What do you do all day?


Say the word “homemaker,” and this is the most frequent response:

“What do you do all day?”

This question is offensive to a lot of at homemakers because it implies that there’s not enough to do to keep an at home spouse off the couch watching Netflix and eating raw cookie dough.  (Not that that NEVER happens. Overwhelm can drive anyone to a Netflix cookie dough binge.  And if there’s any job that’s overwhelming, it’s homemaking.)

I thought about it a lot and I think I can put my job description into one tidy sentence.

“I optimize life for my household.”

Cleaning is part of it, but a tiny part.

I make sure my husband can work, and try to take care of the things that would normally interrupt the working day of a spouse in a two income household.  Things like making appointments, a sick child, meeting a service provider, running errands.

I research, research, research, so we get the right products, get appropriate discounts, and stay under budget.

It’s my job to keep food in the house, and prepare meals that are conducive to health, the budget and shared family time.

I learn new skills so we can hire out less. Skills like minor electrical work, carpentry, sewing, painting, interior design, and cooking.

I advocate for our kids, so their health and learning needs are not passed over. This means more research, a lot of research, and sometimes doing interventions myself when there aren’t professionals available to us.

I manage our stuff so we aren’t buried in a pile of it, and can still find what we need when we need it.  That includes turning our used stuff into cash through garage sales, Craigslist, Ebay and tax deductible donations.

I make sure everyone has clothing, within budget, that fits, is clean and repaired.  Sometimes that means making it myself, shopping online, or visiting several stores. Plus taking care of personal appearances like cutting a boy’s hair or guiding a daughter through  makeup and hair for her first date.

I give encouragement and support so everyone can be their best selves.  This includes helping with music practice and homework, listening to their joys and sorrows and stories, and reminding them how great God made them.

I am a full time dedicated cheer leader for 7 people. That’s my FAVORITE part of the job.

This doesn’t mean I do everything myself.  I’m like a general contractor.  I delegate the appropriate jobs.  Sometimes I delegate jobs to my kids that would be easier to do myself, just because it’s good for them to work.

I take my job super seriously.  I’m constantly researching the best ways to do things and learning new skills. I’m also human and with a job list as long as mine, the big size of our household, and our limited budget, my house isn’t always company ready and the laundry isn’t always folded and put away.  Sometimes my time is better spent painting a room than keeping up with daily chores and I’m so thankful my family pitches in and is understanding about that.

It’s true that we sacrifice a little in available cash for me to have this position, but we gain so much more in quality of life in exchange.  I know not everyone can make this choice, so trust me that I don’t stand in judgement of work out of the home moms.  I was once that mom myself.

What do you think?

Before She Leaves

I have roughly 21 months left with my oldest daughter living in my home.  In that time she will graduate high school and head off to college; marriage and babies soon to follow.  I lounged on her bed this weekend just talking about the things that matter to her, that give her hope, that stress her out, that make her excited.   Breathing in the time with her, aware more than ever how precious and rare it is.  Read more

How Three Orphaned Kittens Saved My Parenting Fail

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-36-09-pmBefore school started this fall, we made our kids a terrible, misguided, poorly thought out deal.  We told them if they all made straight A’s at semester, we’d get a puppy.  They have been begging for a dog for YEARS and finally we thought we’d consider it.

First of all this deal was awful, because everyone wanted a puppy except for me.  All of my kids have high IQs and were motivated very much by a puppy.  So bad result #1, they get straight As, earn a puppy, and leave me to care for it while they are at school.  (Which would be fine for a few weeks, but long term would be very stressful for me.)


Bad result #2.  My daughter with learning disabilities is working her tail off for a puppy and earning straight Cs.  It’s the best she can do with the mis-wiring she has in her brain, even though her IQ puts her in the gifted range.  It is possible that everyone will earn the puppy except for her, and there’s not one thing she can do about it.   According to our agreement, she could blow the puppy deal for the whole family and bear the guilt and shame on top of everything else she’s dealing with.


We either get a puppy—bad, or don’t get a puppy—BAD!  This is why I should THINK before making stupid deals with my kids.  Good Parenting 101:  Give your kids choices when either option is a win.  There was no possibility of a winner here.

I can’t tell you how many hours I laid awake thinking about this terrible situation and how to fix it and stay consistent with our promises.  I knew I had to get an animal in our house some way that would negate the deal and make this ok.  To make the situation a little more challenging, my special girl has on-going medical expenses that I need to save an extra $200 a month for.  With our new budget, pet food and vet bills aren’t a possibility.  Gah!  What was I thinking?


