Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Allure of Empty Spaces

A terrible picture quality-wise, but it exemplifies my point. My bedroom, previously one of the most neglected rooms of the whole house, is now a magnet. (Not pictured is my 2nd son on my bed). Nina is doing school at her desk my dressing table and Eli is writing a story while lying on my bed. I even want to be in there now which is unusual. Time to tidy up my room is now down to mere minutes if not seconds.

Next up, pallet desks and chairs so my niƱa can sit at her own desk in her own room. (What’d’ya think?)



 Nina says she can make her own stool/chair, but just in case… I would probably make a padded seat and seat back if I were to make this. The desk is cooool though!

Monday, October 05, 2015

My New Chore System

I can’t seem to stay in one place as far as chore systems is concerned, but I just go with what works at any given time. I think it’s ok to mix thing sup a bit, too. Adds variety.

In searching for chore apps in the Google App Store, I stumbled upon a new little gem of an app, MoneyOrc. Aside from the app being very useable and awesome, I have never worked with a more responsive bunch of people behind the scenes.

I set up my 4 with their rotating chore charts (the MoneyOrc team was very kind to bump up the rotation to 6 weeks from 4 to accommodate our needs, see I told you MoneyOrc is awesome!), and I even added myself with a child account so I could have a nice checklist of things I need to do each day.

The kids check off their chores as they do them, then I check their chores at the end of the day. You can view chores by week or by day which is my favorite view. If they didn’t do their chore or didn’t finish it, they don’t get credit for doing it and have to pay a penalty (of your chosing) which comes out of their weekly allowance.

You can also issue penalties for behavior which also cost them.

The whole point of the app is to teach kids about money using as many real world scenarios as possible (including investing, jobs, and insurance).

Check it out, give it a try. What can I say? It’s awesome :)

Minimalism and Me

I am so excited by how minimalism has effected me so far and I’m still near the beginning of my journey.

I believe that God has been bringing me slowly to this point for many years, but I’m so hard-headed sometimes that He’s gentle with me and is patient with my frailties. My mom is a cleanie, I’m a messy (so is my dad and so was his mom, so I come by that part honestly).

Our house was always neat and tidy and when I was young, we didn’t have too many things. But somewhere along the way I start collecting things. I’d see some pretty little thing and get it or someone would give me something and I never ever thought of getting rid of anything I owned. I was like a mockingbird hoarding all the pretty little things that caught my eye.

When I got married I already had things in boxes that I wasn’t using, but I still didn’t think of getting rid of them. When we moved to our first home, we didn’t downsize anything. When we moved to our 2nd home, we again didn’t downsize eough (aside from an attempted yard sale and one thrift store pickup) and some of the boxes that had never been opened up from the first move were carried along to the new house and put into our storage building to sit and rot.

After we had our first child, I was introduced to Flylady and tried her out for awhile, but for some reason I was never able to stick with her program. I do, however, remember some of her practices, one of which was decluttering every day for 15 minutes ("You can do anything for 15 minutes!"). I guess 15 minutes was never enough for me or maybe I didn't actually do that part, who knows. 

When we lived in our last house, I had a friend who I now believe is a minimalist because her house was always neat and tidy and there wasn’t a lot of stuff everywhere. They had a couch/loveseat combo and some cushions in the living room, but not much else. I think she had 1 pair of scissors. I thought that was totally undoable, but it didn’t seem to bother her. Apparently her parents were the opposite of her and were consumers to the max, buying things all the time, filling their house with stuff so maybe she was reacting to this in her own way. She might not even have known she was a minimalist, she just was.

When we first moved to our current house, we moved gradually over several weeks. We came with the bare necessities (just enough clothing, just enough furniture, just enough kitchen supplies…) and it was lovely. The house was clean and light and lovely. And then we did the big move. Ugh. We were inundated with stuff. Our office was crammed full of boxes and furniture and stuff. That was the last time our house felt neat. We unpacked what we needed and a lot of it just stayed in boxes, but enough stuff came into the house for things to start to feel cluttered.

We were given some furniture which added more things into the mix. We were blessed with lots of free clothes for the kids, which was great. However, I wasn’t all that great about getting rid of clothes when the kids grew out of them. I have way more clothes for each size (especially for the younger 2), that they can’t wear them all.

Something else Flylady would say was, “You can’t organize clutter,” and that hoarding was a sin. Hanging on to things that you aren’t using when you could be blessing someone else with your abundance wasn’t right. That stuck with me, but I had a little kickback from D, “Shouldn’t we keep them ‘just in case?’”

He also thought we should have a yard sale and I kept balking at that idea since I’m not an organizer and didn’t want to try to plan something like that. Eventually he softened on that point and I did start sending things to the thrift store. We have taken several wheel bins full of things to the thrift store over the last 2-3 years which is great, but… Things are still just so cluttered and cleaning is taking too much of our time.

Last year my mom gave me the book The Power of Half about a family that cut their belongings in half and moved into a smaller house so they could help others with the money they got from selling their things. I got about halfway through the book, but life got so busy (taking care of stuff) that I stopped reading it. I think seeds were being planted, a little here, a little there.

We have had a dream, for awhile, of moving out into the country and, while for now it is still just a dream, but I want to lighten our load just in case we ever get the green light to “Go.”

A couple weeks ago I was feeling so overwhelmed with clutter and stuff and not being happy with my surroundings, but I just didn’t know what to do about it, I felt very unmotivated. I started searching for websites on decluttering and then I started looking for decluttering support groups.  I thought maybe having some people to hold me accountable or provide moral support would help me. I found a Yahoo group that looked promising so I tried to join and then sat and waited for a day or two for approval which never seemed to come. I started searching for “downsizing” and found a few articles about that, but I also stumbled on Light by Coco’s blog and started watching some of her videos on minimalism and immediately felt this might be a solution for me. I started getting excited, … and motivated!

In my bedroom I have a beautiful cedar chest from Malawi which is the place I keep our extra blankets, but we have more blankets than will fit in there so the rest were piling up on top of the chest. The first thing I did was to put all the blankets on my bed and sort out the less favorite or the bulkier/heavier blankets and I piled them all into a ginormous Space Bag, sucked all the air out of it, then snuck it under the boys’ bunk bed behind the under-the-bunk drawers. After I did that, I was able to get all the rest of the blankets into the cedar chest with nothing on top. Woohoo! (The front of the chest is decorated with stickers by Ana, at least for now.)
image

I started watching almost every YouTube video I could on minimalism* while I was doing my minimalizing/downsizing. This kept me motivated and inspired.
Here is a post I sent my sister (in-law) on September 25:

“Yesterday I tackled the closet and pulled out a few more things that I don't wear, won't miss and tossed a few pairs of old shoes which were falling apart. Then I neatened up the shoes. I took all of Ds clothes off his dresser (yes, they don't make it into the dresser, yet…), and re-stacked them neatly. I pulled out a few of his shoes which I thought might go for him to decide on. He did decide to get ride of a couple pairs, yay! I took the Tommy Hilfiger bedspread, ripped it apart, took out the old icky stuffing which was too heavy for us anyway and turned it into a temporary duvet cover for the bedspread that we had been using. Our bed look majorly better. I took everything off of D's night stand, dusted it and put it back neatly. I sneezed, sneezed and sneezed again, but it was worth it! I'm so happy with my room now! I don't mind the door being left open, lol.”
image

Somewhere in my searching I had stumbled on Project 333 so I gave that some more thought and tried to come up with a summer capsule (since it was ever-so-slightly summer when I started this journey) and put the rest of my hanging clothes in a Space Bag for the next few weeks until I feel the need of a Fall capsule. My girls had a bunch of clothes hanging in my closet that were too big for them so I went through them all, pulled out the one that might fit in the near future and put the rest in a Space Bag and then into a large wheeled bin for storage.

