Attach Small Clothing Items- Works -for-Me-Wednesday 2, 9/30/15

As a mother of six six and under living in an extremely rural area, I’ve learned a few things along the way to make life easier. It’s very hard to live in a rural area about 100 miles from real stores and real doctors.  It’s very hard to have six six and under. Combining them is disastrous. I’ve learned a lot to make it easier. I will try to share a little tip or hack every Wednesday. On Works-for-Me-Wednesdays, I hope to give you a brief tip that might help you on your journey.

wfmw9.30.15Works-for-Me-Wednesday, 9/30/15- Attach small clothing items to each other whenever possible.
Eight people live in my house. Since all eight of us wear clothes, we have a lot of laundry. I have tried to simplify my huge mountains of laundry wherever I can. I try to attach small items together. Attaching things together keeps baby outfit pieces from getting lost and separated, with all the pieces never to be seen in the same spot again until baby is in the next size.(Ask me how I know.) Unless the clothes are very stained, attaching them for the wash cycle will still get them clean. They will take a little longer to dry and may have to be repositioned, but for me it’s worth it so they don’t get lost. I even keep the outfit pieces attached when they are stored in the closet so they don’t separate again. This also makes it easier for husbands or grandparents to know what pieces go together.  For example, if there is an overall strap, I loop it through the sleeve of the shirt so that both the overalls and short stay together. I also frequently use snaps on baby undershirts or baby pants to loop the outfit pieces together.   Attaching small clothing items together works for me!

IMG_20150929_174536 IMG_20150929_174603


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Use the Parking Lot Path- Works-for-Me-Wednesday 1, 9/23/2015

As a mother of six six and under living in an extremely rural area, I’ve learned a few things along the way to make life easier. It’s very hard to live in a rural area about 100 miles from real stores and real doctors.  It’s very hard to have six six and under. Combining them is disastrous. I’ve learned a lot to make it easier. I will try to share a little tip every Wednesday. On Works-for-Me-Wednesdays, I hope to give you a brief tip that might help you on your journey.

Works-for-Me-Wednesday, 9/23/15- Use the parking lot path whenever possible.
I prefer to frequent store locations that have a walkway in between the car fronts.  It may be a false sense of security, but I feel that we’re less likely to get run over that way.  I will sometimes go to a different store that has their parking lot set up this way.  I will wait for a spot and park further away just to be able to use the “path”. (I am not a landscape architect and have no idea what those paths are really called.)

At Costco last week...

At Costco last week…


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How to Clean the Dishwasher and Dishwasher Filters

Today I am going to tell you how to clean the dishwasher and dishwasher filters.

dishwasher

Let me start with some disclaimers.  I’m a housewife and not a dishwasher scientist. I don’t know about your specific model.  I don’t work for Whirlpool.  I really don’t know anything, other than what’s worked for me.  Know that if you follow my dishwasher cleaning advice, it’s possible that your dishwasher could break or even flood your house. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to listen to a housewife with an internet connection.  Take my cleaning advice into consideration, but try to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing.

 

I’ll go over the overview process and then I’ll explain with pictures.

 

1. Remove the dishwasher filters.  Put them in the washing machine on the “low” level.  Throw in a little bleach. Don’t run the cycle through, just until it gets through the first agitation.
2. Remove all dishes.  Move anything that you want to clean around, like cutlery trays.
3. Start the dishwasher on a one hour or short cycle.
4. Put bleach into the dishwasher.  In my dishwasher, I have to wait until it does the initial draining.  I open the door and add it once it has filled up with water.  This can be different on yours.
5. When the cycle completes, open the door.  If there is still any gunk (totally scientific word) wipe the gunk with a paper towel.
6. Run the cycle through again, just as before.
7. Remove the dishwasher filters from the washing machine a wipe any remaining gunk with a paper towel.  You may have to wipe out the washing machine tub with a paper towel.
8. Clean the spinning arms with a paper clip and try to remove as much gunk as you can.
9. Put it all back together.

 

I don’t have a stainless steel inside tub.  I have read that you’re not supposed to clean those with bleach.  I have tried vinegar, baking soda, Dishwasher Magic and LemiShine and I have found that nothing works like bleach.  I have the hardest water ever and I run my dishwasher twice per day.  We are hard on our dishwasher.  I have little ones and inevitablely a lot of gunk ends up loaded into the dishwasher with our dishes. Using bleach and utilizing my washing machine to clean the filters is the easiest and most effective way to get the dishwasher clean and prevent any icky smells.

 

Now I’ll repeat my steps with illustrations.

