like a good month to focus on thankfulness.  Trevor showed me an article a few weeks ago on a blog he’s read for years that really got me thinking about appreciating the little things in my life.  (You can read the article here, on The Simple Dollar). So I thought I’d take up the challenge of finding one thing for each day of this month that I am thankful for. I probably won’t actually post every day, but I’ll try to catch up when I do.

I am thankful for:

1. Birthdays (and also a break from birthdays now that October is over!)  Last month I hit a milestone that feels entirely too old to be my real age.  Although I can’t say I’ve completely made my peace with my new first digit, I am so very happy with the life God has given me, and with the season I am in right now.

Happy 6th birthday to our lovely Coraline Audrey!

2. Adoption. This is by no means a “little thing” in my life.  It has changed the entire landscape of our family, and I am thankful for it every single day.  Both for the opportunity to be the mom of these four precious souls, and also for my loving heavenly Father who adopted me into His family at great personal cost.  I see my own adoption struggles reflected in my children daily: to trust, to feel secure, to rest; and I have learned so much about my Lord and myself through them.


3. Quiet nights after the kids are in bed. Time to reflect, process, and just breathe. And as a bonus: a bit of extra quiet time tonight thanks to the clocks going back!

4. Friendship.  Tonight my best friend Mary and I celebrated 35 years of friendship.  We met in the first week of kindergarten. The Lord has absolutely spoiled me in the friend department.  I just love the relationships He brings into my life, some that last for years, others that are only for a season, but every one precious.  (Trevor sometimes teases me when I come out of a store or the bank with a little grin on my face after chatting with an employee: “What are you smiling about? Oh wait: you were connecting with another human soul again, weren’t you?”. Yep!)

5. This baby.  She is 13 months old today, and at one of my absolute favorite stages.  She is waving and saying hi to everyone she sees (an extrovert like her mama, perhaps?), clapping her hands, nodding and shaking her head yes and no… Just suddenly bursting with personality.  She brings us so much joy.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  What are you thankful for today?


Piano Lessons

Years ago, my mom gave us a piano that came into her thrift store as a Christmas gift.  We were delighted! Of course all homeschooling families are very musical, and we were going to be no different.

We waited for God to drop the perfect teacher into our laps.  Someone who would come to the house, not charge too much, maybe a friend or family member.  We asked my great aunt.  She plays by ear, she told us, and wouldn’t know how to teach.  And so we waited.


A couple weeks ago, on a whim, Trevor ordered a piano-teaching book online.  It seems we have been overlooking the obvious.  Daddy took piano lessons once upon a time, and is as cheap and able to come to the house as they come.

He enthusiastically started lessons with the two biggest girls as soon as the book arrived, and over this past weekend, he started with the boy.  So far, everyone is doing marvelously, and I am excited to think that in a few years time we will have a home filled with beautiful music!


Adventures in Soap-Making

I think the first time I ever heard of making your own laundry detergent was on the show 17 Kids and Counting (back when it was only 17, it’s 19 now!).  At the time I probably thought it seemed like a reasonably good idea… for a family that owns something like five industrial sized washers and does ten loads of laundry a day.   But really, how much could it save a “normal” (well, comparatively speaking) family?

Trevor, who had long been encountering homemade laundry soap on his personal finance blogs, convinced me it was enough. It’s apparently not how much you save per load, but how much you save per batch – and a batch lasts – that is a pretty persuasive figure.

So, we began making our own laundry soap (freaks!) a little over a year ago.  Here‘s the recipe we base our soap on.  It’s a pretty quick little job to make several gallons, and we fight over who gets to grate the bar of soap.  I guess that makes us sound pretty easily amused, but, uh… it really is fun.

It was all going marvelously well, until we were shopping for a new washing machine back in January.  The frontloader we wanted to buy came with the caveat to use only “high-efficiency” detergent.  This immediately set off our sneaky-cost detectors, so we asked the salesman if we could still use our home brew.  He thought so, since we assured him it wasn’t very sudsy at all, and this is the main failing of the ordinary detergent when used in our new machine, so we bought one.

Fast forward, through three-plus months of perfect performance by washing machine and homemade soap alike, to last Friday.

I started a load of wash, walked out of the kitchen, and walked back in a few minutes later to find a huge puddle on my floor.  At first I thought our poor terrier-on-steroids (long story) had had an accident.  Then I wished our terrier-on-steroids had had an accident, because the truth was, the puddle was still expanding at an alarming rate and coming from the bottom of the washing machine.

