Category Archives: The Youngin’s

Fall Cleaning

There is a definite nip to the air when I head outside in the morning to feed and water the animals.  A very brisk reminder that cold temperatures on their way.

In the same manner that spring cleaning inside and out when the weather warms up is essential for getting our homes and homesteads “woken up”, fall cleaning helps us to get it all put to bed.

The shimmering leaves of fall. Sigh.

What does my fall cleaning list for outside look like?

Let’s start with the house:

  • clean off all cobwebs, stray wasp nests, and mud dobber nests that are around the eaves and porches
  • clean the windows and screens
  • WD-40 hinges and sliding doors
  • spray peppermint around the doors and windows to repel spiders and bugs who may want to use our house a haven from the cold
  • the potted plants will soon be brought in and the pots need to be cleaned up before their trip inside.
  • put away or finish all of the projects that are on the porches!
  • clean up the patio and the firepit- we will soon be snuggling around a fire and sipping on hot cider

In the gardens:

  • time to pull the few weeds that have sprouted up in the past couple of weeks
  • pull and chicken compost plants that are spent
  • as leaves fall, we will gather some of them and turn them into the garden soil
  • use more of the leaves to put a thick layer of mulch around fall growing plants, fruit trees, and perennials
  • clean and oil all gardening tools
  • put floating row cover ribs over garden area where we will be using it
  • clean out flower boxes and outdoor pots
  • disconnect and drain water hoses
  • put insulating covers on water spigots

Our head rooster what’s in charge.

Around the homestead

  • clean out and deep mulch the chicken house
  • clean out and re-hay the goat/ geese house
  • move old bedding and dig it into the gardens
  • give the brooder box a good cleaning and disinfecting in the sun
  • give the pond area a thorough weed whacking
  • clean off the fallen branches and leaves that are gathering on the chicken house roof and the top of the chicken run.
  • reorganize all of the tools we have been using through-out the warm weather
  • as the leaves fall and the woods clear out, we will gather fallen branches, cut up fallen trees, and give the wooded acres a good underbrush cleaning- almost bonfire time!

A few projects we have listed for this fall while the weather is gorgeous:

  • dismantle old playset and rebuild into a sturdier, nicer one
  • clear a few trees from the edge of the yard and open it up a bit
  • map out a bike/ hiking trail and start getting it cleaned up and clearly marked

Do we share a lot of items for fall cleaning?  What did I miss that is on your list?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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Menu Planning- Stepping up our game

If you are like me and look for every great idea to trim your grocery budget, then you have already discovered the awesome grocery budget fat buster of menu planning.

Menu planning alone has not only helped reduce our costs, but is has also reduced food waste and given us far better meal options.  When you know what is being prepared and you have all of the necessary ingredients, then it is not a crapshoot to try and pull a healthy, filling meal together.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was the menu planner.  I checked our pantry and freezer stock to create a menu for the week as well as a grocery list.

Then it it hit me.  I have THREE teenagers and at least 4 of our children can cook!  Why am I the only one making these decisions and getting everything lined up for the week?

Enter in operation FAMILY Meal Planning.

After a little powwow, we came up with a new strategy, not only for meal planning but also for meal preparation.

No longer is it a toss up as to who is going to cook, what they are going to prepare, and on what night will they be doing so.

Here’s how we do it.

Our oldest three, Renee (16), Noah (14), and Emily Grace (13), and the team of Hannah (10) and Dad each take a night to fully plan and prepare dinner for the family.  I take the three nights that they do not claim.

Each one of our chefs-in-training puts together all aspects of the meal and makes sure that we either have the ingredients or they are written on the grocery list.

When I head out to Costco with my list, I know that we will have exactly what need for the week’s breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners.

One of the great, yet unexpected, blessings of having our oldest children plan and prepare meals, they are getting inspired to try new dishes, new veggies, new spices, and new combinations.  Their creative juices are flowing!  {pun intended}

It does my momma heart good to see them researching new dinners to create.  Thank, you Pinterest!

Other blessings we noticed:

  • they are learning that planning ahead to ensure they have everything they need makes the job much easier and faster
  • they are widening their culinary scope and experimenting with new flavors
  • the new recipes are introducing new veggies and fruits
  • they are learning timing and time management to get all parts of the meal ready and on the table at the same time.
  • there has been finally come about a realization that they cannot “graze” in the pantry and fridge all of the time and still have what they need to prepare their meals.
  • bonus, this has worked so well, that they have also taken over lunches.