 

how to clean dishwasher inside

This is the before… ewe!

dishwasher filter

Step One… Remove the dishwasher filters and put them in the washing machine. In case you’re wondering, I purposely let my dishwasher get ickier than I normally do because I planned to write this post.

how to clean dishwasher

Step Two: Remove cutlery trays. Step Three: Start dishwasher on short cycle.

 

how to clean dishwasher

Step Four: Add bleach (after initial draining).

dishwasher inside cleaner

Step Five: Wipe down the gunk. (Here in the picture, you can see there’s still some gunk in the back bottom corner.) Step Six: Run the dishwasher through again.

 

how to clean dishwasher filters

Step Seven: Remove dishwasher filters from the washing machine.  Step Eight: Clean spring arms with a paper clip. Step Nine: Put it all back together again.

 


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Avoiding the Church Collection Scramble

We donate to our church. (We actually donate to two parishes since we attend two parishes [the local Novus Ordo parish and the further away Latin Mass Parish].)  I can guarantee you that our donation amounts have never been very high, but we still try to contribute something. The weekly church collection used to be very stressful.  I’ve eliminated this stress and I’m going to tell you how.

A totally stolen picture…

How can donating to a church can be stressful?  
I would forget a pen.
I would forget an envelope.
I would forget a check.
I would ready our offering ahead of time and leave it all in the car. Or home.
My child would have a screaming fit during the Offertory and need to be taken out so I’d miss the usher.
My child would have explosive poop during the Offertory and need to be taken out so I’d miss the usher.
And above all, it was one more thing to remember in my already overloaded mind, trying to get a bunch of littles out the door.

 

 

The key to eliminating this weekly stress from my life comes from the computer.  It’s called online bill pay.  My bank, probably like yours, sends checks to whomever I specify for

Another totally stolen picture

free. I don’t have to even pay for stamps. It’s a little bit difficult at first to enter the address in, but that’s a one time thing and then it takes two clicks to pay.  I mail each church our tithe  (Tithe is a strong word. We’re not anywhere near 10%.) whenever we do our bills.  It’s in the same breath as the two clicks to pay the electric company.

Problem solved.  I don’t have to stress. I don’t have to worry. I can concentrate on Mass. I can unite my intentions to the priest’s at the Offertory (or just try to keep my kids from screaming). And my churches still get supported. It’s a win-win!


Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe by with 1 comment.

Free Long Distance for DSL

Many of you probably aren’t like me long distance-wise, but for anyone who is, I will tell you the secret to free long distance.

Here is my situation:
1.  We live in a rural area so we do not have many local phone carriers or internet service providers available.
2.  I’m actually a fan of the local phone company because they are local and provide good jobs to the community.  They do not, however, offer an unlimited long distance package like the local phone companies do in most other areas.
3.  We have DSL through that local telephone company.  They have the best service and best value here for internet access.
4. Cell phones do not work in my house.  We’ve tried GSMs and CDMAs and they both don’t work here.
5. My loved ones live in far away place like New Jersey and New York.

Let me translate what this means for us:
1.  There are no long distance unlimited packages available here.
2.  We make a lot of long distance calls.
3.  We can’t make long distance calls on cell phones in the house.
4.  If we got VoIp or Magic Jack or something, we’d have to still keep the phone line to have DSL to have internet so they can work.  We’d have to have two numbers for that.  Keeping an extra phone line would eat away at our savings, too.

Here you can see my corded phone, DSL modem/ router and my local phone book. Yes, that really is the local phone book and it covers an area geographically bigger than New Jersey. And, yes, I keep a corded phone.  My old one broke and I found this one at a garage sale for 25¢.  A corded phone is necessary out here because I like to have a usable phone if the power goes out (and my cell phone doesn't work in the house).  Also, being that the corded phone is attached to the wall by a phone wire and therefore cannot move, I always know where it is.  I have six kids six and under.  Phones migrate and sometimes they loose charge when they are lost.  (This happened when my old corded phone broke and my pasture was on fire three years ago.  I had to go to the neighbor's house to call 911.)

Here you can see my corded phone, DSL modem/ router and my local phone book.
Yes, that really is the local phone book and it covers an area geographically bigger than New Jersey.
And, yes, I keep a corded phone. My old one broke and I found this one at a garage sale for 25¢. A corded phone is necessary out here because I like to have a usable phone if the power goes out (and my cell phone doesn’t work in the house). Also, being that the corded phone is up high attached to the wall by a phone wire and therefore cannot move, I always know where it is. I have six kids six and under. Phones migrate and sometimes they loose charge when they are lost. (This happened when my old corded phone broke and my pasture was on fire three years ago. I had to go to the neighbor’s house to call 911.)