I went to the local animal shelter website just to see what foster care was all about.  Turns out it’s amazing.  Our shelter only fosters infant animals or high medical need animals, and it’s usually a 1-3 week commitment until adoption. They provide all the medical care, food, and accessories.  We provide the love.  Since we aren’t trained properly for high medical needs, we’re on the infant only list.  I filled out my application one night and the next morning, got a call to come pick up a litter of kittens.  Kittens!!!!!


Abandoned infant animals are a little challenging.  There might be fleas to combat, toilet training, and minor health challenges like loose stools from abrupt diet changes.  But oh my!  They are so cute and snuggly and fluffy and adorable.  It’s so worth it.


These kittens will be available for adoption at some point and prospective parents might meet them at our home.  When they are adopted, we’ll be available to foster someone else.  It might be more kittens, puppies or even a rabbit.  I can handle the care for a few weeks and take a break when necessary. The kids help out when they are home and have a lot of the benefits of pet ownership without the long term commitment.  Now that’s a win-win.


My Gratitude Journal

I’m excited about this easy little crafty post, because it has so much meaning to me. Along the journey of life a few years back, we chose to seek out help from a psychologist who said something very interesting: “The thoughts you think, control the chemicals your body releases.  If you are able to change your thoughts, you can change your chemical balance. If you can’t change your thinking, then medication can help make it easier.”


Stress is my enemy.  A little spurt of stress can put me in bed for a few days, too weak to even walk unassisted.  I can’t control all my stress, like when someone cuts me off in traffic and nearly causes an accident; when a bat gets in my house and flaps around my bedroom; or when someone I love gets sick or dies. But there is a lot I can control.

This past week, a lot of stressful things were going on in my life.  Here’s what I wrote in my Fit Yummy Mummy journal: Oh Girls, Life has kicked my tail… My grandma is on hospice and they don’t think she will live through the night. She is 90 and forgot who I was long ago, but I remember who she is. Her daughter, my Auntie, was on death watch for a short time last week, but miraculously recovered for a little while longer and has been moved to a rehab facility. …my mama hurt her leg mysteriously and can’t walk very well…. I tangled with some poison ivy last weekend and am COVERED. Plus the school district has denied to test Heather for learning disabilities even with all the private testing records I sent them and doctor reports. They said they don’t accept any outside of the district assessments and they haven’t observed her long enough to decide what to do about her. I’m so sad realizing that they are waiting for her to fail again before they intervene even though her records transferred from her old school show a clear pattern and need. I’m taking her to another clinic the next state over on Saturday to test her eye/brain connection. It’s so expensive, but if there’s a chance it will help her we’ll find a way to earn the money. I’m trying not to stress about everything, but I’m feeling all the feels anyway and it has zapped my strength. So that’s where I am. Not sure how to pick up the pieces from here while my body has checked out. 

That wasn’t even all of it, but it started to feel ridiculous writing so much complaining down. What if instead of that, I had written down all the things that were going RIGHT?  I can tell you THIS, I spend way more time thinking about the things going wrong than I do the things I have to be thankful for.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with my health struggles.

It’s hard to admit that I am a negative person.  Yuck.  Just admitting that makes me not like myself very much, so I’m making steps to change.  4o years of consistent negative thinking isn’t going to change easy, but I’m choosing my hard.

gratitude journal 2

I’m starting with this fifty cent notebook. It’s just a composition notebook from Wal-mart.  I made a little cover for it by merging this and this.  I printed it on regular paper, then trimmed it down slightly to fit the cover.

gratitude journal wax paper

I placed a piece of wax paper inside the notebook, so I wouldn’t get modge podge all over the pages and stick them together.

Then I put a thin layer of modge podge ($1 in the Target spot bins) over the back of the picture, and stuck it to the cover, starting on one edge and smoothing it over to prevent air bubbles.  Then I took my brush and put a thin layer of glossy modge podge over the top for durability.


Here’s the best part, the brush strokes in modge podge are visible after it dries, giving printed art a hand-painted affect. To take full advantage of this, I went back once more and added brush strokes to the water color flowers, following the natural curve so each flower would look hand-painted.


You GUYS! I’m feeling so clever right now.  When it dried I trimmed the corners and added a matching cover to the back.

gratitude journal drying

Before I thought of this little project, I looked on Amazon for a gratitude journal I could buy.  There were several good ones like this, this, and this. They were each less than $10, but the DIY one was the more affordable option for sure.  Karen at A House Full of Sunshine has a different idea for a DIY journal cover that is darling for all you washi tape lovers.  She also had some good thoughts about gratefulness that are worth clicking over to read.


