a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soaps -- Easy, Cheap, and Effective!

Small savings
add up!
Earlier this week I was "on my soapbox" about Traumatic Brain Injuries---begging you to make sure your  loved ones wear helmets when skateboarding, or similar activities.

Keeping with the soapbox-------I know this segue is a huge stretch but humor me here okay?

Last August I gave you a great recipe for Sandy's simple and cheap homemade laundry soap --- which makes enough for washing 72 loads of laundry for $2.00.   Here is the link:                             http://thecreativecheapskate.blogspot.com/2011/08/buyer-be-wiser-latest-scoop.html

The Budget-Conscious Stick Together

From time to time I share parts from Trent Hamm's blog The Simple Dollar.
This month he has a blog on a very similar laundry soap plus another on dish-washing and dish-washer soaps and other cleaners, using basically the same ingredients.

Since Trent and I are on the same page of frugal living I thought it would be a good idea to revisit Sandy's soap and include Trent's suggestions.

Trent's post is part of his year-long blog series  in which he is revisiting the entries from his book "365 Ways to Live Cheap.

The following words are Trent's

"All I do is take a bar of ordinary soap and a box grater, then grate that bar of soap down into a fine powder, about a cup of it. 

To that, I add one cup of washing soda, half a cup of borax, and half a cup of an oxygen cleaner, such as OxiClean, which serves as the surfactant in the detergent. 

I mix this thoroughly in a Ziploc container, then toss in a tablespoon for measuring. Some people like to also add half a cup of baking soda, but I’ve never felt it necessary to get my clothes clean.

When I do a load of laundry, I just scoop two tablespoons of my mix into the washing machine and I’m good to go. This stuff works great – it gets my clothes clean and fresh every time.

So, what does this cost? A single batch of this detergent is enough for 24 loads. To make it, I need one bar of soap, which I can get for $0.30; a cup of washing soda, which I can get for $0.32; a half cup of borax, which I can get for $0.24; and half a cup of OxiClean, which I can get for $0.41. That adds up to a cost of $0.05 per load.

I’ve been extremely happy with this detergent. I’ve used it on all types of clothes – whites, reds, coloreds – and all levels of dirtiness without any problems. I haven’t noticed any significant dinginess over a large number of loads, either.

Making a batch of this powdered detergent doesn’t take a whole lot of time, either. Most of the time is spent grating the soap...After that, you just put the ingredients in a container, shake it thoroughly, and you’re ready to go.

We’ll often make this in quadruple batches. We’ll just grate four bars of soap at once, add four cups of washing soda, two cups of borax, and two cups of OxiClean to the container, and shake it thoroughly. I’ll usually just add a little bit of each ingredient, shake it, and then add a little bit more of each ingredient, repeating the cycle, in order to make sure it’s well-mixed.

How much does this really save? In our house, we do an average of a load of laundry a day – If we’re comparing to generics, then I’m saving approximately $0.10 per load. Over the course of a year, that’s $36.50.If we’re comparing to, say, Tide, we’re saving about $0.27 per load. Over the course of a year, that’s $98.55.

Simply put, we’re saving a hundred dollar bill a year by doing this. To me, that’s well worth the effort of mixing up some powder for about five minutes once every three months or so."

Stop by Monday to learn about simple, cheap and effective dish-washing and other cleaners using basically these same  ingredients.  


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Kids and REAL Employment

Yesterday I addressed our kids, their chores, allowances, and jobs. And promised to continue today with their progression to official employment.

When Romm was not quite 16, a good-sounding position at an office supply store appeared in the newspaper one Saturday. It required a dependable 16-year-old who had a driver's license. Bright and early Monday morning, before school and before the business opened, he slid a letter he had written under the company's door.

In the letter he wrote a little about himself and his qualifications, and that he would be in at 3 p.m. to talk with them.

He arrived promptly at 3 p.m. Once there in person, he told them that he would not be 16 for three more weeks, but that he would be willing to work for them for free until that time.  Was he given the position?
Yes, and was also paid for those three weeks.

They had him go on deliveries with them and the very day he got his driver's license they let him start making the deliveries. (Were they brave or naive?)

He worked there all through high school and then summers when he was home from college.

Passing the buck --- literally!
The time spent with our children in helping them learn to work paid off in another way also---they had already learned how to work when they went to work officially at 16. And, because they were good workers, they were able to recommend their younger siblings as replacements when they moved on to something else.

  • The paper routes were handed down, as were the lawn jobs.
  • Heidi worked in a theater and video game complex. Josh was hired and later Jeremy was hired.
  • Jeremy cleaned an office building on weekends. When he went to college, Luke took over.
  • Luke taught sailing at a local lake. When he went on a mission, Jeremy was back from his and replaced him for the summer.
  • Brin and I even passed on jobs as the library. 
An added bonus was many of the places of employment let members of the worker's family use the facilities for free. 
  • We went to the movies and played video games! 
  • Left our two small sail boats (12 foot "butterflies") rigged and ready to sail at any time! 
  • Had extra coupons from the newspapers! 
  • Didn't have to pay fines on late books! 
  • Used the swimming pool, racquetball and volleyball courts at the fitness center. (from yesterday's post)
This final section tells of things we did before the time of the real employment --- but it fits better here!

