Saturday, January 28, 2012

Laundry Detergent

Several people have asked how I made our laundry detergent. I found a pin on pinterest (oh, my you pin???). Trust me, I would not have tried it if it didn't look super easy and CHEAP. I wasn't willing to invest a bunch of time or money in case I didn't like the detergent. My total investment was about $5. I spent a about $10 buying everything I needed, but I've got PLENTY of Borax * and Super Washing Soda * to make more or to use for other things.
The original recipe is from WellnessMama. You can see her post here.
1 cup Borax
1 cup Super Washing Soda
5 gallons water
1. Put 2 quarts water in a pot. Shred the castille bar soap and melt it down in the pot.
2. Pour borax and super washing soda in a 5 gallon bucket with 2 quarts hot water from sink. Stir until dissolved. (Now you've used 1 gallon water)
3. Slowly add water and stir. (I did this until I had 4 gallons in the big bucket. I knew I'd need a little extra stirring room when I added the melted bar soap/water.)
4. When soap is completely melted, add to borax/superwashing soda mixture. STIR well.
5. Finish adding water until you've got 5 gallons water.
6. Let detergent sit overnight. The soap mixture will sort of congeal in the middle of the borax/super washing soda mixture. Stir it well. It will be a bit lumpy and glumpy (I just made that word up). That's okay.
7. Pour into 1 gallon milk jugs to store.
Use 1/4 cup detergent for each load of laundry. Make sure you shake up the detergent before you use it --the soap will continue to separate a little.
Meryt and I did an experiment with the detergent. We used one of Dwayne's old t-shirts and smeared all kinds of staining matter on it. (I should have taken a "before the stains" picture because I'm almost positive that the one stain that is left was already on there.)
(Sorry the picture is upside down)
1. Strawberry syrup
2. Chocolate syrup
3. chocolate ice cream
4. dirt from outside
5. Coffee grounds
6. Ketchup

As you can see, most of the stains washed out pretty good. I did not pretreat the stains...just tossed it in the wash. I did wash it by itself with 1/4 cup detergent, so I suppose someone might claim that it is a bit more concentrated because there was no other laundry in the load.

Overall, we are very pleased with the homemade detergent. I might try to use the Fels naptha * next time because I've heard it's excellent for removing stains. I'm excited that the detergent will last FOREVER. I'm guessing about a year based on how much laundry I average and how much detergent I made.

If you want to make powder detergent, WellnessMama also has a recipe for that at the link above.

*I only provided these links so you can see the actual product. I did not purchase my supplies on line--they were available at my local supermarket in the laundry section. Dr. Bronner's castille soap was available in the health food/organic section.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Going Granola, Part II


I know you're dying to know how Going Granola, Part I is going.

And it's going.

Well. As in, good.

Things we're doing:
~Using homemade/chemical free laundry detergent.
~Using vinegar/borax/baking soda in the dishwasher.
~Growing kefir and feeding it to the kids.
~Making muffins from scratch so the kids have more wholesome breakfast options.

Things we like:
~Laundry detergent. It does a great job of washing the clothes. It even gets Luke's nasty poop out of his clothes. Unfortunately, this happens all too often around here and is a necessity in laundry detergent. Meryt (it's so strange typing her name on here when I called her M for so long so "protect her identify") and I did a little experiment on the laundry detergent. The pics are on my phone. I'll do another post with the pictures soon.
~Kefir. Actually, like is a bit strong. I don't like it at all, but can tolerate it in a smoothie (with spinach and bananas). Meryt can tolerate it a bit if it's blended with a banana. She also drinks it mixed with her smoothies. Luke loves it and will drink it UP when it's blended with a banana. I don't notice a difference in his bowels yet, but I'm hopeful.
~Homemade muffins. Luke loves them. Dwayne and I both like them. Meryt still prefers her pillsbury strudel. :) Some things might not ever change.

Things we're not crazy about:
~Vinegar/borax/baking soda. I wouldn't be worried about serving you food on my dishes, but I don't feel like they "sparkle" when I take them out of the dishwasher. There's no film or anything, but...they just aren't "squeaky" clean. I'm going to keep going for another week or so and see how I feel about it then. I might go back to dishwashing detergent.

