First Day of Homeschool 2013

August 12th, 2013

Well, the first day isn’t quite over. We have Bible and Music left on the schedule. I also have a project I need them to finish. I am loving several websites/blogs right now.  – free pdf printable lesson books for many instruments – NICE  – free cute printable organizing sheets/planners/etc – very handy


Our first day went well. I have a 4th grader  (quote of the day, “I can’t wait to see what 4th grade is like!”), 1st grader (loves math still and read through a book without help), Preschooler (quote of the day, “Can I do school?!”), and toddler (2) (played with busy bags and trains and fussed because I was busy).  I am glad 1st grader is finally picking on on phonics/reading. I’m thankful I was able to  give her the time she needed to catch on. I quite possibly will have another early reader with my preschooler. He seems to learn like his older brother. I was also super excited to hear toddler shout out “GREEN!” when seeing the color without prompt. I didn’t know he knew that. :-) I also think it’s adorable that other colors are named as the person who likes them. Yellow is “Me!”, Orange “Joe”, Purple “Jenna”, and blue “Caden”.  Too cute.

I haven’t taken the “first day” picture yet since half are still in pjs. I do plan to do that soon.

Thanks for reading. I must go so I can figure out how to get this printer to PRINT! Augh….

P.S – I recommend homeschoolers have a copier.. we do not.. and I WANT ONE …   that’s all.



Don’t Be So Defensive

July 9th, 2013

Where there are moms, you will find competition. I suppose somehow it is in the nature of some (most?) moms to make sure their child gets the best education, the safest car seat, the best grades, reaches milestones first, sleeps the longest, eats the best, naps better, is more well-rounded, or talks more clearly. Also as keepers of the family, we have competition over who can save the most money, write the best blog, be the most crafty, have the cleanest house, bake the best bread, cook the best dinners, and set up the most playdates. We can compete over who makes the best decisions regarding our children. We can argue over whether our decision is better. We can defend our decision. We can get defensive when someone mentions a decision that isn’t in line with ours. We get defensive. SO defensive! Then, it’s all a futile argument between 2 women defending their choice. No one is going to change their mind at this rate. It’s just a matter of who will stop arguing and drop the topic. But NO. You (I) can’t stop. You (I) can’t drop it. Because YOU (I) am RIGHT.

Don’t be so defensive. What does that even mean? Defensive means excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings. Unfortunately most women don’t realize they are being defensive, but most often they are. I used to get very defensive. Now, I am much better at ignoring the critics. I have done my research. I have made informed decisions. Yes, I made the BEST decisions. The RIGHT decisions. For MY family. Now go do your research and make your own BEST and RIGHT.  Don’t be so defensive. When you are confident in your choices, you find that there’s way less need to feel guarded. Someone can be critical. They can point out your shortcomings … and yes, we all have them. They can do these things and you can smile and shrug and say, “We’re all human.”  Perhaps, you can be an even better and bigger person by humbly adding, “But thank you for pointing that out. I will work on that.”   Heaping coals … heaping coals.

Be yourself, Moms. Do what you do best and do what works for your family. This isn’t a race. It’s more of a hike up a slowly inclining mountain. Where trees fall across your path or the terrain gets bumpy here and there. But you also find a beautiful copse shadowing dark plush grass every mile or so and fields of flowers. In the end, it’s a gratifying hike, worth every bit the trouble.

So lace up your boots, mamas. And instead of throwing boulders in each others paths, how about we hand each other a walking stick.

Oh, and for those times that the other moms are raining on your parade or your kids are determined to make life difficult, here are some essential oils to help you through it. Relax. Roll on some Stress-Away, dab some lavender on your wrists, or drop some Joy over your heart and massage in. I promise you will feel much better in a few minutes!

Thanks ladies!!

Rachel (mom of 4 and every-now-and-then-blogger)

How to Wear Your Baby

April 12th, 2013

I am going on 5 years of babywearing. Babywearing is a term coined for those that use some sort of carrier to keep baby close and hands free (or at least mostly). It is great for babies and toddlers as they grow through different stages to have this access to being close and secure with mom.

