This simple diaper basket helps me save time each day. Minimizing decisions through simple solutions helps so much!

Save Time with a Diaper Basket

I’m a huge fan of minimizing decisions and making life easy. In fact, I developed a course about doing just that to help other freelancing/blogging moms. That’s why I had to come up with a solution for diapers.

You see, I currently have three in diapers. Owen, Simon, and Brynna. They’re all in different sizes. And digging through boxes for diapers was taking too much time each day.

I knew I needed a streamlined solution. A way to make it easy to:

    • Grab a diaper when I needed it
    • Let the kids grab a diaper easily
    • Have all three sizes stored together so everything was in one place
    • Have the wipes handy too.
  • I needed an easy to maintain solution. Because it was taking far to long to dig for diapers each day. It was also too easy for the kids to grab the wrong size inadvertently, because Simon’s and Brynna’s diapers look very similar.

    We needed a solution.

    Introducing My Diaper Basket

    I took a large basket I found at Goodwill. Every morning, I grab a stack of size 3s, a stack of size 4s, and a stack of the larger diapers and put them in the basket. They fit nicely, sorted by size.

    diaper basket plain

    The basket also holds a pack of wipes. It’s everything I need for a diaper change, all in one place.

    I love it!

    The kids can easily see the sizes. They know where the wipes go if they see them left out. Everything has a home.

    And by giving our diapers and wipes a home, we save time. They’re It’s amazing how much impact a little organization can have on your whole day.

    Organization and minimizing decisions doesn’t have to be complicated. Often it’s just a matter of rearranging things a bit and being prepared for what you know will happen.

    Is there anything in your life that’s taking too much time or causing unneeded stress? Take a couple minutes to look at it from a new perspective and see if there’s a way to tackle it. My diaper basket doesn’t take much time to prep each morning. But it sure helped me be prepared throughout the day.

    Have you recently organized something to save time? I’d love to hear about it!

    Homeschool plans for the summer. Here's what we'll be learning once school's out.

    Homeschool Plans for Summer

    We’re getting ready to wrap up our school year. Bryan’s grandparents are coming to town, and their arrival marks the end of our official school calendar.

    But, learning never ends around here. So I’ve been making homeschool plans for the summer. Here’s what we’ll be working on, both as a family, and as individuals.

    Family Studies

    We’ll continue having our daily Bible times. We meet as a family in the morning and evening each day. We sing the hymn we’re memorizing, recite our annual memory passage and add a new verse if applicable (this year was Phil. 2.) Then we share a Bible story, or some verses that we’ve been thinking about lately. Of course, we end by counting our blessings.

    Unit Studies
    I’m joining forces with another homeschooling mom of seven to create homeschool unit studies. I’ll be testing these out on my kids over the summer.

    A Trip?
    We’re also tentatively planning a trip to the Portland Zoo. It’ll be a fun family learning trip. And the first out of town trip in our school bus!

    Gardening
    I’m not a gardener. I tend to grow weeds and kill plants.

    But, I want the kids to know how to garden. So we’re planting another garden. It’ll keep everyone busy this summer!

    Jayme

    Photoshop
    Jayme loves drawing on her computer. But, she prefers using Paint. That’s because she hasn’t experimented much with Photoshop. Bryan and I have been showing her how much more control she’ll have in Photoshop. So, she’ll have some scheduled time this summer with us to play with it.

    Math
    She didn’t quite finish up her math course this year. I’m not worried, because kids in the public school never actually finish the books.

    But, I don’t want her to forget anything either. So she and Bryan have a weekly math night. I’m so thankful for a husband who’s good at higher levels of math!

    Owen

    We’re really working on some sensory things with Owen. He has a sensory sack that he loves being in. I’ve noticed when I put him in there with his iPad, he’s able to better focus on the actual options on there and not get so overwhelmed.

    So we’re going to try some basic matching games via the iPad this summer. We’ll see how it goes!

    We’re also working on self-feeding some more. Because I’d love him to get better at that so I can stop feeding him.

