Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stuff I Love- Homemade Laundry Soap

I love to share a good thing.  I'm happy to hear that many of you have tried some of the "stuff I love" and that you are loving it too.  I feel a little like Martha Stewart, sharing her "good things".  And I'm a Martha wanna-be (no snide jokes about prison now).

Today's "stuff I love" is a recipe given me by my friend Lisa.  She mentioned she was making her own laundry soap and that it worked great.  The cost per load- a mere two cents- and the ease of making the recipe were all the incentive I needed to give it a shot.  It has only 3 major ingredients, each found in the laundry soap section of major stores like Super Walmart: Fels Naptha soap, which comes in a bar, washing soda (Arm and Hammer is the most common brand), and Borax.  You'll be amazed how far these three items go to make loads upon loads of fresh, clean laundry!

Homemade Laundry Soap

You will need a bucket or container that can hold at least 2 gallons as that is how much detergent this recipe makes.

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated or chopped up finely

1 cup washing soda

1 cup Borax powder

Heat grated soap in a a large sauce pan with 6 cups of water until the soap melts.

Add washing soda and Borax and stir until dissolved.

Remove from heat.

Pour 4 cups of hot water into bucket. 

Add soap mixture to bucket and stir.

Add 1 gallon PLUS 6 cups of water to the bucket and stir.

Let the soap sit for 24 hours. It will gel.

Use 1/2 cup per load.

You may also had some drops of essential oils if you would like to add more scent.

I put the soap to the test with some chocolate stained pants of mine and a bib covered in smooshed chocolate.  The results:


The one spot remaining is a stain that has been on the bib for quite a while- ink I think.  I'd say the proof is in the pudding- this stuff works- and I love it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Convention-al Wisdom

Our school year wrapped up quite nicely last week. We were all more than glad to answer the beckoning call of summer vacation. As a home teaching mom, I admit I never completely leave behind all the *stuff* that school entails. Like it or not, it's part of my identity and part of every day of my life, whether it's spring, summer, fall, or Christmas. I have an insatiable urge to find beautiful books to read, meaningful art activities, and toys and games that spark creativity. I must plan ahead- sometimes I'm planning my children's high school years! While I often vow at the beginning of summer to stash all the curriculum catalogues, they just keep getting pulled out of their pile so I can glance over them while I eat my lunch. It can make my brain hurt and my cortisone levels rise, but I just cannot stop myself. I enjoy this homeschool journey too much.

So what a great opportunity it was to attend a really big homeschool convention last week, complete with many of the BIG NAMES in home education as speakers and a vendor hall offering nearly every curriculum I'd ever heard of- and many I hadn't. And to get to go with three of my homeschooling cohorts from back "home"- now that was a treat! Though the four of us are completely different in our style of educating, and well, just completely different period, it's satisfyingly comfortable just to be with other people who "get" why I do what I do. We speak the same language- Charlotte Mason, Apologia, the Bluedorns, the Great Books, the Trivium, Beautiful Feet, CLEPs. We know Sonlight is spelt with an "o" not a "u". It's weird, but it's a bond. One that I have greatly missed since we have moved.

Oh, I don't need lots of hand holding when it comes to educating my kids. I've known since we ever thought of having a family that I was called to homeschool any children we might have. And somehow that has always been enough to sustain me, even in the difficult times. I most certainly doubt myself and have come up against some hard decision making already, but in the end I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing. So even though I miss talking shop with my fellow homeschool moms, I'm okay. I didn't need to attend this convention like a heart attack patient needs to attend an ER- like STAT! Or else die! I looked forward to a few speakers in particular and a few of the sessions by unknowns seemed interesting as well. I had absolutely no interest in sessions on what I am feeding my children and how it affects their homeschool. Nor did I want any child rearing or discipline training AT ALL! I simply looked forward to being inspired and encouraged. I had already purchased next year's core curriculum. I needed one math workbook and I knew where to locate it. (But don't believe for a second that's all I came home with!)