I have the cheapest long distance service that I could find (Pioneer) but at 2.9¢ per minute, long distance calls still add up.

I have solved the long distance problem with GoogleVoice. GoogleVoice is a free service which enables one to have free texts, multiple numbers rung by one number, free voicemail, etc.

I use GoogleVoice three ways:
1. I text from the house.  I am the worst text-er. Lots of people use texts and I have joined the bandwagon, too.  I used to not have texts on my phone plan.  Even now that I have free unlimited texts, I have no signal in my house and horrible technological abilities to actually send texts.  I sometimes text people using GoogleVoice from my desktop computer.  It’s free, works in my house and I get to use my real keyboard.
2. I use GoogleVoice to make free long distance calls.  I enter in the number and click “call” and they ring my home number.  When I pick up, I hear the other phone ringing and GoogleVoice connects me.  Yay! Free long distance.
3.  I use GoogleVoice differently for my very frequent calls.  We all have a few numbers that we call more frequently than others.  For me these most frequent calls are to my mom and a friend of mine in Jersey.  I have given them local-to-me GoogleVoice numbers that ring into their respective phone lines.  So when I call them, I simply dial that local-to-me phone number and they pick up their phone in New Jersey.  (Note that GoogleVoice only allows one GoogleVoice to ring into a phone line, so if your loved one also has another GoogleVoice number, it won’t work.)

This is a screenshot from my GoogleVoice screen.

This is a screenshot from my GoogleVoice screen.

(Also note that I had to set this up with a verification code and email.  It’s easy.)

(I do keep my Pioneer Long Distance available for emergencies, internet outages and calls that I know will only be two minutes. My bill runs about $3 per month.  This is doable.)

I realize that I’m probably one of the only people stuck in the stone age with DSL, no unlimited long distance available in my area, no cell phone service in my house and up until a few months ago pay-per-message texts, but if there is possibly anyone else out there somewhere like me, GoogleVoice may be your answer, too.


Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laura's Cheapskate Secrets, Money Saving and Cheapskate Tips and tagged , , by with no comments yet.

Hunkering Down

“Now, Laura, you gotta hunker down.”
-my former boss

At one of my previous jobs, my boss would sometimes feel frustrated at my enthusiasm.  He was from central Pennsylvania.  I never heard the term “hunker down” until I met him, so I don’t know if it was his expression or a central Pennsylvania thing.  He’d tell me to “hunker down” often.  We had different points of view on a lot of workplace issues, but we got along well.

Now I hear his words echoing in my head at times like this- times when we’re preparing for severe snow storms.  We really hunker down, but I think my boss and I have different definitions.

In this blogpost I will give you a quick summary of what we do here at Kevin’s and Laura’s Little House on the Prairie to hunker down when we’re expecting bad weather…

1.  We already have flashlights and candles in the house.  We don’t use a whole lot of battery-operated things, so we don’t have too many batteries. I have tons on candles.

2. We kind of count on loosing power, and that’s OK.  We live a pretty simple lifestyle, so it’s be OK if we lost power for a while.  We’ll loose the computer, the oven, the lights, the appliances and the water.  That’s OK.  We’ll be fine.

3. We prepare for not having water. We shower so we’re good to go there, at least for a little bit.  We have some outdoor plastic containers with water that can be used for flushing.  We keep bottled water in the house.

4. We put away our vehicles.  We have a garage for them all but rarely use them.  We put away our vehicles when we’re hunkering down.

I took this picture of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly.  You can see our wood box in the background.  When we're hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

I took this picture of some of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly. You can see our wood box in the background. When we’re hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

5. We feed the critters extra.  We give extra food to the goats, pigs and cows.  It’s a lot easier to do a quick checkup on them in a blizzard and not have to feed them, too.  We give them enough food to last a few days.  We make sure they’re all snug.  We make a backup plan if we loose power and have baby chicks (which we don’t have right now).

6. We make sure we have plenty of wood.  We heat with wood, so loosing power won’t affect us.  Our backup heat is a floor furnace, which also doesn’t need electric.  We make sure we have a lot of wood next to the front door and in the indoor wood box.  We overfill the indoor wood box with enough wood to last as maybe 36 hours, even if the temperatures are cold and we need to constantly feed the wood burning stove.  (I have a huge deck box that I keep in my living room for wood.  It holds enough wood to get us through blizzards, is durable and not too tacky and keeps all the wood debris and dirt contained.I seriously recommend a deck box like this to anyone else who heats with wood everyday. This deck box is the best I’ve found and I’ve tried a few different indoor wood holding systems.)