    Jeffrey

    Jeff needs to practice his reading and handwriting this summer. So, he and I will have reading dates with hot cocoa on the chilly mornings. On hot days, I think he’ll enjoy sitting on the porch swing and reading.

    He’ll also be my list maker this summer. Since I actually have to be able to read what he writes, it’ll be good practice.

    He still needs to finish up his phonics book as well, so he’ll do a couple of pages twice a week. It’ll help keep everything fresh in his mind!

    Ellie

    Ellie will be finishing up her math and phonics book over the summer. She’ll do just a couple of pages once or twice a week. Just enough to keep her learning.

    She’ll also be reading with me. She likes to read while I make dinner. I’m looking forward to it!

    Sydney

    Sydney will be practicing writing her name and the letters to get her prepped for kindergarten next year. Well, technically she won’t be 5 until the end of November. So she’s still a full year away from officially being in kindergarten. But, that’s okay. She loves working on school!

    She’ll also do some basic math practice through board games. My favorite way to learn!

    Simon

    Simon is going to learn about the potty. Because he really doesn’t like it much right now. And I don’t want another school year with him in diapers.

    So he will be potty trained by fall.

    Being able to pee outside in the summer helped Jeff learn at this age, so I’m hoping that tactic works with Simon as well. Yet another reason I love living where I do!

    Brynna

    My sweet little girl. As the baby of the family, she’ll be getting lots of loving this summer. She also likes to dig in the dirt, so I’m sure she’ll do some of that!

    Lisa

    Can’t forget myself–I love learning! Over the summer, I want to write another curriculum for young kids. This one will be Teaching Writing Through Play. It’ll compliment the course I have up over on Schoolhouse Teachers.

    I also want to create some more play things for the kids with all of these tires we have in the junk pile. Might as well put them to use. As I get them finished, I’ll be sure to post tutorials and pics!

    What homeschool plans for summer do you have? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments.

    shopping in real life

    Once a Month Shopping Trip: In Real Life

    You know how I was prepping for my once a month shopping trip last week? Well, surprise, surprise. Things didn’t actually go as planned.

    So this post shares a good dose of reality. No matter how prepared we think we are, things will go wrong. You might as well count on that!

    Are you ready to learn how my shopping trip went down?

    First, I decided to take the Suburban instead of the bus. I don’t really know why–but that was not the right thing to do!

    You see, Owen was in a mood. He was in a “I don’t want to be strapped in my seat” kind of mood. And in the Suburban, we fill every seat. So he was really close to someone.

    That someone was Jeffrey. And Owen started really picking on him. Well, putting Jeffrey in a headlock would be a more accurate description.

    We all (barely) survived the trip in. We tackled our first store, and I was thinking that despite the rocky start we were actually going to get this shopping thing done.

    And then it happened.

    Jeffrey started coughing. And he kept coughing so hard that he puked.

    All over Ellie.

    The poor thing. I think I might have felt more sorry for my little girly girl sitting there with puke all over her than I did for the poor puking boy.

    It was bad.

    To make matters worse, I didn’t have a towel or anything like that in the car. The only thing we had was Ellie’s special blanket that she wraps her special toy in.

    Can you see where this one is going?

    Yes. I used that special blanket to clean up puke. Just enough so we could make it home.

    I don’t remember much about that return trip. I think my brain has purposefully blocked it forever. I don’t blame it! It was a disaster.

    The car smelled like puke. Two kids were covered in puke. And one was screaming because I’d contaminated her special blanket.

    I wasn’t brave enough to try that shopping thing again until today.

    And I would have put it off even longer, but Owen is sick and I had to go pick up meds in Spokane.

    Today, I left several little ones home with my dad and Jayme. I tackled those stores like a mad-woman, and packed everything into the back of the Suburban.

    Here’s what it looked like–filled to the brim! Except (are you ready for some more reality?)

    I hadn’t yet thrown the pizzas on top. Because after shopping all day, and remembering the struggle from last week–the idea of cooking made me want to scream. So imagine a couple of Winco pizzas up on top.

    my shopping trip in real life picture.