Things I'm going to attempt next:
~Finding a non-chemical body wash. I'm almost out of my body wash, so I'm going on the prowl to find something more natural. I can't give up soap. I don't care how natural my body can be without washing it. I MUST WASH WITH SOAP. I want to feel clean. End of story. I'll go granola, but I'm not going THAT far. I'd like for it to be something I can use on the kids. Luke's skin needs a little TLC.
~I might try a homemade deodorant. Maybe.
~I might attempt to make Luke some gluten free bread. I honestly don't feel like I have the time to commit to that, or keeping it up, all the time.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going Granola, Part I

This might be the only part in this series...or it might be the beginning of a lifestyle change. I'm just not sure.

Luke seems to be suffering from some digestive issues. We are certain there is an allergy to peanut butter--we saw the quite frightening reaction one evening at church. I'll be fine if that never happens again. It wasn't as bad as some, but it was enough to raise my blood pressure to a dangerous level and cause a relatively sleepless night. There also seems to be a sensitivity to milk. When we transitioned him from formula to whole milk, he was congested all the time and I couldn't get him to dry out. We went on a trip, so we put him on pre-mixed formula and within 3 days, he was completely dry, despite getting many less hours of sleep than normal every day. Since then, we've been playing around with the best milk alternative to give him. Rice milk seemed to leave him less than satisfied, so we're trying coconut milk right now and that fills him up.

After talking with some friends, H and I are going to continue to try some alternative feeding options for him. I'm going to make kefir and see if he'll take and digest that. There is research indicating that it is very benficial for digestive problems. Luke really likes yogurt, so I am going to attempt to make home made yogurt for him. It just seems that anything I can offer him in a more pure, more natural state will be better for his little body.

All of this talk about natural food opened my eyes to a world of more natural living. Truthfully, I always thought that was a little much...a bit over the top. Make your own detergent? Not wash your hair? Are these people FOR REAL??? My arguements: Stuff can't be THAT bad for you. I don't have time to worry about that. It didn't hurt me and I grew up eating it, washing with it, wearing it. You get the idea.

I was in the "convenience" camp. Firmly planted. Perfectly content.

But if you changed the diapers I change every day, you'd consider making some changes, too.

I'm going to make our family's laundry detergent this weekend.
The benefits are many:
~The cost is pennies per load. The initial investment will be less than $10. I will not use the entire contents of the material for the first batch, so I will be able to make more than one batch of detergent. We're looking at less than $0.05/load.

~One batch of home made detergent will last us more than a year. There will be no more panic about how much detergent we have left. I will have enough detergent TO LAST A YEAR. There is very little time investment in this as it will take me about an hour to make a batch of detergent. It is not something that will need to be made regularly.

~No chemicals. All of the ingredients are natural. Nothing is harmful to the environment or our family. Win/win.

I don't see how I have anything to lose by trying this. If we hate the detergent, I haven't invested a lot of time or money into this project.

The other evening I used the last of our dishwasher detergent. Instead of buying more, I'm using vinegar and baking soda. Again...natural. No chemicals. Clean dishes. Win! Win! Cheaper. Win!

I am slowly putting my toe in the pond. Testing the waters. Reading. Learning. Trying. I see granola living far in the distance. I am not fully committed to the path. But I'll meander along and see what happens.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our First Pinterest Home Improvement Project