7. We have a propane stove.  We can use the stovetop to cook without power.  We can also cook on top of the wood burning stove.  I’ve done this in the past when we used to have an electric stove.

8. We catch up on everything beforehand.  I try to be caught up on laundry.  I’m never really caught-up-caught-up, but I make sure mostly everything is done and dried before we’re expecting bad weather.  Even if we don’t loose power, we don’t use the dryer and we can’t dry clothes on the line outside in a blizzard. We’re a family of seven and laundry is critical. We burn the trash, take out the compost and what-not, too.

9.  If Kevin has to work, he prepares to be stuck there. He takes the pickup which has four wheel drive.  He packs extra food.  We hate for him to be stuck there, but it’s happened before.

10. We’re always really supplied.  Living out here, it’s a road trip and an all day adventure to go to real stores.  We always have stuff in the house.

What do you do to hunker down?  How do you prepare for blizzards?


Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Heating the House, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laundry, Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged , by with no comments yet.

Marathon Day

I call my outrageously long trips to the Front Range areas Marathon Days.  I absolutely hate Marathon Days, but for me they’re a necessity.

I don’t live near real stores.  The local town has a wonderful (not very super) supermarket.  For what they are (a small supermarket is a small town), they’re great, but they don’t always have everything.  What they do have is expensive.  Their selections of fresh produce and organics is limited.  For my size family, it pays to make the trip to the wholesale club for just groceries.  The same goes for the hardware store. And that’s not counting other items that plain just aren’t available here.  For example, since ALCO is closing, there is now no where within maybe 70 miles of my house to buy a pair of jeans.  I do a lot of shopping online.  Amazon Prime is a necessity for living out here.  However, there are just some items that need to be touched or seen in person and these items also mean a trip to a real store.

I don’t live near real doctors.
I have already written about the lack of obstetric options here in rural Colorado.
We also have some unique medical needs in our family.
My kids have speech problems.  The local speech help is almost non-existent. Years ago for one of the older ones, we tried the Early Intervention help.  The lady showed up only half the time.  Speech problems need consistency.
One of my children has a rare bone deformity.  One time I brought him to the orthopedic doctor that comes down from Colorado Springs monthly.  It was for a second opinion.  “I’ve never seen this in person before,” he told me.  “There’s not much in the literature about this either,” he said. Um, duh, I knew that. “I can’t help you.” Well at least he was honest.
My son Vince had a brain tumor resected last year.  He needed a pediatric neurosurgeon. There are a few in the Denver area on the same team.  Before surgery when we wanted a second opinion, we had to take him 500 miles to Kansas City. Needless to say, there ain’t no pediatric neurosurgeons or pediatric neuro-oncologists in Lincoln County.
Even the local ER isn’t a real ER. When my baby was sick last year with dehydration from the stomach bug and I brought him to the ER for an IV, they could not get his vein. Meanwhile two more hours went by where the baby got sicker. I finally walked out of the local ER and drove straight to Children’s Hospital where they got the IV the first time, admitted him to the PICU and kept him in the hospital for six days. In retrospect I believe if we had stayed he might not have made it.
There is a doctor’s office about a half hour away. They never have the same doctors twice. They are in and out of there like Grand Central Station. They’ve had a few good ones now and then, but they leave. There was one here for maybe two years that was an awesome doctor and awesome with the kids and now she’s moved to another state. Now they literally rent out doctors.  It’s like a temp agency for doctors that they hire their doctors through.  Talk about inconsistent care.
Traveling to the Front Range to see real doctors is a necessity for us.

Now that you know about the necessity of Marathon Days for us, I would like to walk you through a Marathon Day with us.  Yesterday, we had a Marathon Day.  I will share yesterday’s agenda with you as an example.

7:25 a.m.- The bus picked up Vince and took him to school.  I didn’t want the day to be a total loss or Vince to miss his class St. Valentine’s Day party.
The other children and I did our normal morning routines.  We did our morning chores. We did about half our schoolday.  They all took baths and changed into “town” clothes.
11:00 a.m.- We picked Vince up at school.  I chatted with the teacher to touch base on how he was doing.
11:15 a.m.- We left the local town and headed to suburban Denver.
1:00 p.m.- We arrived at Costco.  The children and I sat down at the Costco Cafe and ate lunch there.  We grocery shopped. We changed diapers.
2:05 p.m.- We arrive at the satellite campus of Children’s Hospital (five minutes late) for Vince’s speech therapy.  Vince normally receives his speech therapy on the computer like Skype, however, at the stage he is in, he gets more out of speech in person. Speech in person seems to hold his attention better.  I would say an in-person speech visit is worth three telespeech sessions.  This is just for the stage we’re in.  I think there is an equal benefit at other stages.
2:15 p.m.- The other four children and I leave.  We all went potty.
2:25 p.m.- We arrive at Sprouts.  The older two children and I had previously discussed an action plan on who was to grab what item so that we could be in and out. We just needed a few fresh things to get us through.