    Life doesn’t always go as we plan. And that’s okay. No matter how prepared we are, life happens.

    We just have to take it one day at a time, and remember that God knows all about it. He’s there for us and will give us strength to get through each day. Even when we’re driving home with puking, screaming kids. And even if we have to take an extra trip to town to actually go shopping.

    What to Do Before a Once a Month Shopping Trip to Make it a Success. Click to read.

    What to Do Before a Once a Month Shopping Trip

    We’ve been doing this once a month shopping thing for a long time now. I still love it.

    Since tomorrow is our shopping day, I wanted to share my seven must-dos before we leave. Here’s what we’re doing today to make tomorrow a success:

    7 Once a Month Shopping Tips for the Day Before

    1. Clean the fridge

    It’s so frustrating to come home from a long day of shopping and have nowhere to put our groceries.

    I’ve been there and done that. The food sits out even longer. My attitude takes a nose dive. It’s not a pretty sight.

    I learned my lesson. I now ensure that both fridges are cleaned up and have lots of room. It makes putting away a month’s worth of food so much easier!

    2. Organize the Cupboards

    It’s so nice to put things away in a clean cupboard. Otherwise, I have a tendency to just shove the new things in without any order. That makes it so hard to find what I need!

    I’m trying to keep a first in, first out style of inventory in my pantry cupboards. That means before each shopping trip I push the old things to the front.

    When I put away the new ones, they just slip in right behind and I don’t have to think about it.

    3. Check the Calendar

    Each month has something going on. If I don’t take time to check the calendar, I’ll be unprepared for events as they come up.

    For May, we have a potluck at church, a birthday, family coming to town, and a gathering with a potluck.

    That means I need to add birthday presents and wrapping paper, paper plates and plastic utensils, and ingredients for a simple potluck dish to my list.

    4. Update My Shopping List

    I love my annual meal plan–it has made grocery shopping so easy. That’s because I use the same list each month.

    But, there are still things I have to do to update my once a month shopping list. I have a section for adding toiletries, household supplies, and items for events. I have the kids help me check our current inventories and we add to the list as needed.

    I also update how many of each item I need to buy. There are some items that last us several months (like a bottle of vanilla) and others that we need several of each month. I make sure to get an accurate number for each item on my list.

    .5. Pack the Diaper Bag

    Having to buy a new outfit for the baby and a pack of diapers at our first stop isn’t the best way to start a shopping spree.

    Just saying.

    Pack the diaper bag. You won’t regret it!

    6. Clean the Bus

    We need room to put all our stuff. Taking time to clean the vehicle makes the trip more pleasant, and means I can buy what I need without having to cram it into the seats with the kids.

    7. Print the Shopping List, Put it in My Purse

    Do you know how many times I’ve updated my shopping list and then left it in the printer? Way too many!

    So now I print it out the day before and put it in my purse. If I forget my purse, I have bigger issues. And we won’t talk about those!

    How often do you grocery shop?

    Do you have any prep tips that make your shopping day easier?

    Our 10 Favorite Quiet Time Activities

    10 Favorite Quiet Time Activities

    Routines help our days go smoothly. Our daily quiet time is one of those routines. We all love it–time to pursue individual interests, enjoy some peace, and just rest.

    As the kids get older, our quiet time activities are slowly changing.

    The younger kids still nap, but the middles and big are doing their own things. They’re becoming more responsible, and are able to enjoy a bigger variety of activities.

    Here are 10 of our favorite quiet time activities. I hope it gives you some inspiration of ways to keep your kids engaged during quiet time!

    10. Practicing Piano

    Jayme took piano lessons for a few years. While she no longer participates in lessons, she still enjoys playing. Each day she spends about thirty minutes learning new songs, playing her favorites, and just enjoying the music.

    I’m going to participate in a beta test of a program to teach your child piano with Ellie, so I imagine she’ll start spending time practicing as well!

    9. Making a Project

    The kids all love crafting! They’ll drag out an empty box, construction paper, crayons, scissors, and glue and get to work.

    Ellie’s made a pizza delivery car. Jeffrey made a Mario level to run his cutouts through. Sydney created a barn and cut out animals to play with.

