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Week 2 down, and I’m still going strong. I have cleared out a ton of stuff…stuff I didn’t even realize we had! And in the meantime, I’ve found lots of things we’ve been looking for. I have to admit that I’m starting to get into areas that I’ve been avoiding. These are rooms and storage areas that are totally overrun. I’m having to remind myself that I only need to tackle one box at a time. I don’t need to finish the whole room in one day. Otherwise, the whole thing just seems so daunting!

The kids have been taking a big interest in this challenge…sometimes just out of curiosity, and occasionally out of concern! I’m also taking this opportunity to introduce a few skills to the kids. Right now, since we all (my husband and I included) have such a problem with putting things away, I’m working on taking one thing back to its rightful place every time we go from one room to another. Just think about the cleaning power we’d have if all of us did that one little thing!

But, back to the challenge…

Last Friday was Day 9 (yes, I know I’m a few days late with this post!), and I decided to tackle the dresser next to my bed. It has long been a piling place for stuff that I didn’t know what to do with. So, there was a ton of junk piled up on it. There was a bag of broken toys and toy pieces that needed to be returned to their sets. That was easy. Throw out the broken things (mostly treasures from meals that supposedly make you happy), and get the good things back to their rightful places. Check! I also had a big stack of old magazines sitting on the shelf above the dresser. They joined the broken toys. I had an entire drawer full of old, um, undergarments (for the top region) that haven’t been worn since I became a mother…my size and shape has changed so much that I’m never going to be able to wear those again. Why were they taking up valuable storage real estate? It turns out that there are charities that request those…I had no idea! I also found a drawer full of clothes waiting on me to repair them. Now, I didn’t get rid of these, but, I set up a station for them next to my sewing machine’s storage spot. It makes more sense. Now I can see them, and take care of them sooner, before the stack gets so daunting!

Day 10 was Saturday, and I was hoping to get to something that I needed my husband’s help for, since he was home…but he had other things outside that needed attention, so that will have to wait. So, instead, I tackled my room again. I had piled my desk high with all sorts of things. This is a common theme in my room. It’s the place everything that doesn’t have a place gets stacked when we go on “somebody’s about to come over panic clean mode”. Then, since there’s a crib in the middle of the room, and a baby sleeping there whenever I get a free minute (you know, because the baby’s asleep), I never clean it up or find places for those things that don’t have a home. So, on the desk, I found another stack of clothes waiting for repair…I added them to their new station. I found a huge box of expired cosmetics. I don’t even wear makeup on a day to day basis. I occasionally use it on special occasions or if I’m having a picture taken, but that’s about it. I now have a much tidier small bag of what I will actually use! I had a box collection of paper that were misprints from the printer. That went away. I also found several bags with a couple craft-type items each. I can now see the desk. It was WONDERFUL! I was able to print out our school-work without climbing over anything.

Day 11 was a brand new fresh Monday. I was back in my room again, working this time on the closet. The closet was what originally inspired this whole challenge. I had already cleaned out the hanging portion before this challenge started. So, I decided to work on the floor. At least, I was pretty sure there was a floor under there somewhere! I found a bunch of old shoes that I had collected. Now, there’s a little known fact that no one tells you about having kids. Every time I get pregnant, my feet grow a little more. When I got married, I wore a size 7.5 shoe. Now, I’m up to a size 9.5! Amazingly, I still had all of my shoes from before the kids. That was an easy box. I organized the purses and belts that I still wanted to keep, and put the others in the box with the shoes. I did save a few pairs of nice shoes that I put in the shed, in case the girls are interested one day…and wind up wearing the right size. If not, I guess it will make for a nice donation a few years down the road.

Day 12 was Tuesday. Tuesdays around here are tricky. We have to do all of our school work first thing in the morning, and then we generally load up for town right after lunch. Bear has allergy shots and Rhino has speech therapy in town on Tuesday afternoons. So, I don’t have a whole lot of time on Tuesdays. So, I did a quick run down on the book case in my room. It was storing a bunch of used preschool workbooks. I saved one from each kid for sentimental reasons, and threw the rest out. Another pretty easy box.

On Day 13, I started to tackle the loft above our room. This is one of those really scary areas. It’s a storage area, but it’s supposed to be functional, too. It’s not really functional right now! As I ascended the stairs, I kept chanting to myself…just one box, just one box. I found a box with mostly used craft supplies and school supplies. I went through it, and saved the useful things, and put the rest in the trash, or in a box if I thought someone else could use them. I didn’t really figure we needed 8 different sets of addition and subtraction flash cards, or 11 (yes, you read that right) sets of multiplication flash cards. Yikes! There’s still a ton to be done up there (and on the stair leading there), but that was all I had time for that day.

Thursday (day 14) was another busy day with an extra appointment in town. So I decided to clean out the kids’ art supply cabinet. I found a bag full of empty paint bottles, lots of crumpled up paper, and a bunch of dried out markers. My oldest daughter does clean it out from time to time, so it definitely wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. It was another trash day, though.

Now, we’re back to Friday again…Day 15. My husband took the day off to deal with some chickens, so our routine was a little off from usual. Even so, I plowed on through. I tackled our DVD and VHS (yes, we still have a VCR!) collection. There were a couple of broken VHS tapes that I’ve been meaning to throw out for a while, but every time I tried, I couldn’t find them. I finally managed to get those out! We have DVDs under the TV, and those are all watched fairly consistently. I also had a huge collection of movies that I’d bought in college that were in a table (one of those types that also doubles as a storage compartment) next to the couch. They were largely inappropriate for my children. I’m not entirely sure why I’d been saving them. If they aren’t appropriate for my children, why are they appropriate for me? So, out went a box of inappropriate movies.

I am consistently amazed about the things I’ve been holding on to. It is scary, but also quite freeing to let so much of this stuff go. I’m finding that I have some sentimental attachments to a few things, and that’s fine. Those are things that can stay. I don’t really have any family heirlooms yet (with a few exceptions, and I would never part with those, Mom). My mom still has most of the family china, and quilts, and that sort of thing. I hope she keeps them for many more years to come! So, most of the stuff that’s leaving really isn’t useful. It’s just sitting there, taking up space. Some of it would be useful to others…so why not give it a chance to be used? It’s getting easier!

Here are a few of the boxes…in the back of my husband’s car already!


So, 15 days into the challenge, here’s how I’m doing…at a glance (this includes the count from last week):

  • 12 boxes to donate
  • 1 box to sell (probably for about $5 at Half Price Books)
  • 4 boxes into storage
  • 17 bags/boxes of trash

Whew!  What a week!  Bear turned nine, everyone got sick, we had an unplanned trip to urgent care with Baby, and, even with all of that going on,  Momma was a decluttering machine!  Unfortunately, my husband was so anxious to get the boxes out of the house before I changed my mind, I didn’t manage to get any pictures of all the stuff that left this week!  The second he found them, he scooped them up, and out to the back of his car.

I’m rather proud of how things are going so far with this 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  On Day 1 (Ash Wednesday), I decided to start off fairly easy with our bathroom linen cabinet.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a whole box, so I was a little worried.  But, oh my!  Let me tell you, my worries were TOTALLY unfounded.  There was so much stuff up there.  The first day, I only got through the top shelf!  I found all kinds of nice things (like a never-used table cloth meant for a circular table…ours has been a rectangle since I moved out of my first apartment).  There were 5 different place mat and napkin sets with 4 settings each, along with 2 four piece napkin ring sets…that won’t go very far in this house!  Along with the nice things, I found 3 (THREE!) tattered old mattress pads.  Why would I keep those???  Day one, and off to a good start.

