You guys had some great questions (and some tough ones to answer!) Thanks for sending them in!
Q: One question: with Netflix, how do you watch local news or anything live on network tv? (ABC, NBC, CBS…) or do you even?
A: This reader refers to the fact that we have no cable or satellite television. We have a Roku (actually, we have 3 now!) and a Netflix subscription, and also an Amazon Prime membership which includes some programming. We absolutely LOVE this setup – no commercials, very inexpensive, and we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Unfortunately, our internet provider has adopted usage-based billing (as I suspect many companies will, now that people are leaving cable in droves) with a data cap of 250 GB, which concerned us at first. However, I kept an eye on the usage meter over the summer, and even with the kids home all day we still never reached the limit, so I don’t think it will be a problem. We do still watch our local news and network programming via a digital antenna. You can find out more in this post.
Just a tip – if you haven’t tried Amazon Prime, I’d like to encourage you to do so, not just for the streaming movies and programs, but for the free 2-day shipping! I’ve more than earned back the $79 yearly subscription fee in shipping savings alone, especially around the kids’ birthdays and Christmas (plus, I reuse the boxes and packing pillows when shipping eBay stuff)! If you’re out of something, or almost out of something, it’ll be on your doorstep in 2 days, and for mothers of young children, for whom the mere idea of venturing out to the store is sometimes painful, it can be a real lifesaver. Try it free for 30 days – if you don’t like it, you can always cancel.
Q: I’ve been curious if you kept your Costco membership? I know you were on the fence about it.
A: This reader refers to this post, in which I debated the pros and cons of Costco. And the answer is no – we just cancelled our membership. We stayed for a year, and while there were some things we liked about Costco, overall we felt that it wasn’t worth it. Our biggest problems were limited selection (only one brand of many products, and several products we use regularly were not carried), and because everything is sold in bulk, we couldn’t get out of there for less than $200 bucks. It also wasn’t a convenient drive for us, and the truth is, the prices just aren’t that great. We do better shopping at farmer’s markets and Aldi, and buying our beef from a local farmer. Also, a friend just told me about Zaycon Foods, which offers high quality meats and great prices through their regional sales events. I bought 40 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from them, and their chicken sales event is going on right now, but hurry because they run out fast!
Q: I was wondering if you still use your homemade dishwasher and laundry detergent…and if you are happy with the results?….Keep us posted if you have been able to keep your body clock reset…this is something I so need to do!!!
A: I’m going to be completely honest – no. Not because they don’t work well, but because I’m tired and can’t keep up with everything. I’m not ashamed to admit this because we all have limited room on our plates. We can heap them to overflowing, but is that healthy? Not at all. I always tell people that with the addition of each child, I’ve had to remove something from my life in order to keep it in balance. I still cook from scratch, shop at garage sales, bake our bread, and make our kids’ birthday cakes, because those activities save money, and I enjoy them. I cut back on gardening, and making laundry/dishwasher soap because I didn’t enjoy those things as much. I do still make all-purpose cleaner, window cleaner, and cleaning wipes (I turned my baby wipe recipe into a cleaning wipe recipe after DJ potty-trained because I couldn’t bear to part with the containers!)
I use All Free and Clear detergent because of our skin sensitivity issues, and Cascade ActionPacs, because with our hard well water, they’re the only product that does the job well. I stocked up when Costco had a great sale on these products, and Amazon also has great bulk deals.
Regarding the body clock issue, I just bought something that I hope will help – a SAD lamp. I’ve discussed my problems with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past, and these 10,000 lux lamps are supposed to reduce symptoms by regulating your circadian rhythms during the dark winter months. I typically start to notice symptoms in November, so I decided to be prepared this year! This is the model I bought.