    It’s amazing what a few supplies, a little time, and their imagination can create.

    The kids always want to do art during quiet time, but I limit them each to one day a week to keep the mess down! They’re responsible for cleaning their mess.

    8. Playing Wii

    Each child gets 1/2 an hour on the game pad on their day each week. They love it! They can play any game, though they’ve been loving the Mario Maker game lately.

    Jeffrey has been working hard on creating levels that don’t require Mario to move at all. Auto levels we call them. Such a great way to get him thinking while he thinks it’s all about play!

    7. Reading or Listening to Books on Tape

    Yes, I said tape. As in cassettes. When a local teacher retired, we inherited hundreds of children’s books on tape. We have one cassette player that still works.

    Jeff and Ellie enjoy this activity the most. Sydney’s still doesn’t have the hang of operating the player so it’s not a good independent activity for her. Yet.

    Usually the kids will listen to books in the playroom with a handful of paper and crayons to color while listening.

    6. Playing a Game

    We’ve created solo rules for most of the games we own. That way a kid can pull out a board or card game and stay engaged during quiet time.

    It’s one of my favorite quiet time activities!

    These games work well (aff. links):

    Racoon Rumpus

    Snorta

    Pictopia: Disney Edition

    Mouse Trap (setting up the trap solo)

    Jenga (they love playing with blocks!)

    5. Coding/Computer Art

    This is Jayme’s favorite activity. She loves having an extended period of time to write her codes, work on her drawings, and more on her computer.

    Occasionally I’ll let Jeff or Ellie play on PBS kids on my computer. I’m sure they’ll enjoy more computer time as they get older.

    4. Train Tracks

    The kids all love getting out the train tracks and setting something up. We’ve lost the train that actually goes with our set, but they have fun driving a variety of cars or other toy trains over it.

    This is Simon’s absolute favorite! Though he normally naps, if he slept late in the morning I’ll let him play for quiet time. The tracks keep him engaged for at least an hour!

    3. Creating Worlds

    We have so many sets of toys. My Little Ponies. Rescue Bots. Paw Patrol. The kids love bringing them all out, and creating a giant world where all of their favorites work together.

    It’s a great way to get the toys a bit more loving while the kids use their imagination to their heart’s content!

    2. Crocheting

    Jayme knows how to crochet, and she enjoys getting out the yarn and her hook. She typically just makes scarves for the toys, or a tiny blanket for one of her sister’s dolls.

    I’ll let her start a DVD in her laptop and she sits at the table watching that while she works. It’s a great way for her to practice this skill while she doesn’t have to worry about Owen or Brynna coming over and tangling up her yarn.

    Ellie is super interested in sewing and crocheting as well, so I imagine that’ll be one of her favorites when she gets a bit bigger.

    1. Bring Out the Homeschooling Manipulatives

    Pattern blocks.
    Unifex cubes.
    Puzzles.

    The kids love bringing out the learning supplies Instead of having to “do school” with them, they get to have free play. It’s so much fun to watch them learn on their own!

    What are your family’s favorite quiet time activities? I’d love to have you share in the comments!

    Think you're too busy for owning a milk cow? Here's how I'm handling it!

    A Busy Mom’s Guide to Owning a Milk Cow

    We brought home our first milk cow in 2012. When she freshened, I dutifully began milking her twice a day.

    After all–that’s what you have to do, right?

    Then I learned about once a day milking. I took the plunge, and discovered I LOVED milking even more. Freeing up the evenings was an amazing experience.

    Except I was still bottle feeding the baby calves. And I was pretty much tied to the farm during milking season.

    Until now.

    This milking season, we’ve taken an overnight trip and I’ve skipped several milking sessions with no consequences.

    How?

    By using shared milking.

    Shared Milking

    I first read about shared milking over on Chickens in the Road. In that post, Suzanne described an “optional” milking season.

    I’ve been thinking about shared milking for a long time. This year, I took the plunge.

    Our calves are now doing a lot of my milking. They haven’t had a single bottle yet.

