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Friday, July 29, 2011

End of Week Review

We are home for another weekend! Jacob's platelets were at just 17k yesterday and needed to be at 75k in order to received chemo today - he wasn't close by a long shot. Our overnight stay is postponed for next Friday now, which also happens to be my birthday. I'm not complaining, we've managed to miss almost every 'holiday' at home since Thanksgiving, so why not try to go for a record?!

There is no where that we must be today - no labs appointments, no speech class for the boys, no errands needing to be run. With the sun making an appearance after a day of rain yesterday (three inches here, up to 12 inches of rain in some areas) I have grand plans to get caught up on the laundry and bedding. The children want to turn in their library reading logs so I think we will take a walk there after lunch.

It really is about time that we just had a lazy summer day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cleaning Crew

My days this week have been spent cleaning and organizing. It's a bit too warm (HOT) to spend much time outdoors so I've been taking advantage of the time inside. I'm also packing away bags and boxes of items for the garage sale next month and am amazed at all I am finding to get rid of. I'm up to 6 big boxes and two garbage bags of things and know I can easily double that. Yay for simplifying!

All of us mothers have something which is the bane of our existence. Mine may very well be laundry. It is never ending and seems to breed overnight. While I don't mind the actual washing, hanging out, or folding part pf the task, I despise putting it away. I don't know why, I just do. I also despise folding a clean shirt or pants only to notice spots such as these all over them:
Some people call them water marks but I call them what they are; grease spots. My children are messy and like to drop food on themselves, or use their clothing as napkins for their greasy little fingers. The darker the fabric, the easier these spots show up. I've thrown many clothing items away with these spots that I just couldn't get out until I've heard that Dawn dish detergent works wonders on them. Squirt a bit of the Dawn on a toothbrush and scrub the spot, let sit for a bit and wash as usual. This has gotten every single grease stain out for me, even ones that have already gone through the dryer. I've heard of others sprinkling the spots with baby powder and letting it absorb the grease before washing. Hopefully this tip will help another mama from throwing out countless clothing from their messy children!

I've often been tempted to buy a Swiffer Mop as it looks so easy to use and clean with. What stopped me was the waste of disposable pads, along with having to buy the cleanser refill packages. I don't use harmful chemicals while cleaning so did not want to be stuck using something that needed a certain kind of cleanser. A few months ago I ran across the Libman Freedom Spray Mop at Target and was intrigued. I love the Libman products and have touted the Wonder Mop before, as it is the only mop I use! I liked the fact that the Freedom Spray mop has the same concept as the Swiffer Mop (no dirty mop water buckets) but also has a washable, reusable pad and the cleaner chamber can be filled with whatever cleaner you choose - no having to buy refill packs!

It was $20, which was a lot for me to spend on a mop, but it had a $5 rebate attached to it so I was sure to send that in when I arrived home. I fill the cleanser chamber with half water and half white vinegar (which is just as effective as bleach, killing 99.9% of germs, but safe and natural). I use it to take a quick swipe at the kitchen and bathroom floors several times a week and leave the cleanser in the chamber when hanging it back in the laundry room so that I can grab and go whenever needed. It takes less than two minutes to quickly clean the floors with this mop. I do not use it for a deep clean of the floors though, as I find that it just doesn't have the scrubbing power that I want. I go back to my trusty Wonder Mop a few times a month to do a through scrubbing of the floors. All-in-all I find it to be a good investment and friendly to the earth. (I was not paid nor asked to do a review of this product, I am just sharing a product that works for me which I feel should be shared with all of you!)

What are some of your favorite, can't do without, cleaning products and tips?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can Blogging Make Money?

Ask the Pioneer Woman, who made over 1 million dollars on her blog last year.

Ask your average blogger and the answer will be "maybe".

The number one rule in blogging is 'Do not start a blog in hopes to make money'. Because it just won't work. You need to be passionate about something and love what you write about. You need to blog for fun, for an outlet, for joy...blogging for money won't work out.

It takes years to start to earn money through writing a blog, and unless you love what you are writing about, you won't have the followers nor the backing to be able to start to earn an income - your blog needs to take off before your blog becomes noticed in the big circles. Your blog won't take off if you are posting drivel or posting sporadically.

You need good advertisers. It is difficult to find individual sponsors who will advertise on your blog and the pay is often small. Google AdSense is readily available to post to your blog but the payout is slim. It pays per click, so unless you are getting loads of traffic to your blog with one or two clicks on the ad a day it isn't worth it. I've had Google Adsense for close to 2 years now. They don't pay out until you reach $100, which I've done once. My account is at $50 right now do instead of taking the ads off my blog, I will wait until I reach my next $100 payout and then cut ties with them. I've heard of some blogs getting several visitors and clicks on their Google ads and being told that the activity looks suspicious and Google closing their accounts, with the unpaid funds never being seen. That looks suspicious to me!

Unfortunately, the better paying and more prestigious advertising companies have waiting lists a mile long and it's extremely difficult to get your blog approved. One of the biggest known blog advertising groups is Blogher, which I happen to have on this blog. It took over a year after submitting my application for this blog to be approved. It's an excellent circle to be in and the pay is per impression, not advertisement clicks. Most of the top bloggers make their big bucks through Blogher, but you really need a huge readership to make a nice income off your blog. Some bloggers are lucky to make enough to support their family, or even have their husband become a stay-at-home parent just because of their blogging income.