There was a plastic bin of cloth diapers in my bedroom taking up space so I pulled those out and I plan to wash them (freshen them up), and sell them. There were 2 bins of stuff that need sorting in our room taking up space and I was able to get them in the place of the diapers so they are there needing to be sorted, but are at least out of the way now. My dressing nook (with counter, 2 little drawers and mirror) was piled with toilet paper and paper towels so I found better homes for them so I could clear off my counter. I cleaned out my drawer in my dressing nook and put my hair doo-dads/brushes/combs… in there. Then I was motivated to clean my bathroom and clear off the counter and top drawer in there.
image

We had brought in the winter clothes from the storage shed (all 5 huge wheeled bins full of them) and I washed them all (over the last month or 2) and I finally got around to sorting through them.
Nina (12) helped me go through the clothes and separate them into boys’ clothes, girls’ clothes, Mom & Dad’s clothes. The boys had 2 overflowing big wheeled bins full of winter clothes, the girls had a little less. Nina helped me further sort the girls’ clothes into her and her sister’s clothes and then helped weed her winter clothes down so that they now fit into 1/2 of a wheeled bin. Then I went through Ana’s clothes and got those down to the other 1/2 of the wheeled bin. Much better!

Ana does have some clothes that are too big for her that she will wear in the next couple of years so I put those into another Space Bag, shrunk it down and it’s also in the bin with the other too-big clothes. I went through the boys clothes and anything (either boys’ or girls’) that was too small, but still in great condition, was set aside for friends’ children and everything else was put in the bin for the thrift store.

I downloaded & printed out the 2015 in 2015 Decluttering Challenge from Nourishing Minimalism’s blog and started keeping track of how much I was getting out of our house. So far we have gotten rid of (or will shortly) over 725 things! That is mostly clothes, but every bit helps.

I went through the coat closet near the entry and cleared non-winter clothes out so now there is plenty of room in there for winter coats/jackets.

I also got a bee in my bonnet to get rid of my dresser. I was only using about 3 drawers in it anyway and that was before I decluttered what was in it so I was pretty sure I could live with something smaller. D is convinced that Eli needs a dresser (beyond the 3 drawers under his bunk) so I decided I would move my dresser into his room (at least for now) and move in the antique dressing table, that was out of place in the music room just taking up space, and use that for my dresser. With a little help from my boys I got them swapped out (much to the chagrin of Geo who wasn’t jazzed to have another piece of furniture in “his” room).

I moved the dressing table to the same wall that the chest is on (the dresser was on the wall catty-corner to where it is now (just to its right but you can see it better where it is now and the mirror helps to make the room look larger). I have my undies and slips in the right drawer, T-shirts and shorts in the left drawer and I moved jammies to the bottom drawer of my night stand. I put a few things on the shelf of my closet, but otherwise everything fit just fine. I love it in my room! (The little popsicle stick frame is something Nina made for me, waiting for some of her artwork).
image

Today I bagged up all the clothes I’ve gone through that are waiting to go to the thrift store to get them out of the music room where I was sorting. The music room still looks like Hurricane Joaquin made a pass through there, but with one of the bins out, there is more room to walk. I will get through it all, there is still much less in there than there was. Yay!

We have amassed too many sheets (fitted & flat) for the beds we have, but I’m still not sure D will be ok with me getting rid of them, so I put at least half of them into quarantine in the bottom of our hall closet and in 3 months or so, if we haven’t needed them, we might not need them ever.

That reminds me, I also quarantined a bunch of stuff in our kitchen. Actually that was probably the first thing I did, even before the blankets, come to think of it. Our bowls… cupboard was overflowing and every time I would open the doors, bowls or measuring cups, etc. would jump out at me. I pulled out things I didn’t use, thought I could get along without… and put them all in quarantine. I weeded out our kitchen utensils and either quarantined them or stored a few in a high cupboard to see if we ever find ourselves reaching for them.

I also bagged up all our extra bowls and silverware and issued one spoon and one bowl to each kid and myself (D is exempt). We are responsible for washing our own dishes after each meal (if we want to have clean things for the next meal). I’ve also paired up forks & plates to everyone as well. Dishes were such an issue so I’m trying to think of ways to lessen the load on the dishwasher (Geo at this point) and to keep the dishes moving along so we don’t have to have a perpetually messy sink.

There is still a lot that needs to be done, but I’m so spurred on to keep at this until things are as minimalized as I can get them (within reason) so that we can live a more peaceful life. I still need to go through Ana’s summer clothes, go through our books, go through all the things in the office which aren’t in any particular “home,” go through our storage house…

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

See my next post about a chore system that is working for me.


*Some of my favorite YouTube minimalism videos:
Light by Coco – Coco
A Rich Life with Less Stuff – The Minimalists
""Minimalism, Spirituality, and Why it Matters" – Joshua Becker
5 Reasons Minimalism Changed My Life - Samantha Lindsey
My Green Closet - Verena Erin
Simple Living - Love Raw Vegan

and favorite blogs:
http://www.theminimalists.com/
http://zenhabits.net/
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/
http://nourishingminimalism.com/

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mommmmmm! Water!!

This was heard yesterday from two of my blessings who thankfully were near the laundry room when my washer decided to not stop filling with water. My quick-thinking 8-year-old jumped up on the washer and pushed the off button and was also the cool head that suggested “Dad’s wet vac!” as a solution to the wet. Ya’ think? I was using towels. His idea was much better.

So after I got the floor mostly dry again, I took a look under the hood. At first I had assumed that the pump had gone, but the tank was FULL of water so I realized it just hadn’t stopped filling. I took the dashboard apart and I immediately saw a hose unhooked from somewhere… Eli, the 8yo, spotted where it was supposed to go (on the back of the level selector, made sense) so I plugged it all back in, did a test run (a small load, lol) and we’re back in business. Again. It’s always something.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ode to Zacusca

A friend of ours is originally from Romania and introduced us to zacusca, a traditional eggplant and red pepper dip, and we really liked it. DH, the chef, went home and whipped up something that came close, but with a few additions. I’m no chef, but I made my version yesterday and it was yum. Here’s basically how to whip up your own zacusca-ish goodness.

eggplant(s)

red pepper(s)

garlic cloves

tomato paste

salt to taste

celery stalks (not in traditional zacusca)

garbanzo beans (not in traditional zacusca)

onions

olive oil (about 1 Tbsp.)

