I was recently invited to do a review of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (November/December issue), so here we are :).
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is a magazine specifically geared toward homeschool parents – right up my alley! I’d never read it before, but I have been following their blog for a couple of months, and they always have loads of good things to say there, so I was confident the magazine would be great too, and I was not disappointed. I especially loved the Christian focus of many of the articles. Providing a Christ-centered education for my boys is of utmost importance to me, especially as we begin to enter the Advent season, and there were so many great pieces that not only provided ideas for keeping Christ at the center of our lives, but why we must do so.
I particularly loved the article Having a Holiday Heart: Seven Reasons to Celebrate (even when you don’t want to). Pulling examples directly from the Gospel of Luke, the author offered food for thought on the breakdown of the word “holiday” (holy day) and the fact that every day is holy to God, and therefore should be holy to us, even when we’re having a “down” or “off” day, and how each participant in the original Christmas story had a celebratory heart, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
The article on using the public library to create your own homeschool curriculum was a fascinating read for me as well. I’ve been homeschooling my boys since Day 1, and only this year (Seahawk is in 4th grade, and Munchkin is in 2nd grade) feel like I’m doing something “right.” Things like this article serve as great reminders for how to put together a simple unit study without spending a dime. Always good for people on a budget! The emphasis in this month’s issue was science and history/social studies, and was Part III, so I’m very interested in going back to the past issues and catching up on the series.
We all know that the holidays are coming – can you believe Thanksgiving is next week already?! So the piece surrounding the history of our traditional holiday foods was excellent in both timing and content. Did you know that even hares and dormice were stuffed in the early days? Me neither. Or that stuffing (or dressing, depending on how you cook it) was traditionally a way to use up leftovers, not as its own dish? Kind of reminds me of a quilt (which is another of my passions, as you know) – in the early days, quilts were a way to use up extra fabric, but now there are specific “quilting fabric” sections in the stores. How far we’ve come. Those are just two of the interesting food histories touched on in the article. There are also histories for pumpkin pie, gingerbread, turkey, fruitcake, and candy canes.
Even the ads in the magazine were fascinating to me since this is the first year I’ve really thought about homeschool curriculum (beyond just the workbooks for every subject that my kids hated). I don’t use any purchased curriculum, except for our math books (the one holdover from our workbook days), but it’s still interesting to see what other people are using. And I’m not opposed to purchasing something if I think it would be a good fit for my sons. I spent the first three years of my homeschooling not having a clue what I was doing, which wasn’t good for them or me, but now that we have a bit of a system down, I’m feeling open again toward traditional curriculum (my last experience, the infamous “workbook period” of our homeschool, while necessary for my own confidence boosting, was not of the “super positive” variety).
The magazine is available for free online bi-monthly; I’ll definitely be reading it again! I wish I’d known about it years ago, but as the saying goes, “better late than never.” I barely scratched the surface of what’s in there in this review. For any of you who are experienced homeschoolers, newbie homeschoolers, considering homeschooling, someone considering going the homeschool route, or even just parents of kids (of any age – articles cover educating children from elementary through college prep years) I definitely recommend checking it out. With well over 150 pages, there’s bound to be something in it for you.
For more information on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, click HERE (and I highly recommend visiting their site, too – even if you don’t have any intention of homeschooling; the current post is about creating your own Christmas traditions, which is a topic dear to my heart this year, and I’ll touch on it in a future post). To read this month’s Old Schoolhouse Magazine, click HERE. For a list of mobile apps the Crew offers, click HERE.
Yesterday was laundry day, and every single item that Small Fry owns was in there. I washed the clothes at home, and then hubby took them to the laundromat to dry (that’s our normal protocol in the rainy season when we can’t air dry our clothes outside). But I needed to go for a walk to the store for dinner stuff. It wouldn’t do to take a baby out in only a diaper in November. July, yes. But not November. So I put one of Munchkin’s shirts on him. It was way too big, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Seahawk thought Small Fry looked like Harry Potter in the too-big shirt – it looked like a wizard’s robe – so he put Munchkin’s glasses on the baby for a quick photo. When hubby got home and saw the baby walking around, he alluded him to Yoda. Either way, funny :).
