Thursday, July 21, 2011

Duvets: Dry Clean Only??

Yesterday, while Baden, Colleena and I were sitting at the table, enjoying some coloring time, Lily decided to curl up on Baden's bed.  She looked at some books, wrapped herself in Baden's blankets and fell asleep.  It was so sweet!  The only downside to Lily putting herself to bed for a nap was that she was not wearing a diaper... Yup, you might be able to guess where this is going!  She peed all over Baden's bed.  Now, I am no fool, and one thing I have learned for sure as a parent of young children is that every bed in the house, even ours, should have a waterproof covering.  The bed was fine.  The problem is that Baden's blanket is a queen size, white, duvet.

It used to be on our bed, before we bought a king sized bed, and I used to have it dry-cleaned on a regular(ish) basis.  A few months ago, Baden discovered it on the linen shelf and claimed it as his very own "marshmallow blanket".  But, I don't have the money to dry clean it this week, and I had to wash the pee out..soooo I headed to google to see what I could find.

I found several sites that say it's possible, though not advisable, to wash your duvet at home in the machine.  Basically they all said to check the tag, and wash it ONLY if the tag did not read "dry clean only".  Ok, I have to admit here that I have always been skeptical of dry clean only.  I mean, why is a garment dry clean only?  Is it so poorly constructed that it will fall apart in my machine?  Will it shrink? Whats up with that?  I generally avoid clothes marked dry clean only, or if I do have them, I have always washed them anyway. Gasp! I'm such a rebel! Well, I decided I would check the label, out of curiosity to see what it would say, only to see that I had already ripped it off at some point.  Oh well!

I decided to give it a try anyway.  After all, it's not like I could leave it unwashed, and I had nothing to lose.  I don't care that much about the duvet ( which is probably obvious given the fact that I gave a white duvet to my seven year old son!), and if it got wrecked, I could live with that fact.

So, after the necessary warnings, the next step in the instructions is to make sure you do not use regular laundry soap, but to use a gentle, no suds variety.  Haha! My homemade stuff will fit the bill nicely!

Next, make sure your washing machine will be able to handle the sheer bulk of a duvet.  Well, I have a ginormous machine I bought because we have a large family.  The queen sized puff fits very nicely, still with room to spare!

Then, wash on gentle and run an extra rinse if possible.  Check and check.

Now, according to numerous internet sites, drying is actually the main reason it's difficult to wash a duvet at home.  You have to make sure you dry it thoroughly so the feathers don't moulder, but you can't use too high a heat either.  Line drying is not advisable since the feathers can clump together and leave the blanket lumpy and hard.  "They" say you should put a tennis ball, or some such object, in the dryer to help fluff the duvet and dry it evenly.  Well, since we can't use dryer sheets at our house, I have always used those little spiky dryer balls anyway... suits the bill I'd say!

Ok, yes, I had to dry it for a loooooong time, and I had to keep taking it out and fluffing it, bunching it back into the dryer in different ways so that there wouldn't be any still wet spots in the middle of the blanket.  But you know what?  It worked.  There are no feathers flying around my laundry room, no terrible thing happened to the blanket, and it didn't cost me anything to wash it at home.  Just a nice clean, fluffy white blanket I can hand back to my son :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Epic Grocery Shopping Trip

Now that we are going to be homeschooling, I have been trying to figure out just what life will look like, how I will make it all work, this fall.  I've been reading lots of blogs of other homeschooling moms, interested in how they juggle running their homes and homeschooling at the same time.  One area I know I need to re-do is grocery shopping.  I've been heading to the grocery store about once a week.  But, next year, I don't think I can dedicate an entire morning each week to a grocery trip, unless I squish all the homeschooling.  I've been looking around for some suggestions as to how other moms do it.

