Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is She Crying Again?

This morning after dropping my girl off at daycare I met a transfer truck traveling in the opposite direction. Before the moment that we actually passed in the road a mother duck and duckling decided it would be a good time to waddle slowly across the road. We both stopped and allowed them to cross safely.

After they were safely across the road, the truck driver and I exchanged a friendly wave, and we went in opposite directions. Almost immediately tears began rolling down my cheeks. I was just so struck by the kindness of the truck driver and the beauty of the encounter. He could have easily smashed those ducks without a second thought, but he chose to join me in letting them cross safely.

I used to be tough, but somehow I have turned into a crybaby. Personally I attribute the change to the birth of my daughter. It is almost as if her birth fully opened my eyes to the beauty of life that surrounds me, and now more than ever I often find that the beauty is more than I can take! Now, when I see another child (even the students I teach) I can't help but think about the fact that somewhere that child has a mother who loves him just as much as I love my sweet girl. I feel like giving birth has really caused me to place a greater value on life in general. Perhaps it is because the process of being pregnant and giving birth caused me to come to grips with just how fragile life really can be and how each new day really is a blessing.

So if you are around me, and I cry about random things like Johnson's Baby Shampoo commercials, Pampers commercials, or kids singing at church, don't worry. I'm not depressed. I'm just amazed by the beauty of this life that God has given me and sometimes my amazement trickles down my cheeks in the form of tears!

God’s handiwork is a spectacle that, rightly understood,
should not only take our breath away
but should inspire us to worship and praise our God.
-- Bill Crowder

Saturday, June 9, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent

I first saw the idea for this on a nifty little blog I follow called “How Does She?” I pretty much love and want to try all of their ideas. Here is my personal experience with the DIY laundry detergent.

When I first saw the blog post about DIY laundry detergent, I vowed to try it when we ran out of our box of Tide. Why you ask? It’s simple really…I’m cheap. I would rather pay less for laundry detergent -- even if I have to make it myself. 

Alas, the day arrived when I used the last scoop of Tide and realized (gasp) we didn’t have a back up box! Then I remembered my big idea to make my own detergent. I had already purchased the necessary materials (total cost $28), so I gathered them up and began the process. You might be wondering how I saved money if I had to buy all that stuff. Just keep reading and you will see!

DIY Laundry Detergent Ingredients

*Ingredients I Used: 

1 Box Borax (4lb 12oz) 

1 Box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (3lb 7oz)

1 Container OxiClean (3lbs)

2 Bars Fels Naptha Soap

2 Boxes Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (2lbs each) 

1 Bottle Purex Crystals Fabric Softener (55oz)

*I found all the ingredients on the laundry detergent aisle at Walmart except the baking soda. It was in the baking section.

I spent the next 12 minutes grating the Fels Naptha soap which looks so much like cheese that I almost forgot it was soap. This part was definitely not my favorite. Next time I nominate the hubby to do the grating.


After the soap was grated up nicely I realized that I needed something really big so I could mix all my ingredients. A quick search concluded that my only option was the mop bucket, but it worked! I opened all the boxes and grabbed a really sturdy and BIG metal spoon. I added a layer of each of the ingredients and then mixed it up really well. Then I added another layer of each of the ingredients and mixed it up with what I had already mixed up. This process took some time because I wanted to make sure that it was mixed really well. In the end, my mop bucket was almost overflowing, and I had 20 pounds of laundry soap!!!!! I was honestly very shocked by how much this recipe made!

20 Pounds!!! Wow!!!
 From start to finish (clean empty kitchen counter to clean empty kitchen counter) the entire process took 42 minutes. (If you want to be really technical it probably only took 40 minutes because I spent at least two minutes hefting the mop bucket to the scale and gawking at the fact that it weighed 20 pounds!!!)
We have been using this DIY detergent since March 22, 2012, and we have only used about half the batch! I couldn't be more impressed! I must admit that I was skeptical at first, but it really does work, and it smells great! Even the hubby who is a brand-name-only-kind-of-fellow is happy with this new, cheap alternative.  