    Time saved? Absolutely!

    Why Now?

    I’ve been milking for several years now, so what made me change?

    Well, as the kids get older, life is getting busier. We want to purposefully build memories with the kids. Did you know that Jayme is already 14? We only have a few precious years left.

    I don’t want to spend all of those years tied to the farm. We have many trips we want to take, things we want to do, and memories we want to build.

    But, I love having milk and knowing that we’re raising our own meat each year. Such cost savings right there–for highly nutritious food!

    Look at that lovely milk!
    We just love having the fresh milk!

    Since I’ve never considered myself a conventional farmer, I’ve been open to new ways of doing things. Including how to milk a cow!

    Also, Maggie has turned into a worthless milk cow for me. She sucks her own milk. I don’t get any of hers.

    So if I had to feed both calves from Annie’s milk, I wouldn’t actually get any. I’d be doing a lot of work just to feed the babies. Something that both my cows are doing a good job at.

    See why I was eager to try something new?

    Owning a Milk Cow with Shared Milking

    So what exactly is shared milking, and what does it look like?

    Here’s my basic definition:

    Shared milking is when I take some of my cow’s milk, and allow her calf to take the rest.

    She raises her calf. I get milk for the family.

    Here’s How We Do It

    Every evening, I bring Maggie and both calves in from the pasture. I lock them up in a holding pen.

    I tried leaving Maggie out–but she started sucking on Annie so that arrangement had to end!

    Once those three are locked up for the night, I turn Annie back onto the pasture.

    Overnight, she fills up with milk. In the morning, I bring her into the milking parlor and give her some grain.

    I wash her teats and start milking. I take all of the milk from two teats. I’m currently getting just over a gallon a day from just two teats!

    While Annie’s still in a stanchion, I let Maggie and the two babies back onto the pasture. Then I set Annie free.

    Bolt, her calf, runs right over and starts nursing the two teats I left. He has free access to his mama all day long. Then at night, I lock him back up.

    Our calves are getting so big on this method!

    I love seeing the baby calves and mama cows out on the pasture together. The two steer calves run all over the place, with way more room than they ever have had in a pen.

    This is a busy mom’s method of owning a milk cow, let me tell you.

    If I ever don’t want to milk, or we want to get away, I just either lock all four cows up at night, or leave them all out on the pasture.

    Bolt takes care of the milking for me. I enjoy extra time with the family.

    Here’s My Plan for the Remainder of the Milking Season

    I plan on turning our bull out in June to do his duties. I don’t think there’ll be a problem with him and the calves. I see bulls running with calves all the time! But, I’ll definitely keep a close eye on them just in case.

    When the calves are about six months old, I’ll bring them in for weaning. Our pasture will be drying up about that time anyways.

    I’ll give Maggie “Tomorrow” treatment to dry her up at the same time.

    I’ll keep milking Annie, but only in the morning. I’ll just move from milking two teats to milking all four.

    In November, I’ll dry her up too and enjoy a winter without milking.

    My routine will start again next March with a new set of calves.

    Let me tell you–shared milking has changed everything I ever thought I knew about owning a milk cow. It’s way more family friendly than what I was doing before!

    Do you have a milk cow? Have you ever tried shared milking? I’d love to hear your experiences!

    birthday pancakes

    Happy Birthday Pancakes

    Today’s Ellie’s 6th birthday. I can’t believe how big all my kids are getting!
    Ellie's birthday

    On birthdays, my kids get to pick the meals. Ellie requested pancakes for breakfast.

    Since we typically enjoy pancakes each week, I wanted to make these ones special.

    So I whipped up some lightly sweetened cream cheese frosting. I just combined an 8 oz pack of cream cheese, 1/2 a stick of butter, and 1 cup of powdered sugar in my mixer. I let it run for five minutes so it was super creamy.

    Then I stirred in a cup of frozen blueberries. They turned it a lovely purple color.

    Once the pancakes were done, I plated them to look like a two-layer cake.

    How to Plate Happy Birthday Pancakes

    First put a pancake on the plate.