H and I complete our first pinterest inspired home improvement project today! And we didn't even fight about it!! Can I get a "Praise God!" ?
A friend of ours has the neatest way to display her child's school/art work. I told H I wanted to do the same thing, but he was NOT okay with putting that many holes in our walls. I wondered about using a frame to hold the wires, but knew I'd never be able to get him to 'see my vision.' When he left the house, I scurried to pinterest and found a perfect example of what I wanted to "tweak" to make our own. When he saw it, he loved it!
Honestly, I think this is the first time in 10 years of marriage that MY vision came to be exactly like I wanted it. Normally when I share an improvement idea with H, he takes my idea and runs with it and it ends up not being at all what I'd envisioned. Poor me. :)
So, this is is what one wall looked like prior to the project:
This is Luke's corner where his booster seat is. On one wall are three little triangular vases and a framed shadow box with dried flowers. I still like that. One the wall near the window is a wooden piece of art with flowers painted on it. On the other side of the window is a plate rack that holds four plates. Luke is modeling for you.
We took the wooden piece down and put up a large (24x36) open backed frame. H used eyelets and three pieces of large gauge jewelry wire to create places to "hang" the kids' artwork or school work. Hi, Luke! :)
I bought clips in the scrapbook section at Hobby Lobby to hold the papers. Here are a few things that were stuck on the fridge. Luke is wondering why we keep taking pictures of the wall.
There isn't a great place to take a picture of the tiny dining room. The frames are HUGE, but they look so great in here. I am so excited and can't wait to fill them up with current work from the kids.
I keep thinking of all kinds of fun things to do with these. A few years ago, Meryt and I made 14 "Valentines" out of my old scrapbook stuff. It would be fun to do that again and put them up. Maybe H and I could write something we love about each kid and they could read one each day starting Feb. 1?
During Christmas, we can hang up our Christmas cards and our 25 days of Christmas envelopes. M loves to paint seasonal decorations, so there will always be something she's created up there.
And just in case you wondered what Luke thought about all this:

He blew us a kiss of approval.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

All About Luke

If this blog has been around when Meryt was a baby, you would have read about every breath she took. Fortunately for you, I didn't start until Meryt was a toddler. Unfortunately for Luke, I didn't spend much time here during 2011. My memories for him are recorded elsewhere. They are recorded, which I am thankful for.

A teacher friend of mine is constantly reminding me not to compare Luke and Meryt. I try so hard not to, but...I compare them all the time. This post isn't a comparison, but more a chance for me to record exactly what our little miracle boy is like.

Luke is A.L.L. B.O.Y. There is never, not a single time, when he sits and plays with his toys. Meryt and I were going to read Luke 2 and do the nativity story with Luke. Oh, how fun we thought that would be. Hahaha...hehe. We ended up chasing Luke around, trying to recover the characters. Luke thought this was a hilarious game.
Evidence #1:

Luke is tremendously strong willed. If he wants to get to something, he will find a way to do just that. I was sitting at the computer and refused to give Luke whatever it was he wanted. He crawled around the chair, climbed up and reached over the back of the chair.

Evidence #2:

Luke is a complete Mama's Boy. He wants my attention all the time. He LOVES to be held and would sit on my hip, mostly content, all day. There are many times I resort to carrying him in a carrier--win/win for both of us!
Evidence #3:
Luke makes a game out of everything. H was putting the lights on the Christmas tree. Luke watched for a few minutes and realized that the end of the string of lights was moving around. He would chase the string of lights, trying to crawl and grab them at the same time. (We're convinced he's part puppy.) He finally grabbed the end of the strand and immediately put a bulb in his mouth.
Evidence #4:
You don't believe me? Here...a closer look. (No child was harmed in the process of collecting this evidence.)
We make the hanging of the first ornament a really big deal. Luke was too young last year to participate in this tradition and we weren't sure exactly how to handle it this year. Meryt would never tolerate Luke being allowed to take this special honor "from her." Yet, we needed a way for it to be somewhat fair. We decided that each child would have a "first ornament" and that it would be a special ornament to them. Surprisingly, Luke did a great job hanging his ornament.
Evidence #5:
Luke is a complete flirt, but does not like strangers to touch him. He doesn't like to be left in the church nursery. He sometimes cries when I leave him at his "school." I was a bit apprehansive when we went to see Santa. Luke, in true Luke form, shocked me. He was totally into Santa. He checked him out and then looked back at us.
Evidence #6:
Luke doesn't sit still. He's always checking something out. He isn't walking yet, but he can crawl faster than most of my students can run. One minute he's right beside me; the next, he's almost all the way up the stairs. We tried to take a few pictures at the beach (notice the birds behind Luke to the left).
Evidence #7:
Oh! Wait! There are birds behind me?!?! And off he goes.
Luke LOVES to play rough. Most of the time, the rougher, the better. He LOVES to be bounced around or tossed into the air. He loves to be wrestled. He just loves to play. Everything is a game.
Evidence #8:
Loving the teeter totter. Meryt shook it as hard as she could and he just died laughing.
Then we discovere the slide. Oh, the glorious slide! He wanted to do the slide over and over again. He would laugh and giggle so hard as he came down. He's even progressed to coming down the slide by himself, to his complete and utter joy.