Have a blessed weekend.
When I was pregnant with Small Fry, at first I never even thought of doing anything besides disposable diapers; that’s what I’d done with the other two kids, and it was easy. But then a few things happened nearly simultaneously.
First, hubby had to take some things to the “dump.” We were living near the actual landfill at the time, not near a “transfer center” like we do now, so the landfill is where he went. He was appalled. It is a huge mountain that you drive your car up and then, once you’re atop the heap, you literally just toss your stuff onto what’s already there. Eventually, they come through with the proper equipment and do what they need to do to make it “safe,” although I’ve come to learn that there’s really no such thing as a safe landfill. A few days later, he took the rest of us to see what we have since dubbed “Junk Mountain.” In the beginning, hubby had given it a less savory name, but we quickly changed it to a more kid-friendly version ;).
The other thing that happened was that there was an ad in my email box (not the actual box, but off to the side – if you have gmail, you know what I mean) for a company called gDiapers. The ad boasted “flushable diapers.” After our trip to the landfill, I was all over this. If I could prevent my baby from sending over 2,000 diapers to the landfill over the course of his diaper-wearing days, I was all over that! I clicked through the ad and read everything I could on their site. I was in love with the concept. Cloth on the outside, flushable on the inside, and nothing to send to the landfill. Brilliant! The only drawback was the price; gDiapers are quite expensive.
We bought a starter set anyway. That came with 2 cloth outers, 2 waterproof liners, and 40 flushable inserts. They were definitely more work than disposable diapers (we didn’t get the g’s until Small Fry was about 6 weeks old), but I didn’t care. It was worth it to me to do just a small part to “save the Earth.”
Something else happened a few weeks into our gDiapering experience (I’m not going to go into the details) that made me want to explore full-on cloth diapering. I spent hours trying to figure out all the different terms (pocket diapers, all-in-ones, the list goes on…), materials, etc involved in cloth diapering, and, like with my initial sticker shock at gDiapers, was dismayed at the cost. Some of the diapers are upwards of $20 apiece! And you need at least 15, but preferably in the neighborhood of 30 or more to cloth diaper full time. One of the best deals I found at the time was a six-pack of reusable diapers for $100. You can do the math, I’m sure. That would mean $300-$500 dollars for diapers! That’s way too much, even if you are using them over and over again.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I was browsing Amazon, drooling over the cloth diapers and gDiapers (don’t mock me), when it suggested that I might like this book: How to Make All-in-One, One-Size-Fits-Most Cloth Diapers. I got the Kindle sample, and was instantly intrigued. So I talked to hubby to make sure there was enough money on our pre-paid card (we never use our real bank card for online purchases…) and bought the Kindle version. For $4.99 I didn’t think I could really go wrong.
I was right!
That was the very best money I spent in my desire to cloth diaper. I spent about a week with the book, going over her suggestions for the materials, and pricing everything through online retailers and JoAnn. I planned my trip carefully to maximize the JoAnn coupons (I didn’t want to wait for online shipping!), and was able to get enough PUL (the outer, waterproof fabric), Alova Suede (the interior, wicking fabric), Velcro, elastic, and thread to make 15 diapers for $32. For another $10 at WalMart, I got a package of 15 microfiber cloths to use as the absorbent layer inside the diapers.
So, for less than $50 and about 20 hours of my time, I was able to make 15 cloth diapers. In case you don’t have your calculator handy, that comes out to just about $3 a diaper. Compared to $20. I call that a win. And the best part is that we don’t have the same “oh, no, we’re out of diapers and it’s the middle of the night” panic attacks that other people go through. Double win.
So. That covers my journey to getting the diapers. What about how they’ve worked since we implemented them?