Here’s what I’ll write tonight:

  1. Heather’s new Irlen filters that are helping her read better
  2. Family cooperating for Grandma’s Funeral
  3. A chance to sing with my daughter and my sister-in-law
  4. Free flute lessons for Heather that make her so happy
  5. Our cars are both repaired and running well
  6. A supportive church family

I’m all about reducing stress, not adding to it, so I’m not writing in complete sentences, telling stories (unless I want to), or giving myself a quota.  If I’m too stressed to think, I might just copy down a scripture verse or hymn that I’m grateful for, or tape in a coloring page. And if I need to skip a day, that’s A-OK, since none of the pages are pre-dated.

P.S.  If you want to hear more about gratitude journals, Sherry talks about hers in the “We’re Digging Section” on episode #11 of the Young House Love Podcast.


A Family Friendly Yard on a Budget

Our house has so many projects! My foyer has been primed but not pained for several months now and I’m still not done with my build in bookcases or trim in the living room.  Already my heart is turning outside.  We have a couple of gorgeous months ahead of us and I would LOVE to add a firepit and some swings to our yard and just hang out there with my people.


Two weekends ago we piled our driveway full of brush and yard trimmings, revealed our raised beds and split enough wood for two winters. Then last weekend we built 4 more raised garden beds, and mulched around trees and pathways.


pathway to school

Here’s a close up of the bushy area to the right after cleaning up. The yard is looking almost pretty.  The two days working together as a family was really fun and bonding, except for the poison ivy that I found. It’s the city’s job to keep the fence clean 😛 We can work on our side, but the other side remains a jungle.  I suppose there’s more privacy that way.

under the deck

Darren is talking out loud about building a seating area under the deck.  I’ve been talking about it for years and he would respond with all the reasons why it was a bad idea.  Now, it appears it is HIS idea and I’m all for it. Above is what it looks like today, sigh.  There’s a LOT of work to be done.  But I’m envisioning removing the wall covering on the side facing this, and the side facing the yard to the right.  We’d like to leave the covering on the back wall, because that is the north side and blocks the worst weather for us.

Then I’d like a slew of comfy seating and eating areas where our huge family can gather.  (Just my husband’s immediate family is 28 people.)  Something with the feel Centsational Girl created here:


This will be the most expensive backyard project on our list because we’ll need to jackhammer some extra footings that aren’t being used anymore, and bring in several yards of gravel to create a temporary floor.  Concrete would be ideal, but it would be around $10,000 to pour a spot this big.


Here’s another inspiration photo from Redoingit.blogspot.com. They have a fabulous tutorial there on making outdoor curtains from canvas drop cloth and plumbing fittings.


While we save up the cash for the gravel floor, I’d like to build a fire pit like this.  I go back and forth on the kind of bottom to put in the pit. The flat stones as shown here would make shoveling out ashes a snap, but we have a couple of bags of sand that the previous homeowners left and it would make a free floor that drains well.  The stone blocks are a lot more expensive in my area than described in this tutorial (more than double) but I have seen them on Craigslist recently (I was just too slow to text and they were already sold, sob.)  While we do the necessary clean up work, I’m going to keep watching for another good deal.


This simple swingset can be built for less than $100, even after modifying the plans to make it taller and wide enough for 3 swings.  We had a hard time figuring out where to put the swings with all the trees and tall back fence.  Darren finally had the idea of turning it sideways (we already plan to take out the tree right by the garden beds) so the kids would have more room to swing without hitting the fence.  It’s not as aesthetically pleasing to me as one turned the other direction, but I’ll be able to see it from the house which was really important to me.






The Tryouts

I try not to worry about my kids.  With a God this big, why should I worry or fear? But I do, even when I pray and I think I’m not going to.  We’ve done homeschooling, private Christian school, and public school.  Last year I had 1 in private, 2 homeschooling, and 3 in public.  This year we are transitioning everyone to public school and it’s a little heart wrenching for me.


Last week, my oldest boy, who homeschooled last year, who has been spending too much time in his room, wearing pajamas, and reading books, came out of his room early on Monday.  Dressed. With shoes.  He said, “Bye mom, I’m going for a bike ride.”  I stared after him dumfounded.

