Thursday, May 22, 2014

This is How We Do It: Laundry!

So the other day I explained how we do kid's clothes at the Howard House, now it's time to talk about another fun topic - LAUNDRY!!!

In the past, when we had too many clothes, too many towels, too many sheets......too many every-things, I was bogged down by laundry. It was my nemesis. Always sitting there in piles, piles to be washed, piles to be dried, piles to be folded, piles to be hung up, piles to be put away, piles to be ironed!!!! It was overwhelming and I was always behind. Always.
So one of the first areas I noticed a DRASTIC difference in when we started minimizing our possessions was laundry. Oh happy day! My loads were smaller, the hamper wasn't filling up as quickly, and laundry wasn't a DAILY chore anymore. Now that was something I could get on board with.
Once I figured on average how many clothes we needed as a family, knowing how frequently to do laundry was the next step. Since the kids had around 4-5 days worth of play clothes, on an average week I realized I would only need to do laundry 2-3 times a week. So I cut back to 3 days a week, with a hot and cold load each day. This was a welcomed change, however, my loads were really small and sometimes I was looking for laundry to wash. I took a leap and tried 2 loads 2 times a week.....voila!! The perfect arrangement! Not only were my loads the right size, but clothes got rotated better, so the same favorite outfit wasn't being washed over and over again.
Then all I needed to decide was which days I needed to do wash on. I decided on Mondays and Thursdays. Monday was a necessary day, because I don't enjoy doing household chores on the weekend or on the Lord's day and with all the fun we have together during family time, come Mondays, we NEEDED clean and fresh clothes, towels and sheets. It's great to start the week off with a fresh wardrobe and home! Thursday was a natural second day as it was at the midpoint from Monday, but also allowed me to have items clean going into the weekend while not being another huge task I needed to do on Fridays, the day we clean the house (but that's a different post!).
I've had this laundry schedule of two laundry days with two loads each day for over 3 years now, and it has yet to fail me. There are the exceptions, like when we have sickness in our home, are preparing for a trip, or have something special planned on a laundry day. On these occasions, I move the laundry day forward or back depending on the week, but still mostly no change is noticeable in the load size. Every 2 weeks I also have a load of sheets to wash, so on that day I do three loads.
(I will add here that we are a cloth diapering family, which means once a week I also have a load of diapers to run. Again, this usually falls on Monday or Thursdays and gets added on with no real change in schedule. Most people wont have to deal with this extra load, but I'm trying to keep it real here! ;))
This new way of doing laundry has been so freeing and made laundry day a fun event at our home now. Before laundry was always hanging over my head, was always in the back of my mind, but now, I only have to think about laundry twice a week and then it is over and done. With the 3 kiddos' help, we can get two loads sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away in under 2 hours and are only touching the laundry itself for 15 minutes or less of that 2 hour chunk(man I'm so thankful for machines!!). We either enjoy a read aloud book while the kiddos sort and fold/roll their own items and put them away OR if we have gotten all our other work done, we will enjoy a quick cartoon while we are folding our items and then race at the commercial breaks to have everything put away neatly before the show returns!! Having helpers makes the work fun and quick!
Tips for getting laundry completed quickly:
  • Reduce overall amounts of clothes you own!
  • Pick a few days a week for laundry and then forget about it!
  • Train your children early to be responsible for their own items!
  • Don't let the sun go down on incomplete laundry!
*If you are super, super busy start loads the night before, go to bed with one load drying and one load washing, fold first load while second is drying and be done with it!
What are you favorite laundry hacks?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

This is How We Do It: Kid's Clothes

Clothes are something we all have to face and face routinely,  so having a system in place really helps our home life run smoothly.

Twice a year, I get really excited because the "changing of the clothes" time is upon us! And this year I had a sweet volunteer offer to help! I just love training this little momma!

It all starts by taking every item out of each drawer and vacuuming it clean.
 It's so lovely to start with a blank canvas!

I sort all of Grant's outgrown items into three stacks, one to keep to pass down to Morgan the next year, one to donate, and the other to trash. It is very rare to have to get rid of items, so most of  the time I just move these items to the left section of our trundle drawer under the boy's bunkbed.

Morgan's clothes get sorted the same way, but with his sort I am very strict on what I keep. Since Grayson is 4 years behind, it needs to be a very special outfit to warrant being stored that long. It's better to just pass most things onto someone else to enjoy. Also, after two boys, many things are ready to to be passed onto someone's ragbag. ;)

Now it's time for some fun!