This is not so much of a recipe as an ingredient list because I was trying to use up some leftover eggplant when I made this and was just throwing things in. I put about 1 eggplant’s worth (maybe a little less), 1 1/2 – 2 red pepper’s worth (diced from the freezer so hard to tell), a bunch of tiny garlic cloves which probably equaled 4-6 regular-sized cloves, 1 pint of canned chick peas, a couple tablespoons (didn’t measure) of tomato paste, 3 celery stalks, about 1 onion’s worth and salt to taste. My ingredients made about 4-5 cups.

I put everything in a pot and cooked it all together till all ingredients were nice and soft and most of the water had boiled out, then I blended it with my stick blender. The recipes I saw didn’t call for blending the zacusca, but I like the smooth blended texture so it works for me.

I put in more eggplant than red pepper, but I have seen recipes that called for much more red pepper than I used. Some called for tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes instead of the paste and most called for the eggplant and peppers to be roasted. I didn’t roast either and it was still delish.

I hope you try it and if it comes out anything like mine did, you will not be disappointed!

The Washer Tanked Again

I need to rename my blog The Washer Diaries or Saga of a Failing Washer or something like that. Seriously, my washer keeps raising it’s ugly head, way too often for my liking. And yet, I love my washer (when it works) and I just wanted to share how God helped me fix it once again.

A couple of weeks ago DH was doing laundry and the washer blew the GFCI outlet it was plugged into. Now, some of you will know that washers and GFCI outlets are not the best match and, while I didn’t know that till now, it had never given us trouble in all the nearly 8 years we’ve been in this house. Suddenly it was tripping the little breaker every time we tried to run it. Oh the humanity!

My

heart

sank.

I did not feel like dealing with that washer any more. It’s always such an ordeal just to find the source of the problem, even though the people on the various forums I turn to are great; it just takes quite a lot of time and I felt quite defeated. I think DH realized this and for the first time since we got our washer way back in the late 90s, started to really consider replacing it.

The problem is that we just don’t have money for a new washer and, from what I read, used washers are not the best investment, especially the newer washers which seem to suffer a myriad of issues ranging from leaking to electrical malfunctions to more major part failures, often after only 3 or so years. They certainly don’t seem to have the longevity of the old workhorses that used to be built. Our washer would be considered one of the older ones though it doesn’t look that old, but the controls are all manual and much easier and less expensive to repair than the new, electronic driven ones. After nearly 2 weeks of no washer and behemoth piles of laundry, I finally decided I’d let my forum buddies have a crack at my washer’s symptoms.

There were a few different ideas ranging from a bad timer, bad GFCI outlet, bad capacitor, gunk in the motor connector causing grounding problems. The first thing we did was replace the GFCI outlet. The reason we put another GFCI outlet in is that the outlet is in a bathroom next to a sink.

Awhile back we bought a backup of our washer for cheap with the thought that if our washer needed parts, scalping them from the backup washer would be cheaper than buying new parts. So I pulled the timer out of the backup and put it in our washer. No change.

Next I pulled the washer away from the wall and tipped it back so that I could get to the underbelly. I got the pump out of the way, pulled out the motor to check the drive coupler and found a nearly spent coupler gasket, but more importantly, I found that the mounting plate that screws into the transmission, which the motor mounts onto, was being held on by one loose bolt!

Geo and I looked everywhere for the other bolt and could not find it. Where could it have gone? I’m still scratching my head about that one. So I asked DH to get me more bolts so I could fix that. I was hoping that it was the odd angle that the motor had to be at that put some strain on the motor causing it to trip the breaker.

As soon as I had the bolt, I put it all back together (both bolts present and accounted for and very snug) and … it was still tripping the breaker. Frustration. The next thing that I could try was to try swapping out the motor so I did that.

I went out to the backup and pulled out the motor from it. It was all rusty and not very convincing-looking, but I tried it anyway. You know what? It worked! The breaker held and did not trip. Hooray! I was still a little unsure about the backup motor because it seemed so tight/hard to turn compared to the zapped motor, but one forum guy suggested I let it run by itself, unattached, to see if that would loosen it up a little. It did seem a little easier to turn after I did that so I hooked it all up and I was back in business!!! I think what happened was that the missing bolt caused the mounting plate to hang at an odd angle which put pressure on the motor, causing it to blow out. I feel a little bad about that because I was the one who put in the transmission last so the missing bolt has to point to me though I do know how to put it all together and I’m just not sure how I would have missed that. :\

For the first week or so I had been praying multiple times a day for a new washer, that God would give us a new washer. It turns out that God knew what was best for me and when I submitted to the possibility that a “new” washer may not have been God’s will, I quickly found the cause and was able to remedy it. For the cost of a few bolts, I am back in the laundry business, praise the Lord!

I don’t know how long this motor will last, but when it dies, we can still replace it for much less than the cost of a used washer. The washer has a new transmission, relatively new clutch & timer, new drive coupler, new feed dogs, new lid switch. There’s only a few other things that might likely fail in the next few years and we basically have a mostly refurbished machine which might give us years more of use. God is good and I thank Him for all His help!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Origami Folding Mat

Recently I have been totally absorbed in transparent window stars AKA Waldorf Stars. On browsing one page, I noticed an origami folding mat which looked pretty handy for folding little pieces of paper. I looked around online and not finding anything else similar decided to make my own. I had to fuss with Excel a good bit to get it as square as possible, but I finally think I got it as close to square as possible. Print on cardstock for more stability.

image

(Click image to download .pdf file)

Yarn Baseball

yarn baseball

So we had a baseball mitt, something of a bat, but nothing in the line of a ball. My darling children made a ball from yarn and a plastic bag (complete with huge piece of gravel inside! Surprised smile), but when it hurt my daughter’s knee, I told them I’d make them a ball. The rock idea, as it turns out, wasn’t half bad, but I knew it would need to be well padded. Here is what you’ll need if you want to make your own yarn baseball:

Small rock or stone for center weight

Newspaper to coat the rock (remember rock, paper, scissors? … paper wraps the rock, lol)

Polyfill

Yarn

Yarn needle

Baseball stitching pattern (optional)

Begin by wrapping the stone(s) with newspaper, then cover the newspaper with a layer of polyfill or quilt batting. Wrap snugly with yarn and keep wrapping, turning the ball constantly to keep the shape nice and round until you reach the desired size. To keep the yarn from unwinding, string some of the yarn onto the needle and sew in and out all around the ball to anchor the layers of yarn. Optionally, you can print out a baseball stitching pattern and stitch along that to make it look a little more authentic looking.

The kids love their new ball. It’s a little bouncy (but not overly), it is a good size for playing catch, and it’s soft enough that it won’t cause any injuries to inexperienced ball players. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Who would have thought?… Vinegar!

I have always heard that there are tons of uses for vinegar from relieving bee stings to extending the life of cut flowers.

But the use that has me so excited is one that helps me embrace my inner hippy just a little bit more—natural deodorant!

I think it’s been years now that I haven’t used any antiperspirant because of harmful additives, but I have never been all that impressed by the staying power of the natural deodorants we bought. Even one that claims image
didn’t last past a few hours. I generally don’t have underarm odor problems, but under stress or when I’m in a rush, things can go south in spite of deodorant use.