A: The great majority of my kids’ clothes come from garage sales, but this reader is referring to the girls’ back-to-school clothes, which I bought at The Children’s Place. I always buy my kids 2 or 3 new outfits for back to school because it makes them happy to start the new school year with a few new things. They always appreciate and accept used clothing, toys, and books without question or complaint (yet), so I reward them for their good attitudes. I generally avoid the mall like the plague, but The Children’s Place has great sales. They carry up to size 14, and their clothing is, in general, age-appropriate. I had a 20% off coupon, and everything was on sale already for back to school, PLUS they gave me a credit for $20 off my next purchase of $40 or more! I got 4 shirts and 3 skirts for Bee, 3 shirts, 1 skirt, 3 pairs of shorts, and flip-flops for Cakes, and a shirt for DJ, for $60. DJ didn’t need anything because I had great success in finding clothes for him at garage sales this summer, but I didn’t want him to feel left out. He chose a dinosaur shirt. 🙂
Q: How do you find time to do all of those household chores (like the ones you mentioned when you were trying to tire yourself out! with DJ underfoot? I’ve always found that I can accomplish about 2 things, and that’s it! Right now I have a 10 month old.
I need some help. I decided to quit teaching and stay at home with my two little ones. I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 month old. There in lies my major problem. I don’t know how to do anything with them. I don’t get any sleep (still up 3-4 times at night), and I started a business, so I have a commitment at least 2 hours everyday. I’m exhausted, but I feel terrible because my house looks like a disaster area. I know he doesn’t, but I feel like my husband hates coming home everyday! When I do have a little time to do anything (occasionally kids nap at same time), I am so overwhelmed and worn out, I don’t know where to start (and don’t want to)! I am not a very organized person to begin with. I just need some major help. What did you do to get by when your kids were little?
A: I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – if you have a baby at home, you must be gentle with yourself! It’s likely that you’re very tired, especially if your baby still wakes at night to eat. Actually, if you have a child under 5 in your household, you probably still need a nap every afternoon (I usually take one for a half hour. I have for the last 11 years). Caring for young children is exhausting – plain and simple. I’ve noticed, over the years, that when my kids get to age 3, they’re much better at entertaining themselves, and I can accomplish a lot more during the day. I also require my preschoolers to have quiet time for an hour in the afternoon, whether they sleep or not, and of course, when the girls get home from school they play with DJ and keep him occupied. However, I can give you three tips for when your child is older, just from personal experience:
1) Shut off the computer. The internet is far too distracting, and it’s too easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just check my e-mail/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/whatever for a few minutes.” It will never be for a few minutes because the internet is a master of time-suckage.
2) Have a schedule, and work when it’s time to work. When it’s time for a break, take one. It seems a simple concept, but without a boss to report to it’s not-so-surprisingly difficult to stick with. If you had a job outside the home, you would be fired if you regularly took time away from work to text, surf the internet, or watch TV. I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot over the years. If caring for your home and children is your job, you must discipline yourself to treat it as such. Even on the days when you don’t feel like doing it (and there will be those days a lot).
3) Don’t give your children the impression that it’s your job to entertain them. The world does not owe them entertainment, and neither do you. They must learn to be creative and self-sufficient in order to become successful adults. Set aside time to play with them during the day, and for younger children, have activities planned for them to do while you work, such as coloring, puzzles, a bean/rice box, blocks, etc. They can also share in your work (DJ likes to dust and vacuum up crumbs with the Dustbuster). However, you don’t need to be at their beck and call 24/7. You’re their mother – not their maid-servant.
Q: Unfortunately our credit card debt has gotten quite high this past year. I’m going to try to add some extra income to pay it off…and also throw ANY extra money (bday presents, Christmas presents, tax refund) at it. But aside from that, what are your top 5 suggestions for getting it paid off. And do you think it can actually be done without winning the lottery?!
A: Do I think you can do it without winning the lottery? Absolutely. Remember, we sold and sold stuff, and then we sold some more. We pinched and scrimped and saved for 7 years to pay off a half million in debt, and we’re still debt-free today. If we can do it, anybody can, but it takes discipline. I’m going to point you toward this post, which will help you free up money to pay down your debt. Some people find my suggestions to be extreme or off-putting, but my response to them is that I find debt off-putting!
Q: My question is about your laundry room. Have you been able to finish it?
