31 Days of…what?


Are you jumping on the 31 Days of ______ bandwagon?  I’m not usually one to follow trends, but I like this one.  It’s like New Year’s resolutions on a more achievable level.  365 days is just asking for failure, but I can do 31 days – maybe.

But true to my nature, I didn’t plan ahead.  I just heard about this thing yesterday, and today it starts.  Of course I heard about it last year too, but that was a year ago.  Surely you didn’t expect me to remember?

Now I have to decide what to do.  NOW.  Because today is Day 1.  And as a blogger, I assume I have to blog about this stuff every day, right?  Isn’t that how it works?

I have a few ideas:

  1. 31 Days of Lists – just for fun.  Every day, a list, any list.  I’m keeping expectations low with this one.
  2. 31 Days of Memory – because I always forget stuff, you know?  This could be fun and useful, if I manage to actually improve my memory.  It could be a combination of my own memories, my attempts to remember or memorize stuff, articles/tips on improving memory, etc.  I’m leaning toward this idea – if I can remember to post about it today before midnight.
  3. 31 Days of Life in a Big Family – Just a quick photo and a few words about something we did each day.  This could be fun and easy, and would make a good journal to look back on.
  4. I think I had another idea to put here, and then I forgot.  This, again, inclines me toward #2.  But it’s also the hardest, and that means I’ll probably fail.

Which would you choose?  Which should I choose?  Or do you have another suggestion for me?

Weekend wrap-up

Just in case you don’t live your life on Facebook, here are a few fun things I shared there recently:


This made us laugh, even after we watched it 10 times.  Maybe because our dog does the very same thing, and now we know what he’s saying.  Our dog also talks, but he only says Mom.  Now there’s one more ankle-biter following me around the house pleading, “Mom, mom, moooom, mom…”


Epic Highlights from the National Beard and Mustache Championships was awesome, but not in a I-wish-my-husband-had-facial-hair-like-this way.  More in a trainwreck-can’t-stop-looking way.  Awesome, nonetheless.  Click the pic to see much more awesomeness.

national beard and mustache championships 2013 new orleands by greg anderson (8)


And this, this is awesome too.

I’m already plotting to acquire it for Calvin’s upcoming birthday.  I have a Plan A and Plan B.  Unless Perry vetoes it, you’ll hear about Plan A soon.  I’m just going to say one thing right now: Lydia put me up to it.

Oh, and I have to ask: Did you enter my giveaway?  No?  Do it!  Yes?  How many different ways?  Do more!

worship Giveaway: The Worship of God conference (free registration AND lodging!)

GreenGeeks – our new webhost

Does anyone still see the weird ads embedded in the text of my blog posts?  After 2 years, I think they are finally gone, and here’s why.  I just added the text below to my Help Out page, but wanted to make sure you see it here too.  These guys really helped us, and I’d love to send some new business their way.

After the last 2 years of headaches, we finally realized we had to find a new webhost.  Our sites were down for days at a time, we had evidence of malicious scripts but couldn’t find them, and our old host was less than helpful.  When problems arose, tech support was difficult to understand and seemed content to just do their job.  I don’t blame them, but what was the point of paying for a website that didn’t stay up?  I couldn’t solve the problems plaguing our sites and they had no interest in helping, so our relationship was pointless.

After extensive research, I chose GreenGeeks.  Their prices are not rock bottom, but they are very reasonable.  Tech support is here in the US.  Independent reviews – not always easy to find – give them a high rating.  The Better Business Bureau gives them a high rating.  They had the features we needed with the best price and service record.


First, they transferred my entire site for free.  Then they helped find the malicious scripts that had slowed and crashed our sites so many times over the past 2 years.  They even helped solve a couple of other problems that I should have known how to do myself.

Responses to my emails have been very fast, always helpful and courteous.  If they’re tired of helping me, I can’t tell.  🙂  They are definitely earning my dollars, and I’m happy to pay.


Frugal Stuff

I haven’t done this in a long, long time, but I’m starting again.  I’m doing pretty well at posting regularly here again, and now I’m going to post at least once/week over at my other blog, Frugal Hacks.

Well, ok.  I’m planning to post at least weekly over there.  I have quite a few ideas.  Now I just need to find time and motivation to do it.  It’s been pretty quiet over there for a long time, so could you help motivate by keeping me company over there?

The headmistress from The Common Room blog posts at Frugal Hacks too, so I’m sure she would appreciate a little company and conversation as well.  You should check out the free Kindle books she links to nearly every week!  She also shares lots of frugal recipes.  I plan to print them and keep them in my kitchen so I can remember to try them out soon, instead of just saying, “Oh, yum!” and then promptly forgetting.

I mentioned that I have ideas, but what would you like to hear about on Frugal Hacks?


Media fast


Our family is beginning a media fast that is intended to last through the end of March.  This means no movie nights, no iPad, no iPods.  Music in March is under negotiation, but the current thought is that we will listen only to hymns or make our own music.  Reading, too, is under negotiation; fiction might be limited to read-alouds, even if it means one teen/adult reading to another.