As Day 2 of 40 bags in 40 days dawned, I was excited.  I was going to tackle the rest of the bathroom cabinet.  We had sheets, sheets, sheets, and more sheets.  I didn’t make a huge box like I did the first day (and there wasn’t anything there that was worth donating…but hey, at least I’m getting it out of the house), but I had no problem filling up a jumbo-pack size 4 diaper box (mom’s-you know what that looks like!).  I had several full-sized sheet sets that were full of holes…so those went away…along with 4 mattress pads (also full of holes) for a crib-sized mattress.

It is sooooo nice to be able to see what I have in that bathroom cabinet now!

Day 3 is where things started getting tricky.  I had originally planned to tackle the boys’ room, and do the girls’ room on day 4.  But Day 4 was also Bear’s birthday…and she didn’t want to do her room on her birthday.  So, since birthday wishes do come true, and I really didn’t care which room we started in, Day 3 was spent in the girls’ room.  I plan to do several rounds in both kids’ rooms.  They have so much stuff!  So, we did the first round of a toy purge.  Not quite as painless as days 1 and 2!  Bear was ready.  I think she was almost as happy about it as I was.  Lizard was having a lot of trouble with the ordeal…understandably.  But, she perked up when she realized that someone else would be able to have fun with the things she was giving up.  It was really sweet.  We managed to find a small box of toys that both (older) girls were willing to part with.  We also cleaned out 1 kitchen-sized trash bag worth of trash.  It seems that packrat-itis runs in families.

Day 4 of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge was Saturday.  My husband was home, and he had a different project in mind than I did.  He had just finished up our second bookshelf for the living room.  Homeschoolers need a lot of bookshelves.  So, the new plan: move the new bookshelf into the living room, move the girls’ old bookshelf out of their room (it was falling apart), move the old living room bookshelf into the girls’ room.  Did you follow all of that?  Of course, with all of that bookshelf moving, came a lot of bookshelf unloading.  What better time to do a little decluttering?  So, the boys’ room would wait for Day 5.  Most of the removal came from the bookshelf in the girls’ room.  There were 2 bags full of loose paper projects wondering around, along with 2 boxes full of used up coloring books.

On Sunday, we rested.  

Day 5 was Monday, and we went back to resume the plan…so on to the boys’ room we went!  We removed a bag of trash, and several toys with a large footprint that no one played with anymore.  At that point, I moved the toys we had taken out of the girls room into a bigger box, and put all the things that we took from the boys’ room with them.  I don’t think it’s cheating really.  It was a huge box!

On Day 6, we moved back to the girls’ room to tackle the closet.  I am truly astonished at how much stuff they had crammed into the closet floor!  We didn’t even make it to the rest of the closet.  We just worked on the floor.  There was a whole bag of paper trash that they had stuffed in the closet, and we boxed up a bunch of dress up clothes to save for Baby when she gets big enough to enjoy them.  

The next day, we had to make an unscheduled visit to urgent care with Baby.  She had an ear infection that even made the doctor say, “Oh Wow!”  That’s never a good sign.  So, we lost pretty much the entire day.  But I wasn’t going to let that derail my efforts on the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  I pledged to make up our lost day on Day 8.

Yesterday was Day 8 of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  We went through all of the kids’ dresser drawers to get rid of all the things they don’t wear, or are worn out, or too small.  Again, I was amazed.  My girls had both been stashing “treasures” in their dresser drawers.  Some of them were more treasure-like than others.  I cleaned out half a bag worth of trash from each set of drawers, making one bag of trash (paper, and broken toys mostly) total.  I let them keep the things that were truly worth keeping.  We pared down their clothes collection so that they each got a drawer they can use just for their “treasures”.  Of course, I made them promise not to stuff it full of crumpled up typing paper again!  Bear kept nearly all of her clothes, because, as the oldest, she just doesn’t have very many.  Lizard had been keeping a lot of clothes hidden from me that she wanted to keep even though she had outgrown them.  I found a few 4T sized clothes in there…y’all she wears size 7!  There was a box of clothes to donate and a box to keep in the shed for Baby.

To make up for Day 7, I also cleaned out the boys’ dresser drawers on Day 8.  There was a full box worth of clothes to donate, along with a box of clothes that were too small for anyone.


So, at 8 days into our 40 bags in 40 days challenge, here’s the count:

  • 5 boxes to donate
  • 3 boxes into storage
  • 10 boxes/bags of trash (unless I miscounted)

The season of Lent is almost here! Ash Wednesday is almost upon us…this year, it falls on St. Valentine’s Day. Have you considered what you and your family will be doing for Lent this year?  I have trouble with this every year, to be honest with you. But this year, I’m ready! This year, we are going to tackle the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge.

What on earth is the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge, you ask? Well, it’s a way to tackle all of the clutter that builds up in your house. We have 7 people and 3 dogs who live in our house…a small house, approximately 1000 square feet. Seven people (even little people who can’t even talk yet) can accumulate a lot of stuff. We have stuff everywhere. It doesn’t help that my husband and I are both stackers. We get something out to use it, finish using it, and set it someplace…we don’t put it away right then. I always think I’m going to come back in just a minute and put it away, but I never do. I tell myself, “I’m going to need that again in a few hours. If I put it away, I’ll have to climb on the chair again in a few hours to get it. I could just leave it on the table, and then I’ll have it ready next time I need it.” All fine and good for one thing…but it’s never just one thing, and it seems that there’s never a good time to put them all away! So, the clutter piles and piles and piles.

The biggest problem is that we have so much stuff that all of our convenient storage space is already taken…storage space is at a premium around here in the first place! So all of our cabinets are stacked precariously, our tupperware containers await their next unsuspecting victim, our dresser drawers are crammed full, our closets are overflowing, and the toy boxes…well, you get the picture.

40 Bags in 40 Days

Alright, so now we know the problem. Too much stuff. But, going through, room by room seems such a huge, daunting task!

Well, that’s where 40 bags in 40 days comes in. The goal is that for each day during Lent, you remove a bag or box of stuff from your home. It can be any size. But, each day, you must remove at least one box (or bag). As long as the stuff is in good condition, donate the items to a worthy charity. What a great way to teach myself and my children about being good stewards of our resources and helping other people all at once!

It seems like such a simple idea! Imagine, 40 boxes worth of stuff…gone.

Not just gone, but gone on to someone who can really use it.

I have high hopes, in case you can’t tell. I’m rather embarrassed by the state of my home, honestly. We can hardly move! I’m hoping that by the end of our 40 Bags in 40 Days Lenten challenge that perhaps we will have gained a bit of breathing room. I hope you’ll follow along with us as we free ourselves from the stuff monster during this period of sacrifice and reflection. I promise to update you on our progress weekly.

Before 40 Bags in 40 Days Pictures (Yikes!!!)

Messy Girls' Closet - 40 bags in 40 days

 


Growing up in the Dallas area as a kid, we always had at least one or two ice storms each year.  Usually, they came on the weekends, but occasionally, we got a free pass out of school for the day.  While schools shut down, business generally carried on as normal.  The entire city was not brought to it’s knees for a light sheeting of ice on the roads.  Usually, everything just started a couple hours behind schedule.

Fast forward a few years, and move a few hours south, and we have a completely different situation on our hands.  These ice storms might happen once every two or three years.  When they do, the whole world shuts down.  

So, in honor of today’s world stoppage brought to our little corner of Texas, I thought I’d illuminate (for the rest of the world) why we Texans have such a hard time with ice and snow.