I have been looking for alternatives to lackadaisical, pricey store-bought deodorant but until now hadn’t found anything that was satisfactory. I tried some coconut oil and baking soda, but the soda was rough on my skin. Recently I did some more reading on natural recipes and still many of the diy recipes contain coconut oil which can stain your clothes so I wasn’t all that interested. I looked into the natural deodorant stones, but they contain alum which makes me nervous so still looking until…

I happened upon a comment on a forum about the use of vinegar for body odor. The explanation was that the microscopic critters that love your sweat and actually cause the stink can’t live/thrive in an acidic environment. Now, I did get the sense that users’ mileage may vary, but I thought it was worth a try.

Sabbaths tend to be my rush-about getting ready, get out the door on time, teach/lead… kind of days and are prime time for deodorant failure (terrible time for deodorant to fail!) so this was my first trial.
I took a cotton swab and dipped it into a little jar of white vinegar, squeezed a little out and wiped it on. Then, so I wouldn’t smell like a pickle jar, I took a little TP and fanned my armpits until they were dry (the vinegar smell goes away).

Results after a typical day of teaching, rushing, running about… Zero stink, Vinegar WIN!
So, feeling emboldened, I decided it was time for the working in the garden, sweating much test. That happened the next day. Now, granted I was only in the sauna-like greenhouse for 3 1/2 hours and wasn’t doing anything terribly strenuous, but I was sweating quite nicely.

Results? Hubby got his nose right in my armpit at the end of the day and didn’t make the tiniest bit of a face (because there was NO smell!), Vinegar WIN!

We just went to the garden again yesterday and this time it was 4 hours of hot, sweaty planting in the greenhouse and still, NO stink. I’ve even gotten teenage Geo in on the action and he reported no odor as well.

I wonder if other acidic solutions (like a citric acid solution) would work. Apple cider vinegar would doubtless work but the fumes are so strong that I prefer white vinegar for this. I did read that lemons work as does witch hazel, but for now, since I know it works so well, I’m happy with vinegar. It does the trick and it’s cheap!

ETA: Due to the acidic nature of vinegar, you might not want to apply it right after shaving…ouch! Wait a bit (or try the witch hazel) and you should be good.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gimp Autosave Hack

I like Gimp, I really do. Yes, it has a learning curve, but it’s not unreasonable, considering all the tutorials and how-to videos available on the web. One thing has kept me from loving Gimp, at least until recently.

My laptop’s battery has been going downhill recently and sometimes won’t hold a charge for longer than 20-30 minutes so I keep it plugged in all the time. The problem is that my unreliable charging cable sometimes charges, sometimes doesn’t. So I experience more than the usual number of unexpected shutdowns (if I forget to diligently watch the battery meter). A project I have been working on has had me editing quite a few images in Gimp and also subsequently losing a lot of work when my computer dies without warning. I searched and searched for something that would work as an autosave feature since Gimp for Windows doesn’t come with that feature (it should).

Finally, I found something that works (as long as I remember to get it started when I start Gimp; next for something to automate that).

Here’s what you do: Download and install AutoHotKey. Create a script in notepad and save it as AutoSave.ahk (I keep mine on the desktop for easy access).

Paste this code (I have no idea if all of this is necessary, but it works):

;
; AutoHotkey Version: 1.x
; Language:       English
; Platform:       Win9x/NT
; Author:         A.N.Other <myemail@nowhere.com>
;
; Script Function:
;    Template script (you can customize this template by editing "ShellNew\Template.ahk" in your Windows folder)
;

#NoEnv  ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
SendMode Input  ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir%  ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.

 

#Persistent

; Save the file every one minute.
SetTimer, AutoSave, 60000, On

AutoSave:
   IfWinActive, ahk_class gdkWindowToplevel
      Send {Blind}^s
return

If you don’t want it to save every minute, just change the 60000 value to a multiple of 60000/minute.

You might have to change the “ahk_class gdkWindowToplevel” entry. With Gimp open and AutoHotKey running, I right clicked on the icon in my system tray and selected “Window Spy” which brought up a window with the ahk_class name next to it.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Working Washer! (Finally, Again)

So much for going many years before another major repair…

In the not too distant past, the washer started not spinning out the clothes sufficiently and left them damp enough that I could squeeze water out of them after their spin. I could put them on spin again and that would usually do the trick. But then the washer started not spinning out heavy loads (no, I try not to overload the washer, but some loads are just a little heavier than others). I could get the tub spinning if I was right there when the spin cycle started. I would lift the lid, push down on the lid switch with my finger and pull the tub clockwise and that would usually work. Finally it was so bad that it was doing it all the time and that was becoming inconvenient very fast.

I went online and tried to find a solution. There were several things I thought it could be, but one post I read said something about oil from the transmission could get into the clutch causing it to slip and not spin. The poster said that if there was a line of oil about 6” from the ground on the inside of the cabinet, that the transmission was leaking oil. Sure enough, I had the 6” line of oil. It took me awhile to figure out the cause of the leak, but most people agreed that it was mostly likely the shaft seal on the top cover of the transmission that was the culprit.

So I ordered the part and 2 days later got down to business. I pulled the transmission out and opened her up. She was filled with black sludgy oil with lots of floating plastic slivers in it. I dumped out all the old oil and attempted to replace the seal. It…wouldn’t…..budge. I couldn’t figure out why the rubber was SO bonded to the metal. I carefully scraped at it with a knife but it wouldn’t come off. Maddening! I froze it hoping that the rubber would become brittle and come off. I sprayed it with WD-40 hoping that that would weaken the bond of the rubber, no good. Then Geo (13) came at it with a screwdriver, figured out what I had been doing wrong and in no time flat, had the other part of the seal out. Whew! So now to just pop the new one in. Wrong. It….wouldn’t….go….in. So back to the net, I read about how one person used a “tail piece” plumbing part to muscle it in so I took our bathroom sink apart and borrowed what I thought was a tail piece, but it just wouldn’t work. So DH brought home the real deal (like this) and after a little “persuasion,” finally got it to go in.

Great, so now to put it all back together again and we’d be in business! Smile Not so fast. I had to buy some RTV gasket maker stuff and some 80W-90 gear oil to refill the transmission with. Got that, had Geo help me steady the transmission so I could pour the oil in (made sure I had all the parts in the right way), applied the gasket, screwed it all together, waited the 1 hour curing time and we held our breath… Filled for a small load, agitated properly on all the speed settings, drained and then just sat there, making a spinning noise, but NOT SPINNING! Agrivating. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but take it all apart again. Something was wrong in the transmission still because at least it was spinning (sort of) before I took it apart and now, nothing. I took pics, videos, uploaded them to my appliance forum and waited for replies. Some thought maybe I hadn’t waited long enough for it to spin, some thought maybe the spin gear was warn, which it is, but not seriously. Finally, one good Samaritan noticed that I had installed the spin gear cam upside down which wasn’t allowing it to activate neutral drain. I flipped it over, but still had to wait for DH to bring some engine cleaner so I could get the oil off the gasket surface before making the new gasket.

Finally it was ready to install this morning and …. it works! It works great! I’m so happy about that! So now I have our backup washer running in the carport (just till we get caught up) and Old Faithful working away in the laundry room, I should get caught up on laundry in no time. 

Now I pray that this fix lasts a LOOOOOOOONG time and I won’t have to look at the underside of my washer till a far and distant time.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Washer Update…Fixed!