As high as his "highs" are...his lows are as "low." He has the most delightful laugh you've ever heard...and the most irritating cry. (Keeping it real...just keeping it real.) He's one complete package of extremes. And we couldn't love him any more. He is truly our miracle boy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolution. Or not.

I've done the whole resolution thing. Many times. Failed. Many times.

I'm not going there this year.
I've over feeling not good enough.
Not domestic enough.
Not {whatever, fill in any word here} enough.

I've done the "pick a word for the year" approach to change. Not going there either. I love that idea far more than resolutions, but, again...I'm not going to fail.

But I am going to do one thing. It's a matter of choice--making a choice that is right for our family, for our kids.

I'm going to say "no." I'm going to get rid of the clutter that takes away from our family. I'm going to be realigning my priorities so my kids aren't hustled from mom-to-dad-to-mom-to-bed. I'm going to be with them more by saying "no" or "I'm sorry...we can't do that" or "I'm cooking tonight; we can't meet you for dinner."

I've been stretched too thin, thinking that I could do it all, be it all. I can't. God didn't make me that way. I love serving others. H loves serving others. This phase in our life requires us to serve at our home. H is in a place where his commitments can't be realigned. It is what it is.

So, instead of a resolution, there is going to be a choice. I'm sure I won't always make the right choice. I'm sure I'm going to find myself, time and time again, over committed or away from home too much and too busy. But I'll just make the CHOICE again to be at home.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Frustrated, I think

Frustrated is not quite the word I'm looking for...the exact word is alluding me. I'm feeling...something akin to frustration, but not quite. Perhaps frustrated is the right word, but usally when I'm frustrated, it's with SOMEONE. This time, it's more the situation(s) that
frustrate(s) me.

I took Luke to the doctor this morning for his 12 month shots I'd delayed. I delayed them so we could be with my parents during Christmas break. {My dad can't be around kids who have had live virus vaccinations. Being with my dad seemed more valuable than doing vaccinations at exactly the right time.} So, we were late to the appointment. Luke had a fever. Luke ends up with steroids and a breathing treatment machine. I'm completely thunderstruck. I had no idea he was sick. Yesterday he started with a little cough, but nothing that seemed worrisome. I feel like that was a major "mom fail" moment. Frustrated.

Meryt is regressing academically. Before kindergarten, she was {almost} reading. She was definitely sounding out words and writing letters and numbers correctly. This week in church she wrote this sentence, "the tree wuz a sed wus." (The tree was a seed once.) Excellent sentence, I thought. She wrote every single e backwards and didn't put a capital letter at the beginning. Not a big deal, I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND. But the thing is: she WAS doing those things. She was starting sentences with capital letters, without any prompting. She was writing her letters correctly--well, facing the correct direction. Our group in kinder this year is so low. I know her teacher is doing the very best she can, but Meryt is not making (or maintaining) the progress I'd hoped. I keep debating about having her tested for the gifted program. She's a bright kid. She asks great questions and loves to learn about things. She's a hard worker. If she's going to be with this group of kids until 5th grade, I've got to give her a fighting chance of being challenged. I don't want to settle for mediocrity for her. H and I both expect a lot out of her. I'm frustrated for her and for her teacher, too. Some of this frustration is because I know how it's working in my own classroom--the lowest kids are getting the most attention. The ones that came in good and ready are the ones that aren't getting it this year. I know her teacher feels the exact same way. To relieve this frustration, M and I are going to "homeschool" in the evenings to keep her on track. Not to the point of stressing her out. She loves to "school," so this is all a game to her.