As for the cost savings here is what you want to know (probably more than you want to know):
A 20oz box of Tide Ultra costs about $5.59 and does 15 loads (cheapest price I could find online). That is a cost of about 37¢ per load of laundry. A batch of the DIY laundry detergent costs about $28 and does about 320 loads (there are 32 tablespoons in one pound of powder, and you need 2 tablespoons per load of laundry). That is a cost of about 9¢  per load of laundry.

So if we were to compare apples to apples it would look like this:
320 loads of Tide Ultra = about $118
320 loads of DIY Laundry Detergent = about $28

Are you inspired to try it yourself? Here are some things you might want to know:

  • Buy a 5 gallon bucket with a lid for storage – remember it makes 20 pounds!!!
  • You must have a really big and really sturdy solid metal spoon for mixing. I feel sure a plastic spoon will break.
  • Mix the ingredients outside to avoid getting detergent “dust” on everything in the kitchen and to avoid getting the detergent “dust” up your nose. It’s not very pleasant. Trust me…I know.  
  • It only takes 2 tablespoons per load of laundry!
  • Don’t be alarmed when you wash your first load of clothes and there are little to no bubbles. The detergent really doesn’t make suds like you expect to see, but it still cleans really well and leaves your clothes smelling great.
  • Save the Purex Crystals container. You can use it as the functional and pretty dispenser for your new detergent. The little dome lid has measuring lines on it, and the first one is about 2 tablespoons! 

    Repurposed Purex Crystals Bottle 

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Mamas Don't Get Sick Days

    Recently our family was hit by a nasty stomach bug. I’m talking the brutal kind that causes you to lie moaning in agony while you wonder if you will live to see the next hour of your life. Yes, it was that bad.

    It started at 12:30 am on Friday when I was awakened to my tiny one beckoning for me. I thought she just needed comforting so she could go back to sleep. In reality it was just the start of a terrible chain of events that began with her vomiting in her crib and ended with her daddy and me both lying in the fetal position wishing we were in a crib. Isn’t it great when a family can share a special moment such as that?

    Azalee was sick all day on Friday and most of the day on Saturday. Meanwhile her daddy and I both got sick starting on Saturday night really late, and we were sick all day Sunday and most of the day on Monday. The worst part for me was being so very sick and still having to care for my sweet baby – who was pretty much back to her peppy little self by the time her daddy and I were in the thick of things.

    I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I felt so rotten. So what is a momma to do when she is sick as can be, but she still has to care for a toddler?

    Fear not! I have the perfect plan!

    Step 1: Prepare
    Drag yourself to the kitchen. I know the thought of food and drink is enough to cause a panicky trip to the trash can, but this is not for you. Grab some juice boxes and some small, quick, and easy snacks. On the way to the living room, go through the house closing all the doors to any room other than the living room effectively trapping your toddler in the living room with you. Next do a quick scan of the room to make sure that anything dangerous in is inaccessible.

    Step 2: Get Down on Their Level
    Muster up all of your remaining strength to drag the couch cushions onto the floor making yourself a comfortable spot to nap in between the required entertainment you must provide. Push the couch cushions up against the couch. Then stuff all of the snacks and juice boxes between the couch and the cushions. This allows you to hide them yet still have easy access. This is also a great place to hide your cell phone and the remote if you have a grabby technology junkie toddler like mine.  
    **Important Note: Do a quick scan of the secret stuff under the couch cushions and hide anything dangerous in the secret spot between the couch and the cushions.

    Step 3: Let the Games Begin
    Here are some of the ways that I entertained Azalee without much effort and with very little getting off of my “bed.”

    The “New” Couch: The couch without cushions is a novel thing at our house. So Azalee was entertained by the sight of it, its strange bouncy properties, and the surprises she kept finding on it. Other than the required “oh” and “uh huh” and “really” I didn’t have to do anything, and unless a couch without cushions is common at your house, I’m guessing you won’t either.