Well, in spite of my high hopes for the agitator dogs fixing everything, the washer was still behaving insanely. The bottom agitator was only spinning in one direction which is why the clothes had gotten so tangled.

So I posted to my favorite appliance DIY forum and in an hour and a half, had a diagnosis that I needed a new transmission. Ugh.

If I chose to DIY it this time, I’d be on my own, DH wouldn’t be available to help me, but on the other hand, we’d done this once before so I figured with my awesome SIL’s help (and a video of the steps), we ought to be able to avoid the trip charge and hourly fee of a pro.

I decided I could do it, so we ordered the part day before yesterday, it was in yesterday and I think I had the part installed in less than an hour from the time I started. It was a nerve-racking few minutes waiting for the washer to fill up to see if I’d done everything correctly, but it came on and did what it was supposed to do… whew!

It’s kind of good that I had to do this because in the process of everything I discovered the agitator dogs needed replacing and when I got the motor off the transmission, I saw that the rubber drive coupler gasket was just about to self-destruct. One hole had already broken through. Thankfully we had an extra from another repair so I was good to go in that department.

So… here’s hoping we can go for a few more years without any major repairs.

Next on my list… putting up a clothesline to keep up with all the clothes I’ll be washing.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Whooping Cough makes a visit

I’ve always thought that whooping cough was something that people used to get and was something from my grandparents’ and maybe my parents’ generation. You don’t hear much about it in this day and age tho. We had never given it a passing thought … until …

At the beginning of September, our kids had a mild cough that was annoying, but finally went away. Then later in September, we were over at a fellow homeschooler’s home and their daughter had a nasty sounding cough. She had gone to the doctor and was just starting antibiotic treatment that day. We warned the kids not to get too close to her and that was that (or so we thought).

No one knows for sure who gave it to whom as whooping cough starts with seemingly innocent cold symptoms and progresses into mighty scary from there. I do know that according to recent reports, whooping cough cases are on the rise, and not necessarily (as some argue) a result of under-vaccinated populations.

We’re racking out brains to try to remember when symptoms actually started, but as far as we can remember, Eli started coughing around the first of October with a cough that started sounding (as my SIL puts it) like someone with COPD. Next to fall was Geo (who actually has had it the worst), then Ana & finally Nina. I think Eli is in the convalescent stage (never had the whoop), Geo is almost to the end of the paroxysmal stage, Nina is at a lower level of the paroxysmal stage (no whoop), and Ana is in the paroxysmal stage, but only coughs (with whoop) 2 or 3 times a night, then goes right back to sleep. My sleep-deprived brain can’t remember if she woke up at all last night to cough. I almost don’t think she did, but if she did it was mild and only once.

Geo has the terrible coughing, followed by an inability to breath for a few seconds before he starts making a whooping sound as air starts making its way back into his lungs. Poor guy, he looks so scared when he can’t get air. We rush to him, speaking calmly and slowly, trying to help calm him down. We thump him on his back, give him a bucket to spit the phlegm into (sorry, but it happens) and after a minute or two, he is calmed down enough to where he is mostly breathing normally. After one of these attacks, he looks totally exhausted. He had been having 6-8 attacks a night (it’s worse at night which is totally exhausting to the parents who are up with sick kiddos all night), but is now down to 2-3. He says he feels that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, he’s finally able to cough gunk up from his lungs (at first nothing would come up) and he can breath easier in general… so yay for that!

As soon as we started suspecting WC, we started researching the daylights out of it. Turns out that OTC meds and antibiotics don’t do anything to help the symptoms. We had been trying OTC cough meds and homeopathic cough remedies, but when we found that out, we kinda quit using them. The only thing antibiotics do is to make you not contagious to others (after 5 days of taking it). So we started looking for natural ways to treat this nasty, pesky cough.

Thanks to helpful posts like this one and this we developed a quick plan of action. Here is what we finally did/are doing:

N – Nutrition

    We have increased fresh fruit and veggies, and whole grains (minus wheat which can cause increased mucus buildup)

E – Exercise

     This one you have to be careful with WC as too much can trigger an attack, but some exercise is good. Walking, lightly playing outside, we’ve allowed and encouraged (while the weather is so nice).

W – Water

     Ever hour I have the kids drink water to loosen up the phlegm in their lungs.

 

S – Sunshine

     We are getting them out in the sun every day for as long as possible. They don’t go out and sunbathe, but whatever sun they get while playing outside should help.

T – Temperance

     We’ve cut out gluten, flour, sugar, dairy, soy, potatoes, anything from peanuts, most oils…

A – Air

     They get plenty of fresh air when they play outside each day.

R – Rest

     We get them to bed at a decent hour and let them sleep as much as they want in the morning (since they are up multiple times during the night). We also encourage and sometimes require naps during the day (depending on how they did the night before).

T – Trust in God

     Last, but most importantly, we are trusting in God to bring healing to our dear children. He loves them more than we ever could and we call upon his powerful hand to heal these dear ones as no earthly physician can. Many prayers have gone up at all hours for these kiddos.

 

Additionally, here are some things we’ve done:

     We have been trying to get 1000 mg. of vitamin C into the children every 30 minutes. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but they are getting much more vitamin C than usual, that’s for sure. We will keep this up for several weeks after their symptoms are gone as any colds they contract in the convalescent stage could lead right back to the whooping till the cilia in their lungs grow back.

  • Vitamin D3 – Helps keep you healthy, fights disease 
  • Vitamin E
  • Colloidal silver – We did research on colloidal silver and bought the kind that will not turn our children blue. We have them breath in while we spray a little into the back of their throats (and hopefully a little gets down into their trachea and makes its way to the lungs) and we give them 1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. of colloidal silver, usually before meals. My nephew has also tried it in his sister's nebulizer, but only once. If we had a nebulizer, I’d be trying it more often.

     Daniel and I have felt like we were getting something a couple times over the last week or two and have gargled with colloidal silver and that knocked it out each time. It works better than gargling with H2O2, IMO, and doesn’t taste as bad either.