A: Ah, the laundry room. If you’ve ever tried to finish a big do-it-yourself project with three kids underfoot, you’ll understand when I say that no, we haven’t finished it. We’re so close, but the remaining projects are time-consuming, and we have to work on them in little bits and pieces, when we have time. Our summer weekends were busy with reunions, weddings, day-trips, and other activities, and now that the school year has started, our weeknights are often claimed by kid activities. Right now, my husband is building a riser for the washer/dryer (because we didn’t want to spend $150 to buy one), and he’s nearly finished the plumbing for the laundry sink. We keep chipping away at it, and our goal is to have it done by winter.
Q: Hi Heather, I’d love to hear your best ideas for using a beef roast. My dad is a beef farmer and we are fortunately supplied with many roasts throughout the year, but I get SO tired of cooking them the usual way, in the crock pot, with potatoes and carrots. Any ideas for incorporating the leftovers into other meals, or for using them differently in the first place? I know a lot of people would shred them for sandwiches, but two of us in our house are gluten-free so we don’t eat sandwiches often due to the expense of gluten-free bread/rolls. I’d also love some basics for reducing garbage, and I know that starts with purchasing less prepared foods.
A: My very favorite use for leftover beef roast is what I’ve labeled “New Baby Soup,” because I always take a pot of it, along with a fresh loaf of my honey wheat bread, whenever somebody has a baby. I also like to make beef stroganoff, and Asian-style broccoli beef over rice. Here are the recipes I use:
Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
Hamburger Stroganoff (saute the onions in butter, add garlic and saute briefly, then sub 2-3 cups chopped, cooked beef roast for the ground beef)
Broccoli Beef (cut cooked beef roast into cubes or strips, toss with cornstarch mixture, and simmer until thickened. Follow the rest of the recipe as written).
Also, this is my favorite pot roast recipe, if you want to try something new. I serve it with rice.
Q: Hi Heather, I was wondering if you could give me some examples of things to do during the day with my 13 month old… Maybe give me a sample schedule that would be good for her. My other kids are older and I worked when they smaller, now that I am home with her I really am at a loss for things to do with her or what our day should consist of. You always seem to have creative things to so with your kids. Thanks for any suggestions!
A: At 13 months, my children got up between 7:00 and 7:30, went down for an hour nap between 9:30 and 10:00, and napped again for 1 1/2 to 2 hours after lunch. I usually put them down between 1:00 and 1:30. Bedtime was typically around 7:30. This worked very well for us, and insured that they got the rest they needed (most 1-year-olds need 13-14 hours of sleep per day). I wouldn’t worry too much about providing structured activities for such a young child. At this age, they like to explore and play, and the most important thing you can do is just be there. They love sensory activities, so this is a good time to introduce things like play dough and fingerpaint. Sit on the floor and roll a ball back and forth, cut some paper streamers to twirl while dancing (Bee especially loved this), or go on a nature scavenger hunt. Keep it simple, and on their level. For example, can they spot a dog or cat? A bird? My kids also loved trips to the park or library, and they really enjoyed being read to, though 1-year-olds have a very short attention span.
Q: I’m self-employed, and since you’re husband is too, I wondered if you have found any affordable health insurance? (If that’s not too personal).
A: Not too personal at all, but I don’t have a good answer for you. Health insurance costs are one of my biggest sources of worry, and I have yet to find a good solution to this problem.
Q: I am like you in that I am a homebody, and I like to have all of home in the evenings as much as possible. But our oldest is a very smart 5th grader, like Bee, and she is constantly getting invited to join more and more activities. It’s easy for me to limit sports to one per season (because athletics aren’t that important to me), but the academic things have me feeling torn. She’s in the gifted and talented program at her school, which is during the school day, so that’s good, but because of that, she also gets invited to join many other academic activities, all of which take place after school in the winter. I would imagine Bee has many opportunities as well. How do you pick and choose? Any guidelines that have worked for you to balance good school opportunities with quality family time? We’re kind of in “try everything” mode right now, since next year she’ll be in middle school and we’ll want her to pick fewer activities to focus on, since there will likely be more serious homework.