    TV: Once the novelty of the couch wears off, turn on the TV and allow your toddler to bask in all of the stuff that she loves. This was a real treat for Azalee because she doesn’t watch TV that often, but thanks to our recent Netflix subscription we now have access to about 5 bazillion Barney episodes. Although Barney does annoy me at times, during this particular time he was my BFF! She even sat on my “bed” with me to watch Barney which meant that I was free to close my eyes and sleep. Yes…I did actually sleep while my toddler was awake.

    Can You Find…?: This game allows your toddler to be entertained while you don’t have to move. It works great! First you spot something in front of the toy box, and then say, “Can you find __________ (the item you can plainly see)?” This would send her looking for it, and occasionally during the hunt something would grab her interest and she would be occupied without needing me or my input. *Word of caution: Don’t send your tot to find something too difficult or you’ll have to end up getting up to get it yourself. Ugh.

    Cards: We have a set of preschool learning cards with animals and numbers on them. I told Azalee to spread them out on the floor then I would tell her which one I wanted. “Bring me the cow please….bring me something red….bring me the pig…” This game can last a long time.

    Coloring: This required very little effort on my part (other than getting up to get the book and the crayons), but it provided at least 15 minutes of entertainment. Never mind that Azalee colored on the couch cushion while I dozed off. Oops!

    PlayDoh: This did require me to get off the couch and venture into the kitchen because Azalee can only play with PlayDoh while sitting in her high chair. I took a pillow with me and rested my head on the table while she made flowers, snakes, birds nests, and pizzas until her little heart was content. I even let her go buck wild and mix two colors! This activity provided a significant amount of rest time for me because although I was forced to sit up I could rest my head on the pillow on the table and really close my eyes to catch some zzzz’s knowing that Azalee was in no danger and was completely occupied. This was also a good segue into lunch because she was already in her chair.

    Emergency Toy Stash: Think back to Christmas or to your child’s most recent birthday party. Remember all those nice new toys? If your toddler is like mine, he received a whole bunch of toys. Now, like any good mother I don’t want my daughter to be over stimulated, so I secretly stashed away a fair portion of those new toys in what I like to call an “ETS” or emergency toy stash. When things get boring or I just need a few moments to myself, I will whip out one of those suckers and shazam – instant silence for at least 10-15 minutes. The ETS was my best friend during my recent illness. I went into the stash on three separate occasions, but it was worth every minute of time that I had to rest in peace (in between my panicky runs to the bathroom and the trash can)!

    So there you have it folks! The perfect plan for the sick momma because Lord knows sick days are not permitted in motherhood.

    Note: You may be wondering why I didn’t send Azalee to her grandparent’s house or let my hubby take care of her. Well…Azalee wasn’t completely symptom free when my hubby and I were sick, and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to suffer through the mess that we were going through. So sending her to the grandparent’s house was out of the question. And yes, my hubby was sick with the same stomach bug, but his was somehow worse than mine (read – he is a man), so I mostly took care of Azalee. I must say that my amazing and wonderful mother went to the grocery store for us and brought us a plethora of get well supplies ranging from Gatorade to a plate of hot food for Azalee so that I wouldn’t have to worry about what to feed her. She even delivered it to our porch!

    I’d love to hear your ideas!
    How have you entertained your toddler when you were really sick or tired?

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    I Witnessed a Miracle!

    Tonight as I was working on my blog entry for next month I found this little jewel saved in my blog folder. I'm not really sure why I never posted it back in July of 2011. So, without further ado...

    Today was absolutely miraculous. Days like today make me wonder how any person can be agnostic or atheist. The amazing thing that I witnessed today was the birth of my (handsome, beautiful, and perfect in every way) nephew! Oh what an awesome, awesome thing it is to witness a new life coming into the world!

    For months we have looked at my sister-in-law’s beautiful, round belly and wondered with great anticipation about the lil' man inside. What would he look like? Whose nose would he have? Would he have hair? Would he have those weird toes like his daddy? Would he have his mama’s beautiful eyes? No one knew…until today!