I love that my older kids will not be dependent on a microwave or takeout to eat in those beginning adult years that are in the very near future.  You never know, this may bring out a passion for cooking and a direction in life one of them never thought about.

Next, I need to get one of them interested in being a chocolatier.  *wink*

In your home, do the parents do all of the cooking?  Do you have teenagers who cook?  If not, now is a great time to start something new and get them interested in preparing fantastic meals and stretching themselves as chefs!

When you were a teenager, what were some of your favorite things to cook?

Mine, steak bites with onion and peppers.  Yum!

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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Our Girls and Makeup

Though I speak often in emails and in person with moms about daughters and makeup, the amount of questions I have received regarding this topic have recently gotten numerous. So, rather than email this out multiple times, I am going to share our views in a post!

The makeup question often comes in one of these forms:

  • What age do you allow your daughters to start wearing makeup?
  • How do you view little girls and makeup?
  • How do you decide what makeup to allow?
  • Do you allow your girls to wear nail polish?

We do not allow our girls to wear makeup or nail polish until they are 13 years old. That’s it. At 12 they are introduced to the much-anticipated path of growing up into a young woman and the makeup adventure by allowing the frosty colored lip balm.

At each birthday, beginning on their 13th birthday, they are gifted with a new item of makeup.  By their 16th birthday they will have received all of the different kinds of makeup they need (i.e.:  foundation, powder, eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, etc.)  and be instructed on how to properly use each one.

This is how it lays out at each birthday:

  • 12th- frosty colored lip balm (we love Burt’s Bees)
  • 13th- light-colored lip balm (pink or watermelon), mascara, and they are now able to paint their toenails with young, fresh colors (light pink, light purple, light blue)
  • 14th- now we add light shades of eyeshadow that are the appropriate colors for their skin tone and eye color.  If their fingernails are kept clean and in good repair we will now let them start wearing nail polish to match the colors they have on their toenails.
  • 15th- this is the birthday we add eyeliner and allow for slightly darker and brighter nail polish.
  • 16th- at this birthday each young lady now can use all items of makeup and is fully instructed on how to wear foundation, blush, and powder.  I take the time to teach them about their season, their coloring, what matches their eye color, and how to apply each stage of makeup.

We view make up as a privilege and an important part of a young girl growing into a young lady.  I don’t want to take away the excitement and joy of their first make up experience and each new one as they cross the threshold from little girl to young lady by giving it to them at too young of an age.  Each birthday from 12th to 16th has such anticipation.  By slowly adding new makeup each year, the amount of makeup they are wearing corresponds with how they have matured over the year.

I don’t want to burden them with feeling the need to “put their face on” or worrying about mussing their makeup when they are 9, 10, 11 years old, when they should be focusing on having fun with their friends, riding bikes, playing games, and enjoying the freedom of being so young.  All of the privileges and steps in the journey of growing into a young woman are not going anywhere.  There is no need to rush through such exciting and beautiful experiences.  Once you’re grown up there is no going back!

Do I think parents are wrong for letting their little girls wear makeup and nail polish?  No.  It is not my job nor my place to tell anyone how to raise their daughter(s).  What you choose for your family you do so because you know it is best and what you want for them.

We have put a lot of thought into planning out and guiding our six daughters on this adventure.  We want our daughters to realize that God made them beautiful without makeup, and we feel that making them wait and allowing new makeup over the course of their teenage years helps them to stay grounded in that.  They do not need makeup to be beautiful!

Our oldest is 16 and can wear any makeup she wants, though she usually keeps it simple with eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss.  Our second daughter will be 13 in September, and the excitement over her upcoming introduction to makeup is palpable!  I find myself in almost as much anticipation as she is!  *grin*

Have you already been through this experience with your daughter(s)?  Are you soon facing it?  What are your thoughts?  Any advice or encouragement for moms who are looking to hold off on makeup until the teen years despite the media pressure to apply makeup younger and younger?  I would love to hear!

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

Middle Girl’s Room Makeover

Decorating a room to incorporate the likes, favorite color, toys, and personalities  of four girls ranging in age from four to ten is no easy feat, but I think I got!

The previous residents attempted a “tuscany” feel to several areas of the downstairs by using the stucco method and somewhat painting it with earthy colors.  The white you see is where there is no paint.  They didn’t quite hit the nail on the head.