We are logging out of Facebook, and activity here will be limited to prescheduled posts, my weekly 4 Moms Q&A, and closing out Deanna’s henna giveaway.  I’ll be checking in occasionally to moderate comments but will not be posting any comments of my own.

I hope to be back with a full report in a few weeks.  In the meantime, we’ll miss you and hope you’ll miss us a little too.  But we also expect to enjoy each other’s company a lot more than we have in recent times – and possibly butt heads a little more, too, since we’ll be interacting more.

Ora pro nobis.

Time to file taxes

TaxAct: free e-filing for everyone!It’s time to file taxes if you didn’t already, and I didn’t.  I’m still waiting on one final piece of info, but I do know who I’m going to use.  In fact, I already filled in all the blanks and will be ready to e-file once I get that last piece of the puzzle.

Aside from printing and mailing your return the old-school way, I know of three major competitors in the e-file business, and I’ve used all three.  In the past I have used H&R Block because they had the best name recognition.  Then I switched to TurboTax because they were cheaper and actually found me a few more dollars when I used both sites to compare.

Last year, I tried both of those plus TaxAct, and I settled on TaxAct.  I thought all 3 sites were very comparable in ease of use, and all were comprehensive enough to handle my multiple streams of income and deductions.  The biggest difference: the first two are free if you fall under a certain income level, while TaxAct is free for everyone.

There is a catch: TaxAct charges you $9.99 if you want to import all your information from the previous year.  So it’s free the first time, then in the following years it’s up to you to decide whether your time is worth $10.  Since I have 10 kids at home and quite a few sources of income, I chose to pay for the import this time.  It was still cheaper than their competitors.

But I’m guessing that it probably only saved me 20-30 minutes, so I probably just passed up the chance to save the equivalent of $20 or $30/hour.  Next year, I’ll enter the info myself, buy the family a bucket of ice cream to celebrate, and still have a few dollars in my pocket.

4 Moms on Helping Kids Keep Up With Technology (?!)

OK, I’m going to be a little blunt.  Remember this post about Introducing Kids To Technology?  Unless we’re talking about how to load the dishwasher or operate the vacuum cleaner, I just don’t think kids are as challenged by technology as those of us with a few more gray hairs on our heads and years under our belts.  The trick is not in introducing them or helping them keep up.  It’s in keeping them from disappearing into an alternate universe where you will  never see your child again – or where you can only communicate with your child via an electronic device connected to the internet.

Of course we equip our children with some basic skills that prepare and enable them to use computers.  Free keyboarding lessons and programs abound on the internet.  W3Schools offers free fast-paced tutorials on HTML, Javascript, CSS, and many other topics to improve computer literacy – great for learning to build websites or tweaking your blog.  Google is an amazing tool that can provide answers to nearly any question that arises.  YouTube is a limitless source of video tutorials on every imaginable topic.

With resources like these, some basic computer literacy will allow a motivated child to learn nearly any skill in the world.  The question isn’t how to help your child keep up with technology; it’s how to help your child decide which direction to take, or how many different directions your child can go at once!

Oh, and I’m totally open to tips on how to load a dishwasher so that all the plastic kid cups don’t end the cycle upside down and full of soapy water.

See what the other moms say:

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • November 15 – Food for Gifts
  • November 22 – Handling disrespectful attitudes
  • November 29 – Q&A
  • December 6 – Quick and Easy Holiday Crafts
  • December 13 – Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes

Recent topics:

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics

A plea for The Morning Center

Today is a quiet day and I hope to work on Calvin’s birth story, but before I do I want to put out one more quick post about the monthlong $50,000 charity giveaway that has just 6 days to go – and 6 chances for you to vote.

If you already know what I’m talking about and just needed a reminder, Vote Here.  Please remind your friends & family to vote, too!

We’ve been asking all of our facebook friends and acquaintances to vote daily for The Morning Center, a project of Samaritan Ministries.  They have been neck-and-neck all month with another worthy cause, Reece’s Rainbow, and I admit that I will be thrilled no matter who wins. Providing adoption funds for disabled children is no small thing, and I deeply respect their organization.  I’m thankful that the 2nd-5th place winners will also receive $10,000, so no matter who comes in first both of these causes will benefit.

However, our hearts lie with The Morning Center for a couple of reasons.

First, we have been happy members of Samaritan Ministries for many years now.  We have seen it work flawlessly over and over again for ourselves and our friends.  I have never heard of a dissatisfied member.  Because Samaritan Ministries works so well and The Morning Center is a project of Samaritan Ministries, I have full confidence that any funds received by The Morning Center will be managed just as well and put to the best possible use.
Second, as this adoptive mother of DS children points out, The Morning Center’s winnings will be used for many years to come, saving lives and benefiting hundreds or even thousands of needy mothers and children.  Again, I love what RR does – but they cannot make that claim.  Their winnings would help only a few families.
More about The Morning Center:

More about The Give[away]:
The Give is hosted by Cultivate Wines.
You must have a Facebook account to vote, but you are not required to like Cultivate Wines.
You can vote daily through the end of October (please do!)
Voting takes just 2 or 3 clicks:
To vote:
Step 1: Click the link.http://www.cultivatewines.com/cause/45941 (this won’t work on most smartphones, or in FB apps…you’ll need a tablet/PC/laptop and an up to date browser)
Step 2: In the right sidebar, log in with Facebook.
Step 3: Now in the right sidebar you’ll see the Vote button.  Click it!
Step 4: Wait for the “thank you for voting” page to make sure your vote has been counted!
Step 5: Share with your friends and family!
Did you vote?  Will you vote for the rest of October?