Running into Lowe's...

Running into Lowe’s…

2:38 p.m.- We arrived at Lowe’s.  It was maybe a quarter mile from Sprouts, just far away enough to make it quicker to take the car and necessitate being in and out of car seats.  We had previously discussed action plans on quick buckling ins and buckling outs.  We had an item to exchange there and one to return.  It was difficulty to find a new item for the exchange item. This delayed us, as well as painstakingly checking the replacement to make sure it did not have the same defect as the original.
3:05 p.m.- We arrived back at the satellite campus of Children’s Hospital. We were late. The speech therapist was just finishing up with Vince and we actually observed a few minutes.  She then reviewed his progress with me in person.  We all went potty.

Filomena took a picture of a lady in the waiting room and Vince played with the touch board in the background.

GirlOne took a picture of a lady in the Children’s Hospital waiting room and Vince played with the touch board in the background.

3:40 p.m.- We left the Children’s Hospital parking lot.  I really wanted to stop at IKEA but I resisted the temptation since I had just about enough time to get to the midwife on time. We headed south on I-25 and left suburban Denver for Colorado Springs.
4:34 p.m.- We arrived at the midwife (four minutes late).  I had a prenatal check.  Everyone went potty and we changed diapers. The midwife has tons of toys and they got an hour of playtime.
5:52 p.m.- We were back in the minivan, all buckled in and ready to leave. I looked at the time and realized that in spite of my best intentions, we wouldn’t make Mass.  Mass was in 8 minutes on the total opposite end of Colorado Springs. It was rush hour, too, and weekday Masses are quick. I reluctantly headed to Costco to get gas.
6:30-ish- After filling up, we stopped at Culvers and bought a chocolate milkshake.  I distributed it into separate cups so everyone could get a little bit.  This was their treat because they were so so good and cooperative for me.  I stayed in the Culver’s parking lot for a few minutes to make sandwiches.  We headed out of Colorado Springs towards home, eating our sandwich dinner on the way.
8:10 p.m.- We arrived home.  We unloaded a few things from the car.  I readied everyone for bed and didn’t get everyone in bed until nearly nine.

260 miles. We were only gone 9 hours and 15 minutes.  Usually our Marathon Days are closer to twelve hours.

Before I moved out here, I never understood the actual reality of not living near real stores or real doctors.  I never understood what nearly a two hour ride each way to a metropolitan area really meant, or what it meant with little children.  I didn’t anticipate that my children would have such unique medical needs.  I didn’t understand how limited access to quality healthcare could really be when I still live in the United States of America and not among an aboriginal tribe.  I never imagined that I could live in a farming community, yet still live in a food dessert.  I never knew what it meant to be 100 miles from everything and the circumstances that would make Marathon Days a way of life on the prairie.

Marathon Days are a way of life for us.  I’ve become more efficient at Marathon Days over the years. I am hoping that if you are perhaps considering buying a little patch of heaven way out west left of Nebraska and over a crest that you will take the reality of Marathon Days into account when planning your move.  I didn’t and I’ll add Marathon Days to the “What I Wish I Had Known” Category.


Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Lincoln County: A Case Study of the Sad State of Healthcare in Rural America, The Irony of a Food Desert Surrounded by Farms, What I Wish I'd Know Before Moving to My Little Patch of Heaven Way Out West by with 2 comments.

Going Shopping With Kids: Part Two, My Strategies For Going Shopping With Kids

childrenlowes

You may remember that I on Sunday I shared with you how I avoid going shopping with kids.   Now that you see how the amount of shopping that I need to do is greatly reduced from most Americans, I will now share with you some of my strategies for when I actually do have to shop.