  • Turmeric – The kids aren’t fans of the taste so I give it to them in capsules that they can swallow.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) – I put 6 drops in a little grape juice to mask the taste. I give this with the silver and anything else that would kill the probiotics which I give at a later time. Eli was just singing, “Just a spoonful of grape juice makes the GSE go down, the GSE go down, the GSE go down…” :D
  • Oil of Oregano (OoO)– I have rubbed this on my little ones’ feet as well as giving it orally, either straight (for Geo who can tolerate it), or with honey for those who can’t. I’ve backed off this one a little because of the taste and because I’m about out of capsules which I could put it in for easier application.
  • Olive Leaf Extract – I had some of these left over from something else I was fighting so I add them in sometimes.
  • Bio Solutions Frequency Generator a.k.a. “The Zapper Machine” – There is not a setting specifically for Pertussis or Whooping Cough so I have kids run the Bronchitis and Bronchial Pneumonia routines as I don’t want their WC to develop into either. They do this once a day.
  • Son Ancon Chi Machine a.k.a. “The Fishy Machine”  - When they or I remember, they lie down on the Chi machine 1-3 times a day for 10 minutes each. This helps oxygenate their blood and increase circulation.
  • Probiotics – This is to counteract the bactericide (good ones not excluded) happening in their systems due to the silver/OoO/GSE. We give these after meals.
  • Ginger Tea – We give this when they are having a hard time in the night, after a cough attack, to help settle them back down.
  • Thyme Tea – I made this for the last 2 nights with great success! I boiled several branches of thyme in water till the water was yellow. I let the water boil off a little so that I could add ice cubes to cool it off and not effect the concentration much. Oh, while still hot, I added enough honey to make it palatable. I can’t tell if the coughs are just naturally starting to get better or if the thyme tea made that much of a difference, but it did seem that Nina’s coughing lessened drastically and quickly after giving her thyme tea after an attack. Also Geo went from 3 a night to 2 last night (only 1 after I went to bed).
  • Onion Poultice on Feet – Several people from church mentioned this as a remedy for cough. For the last 3 nights we have put slices of onion inside their socks and put plastic bags over the socks before tucking them in bed. I’m not sure if this has helped or not, but our nephew (who is visiting and hasn’t developed full-blown WC, yet) has been coughing for the last few days, but the last 3 nights that we put onion on his feet, we noticed a decline in the amount of coughing.
  • Vicks Vap-o-Rub – We rub this on their chests, necks and backs (also feet if not using onion) each night before they go to bed, also in the middle of the night after an attack.
  • Fomentations – I did these a couple of times but didn’t notice much of a change and since it is so laborious and because I didn’t find much on the internet about fomentations used for WC, I have put that one on the back burner.
  • Hot/Cold Showers – I suppose this would be pretty similar to fomentations, now that I think about it. I don’t think it hurts to increase blood flow and circulation which H/C showers do.
  • Russian Penicillin/Rocket Fuel… – The version I made called for:

1 onion

5 radishes (sub horseradish or cayenne)

5 garlic cloves

juice of 10 lemons (I think I only had 5 or 6)

honey to taste

This one is a very pretty pink and not too strong for kiddy palates.

I’ve also made a version calling for garlic, onions, cayenne, ginger, lemons, honey & water. Potent stuff!

  • Quarantine – As soon as my kids started coughing, I told them to cough down into their shirts or into their elbows away from people. My older 2 haven’t been to their piano lesson in 2 weeks, church in 2 weeks or the evangelistic meetings that are going on at our church (which they would dearly love to go to) because things were starting to get a bit worse and we didn’t want to share any germs. When Geo and Nina did go to their piano lesson (about 3 weeks ago), I told them to wash their hands with soap before playing piano and cough into their shirts if needed. After Ana started coughing, for the 2 weeks that we did take them to church, I had her sit in the back of her class, well separate from the other children, “just in case.” Eli (7) has been great about coughing into his shirts, to the point that some of his t-shirts are sadly stretched out in the neck area. That’s fine with me, tho, I’d rather that than someone get sick from their germs. Since we suspected WC, they haven’t been out anywhere. I bet they are getting a little stir-crazy, but it’s what I feel we must do for now, at least for another 2 weeks and until everyone is not coughing in the daytime anymore (at least that would be my preference).

 

These I haven’t actually tried but are on my list:

  • Garlic Juice – Press a bunch of cloves and press them through a sieve to extract the juice, give by the 1/2 teaspoonful several times a day.
  • Mullein Tea
  • Slippery Elm
  • Sage Tea, Garlic Tea, Turmeric Tea, Fenugreek tea…
  • Hot food baths (followed by cold before drying)
  • Tepid bath, cool cloth on head for 10-15 minutes (supposed to bring some of the blood from core [lungs] to skin to warm it up easing congestion)
  • Steam treatment in shower and thumping on chest (well, we do run the humidifiers in their rooms at night and thump Geo on the back when he has a coughing fit, but I read about one lady who took her kids into a steamy shower and thumped their backs to get them to cough stuff out of their lungs).

 

I use the School Assistant and the Carbodroid Android apps to remind me what the kids are supposed to be doing next (i.e. taking their vitamin Cs, or drinking water or going outside to get sun…). This helps to keep me on schedule and make sure nothing gets missed.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Replacing Agitator Dogs

Our Kenmore Elite 90 series washer has served us well for the last 14+ years. We have replaced (diy style) the clutch (iirc), the lid switch and the drive couplers.

Yesterday night while a load was washing I noticed a noise from the washer that was getting louder and (I think) slower too for some reason. I turned off the washer and found the clothes all tangled around the center agitator. I thought maybe something had gotten stuck underneath the agitator so I took the clothes out and drained the water (in hindsight I would have reversed that order, lol), but there was nothing there.

I went online to try to diagnose the loud grinding noise I heard and what might be the cause. I couldn’t find much consensus, but did see agitator dogs come up more than once and I kept reading that it was a cheap, easy fix. I figured it couldn’t hurt to rule that one out so I took the top cap off the agitator, unscrewed the plastic thingy in the center with the square end of a long ratchet wrench piece (don’t you just love my oh-so-technical vocabulary? lol) and was able to easily pull out the agitator dog assembly.

Sure enough, the teeth were looking quite worn. They were still able to engage the agitator under low pressure but when DH gave a mighty turn, they slipped and gave the nasty loud noise I had been hearing. So God be praised, we will once again avoid an appliance man’s trip charge and fix this old beauty for near nothin’.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unconcatenizing a Publisher booklet

I’m pretty sure I did this once before, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to do it this time around. I had made a document in Publisher in booklet format (eg. pages 4 & 1 on one side, pages 2 & 3 on the other side of a single sheet of paper for a 4-page booklet) awhile back and needed it optimized for my tablet (only one page viewable at a time, not a 2-page per sheet spread as in booklet form). I searched and searched before I finally settled on this way to do it:

1) In Publisher, print document with a pdf printer (i.e. CutePDF) and choose Statement for paper size and Portrait for page orientation. Under 2-sided printing options, set it to Single-sided and print.

2) Open unconcatenized file in PDFScissors and choose separate odd and even pages.

image

Select regions for each odd and even page. Click File, Crop & Save or Ctrl+S to crop and safe as new file.

The margins might not be perfectly even all around, but they will be narrow enough to not take up too much screen real estate from your view of the book.

ETA:

I also tried it in Briss and liked the results even better as it told me the exact dimensions of each page (evens and odds) so I won’t have any discrepancies in page size in the final product.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going “No-Poo”

Finally Ready to Take the Plunge

I learned about No-Poo (washing with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar) about 4 or 5 years ago from a friend who raved about it. At the time, uninformed little me recoiled at the idea of ditching my sudsy, artificially scented bottle o’ chemicals I could barely pronounce (my favorite long name being Methylchloroisothiazolinone) for something that wouldn’t suds and wouldn’t smell (except maybe of vinegar—bleugh!)

Fast-forward to a week or 2 ago when now-more-progressive me* started reading up on BC/ACV. I read lots of rave reviews, a few warnings and noted that in general, most people report a couple-week transition period when your scalp adjusts to the idea that it no longer has to make up for all the natural oils you are stripping away every time you wash.