I chose to cover up the orange flat paint with a very warm and soothing green eggshell.   Green is a color that is the common thread in each of the girls’ quilts.

It took me an entire afternoon to paint this large room.  What seemed to take up the biggest amount of time was moving all of the furniture and toys out of the way.  *grin*

I am still toying with the idea of building a shelf around the pole seen in the picture.  I found an example on Pinterest I really like.

Now we are ready to purge, build, and decorate!

Mark exceeded my expectations building bases for each of the girls’ bed frames.  After hanging the curtains and putting their beds together, I hung their name signs over each of their beds.  I want to sew a couple of throw pillows for each of the girls in their favorite colors to match their name signs and quilts.  That will happen as I find the material I am looking for on clearance.

Here is a view of the kitchen play area I created, as well as little Layla’s (4) bed.  She is not yet big enough for a twin sized mattress.

I created the “EAT” and “Say Grace” signs out of a couple of scraps of wood and some extra ribbon from my craft tub.  The chalkboard menu lists the specials of the day.  You can also see the footprint butterflies we made with each of the girls.

I gave away most of our plastic toy bins and containers and opted for this shelf and matching baskets.   I put a lot of time into searching and finding the right containers for the girls to organize their toys in.  I could spend a WHOLE LOT of money to buy bins that look good and will stand the test of time or something cute but cheap enough not to get all worked up about if it was torn up.  Considering I don’t have $300.00 to spend on the first option, I chose to go with cute and not heartbreaking if they didn’t last too long.  These baskets were less than $5 each at Old Time Pottery, and after almost three months… not one has been torn up or even nicked!  Booyah!

When Mark finally brought home the pallets I have been whining longing for, I made each of the girls a little place of their own to display their masterpieces.

In the corner opposite of their little cafe spot I created a place for their dollhouses and put some books on the wall.  I am keeping my oh so frugal eyes open for a chair or two to put here so they can snuggle up and read their books.

While I may have the bulk of their makeover completed, I have a few projects left up my sleeve.  I am on the hunt for little bedside tables to set next to each of their beds.

I am also looking for a great rug to put in the middle of the room.  It has to be an incredible price and incorporate the colors of the room:  green, blue, pink, brown, orange, and yellow.  I am sure the perfect rug is out there…somewhere.

Finally, I am going to paint one of their doors with chalkboard paint to give them a spot to let their inner Picasso and Van Gogh out.

Granted, it took me about 4 months to get their room to this state of completion, but I have done it all for less than $100.00.  Thank you Pinterest for so much frugal inspiration!!

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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Starting the school day strongly

In order to begin our days with a good attitude and a godly focus, our first subject of the day is Bible study.

After enjoying breakfast and the cleaning up the dining room, everyone grabs their Bibles and gathers around the table.  I have shared with you before how we study our Bibles each morning, but that is not what this particular post is about.

Recently I started giving a weekly Bible challenge.  Most mornings our studies inspire some fantastic conversations and I wanted to make the most of those.

What are the conversation-inspired Bible challenges I give?   I am so glad you asked! *wink*

Each week holds a challenge with a chosen topic given on Monday morning.  Our oldest four (ages 10, 12, 14, and 16) then have until Friday morning to discover and write down a specified number of verses pertaining to that week’s chosen topic.

Let me give you an example.  Last week they were to find twenty separate verses that identified the character traits of a godly friend.   What qualities does God reveal to us that we should look for and embody as a true friend?

On Friday morning after our Bible study the kids present their lists.  A randomly chosen child will share the verses that they found.  The other kids highlight or put a check mark next any verses of theirs that match up with someone else’s.  They then share verses no one else has yet to name.  (They record the name of the book, the chapter, the verse, and they actually write out the verse)

Some of my favorite points about the challenge exercise:

  • It encourages them to read their Bibles independently more often and not just during Bible study with me.
  • The children learn and understand more of God’s word on their own and not just through what I am telling them.
  • It helps them to remember more scripture.
  • It helps them to more easily find particular verses when they need them.
  • It helps them to learn and, prayerfully, apply the godly qualities they read and wrote down.
  • It helps them to remember the follies of and negative consequences of behavior that is not godly.