One of my favorite new blog finds is raising arrows.  Amy is a great, inspiring writer and I have been enjoying reading through posts while nursing.  I decided to give her system a go.  Basically, she figures out how many meals they will eat for an entire month ( number of days minus how many times you normally eat out, add how many times you normally invite others over etc. ) and then grocery shopping for every item you will need.  She keeps a huge master list and writes down how many of each item she'll need in stock to make it through a month.  I could go into all the detail she does, but instead, if you are interested, head on over to her blog to check it out :)

So, with this system in mind, I sat down to think up 30 meals for a month.  A couple will get used as lunches, when we don't have left overs, and the rest will make up suppers for a month.  I planned on cereal, pancakes,fruit and yogurt or toast for breakfast, so I made sure that we had the fixings for those items.  Coming up with 30 meals all at once is harder than it sounds! Go ahead try it!  Shawn laughed when I told him it was hard.  He started tossing out ideas, but I had them all already, and we were only at 15!!  Once we had all the meals picked out, I started making a grocery list.  I made sure we'd have fruit and veggies for about half the month, and, like Amy's system, will plan on a quick trip mid month to pick up whatever fruit veggies and milk I need to finish out the month.

With my enormous list in hand, our entire family headed to the grocery store.  I knew I would never be able to accomplish this trip with all four kids unless Shawn came with us!  I put Bremen in a wrap style carrier ( more on that in a future post) so I would have free hands.  I directed the kids which items to grab off the shelves, and Shawn pushed the cart.  By the time we were ready to check out, our cart was piled taller than Shawn!! I could not even move the cart!  It was crazy but we got it all in there somehow.  Passersby actually stopped to ask Shawn if he was " one of those crazy coupon people" hahah!  The tally felt huge even though it's less than I would have spent if I had spread the shopping out during the month.

It took over an hour to put it all away when we got home, even after Shawn carried it all up the stairs for me.  We had to stash some of the food out in the commercial cooler in his shop, because we couldn't fit it all in our fridge, even though it's huge.

I have the list of meals stuck on my fridge and each day, I can pick something off of it and know that I have what I need on hand to make it.  I like having the flexibility to chose from a selection, instead of a set meal each day as I was doing before.  It allows for me to change based on how we are feeling, what we plan on doing that day and even the weather.  If it's hot, I just pick something we can cook on the BBQ.

I'm not sure yet if I will be able to keep using this system or not.  I don't know if I can accomplish the epic shop if Shawn isn't able to come with us.  The problem I face is purely space related.  If I take my stroller so the two littles can sit in it, I can't fit the groceries in my van.  If I carry Bremen, and don't have help, I don't know if I can manage Lily without putting her in the cart.  If I put her in the cart, I don't know if I can fit all the food in.  If I carry Bremen, I don't know if I can get groceries in and out of the cart easily.  I might always have to make sure Shawn can come with me, so I can carry the baby, he can manage Lily and push the cart, and the back of the van is free for groceries.  Sheesh! I may need a bigger vehicle!

I like that it helps me stick to our budget, and I like not having to go to the store each week.  For now I'm going to keep using this new system, and I'll keep you posted.

I'd love to hear how you manage your groceries??

HomeSchool Curriculum

Ok, a reader asked me if I would share what curriculum we chose and why, so just in case anyone else is curious, here goes...

First off, I decided to choose subject by subject instead of a complete grade.  There are lots of companies that offer you all subjects for a grade in one kit, like Sonlight or Switched On Schoolhouse.  Some of them are all on the computer, some are all books, some are a mix.  We didn't want all computer based learning, but that is something you'd have to decide for yourself.  Some people are comforted by just buying a complete grade and knowing that everything is there for you.  I however, wanted a more customized approach :)

For "english" I chose to go with Learning Language Arts Through Literature ( usually abbreviated LLAL).  I did this for a few reasons. First, it incorporates real books, which you can buy or pick up at the library.  I didn't want a course that used only paragraphs and excerpts printed in the work book.  LLAL does have these too, but relies mainly on real books, and also includes passages from the Bible, which is important to our family.  Also, it's an all-in-one program.  Spelling, grammar, reading and penmanship is all in one work book and blended into each day's lesson.  This was my preference over a course that had separate books for each of these areas.  I figure if I run into an area where they need extra work, I will supplement as needed.  These books are very popular, and it was one of the books I was able to borrow from my friend to look inside.  I was very impressed with both the content and the quality of them.