A: We have a strict limit of 2 activities per kid because I strongly believe that while children may have many opportunities to do things (as do adults), it doesn’t mean they should. Too many extra-curricular activities exacerbate stress and anxiety in children, and I want my kids to just enjoy being kids. They’ll have plenty of time to be stressed out when they grow up! We want our children to find and pursue their passions, and still have time to play, get adequate rest, do well in school, and enjoy their family. We give them opportunities to try as many new things as they want, but no more than 2 at a time. That’s the rule, and we stick to it. So far, I feel very fortunate that Bee seems to know herself and her interests well, so it’s easy for her to limit her activities. She’s in the gifted program at school (which we don’t count as an activity because meetings take place during the school day), takes ballet class, and is on the worship team at church. That’s enough for a 10-year-old. Cakes also takes ballet, but DJ has no activities because 3-year-olds need only worry about being 3.
Q: How do you deal with volunteering at school or church? I teach Sunday School (I do enjoy it, but I mostly do it because our church is very short on volunteers) and since I’m a freelance graphic designer I also do quite a bit of design work and photography for the church for events. I really try to keep school volunteering manageable and minimal – I know my kids love for me to be at every school party and bake sale, but I got burned out when they were younger and am more cautious now. I’m getting better at saying no. : )
A: I’m asked to volunteer for things all. the. time. I used to try to do everything because I felt guilty and obligated, but not anymore. I have no problem saying no because my first responsibility is to my family. Between e-Bay, helping my husband, writing this blog, writing speeches for the occasional speaking invitation, ferrying kids to activities, shopping, cleaning, and cooking, I feel that my plate is full enough. I did sign up to volunteer in Cakie’s classroom one morning a week, because I genuinely wanted to – not because I was coerced. I use meals as my barometer, meaning that if I’m often too tired or busy to shop for and prepare our meals from scratch (one of my top priorities for both financial and health reasons), I know that I must let go of something else. I also don’t push myself to pursue anything that is greatly out of my comfort zone as an introvert, because I reason that God made me who I am, and I can better serve Him by being myself
Q: My question is for you or your husband if he doesn’t mind. It seems like you guys are always working on house projects, and I was wondering how you get him to help you so much. After working all week my husband isn’t motivated on weekends and I feel like I nag him a lot even though I don’t mean to. I’m just tired of nothing getting done.
A: I’m going to let my husband take this one. I’ve not edited his answer in any way. I figure he knows better than I do about what motivates him, and his answer is nothing short of awesome.
“Hey, this is Heather’s husband answering this one! The short answer is that I’d rather do things for Heather and our family than for myself. The long answer was a long time coming, and (for those of you who don’t already know it) resulted in a previous marriage and divorce, false idols, materialism, and high-volume selfishness. In my previous marriage, my ex-wife didn’t get much help from me, and didn’t even see me a lot. I was very wrapped up in my possessions, friends, wild trips with the guys, alcohol, and other distractions. The result was unhappiness and constant searching. I think one of the biggest problems in many marriages is being too busy with side interests. My previous obsession with possessions and ego-building didn’t leave much time for family. When I met Heather, I warned her about my ways and her answer was “Whatever you love most will win in the end.” She was right about that. I’m a work in progress, but the change began with how happy she made me whenever I made her happy. Eventually, most of the possessions and side interests went by the wayside as we spent most of our waking hours together. Every year it surprises me how many of my old interests and habits fade away. The abandonment of a hoard of material items also came naturally when I came to know Jesus. The bible says you can’t have two masters. Money and toys gave much less satisfaction, because like heroes and human idols they deteriorate and eventually let me down. Before Christ saved me, I had many rituals, toys, and even people that I put on pedestals. My dad was my first hero and idol, and eventually a race car driver also came into the picture. When I came to know Christ, I found a savior with no faults. Then the connection became evident, that Heather was His “perfect” gift to me. Her strengths compliment my weaknesses, and vice-versa. The bible says the two shall become one. I thank Him every day for her, and I get more satisfaction from doing things with her and for her than I ever have before.”[print-me/]