At the end of last summer, I raided the clearance racks all over town to find some great bargains(something I do at the end of every season). As I find these cheap treasures, I stash them away in the trundle drawer. I keep a list of what I need with me as I shop as to not get miss matched items or too many things. (Like if I find plaid shorts with a red stripe, I would add a red golf shirt to my list or I would write 3 nice outfits size 6)

So now I get to pull everything out and refill the drawers with fun new outfits and "new to you" clothes!!!

 Here is Grant's new summer wardrobe above and Morgan's is below. Both pictures are missing one set of good clothes, as I had already laid out their church clothes for the next morning. I'll also be buying one more playshirt for Morgan.

Here are what the drawers look like after items are put in.  For the boys, I roll their laundry as this keeps their drawers tidy and clean. Most items I get for them mix and match, so I just line shirts up front and pants/shorts in the back. This also makes it really easy for them to fold and put away their own clothes.

Underwear lies flat, socks get balled, but everything else, including bathing suits, get rolled.

 Jammies, socks, undearwear, and swim suit drawers.

 Grant's play clothes.

Grant's nice clothes.
 I left his jeans in, just because it's Michigan and it could snow tomorrow ....or in June.

Morgan's play clothes. Again rolled with shirts in the front and bottoms in the back.

Again jeans are left in the nice clothes drawer, something I never had to do in OK! ;)

Now it's time to move onto Paige's clothes! It would be a lie if I didn't say I was totally giddy with this job!

So far, it has been a breeze to find girl's clothes on clearance, many for around $1. 

Paige's clothes get folded in outfit packs, with a bottom folded with its matchig top. Also, if their are leggings, a skirt, and top,  they all get folded together for easy grabbing by my little fashionista! ;)

Socks, tights, jammies, bathing suit, and undies(aka kitties)!

Play clothes!

Nice clothes. And she has three dresses hanging her closet.
By keeping clothing choices greatly limited, clothes aren't over taking our home causing stress, drawers stay tidy, and laundry day is quick and simple! Our clothes get a lot of wear since there are fewer option, so I don't buy used, especially when 2+ kids will be wearing them. However, by shopping clearance racks and buying less, our clothes budget remains small. 
When we first had kids, we had so many clothes that half of their wardrobe never got worn, or got worn once or twice and I was constantly folding, washing, putting away, and organizing clothes. I actually found items with tags still on them when packing up outgrown clothing. Such a waste. God has shown us that being a good steward and buying only what we need is a blessing to our family and also allows us to help others with the money and time we save!
Want to minimize the headache of clothes?
 I recommend the following:
~Less is More~
 Aim for (per person per season) 4-6 play outfits, 4-6 nice outfits, 5-6 undies, 2-3 jammies, 4-5 socks, 1 dress shoe, 1 nice shoe, 1 bathing suit/cover up
~Keep Drawers Tidy~
Roll outfits that can be mixed and matched
Fold set outfits into easy to grab packs
~ Evaluate Needs~
It's easy to buy things you don't need when they are cheap
Make a detailed list before you shop - stick to it!
What are some tricks you use to keep kid's clothes under control?
 I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Garlic Alfredo Sauce

So it all started with this recipe. I was so excited, thinking that I could enjoy chicken alfredo without gluten or dairy, not to mention that the base of the sauce was made from a healthy vegetable, cauliflower! If I could pull this off I would be super mom!

I got it all mixed up I was ready to take that first taste. Would it taste anything like what we were used to?


There was no way any of us were going to be able to eat this super sweet concoction. I don't know if it was the coconut milk or the cauliflower but something was wayyyyy off. There was no way all this food was going to waste,  so the frugalista in me pulled out the spice basket and went to town and what it turned into was something beautiful! When you've grown up with a father whose main ingredient in most dishes was garlic, you quickly learn that this delicious vegetable can do amazing things.