When I shop locally, I call ahead and people bring the items out.  There are less than 5000 non-inmate people in my county and my family is 7 of those.  We stick out.  People know us.
The conversation goes something like this:
“Thank you for calling [insert local business name here].”
“Hi, [insert name of shopowner or worker who has probably known my husband since he was two].  This is Laura [my last name].  I need [a widget].  I have all the kids with me.  I’ll be by in about 15 minutes, but I don’t want to bring all the kids in with me.  They”ll destroy your store.  Is there any way you can bring that out for me?”
“Sure, Laura, I’ll look out for you.  Do you have the minivan today?”
“Yes, I do.”
“OK.  I’ll see you then.”
They watch out for me and bring the item out for me.  This works great for the hardware store, the auto parts store, the pharmacy, even the tractor dealer.  I give them a check.  This is a perfect system because I get the needed item and I don’t bring my kids in and they don’t get kidnapped.

I shop at Sam’s Club.  We are a Sam’s-Club-sized family.  I buy laundry and dishwasher detergents, oatmeal, baking supplies, etc., at Sam’s.  The main reason that I shop at Sam’s and not Costco is because Sam’s has a service called Click’n’Pull. Click’n’Pull lets me select my groceries online and they actually go down the aisles and shop for me.  All I have to do is pick up a cart and pay for it.  Wal-mart offers a similar service, but they do not even let me use it since my zip code is not close enough to their store.  Sam’s Club is usually a better value for us anyway.  Yes, the closest Sam’s Club is 90 miles away, but we usually are making a journey to Colorado Springs or Denver anyway.

I will drive farther if it means less in and outs.  In Colorado Springs, for example, there are maybe five Lowes.  I will drive an extra ten minutes if it means that I can go to one strip mall for all my stops, even if the one location is farther away.  The worse part of shopping with the kids is the in and out of car seats.  If I can go to more than one store in the same strip mall, it’s worth a few extra minutes drive.  And, yes, I am one of those tacky people who take the shopping cart from one store and bring it into the neighboring one.

I am used to people looking at me. From the “You got your hands full” and “I don’t know how you do it” and “Are they twins [or triplets]?” comments to all out stares, I am used to it by now.  People don’t phase me or slow me down any more.  I have never had anyone say an unkind word.  They are mostly just curious.

I have my very own shopping cart etiquette.   I need to find a cart upon arrival and I can’t stand when the cartboy is too efficient and I can’t find a cart at all.  I’ve been known to stalk outgoing shoppers and ask them for their cart.  I put all of my children in the cart for the trip from the car to the actual store.  I’m worried about them getting run over or kidnapped in the parking lot.  And ditto on the return trip.  I have the assistance people load my groceries into my car when we’re done if at all possible.  And if I do bring the cart out myself, I just leave it near where I’m parked.  I know I break all rules by not using the cart corral, but I’d rather you have a scratch on your car than one of my kids get kidnapped while I’m going on a hike to the cart corral.  Oh, and a lot of times, I’ll get a regular cart to go from the van to the store and then get someone to get me a cart with those kid holder things for actual in-store shopping.  I also have it down to an art form of how I arrange the children in the cart.  I try to avoid even having the children walk beside me in the store.  I’ll share more about shopping carts in an upcoming post.

I quit WIC.  We’re certainly still poor enough for WIC.  (WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, a supplemental nutrition program for children up to the age of five.)  I used to be on WIC.  There were five of us on it.  The groceries were very helpful to us.  I am grateful.  However, in WIC, every participant receives three checks for miscellaneous groceries, so that meant 15 separate checks per month.  The checks are listed as “one dozen eggs, two gallons of milk, 1 jar of peanut butter”, etc.  I would do my marathon shopping and then have to separate the items.  I’d be in line with four children at the time, four children who had had it by then, and separate each WIC check either on the conveyor or into little shopping baskets.  Invariably the cashier I went to had just learned WIC and needed help with it.  It took forever.  It was not unusual for my WIC transactions to take over an hour to be rung up.  Yes, over an hour for maybe $100  worth of milk, dried beans and peanut butter.  Also, the WIC benefit was not worth as much to me as it was costing the taxpayers.  For example, when I bought a gallon of milk, WIC paid the store full price.  If I did need milk and had to pay for it, I’d go through the sales papers and get Wal-mart to price match, so I’d pay a little over half what the government would pay.  Baby formula was the worst.  I would buy Sam’s Club formula which is about a third of the price of Enfamil.  (Now I use organic formula, but that’s another story.)  When the government shut down in the fall and there was a hold on WIC checks, I just never went back.  Kevin said, “WIC is meant to be a little help.  We can’t have a baby every year and keep being on WIC.”  He’s right.  I haven’t gone back.  I am grateful for what I did receive through WIC.  Quitting WIC saves me so, so, SO much time.  It saves the taxpayers money.  And it does not cost me too much to live without those groceries.  I count my blessings that we are able to live fine without WIC.  I know many aren’t so fortunate.  I am grateful that we Americans have the WIC program which helps those who need those precious groceries.