Here are some of the challenge topics:

  • Qualities of a godly friend
  • Qualities of a godly young lady
  • Qualities of a godly young man
  • Directives (commandments) for fathers
  • Directives for mothers
  • Directives for the elderly
  • Directives for children
  • Qualities of a future spouse
  • The benefits of hard work
  • The consequences of being lazy
  • The consequences of being greedy
  • The benefits of being generous
  • Directives about knowledge and wisdom
  • The focus of a godly person contrasted to the focus of a worldly person
  • Examples of the fruit of the Spirit
  • Examples of the gifts of the Spirit

What challenge topics would add to this list?

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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Shhhh, don’t tell the kids

Let’s say you and Hubs took a little break and enjoyed a nice evening out on a date.  While on that date, you went to see a movie.  Not just any movie, but one that the kids have been whining bugging gently pleading to see.  Would you tell them?

*grin*

Nope!  Well, at least we have not yet.

After some absolutely yummy Chinese food, we headed over to check out Monsters University.  Oh.  My.  Word.  It was great!  That is a movie we will be purchasing and creating a family movie night with once it comes out on DVD.

Even Mark enjoyed it.  The man doesn’t get all warm and fuzzy about animated movies, but this one actually got a smile and a few laughs!  That is huge, people!

I loved the story line.  They surprised me with the direction of Mike and Sully’s characters and relationship when they were younger.  They included hints and bits of many of the characters from Monster’s, Inc., while a couple of them had pretty major roles.  Stay tuned at the end of the movie for the photos  during the credits.  They are hilarious!

I am not going to tell you any more just in case you haven’t seen it.  I don’t want to give too much away.

Overall, two thumbs up and very funny!  I am looking forward to watching the kids enjoy the movie when we get to create our own movie night.

So, am I going to tell them?  They haven’t asked, and I probably won’t open that can of worms if I don’t have to!  I would much rather surprise them with the movie.

Have you seen it yet?

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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For the Love of Strawberries

We are a family who loves fresh fruits and veggies, so when the opportunity came to pick strawberries, we loaded up the van and headed to the strawberry fields!

I thoroughly enjoyed our little adventure.   It was a great morning that rolled  science lessons, math lessons, a field trip, a buffet, and a fun time all in to one.

We divided the girls into teams of one Big, one Middle, and one Little with a basket and a goal.  The boys grabbed a basket and headed off with manly swagger to fill theirs faster than their sisters.    It is always a race.  Whatever it is, it is always a race!

They worked hard, but enjoyed every moment of it.  My job was to run the filled baskets up to the “office” and grab an empty one for them to fill.

In the picture above, you can see my boys (Israel -2, and Noah -14) roaming the fields eating and picking.   I am not sure if any of the strawberries that made it into Israel’s hands were ever put into the baskets.

The strawberries were so ripe, juicy, and sweet.

At the top of the fields stood an old shack whose front porch served as the “office”.  It fit perfectly with the couple who handed out baskets and took payment.

We took our bounty of eight overly full gallon baskets home to process.  The little trick of using a straw to core each berry worked beautifully.   Simply use a clean straw to poke through the berry from the bottom up towards the stem.  It will core it and pop the top off with ease.

We put all of the tops, cores, and trimmings to the side and fed them to the chickens.  They were delighted with their treat!  Oh, the happy squawking!

I dried 5 trays of strawberries in my dehydrator.  The chips will be used in our homemade energy bars.  They add nice crunch and flavor.

I cut up and froze a large portion of the strawberries to use in cobblers, smoothies, pies, and homemade ice cream this summer.

 I also attempted to oven dry strawberries as seen in this pin on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/pin/102527328989401617/).   It did not work well at all.  The berries never dried as described and were far too moist to can in jars or bags.  Mold would have spoiled them quickly.  It is too bad it didn’t work.  If you try to oven dry them (not dehydrate them into chips), and it actually works, let me know what you did!    I am still intrigued by the idea.

With our strawberry harvest such a success, I am now looking toward our next fruit-filled adventure at the end of the month when we head out to pick peaches!

Do you enjoy getting out to the farms and being a part of the harvesting?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen 

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A Never-Ending Parade of Tubs

Warm weather brings about far more than flowers, new leaves, and pollen.  It also drags me kicking and screaming into the dreaded task of changing out winter clothing for summer clothing and adjusting sizes for the children who have grown.  Ugh!

It all starts with what seems to be a never-ending parade of tubs being hauled into the living room.  Our family resembles a group of worker ants intent on hauling their loads.