    Then add thin layer of frosting over the top.

    Put another pancake on top of the frosting.

    Add more frosting to the top.

    If desired, add a ring of whipped cream and extra blueberries. That makes it even more special!

    Here’s a pic before I was inspired to add the extra blueberries and whipped cream. I love how chunky the frosting was with the blueberries. They added a great fruity element to the meal!

    Birthday Breakfast Pancakes

    Yum! What a special birthday breakfast!

    What else are we doing to celebrate Ellie’s special day?

    Let me see:

    Enjoying a day without school.
    Having a lazy day (which means watching a lot of TV & snuggling).
    Cooking corndogs for dinner–a special treat around here!
    Celebrating with cake, ice cream, and presents.
    Enjoying time as a family.

    I love making birthdays special. We want our kids to know they’re special and we’re thankful for them being a part of the family.

    I think these birthday pancakes will be a new tradition. The kids loved them!

    What do you do to celebrate birthdays in your family? We’re always looking to add new traditions. I’d love for you to share in the comments!

    Bathroom remodel update.

    Bathroom Remodel: Update

    It was a long weekend, and I’ve enjoyed relaxing a bit more this week! We worked hard on our unexpected bathroom remodel project. I’m excited about the changes taking place in this room!

    Our demolition portion went mostly as planned. Except we took a slight detour. 

    Move the Wall?

    We realized that if we moved the wall separating out bathroom and utility room just 26 inches, we’d be able to turn out bathtub and gain serious space in the bathroom. 

    We’d even be able to move the washer and dryer in there, like we’ve talked about doing many times before.

    We thought it’d be the perfect time to move the wall. After all, the bathroom was currently being remodeled. 

    But, after we took down the sheetrock in the bathroom, we realized that there was no way we could stay on budget and on track time wise if we added that work. So, we decided just to put the bathtub back where it was. 

    At first I was disappointed. Moving the wall really seemed like a great solution. 

    But, looking back now I’m glad we didn’t do it. Moving another wall and having to clean out the utility room would have taxed our available energy. We would have slowed WAY down. 

    Back to the Bathroom Remodel

    Once we decided not to move the wall, we jumped back into the current project full-steam ahead. 

    We couldn’t remove the tub from the room, as it wouldn’t fit through the door. We originally brought it in when the wall was torn down.

    That meant we had to lay our linoleum on one half of the room first. Once we glued that side down and rolled it smooth, my step-dad helped Bryan lift the tub over the roll of flooring and onto the finished side.

    Then, Bryan continued the flooring process. 

    We were able to:

    • Replace the floor board with dry rot
    • Place the new flooring
    • Replumb the toilet, sink, and tub
    • Install a Splash Guard on one side of the tub

    We still need to:

    • Sheetrock
    • Sand/Tape
    • Paint

    We are making a trip to town for the sheetrock tomorrow night. We were planning on buying locally, but the green board (water resistant) is more than double the cost per sheet if we buy it here. That price makes the gas money worthwhile to take a trip to Spokane. 

    Bryan is hoping to get all the rock up on Friday night and give it a coat of mud. 

    Then, he can sand and remud on Saturady. 

    If all goes well, it’ll be ready for painting early next week. We’re going with purple again. 

    We’re also talking about installing a vinyl wainscoting around the lower half of the room to add further water protection.  We don’t want to have to do another bathroom remodel anytime soon.

    How’s the Budget Shaping Up?

    Our goal was to keep remodeling expenses under $1000. We’ve currently spent $700, and should stay under budget even after buying sheetrock, mud, tape, paint, and wainscoting.

    We were able to find a remnant of linoleum that fit the bathroom for only $86. That gave us some serious savings.

    Because of that, we were able to invest in a new sink. We were planning on reusing the old one, but we opted to buy a larger one. It provides essential storage, and will allow us to get rid of some ugly plastic storage. I’m excited!