I was introduced to babywearing slowly at first, with probably some of the most well known carriers. Several new moms are getting Mobys for their infants at showers and such. You may even see the occasional ring sling. Starting out, though, I had no idea how vast and confusing the babywearing world could be. It is quite daunting at first and you seriously need a translator half the time.

I think I’m finally “getting it”. Especially over the last few months I feel I’ve doubled my knowledge. I’ve been watching the resell boards (Facebook), doing searches, checking retail sites, and reading whatever I found when I had time.

To begin with, carriers can be categorized into about 7 types. I will try and go through each type and give you some examples and general descriptions. Hopefully this can get you started on finding what you want. Nothing beats just a little trial and error, though. I found through personal experience (or AM finding) that trying different carriers/sizes yourself is the best way to figure out what you want, but it’s also time consuming and expensive at times. Wraps/Carriers have a great resell value so that is a great advantage.

Stretchy Wraps    **NEVER use for back carry**

The most popular I think, is the Moby. It is considered a wrap and is made of cotton. You wrap it around yourself and place baby in the folds. I found it wonderful for newborns and little babies. Once you get close to 20 lbs or so, it starts not being so comfortable and will stretch out too much. Despite this, I will always keep a moby in my stash because of how much I loved it for the littles.

Baby K’tan is getting a little more popular. It works the same way as the Moby, but without the several feet of material. No wrapping.. it just slips on and you are ready to go. I loved the design and feel of the Ktan, but I didn’t like the fact that after about 20 lbs, it started stretching out and no amount of washing/drying would make it shrink back up tight enough for my comfort. If you buy, go a size DOWN to prevent this. K’tan is wonderful, though, if the sizing is right.


Sleepy Wrap AKA Boba

Wrapsody also makes a hybrid stretch wrap

Pouch Slings

Not that popular, but easy in/out. These are sized, so you have to figure out what size you’d need. Lots of people love them with newborns and then hip carries with older babies. Examples would be Hotsling and Peanut Shell.

Soft Structured Carriers

These are fairly popular. The Ergo and Beco would fall in this category. These have adjustments, buckles, inserts, and other pieces that help you get the right fit. They are very easy to use but some people aren’t fond of all the hardware (me included). I found all the buckles/clasps/etc to be annoying and I never got a good comfortable fit with my Beco, BUT many many women love these types of carriers.

Other SSCs (soft structured carriers):

Babyhawk Oh Snap



and many more

Asian Style Carriers

Mei tais will fall in this category. There are homemade, or work at home mom made mei tais. Then there are bigger brands as well. I’ve had WAHM and big brand .. both worked fine .. just had different details. I want to be a mei tai fan… I’ve tried several, only to find out I’m a wrapper at heart (I love using the wraps).

Brands/Makers of Asian Style Carriers:


Free Hand Mei Tai 


Woven Wraps (my FAVORITE!)

I plan to do a whole separate post going more in depth with woven wraps. I ADORE them. There are several sizes (lengths) and several materials. Lengths you will see range from 2-8.  Woven wraps are made of 100% cotton, cotton/bamboo blend, cotton/linen blend, linen, silk, cotton/silk blend, cotton/hemp blend, cotton/wool, blend and any mix there-of. Some are generally more supportive than others. Some are more “slippery”. Some are like wrapping with a tarp at first until you break the wrap in. Breaking a wrap in is basically using it, braiding it, sleeping with it, sitting on it, whatever you want to do to make the wrap nice and floppy and moldable. Wraps are so versatile, which is why I love them so much. For videos on how to wrap, check youtube and paxbaby, but nothing beats finding someone in your town to help you in person!