1. We just don’t see it very often.

For many of us here in central Texas, it has been years since we have seen that magical white stuff fall from the sky.  It brings back memories of childhood hope and wonder…and deprivation.  No child who grew up in Texas (panhandle region excluded, of course) ever got to play in the snow 2 years in a row (unless their family went skiing for Christmas every year).  When someone walks into a crowded room and says, it’s snowing outside, you can bet that everyone (no matter their age) is going to excitedly jump up and run outside to see…invariably running over at least 3 other people and leaving their jackets behind.  Should you happen to drive by at that very moment, you will see a bunch of grown people standing outside in shorts and flip flops (because they didn’t watch the weather report this morning…it was 70 degrees at 8 am) shivering and staring up at the sky in wide-eyed wonder.

Often, the mere suggestion of freezing weather is enough to make adults in Texas do rather silly things.  I once had a roommate (from South Texas) who, upon confirmation that the air temperature was below freezing, would climb the tree in the front yard with the sprinkler to “make snow”.  Of course, he knew better, but he just couldn’t help himself…he had to try!

2. We don’t know how to deal with it.

In this part of Texas (west Texas and the panhandle are excluded from today’s tirade), snow days and ice events are really rare.  So, we just don’t know how to deal with them.  We’re pretty sure that we have an ice scraper for our windshield somewhere, but we haven’t seen it since the last time we had to buy a new one 3 years ago (when we couldn’t find the previous new one we’d bought 3 years before that).  

So, we’re left with with a couple options:

  1. Pour water over the windshield to thaw the ice.  Whatever you may have been told, this is a terrible idea.  Don’t do it!  If you get the water too warm, it can break the glass.  Too cold, and it just makes the problem worse.
  2. Run the defroster in the car until you either:
    • Run out of gas and can’t go where you needed to anyway.
    • The ice gets thin enough to scrape it off with a credit card (be sure to call the bank tomorrow morning to get a replacement card for the one you bent trying to scrape before the ice was thin enough).

That’s all before we actually get in the car!  I won’t even discuss what happens once we get behind the wheel!  We Texans can be a pretty independent lot, but ice just isn’t our thing.  We’ll still get the job done, though, no matter how many cars we have to smash in the process!

3. Our community leaders are paranoid.

School administrators and business leaders would rather cancel everything ahead of an ice storm than watch the rest of us play “smash-em-up” on the highway.  I have to admit, however, that I’m still amazed that they feel the need to cancel life more than 48 hours before an anticipated storm.  The weatherman hasn’t even decided yet if it’s actually going to happen.  But, you can bet that the school closure reports will already be rolling in!  Perhaps they’re worried that if it snows and they haven’t given enough notice that someone will round up a posse and make them personally dump sand on all the bridges.

There have been occasions where all the school systems in the area have cancelled classes two days ahead of time, only to have no significant weather actually materialize.  There’s another little lesson about Texas…being a weatherman here is a dangerous line of work.  People expect you to predict the future, and do nutty things based on your suggestions.  There are so many different parameters at work in the atmosphere here that predicting the weather more than about 4 hours ahead of time is really a fool’s errand.  But, we do like our 7 day outlooks!  Just don’t bet the family farm on them!


So, to the rest of the world, trying to do business with Texans during an ice storm, try to have a little patience with us…the end of the world is nigh!

How Life of Fred Saved Math: An In-depth Review

Before Life of Fred

Math has long been the bane of my existence!  We started our long-term feud way back in the 5th grade.  After many, many years of struggling, I was relieved to finish my last math class during my freshman year in college.  Imagine my chagrin when I changed my major a year and a half later and found that I now had to suffer through not one, but two semesters of calculus!  This is the stuff nightmares are made of!  To this day, I still do not understand why Genetics majors (yes, I have a B.S. in Genetics) had to take two semesters of Engineering Calculus.

Suffer through, I did.  I won’t admit how many times I had to try, but I finally managed it.  I passed two calculus classes…barely.  Then, an hour later, it was gone.  I brain-dumped calculus…all of it!  I would NEVER have to worry about math again.  That era of my life was over!  Whoop!

Then one day, I woke up and realized I was homeschooling.  How did that happen?  Well, that’s a totally different story…but now, I would have to not only deal with dreaded math again, somehow I was supposed to help my dear, sweet, unsuspecting daughter understand something that I couldn’t explain.  

Once again, math became the bane of my existence.  I desperately wanted to save my daughter from the wounds of life-long battle with that undefeatable enemy, Math.  But I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.  I began painstakingly perusing every homeschool website I could find to help me decide which of the myriad of options would be the silver bullet in my battle with my arch nemesis. 

We didn’t want a never-ending parade of workbooks.  We needed something that would be re-usable.  After all, we had more kids coming up behind.  It’s really easy to start spending money hand over fist when you use consumable curricula for a bunch of kids.  Bear was my only one of school age at the time, but that was no reason not to think ahead!  When you rule out workbooks, you’re left with a much smaller pool of options.

After consulting at length with my husband, we finally made a choice.

…and it was wrong.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me!  I was going to stick it out.  This was the material we had chosen, and it would work, come Hell or high water!

Bear was miserable.  She was falling further and further behind.  Math was becoming her arch nemesis too, and I was just making it worse.  Math became a fight every. single. day.  As soon as I brought out the math book, she would just shut down.  I could see it, and it broke my heart.  By this time, Lizard was starting school too.  She started pretty strong, but then noticed all of Bear’s protestation.  She started saying that she hated math, and she had barely begun!  Something had to give.

So I started experimenting, curriculum-hopping, really.  As we all know, that can be a big problem with math in particular.  But I just knew that eventually, we’d find the right solution.  We had started with Strayer-Upton’s Practical Arithmetics, we tried a little Math Mammoth, and some Miquon Math, then Math Lessons for a Living Education (which is a workbook, by the way!).  Every one had their strong points, but they were far outweighed by problems for us.

Fred to the rescue

During all of my searching, I had run across the Life of Fred books several times.  I wrote them off as a fun little supplement for kids who really enjoyed math.  I figured the story line either overshadowed any math content, or that it was so contrived that it would be miserable to read.

But one day, in my desperation, for some reason, I opened a sample.  It wasn’t tortuous to read…it was actually pretty funny.  It was definitely outlandish, but entertaining.  Bear would enjoy the story, of that I was certain. 

Perhaps even more surprising, however was the amount of information contained in the brief little sample chapter I had downloaded.  There was actually math (and a lot of other stuff) there!

So, I headed over to review site after review site; forum after forum.  I really wanted to finally get things right and defeat Math once and for all.  It turns out, the reviews for the Life of Fred series are actually quite mixed.  Some said there wasn’t enough practice, others said there was just enough.  A few folks claimed that the series couldn’t stand as a complete curriculum, others said it was complete and added elements from across all the subjects.  Nearly everyone agreed, however, that their kids enjoyed Life of Fred.  

I knew Bear was an avid reader.  I thought a literature-based approach to math might be just the thing to finally make math manageable.  So, I went to Educents, and I ordered.  I started out with the first 4 books in the Elementary Series.  A few weeks later, I ordered the rest of the series, plus the Intermediate Series, and Fractions and Decimals and Percents.

About Life of Fred

I’ll get back to my story in just a second.  First, I want to pause and tell you a little bit more about Life of Fred.