For math, we chose products from ABeka.  You have to buy directly from them, you can check out their website.  This too was a book I was able to look at.  We chose it over the other programs we considered for one main reason, it includes both metric and imperial in the lessons.  This way I don't have to supplement with a "Canadian measurements" book.  I may still have to supplement when we do money units, but I think I'll just explain to the kids that this quarter looks different because it's an American one, but you know what a Canadian one looks like.  It seems to me that there are two main types of math course.  One approach is called "mastery" where a student stays on one concept until they've done it a million times and mastered it.  The other is "spiral". The student learns little bits from all areas, coming back around and reviewing things throughout the year until they build up mastery in the many concepts.  ABeka is a spiral method.  We thought this would work best for our kids, but you'd have to decide which would suit your daughter best. There are so many great math programs out there!

For Bible, we chose the Alpha Omega Lifepacs.  I don't have any in depth reasons why, but we are giving it a try over the summer.  We too are building up to full class load through the summer.  We chose to start the Bible course now, and the kids like it alot.

For Science, I have two things.  One is the Human Physiology set from Apologia.  They come with a notebook that is great.  Again, it's from a Christian perspective which is important to us.  This set I think would still work well for your daughter's age.  There is a whole line ( biology, astronomy etc) and I know so many people who love them.  The other book we chose would be way to young for your daughter, as its aimed at kids from K-3, but just for interest sake, its called Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space.

The hardest thing to find was a french program.  Since we speak french, we don't want what would be too basic for our kids. ( Think the difference between starting English as a second language or actually taking an English course in high school...there is a big difference)  I did finally find one I am excited about, it's called The Easy French.  You can find her website by googling that.  I chose the early ages set, but she does have them going all the way to a high school level.  I love that this set teaches french a lot like a french immersion school would.

My kids are too young for me to worry much about social studies, but I am looking forward to covering it later.  Mystery of History and The Story of the World are two which intrigue me, but I haven't seen either of them.

We also incorporate learning into everyday situations.  If someone runs into something they'd like to know more about, we often google topics or questions.  We look up topics of interest at the library.  My kids obviously are too young to do this alone, but they are always welcome to ask for help.  It's pretty normal around here to hear someone say " I dunno... let's google it and find out!".  We watch lots of educational shows.  Our PVR really is my best friend!  I record shows from the history channel, discovery channel or PBS. y kids love Wild Kratts and the Magic School Bus, both shows which teach science in a kid friendly way.  They like MythBusters, although I hate the commercials that are on during it, so I sit with them and make sure we fast forward through them.

Ok, all that being said, I can only make choices for my family, and obviously you might have different interests or considerations than me.  Also, I chose these now, but haven't gotten full scale into using them, so I may change my opinions after we do.

It was really scary to choose everything!  The resources I thought were the most helpful were Cathy Duffy's Book 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  She walks you through choosing what is important for you,what learning style your kids are, what teaching style you are, what method you would be ( Charlotte Mason, Classical, unschool, eclectic etc. When I first encountered these words, I was like Huh? What are those??  She explains them all and helps you think about what method would work for you. She's great at pointing out which course would work for your style.  Then all the reviews make waaaay more sense when you know.  Then you read that a book works well with Charlotte Mason, you'll know why they heck they are saying that!)  I highly suggest grabbing a copy of this, or checking it out of the library.  She then reviews tons of courses.  Also her website is great, with even more reviews and articles.  Another website I liked is  You can look up each course by name, or browse by subject area.

I bought most of my items from  They also have tons of great reviews for their products.  I enjoyed reading through and seeing what other moms, and dads, had to say about their experiences with a product.  Of course, you'll find one person will love it, and the next will hate it, but at least most people include their reasons why and it gives you a good insight into the products.

Some books that I found helpful and encouraging were by Linda Dobson.  I'm sure you could search your local library and find lots of her titles.  One that was Helpful was specifically about your first year, and what to do to make it great instead of overwhelming.  There is a whole chapter on what to expect when you are bringing your child home in reaction to a negative school experience.

I have also loved reading and browsing through the blogs of other Christian homeschoolers.  I have found a whole list of blogs that I now follow and love the advice and experience of both other new homeschoolers and those more experienced moms.

Ok, well, if thats not the longest reply! Haha! Hopefully there was some helpful info in there for you!  Keep in touch, I'm looking forward to hearing how your search goes :)

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