This equates to very greasy hair for a couple of weeks, an idea I am not so terribly keen on. I mean, yeah, we homeschool and I don’t get out as often as other moms might (we keep our extracurricular activities to a minimum), but there’s still church and piano lessons each week. I do not want to be a greasball in the presence of anyone but my immediate family. So, I came up with a plan…

Most people who go No-Poo go cold turkey and suffer through brave the side effects. Kathleen of Becoming Peculiar has a plan to wean off of shampoo by replacing one or more of your regular shampooings with a No-Pooing, increasing the replacements till you are completely No-Poo. My plan is that I am going to add a little dollop of shampoo into my baking soda/water mixture and I will gradually decrease the amount of shampoo in my mix till I am truly Poo-free.

Here are my initial impressions (after 3 BS/ACV washes).

  • I so far haven’t noticed any greasy side-effects, most likely due to the presence of the shampoo. I am right now on my third day after my last wash and my hair is still free-flowing, looks clean, not gross in the least.
  • My hair doesn’t smell like vinegar.
  • My hair is SO much easier to comb through after my shower. This was a big surprise to me, I can tell you!
  • I need a container with a narrow opening to apply the BS/ACV to my scalp so it doesn’t end up running down my face or missing the sides or back of my scalp.
  • Some people report dry, staw-like hair caused by the baking soda, but I think due to the fact that I dilute it pretty well, I haven’t had that side-effect either.

Some people have reported that their normally flat, lifeless hair develops more body after they ditch the Poo, and also that their hair holds curls better without product. I can only hope the same can be said for me in a week or two (a girl can hope!).

*Some of the slightly progressive things I’ve done in my life:

I’ve cloth diapered, clean with water and microfiber cloths whenever possible, culture kefir, have made sourdough bread, make non-sourdough bread on a regular basis, have tried home-made deodorant [plan to try that again, different recipe], ditched antiperspirant, have brushed my teeth with charcoal powder [need to get back into that if I can just find a kid-safe place for my powder], am trying to decrease the amount of plastic we use in our kitchen/on the table, made my own BPA-free Mason jar water bottle complete with stainless steel straw, really really want to try DIY remineralizing toothpaste or powder

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Printer keep going offline?

I was having trouble with my printer going offline and Windows troubleshooter didn’t know what to do about it. I did some super-sleuthing and discovered that the IP address that I had listed for my printer (in Devices and Printers) was not the IP address that my printer showed in its settings menus. Here’s how I (hopefully) fixed it:

Thanks to the advice from this post, I navigated to the TCP/IP settings screen under network setup on my HP LasaerJet printer. I set the IP address from “automatic” to “manual” and keyed in 192.168.0.254 as the IP address as well as the default gateway.

I did have to uninstall/reinstall my printer since it was giving me an error message when I tried to update the IP address under the ports tab.

I’m finally back to work again and I’m expecting that I won’t have to fuss with it anymore. Whew! It’s goooood to have my printer back.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bible Marking–Easy and Fun

I got a new Bible on my birthday a couple of years ago and I knew that I wanted to have a good Bible marking system to go along with it. So, I searched the net and gleaned great ideas from tons of other Bible markers out there and came up with what I thought was the perfect system. Problem was, it was tooooo complicated. I had a subtle shade of color for each of a jillion different categories and after a few verses, it took so long to mark, I stopped.

Fast forward to now (or not so long ago) when I listened to a talk on Meaningful Morning Time (the part about Bible marking starts roughly at 01:05:20) and I learned a super simple marking system that so far is working!

Now, I have yet to do any marking in my birthday Bible, I’m still trying to work out the bugs, but I still thought I’d share what I had so far and I can share any changes I come up with later.

I have taken to reading the Bible on my iPad because it’s easier to navigate, and if I make changes in my system down the road, I’m not locked into one particular highlighting code.

I use the Logos free app for my Bible marking because of the terrific number of highlighting tools it contains, and because of its ease of use. I also love the natural look of the highlighting, as if I was highlighting with real pen on real paper.

Here is a screenshot of a page from I Timothy:

207

It’s so easy and so much fun, I can’t wait to read my Bible now because it’s like finding buried treasure and I love the colorful look when I’m finished.

I’ve gotten my 10 y.o. and my 7 y.o. into it big time and they both caught on to it super quickly so it’s not hard to learn. I’ve designated separate versions to each of us so we can do our own marking without messing each other up in the same version. The only thing better would to get each of them their own tablet ($$$) so they can leave mine alone, lol

I made a little cheatsheet using clipart (I adjusted Alane’s version since I’m a visual person) to help me remember the colors at first.

Bible Marking

If you have a favorite marking system, I’d love to hear about it!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Extract audio from .flv using VLC media player

 

Since it took me so long to figure this out (with a little help from other tutorials which were imo more laborious than my method, at least the ones I saw), I thought I’d share my way for extracting audio from flash (.flv) files. I saved a bunch of Restoration International videos to my computer using Orbit downloader, then used this method to isolate the sound so I could listen to the talks on my mp3 player.

First, open VLC player. I have version 2.0.6 Twoflower

VLC 1

Ctrl+R opens the Convert/Save window. Click Add… to find the .flv file you wish to manipulate.

VLC3

Tell VLC where you would like to save the file; name your file.  I do like I do, you’ll select the same .flv file and manually change the .flv to .mp3, click Save.VLC 4

Click on the drop-down window in the Settings/Profile section and select Audio – MP3, then click start.

VLC 5

You should see a progress bar that looks like this:

VLC 6

When it is finished, you’re good to go!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My (Current) Chore System

Chorechart

I’ve tried a slew of ideas, some have worked better than others, sometimes I change because of the ages and abilities of my children. Anyway, this seems to be working for now.

I put the above chore chart in a sheet protector and it lives on the side of our refrigerator. I made some temporary circles from construction paper and use tacky putty to stick them where they go. I made this to be a 4-week rotation and each week’s allotment of chores includes 1 kitchen chore (to be performed after each meal), 1 bathroom chore and 1 Room Of Focus chore.

In the example above, Mom (purple) empties the dishwasher after each meal (or whenever the dishes are clean if there is a lot to wash), cleans the tub and mirrors, and keeps the living room tidy (everyone is responsible to put away their own things, then I sweep, vacuum, and tidy up what’s left);

Eli (green) sweeps the floors in the kitchen and dining room after each meal (or at least as often as necessary to keep things neat), sweeps the bathroom floor and wipes up any grubby spots on the floor or around the toilet, and helps all of the rest of us with our chores (at least 5 minutes of hard work for each person who is actually doing their chores);

Geo (blue) loads the dishwasher as soon as I unload, keeps the toilet clean, and keeps the front of our house picked up (tosses trash, puts bikes and scooters in carport, etc.);

Nina (pink) keeps the counters and table cleared, wiped and everything put where it goes, the counters and sink clean in the bathroom, sweeps the hall and keeps it clear of things and keeps the music room tidy (music straightened, piano turned off, etc.)

And last, but not least, Ana (4) checks to make sure our dog, Lucy, has food in her bowl and water in her dish, helps make the bed and keep her 1/2 of her room tidy, puts “hair and teeth things” away, and helps Eli with is chores (when she isn’t bothering him so much that he asks for me to keep her out of his way, sigh).

I made the chart pictorial, not because most of my workers aren’t readers, because they are, but because I can see from across the room what any given person is supposed to do. Also, I tried at the very beginning to change chores daily, but it got to be too hard to remember what chores we were on so I changed it to weekly chores which works much better. After the first day, I can remember what I did the day before and don’t even have to look at the chart to know what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a real time-saver.