The names of these books are enough to make you giggle a little before you ever learn anything else!  The elementary books are named alphabetically.  So, the first book starts with A, the second with B, and so on.  There are no grade-level designations on the books themselves.  The author recommends these elementary and intermediate books for Kindergarten through 4th grade.  The names are:

Next up is the Intermediate Series:

After that, the names get much less creative (for 5th grade right up through college):

Life of Fred is a whole series of books for elementary, clear up through college level math.  There is also a series of early readers and grammar books, for those interested.  So far, we have used the elementary series.  I have the intermediate series waiting on my shelf along with Fractions, and Decimals and Percents.  I also have the first set of early readers on order for my boys.

The Life of Fred stories follow a five year old genius named Fred who is a math professor at KITTENS University in Kansas.  He gets himself into all sorts or ridiculous situations.  After all, while he is a math genius, he’s still a five year old boy, with no one but his doll, Kingie to look out for him.  He uses math in all kinds of ways to help himself or others.  Sometimes, he just enjoys playing with numbers.  

At the end of each chapter is a “You’re Turn to Play” section where students have around 3 to 5 problems to work out.  Word problems will not phase a student who is accustomed to working with Fred!  These short little problems are jam-packed with material.  Not only does the author test understanding of the skills already presented with these sections, he also uses them to illustrate methods to solve new types of problems.  Starting in Cats, there are also useful “Rows of Practice” in most chapters.  These rows are very helpful for practicing and learning math facts.

I also really like that the author brings all kinds of other lessons into the story as well.  Aside from math, Fred learns about Archimedes, star clusters in the Orion constellation, and a little about homonyms all in the first few books.  The stories and practice questions are also a fairly good barometer for reading comprehension.

Now for just a few cons for these books…after all, life can’t be all sunshine and fluffy bunnies!

First off, there isn’t a whole lot of paper and pencil practice with this course.  For us, this was actually a selling point, but for many, it may be a liability.  I’ve been using games and Times Tales to take the place of extra worksheets and drill.  Plus, there is no shortage of extra math material in this house.  If we need extra practice on a concept, we can find it!

Second, some of the subject material that enters into the story may be a little offensive for some families.  So far, I have not had a problem with any of it, but I use some of the situations as teaching points about the fallen nature of man.  There is a recurring character, C.C. Coalback, who is constantly taking advantage of Fred.  After all, Fred may be a well-read math genius, but at the end of the day, he’s still a naive five year old with no one but his doll to look after him.

Additionally, Fred never eats.  Whenever he gets food, he puts it in his pocket “for later”.  Now, I have 5 voracious eaters at home, so they find this part of the story particularly amusing.  However, if you have a little one who doesn’t eat so well, you may find this problematic.  

Lastly, the answers for the “You’re Turn to Play” questions are right on the next page of the book.  So, it’s not hard for students to take a peek at the answers before trying to solve them on their own.  However, if this becomes a problem for your student, there are a number of ways to fix it, if you get creative.

The Rest of Our Life of Fred Story

Now that we’ve found Life of Fred, math time looks a little different at our house.  Bear has started doing 5 chapters a day.  Now, eventually, she is going to have to slow down.  But, right now, she’s still working below her skill level.  The author of Life of Fred suggests that all elementary aged students, in fourth grade and below, begin with Apples.  That was a ton of review for Bear…which was a really good thing for her!  Right now, she’s about to finish Goldfish.  I’ve been reading along a book or two ahead of her, and I have a feeling our pace will slow significantly within the next couple books.

Lizard had been working through Miquon Math, but has recently requested to go to working just with Fred, just like Bear.  She has already worked through Apples and Butterflies, so she’s ready to move on to Cats.  She does not move through the books nearly as quickly, since she has pretty much caught up with her level already.

We do use some math games to practice our facts, as I mentioned earlier.  We also use some notebooking pages so that I can make sure everyone is understanding the things they read.

Bear is already carrying over a lot of the information she learns into her everyday life.  She will often make mention of some random pattern that she finds as she goes about her day.  She tells me all about it, and then says, “I can play with numbers, too…just like Fred!”  It’s music to a homeschooling momma’s ears!

I can also see how public or privately schooled students could really benefit from the Life of Fred series as a supplement to their math work from school, or possibly to keep up their skills during the summer.  There is no shortage of problem-solving practice in these books!

I know we are still at the beginning of our journey with the Life of Fred, but, I really do have to wonder, “Where were these books when I was learning math?”  Perhaps if I had been able to travel with Fred, my math skills might be a whole lot better!  Who knows, maybe Fred will even be able to teach this old momma a few new math tricks.

If you are interested in trying out the Life of Fred series, I’d really appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link for Educents

Click Here to go to the Life of Fred storefront  

Educents has fantastic prices on the Life of Fred books, from Apples all the way up to Five Days.  They also carry Times Tales, which I mentioned as a supplement for this program.  I do get a bonus if you make a purchase using this link.  However, I have not been paid or compensated in any way for writing this review.  All of the opinions given are my own!

How Life of Fred Saved Math: An In-depth Review

 

Save with Black Friday Eve specials!

Thanksgiving in America is a proud tradition with a long history…though it has only been an “official holiday since the Civil War.  Of course, every school child is taught the story of the first Thanksgiving, with the Pilgrims and the Indians…usually culminating in a big feast at school, complete with costumes and a pageant!

But, over the past several years, Thanksgiving has slowly been pushed aside in favor of the bigger money-maker: Christmas.  The stores put up their big Christmas displays before the last Trick-or-Treater has even made it home to sort their candy!

Now, I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong.  What’s not to like?  We get to celebrate the birth of Our Lord with cookies, candy, and presents!  But, when we skip straight from Halloween to Christmas, we miss something…something important.

Why is Thanksgiving Important?

1.  Time to slow down.

Many (but not all) of us get a little time off work during the week of Thanksgiving.  We get to slow down and take a little breather.  Of course, I’m a mom, so that doesn’t really happen for me!  But, we do usually take a trip up to visit my parents.  It’s the closest thing to a break I ever get.  Everyone needs a break now and then.  It helps us clear our heads.  When we come back, we feel refreshed and ready to tackle all those problems again.  It’s nice to have a change of pace!

2.  Time to remember who is really responsible for all of the blessings in our lives.

Just before Bear’s first Christmas, I had quit my job a few months earlier to be a full time stay at home mom.  Money was tight…very tight!  We had a long (expensive) trip to make…which would turn out to be the last Christmas we ever traveled to Odessa.  We had a baby to (obsessively) buy gifts for.  Our list of bills was never-ending.  How were we ever going to pay for all this?

I sat down at the computer one afternoon to check on our checking account before we paid a bill.  I clenched my teeth as I logged into our account.  Then the screen popped up…

“There’s nearly a thousand dollars more than there should be!  Where on earth did an extra thousand dollars come from???”  I was frantically going through scenarios in my head.  I was very sure that I had no rich uncles…not even the kind that live in Nigeria.

I clicked on the account details.  Something had to be wrong, something must have gone unpaid.  There was an automatic deposit in the account from my former employer.  They had finished paying out all of my vacation time months ago.

I called my husband…I couldn’t think what to do.  He told me to call payroll for my old department.  So I did.  They had to put me on hold while they looked it up.  When the secretary came back to the phone, she very nonchalantly explained that because of some sort of glitch, they had failed to pay me for all of the compensation hours I had earned for working so much overtime in my former position.  As soon as they caught it, they had sent a deposit to my account.  There was no mistake, the money was rightfully mine.

You see, we were in an hour of need.  God sent us those funds at exactly the right moment…a moment when we would remember and know that He was really the one in control.  

I have more stories, similar to this one.  Some have happened to me, some to my husband (one even involving a deer).  These things happen to us to remind us that God is in control, He will provide when we call on Him.  

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to remember and reflect on all of those instances, and then to give thanks that He cares about us so much!