I always love people watching and it's just as fun at a homeschool convention as anywhere else. What is remarkable, however, is that, for the most part, homeschoolers are very very normal. Sure, there were a few wearing prayer caps and some in dresses reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie, but most parents and their kids dress like basic Target and Walmart shoppers. Yes, there is a considerable lack of chains, body piercings, and tatoos- but you know, I saw some, and I think that is cool. The image of homeschoolers in denim jumpers and floral blouses, khaki pants and homemade plaid shirts for the guys, is so passe and more of a stereotype we ourselves like to joke about than the actual truth. We can laugh at ourselves, realizing that, yeah, it is kind of unusual to keep your kids home with you every... single... day.... until they are at least... 18. Especially when there is free daycare school as early as the age of four. Daycare was a joke, guys, come on... Laugh with me!

Speaking of laughing, we got the chance to laugh uproariously at the comedy show featuring John Branyan. I had never seen any of his youtube videos, so he was a real treat. His Olde English version of the Three Little Pigs is his standout soliloquy. It is hilarious and I marvel that he could even memorize it. ( He must have been taught under the classical method.) His electric cigarette may have shocked some, but you couldn't help but hoot with laughter when he blew smoke with it and pretended to be the door greeter for Vacation Bible School. I noticed that even the ladies in prayer caps had shaking shoulders.

One of the sessions I was very interested in attending was cancelled, but the person I was most interested in hearing was Susan Wise Bauer of The Well Trained Mind. She was a life-saver to me this past school year, and it had nothing to do with her classical methodology. I'll write more about that in a later post. Her session on Teaching the REAL Child was hands-down the best homeschool lesson I have ever received. I appreciated that she approached some of the difficulties we are dealing with in our children as symptoms, not sin. Some symptoms point to immaturity, perfectionism, a naturally slower-paced child. Some point to learning disabilities or, even more likely, just a learning style. This session was so helpful, I bought two copies of it to pass around. My fellow moms need to hear it.

The convention-al wisdom was appreciated, but so were the leisurely morning chats at Starbucks, the late nights with no one to put to bed but myself, and the visit to Barnes and Noble that happens only once in a blue moon. I felt just a little bit sorry for the moms who were toting their kids around because I was enjoying the absence of mine so much (which is said with much love). A few people asked me, or my husband, why I was going all the way to Hartford for a homeschool convention. Just as my husband has travelled out of state for training and education in his field of engineering, I don't see it as a strange thing to do the same in my particular profession. Neither does he, good man.

Overall, this convention, right on the heels of finishing a roller-coaster-ride year of school, was mostly a strong dose of confirmation. I am doing a great work. My kids are going to be okay. We have made a lot of the right decisions for them. They will weather the storms of home schooling just as I will. They are people. Little people with all the same needs I have- and I GET to meet those needs to the best of my ability. Oh, I just love it. What a weighty thing, but oh how precious. We are all becoming something more beautiful as we travel this path, together.

Now I always feel inclined to add a little note, perhaps a disclaimer, at the end of one of my homeschool posts. I homeschool because I am called (by God) to do it. I love it. Not everyone is called to do it. You are not a bad mom if you don't homeschool. You might even be a better one if you don't. You may not be able to. You may not want to. You may have never considered it. I think it rocks. You can go ahead and think I have lots of patience and am super smart because I homeschool and I'll go ahead and think your house is immaculate and that you have lots of time to go to the gym, scrapbook, eat bon-bons, and have coffee with your girlfriends because you don't.

Love you ALL girls!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love on a Saturday

Love is:

Letting your husband sleep in after a long work week.

Making a pot of French press, just for him.

Taking your little sister potty so Mommy can work in her flower gardens.

Taking your son's garbage to the dump for him and helping him work on his broken down lawn tractor.

Making the corn chowder without onions for the kids.

Being camera man for yet another movie of your son that makes no sense to you.

Calling to see what your granddaughter wants for her birthday.

Dropping off a few goodies, just because.

Getting your husband a cold glass of water and a can of soda when he syphons gas into his mouth.

Hauling a bucket of weeds to the brush pile for your Mama.

Letting your daughter paint when she asks to.

Reading "I Love You Stinkyface" to your toddler when you are drop dead tired.

Mowing the lawn for your wife even when she has offered to do it.

Saying "Thank you, Lord, for this day."