Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mammoth Caves


In honor of our missed camping trip to Land Between the Lakes this past weekend (because said child hid the truck keys from other said child who was setting off the truck alarm, in her clothing drawer and forgot about them)...I will catch up on my blog post from our last camping trip. Although our family was brokenhearted that we missed the trip, looking back we realize it was all part of the Master's plan for the weekend. Sometimes His ways are not our ways!

We have become a camping family. It only took a few trips and we were hooked. There is nothing like the serenity of being away from the "world". One can wake up to the sound of a twittering bird. I begin to relate that this must be a mama scolding her chicks for dirtying up her nice, clean nest! We watch the various flying insects dance from one place to another. I compare them to our children as I watch them playing with friends, and how they all look different but are all marching to beats of similar drums. God is intentional in His design and much of it for our enjoyment; much of it to instill wisdom. One is free to remove their masks for a time, allowing themselves just to be who God created. Another fascinating part for me in the mere silence. There is something to be said about silence in a house of seven. Although our house is filled with much laughter, singing, squeals of joy, and even shouts of frustration, it is easy to let the knocks on the doors of our hearts by God, go unnoticed. In the middle of one of God's handcrafted little nooks of earth, that has not been all dolled up by society, it is not so hard to "....be still and know that He is God."  It seems He will speak loudest when all is quiet, but truly He speaks at the same volume. There is just little background noise. Some of my purest conversations with my Creator have come in the calm of a morning before all of mankind wakes. That is a sliver of what days removed can bring.   


Our family took our first camping trip of the year back in March with our boyscout pack. We ventured to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky, spending two nights at the National Park. Upon our arrival late Friday evening, the kids were happily surprised to get to take a ferry across the river to our campsite. Good friends and a warm fire were waiting to welcome us. It was a pleasure to be in the company of godly families while we explored and marveled at the world around us. Saturday morning, Daddy and the "big" three (Eva is so excited to be considered a "big" now. To us she is still in transition, but we give her the title nonetheless.) delved into Mammoth Caves, the longest known cave system in the world, exploring through places such as Fat Man's Misery and Tall Man's Misery. 





I stayed back with the two "littles" and the other mothers of small children. Had we both gone, chances are we would have returned a couple less children. We have some spirited children in this family and on MOST days we like that very much, but it is a goal of ours to not lose any children by our own doing!

The following day the big three and I joined the group for a 2-mile hike along the Green River.  The weather was beautiful during the days. The kids had loads of fun playing sports, exploring the wooded areas, building forts, and digging. They even caught a crawdad, properly known as a crayfish. Temperatures did fall into the 30's at night, but we were all prepared and bundled up.


This was our first camping trip with Shy in tow. She was born to camp! She enjoyed her new surroundings and let nothing unsettle her nap times. She slept well at night, still waking for a midnight snack (or two) but dozed happily back to sleep once satisfied. 

The forecast called for storms to roll in Saturday evening, but two other families and we decided to brave the rain and stick it out for the night. Another enjoyment of sleeping in nature is falling into slumber to the sound of rainfall! We packed up after breakfast Sunday morning and headed for the comforts of home that awaited us in Jackson. What a wonderful beginning to an adventurous season to come this year! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yummy in Her Tummy!


After noticing, watching, reaching and grabbing, Shy has been showing interest in what we are eating! After much deliberation, it was unanimous that we LET THE GIRL EAT!!!! Her official first food, if we are not counting Play-Doh, was avocado. It has a nice creamy texture and is rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and Vitamin E! I assure you no harm was done to the child in the making of this blog!



Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it! Despite many of the photos, she did enjoy the avocado, likely more mushing it between her fingers than in her mouth. She has shown much more agreement with squash, sweet potato and carrots! I am seeing the smallest evidences of a little type-A in there. She thinks she must have the spoon herself. We have compromised on each of us having a spoon. Mine is the one with the food, simply to assure more food goes in than on! Next up, FRUITS!!!! I anticipate much more enjoyment!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Soccer Season

Spring soccer season is in full force again! This is Eli's eighth season to play. He loves the game and we love that he does. For many of you it is not news that Eli has a condition called Coat's disease. The fact that his vision allows him the hand eye coordination to play to the level that he has progressed, is nothing short of a miracle in our eyes. Praises are lifted to our Lord that Coat's has not become a thorn for Eli.

Coat's is a very rare disease that causes premature breakdown of the blood vessels surrounding the back of the eye, specifically the area where the retina is located. These vessels begin leaking the serum portion of the blood into the eye, building pressure within the eye cavity. Coat's in its mildest form can be reversed, leaving very little damage. In its most severe stages can cause partial or complete detachment of the retina, vision loss, glaucoma and/or enucleation (loss of the eye). This disease has caused scar tissue to form in Eli's eye that is obstructing his central vision in his affected eye.