Details of the sizes are as follow:

Size 2 -2.7 meters=8.86 feet (great for ruck carries/quick carries for size S/M)

Size 3-3.1 meters=10.17 feet (great for ruck carries/quick carries for size L/XL)

Size 4-3.6 meters=11.81 feet (great for more involved carries for most sizes)

Size 5-4.2 meters=13.78 feet (involved carries for most sizes ..good size for quick carries for dads)

Size 6-4.6 meters=15.09 feet (involved carries for any size)

Size 7-5.2 meters=17.06 feet (any carry you would ever want to do including tandem

Sellers of woven wraps:

Marsupial Mamas


Purple Elm Baby

Granola Babies


Thanks and stay tuned for a post detailing more about Woven wraps. Happy babywearing!!




Five Things a Crunchy Mom Says on a Road Trip

November 26th, 2012

1. Where’s the Peppermint Oil? I’m getting a little tired.  (

2. His chest clip is a little low.  (

3. Hand me the cover so I can nurse him before we get back on the road.  (

4. Should I wear him in the sling, or the wrap while we shop? ( (

5. Hold the Eucalyptus Oil up to the vent so it can diffuse through the car. (


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope everyone is having a wonderful time getting ready for Christmas. Safe travels!!



Wearing Babies and Oily Tip #1

October 19th, 2012

I’ve been wearing my babies for about 4 years now. It sounds amusing, doesn’t it? Baby A gets lots of comments from people about him being “tethered” or “strapped” to me. It may look that way, but what people don’t see is how excited he gets when I pull out the sling when he’s tired or fussy. He knows he’s going to get some extended cuddle time, which is exactly what he needs at this ever changing stage.

I’ve grown in knowledge regarding babywearing. Much like I did with cloth diapers and homeschooling, and many other things I discuss here. I started out with a ring sling my mom made for me when Joe was a baby. It got the job done but I was far from an expert in how to wear it correctly. I then moved on to a ring sling I found at Target – the Balboa (Dr. Sears). A nice sling that I enjoyed for the tiny stages and then again when at a bigger stage. It was awkward for the between stages, though. I also found an Ebay/WAHM made Mei Tai wrap. It was a great simpler wrap for Jo and we even used it for our 2 yr old, but it didn’t work well for us with chunky A.

When I had Baby A, I bought a Moby – which I LOVED. It’s one of my highly recommended wraps for newborns. We also used a K’tan, which was awesome for out and about since it doesn’t have all the draping material, BUT I had issues with the sizing and it stretched out so much that I could no longer use it comfortably. Then I took the plunge and bought a nice soft structure carrier- a Beco Butterfly II. It was a great carrier though I didn’t grab for it much. The main times I used it were for a few extended outings, but even on those I found myself taking a second carrier (woven wrap) and using it about the same amount of time. A around a year old with A I got a ring sling – another WAHM made one that worked out really well. I knew how to wear it better and it was my “go to” sling for Farmer’s Market, Church, and other things. I love the versatility and the ease of use. Even knowing how to use it, it wasn’t the BEST sling for extended wear. I found myself looking again for something I could LOVE. A friend let me try on her sling. A lovely woven sling with a SBP (Sleeping Baby Productions) shoulder (pleated) and I LOVED it. It was comfortable, sturdy, and beautiful. Unfortunately I ended up missing the sale of it.. barely, but I employed the help of this dear friend to find me a sling that I could love just as much. Trolling swap sites on Facebook, one caught my eye. A beautiful medium Didymos NHI dyed LWI style with dharma dyes. It had an Eesti shoulder, turquoise rings, and EUC double hemp threads. “WHAT!”, you say?  Oh yes, did I forget to mention that sling/carrier lingo is as bad as cloth diapering lingo – or possibly worse. This is why I needed so much help. Oh, and if you need help as well, go see my dear friend at Keep Calm and Carry On .

So Medium – size of the sling. The one I tried on was a medium, so I knew it was good. Didymos NHI stands for Didymos Natty Hemp Indio. It is the brand and material of the sling. Hemp is very solid and so it’s wonderful for heavier babies and toddlers. LWI stands for low water immersion dying and it results mostly in a tie dye look.