Garlic Alfredo Sauce


6 cups (1 head) cauliflower, chopped
1.5 cups of coconut milk
2 T organic olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
2 T of minced garlic
4 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 cup of water or chicken broth
1/4 t nutmeg
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
organic olive oil
1 t salt
2 T of garlic powder
2 T of onion flakes

Chop up cauliflower and add to pan with coconut milk. Bring to a boil, them reduce heat, cover, and simmer until soft(about 8-10mins). Move softened cauliflower mixture to blender, add 2T of olive oil, and blend until smooth. Start your pasta cooking. In a large skillet, put in 1T of olive oil, cubed chicken, and chopped bacon, saute until cooked through. Add onion and minced garlic, cook until softened. Pour cauliflower "sauce" into your large skillet and combine. Add 1/2 cup of your pasta water to thin a bit. Let flavors combine on medium heat while stirring. Taste. Add parsley, onion flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Don't be afraid to play with the seasonings. We love garlic at our house so I kept adding until it was garlicious!! ;) You can use this on gluten free pasta or over veggies.

How the Howards Got Healthy

Now that 2013 is behind us, you know the year of seizures, year 7 of body pain and fatigue and new diagnoses of a plethora of food intolerances, we felt it was time to try something new.

I don't know much about the human body, but the one thing I do know is God has blessed me with this one body and has instructed me to be a good steward of His gift. I hope with His help to live the kind of life He would be pleased with.

I've eaten, cleaned, and lived a certain way for 30 years, so the transformation isn't going to happen overnight. By making small meaningful changes, we hope to feel better, be healthier,  and live long lives that bring glory to God! We also hope to teach our children healthy eating and living habits so they can grow up without facing many of the challenges that bad diets, chemicals, toxins and processed foods can cause.

We have really no experience with gluten free, dairy free, wheat free diets, cooking, or living or with natural cleaning, body care, or household items so this adventure is one we are jumping into with both feet and praying that our chamges will drastically change the way we feel.

We are also not tree huggers or hippies(even though I did love that era of music growing up). We love real food, hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies not tree bark or rutabagas,  so we are really excited to see what kind of recipes we will be trying and products we will be using.

I hope you will join us for the fabulous, the failures and the freak outs!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School 2013

The 2013-2014 school year has officially started!!! This year to kick off the festivities, we decided to start a new tradition that our family can look forward to each year. CUPCAKES!!!!

 We had cupcakes for breakfast! I had seen this cute cupcake kit at ALDI the other day and knew with it's university theme, it would be the perfect start to our day.
 (Not to mention that Woogy LOVES Sully and Mike!)

 After icing and decorating our cupcakes, we got all sugared up!!!

Then we moved on to our yearly tradition of front porch pictures with the "principal"!! It was raining like crazy on Monday, but we were able to snap a quick pictures between downpours!

Bitsy joined us in picture day!

 My sweet cuties!!

 Then we headed into the table to start our day!!

 We worked on matching!

Some handwriting!!

 Hand-eye coordination!

Then as a first day treat(mess) we made moonsand!!! We put Kool-aid in it for a yummy smell and to add color! It was tons of fun!!

We had a first great day and we are all really excited about our year! It's such a blessing that daddy will be home to teach school with me most days and that he will be able to have such a positive, manly influence on our boys! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

10 Days of Separation!

Our daddy left 10 days ago to head north to take a load of stuff, to start training and to work 4 shifts at his new job! We've never been separated this long as a couple and the kids have obviously never spent this much time away from daddy. 

Most people aren't aware, but part of my mystery "disease" is memory loss. I'm trying to document more of our daily lives in an effort to remember more in the future. I don't remember most of my wedding, honeymoon, trips we've taken, and even entire years of my life. Someday I probably wont remember being apart, being hugely pregnant, or moving from Sapulpa to Vicksburg, so it will be nice to have some pictures and documentation to show me all the fun and excitement that occurred during this time!

While being apart wasn't our first choice, I've tried to keep us busy doing some fun things and while we've had a blast, I'm not sure how people do this all the time. Our usual schedule entails heading to church, the library, and maybe the pool twice a week and these last 10 days, we've only had ONE day where we didn't leave the house!!


We've completed the summer reading program and gotten our awards!! You know this mama loves free stuff and free food is right up our alley!!

Of course free fun while eating free food is a must!!!!

We've made fun mail for our daddy! Shhhhhhh

 The mall play place is always a nice cool option where a 36 week pregnant mama can sit while the littles burn off some energy!!!

On the FOURTH Papa and Nana came over, grilled out with us, bought us tons of fun poppers to explode, and we sat and watched "AMERICAN CELEBRATES AMERICA" fireworks from our yard!!

We even had a do nothing day, where we played outside, watched movies, ran through the sprinkler, and played in our "new to us" was so NICE!!