Corner kick



 Despite his condition, Eli has excelled at soccer. This season I have noticed him becoming more aggressive during the games. He is gaining confidence along with new skills. And a bonus for us...we can use the sport towards physical education credits in homeschool! We are very proud of him and his teammates.

 And, if truth be known, I have a bit of a crush on the coach!!



Isn't he dreamy?!  ;-)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eight months!!!!!!!

Eight is great!!!! Our little toot is eight months old! She is a busy girl, having finally figured out crawling forward. Now she can get anywhere she wants and get anyTHING she wants for that matter. In just a matter of days she mastered the front crawl, moving from a crawl to a sit and picks herself up from tummy lying to a crawl. She has skills!


 She has begun making the Dadadadadadada and Mamamamamama sounds! She is showing more personality these days. When she gets frustrated or tired, she will pull her tiny ponytail out! Apparently she is not much on accessories. Give it time! No teeth yet, but they must be on their way. Little bit chews on everything, STILL. Naps 2-3 times a day (when we can fit it in). She would much rather play and be loved on than sleep. This girl has managed to fit those cute little toes into her mouth. Nurses 6 times during the day.  Still waking at night to eat, two times! Next stop? Solid food! Mama has got to get some rest! Toodles is still the center of attention for her siblings and she would have it no other way! Their laughter makes my heart happy. Whatever moniker she is going by from day to day (toot, toodles, little bit, and even Skeeter), they are the mad ramblings of intense affection at our house! One would think as much thought and hard work we put into keeping a name pattern, we might use them more often. But, no! That is a little West quirkiness for you! There is much more where that came from. 

Happy eight months, sweet girl!! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013



As a family, we are always looking for ways to nip and tuck our budget. For us, stretching the dollar has become an art. As long as its not an idol, right? Befittingly, I have been considering making my own laundry detergent for some time! We are a large, frugal family, so it fits the bill there. Although, I have to admit, I was a skeptic. It has to clean effectively. I have a soccer player, not to mention a soccer coach in the house. That equals mud, grass stains, and smelly socks. We have a two year old in the house and that can equal crayon, marker, food and potty accidents, and anything else you can imagine. Don't let the girls fool you either. They are oh-so cute, but they can get just as grungy, with a little glitter glue in the mix! We are a camping family so that can equal mud and grass, along with smoke and the hints of mildew at times. In all my Type-A glory, I have been very particular about the detergent I use. It has to clean exceptionally well, while smelling fresh! I am/was a Gain girl. It met my needs, with the exception of the price tag. We always bought the size that says it contains 96 loads for $14.97 (Wal-Mart price). That lasted us just under 3 months based on approximately 8-10 loads of laundry a week. That brings the total to around $60-$70 a year. My quest was to make my own detergent for at least half the cost without compromising cleaning power or freshness!

I did a ton of research! Hello Pinterest! I came to find that there are a million different recipes for detergent. I settled on a very easy-to-make powder form that I decided to give a try.


Here is what I use:

You will need…
1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax
2 (14.1 oz) - Bars of Zote Soap (You can also use Fels Naptha)
 (I used the Lavender scent! But, there are other scents to add a little variety to your life!)

The hardest, most time consuming part is grating the soap. Thanks be to my big, strong, manly-man husband for contributing his elbow grease to the project! I should make it known that the soap dissolves just fine, even in cold water.

Now its time to mix your detergent. In hopes of assuring a more homogeneous mixture, I layered my ingredients little by little in a 5 gallon bucket. Now my little domestic divas had to be part of the action. They took turns pouring and stirring, pouring and stirring, pouring and stirring until it was mixed to their satisfaction. (And, then I stirred some more.)  Much easier than dumping all the ingredients in at once and then trying to mix it well!

This batch makes A TON! It almost filled my bucket half way. That's like 2.5 gallons of detergent! Now for the second best part…you only need 1-2 Tablespoons per load depending on the size. If I have a super big load, or a super dirty load I use a hair more, but I mean only a hair more! And, it smells wonderful! But, the BEST BEST BEST part? It cost less than $24 for all of it. Now I am hoping this will last me more than 6 months. This being my first batch,
we dated the lid so that we will know exactly how long this lasted and if it was a bargain in deed.

This recipe works exceptionally well in High Efficiency Washers because it does not create any suds. It's kind to the machine, and we preach kindness nonstop at our house!

Here is my final product!

My recipe came from the How Does She? blog
Try it! I know you will love it.

If you are a liquid detergent lover, there are a whole slew of recipes for those out there too!