I could not be happier with them. They are just as easy to use as disposables (I made all-in-one diapers, which means no pockets to stuff or pieces to separate before laundering), and I know we’ve saved so much money going this route. Even if you count all my experiments (with gDiapering, mostly), we’re way ahead in the money-saving department. And there are about a thousand fewer diapers in the landfill than there would be otherwise.
That said, there are a couple of things I wish I could change. First, I wish I’d just embraced that fact that I had a third baby boy; as it is, I chose yellow for the diaper covers because it was a “gender neutral” color, and in case we have a baby girl someday, I wanted to be able to use the same diapers. A year in, I suspect that these diapers won’t hold up for another baby. Don’t get me wrong – these are wonderful diapers, and I recommend them to anyone, but since I made only 15 instead of 30 or 45, they’re taking a bit of a beating. Several of them need to have the Velcro replaced soon (still peanuts compared to Pampers), and one of them needs new elastic, which will involve taking the whole diaper apart and reassembling it. I haven’t tackled that project yet. Plus, after reading a post on The Minimalist Mom, I was convicted by the notion that “saving” clothes from one child to another, outside of those that you really love, isn’t necessarily as frugal as you think. Her main arguments against it were a) you have to have the space to store them, and if you’re living a minimalist lifestyle in a small house, that may not be something you have, and b) clothes still wear out, even if you’re not actively using them. Cotton fibers wear with age, not necessarily use. Elastic gets old and brittle in storage. So it’s better to pass your cloth diapers along to someone who needs them when your baby is done with them than to put them in storage for the elusive “next baby.” If I’d read that post before I made the diapers, I would’ve chosen a cute, very boyish fabric for the outside (monsters or robots, probably) rather than plain yellow.
The second thing is that sometimes I wish I had two or three pocket diapers for nighttime. Going the pocket route allows you to add more of the absorbent layers when baby needs them most – at night. So we do sometimes buy the throwaways for overnight. Right now, we’re using our trusty yellow diapers, but depending on how much liquid the baby’s had before bed, they don’t always last all night. So that is a definite con. Even when we do use disposables at night, hubby reminds me that we’re still doing a good thing, both for our pocketbook and our planet. A package of Pampers lasts an entire month when you only use one a day, rather than half a week if you use them exclusively. And sending one diaper a day to the landfill, while not perfect, is loads better than sending eight diapers a day there. That has to count for something, right?
So there you go. My personal experience with cloth diapering.
I didn’t write this to try to guilt anyone into using cloth, by the way. I just wanted to share my experience and how it’s worked so well for our family. If I inspire you to try, great! If not, that’s okay too.
If you’ve been reading this blog for very long at all, you’ll know that we had a garden this summer. It was the first time we did one. Well, the first time we did one right, anyway. We planted carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. The tomatoes were from starters we got from the farm store; the carrots and zucchini were from seed.
I was in love with idea of growing our own food. And believe me, I still am. The idea of working the ground (within reason – I wouldn’t want to be a farmer, but a summer garden is cool) and eating the toils of your labor is awesome to me. But I don’t know if we’ll do it again. As long as we’re living in the city, anyway. Here’s why.
1. The cost to output ratio. Our water bill roughly doubled this summer, and we honestly didn’t get that much produce for the cost. We could have saved a lot of money by just buying our zucchini and tomatoes.
2. (And this is related to #1) Not enough output. I don’t know if we did something “wrong” or what, but we did not have the “you’ll be giving zucchini to your neighbors because there’ll be too much for you to eat” experience. We only got one or two fruits per week. I had high hopes for canning tomatoes and making homemade tomato sauce with the fruits from our 4 tomato plants (2 cherries and 2 beefsteaks), and there were barely enough for tacos. Definitely not enough to can. We had about a dozen cherry tomatoes a day that were ripe and one or two beefsteaks every couple of weeks. I don’t know if this is a normal experience, but it was what we found.