    Here’s a pic of my husband installing our pretty new sink:
    IMG_5954
    Otherwise, our expenses were:

    • Lumber for the floor and wall by the shower we had to replace
    • New tub plumbing since the old ones were broken
    • All the piping and connections needed
    • Flooring
    • Wax seal for the toilet
    • Glue for the flooring
    • Nails and screws
    • A drill bit
    • Splash guard for the tub
    • Caulking. Lots and lots of caulking.

    And probably some other things I can’t think of. The small things really add up in a bathroom remodel!

    It’s looking good though–I’m excited to see it finished this weekend! And thankfully, we were only without a working toilet for a couple of hours.

    What do you think of our flooring? I like it!

    IMG_5953

    Are you tackling any home improvement projects? I’d love to hear about it!

    dry rot

    Dry Rot Leads to Unscheduled Bathroom Project

    Like most children with Angelman Syndrome, Owen loves his baths.

    He loves splashing!

    Now that he’s getting bigger and stronger, he can really flood the bathroom. And he has. Time and time again.

    It’s hard to keep him from doing it no matter how hard I try. He’s very strong!

    Over time, some of that water found it’s way underneath the flooring. It caused dry rot.

    Yes, that’s as gross as it sounds!

    So tonight, Bryan pulled off some more of the flooring so we could assess the damage. It’s definitely not as bad as it could be.

    But, it still needs addressed. So we’re spending the next few evenings and Saturday doing bathroom demolition and repairing.

    We’re trying to leave our bathroom as usable as possible throughout this process. It’s our only one, and there are a lot of us who need to use it!

    Tonight, Bryan took out the sheetrock around the shower. We’ll pull the shower/tub unit out later to remove all of the rotten floor board.

    removing the sheetrock around the shower.

    He also got a good portion of the floor exposed.

    It’s amazing how much progress can be made on a large project in one evening after work! I love having a man who isn’t afraid of hard work, he’s such a blessing.

    Here’s Our Plan for Keeping this Project as Inexpensive as Possible

    • Do the work ourselves
    • Reuse all the big components–tub, toilet, sink
    • Lay solid laminate flooring (like we did in the kitchen) to prevent future damage
    • Purchase the wood locally so we don’t have to drive the truck to Spokane

    What’s Our Plan for Getting This Dry Rot Taken Care of Quickly?

    Well, honestly, we’re playing it a bit by ear still. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we pull out the shower.

    Our goals are to:

    • Finish tearing the damaged part of the bathroom out tomorrow
    • Leave the toilet in place as long as possible
    • Make a run to Spokane for everything but wood on Friday
    • Hit it hard on Saturday, taking everything out
    • Hopefully get everything reinstalled by Saturday evening
    • Paint once the weather warms up a bit and it’ll dry faster

    But sometimes our plans don’t go like we plan. So we’ll just do the best we can.

    I’m thankful that my parents, right across the road, have two bathrooms. We’ll be using them at least on Saturday!

    Why Did We Start This Now?

    What made us jump into a bathroom project right now? Honestly, it’s because it’s a good time to get it done.

    My Dad, who lives with us, is away for several weeks right now. That’s what finally made us take the plunge.

    You see, none of us mind running over to my Mom’s to use the bathroom. But, asking Dad to go to his ex-wife’s house just seemed too strange.

    So tonight it was. It’s good timing. It’s time to get rid of the dry rot.

    Yes, it’d have been easier over the summer. But, easier isn’t always the right path!

    I’ll be sure to share after pictures once we get it all put back together!

    Are you taking on any house projects this spring? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

    6 Ways My Child with Special Needs Improved My Homeschooling

    6 Ways My Child with Special Needs Improved My Homeschooling

    The iPad’s beeping annoyingly, as a child pushes yet another incorrect button. A YouTube Video streams on my oldest child’s computer, and a couple of my youngest learners are playing with alphabet blocks.

    Welcome to my homeschool! It’s nothing like I ever dreamed of.

    As a former teacher, I used to envision a perfectly arranged home classroom complete with decorated bulletin boards, individual desks, and maps on the walls. In my dreams, my children gathered in the morning for a group story, and then moved quietly to individual instruction while I worked with each one throughout the day.