Then Tuesday, he said, “Soccer tryouts at my new High School started yesterday, but it’s not too late to join.  Can I go tonight?” My son has done little more than walk from his bed to the fridge in a year, partially because of his love of books, and partially because he has sore, swollen knees from Osgood Schlatters disease.  I was happy he was out of his bed and interested in something.  I found the medical forms he would need and we showed up.

I sat in the bleachers with one other mom.  52 kids and 2 moms.  I had prepared 3 bottles for his practice: 1 with ice water, 1 with electrolytes, and 1 with recovery protein and glucose. I was terrified.  How is a kid who lies around reading books all day going to handle high school soccer tryouts?

They did nothing but run for 2 hours. Greenies, 400 sprints, 800 sprints, more greenies, then more sprints.  There was less than 60 seconds recovery time between each exercise.  I thought he might throw up. I thought I might throw up.  The other mom said, “this is exactly what they did yesterday.”  I thought, “this coach is an idiot.”  What happened to alternating active recovery days?  He yelled at the boys, “If you think this is hard, don’t bother coming back tomorrow!”   I yelled back, “You can do it, Caleb!  Finish strong!  I believe in you!”  Every other boy on the field was either wishing their mom was there to cheer him on or really thankful that she wasn’t.

As soon as I got my boy home, I filled the bathtub with warm water, epsom salts and Blue Heat essential oil blend.  I made another glucose protein shake.  I iced his knees.  I told him how proud I was.

He insisted on going back the next day.

The next day, his dad took him.  I was singing special music at the testimony service for my brother’s priesthood call to elder.  In our church no one can decide to join the priesthood.  It’s not something you can earn, study for, or choose. The call comes through prophecy. It’s a big deal and kind of rare.  While I sat and listened to the prophecy and confirmation testimonies I thought about my boy on the soccer field. Did his dad take protein and glucose and electrolytes?  Would he cheer?

I beat them home and when he walked in the door, I knew things weren’t good.  We had talked about worst case scenerios.  If you don’t make the team, maybe they would let you come to practice and work out and get stronger.  That night, Coach told him no to both.

The next morning the other mom in the bleachers sent me a text. “Cross Country meeting tonight.” Cross Country?  If Caleb had sore knees, was this the best thing for him?  But I asked him anyway.  He said “maybe,” so we showed up.  XC had started on Monday also, but would credit his running at soccer practice for the missed sessions. There were no tryouts.  If you want on the team, you’re on the team. The coach was amazing.  “We cheer everybody on, even the other team.  Grades are super important.  We are family.”  They explained that even though they work out for 2 hours a day 6 days a week, they have an alternating active recovery schedule. Finally, someone with common sense.

Caleb showed up Friday for his first practice, we left the house at 5:45 am.  One coach rode his bike moving between the front of the pack and the rear so he could keep tabs on the kids and their health.  The 2nd coach drove a car, so he could pick up the kids that were in trouble. Caleb ran for 2 hours and when I picked him up, he was smiling.  He did a jig and said, “How can I have so much energy?” I asked him how he did.  He said, “I wasn’t at the front of the pack, but I didn’t have to get in the car.” I asked him to tell me the name of 1 kid on his team, he told me 2.  Then it hit me, Caleb will start this HUGE school with friends, adults he can trust, and self-respect.

At that moment, the room started to spin, my knees went weak, my vision closed in on itself.  I had just earned myself a recovery day or three–all from worry, sigh.

How about you?  Is your family making big changes this year with educating your kids? How do you feel about it?

An Archeological Dig

Caleb mapping stonesSummer time is the busy time around here.  As soon as school was out at the end of may, I headed to Yellowstone via Wall South Dakota as a tagalong on the Grandparent trip for my youngest 2 kiddoes.  Every year for the last 4 years my parents have taken 2 of their grandchildren on a cross-country adventure.  This time they felt Grant was too young to go without his parents, so Darren and I got to come along.


We were home for a couple of days, just enough to wash and repack everybody.  Then I kissed Darren goodbye and took the kids to Lamoni, Iowa for reunion.  I think other denominations might call it family camp or camp meeting.  It was a week of living as families in University dorms. We had prayer and testimony service and classes every day, time for recreation in the afternoon, and powerful music and preaching in the evening.  It’s a time to rest from the cares of the world and get a fresh perspective on our Christian walk.  The leaders encouraged us to stay off the internet to keep apart from the influence and cares of the world.  I had to get on a little to make sure the meal plans went out on time and take care of customer service issues, but for the most part I tried to rest.