But all work and no play --- No way!

Because our budget was limited we often played at the park, took walks, camped and swam. We attended free outdoor concerts and activities. Movies, zoos, museums and other commercial attractions were visited during free or reduced-rate times. Two-for-one coupons were used whenever possible. We packed our own lunch and usually provided our own snacks.

One of the most creative times was when we, after collecting a variety of coupons, let each one choose the coupon for what they wanted to eat, and after driving to each fast food place, we all went to the park for our picnic.

Another time, while traveling on vacation, we gave each one a couple of dollars (remember, this was a long time ago), stopped at a large grocery store and each bought their own meal (and back then, grocery stores didn't have take-out food. It was fun to see the wide variety of choices.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Kids and Chores, Allowances and Jobs

Our children were required to do chores around the home and yard
as part of being members of our household.
We also gave each of them small allowances, no strings attached,
for the same reason --- they were a part of our family. 
We tried various chore charts and ways of making assignments, most of which stand out as being neither extremely spectacular nor very  effective. That was usually because Dave and I weren't good at remembering to make the assignment changes each week!

With this chore chart, the assignments didn't change:

The chart we finally settled on had each child with different responsibilities on each DAY of the week, (rather than a weekly and weekly-changing assignment) with a plus of one free or light day scheduled for each child.

We tried to get all of Saturday's chores done early so we could have lots of free time, but as they got older they preferred to take their free time in the mornings----sleeping in. We didn't do chores on Sunday.

Like I mentioned in the caption, each child also got a small allowance. Even though it wasn't a large amount, we taught them to save half.

When the allowance wasn't enough:

On occasion even the youngest kids would have need of additional funds. When that occurred we would come up with extra things they could do around the house or yard to earn money. These were JOBS.

As they got older their financial needs increased faster than our income increased. We would all put our heads together to come up with ways that one, some, or all could earn extra money.

When our oldest were 11 and 12 they cared for homes, yards and pets while neighbors and friends were on vacation. They earned enough money to fly to California to visit their grandparents.

Among other things, the next four contracted lawn mowing jobs, delivered fliers and had paper routes. All the kids "babysat." (Boys really like to have guys stay with them!)

As a family we would find part-time evening jobs so the kids could earn extra money (still saving half). We cleaned and painted the inside of an old house. It was hard work but we earned enough money to go to Disneyland.

Over a period of years, our last three sons were employed to clean a fitness club, a manufacturing plant and an insurance company. Most of these required our help, and if not our help, at least our time and transportation. We were ecstatic and very tired by the time the youngest one turned 16----but it was all worth it.

"Tune In" tomorrow for their ventures into REAL employment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simply Gail is on her Soapbox* . . .

*Soapbox: any improvised platform used by a person making an informal, often impassioned, speech to a street blog audience.

and it's serious stuff I'm about to ask of you. 

All of you!

Especially any of you who have children. Especially any of you who have children who ride bicycles, skateboards, scooters, long boards, tricycles, or anything like unto them.

And not just children. You. Your spouse. Your parents. Your friends. This problem is no respecter of persons.


No, not a concussion or minor brain damage. A traumatic brain injury! Once every 21 seconds!

What am I asking, you ask? 

Helmets!!! Make them mandatory. Make them a habit. Don't renege. Never. Never.

Fourteen years ago, at this exact time of year Dave and I were on our way to serve on a remote atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. Six months later (and 18 months earlier than planned) we were hurrying home to our youngest son. He suffered his TBI while traveling an estimated 30 mph, down a hill, on a long board (fast skate board).

We were told, via fax, that if he lived he would be a vegetable. They anticipated he would remain in intensive care for 30 days. It took us six days, by way of four countries, to reach his side.He had miraculously been moved out of the intensive care unit the day we arrived. When our oldest son picked us up at the  airport with the ICU report he told us not to get too excited by that news. When we arrived at the hospital we saw why. He had advanced to the stage of the most primitive of robots. As the saying goes, "the lights were on but no one was home."

Nearing the end of his Intensive Care Unit stay --- over half of the "hook-ups"
and tubes have been removed. Though still unconscious, Brin was strong enough to
break loose from all his restraining bands. Our oldest son refused to let them restrain
him with leather straps, and our other sons took turns staying with him 24-7.

Some days later I sat watching him while he slept and I literally saw him "return." I cannot define it any better than that. It was a very spiritual experience. There is no doubt in our minds that Heavenly Father was there every step of the way. He still is.

Our son was a miracle. He made progress each day ---- relearning to walk---speak--- swallow --- eat---read---write and---- just plain function. 

Though scary, it was also fascinating. He spoke fluent Spanish and his very first words, uttered in the middle of the night, were in Spanish. His nurse hurried to seek out a Spanish-speaking employee to come talk to him. 