I don’t bring much into the store.  I bring the baby a bottle maybe, but I change the babies’ diapers before we go in.  Nothing grosses me out more than the Wal-mart bathroom changing table, and besides, I need all the cart space for kids and merchandise.

I bribe my kids to be good.  I tell the children that if they’re good, they can go to the playground, eat a cookie, sit in a different spot in the minivan, drink chocolate milk, etc., when we’re done.  Remember, I have a road trip first and usually have an entire day of shopping.  On a “marathon day” of shopping and appointments, we’re usually out of the house 12-14 hours.

I try to avoid the public restroom in stores if it can be helped.  I would rather my kids go on the side of the road than in Wal-mart.

My husband sometimes goes to Dollar General on his way home from work.  I only do a marathon day of shopping about once per month if I can get away with it.  I couple it around doctor appointments and such.  As much as I plan, I usually end up needing something.  Our options are few and far between.  There is a Dollar General about three miles the other way from my husband’s job.  They’re open until ten.  Even though my husband leaves work at 9 p.m., he is able to stop there on his way home.  He picks me up little fill in things there, maybe once every other week.

I will soon share another post here about some of my shopping cart strategies.  As I said, I feel that children are safer riding in carts.  I have using shopping carts for five that are designed for one or two children down to a science.

This was in November 2013   at Wegman's in New Jersey.

This was in November 2013 at Wegman’s in New Jersey.


Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe by with no comments yet.

Prairie Fourth of July

Photo credit: Kevin The fireworks in Hugo are awesome!

Photo credit: Kevin
The fireworks in Hugo are awesome!

Friday was the Fourth of July.  Hugo, Colorado, the local town, really goes all-out for the Fourth of July.

A relation, who lives in another state, was staying nearby.  She went over to my in-laws to visit.  I love all the relations, so I look forward to seeing them.  My wonderful in-laws invited me over to see her.  My oldest son, SonOne, got up and was then groggy. He was just mushy, just not right. He told me his tummy hurt and sure enough, he had to run.  At least everything ended up in proper places.  I was heartbroken.  We missed the relation’s visit.

It must have been an isolated incident.  SonOne seemed fine after that one specific incident.  We spent the morning hanging out on the couch and reading.  I actually kind of enjoyed hanging out like that, even though I hate when my kids are sick.  We did go to my in-laws where SomeOtherRelations were visiting by then.  I’m glad that I got to see SomeOtherRelations even though I didn’t see the first relation mentioned.  We went home and ate lunch.  My husband went out to the field.  He started cutting wheat.  My children napped.

I took the children to town for the “Free Swim” that they had for the Fourth of July.  They just went in their bathing suits.  (I’m pretty fearful of sunburn, so I make sure all of their shoulders and chests are covered.)  When we got there, the pool appeared closed.  There was lightning in the distance.
Note to Pool People: When you close the pool, put up a sign.  I don’t know how many times I’ve gone and it’s been closed.  A sign would be nice so I don’t have to guess.

We were all dressed up with no place to go and in town.  I took my kids to the playground.  At the playground, I ran into AnotherMother, who was there with her children.  She told me that the pool had closed because of the lightning.  I unbuckled my oldest four kids and let them go play.   I didn’t take the baby out of the van because there were a few drops of rain.  I closed the minivan door to make sure the oldest ones were into the playground area.  (I had my van pulled right up there.  It was not a dangerous situation, FYI.)

I turned around and tried to open the minivan door. Uh-oh.  It was locked.
All the doors were locked.
SonThree was locked in the van.
And so was my phone.

I asked AnotherMother to borrow her phone.  I first called Kevin to see if he had put a spare key anywhere on the outside of the minivan. Nope. Not yet.  We have only had that minivan 11 months.

So I called the Lincoln County Sheriff and explained the situation.
“What’s the call back number?” the dispatcher asked.
“I don’t know.  My phone is locked in the minivan, too.  I borrowed this phone from someone else. I don’t know the number.”
The dispatcher seemed not to get this.

There has been a lot of stories in the news lately of people leaving their babies in cars and then the babies die.   In the middle of all this awareness and campaigns, I had to go lock my baby in the minivan.  Way to go, Laura.  At least SonThree was smiling and seemed pretty happy, content and undisturbed. And at least it wasn’t too hot out. We had cloud cover.