    When my oldest son, Owen, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, epilepsy, severe sleep disorder and Pica, my homeschool dreams changed. Quickly. Homeschooling a child with special needs is not usually something we dream about. It’s an unexpected life event.

    I tried to pull it off. We’d be reading a book and Owen would try to rip the pages so he could eat them. His never ending doctor appointments took a lot of time away from schooling. I was constantly stressed.

    It was time for a new plan.

    Six Ways Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs Improved My Teaching

    Here’s several specific ways I adapted my homeschool to be more inclusive. For all of my learners.

    1. I Include More Videos

    I used to think that watching videos for school was cheating. I preferred my kids to read books, and to research when they needed to learn more.

    Then, I realized that Owen paid close attention to the TV when it was on after school. So I started doing a quick internet search for videos related to the science or social studies topics on the schedule. I found a ton—and all of the kids loved them!

    In fact, they recalled information from the videos that they couldn’t after just reading. Involving multiple senses in learning really is a good thing!

    2. I Integrate More Technology

    Owen loves his iPad. In fact, we’re hoping that someday he’ll be able to use it to communicate. For now, he enjoys interacting with the technology. He’s gained some great fine motor skills.

    I’ve started downloading more apps. I encourage my other kids to play on the iPad with Owen throughout the day—working on those learning apps together.

    I keep my eyes peeled for technological ways to reinforce or introduce concepts. We use the computer, electronic toys, and more. Technology is a fun way to practice!

    3. I’ve Gotten More Creative with My Literary Environment

    I love teaching reading—I even earned my master’s in elementary reading and literacy. My classroom library came home, and I was so excited to arrange all my books in cute baskets around the home.

    But, books and Owen don’t get along. He destroys them. So I’ve had to get creative in creating a literary environment for my children.

    Now we have an alphabet train running along the top of the wall where he can’t reach it. We turn on the closed captioning on the TV and talk about the words we see.

    I ask questions about characters and plot.

    We read books on the iPad and Kindle.

    We act out fairy tales and do a lot of oral story telling.

    We still have books, but they’re almost exclusively kept upstairs—where Owen doesn’t go. I read a bedtime story upstairs to some of the kids, and they read to me.

    It’s not what I dreamed of, but it’s working—my five and seven year old both learned to read in our new literary environment, and I’m confident my younger kids will as well.

    4. My Instruction Is More Hands On

    Owen loves to touch stuff. I’ve learned the importance of hands on instruction, and encourage my kids to dive into their learning.

    We bring out the Mega Blocks to count and use for basic math.

    The kids fill plastic measuring cups with water.

    We get outside and learn about nature firsthand.

    Why just read about something when you can actually learn about it? Hands-on instruction is so beneficial. To everyone.

    5. We Sing More Songs

    Music calms Owen. He sits still and listens, or rocks slowly to the rhythm. That means we sing a lot more than I ever thought we would.

    I’ve found songs about presidents, the periodic table, and math facts. You can sing just about anything.

    Even I’ve memorized so much since we started putting learning to music. It really is a great learning strategy!

    6. I Value Individual Differences More

    Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned to truly value the different strengths that each of my children has. Kids are not cookie cutter stamps—they were created to be unique, and as such, they each prefer a variety of learning styles.

    I apply differentiation to all of our lessons here at home. No two assignments ever look the same—my oldest might reflect on a concept through a computer game she codes, while someone else might write a story or put on a play.

    I’ve learned to play on those individual differences, and teach through strengths while helping to bolster weaknesses.

    It’s something that all classrooms could certainly use more of!

    In Conclusion

    Having a child with special needs destroyed my plans of a “perfect” homeschool.

    And I’m so thankful!

    What’s best for Owen has ended up being an incredible learning opportunity for each of us. I will never win an award for the best-decorated homeschool room, or see my books in baskets all around the house—but we’re all learning!

    And that’s what counts!

    Homeschooling a child with special needs is a challenge. But so is homeschooling in general. It’s definitely not impossible, and it will make you a better teacher!

    If you homeschool, how has your schooling changed since you started? If you don’t, what’s your favorite way to learn? Please share in the comments!