He advanced approximately one year in age per week for the next few months----certainly an interesting experience.

While he continued to be a miracle, this moment of folly extracted an immediate heavy payment. He had just started into the National Guard, training as a medic on his way to becoming a member of the Army's Special Forces. That dream was crushed----along with his head.

As he came off the long board he landed flat on the back of his head, shattering the base of his skull, suffering a skull fracture from that base to above the right temple, and a gash that took over 125 stitches to close.

In spite of all this damage to the back and side of his head, the major damage was caused by the concussion to the frontal lobe. Among other things, the frontal lob controls decision-making and impulsivity. 

The injury caused him to lose his sense of smell. That may not seem very important until you stop and think of the impact that loss would have on your day-to-day life. Think how many warnings, emotions and memories are invoked by scent.

He was released from the hospital 21 days after the accident and continued outpatient therapy for several months.

Still most definitely a living miracle, there was residual damage that affected his employment and many other aspects of his life for a long time. . .Things you probably wouldn't recognize unless you had known him before the accident. 

Many doctors and therapists and programs helped him reach his potential---line upon line and precept upon precept. 

Yes, his injury was so severe that a helmet wouldn't have prevented the head injury but it would have cushioned and lessened it. This long, hard, tedious, and frustrating road did not have to be.

While still in the hospital, his neuro-psychologist sadly reported the teenage son of a close friend also went off a long board but---he didn't make it.



Proper fitting helmets!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Osmosis! and my Theory on Child-Raising

Osmosis: 1) diffusion through a semipermeable membrane typically separating a solvent and a solution that tends to equalize their concentrations and 2) a process of absorption or diffusion.
(Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary)

Remember high school biology class? Where you learned that plants live by osmosis?

While it's not applicable with the first child, I am positive that siblings learn through a similar osmotic process!

I know it sounds crazy, but stay with me here, okay?

Our oldest children griped that the younger ones "never got into trouble." They didn't understand why. They didn't realize they themselves taught the younger ones many of the basic do's and don'ts of the family.

  • When Heidi was three and Romm two, we had a special outing planned. They were really excited. We had to eat dinner first and it was something they didn't like. They dawdled! The clock was ticking. We told them they had 15 minutes to finish their meal or we would call a babysitter and go without them. Romm finished. Heidi did not. We left her home with the sitter. Although it was hard for us to do, Heidi learned that when we said something, we meant it---a lesson she always remembered.
  • One day Heidi asked me for a piece of candy. I told her no. She went to her dad and asked him. He said "yes," but when he came into the kitchen to get it, her ploy was discovered. She didn't get the candy but she was disciplined, and she never again tried to pit one parent against the other.
We actually heard Heidi and Romm pass these words of wisdom on to their younger brothers: "Dad and Mom mean what they say. If one says no, don't ask the other!"

Of course they tried to learn, through trial and error, which parent to approach to receive the particular answer they wanted. Sometimes they were successful. Sometimes that backfired!
  • Another time the kids were playing under the ping pong table. Later there were telltale marks on top of the table (an advantage of accumulated dust) but, amazingly, no one knew who walked on it. Taking my clue from the fairy tale Cinderella---the part where the prince tried the glass slipper on the foot of every young woman in his kingdom searching for the one it fit---it was easy to identify the table-walking culprit because the footprints fit perfectly! The denial hurt Heidi much more than the admission would have!
  • Still another time, then two-year-old Josh kept coming upstairs after he was sent to bed. After the second or third time we told him he would receive a spanking if he came up again. A few minutes later Josh bounded up the stairs but...he did not receive the promised spanking --- Heidi and Romm did. We were stationed by the doorway waiting for Josh's return and overheard the older two, urging him, in conspiratorial whispers, back up the stairs.
They probably didn't share everything with each other and it took some of them longer to learn than it did others; but, it is true that the younger ones didn't get in as much trouble as the older ones.

Along with the osmotic process of learning, Dave and I were learning more about parenting. We realized that some things that we thought were horrible with the first kids were really no big deal. Pacifiers and thumbs come immediately to mind. From "Not our kid" when the subject of pacifiers was brought up while I was pregnant with Heidi, to "Here let me help you get that thumb in your mouth," with subsequent infants.

Isn't is amazing first kids survive at all?

I naively use to believe that we raised all our kids the same way. No way! Nor can it really be, nor should it be, that way. They are not the same. There is not a mold. They are not clones. Physical characteristics may be similar, and their way of doing things may develop along the home-learned pattern but they are individuals with individual personalities, dispositions, abilities and needs. 

Plus, we are not the same parents with the first child as we are with the "middles" and definitely not with the last. My sister is the oldest and the things she tells me about our parents are not the stories (or parents) that I new and grew up with!

Heidi did survive being the first child and is now the mother of four. I close with a wise quote from one of her long-ago college professors in a child development class:

"Fairness across the board is stupid. Don't be fair; be best for each kid."

Originally from Desert Saints Magazine, February 2003