See why it caught my eye? It’s LOVELY! Now you can see the Eesti shoulder. It’s a style done by Sleeping Baby Productions and it’s GREAT because it allows the fabric to spread out much easier over the shoulder making it a much more comfortable sling. The double hemp threads are in EUC – meaning excellent used condition. So.. this is the sling I have making it’s way to my home. I am so excited. Of course, this also means I need to sell the Beco to make up the $, but I have several inquiries so that’s looking promising.

I have a sleepy little boy vying for my attention this afternoon, so I will end with Oily Tip #1 and be on my way. A lot of you have seen me mention Young Living essential oils, but YL also carries a variety of other products that contain essential oils. One of these is Thieves Hard Lozenges. You can get them free with an order of 225 PV this month (along with Inner Defense, and Thieves EO). The Thieves Lozenges have a herbal taste, with a slight spicy kick at the beginning. They are perfect for on the go immune defense, sore throats, and many other things. I woke up with a slight throat irritation and immediately popped a lozenge in to suck on and as soon as the lozenge was almost finished, I felt back to normal. I also had a slight boost in energy afterwards, though I haven’t pinpointed if it was the lozenge or just a fluke. I’ll let you know :-)

Thanks for reading friends! Wear your babies and have an oily day!


Introducing Young Living Essential Oils

October 1st, 2012

In talking with friends and learning more home remedies for things a couple years ago, I came across a friend suggesting essential oils to help with ailments. These weren’t just any essential oil,though. They were Young Living essential oils. The more I looked into them, the more I was seeing testimonials of people using these oils and them working for them. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try them for ourselves.

One of the first oils I purchased and tried was Peppermint oil. I had a headache and had heard putting a tiny bit of the peppermint oil on the temple would help, so I tried it… and the outcome was amazing. Within minutes my headache was gone, and I was ready to go on with my day. I took the plunge to become a distributor in early March of 2010. I chose being a distributor originally for the savings down the road, but now, I’m proud to be a distributor and introduce these wonderful essential oils to others.

Young Living Essential Oils are like no other brand. They are 100% pure with a Seed to Seal Guarantee, and they are potent. They work and I love them. I suggest these oils all the time to friends and family. Young Living does and can not make any claims that their products diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease- since the FDA doesn’t test essential oils for these things. I CAN say that these oils are therapeutic grade, pure, natural, and good for your body – so why not give them a try?

I hope to have posts from time to time with tips on how to use YLEOs (Young Living Essential Oils). Hopefully I can reach some others out there that use them already and give you some tips and hopefully I can interest newcomers to the wonders of YLEOs!

Thank you!


August 30th, 2012

I love to organize things. Clutter always makes me stressed out, so a spot for everything is very important to me and my sanity. It also is helpful for the kids when they are cleaning to know where something goes. I want to share a few of my organization spots with you.

I’ll start with something most of you have seen before on my blog. I talked about this up-cycled drying rack in my cloth diaper post. It’s a crib rail (the dropside from our crib to be exact) hung from the ceiling. It also serves a great holder for the ball pit when it isn’t in use. I LOVE this. It holds a ton of clothes and has allowed me to hang to dry SO many things indoors.



I have a couple simple things as well, but wanted to share them anyway. I know sometimes it may not click for people what would work until they see it in use. We keep large cardboard toy blocks in a large round tote and small picture albums like the leather ones to hold wallets, I stack in a wire basket on the shelf. The blocks were originally in an xlarge rectangle container but once I moved them to this, I like it much better… It makes them more inviting I think. As for the wallet picture holders, they were just on a shelf in the living room, but the kids kept knocking them off or getting them down. I was afraid they were going to be destroyed, so they had to go up somewhere. Once I found the basket I knew it would be perfect for them. They are still displayed for others to thumb through, yet safe from the kiddos.


Here, I have the kids’ action figures and plastic animals organized in a 3 tiered plastic drawer system (from walmart probably). I do NOT like throwing small kids toys into a toy box. They will inevitably get lost at the bottom and not played with. 