3.  Time to spend with family and friends.

When I was young, we spent many Thanksgivings at my grandparent’s house in Odessa, Texas.  We would spend the morning together, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and preparing in the kitchen for our big “feast” at lunch.  Then, we would sit down together at the table, pray to thank God for all the blessings he had given us out of His bounty.  As we ate, we sat around the table telling stories about family…both those gathered in other places, and those that had already gathered in Heaven.  Eventually, we would get up, and clean up the mess inevitably made by the festivities in the kitchen.

When we finished the clean up, we would often sit around a card table, putting a puzzle together, or maybe playing dominoes.  My grandparents and mom and uncle would talk about memories of their childhoods, or maybe trouble they got into with their cousins.  I learned about our family history, and in doing so, I learned about myself!

When the game-playing was all done, my mother and grandmother would eventually turn their attention to the newspaper ads, to try to quickly coordinate their plan of attack for Black Friday.  There would always be jokes about how the stores seemed to open earlier and earlier every year.  I specifically remember one year, when I was a teenager, I quipped back that by the time I had kids, Black Friday would begin on Thanksgiving itself!  Everyone laughed and said, “No way!  People would never stand for that!”

Black Friday Eve

Until they did.

To many, Thanksgiving means little anymore, other than an excuse for gluttony, followed by a marathon of greed…a rush to the store to get the most stuff for as little money as possible.  If you have to beat someone up to get it, no problem!

Unfortunately, that greed marathon requires many thousands of people to leave their families to serve the shopping hordes.  For them, Thanksgiving can no longer mean slowing down, thanking God for all his blessings, and spending a little time with family and friends.  Now, it’s just another day at work, with even longer, harder hours than usual…hours spent breaking up fights over big screens in the electronics department, or Legos in the toy department.

Thanksgiving has lost its meaning.  All it is to many is just Black Friday Eve.  The day of early Early Bird sales.  Doorbusters start at midnight on Thanksgiving!  Better get on out there…you might miss out on the stuff.

As for me and mine, I think we’ll live with it…missing the stuff.  We’ll slow down, thank God for His many blessings.  We’ll spend a few days with family that we don’t get to see very often.  We might even peruse a Black Friday ad or two together.  But, you can bet we won’t be there on Thanksgiving.  It’s not the time or the place.  We’ll save it for Friday afternoon.  The stuff will still be there…if it isn’t, we’ll order it online on Monday.  Life will go on.  What is stuff compared to time with your family?  Mere nothingness.

Thanksgiving precedes the first Sunday of Advent, usually only by a few days.  What better way to enter into a period of making our hearts ready to welcome Christ than to slow down, and thank God for the blessings in our lives?

Don’t forget Thanksgiving.  Remember it, dress up like an Indian if you need to.  Just don’t forget to slow down and be thankful.

This year, will you celebrate Black Friday Eve?  Or Thanksgiving?

This year, will you celebrate Black Friday Eve? Or Thanksgiving? Click To Tweet

 

 Thanksgiving or Black Friday Eve?

sick teddy bear

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year.  The holidays are right around the corner, there’s so much to do!  But it’s also cold and flu season.  In our house, when someone gets sick, everything shuts down.  Once the first kid goes down, there are 4 more waiting in line to get it.  Even with the best prevention measures in place, chances are, that bug is going to make the rounds.  We just live too close to each other to prevent it in most cases.

We have quite a nasty bug going around our house at the moment.  Severe headaches, sore throats, high fevers…the works.  It seems congestion and cough follow the sore throat after a couple days.  Just to make things interesting, it seems to disappear entirely from about 2-5 pm every day.  But, boy, does it come back with a vengeance at 5:30!!!  Bear came down with it Saturday evening/Sunday morning (sometime overnight…I didn’t look at the clock), and we’ve been playing this game ever since.  Now, everyone else under the age of 35 has it, with the possible exception of Baby.  She had a fever Sunday evening, but as of yet, no other symptoms.  I’m unclear as to whether that was from teething or (crossing my fingers) she’s getting some passive immunity from nursing and has come through relatively unscathed.

Anyway, all this sickness started me thinking, “What are some of my best tips for surviving the inevitable viruses that pop up so often in childhood?”


Mommy Survival Mode

Right from the first alarming “beep” of the thermometer, my mindset has to change.  All of my current plans and items on my to-do list have to go on the back burner.  I have entered “Mommy Survival Mode”.  It’s a defensive place in my mind, I think, fueled mostly by adrenaline and Dr. Pepper.  I will lose my mind if I start thinking about all the things that aren’t getting done or the sleep I’m not allowed to have.  At the end of the week, the house will be a bigger wreck than it already was, I’ll be 2 weeks behind on laundry, and my face will not have felt the outside air in seven whole days.  I don’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time for the entirety of the ordeal.  But, it’s all worth it to make sure my fever-ridden children are as comfortable and safe as possible.

Fever is actually a good thing.  It’s one of  the ways our bodies fight off infections.  But, we all know that too much of a good thing can be dangerous!  And so it is with fevers.  It’s good to let our bodies turn up the heat just a little to make us inhospitable for those germs…but, as a mother, I have to make sure my kids’ immune systems don’t get carried away when they turn up the sauna.

One of our little ones is rather infamous for her ability to spike a 104 degree fever within a period of about 5 minutes.  It’s an impressive, terrifying thing to witness…especially when she’s already had as much acetaminophen and ibuprofen as she’s allowed for the next 2 hours.  We have had to resort to cold baths upon more than one occasion to cool her off.  She is the reason I cannot sleep when the children are sick.  It’s my job to check on them every couple hours to make sure no one’s immune system is cooking them.

So, what are the tools I can’t live without during my stay in Mommy Survival Mode? 

Good Drink

Find something your kids will drink.  This is so important.  When you’re running a fever, your body loses a lot of water and electrolytes…even more if there’s also a stomach bug in the mix.  Little bodies need to stay hydrated.  Plus, good hydration helps to keep a fever under control.  Buying enough Gatorade or Powerade, or especially Pedialyte to keep 5 kids hydrated while ill is rather cost prohibitive for our family.  So, we make up a little electrolyte drink ourselves with Kool-aid (made with only 3/4 the recommended sugar), water, and 1 teaspoon of salt per quart.  Now, if you want to avoid all the artificial dyes, there are a plethora of homemade sports drinks options you can find on a simple search.  Find one your kids like.  They’re all pretty easy to make, and so much cheaper than the commercially available alternatives!

Different colored string

All of our cups look the same.  Most of the time, that’s no big deal.  But, when something starts going around, cups start leaving the kitchen and going on to various end tables in the living room.  Pretty soon, I have no idea which cup belongs to which kid.  Since we have a bug going around, you can see why I might be rather concerned with making sure the right cup stays with the right person!  I could put a piece of tape and a name on each cup, but then there’s condensation, and the tape falls off.  I have several different colors of string that I use to make products available in my Etsy shop.  I assign a color to each child, then cut a section of string and tie it to the handle of each child’s cup.  Now, I know which cup goes with which kid.  It saves me from having to add extra dishes to my list of Mommy-I-needs.

Books and Movies

I spend a lot of time sitting on the couch reading stories when the kids are sick.  It’s always nice to have a few new ones available from the library.  But, of course, I’m bound to read the family favorites several times a day, too.  This can also be a great time to introduce your children to some truly great classics, like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, or Treasure Island.  Of course, eventually, my voice is going to give out.  That’s a great time to have some favorite movies on hand.