It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably about a minute later when the Hugo Town Marshall Policelady came to break into my minivan.  A Deputy Sheriff Policeman came to help, too.  They were able to quickly open the minivan and SonThree was OK.  Phew.

Thank you so much to the policelady and policeman!  They rescued my son!

After SonThree was back safe in my arms, I called Kevin to tell him everything was OK.  He told me the little bit of rain was just enough rain to make the wheat too wet to cut.  He had to stop.  He was on his way to town in his pickup.

Back into carseats for four blocks, we met at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.  We ate at the free barbecue there.  My kids had a blast running around.

The original relation was there!  It was so nice to see her!  I’m so happy that I got to see her, even though it was brief.

Kevin parked his pickup near the fence to have a good spot for later.

We left all together and went home.  We got the kids into their pajamas.

We got back to town back to the Fairgrounds.  We brought ice cream, glow sticks and camp chairs and headed back to our pickup which had one of the best spots for fireworks viewing.  We were still in a parking lot, a dark parking lot.  I am paranoid about my children being run over or kidnapped.  Last year we sat in the bleachers which was very hard to see in the dark.  This year, having the children kind of contained in the pickup bed was great!  It really helped me feel confident.  (I really can’t call it tailgating since our tailgate is broken.)

watching fireworks

The baby (SonThree) was in his car seat which was in the stroller which was right next to the pickup.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to call this a mom-top and make mom-tips a thing here on my blog.

Mom Tip Number One: When viewing something crowded and outdoors, keeping young children in a pickup bed keeps them more manageable.  They can’t run around the parking lot if they’re in a pickup bed.  They can also move around enough that they aren’t unnaturally cooped up (like in a stroller).  I recommend this for parades and fireworks and the like.  It’s a win-win.


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Taking Kids to the Dentist

I have five children.  They each have a mouth.  As their mother, I am responsible for their healthcare, including the healthcare of their mouths.  I am fastidious with making sure the children see the dentist every six months.  I believe these dental visits are necessary.

We are blessed with very good dental insurance through my husband’s employer.  The children’s checkups cost me absolutely nothing, which is a blessing.

I never even bothered taking the children to the local dentist.  Out here, we have ONE local dentist. (I think perhaps we have a second dentist now.)  I go there myself because I have to.  For me to leave my kids and go to the dentist it needs to be a quick thing.  I can’t go on a road trip.  I can’t take them with me.  Bottom line here is that I was familiar enough with the local dentist to know that I didn’t want to take my kids there.  This is for two main reasons.  First, they hardly ever have the same dentist and staff.  Rural medical places have very difficult times keeping their staff.  Secondly, they hardly see any children.  We have had other “bad” experiences with medical personnel who rarely see children.

I take my children to a specifically pediatric dentist.  They are on the edge of Colorado Springs.  Being that I have such a long drive to get to the “city” (if you can call Colorado Springs a city… it’s really a town… New York is a city)  it is important that I don’t have to go to deeply into the “city”.  It makes a big difference.  They also only do children.

Their dentist is just at the edge of Colorado Springs, next to the hospital.

Their dentist is just at the edge of Colorado Springs, next to the hospital.

They have one big dental room for examinations.  It has four dental chairs.  A dental nurse takes each child.  They can do all of the children at once.  The actual dentist then makes her rounds to each child.

There are actually four examination tables in this big room.  There was another child on the fourth one whose parents probably don't want their child on this blog.  I also gave the dental nurses daisy heads to keep their anonymity.

We were just at the dentist Friday.  There are actually four examination tables in this big room. There was another child on the fourth one (behind me when I took this picture) whose parents probably don’t want their child on this blog. I also gave the dental nurses daisy heads to keep their anonymity.

It’s kind of like a factory.

If I had one kid, I’d probably hate this dentist because the factory aspect of it.  But for me with my little brood, the factory dentist works wonderfully.  They let me schedule the appointments all at the same time (a huge convenience with a bunch of children).  Because the children are all seen simultaneously, it is a lot easier for me to accomplish this trip by myself.  My husband does not have to use some of his precious time off to do these routine checkups.  Taking five children for their dental checkups takes me about 45 minutes, loading in and out of car seats included.  45 minutes every six months is something I can handle easily. (Although this time does not include the actual drive there.)

My kids are even cute in the dentist parking lot.

My kids are even cute in the dentist parking lot.

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.”  I’m not her.  Taking my children to the “factory” pediatric dentist is one thing that I do “know what to do” to make things a little bit easier.  There have been no cavities so far for any of the children.  I call that success.


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