The next thing I want to share is actually something I figured a lot of people had heard of, but when I mentioned it recently to some friends, they thought it was the best thing ever and suggested I talk about it. So, for our puzzles, I stack them on those trays that you see in offices. When we were cleaning a while back, Hubby handed me these to get rid of and instead I found a great use for them. Most of our puzzles fit in the trays. One is too big, and I just stack it on top.

Last but not least, is a recent addition. It’s also my favorite for now since I’m not stepping on NEAR as many Legos. That’s right, a Lego Station. A dear friend gave me an end table. I spray painted it in my oldest sons choice of color. We bought a super glue made for wood/plastic and a large Lego base plate. I glued the base plate to the top of the table.

Later, we decided to add a strip of green base plate on the left and we also added a plastic storage container to go underneath. It’s been GREAT. All the kids have loved playing on it and the Legos generally stay right here where they should.


That’s all I have to share for now. I hope I’ve inspired you at least a little to get organizing!


Blue Willow Academy – Our School Room

August 7th, 2012

I’ve spend the last 2 days working HARD on our school room. I pulled out every single thing, trashed, reorganized, moved, and put it all back together. It was exhausting and I stirred up more dust bunnies than my sinuses wanted to deal with, but the end result is well worth it.

I love seeing pictures of other homeschool rooms. Most of the time, I see something they’ve done and want to incorporate it in our room. This is our 4th year of schooling and so I feel we are still learning on how to set it up that best fits our family. For example, the first 3 years, we used one big table. This year, we are trying desks instead and we’ll pull out the table for art or large projects.

I took pictures in the 5 minutes that the room was clean so I can share our set up and you can see where things are supposed to go.

The details of pictures (left to right, top to bottom):

  1. High shelf for math/science manipulatives and scissors/punches
  2. Corner shelf for other curriculum, games for older kids, container with erasers/dry erase markers/permanent markers, etc; Shorter shelves have Preschool “Towel Time” items and Toddler friendly items; basket with teacher supplies
  3. Drawer tower for extra pens and pencils, glue and tape, and other odds and ends; Red box is the art supply tub and brown box is old magazines for reuse
  4. Dry erase board, US Flag, Chalkboard, calendar, clock
  5. Bookcase with educational books, reading books, My and Andy’s yearbooks, and the 3 college textbooks I kept as resources; Top left pink is extra workbooks, paper, and teacher planning book; Top right pink is this year’s curriculum books minus ones to be ordered this week, middle is extra paper
  6. The older kiddos at their desks, eager for school to start!

Hope you enjoyed the peek into our school room! I am excited and I look forward to having a Preschooler, Kindergartner, and Third Grader this year. Have a happy start of the school year!


Are Kids Expensive?

July 26th, 2012

Too often, I hear the comment “Kids are so expensive!”. Most of the time it’s said to me by someone just finding out I have 4 children. My usual reply is, “They don’t have to be.”  as I pat my youngest ones cloth diapered bottom.

Psalm 127:4-5

New International Version (NIV)

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

I feel that I’ve been on both sides of the “story” from my first child to my fourth. With our first, we had a couple big showers, and received just about every baby “thing” out there. We had the crib, changing table, glider/rocker, large swing, travel swing, bassinet, bouncy seat, exersaucer, highchair, and so much more. He barely used a lot of these things, and hated the swing. Our second child loved the swing, but was less fond of the bouncy seat. I rarely actually used a changing table while changing diapers, but we still loved the glider/rocker. By our 3rd baby, The changing table became a toy shelf, I had sold the glider rocker and travel swing, and sold the highchair and bought a spacesaver chair instead.

I’ve learned how LITTLE a baby needs to be happy and cared for. A swaddling blanket, nourishment (preferably Mama’s milk as it’s FREE and specifically designed for your baby), and a clean diaper go a LONG way for babies. We also made lots of changes along the way in what we bought for our children. Instead of disposable diapers, we switched to cloth diapering to save money AND to minimize harmful chemicals touching baby’s skin.  I also switched from disposable wipes to cloth wipes that we wash with the diapers. I also have cloth wipes that I use for faces and hands as well.