Special Meals

When your kids have fevers, sometimes they just don’t want to eat very badly…even if you’re not dealing with a stomach bug.  Find some special things that are easy on the stomach to offer your kids.  Applesauce and bananas are great options.  Bananas are high in potassium, which can be lost due to dehydration during a fever.  Also, pancakes and biscuits are usually big hits in our house.  Last night, it was popcorn and spaghetti (with no sauce).  It was quite a bland dinner for my husband and I, but the kids ate something…and that was a win.  Nutritionally speaking, keep in mind that bending the usual rules when the kids are sick is ok.  A few days of carb loading isn’t going to do any lasting damage.  They need a few extra carbs to give them energy to fight the illness, anyway!  

An Extra Dose of Cuddles

This morning, I just sat on the couch and hugged my little Rhino for nearly an hour.  He was burning up, and I was sweating under all that extra heat, but it didn’t matter.  He needed me.  Most of the time, he’s a little bundle of energy, and has a hard time sitting still for longer than 30 seconds at a time.  But, when he’s sick, he still wants to just sit in my lap and cuddle with me.  For a little while at least, Mommy can still make everything better.  

Fever Reducers

Where would a list of Mom’s sick day arsenal be without a mention of fever reducers?  Good ole acetaminophen and ibuprofen can still work wonders for a sick child.  Sometimes, I have a little giggle at the transformation that occurs in a sick child half an hour after a dose of medicine.  This morning, Rhino got up, ready for his next dose of medicine.  I took his temperature, and it was an alarming 103.3, and he still had to wait another 30 minutes until he could have his next dose (remember, I had been up throughout the night, giving medicine or cool compresses as needed).  We made it through that half hour (and a little more), cuddling on the couch, with a wet washcloth on his head from time to time.  I gave him the next dose of medicine.  I settled him as comfortably as I could, and went to take a shower.  My husband hadn’t yet left for work…it was my last chance!  I finished, and said goodbye to my husband for the day.  Pretty soon, Baby woke up and needed to eat.  By the time I got done feeding her, and came out of my room, Rhino had on a backpack and was playing some sort of game.  When I came out, he proudly announced, “Mommy, I not sick anymore!” and gave me a huge grin.  I knew it was only temporary, and before lunch, sure enough, he was once again languishing on the couch.  But, these few moments give me hope.  Hope that this won’t last forever. 


By next week, my kids will back to their usual antics, and this will all be merely an unpleasant memory.  We’ll be trying to get back to normal, and playing catch-up on all the things we didn’t get done this week.  We will have survived another ordeal. 

Mommy Survival Mode, deactivated.

husband on a tractor

Recently, something happened that has made me think…a lot.  In fact, it really got under my skin.  I’ve been considering things a lot in the wake of the event.

How it all began:

an annoying, baby-waking dogMy day started out much like my days always do.  My husband got up about half an hour before I did.  When I got up, I was a little grumpy.  It had been raining overnight, and the dog had been acting strange.  She had woken me up at 4 am.  I tried letting her out, but when I opened the door, she didn’t want to go.  She then followed me into the restroom and growl-talked (those of you with dogs will understand what I mean) to me.  After I’d finished in the restroom and started back to bed, she reclaimed her nightly spot on the couch and laid down.  I got a drink of water, and headed back to bed, hoping I’d be able to get back to sleep in the 2 hours I had left.  As I laid back down, here came Patch, running back into our room, growling and squeaking…and waking up Baby.  

I fed Baby and put her back down to sleep, but was faced with less than an hour left before I knew I’d have to be up and ready for the day.  

I was irritated with the dog, and seriously grumpy to start my Monday.  Stubbornly, I lay in bed, seething and rebelliously pretending I still had enough time to go back to sleep while my husband got up to start his day.

Just as he was going out to tend to the animals, I got up, emerged from our room, and was angrily stalking towards the shower.  He noticed, and made a little joke about my being grumpy…which almost immediately diffused the situation.  I was still mad at the dog, and I was still grumpy, but he had made me smile.  I would be able to get myself back under control.

Andrew went off to take care of the animals, and I wearily shuffled off to the shower where I managed to wake up a little.  

By the time Andrew headed out to work, I was still feeling a little “off”, but functional.  We joked a little more about my being grumpy as we were saying goodbye for the day, and both laughing about it.  

From there, our day here at home progressed normally.  It was Monday, so the kids were all off our routine from the weekend…and there was occasional fussing about an assignment, but nothing out of the ordinary.

After breakfast, I sent Andrew a message to tell him that we needed milk and a prescription picked up before he came home…I wasn’t really expecting an answer, so it came as no surprise that I didn’t get one.  

A couple of hours went by.  We were hard at work.  Soon after lunch, Baby started fussing, right on schedule at about 1:15.  Time for her afternoon nap!  I gave instructions to the other kids as to how they should use their time while I put Baby to bed.  Then, I brought Baby in to our room to feed her before she went to sleep.  

I often do a little internet surfing to make sure I don’t fall asleep while I’m nursing Baby before her nap.  It’s dark, it’s quiet, I have to sit still.  If I don’t have something to keep me from it, we’re both fast asleep!  Then I wake up an hour later, while the older kids have been doing who knows what in my absence, and I have a crick in my neck from sleeping while sitting up.  It’s just not good.  So…I play internet.

The news:

my husband's car
My husband’s car

This particular afternoon, I opened up my laptop and checked my email…nothing of consequence.  Then, I headed on over to KBTX, the local news station’s website to check on the weather.  It had been raining off and on all day, and I wanted to check the radar.  But, I never made it.

My heart stopped when I saw the top story on the KBTX homepage.  There was a picture of a small champagne-colored SUV, smashed beyond recognition.  The headline underneath read, “Fatal car accident this morning on Highway 21.”

I couldn’t breathe.

Andrew drives to work on Highway 21 every morning in a small, champagne-colored SUV.  But the one in the picture was in such bad shape that I just couldn’t tell if it was his or not!  I was trying to stay calm so I wouldn’t upset Baby.  I slowly managed to click on the link to the story, desperately hoping that it was the wrong place on Highway 21.

There wasn’t much more information.  But, it did tell me where on Highway 21…and it was not the wrong place.  My husband drives that stretch every single day.

Panic set in.

I realized I had to calm down so I could get Baby down for a nap.  I couldn’t do anything.  There were rocks in the bottom of my stomach the whole time she nursed.  She took 22 minutes.  It was all I could think about the whole time.

“What if it was him?”

“There are thousands of SUVs that color.”

“He should have been at work already.  But how long did it take the news station to post the story?  It didn’t say what time it happened.”

“I texted him a while ago.  He hasn’t answered.  What if he’s dead on the side of the road and I’m sitting here texting him about milk, and not thinking about something important?”

“It can’t be him!  It can’t be him! Please, Dear Lord, don’t let it be him!”

I laid Baby down in her crib and quietly left the room.  For once, she didn’t scream when I put her down.  I walked across the living room to get my phone.  The older kids were in the kitchen, washing the dishes we’d used at lunch.  I picked up my phone just as I received a message…

Was it him?

It was from Andrew.

“Thank you, Lord!”

He wasn’t dead on the side of the road.  He said he thought there were still a few gallons of milk in the garage refrigerator, and asked if we had to have the prescription that day, or if it could wait for a day or two.

“Really?  I’ve just been through the longest 22 minutes in my life!  You’re worried about milk!?!”

But then I came back to reality with a jolt.  He had not been here during my 22 minute panic attack.  He probably hadn’t been on the internet all day, so it was unlikely he had even seen the story.  Andrew was working…blissfully unaware of the emotional roller coaster from which I had just disembarked.

