Friday, January 23, 2009

Making laundry soap

Ok, so you can imagine how much laundry we do... since our 10 year old Liberian son's birthday, I now only wash clothes for 6 people. We've since made it a 'rule' that once turning 10 years old, one is responsible for the washing, drying, folding and putting away of one's own clothes. Although our 8 year old daughter does plenty of laundry and is a huge help to me (for folding especially). Who knew that washing would be as big a job as cooking? I laugh, really, because I just might be one of those people that actually wears out a washing machine! **If I ever do, I would love to have enough $$ to purchase one of those fancy, front loading industrial sized washer/dryers!! :) Praise the Lord we're not washing everything by hand...

Anyway, for years now I've read several times about making your own laundry soap. I never gave much thought to it and really I thought it was kind of weird. Why on earth would you make your own soap? I do try to do a lot of things from scratch but laundry soap never ranked real high on my list. Afterall, it is soap isn't it?? How much more soapy can you get with soap??

I've been buying natural, super concentrated cleaning products for years and have enjoyed their results when cleaning everything from my floor to my tub to my laundry. When making yet another 'cost cutting' list- trying to save MORE money- I finally made myself seriously think about "how did grandma used to clean?" So, I started with an empty spray bottle and some vinegar. I made a diluted vinegar solution and started using that for counter tops, window cleaning and cleaning finger prints off walls and doors. It worked good, smelled clean and was CHEAP! Ok...I was on to something...

Then Angel Baby came along and I noticed that her skin always had little bumps. At first I thought it was just the whole 'transitional hormone changing' thing that happens with newborns after leaving the womb. I started using only Burt's Bees products (I LOVE them!) on her to see if that would make a difference. The bumps got better but never went away. I wondered if her skin was that sensitive?? I went to a weekend conference and on one of the give-away tables was a recipe for homemade laundry soap. I snatched one up!! Ok world, I'm going to give it a try! **Along with cloth diapers to help the cause....

So, after returning home from up north (and gathering supplies) we gave it a try. I've been using the laundry soap for almost a week now and I LOVE IT! I don't think I've ever seen Hubby's work clothes so clean (I thought they were clean before!). You can only imagine how filthy a logger can get! So, here you go world...homemade laundry soap! I hope you try it. It's so easy, fast and amazingly CHEAP. Not to mention a lot healthier for sensitive skin!


Washing Soda
Bar of Soap (Ivory, goat's milk or Phels Naptha...No tallow based soap)
Essential Oil (we used lemon or you could try lavender)
5 gallon bucket with lid

~In a large stockpot, grate a bar of soap. Add 6 cups of water. Heat on med-high until soap is totally dissolved. Keep stirring.
~While you are waiting, add 2 gallons plus 4 cups of cold water to your bucket. Sprinkle essential oil on top of the water. Have a paint stirring stick or a long handled wooden spoon ready.
~Once soap is dissolved, add one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda (dry measure). Stir quickly to dissolve.
~When it looks like foamy milk and all ingredients are dissolved, carefully pour this into your bucket and stir all together.
~THAT'S IT!! You may have to add a little more water if you want it more runny, or add less to thicken it up, do this one cup at a time.

I stir this before using if it's really thick and keep a one cup plastic measuring cup on top of the lid. I use one cup per load and sometimes add vinegar to the wash (or rinse) cycle. Total cost for all soap ingredients is less than $13 and it will make gallons and gallons of wonderful cleansing soap. I do not add fabric softener. You could use an allergy free dryer sheet if desired.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change is in the air...

Not only is this an important day because of the inauguration of our new President...but it's important because we sent our two home schooled kiddos to private school. They've been asking and asking (more like begging) since one of our Liberian daughters went in September. I'd been trying to hold them off until next year- wondering if the 'coolness' would wear off too. But, they were persistent and Hubby told me, "Just let them try it...let them go!" I probably would have made more of a stand against it if our 8 1/2 yr. old daughter wasn't almost out of curriculum. As of last Friday, she only had 10 more pages in her Science book. It was supposed to last all year. The rest of the subjects are over 3/4 of the way finished and it's only January. So, instead of ordering new curriculum half way through the year, I actually put the idea to mind (and prayer!!!).

Today was their first day and they did well. I wonder how long it will take before it's not cool or fun anymore??? I am happy though, they made friends instantly and they seem to be taking to the new routine fairly well. Time will tell. I, on the other hand, will struggle for awhile trying to get 8 people together and ready every day before 8am. It's different when you do school at home and just stay in your pjs until there's a break for my luxurious 3 minute shower...