My house is never clean enough. FRUSTRATED. I don't have the energy to get it clean enough. I work and work at it, but there is always something more to do. I washed THREE loads of dishes today...because I cooked two meals today. I've washed clothes today and there are still more clothes to wash. I cleaned my room before Christmas it looks like a tornado has struck...again. This is one area in my life where I feel the need to "do again, do again, do again." One small step at a time.

Our pastor has encouraged us to "be more in the Word." He suggested a few things: memorizing scripture or reading a Psalm each day during January. I'm hopeful that I can continue my commitment to this (reading a Psalm each day of January) and meditate on His word. It hasn't been hard--for two days! :) My hope is this will help me keep perspective. None of the things that are frustrating me are REALLY worth the frustration. They are small in the scheme of this world and nearly irrelevant in the scheme of eternity. Yet, I've let them almost ruin today.

Perspective. Keep it all in perspective.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Good heavens!

Who knew that when I started this blog years ago I'd neglect it so badly? Facebook will do that, I suppose. :) It's so easy to just send a little sentence out than it is to take the time to compose an actual blog post. But I miss this. I miss this place of keeping records. Of putting complete thoughts out there. Of sharing.

Perhaps all my blog friend readers have gone away. Perhaps FB is easier for everyone. Yet, I want to return to this place. I'll start over. Start at the beginning and build again.

11 Thoughts from 2011.

1. Luke went from screaming infant to fun toddler. He's all boy, all the time. He loves to throw things. He moves and shakes all the time. At 13 months, he refuses to walk, perferring to crawl everywhere. He still loves to be held and LOVES attention. He loves to eat. His favorite foods are barbeque, hotdogs, fruits and veggies. Although you'd be hardpressed to find a food he refuses. He seems to have some food allergies: definitely to peanut butter and possibly a milk intolerance. We call him Buddy almost all of the time. We call him that directly and also when we are talking about him. He is delightful and difficult all wrapped in one package.

2. Meryt went from preschooler to elementary schooler right before my eyes. She loves school. She remembers everything. She had kidney surgery in June and seems to be "cured" from her kidney trouble. She's still a little H in almost all aspects. She's so fun to be around, most of the time. Unlike Luke, the only things she loves to eat are sweets and she perfers more quiet activities. Like Luke, she's delightful and difficult all wrapped in one package.

3. We've switched pediatricians. A number of factors helped us make this decision. I'm positive this is the right decision for our children and our family.

4. My dad (OB) had a double lung transplant in January 2011. In just a few days, we will celebrate his 1 year anniversary. What a year it's been! While a tremendous challenge for our entire family, it also brought some wonderful experiences for all of us. We were able to visit several times while he was recovering and enjoy many beautiful things the city where the transplant took place had to offer. Those will be some of my favorite memories.

5. We took the children to Disney World during Thanksgiving break. What an incredible experience for all of us!

6. H had an opportunity to take on a part time job. This has been both a wonderful and difficult adjustment for our family.

7. As the year came to a close, I realized that our schedule was packed full of things that did not bring joy to our family. In fact, all of the extra things made me a bit grouchy and mean to Luke and Meryt. That discovery forced me to evaluate my priorities. My one goal for 2012 is to commit only to things which bring joy to our family.

8. Meryt asked, on more than one occassion, "WHERE are we eating dinner tonight?" Major Mom failure.

9. In October, H and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I CLEARLY remember when we were newly weds meeting someone who had been married 7 years. I remember thinking, "We'll never make it." Not only did we make it to 7, but we've cleared the decade mark. It's not easy, but it's worth it. Most of the time.

10. Luke went from his "Aunt P" to a home day care this fall. It was a difficult decision, but a good one. He loves going to "school" and loves being around the other children. There are 2 boys that are just a bit older than he is. He loves playing with them and being outside.

11. 2011 was a busy, hectic year for the Benson family....full of family and other stuff. We are looking forward to 2012, slowing down, and being together.