I checked the outside refrigerator…no milk.  So I answered his message, and went on with life.

I talked to him on the phone a little while afterward and told him all about the incident.  He looked on the news page and agreed that it did, in fact, look a lot like his car.  But, the back window (one of the only things left intact) wasn’t the right shape.

Apparently, I need to pay more attention to back windows.

Thoughts

Often, when I’m faced with a scenario, I have a tendency to jump to the worst possible conclusion…just as I did in this case.  I convinced myself that my husband was gone in an amazingly short period of time.  It was only afterward, however, that I started to consider what it might have meant to our family if something like that were to happen.

What if my husband weren’t here anymore?  What if my children lost their dad?

What if my husband weren't here anymore? What if my children lost their dad? Click To Tweet

I know he would be in a better place.  I have no doubt of that.  But, the selfish part of me keeps reminding me how much we would miss him.  He does so much.

husband working on the tractorMy husband keeps this family moving.  He works hard to make money to provide to us.  Then, he comes home and works hard to grow food to provide for us.  Then, he comes inside and often cooks dinner and takes care of the kids while I put Baby to bed each evening.

What would we do without him?

I know we’d find a way to manage…but, how?

Our kids would have to grow up without their dad.

This evening, as I sit here and finish writing this post, I have been alone all day and all evening with the kids (though, in a house full of 5 kids, can one ever really be “alone”?).  Andrew had a rare evening when he had to stay at work late into the evening playing with NMR spectra…extra points if you know what that is!  I often don’t realize or appreciate how much he does to help our family.  But, when he’s gone, it really hits me full force.  I didn’t manage to finish getting all the kids in bed until after 10 tonight.  It turns out you can’t cook dinner and nurse a baby to sleep at the same time.  I need him here to make things run smoothly.  

I need him because I need him.  He’s my husband…the father of my children.

Our kids need him.

We’d be lost without him.  

My heart aches for the family that did lose someone that day.


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How to treat insect stings fast!

This weekend, I was reminded of a fantastic little addition to our medicine cabinet when Bear accidentally encountered a couple yellow jackets while fishing with her Daddy. Insect stings hurt!  Especially yellow jackets…but it doesn’t matter what critter did the stinging, they just hurt.  There can sometimes be quite a bit of swelling after one of these encounters as well.  So, how do you take the sting out to make your little ones comfortable again?

I’ve heard several home remedies for insect stings in my life…most of them from my grandmother.  I’ve tried all of these at least once, and for the most part, she has a pretty good track record for knowing things that work…no matter how crazy they sound!  Now, my granddad, on the other hand, he wanted to put kerosene on everything…he even kept some in his medicine cabinet.  I wouldn’t suggest kerosene, but I do have a couple of my grandmother’s suggestions to pass along!

Maalox

Maalox was my grandmother’s go-to for insect stings…ant stings in particular.  I was terribly susceptible to ant stings when I was young.  If I got one on my toe, my foot would swell so badly that I couldn’t put shoes on within an hour.  I grew out of it for the most part, but they’re still a nuisance!  Grandmother would dab liquid Maalox onto my stings, and, while it didn’t help the excessive swelling too much, it really did help the pain.

Meat Tenderizer

A doctor at my university’s student health center actually suggested meat tenderizer when I was bit by a spider (not an insect, I know) in my dorm room.  I tried it…you actually make a paste to apply by adding water (some folks say to use vinegar instead, but I haven’t tried it that way).  It worked pretty well to take the pain out, but there was still a lot of swelling, and it still turned purple, prompting an after-hours visit to the ER.  Maybe I should have used it with vinegar!

Aspirin

I’ve heard this one from a lot of folks.  It makes sense, really.  It’s not as crazy as meat tenderizer!  Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory medication.  You can crush a tablet, and make it into a paste with a little water…then apply it to the insect sting.  This method works fairly well, but it takes a little while.  It’s definitely not as fast-acting as the next remedy.

Laundry Bluing

Laundry bluing?  What on earth is that???  Fear not, that was my first reaction when my grandmother first suggested it to me.

I took the kids up to visit my parents and grandparents one summer.  Apparently, at a stop along the way, we gained an additional passenger who remained unnoticed until a couple hours later.  Lizard was only about a year and a half old at the time.  She had fallen asleep, but just before we reached our destination, she woke up and started screaming.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on while driving into Dallas rush-hour traffic, so I pulled over, and managed to get her calmed down…though I still couldn’t find the cause.  Well, a couple hours later, at my grandmother’s house, I laid her down on the floor to change her diaper.  There was a huge welt on her leg.  She had been fussy ever since the incident in the car…and now I knew why.  Something had stung her on the leg.  It was big and red and angry!  I made a rather surprised exclamation about it, and my grandmother came to look.  She said, “That’s a bee sting.  I just bought some bluing.”

I looked at her like a cow looking at a new gate.  “Bluing?  Is that what you said?  What’s that?”

“It’s for laundry.”  She stated rather emphatically.

“Okay…”

My mom jumped in, “People used to use it a lot to make their whites brighter.”

“Okay…”  I was still waiting for someone to tell me why we were talking about brighter whites in every load instead of my daughter’s giant bee sting.

“Mother used to use it on us when we got stung, but I hadn’t thought about it in years.  It takes the sting out, and all the swelling will be gone by bedtime.  I just bought some last week I just happened to come across.  Let me see if I can find it.”  Grandmother took off for her back bedroom to look for it.

I looked at my mom and shrugged my shoulders, still a bit dubious.  But, I figured I might as well give it a try.

My grandmother returned after a few minutes with a little blue bottle labeled, “Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing” and a few cotton balls.  She said, “Put a little of the bluing on the cotton, then dab it on the sting.  Make sure you cover the whole thing.  Try to keep her still until it dries, because it will get all over everything and it will stain.”

So, I did as instructed.  I made a big blue painting with that stuff all over Lizard’s leg.  By the time we sat down for dinner, Lizard had stopped fussing.  By the time I changed her next diaper, the swelling was gone.  She still had a big blue splotch…but no swelling.  I used it again the next morning, just to be sure…but I had a hard time telling where the sting had even been.  I was sold.  Grandmother told me to keep the bottle, and I did!

I’ve used it several more times since then…every time someone gets an insect sting.  It has a great track record for bee stings, and for yellow jacket stings…including Bear’s little encounter over the weekend.  She was stung on the leg and on the nose.  At first, she didn’t want me to turn her nose blue, but within minutes of the time I put it on her leg, she said her leg didn’t hurt any more and wanted it on her nose too.  So, Bear had a blue nose Sunday afternoon…and I didn’t hear another complaint about her nose.  By Monday, her nose wasn’t blue anymore, but that yellow jacket sting was gone too.  A blue nose is a small price to pay!

So, next time you or one of your little ones gets an insect sting, give bluing a try.  You may be just as surprised as I was.

Incidentally, while bluing is great for insect stings, you can also grow a fantastic crystal garden with it, I’ve been told.  It’s on the list to try this week! 


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Living with a colicky baby can be an intense emotional experience.  Your baby is crying and crying and crying…and you can’t seem to do anything to make your precious new baby feel better.  You’re worried.  Being a parent wasn’t supposed to be this hard!  Maybe something is wrong with your baby…there must be!  All that crying must be a sign that something is wrong, right?

I’ve been there.  So far, we’ve lived through it once, and now we’re living through it a second time (though not nearly as bad as the first).  That’s my first piece of advice…take heart, you will live through it, even though it may not seem like it right now!  Our first go round was with our oldest child, Bear.  We evaded the dreaded colic with three more babies.  Now, with the fifth, it seems that we must do it again.  