The number next to each row of chores is the order of evening showers except that my number trickles down to Ana. I have been trying to get the younger 2 to take their baths/showers earlier in the day so there’s not such a bottleneck during supper/shower time, but that might not work as well in the summer when there will be more playing the dirt, even in the later hours of the day.

Since I don’t always have time to (1) do all the chores by myself or (2) check everyone’s work myself, I came up with a way to designate. If I can’t check someone’s work to make sure they are done, I made this little wheel chart (which I can change every week based on my rotation schedule below). It helps us all know who should check whose work. So in the example below, Eli would check Nina’s work and on around the circle.

Triochart

I came up with schedule because a certain older sister has a problem doing the dishwasher duty with a certain younger brother every other week (because he is “so slow”) so I came up with this chart to keep things “fair.” (I also made the rule that if the unloader takes too long, the unloader can expect to also be the loader, that helps too).

3-month-rotation

We try to do a “Family 15” every day outside of “chore time” and that helps a lot to keep things mostly tidy. If any of my crew doesn’t do an adequate job in their area and it requires my help to get the job done, I do their chores for them, but they know I don’t come cheep.

I’m a good worker and I do a good job and I expect the “workers” on my crew to do the best that they are able to do (I understand that they each have their own best and it’s not anyone else’s best, though I do try to help them improve their best when I can). When I don’t think they did their best or didn’t even try to do their jobs, I either put on my red bandana, or just inform them that I’m working for them (sometimes I give them a few minutes warning), set my stopwatch and go like crazy. It usually doesn’t cost them more than $1 when I do work for them, but there is a certain worker who seems to be taking a long time learning the lesson of diligence and hard work. I feel bad, and I have discounted my fee to him since he is less experienced than his older siblings and still in the training phase, but I want him to understand that there is a consequence to not doing jobs in this house.

I have recently started “hiring” help when I don’t have time to do someone’s chores. They all know that they can be hired to help Mom and that if they don’t do a good job or do their chores, Mom will hire help to work for them. I don’t pay them my going rate as I don’t think they work as fast or as well as I do (yet), but at least it’s something and it gets the job done. It also tends to cut down on the “No fair! You’re stealing our money!” complaints if they can turn and earn some of it back working for someone else.

So, I say this is my current system, it probably won’t last forever, but for now it seems to be working pretty well for us. I’ll post again if I come up with anything better.

Copying the Bible

Not long ago while browsing Anne Elliott’s blog I read how she has her children copy the Bible (not just verses, but the whole Bible) for their copywork time. This is an idea she got from the Klein Family who got the idea from Art Dappen who got the idea from the book of Deuteronomy:

When he [Israel’s king] takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deut. 17:18-20, NIV)

Art Dappen wrote a book, a compilation of some of his thoughts on the subject, called The Education of Kings. (pdf / mp3)

His thoughts on the matter (very basically) are that if we are called priests and kings (Rev. 1:6), and if we are called to imprint the word of God in our minds, teach them to our children, and talk about them all the time (Deut. 11:18-21), and if Jesus directs us to seek his kingdom first, then all the rest will follow… (Matt. 6:33) then we should put God first in everything, including our homeschooling, give him the first, best part of our day and spend time imprinting his Word in our hearts while we copy it down in a book. He does a much better job of explaining this all so read his book (or listen to the mp3). It’s not very long, I found it very enlightening.

This sounded pretty good to me so we’ve started. The first day flowed really well with my normally change-hating child actually loving the idea. All was peace and quiet at the table… it was wonderful!

Then the novelty wore off and we’re now dealing with more noise and time-wasting, but I’m sticking with it. I think everything will normalize at some point and we’ll find a happy medium and hopefully my children will all learn to love it as I love it because…I love copying the Bible. It’s so relaxing and it gives me time to think about what I’m writing as my writing speed is much slower than my thinking speed. Try it, you might like it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bible Memorization Tool

This particular tool is my favorite offline tool for scripture memorization. There are some great online ones such as iMemorize, but for memorizing at home (see Scripture Memory System), this works great.

I stumbled onto something similar in the past but forgot to bookmark it. This was mighty hard to find this time around so I wanted to post it so I don’t forget it again (and plus, you might find it useful).

Input whatever you want to learn, click “convert” and presto, a whole bunch of stuff that looks like gibberish, but really is just the first letter of every word which will hopefully be enough of a crutch to get you to the point where you can say your verse(s) without any help.

 

For instance, here is John 3:16

F G s l t w, t h g h o b S, t w b i h s n p, b h e l.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sad Rhino

I was trucking along, doing ok in the Orange Rhino department when Friday happened. It was one of those days. You know, the one where the kids can’t get along to save their lives, me constantly having to play referee and keep them directed where they are supposed to be directed. Then when I went to the restroom, the one place where I should have some semblance of privacy, I had not one or two, but three children in the room with me at the SAME TIME! There were a couple of times I kind of lost it, just a little. Once when Geo was playing around on the piano instead of doing his school work and wouldn’t respond to my repeated calling of his name for anything. Finally I had had it. I gave an extra loud, irritation-driven shout of his name… and this time he looked. I felt awful. I knew I’d just tripped, rhino-style. I wasn’t happy. Then I let fly on Eli for something else he was doing, can’t remember now what it was, but I was just SO frustrated. No excuse.

I didn’t yell anything besides their name or QUIET! but it was enough for me. I don’t want to do that, but I guess it’s going to take awhile to learn how to travel a different road.

So, this week in a humble attempt to get back on track, I’m going to make myself an orange bracelet to keep my goal in plain sight. Also, I’m going to print off the list of alternatives to yelling found on Orange Rhino’s blog.

Oh, whew, I feel a bit better… I just went back over to Orange Rhino’s blog and I realize I just did 2 “Oopsie Snaps” rather than crossing over into the super-nasty, yelling zone. I think it will still make it easier to stay in control of my stress if I keep the goal fresh in my mind throughout the day so I’ll still go again with my game plan. Trucking along, I guess I’m on day 18.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Orange Rhino Challenge

Ok, so I don’t consider myself a raging, out-of-control kind of yeller, but I do sometimes snap and let out an “argghhhhhh!” kind of holler usually followed by a question to whoever will listen hinting at the cause of the outburst such as, “Can everyone just be QUIET so you can hear me read?!?” or “Why did you just hit your sister/brother?!?” It rather reminds me of my days in school when our much beloved choir director, tired of all the chatter would raise the lid of a nearby desk letting it SLAM, making us all jump, but definitely getting our attention.

With four littles running around competing with each other for the title of  The Loudest One Of The Bunch, I find myself raising my voice a lot just to be heard over the din. But, when I heard about the Orange Rhino challenge, I figured I was not without sin in the yelling department, but that I really would like to get control of this little area of my life. So here goes, today was Day 1 of my challenge and so far so good, I haven’t yelled. I have used my stern mommy voice which Geo misinterpreted as raising my voice, but I told him I could still speak with authority and it not be yelling (which it wasn’t).

If you feel like joining me, head over to The Orange Rhino, read the details, and jump right in. I’ll be glad for the company.