Once our mountain of tubs has been built, it is time to begin the sorting process.  Some of the kids will need new sizes and warm weather clothing, while others will only need to switch out to warm weather items.  It only takes a few moments for my living room to look like a tornado has torn through the middle of it.

The middle girls enjoy this part of the job.  As I pull out items and determine if they are going to fit, the girls gladly model everything they can.  If clown colleges could see the show that commences and the outfits that are paired up, they would be taking notes.

My poor washer and dryer run almost constantly not only to wash our normal loads, but also to “freshen up” the clothing that has been stored in tubs for months.

Despite the children “helping” (destroying all of my neatly sorted stacks and mixing everything up), slowly but surely the mounds are diminished, the closets and dressers refilled, and the tubs stored away with their bounty of winter clothing.

The ray of sunshine through this dreaded chore:  purging!

Israel (2) is our final child, so all of the items he has outgrown or no longer needs can be donated.  Layla (3) is our youngest girl and everything she is done with can also be donated.

It is incredibly satisfying to load bags of clothing into the truck and take them to the donation center!  It makes the house feel just a little less full and a smidge lighter than it did before.

Ahhhhh.

God bless,

~Rhen

The Gorgeousness of Birmingham Botanical Gardens

The weather is warming up beautifully and that has plunged us full-throttle into our spring field trip season!

We began with a full day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  Last spring we started our field trip season with this field trip as well, but we waited about a week too late to see all of the tulips and early spring blooms.  This year, we were greeted by thousands of gorgeous flowers.

The gardens to explore are bountiful with treasures to be discovered by those who are willing to wander and search.

There are adventures to be had and fun to be chased down around every bend.

There is much to do, from sword fighting to taking a break in the library to relaxing and taking in a lovely view of a sea of blooms.

Did I mention…

And this my friends, is just the beginning!

Coming soon… the Civil War, hiking a preserve, an orchard, and the zoo.  *grin*

What field trips do you have coming up?

God bless,

~Rhen

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Favorite Thrift Store Finds- January

Yes, shopping thrift stores is a great way to save money and keep your budget under control, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt!  *wink*  Finding a treasure, a diamond in the rough, amongst a bunch of junk, is more than worth the time.

Here are my favorite finds for January.

I have been on the hunt for an adorable coat for my sweet Susannah.  She has a coat that is just fine for wearing outside to play in but not for going out in public.  I happened upon a gorgeous, chocolatey-brown Rothschild coat for less than $4.00!  Yes! Score for this thrifty momma!   I also found this adorable skirt.  It has a little gold thread running throughout, and it adds a touch of sparkle.

We had two great finds for Renee, both under $6.00 each.  The first is a black wool jacket that is gathered at the waist.  I love it when she wears it with a silky scarf tucked under the collar and flowing down the front.

The second is an absolutely gorgeous blue suede blazer with a lovely detail.  The kicker?  It is a brand new jacket with the original tag still on it.  That tag read $79.99.  Booyah!

Some women love shoes, while others have a thing for jewelry, and still others for purses and different bags, I have a little thing for jackets and blazers.  I am always on the lookout for something that is suede, loaded with personality, or just a little piece of eye candy.  *grin*

The warmth of this burnt orange suede blazer looks fantastic with my cream colored shirt, blue jeans, cowboy boots, and some simple drop earrings.

My “fun find” was this lap harp I discovered buried under a bunch of kitchen odds and ends.  It is missing one string (easily replaceable), and it was handmade in Romania (how cool is that!).  We are a music family who greatly enjoys finding and learning to play new instruments.  After our trip this fall to Fort Toulouse’s Pioneer Days introduced us to a fantastic character who beautifully played a large version of a lap harp, I had to snatch it up ($3.00)!

My January finds also include a few Van Heusen shirts in pristine condition for Noah, a couple of shirts for myself, several pairs of blue jeans for the kids, and a small tablecloth.

I don’t usually shop for myself, but I recently accomplished a pretty aggressive purge of my clothing, getting rid of items I never wear, I have lost too much weight to wear, aren’t my colors, or have become worn out.  I thoroughly enjoy putting together complete outfits that cost me very little.  Not to mention, the vintage items I find in the thrift stores totally fits my classic yet bohemian style.

How about you?  Do “hunt” through thrift stores?  Do you enjoy finding treasures for next to nothing?

God bless,

~Rhen