The day reunion ended, I filled my mom’s car with 5 of my kids and all their stuff and sent them back home.  My 14 year old son and I headed east to an archeological dig in Nauvoo, Illinois.  He’s at the age where he’s trying to make some decisions about a career and education.  At first he wanted to be a novelist, so we homeschooled his 8th grade year with the One Year Adventure Novel program.  It was a great program but showed him that he prefers to write for a hobby and not to make a career of it.  When he mentioned archeology as his next choice for careers, I used some connections to join the end of a dig unearthing an 1840’s home foundation and artifacts.


He’s still trying to unpack the experience and see if it’s a career option he wants to pursue, but it was super interesting to learn about all the different aspects of the dig.

Last year it took the team most of their month long dig to locate the foundation of the home.  It was a lot of digging to find nothing and trying again to get just the right location.  This year they were able to get started right away in the correct position and make progress.  By the time we arrived they had found 3 of the 4 walls of the home and the 4th wall was uncovered while we worked.


We found things like flatware, scissors, square sewing pins, marbles, square nails, china and other earthenware, glassware, cast iron cookware, animal bones, teeth, fossils, buttons, and a cast iron trivet for a clothing iron.


Each 5 foot square was dug down 2 inches at a time.  The diggers would gently scrape the soil to protect any artifacts that might be hidden beneath.  The loosened soil would go into red scoops (we called them fire trucks) and sent over to the sifters.


Another team member (ahem–me, so hot and sweaty) would rub the dirt through a screen and look for smaller artifacts that might have been missed by the diggers.  All artifacts were placed in a green scoop labeled with a sticky note to show the quadrant and soil level it was found in, then sent over to be washed with a soft brush and clear water.


Then the artifacts were carefully dried and sent to the head archeologist, Paul Debarthe who would identify and document each piece in a database.


Finally the documented pieces were sent to the restoration lab, where Synthia glued pieces back together for display.  It is the team’s end goal to rebuild the home just as it stood in 1840 and display the artifacts inside.

It felt awesome to play a part in recovering history, but it was also a dirty, sweaty, exhausting job.  Caleb and I only dug 3 days with the team.  Most of them were there for a solid month!


If Valentines Reflected Real Life

I’ve been thinking about love a lot the last few days as we meandered through Valentine’s day,  about the heartbreak of my teen years and wondering how I could protect my kids from some of that.  I wouldn’t insulate them from all of life’s heartbreaks. That would be robbing them of crucial character development.  I would, however, like to Read more

Just pushing a car down the highway…don’t mind me

Heidi's 16th Birthday

Friday night we threw a little skating party to help our oldest daughter turn 16.  It was so much fun to pick out the playlist for the event.  I’m keeping the list for when the skies have been too gray for too long.  How can you go wrong when Van Halen’s Jump; Ray Steven’s Mississippi Squirrel Revival; Piano Guys’ Cello Song; and Taio Cruz’s Dynamite all made the cut?  It was a great mix of all the things Heidi loves including a few bits of soundtrack from her favorite movies. Our only sadness was the private school held a basketball game that night so not many of her friends from her old school could come.  We had a lot of family and just enough friends to make it a lot of fun.  Here’s the best part–everyone gave skating a try, even the grandparents, which was unexpected and delightful.

Heidi's 16th birthday 2

The next day her youth group was going ice skating.  We picked up her friend, Brandon on the way and partway down the highway, ran out of gas.  This is my first experience with running out of gas.  We’ve only had this car a couple of months and I haven’t figured out all it’s quirks yet.  Our old car had about 20 miles to go when the warning light comes on.  This car has about 2.

I couldn’t coast to the left because that was a highway entrance ramp.  I couldn’t coast to the right, because there were 2 lanes of fast moving traffic over there.  I put on my hazard lights and thought for a bit.  I had successfully pushed my car up an icy driveway twice that week to get to school on time, and  I had two permitted drivers in the car…what could go wrong?

I told the kids my plan, moved Heidi into the driver’s seat and Brandon volunteered to help push.  We pushed that thing at least half a mile to Costco to buy gas, laughing all the way.  A really nice stranger jumped out of his car when he saw us and helped us push.  His wife drove past cheering us on :).   A 2nd stranger helped us the last few hundred feet when we were the most cold and tired.  That’s one for the memory books.

When I got to school this morning, one of my students said, “I saw you Saturday, pushing your car down the road.” Yep–that was me.

Have you ever run out of gas?  I hope not, but if you have I’d love to hear about it.