Good thing I'm an organized person and I like that kind of stuff. It's still a job to organize this many people and keep everyone on track but I look at it as a challenge. There's not too many challenges I back down from- kinda like feeding 10 people 3 meals a day on a VERY limited budget.

So, as this day comes to a close we not only have a new President- I now only have 2 littles at home during the day. Whatever will I do with ALL my time???????

Sweet Potatoes, anyone?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life Skills 101

Ever since the Liberian kids have come home, it has become more and more apparent that the teaching of 'life skills' is SO very important. There are so many things our biological kids learn from us that you wouldn't even realize. As toddlers, our bio kids learn from watching us and from constant guidance. When our Liberian kids arrived, they didn't have a fraction of that 'basic' knowledge. A lot was due to the fact that their culture is extremely different and they didn't live every day with running water, electricity, etc. The most basic things to us proved to be a major hurdle for them. So, for our older kids who may only have just a few years here with us before going out on their own- the learning of basic life skills needs to happen very quickly.

We've been working a lot in every area with the Liberian kids (and our oldest, bio daughter) regarding every day living responsibilities. In Liberia, the older kids were in charge of washing their own clothes (as they are here), but that responsibility looks very different here vs. there. In Liberia, they washed their clothes in a bucket of water with some powdered soap added. They washed, rinsed and rang out their clothes by hand and then laid them out on the dirt to dry in the African sun. They kept all their clothes inside-out during washing to keep the right-side clean and free from the red colored dirt. Once the clothes were dry, they shook free the dirt and put them into their duffle bags. Each child had a bag in order to keep their belongings and clothes.

We've mostly conquered the washing machine now, with the exception of the 'load size' feature. Since we only use cold water to wash now, I figure that's minor and we'll come back to that concept sometime in the future. The four knobs on the washer seem to be very confusing to them...we used the dryer last winter when they first came home but due to high electric bills, everyone is hanging clothes outside now.

The biggest thing that the older kids could NOT learn was the can opener. We've been teaching and re-teaching them how to use a can opener over the last year and they just could not get it. Well, last night both the girls mastered the art of using the can opener- out of the blue! Hubby and I danced around the kitchen as if we were given the best gift ever! They were so very pleased that they could open a can...they wanted to open everything in the cupboard! One of our girls told us awhile back that when living on her own, she would never eat anything out of a can (because she couldn't figure out how to open one). So last night, Hubby and I told her, "There, now you can survive when you live on your own- even if you eat something out of a can!" hehe

It's the little things....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Photo Fun!

Well, we've been home for almost a week now- it's about time I get to updating the blog! We had so many fun adventures while we were on vacation up north, I have so many blog-posts mulling around in my brain... Just yesterday I was finally able to find our dining room floor. I'd been working for days on unpacking and putting things away. I don't know why I do this but when I have a big job to do (like unpacking), I always feel the need to organize and clean WHILE I'm tackling that job. That just makes my task-at-hand 10 times bigger but somehow I feel it needs to be done. So, while I was unpacking and putting things away I've managed to: clean and reorganize our laundry room, organize the kitchen cabinets and find a place for all our empty quart-canning jars (they came out of the laundry room), pack away all of our fall/Thanksgiving decorations and move Angel Baby's clothes to the upstairs dresser in the girl's room.

This is one of our first days in MN. In the picture are our 4 little ones and my one of my sister's daughters. Angel baby is in the car seat and is not was so cold during these days, it stayed below zero. My son, particularly, was about going out of his mind because he was cooped up in the house. Our boys are used to being outside all the time and the weather just wouldn't cooperate! This was a really cool indoor play area...the kids ran off some steam and had a blast! It was snowing the whole time we were there (over 3 hours) and I got my first refresher in snow-driving on the way home. The roads were less than desirable and were quite slick. Welcome back to the northwoods!

When we got back to my sis's place, my mom was there waiting. She stayed a few days to visit with the grandkids (well some of them anyway)- boy did she stay busy! In this pic she was making the kids balloon animals. When I was a child my mom took a clown course and became "Fanny the clown." This was one of her many 'clown' skills and the kids had so much fun waiting in line for their animals. Who knew balloons could be so much fun (and make so much noise!)??