Of course I let the cycle continue anyway – I didn’t want to deal with sopping wet clothes on top of the dozen sopping wet towels that now lined my kitchen floor.  Then after this fiasco, I went through the same very wet process twice more over the weekend before resigning myself to the fact that it wasn’t just a fluke.

On Monday, I called the manufacturer.  A lovely, if slightly stiff-sounding lady talked me through emptying the filter and drain pipe. There wasn’t much in there, so I wasn’t hopeful, but when I ran the “rinse and spin” afterwards, lo and behold, no water pouring all over my kitchen floor!

‘Fabulous!  Problem solved’, I thought.  ‘I’ll just run a load now that the machine’s all fixed up.’  Five minutes later, I heard “Mommy!!!” And the kitchen floor was under water again.

When I called back, I got a woman in India or similar.   After a series of questions, she asked me what kind of detergent I was using.  Here we go.  “Well, we make our own, but I’m sure it’s not that, because it’s not at all sudsy, and they told us it’s the suds that cause the flooding with that other detergent.”   Reluctantly, she sent out a technician.

When he arrived, I explained to him what was happening.

Washing Machine Man: What kind of soap you using?

Me: Well, we make our own, but it’s not at all sudsy.  The people in the store told us we could use our own, as long as it wasn’t sudsy.  And it’s not.  At all.

WMM: Did you just say you make your own soap?

Me: Yes.

WMM: Out of what?

Me: You can get the recipe online.  We didn’t just make it up.  Lots of people do it.

WMM: Well, you’re the first one I’ve ever met.

Me: But we’ve been using it in this machine for months, and it’s always been fine.  I’m pretty sure it’s not the soap.

WMM: (Reaching into the filter at the top where the soap goes in, and pulling out a fistful of undissolved soap) Well… here’s your soap…. Smells like Dove.

Me:  It probably is.

*  *  *  *  *

So, the bad news: it was the soap.

The good news: WMM did *not* think we needed to stop using our soap.  In fact, he was quite impressed with how clean and odor-free it kept the machine compared to ordinary store-bought soap.  He even said we should market it!  He also said we should dissolve it in hot water first or mash it up, rather than just clumping jello-like chunks of it into our machine.  I knew that.

But it wasn’t the suds.

Value of a Dollar 101

Over dinner…

Pippa: Daddy, Morris the Moose is *so* funny!

Daddy: Good!  Maybe we can get another Morris the Moose book next time we go to the library.

Pippa: Maybe we could… buy one.

Daddy: (stunned silence…) Do you have any money?

Pippa: No.

Daddy: Maybe you should get a job.

Pippa:  Daddy, you have a job.  Maybe you should share your money with us.  We don’t have any money.  You have tons of money.

*  *  *  *  *

Well, you can imagine how *that* went down.  You know what he’s like.

And on a totally unrelated note, here is a little glimpse of my dear husband’s idea of a good time.  Seriously.


Just wanted to post a last minute reminder that Chipotle Mexican Grill (follow the link to find one near you!) is once again giving away a free burrito to anyone dressed as a burrito (ie wearing tin foil) or anything else Chipotle-ish after 6 PM on October 31st (that’s tomorrow!)  They are super yummy and huge. Last year (click to see our get-up) our catch of five burritos fed our little family for *two* meals!  Warning, though: if you’re planning on coming to the one in our neck of the woods, it may be standing room only, because we’ve talked at least three other families into joining us!

Secondly, another money-saving tip:  We are not hard-core sports fans by any stretch, but it’s hard not to be a little enthusiastic when your local baseball team makes it into the World Series for the second year in a row!

So, if you happen to be a fair-weather fan like me, you might be wondering whether it would be a little extravagant to own team-specific garb for your kiddos.  I certainly wouldn’t have  bought the girls all Phillies shirts just to wear for the one week of the year that we’re all excited about the Phillies, but we happened to have two outfits for the little ones that came to us as gifts.

What to do with the big girls?

Normally, I’m all about making my own printable iron-on transfer T-shirts, but I didn’t have two shirts I wanted to permanently turn into Phillies shirts.   Then I thought about ironing Phillies logos onto the *inside* of the shirts and putting them on inside out, but it wasn’t without its problems…

Then it hit me: Phillies logo *stickers* on T-shirts!  And that’s just what I did.  I printed off two half page Phillies logos on a full-sheet address label page, cut them out, stuck them on, and voila!  My girls are baseball fans now.


You’d never know they aren’t ironed on, and when the baseball craziness is over, we’ll just peel them off!  So if the Eagles make it into the Super Bowl, and you see our girls in gray Eagles shirts, you’ll know where those came from, too (though I’m not at all sure their Daddy would allow that!)