Crying and colic...take heart, you will live through it, even though it may not seem like it right now! Click To Tweet

What is colic?

A very young baby (less than 5 months old) that cries a lot, typically for a few hours at a time, and usually at approximately the same time every day is said to have colic.  Often, they cry like they’re in pain, and pump their legs up and down and pass gas. They arch their backs and pull away from anyone who tries to hold and soothe them.

Sometimes, your doctor can pinpoint a cause, such as reflux, but often, there is nothing apparently wrong with these babies.  Try telling that to a parent who has to endure their precious little baby’s screams all night long without being able to soothe them!  Try telling that to big brothers and sisters whose parents are a wreck from having a baby screaming in their ear all evening.  Colic affects everyone in the family, not just Mom, Dad, and Baby!

Our first experience with colic

When we first brought Bear home from the hospital, she was so tiny and cute and perfect.  I’d had preeclampsia, and had been induced at 37 weeks, so she was definitely on the small side, weighing in at just under 6 pounds.  The very first night at home, she slept 5 hours during the night without waking us up!  I thought, “Well, well, well!  All this talk about never getting any sleep with a newborn is nonsense!  I just gave birth to the best baby ever.  I’ve got this parenting thing down!”

As my dad used to always tell me, “Pride cometh before a fall!”

By the time Bear was 2 months old, she spent most of her waking hours screaming uncontrollably.  I had just gone back to work.  Her preferred time of day to be up and angry was from around 6 every evening until about 3 in the morning.  Every.  Single.  Night.  None of us were getting any sleep.  My job performance tanked (I was sleep deprived, and I desperately wanted time with my baby when she wasn’t screaming).  I wanted to be a good mother, but I couldn’t even make my baby feel better!  I felt like such a failure.  

When I took Bear to the doctor for one of her check-ups, I mentioned that she cried all the time.  He asked several questions about it, then told me she had colic.  He also thought she might have some issues with reflux, since she did spit up quite a bit.  Then, he prescribed some medication for the reflux, and, while sympathetic to my plight, basically told me “good luck” with the colic.  It was just a stage, and it would get better.

Our next door neighbor, who ran an in-home daycare, watched Bear every day.  It was really nice to have someone so close to our home!  She had some great tips for finally getting her to sleep…and they helped some.  I don’t know how I would have dealt with the stress if I hadn’t had a couple more rational heads than my own (my husband’s and my neighbor’s) giving me advice.  

Eventually, Bear did grow out of it.  By the time I left my job to stay at home with her, she was a happy, healthy 6 month old.  We finally had lots of quality time together.  But, boy, were those first few months tough!

More Crying

Our newest little one has gone through a similar stage, though it hasn’t lasted as long, or been as severe as Bear’s case!  When she first came home, Baby cried every night starting at 7pm…just after my husband gets home from work.  Fortunately, she winds down and sleeps well when I put her to bed at around 8:30.  So, at least she can be helped!  It’s still trying to listen to a baby cry for an hour and a half each night.  There are a few things I know this time around that have helped this stage be a little more survivable.

Baby is now just over 3 months old, and does seem to be coming out of it.  We’ve been 2 nights in a row now that she hasn’t cried through dinner.  When you’re living with an infant, you have to take all the small victories when you can! 

So, here we go, here are some tips you can use to help calm a crying baby!

Stay calm!

I know it’s easy to say, and really really hard to do!  Believe me, there have been nights when I’ve walked the floors with one of my babies, and I cry just as much as they do.  If you can keep your cool, though, you’re more likely to pass the mood on to your baby.  If you tense up, so will your baby.  I think one reason Baby’s colicky phase hasn’t lasted as long as Bear’s did is because between my husband and I, one of us was able to stay calm with her crying periods.

If you can’t stay calm, pass the baby to someone who can.

When I would start crying just like the baby, that’s when my husband knew it was time to take over for a little while.  I was with Baby (and all 4 of her big brothers and sisters!) all day long, and my patience was already stretched pretty thin by the time he got home from work every day.  He would often (like, every night) take her outside to walk while I ate dinner with the other children.  By the time we were done, I would be in a better frame of mind to calmly take her and get her settled down to bed.  We have sure missed eating together as a whole family, but it was a necessary (and temporary) sacrifice.  We know that it is just a stage, and that this too shall pass.

Swaddling

Swaddling saved our sanity when we finally figured out (thanks to our neighbor) that Bear liked it.  I knew the nurses in the hospital had done it, but I wasn’t any good at it.  So, when we got home, I just stopped.  It would seem like torture to an adult, but some babies really need that snugness that swaddling provides.  Sometimes, babies fling their arms and legs when they get upset, and they upset themselves even more with this behavior.  They make themselves feel like they’re falling.  Swaddling keeps those arms and legs under control so they can’t cause trouble.

Baby really needed swaddling during her rough time of night for the first month or so, too.  It was the only thing that would calm her down enough to eat and go to sleep each night…until it wasn’t.

Ditch the swaddling

Confused?  First I said swaddle, then I said don’t!  Yes, that’s what I meant to say…babies are confusing.

At some point, a baby will go from requiring a swaddle to detesting it…usually within 24 hours.  Just because it worked last night, doesn’t mean it’s going to work tonight!  They like to keep us on our toes.  

A few weeks ago, Baby’s swaddling switch flipped.  I swaddled her to feed her and put her to bed one night, and she got MAD about it.  Now, mind you, the night before, she couldn’t sleep or calm down from her daily crying fit without it.  After a couple of reminders from my husband about how all of the other kids had done that at some point too, and some protestations from myself that they hadn’t done it as young as she was, I finally gave in and took the swaddle blanket off.  She quit crying, and was perfectly happy to settle down to her pre-bedtime nursing session.  I was concerned that she wouldn’t sleep very long without it, but she continued about her regular nighttime pattern without interruption.  She has been sleeping unswaddled ever since.

Sing!

Sing a song…any song.  It doesn’t have to be some sweet, pre-planned lullaby you’ve always wanted to sing your baby to sleep with.  Trust me, by the 17th time you’ve sung that song in an hour, you’ll be ready for something new.  When I can’t think of anything, I start singing hymns that I learned long long ago.

Talk

Have a little conversation with your baby.  Tell them anything you can think of.  Make sure that you’re using a calm, soothing voice.  Tell them all about the things you can see.  Describe the sky, or the clouds, the grass or the trees.  Tell them all about the family members that are still waiting to meet them, or maybe about how much their grandparents enjoyed meeting them the day they were born.  Read something to your baby.  Your baby likes the sound of your voice!  It’s warm and soothing and familiar.  

Walk

Hold your baby close and take a walk.  Gently and quietly take a walk outside.  Combine the walk with a little singing and conversation.  The fresh air and change in temperature and scenery will do you both good.  Plus, you get a little exercise out if it too!  It’s a win-win.

Wear your baby

Get a good, secure carrier that’s designed for small babies and get your baby all snuggled up next to you.  The snugness right next to you is soothing for a baby.  Remember that sometimes your baby may fuss while you’re putting them into the carrier and getting everything settled and secure.  All of mine have hated the process of being put into the carrier.  But, once they get there, they really like being close and the movement.  If they’re having tummy issues, the pressure of your body against their tummy can be really soothing.  Plus, your arms can finally have a break!

Check in with your doctor.

Chances are, there is absolutely wrong.  However, it’s always a good idea to bring up excessive crying with your doctor.  There are a few things that can cause a lot of crying, and if it’s something that the doctor can fix, everyone will feel a whole lot better!

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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