    My sweet sister-in-law decided early in her pregnancy that she wanted me to be present at their lil’man’s birth, and she decided she wanted me to capture the special moments of the birth on camera. Of course I was so incredibly honored that she would allow me to be a part of such a private and immeasurably special time, and I agreed without a second thought.

    As the due date approached she and I were both concerned about how I would be able to get off work to be at the birth (especially since I just changed jobs and she was not planning to be induced). However, as it turns out we worried for nothing because my sweet nephew was born during my summer break from school!

    His actual due date was not until August 17th, but the lil’ man decided he was ready to make an early appearance. He came today – 4 weeks early! He wiggled and squeezed his way out into this world at 1 pm weighing a tiny 4 pounds 12 ounces, and measuring 17.75 inches long. We were all so concerned about him – worried about his lungs, his heart, his everything! Would he have to go to the NICU? Would he be able to breathe okay? Just so many questions, but soon after the lil’ man was born all our fears were put to rest because he was absolutely PERFECT!!! I think he wanted to get our attention so he was a bit sluggish at first, but it didn’t take long for him to turn as pink as a flamingo, start breathing effortlessly, and crying like the super awesome champ that he is! No NICU for lil' man!!! Whew, what a relief!!! God is so good!!!

    Welcome to the World!
     ♥ Sweet Angel Boy ♥
    In addition to the awesomeness of witnessing the birth of my nephew I also enjoyed witnessing the birth of a mama and a daddy. Sometimes we forget that when a baby is born a mama and a daddy are too! No longer will they be just a husband and wife, they will now be team mama and daddy. They will love him more than they ever thought it was possible to love another human being, and he will love them with an unconditional love. They are now part of this elite group of people called parents. To them I say: Welcome to the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have. Enjoy the ride!

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Holey Moley -- You're Two?!

    Dear Azalee,

    Happy Birthday…again! Wow! Can you believe it? You have been mine for 2 whole years now!!! Two of the most wonderful, fun-filled, sleepless years of my life thus far! I have loved every moment of it. (Well there was a time or two here and there that I thought I might not survive, and I had to go on the front porch and scream…but we won't dwell on that.)

    This time last year we were celebrating your 1st birthday, and now we get to celebrate another one! Last year at this time you were still a little fuzzy headed thing, you had just learned to walk, and you didn't talk much. But, even then I could tell that you were very smart and full of a special kind of spunk that is all your own.

    Over the past year you have grown (a little, but you are still tiny) and changed from a baby to a toddler right before my eyes!!! Here are some highlights from the past year.

    When you were younger, your hair was your trademark. It used to stick up all over your head every day, and there wasn’t really much I could do for it other than stick a pretty little bow right in the middle of all the craziness. Now its half way down your back and it looks like “spun gold” (in the words of Nana). It is beautiful, and you are usually pretty cooperative about letting me “fix” it. You don’t always sit still, but I’ve gotten pretty good at “fixing” hair on a moving target. You are still a trooper when it comes to hair bows, and you really don’t ever pull them out (which I really appreciate).

    You have a mouth full of beautiful teeth now (last year at this time you only had 5), and with the help of the Elmo toothpaste and toothbrush you usually let me brush them without too much complaint. Just recently Tara (AKA: Tah-wah Beff) taught you how to “show your teeth” (AKA: cheesy, fake, kindergarten picture smile), and much to my delight you will perform that little trick most of the time when I ask you to.

    Last year at this time you were saying the usual baby things like mama, dada, cow, moo, ewwww, ouch, etc. Fast forward eight months and you began putting words together – “Look Mommy” “Lay Down Petey.” Now fast forward one year and you are TALKING in complete sentences. Just the other day you had a conversation with Pete that went like this: “Petey…Daddy not here. He at work. He gettin’ bad guys. Okay?” Pete didn’t respond, but you didn’t care. Recently your favorite topic of conversation has been your birthday party. You will say, “We gonna have a birthday Mama. We gonna flip and jump. We gonna eat cupcakes and chips. We gonna play ring around the rosy.” You regale me with your constant chatter about everything under the sun, and I couldn’t be happier about it!!! You are just so stinkin' smart!  