Another money saving idea is making your own baby food instead of using store bought. There are plenty of easy recipes found online and a blender or food processor can speed it along. I froze mine in ice cube trays first and then put the cubes in ziplock bags. Of course, by the time we had our 4th baby, I had changed my thoughts on food for babies anyway and he never even ate “baby” food. He went straight to food from our plates at around 8 months (earlier than I was wanting, but he was determined).

We get a lot of clothes from family, but if I’ve ever needed to buy anything, I’ve always shopped sales and have a limit of what I’m willing to spend on something. I’ve also bought more and more second hand clothing items recently and it’s SO much more worth it. For baby clothes that are only worn for a short amount of time, it just doesn’t make sense to me to pay full price for day to day clothing.

The last thing I want to mention is toys. We very very rarely buy a toy outside of birthdays or Christmas and we also don’t spend much at those times. I’ve come to learn that less is more when it comes to toys for the kids to play with. The less I have out, the more my kids play with what they have. I have really tried to minimize the amount of toys we have. I hit a block not too long ago when I had it down to balls, blocks, dress up, kitchen, car/train table, monster trucks, puzzles, plastic animals/figures, and geotrax set. I can’t seem to pick any of those to let go!

Overall, there are many things you can do to save money with children. I highly suggest consigning things your kids grow out of and use the money towards the next size or toys more age appropriate. Look for a local swap & sell group or a consignment store near you.  At the beginning of the year, I started a local Swap & Sell page and it took off. We now have 300+/- members and we swap/sell just about anything, but mostly children’s items. It has been a HUGE help and I’ve made some new friends along the way.

I hope this helps someone out there. Just remember that kids are not expensive, THINGS are.

 May your “Quiver” be full, and your pockets not completely empty! (unless it’s the end of the month – There’s always too much month at the end of our money! )


1st Birthday – Ball Theme

June 21st, 2012

I know we are way overdue for a visit to my roots as a party planning blog. My littlest just turned ONE year old a week ago and we had a small but special party. I originally wanted a Gnome theme because I’m a little crazy for gnomes and mushrooms right now. Then, I decided I should go with something more special to Baby Boy. Of course, he’s not into much besides Mama, nursing, and anything he can put in his mouth, but he does LOVE balls. I found the perfect plates and napkins at one of the dollar stores in town. They also had cute invitations, a great table cloth, table centerpiece, and even a great high chair decoration set. I bought 2 decorative boxes to put candy in beside the cake in the Target dollar aisles.

I purchased a 3D ball pan second-hand from a friend. I figured this was an investment of sorts and I’m sure to use it again with 3 boys. I made the 3D ball and also two 9×9 cakes to stack. I placed the ball on top of the stacked 9×9 cakes and used straws to keep it together. Usually I made my own icing, but I was a little stressed and ended up buying the icing and then coloring it myself. It definitely wasn’t my best cake/icing work, but it was cute and special. Hubby brought pizza home from Little Caesars (great price!) and we had veggies, dip, and chips. I also had circle candies in little decorative boxes by the cake.

My husband made a banner for the birthday boy at work. He also made his birthday shirt. We had mainly family at the party and then one other family with a boy close to Amos’ age. It really was a wonderful first Birthday party. He got great gifts, mostly the little grab and go type foods for babies and clothes (which we desperately needed!). His big toy from Mommy and Daddy was a ball pit. We had 100 balls already and I bought about 250 more from local moms for $6 total. The pit is a small blow up pool. It works perfectly!!

We all had a great time and more importantly, Amos seemed to have as good of a time as a ONE year old can have. I say it was a WIN and definitely shows that you do not have to spend a lot of money to have a good party!


  • About

    Blue Willow is our homeschool name, chosen for the beautiful willow tree in our yard and the Bluegrass state we live in. Homestyle is defined as "involving the home or family" and "domestic". Here you will find stories about our life as a family and tips from me, a mommy of four. I will talk about a variety of things that pertain to our family and other things I'm passionate about. I do hope you enjoy.