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! )


Laundry Savings

May 14th, 2012

We’re getting ready for a trip and I always try to get laundry caught up before we pack, or at least before we leave. I’m doing pretty well this time. I have 6 loads of laundry left to do. SIX!!  It’s the little things. :-) So, in light of the laundry on my mind, and a couple questions I’ve had recently regarding laundry, I thought it was time for a “Laundry” post. More specifically, let’s talk about laundry savings. Saving time .. and saving money.  Ah, NOW I have your attention!!

Here are my laundry tips:

  • Reduce the amount

My Grandmother (who lost her battle with cancer early in 2006) used to say that if you have too much laundry, you have too many clothes. Of course, having a big family will also produce a lot of laundry, but she was still right. So, if you find yourself with too much laundry, start consigning some clothing. Does DH (Dear Husband) NEED 30 tshirts?  Do you NEED 20 dress shirts? Do the kids NEED 10 pairs of pants each? Go through and decide what you can get by without.

  • Start a laundry routine

I recently ordered the Large Family Logistics book. I really love the way it’s concepts. It works much better for our family than Fly Lady ever did since it incorporates ALL the family members and not just you alone when everyone else is gone. In LFL, she suggests having a laundry day ALONG with doing 2-3 loads every day (for basics like towels, underwear, and cloth diapers). Following this has made a huge difference. On laundry day, I don’t worry about anything else but keeping the washer/dryer running constantly.

  • Buy Wool Dryer Balls

Dryer balls will help cut your drying time, reduce the need for softener sheets, and save wear and tear on your dryer. There are many different kinds – you can even buy plastic ones at walmart, but I HIGHLY suggest WOOL. For one thing, heat + plastic releases toxic chemicals .. and I’d like to reduce that as much as possible. Mostly, Wool is absorbent and all natural.  I’ve bought most of my wool dryer balls from Leaping Sheep, but you may find them at local Farmer’s Markets or Craft Shows. They aren’t all just plain white either. Ha! The dryer balls will reduce static, soften clothes, and reduce drying time by separating the clothes and absorbing some water (only WOOL ones). Also, since wool is absorbent, I can drop 3-4 drops of my favorite essential oil onto a ball and toss it in to freshen up a load here and there.

  • Make Your Own Detergent

Thanks to Pinterest for making Homemade Laundry Detergent “popular”, you’ve probably heard about this already. Of course, many families have been using similar recipes for years.  I’ve been using it for about 4 years and I LOVE it. My ingredients are Ivory soap, Borax, Washing Soda, water, and several drops of my favorite Young Living essential oil. I use the “wet” version – about the consistency of egg noodle soup. I store it into a medium plastic container with a snap on lid and keep a plastic orange juice bottle filled with my soap above the washer.  I do NOT use this recipe for cloth diapers, however. From what I understand, the borax is not cloth diaper safe and I also was concerned with the ivory soap causing build up. For my cloth diapers, I currently use Crunchy Clean – which I get through a coop at a GREAT price.  I have also used 1-2 tbsp of Tide Original in the past with no problems for cloth diapers.

  • Put Up A Clothesline
Another way to save money and dryer use is to hang as much as possible. We have an outdoor clothesline AND an indoor one. I love to hang outside to get the natural bleaching and antibacterial affects from the Sun. For indoors, we have a large wooden rod across the laundry room wall for some hanging clothing and another hanging rack that was up-cycled from a baby crib.  I hang pretty much all of our t-shirts, dresses, dress pants, and many other items.
I hope you enjoyed reading through my laundry tips and find some things that you can try in your home. Have a great week and happy laundering!!
  • 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.