Now, I’m not going to say that the garden experience left a bitter taste in my mouth (pardon the pun), because it was really fun going out every day and picking the cherry tomatoes and sharing them with the kids (Small Fry in particular loved them!). And whenever there was a zucchini or big tomato ready, it was practically a celebration. But I do have to weigh the cost/benefit, and based on this year, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Maybe next year we’ll do something different, or maybe we’ll try the same crops again, or maybe we’ll just save the money on the water bill and buy our produce. I can’t rightly say. All I know is that it’ll have to be something we think heavily about before doing again.
What’s your experience with gardening? Has it been worth it for you?
Our town does a thing every Halloween where the downtown businesses offer trick-or-treating for the kids. This came about a few years ago when there was a lot of controversy over house-to-house trick-or-treating because of the “risk” associated with accepting candy/food from strangers. One of the insurance offices had someone in a full-on Iron Man costume around for pictures.
Seahawk went as Russell Wilson (of course!) and Munchkin was a ninja. I think we spent a sum total of $8 for their costumes – $4 at Goodwill for the football helmet (which is actually a softball helmet, but no matter) and $4 for the fabric to make the ninja mask. They just wore regular clothes otherwise.
I hate carving pumpkins. There. I’ve said it. But my kids love it, and I forget year to year how much I dislike it. Hubby has a skin allergy to pumpkin flesh (he can eat it, just can’t touch it raw), so carving duties fall to me.
We bought one of the kits with a book of patterns and the carving tools. Munchkin chose a headless guy, which ended up being more difficult than expected to complete. But he liked it, so that’s all that matters.
I think it ended up looking like Batman’s logo. But look carefully and you can tell that the top part is actually a top hat, and the bottom is a coat.
Seahawk decided he wanted a spider on his, so I just freehanded a basic spider shape. There was more cutting on his, but less details, so it was easier overall.
Happy (almost) Halloween!
That’s how long I’ve been a mom.
Or, that’s how old Seahawk is. Yeah. That makes me sound less old ;).
We had a big week of celebrations. On Sunday, we had the two older boys’ joint “friend” party. We bought white t-shirts from Gen-X and a package of fabric markers and each kid got to decorate their own shirt. Seahawk did his up like a jersey of his favorite football player, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (hence his blog name). Munchkin did a space scene. When they were wearing their shirts the next day, I took the opportunity during our daily trek to the store to teach them the planets in order. I learned them in third grade, and to this day I still use the mnemonic device my teacher taught us: My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Pizzas (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). Yes, I know Pluto isn’t technically considered a planet anymore, but it completes the funny phrase nicely :).
Anyway, after the shirt coloring, the kids went outside to play (yay for beautiful weather in late October!). Then I called them back in to do “build your own pizzas.” I made pizza crust, tripling my normal recipe, and divided it into mini-pizza size portions. We put various toppings into bowls and kids got to choose what they wanted. Then we baked them up and served them for dinner (the party ran from 4-6). Overall, a very successful party! Except for the fact that I didn’t take any pictures. That was a tragedy.
On Monday, we had Seahawk’s “grandparents dinner.” He chose baked ziti, which works for me, because it’s easy to make a big pan of that! In lieu of gifts, he asked everyone for a cash donation to put toward his “basketball fund.” He’s never played a team sport (they’re expensive around here!) and really wanted to. Between everyone, he got what he needed, plus a pair of shoes specifically for the gym. I can’t wait to start going to his games next month!
Then on his real birthday, yesterday, I made tamales for dinner – that’s another of his favorites, but we don’t have it very often because they’re very time consuming to make. Because we’d had cake (homemade pumpkin cake – yum!) at the grandparents dinner, I just bought him a doughnut from the grocery store for his real birthday. It’s all about portion control, and one doughnut won’t stick around for days ;). We put ten candles in it for him (which hubby thought was about the funniest thing he’d ever seen – I didn’t tell him in advance I was going to do that) and sang the traditional song. And that was that.
How do you celebrate birthdays?