    Over the past year some things have changed, but some things still remain the same. You still sleep with your bunny and blankie (bunny right side, blankie on the left – you reminded me just the other day with “wrong side Mama” when I got it backwards), but with a little encouragement from me you gave up the pasi in July. You still sweetly request that I rock you to sleep and then you say "pat me back" if you should happen to wake up when I put you in your crib. (Some people tell me that I shouldn’t rock you, but don’t worry, I like it just as much as you do sweet girl!) You still like to sleep with your “sounds” and wear your “sack,” and I am thankful for that because I feel pretty sure having your feet in a sleep sack is the only thing that has kept you from learning to climb out of your crib. ( are a super smart girl!!!)

    Sadly, in April of this year (the week before you turned 16 months old) you decided that you were done nursing. It was bittersweet, but I am glad we were able to share that special bond for so long! And I feel sure that you have fond memories of nursing because you were recently spotted “nursing” your baby doll! Other news on the big girl front is this major milestone – potty training. Just the mere spoken words are enough to make many moms have a panic attack; however, YOU (my sweet angel girl) are potty trained right now and have been for the past 2 -3 weeks!!! How awesome is that? We skipped Pull Ups and went straight to “big girl” princess panties, and you've never looked back! Your daddy and I are so very proud of you!

    Over the past year you have really developed socially and blossomed into a caring and sweet girl. I mean, you’ve always been sweet, but now you show keen interest in others and are concerned about their feelings. You really don’t like it if someone is crying or upset, and if you hear a baby crying in a store you tell me with a sad face, “Somebody’s not happy momma.” You have lots of friends at Ms. Patsy’s, and you enjoy playing with them, but I still think that Ms. Patsy and Ms. Roxanne are your favorite friends there!!!

    This year you also experienced your 1st skinned knee, and your first Christmas parade (but not on the same day). You learned how to count to 10 (and can do it quite well). You know how to show how old you are with your fingers and can help anyone who gets confused and holds up all five fingers – “put these ones down mommy.” You also enjoyed your first Madison County Fair this year, but I don’t know if you enjoyed the petting zoo or the slides the most! There really isn’t a day that passes where you don’t do or say something that cracks me up (like picking up random words in a conversation and repeating them at the perfect moment...see video below). You are such a joy!

    Now that you are almost two you have developed a real love for some things. Your number one love (other than me, of course, but seriously -- you are such a mama’s girl) is animals – cows, dogs, cats, horses, ducks…anything! You love them all. You especially love our dog Pete whom you constantly refer to as “Old Man.” And I think it's pretty obvious that he loves you too!

    You also love riding 4 wheelers, and you got your very own power wheels 4 wheeler from Santa. Although it's a little big for you, it doesn't change your desire to ride on it!!! Babies and baby dolls are also pretty high up on your list of things to love. This year you got a new cousin, Braxton, and you love him very much. You don’t like it when he cries, but you love to watch him eat and to give him his pasi. Another thing you love is baking cookies. I’m not sure if you love the actual baking or the eating of the cookie dough at the end, but either way you will often walk into the kitchen and say, “I wanna make cookies Mama.” 

    This is a video of some of your first attempts at cooking (without Mommy's help)!!!

    Your other special loves are singing, coloring, painting, torturing me with play doh – “snakes”, talking on the phone to Daddy and Nana, reading books, and forcing mommy to ride that stupid super-fun train at the mall.

    Watching you grow over the past year has been so much fun. I can honestly say that I absolutely adore you. I love everything about you. You are precious and beautiful and fun – everything and more than I could’ve ever dreamed of when I learned I was going to have a daughter. You are my Boogie, my Agga, and the smartest, prettiest, and most wonderful girl in the world. You bring me and every one you meet so much joy. You are an amazing little person, and I am so thankful that I get to be your Mommy.

    I love you to the moon and back!

    Love always,