Angel baby was still getting over her pneumonia during this time and she was still a little cranky. I was busy doing something and grandma started rocking Angel baby to sleep. The coolest thing is that she's sitting in my great grandma's rocking chair...

'A laptop??? I know what to do!' My darling daughter was teaching the younger girls all the cool stuff that can be done on!! My poor son was 'odd man out' but he still had fun with his balloon crown and swords. Both little girls had to sit on grandma's lap-if she would have had 4 knees, all 4 little ones would have been sitting by her!

Hubby and I met up in northern Wisconsin (at his family's house) on December 19th. This is the morning after when all the kids bundled up and headed out for some fun in the snow. The two little boys were so happy to be reunited- they really missed each other! We had a really good lesson on how much chaos happens when you try to get 7 kids out the door and dressed warm enough. We had to have a tutorial in 'real winter' dressing. They learned quickly....

Doesn't this picture speak for itself? This night was our first Christmas party with my mom's side of the family. Needless to say, she came with her balloons again... leave it to my boy to dream this up! We had our get-together at my great aunt's house, the 'homestead' house. It was nice to see a few of my cousins there and my aunt. My aunt stayed with the Christmas Swedish tradition of making (and eating!) Leutafisk. I bravely tried some and choked it down...all the while my sister enjoyed an entire plate. Thanks really showed me up!


Me and my sis!

Mom and her two girls...

This is the 'kitchen discussion group.' My mom, aunt, brother-in-law, Hubby and Angel baby. This was during the Leutafisk smelled great in there, NOT!

We got all the kids together to take a family pic. You only see 9...Angel baby must have been somewhere else, sleeping probably! One of my sis's kids said, "Mom, is that all the the kids they have?" As if to say, "Why don't they have any more?" Too funny!

My aunt gave me this feather hat. I forget who the owner was, a family member of mine from long ago- I"m sure. We were all taking turns wearing the hat and taking pics...

Our annual Christmas photo. It took 3 tries to get this shot, it's about as close to perfect as we'll ever get. I love this crew!

Little sissy resting with big sissy...probably watching Dora Snow Princess (her new favorite!).
Dear Daughter #3 and her best friend. These girls met when they were 2 years old (and both have type 1 diabetes and insulin pumps) and even though they now live over 1,000 miles apart- they still love each other just the same.

What fun would playing in the snow be if you can't eat on a big chunk of snow??

The two little boys digging in their 'cave.'

The aftermath of playing in the snow!

Princess got this shirt for Christmas (to put away for summer time). Well, our fashion diva decided she should wear this shirt just about every day. I kept trying to con her into wearing actual winter clothes but she wouldn't hear of know it's bad when you can't out-smart a 3 year old!
My dad and Angel baby. This is such a great pic!

You know an African when....he sits around watching tv with a pillow on his head!

We visited the nursing home this day to see Hubby's grandmother. Unfortunately, she had just fallen a few days before and had bruises on her face. We're not sure when we'll make it back up north again so we wanted to be sure and get pictures with great grandma and the kiddos.

I wondered how the Liberian kids would react to seeing a nursing home. I don't believe they have such a thing in Liberia, most older people either live on their own or with their families. They were great about being there and were very friendly with all the residents. This was the first time they met great grandma, they were so happy to finally meet her because they've heard a lot about her.
And last but not least for this year's birthdays....Big Brother! It was a big one this year, he turned 18.
On his last bite of cake, we got him laughing and he got his turn under the table! It was like a circus of craziness in that house, trying to get him to talk or laugh! Ultimately it was Hubby that got him to laugh....way to go honey!!

On our last day, we had the privlege of attending an open house in our honor. Friends from our previous church opened their new (and beautiful!) home to us and to anyone who wanted to stop by and visit with us. We enjoyed warm soups, breads, fresh veges and lots of warm drinks along with tons of great fellowship! Hubby had the kids outside playing while I stayed warm in the house with Angel baby. This one is of him trying to hold up Dear Daughter #3 while ice skating.

"Thank you, trusty chair...I needed you!"

This was truly a sight to be seen!!

"I can do it, I can do it!"

This pic cracks me up! Dear Daughter #2, Hubby and a great friend of ours...trying to hold her up during her first try at ice skating!

All in all we had a great time up north. The kids had so much fun and they now have a visual to go along with all of our stories. It was a lot of work to take 10 people that far, and over the holidays as well! It was so worth it though- we made great family memories. We're happy to be home now and enjoying our mild, Arkansas winter. We hope you all had a great holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!