I hope we never have to spend this much time apart again, but we've had our fun and I'm sure daddy has had a nice break that he deserves for all his hard work!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Things Are A-changin'!

  After a 8 year adventure, our medical training journey is finally coming to a close! It's been challenging, exciting, stressful, fun, and totally amazing! God has used this time to grow Tom, our marriage, our family, and our faith in Him. It hasn't been perfect, we've made many mistakes, learned new things, and seen God's grace in everything that we've experienced, but it's now time for a new adventure!

This is Tom's last week of residency! He's had his last call night, last moonlighting shift, last teaching service shift, last clinic day, last elective day, last academics, and presented his last journal club.......whew! And that was all from June 22nd to June 28th!

Come Saturday morning, a medium moving truck, driven by my sweet Bunny, will make it's way from our home in Sapulpa, OK to Vicksburg, MI. Our new rental home, (that we started renting back in May) the "Yellow Farm" will be waiting to house him for the 19 days he will be there training and working his first shifts as an attending at the Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center Emergency Room. I'm just so proud of him! Who knew 9 years ago that this would be route our adventure as newly weds would take us.

I'm just giddy about not only getting settled in our new place, but I'm also ECSTATIC about his new schedule. When we first were planning on specializing, an OB/Gyn residency is what we decided four years later, I'm so thankful that God nipped that decision in the bud and allowed us to change to Family Medicine. Because of this detour, it opened a fabulous door to work in an ER setting which allowed our faith, family, and friends to take their rightful priority! The road we picked would have led to long clinic days and late call nights; but God's path has now allowed Tom to work eight 24 hour shifts a month and then have about 22 days home with, it hasn't sunk in fully yet!

The kiddos and I will be hanging out here at the Sapulpa house, missing our daddy terribly for those nineteen days but we already have some really fun things planned, so hopefully the time will fly by! In the last 10 years since we met, the longest we've even been apart was the 7 days I traveled with mom and the kiddos to find a place to rent in Kalamazoo a few months back. Just let me say, I'm not a fan!!

Anyway, I'm just praying that little "Bertrum" stays put and waits for daddy to get home before he makes his appearance! Then once he arrives, we'll all be off to start our new journey in the "frozen tundra"!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Curriculum 2013-2014

My hope this coming year is to use our blog alot more to document our homeschooling adventures. We hope to join a great co-op, go on some fun field trips, and explore our new area once we get settled in Vicksburg and I hope that my posts will make a great journal for us to look back on and remember our new experiences!!

First day of school 2011
I thought I would get the ball rolling by sharing what curriculum we will be using this coming school year that way I will be able to remember what we used and so that I can later blog about what worked well for our family and what didn't.

So without further delay:

Group Lessons:

Who-poo (1st Grade)

Little Contenders of the Faith
Woogy (Pre-k/K)

Princess Pumpernickel (Preschool)

  • Blanket Time
  • Work Boxes - Manipulative Activities

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ballerina Birthday Bash!

Our sweet baby girl turned 2 this past week and we held a ballerina themed party for her!! My monster truck driving gal loved it. She loved being dressed up and even twirled and danced in her tutu!!

 We had a girly brunch with Papa and Nana and enjoyed some delicious pink cupcakes with glitter on them!!! I love glitter!

 Paige loved the ballerina toppers I made for her cupcakes and I love that they were super cheap and really simple to make! I definitely see another ballerina party in our future!

 Of course Daddy loved seeing his little lady all pinkafied!!!

 Paige caught on really quickly, she knew right away to blow out the candle and did it in one breath. She couldn't wait to bite into her cupcakes!

 "Can I eat it now?"

 Cheese anyone?

 She wasn't quite sure about opening presents, but in no time she figured out that you pull the paper off, people cheer, and you get something fun to play with! 

 Thanks for the cool shades Papa and Nana!!

 Our little domestic diva got right to work after she opened everything!

 Ironing, taking care of her baby, cooking a delicious meal!! This little mama is knows how to run her little house!

 Cookies are done!

Paige proves that one can be fashionable even when working around the home! I really should get a tutu to clean in! 

It has been such a blessing to have this pink princess in our lives. We are so thankful that God sent this little girly our way! She softens our family, brings joy to our lives, and always has a sweet thing to say! She always checks on you if your hurt, says thank you and sorry for the cutest things, and loves to go pee-pee on the potty like a big girl! 

Happy 2nd Birthday Princess Pumpernickel!!!