4 Moms: Introducing kids to technology

I asked my children what they thought I should say about this topic and they chuckled.  “Introducing?  Really?  Is there that much to it?  Here’s a computer mouse.  Use it.  You’re old enough for an iPod now.  Have fun learning to use it.”

Most of these 4 Moms topics started out as reader questions, and I’m sorry I don’t have the full context of this one because I’m unsure exactly what the reader wanted to know about.   Teaching children to use the computer?  Deciding when to allow them supervised or unsupervised access to various pieces of electronics?  Establishing and changing boundaries as they get older?

When it comes to how to use a computer, our children seem to be born knowing how.  Maybe that’s because I tend to nurse my babies in front of the computer.  Don’t judge me.  Can you type 35 words/minute with one hand and use a mouse or touchpad completely ambidextrously?  If you’re a nursing mom, you probably can.

From the time they’re toddlers I allow them to have a few minutes every now and then on the computer.  We have very few games installed since computers are mainly for work in our house, but Paintbrush and Soup Toys are favorites.  Although they show up in our home every now and then, I strongly dislike quest-type games that deeply engross children and lead them to beg for just 20 more minutes.  I like games that challenge the mind, require creative thinking, and can be started and stopped with minimal notice and no emotional trauma.

When it comes to other types of technology, I think my children’s comments in the beginning of this post are right on.  A new iPod, Kindle, cell phone or digital camera may require some boundaries, but certainly no lessons.  They’ll figure that out quickly enough on their own.  If it takes some work, they’ll learn perseverance and critical thinking in the process.  If your kids give up and decide it’s too hard, you can mail your electronics to us because I’m sure I have a kid or 3 that will be happy to learn to use your device.

A bigger challenge for us is helping them maintain a healthy relationship with their devices once they’ve become personally involved.  Sometimes I feel more like a chaperone than a parent.  “You’ve spent enough time with your iPod today.  The two of you do not need to be alone right now.  It’s time to pay attention to the rest of us.”

Now we’re talking about boundaries.  That’s an entirely different subject, and a difficult one.  I think boundaries need to be based (at least in part) on an individual child’s judgment, maturity and ability to self-govern.  What is appropriate for your child may not be for mine, and vice versa.  For example, we have generally allowed our children to get iPods around 10-12yo, though their songs must be individually approved for the first couple of years and music collections are subject to inspection at any time without warning.

We like them to ask before using their iPods not because we want to control every moment of their day, but because we want to have an idea of just how heavily they use them.  Are they listening to music every now and then during a tedious job, or are they constantly immersing themselves in it?  This requirement is dropped when we see good choices and good habits consistently exercised.

We also like them use just one earbud when they are around other people, so that they aren’t tuning out the world around them.  This, I think, is just common courtesy.

Other electronics and forms of entertainment are similarly managed.  The history-loving child was allowed to read freely as long as she was not neglecting other duties.  while the children who showed a strong preference for fluff were required to get permission before reading so we could monitor just how much fluff they were stuffing between their ears.  The one who uses the cell phone as an alarm in the morning or for back-up while babysitting is allowed more freedom with it than the one who uses it to text friends when she should be doing school or chores.

How would you answer the question?  Do you introduce your children to technology?  How do you create boundaries, and when do you relax them?

See what the other moms say:

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • October 18 – Food preservation
  • October 25 – How do you keep the car clean?
  • November 1 – Q&A

Recent topics:

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics

Poll: Should I crosspost from Life in a Shoe’s Facebook page?

Thanks to the ease of using facebook from my phone, I’ve fallen into the habit of posting quick bits there throughout the day: funny quotes from the kids, my own thoughts that I want to share when I don’t have time for a blog post, the occasional photo, and other items that don’t quite seem to merit an entire blog post of their own.

A small sampling of recent items on facebook:

No twins, but I’d love to hear your guess before we share the gender. 67 comments

Baby face view comments

Photo: Baby face :-D


“Dad looks really young for 90. You? You just look normal for your age.”  ~PerryBoy 3 comments

Snake sunning in the road on yesterday’s morning walk: 12 comments

Now I’m wondering how many of my readers don’t use facebook or don’t follow Life in a Shoe on facebook. I think of my posts over there as a supplement to this blog, but maybe many of you are missing them entirely?  Is my blog becoming too serious because all the quick & funny stuff is reserved for facebook?

So here’s a quick poll for your sake.  If you want to leave a comment to expand on your vote, even better.  Should I be taking time to cross-post some or most of the little things that I share on facebook?  Or would it just be redundant because everyone who cares already sees facebook?

[poll id=”37″]