For the average blogger, such as myself, it's not worth it to blog if you are merely blogging for money. I did not start my blog to earn revenue so anything that comes my way is an extra perk and helps my family out. Some months I'll earn $60 from blogging, and some months I'll earn $15. It depends on how much traffic my blogs has (which relates to how often I post) and also depends on the amount of advertisers that Blogher has each month. It's a perk...it's not an income for us.

The biggest perk of blogging, for the average blogger, are the reviews that are offered up. Many companies know that one of the best advertising is not a blatant advertisement, but rather an honest review put out there on the world wide web. Any google search of their product name will bring up the review and many women reading blogs find the reviews to be helpful when choosing a new product to try. Many blog owners, myself included, are showered with items to test out and keep, all for the sake of writing a review and publishing it. It's a nice perk - to be able to try out products before anyone else and to be able to share the product with my readers. I'm careful to only test items that I would be interested in myself and that would fit the demographic of my readers.

Can the average blogger make a decent income from blogging? No. In a world of mommy blogs you are just another fish in the sea. It's good to branch out from "mommy blog" and find your niche, which can bring a bit more awareness to your blog, but unless you are incredibly lucky, it is doubtful that you will become the next Pioneer Woman.

That is not to say that you can't make money from your blog. It is possible, after years of blogging, having a decent readership, getting connected with the right advertising circles that you could make blogging both fun and profitable. There are many blogs that have an income of $200-$500 a month and that's nothing to laugh at. It just takes time and work - which is why starting a blog with the idea of getting rich won't work. You need to love what you write in order to make others love what you write. Whether it is about your own family, saving money, living green, and so on...you need to love writing about it.

After writing a blog for 2 years...I am just getting started!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Randomness

Wow, this is the first time I have neglected my blog so badly. It just proves how busy the past several weeks have been...in a good way.

Jacob is still doing great. His Hemoglobin was at 9.5 today and platelets at 57. This is the first time that his Hemoglobin has stayed this high after receiving the Carboplation cocktail. His platelets did drop to 17k this week which meant a platelet transfusion on Wednesday morning but besides that Jacob has been doing wonderfully!

I have some fun pictures to share, once I find my memory card reader, that is. I recall placing it on my desk the other day but it has not been seen since. I will work on finding that this weekend so that my posts can get back to being more colorful.

Joe and I just spent awhile outside weeding the garden and flower beds. This is the first chance I've gotten, between the oppressive heat and hoards of mosquitoes to weed without having a heat stroke or being attacked by the blood suckers. It is hot yet, as showcased by the sweat which was running down my face, but not unbearable like it had been the past week. There are piles of weeds throughout the yard which the kids and I will pick up a bit later to stick into the compost bin.

My garden is growing and the waterfall of rain that we received early this morning did wonders for it. We picked our first three cucumbers this week and have gotten one gypsy pepper and two rip tomatoes so far. I'm afraid that we may not get many more tomatoes than that as half of our 12 tomato plants came down with either the blight or wilt. The remaining just are not producing well at all. The only ones that look as though they will wield good amounts are the cherry tomatoes. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Cherokee Purple and Lemon Boy at least give us a few - the kids will be thrilled with purple and yellow tomatoes. My rhubarb, on the other hand, just won't stop. It's a crazy amazing magical producing food machine. No matter how much I pick it just keeps growing and making more. I spent much of my evening yesterday picking and slicing to get some put away in the freezer.

I hope to be back to our regularly schedule programming now. It's been nice to have a break but I feel out of the loop, as some of you may feel as well. With that said, if you want some more up to date posts you can become a fan of "Jacob's Ladder" on Facebook. While my mother does not update it that often she does put the most important info on there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Where Art Thou?

Often times no news is good news; that stays true in this case. I've been quiet because we have been getting back to our life after Jacob's 4 day hospital chemo stay (our last four day scheduled!). It takes awhile to catch up on things and get back into a groove; though I do arrive home to a fairly clean house thanks to my husband, I also arrive home to loads of things I want/need to do.

Jacob has been rambunctious as ever this week. Partly, I'm sure, due to the fact that his Hemoglobin was at 13 last time we checked. It's been months since it's been that high, it hasn't reached an 11 for the past 8 months so this boy is full of energy. He hasn't reached his low point since this chemo so he is enjoying it to the fullest now as next week it will start dropping and go lower and lower for about a week. He has two weeks off from chemo and then will have an overnight stay. That overnight stay will be the last of the overnights and the last of the heavy hitters. The next and last two chemo treatments will be Vincristine, which does not affect the counts so we really are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Once he is finished with the chemo he will be having his scans and we are praying faithfully that they once again show us good news and no signs of cancer.

We had plans today to set off for the farmer's market but when I awoke in the morning I saw the signs were spitting and the thunder was rumbling so I let the kids sleep in. Ben had to work today, covering the shift of a co-worker, so it has not been like a typical Saturday for us. I've been cleaning closets and we are about to embark on a quick grocery run and a stop at the vegetable/fruit store in town. Hopefully daddy will arrive home in time to help us grill out the steak and the sweet corn for supper...I think that red meat has been helping Jacob's counts too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Prize Time

Jacob should be discharged in a few hours and we can then leave all the 4 day hospital stays behind us! He is receiving blood and hydration right now; this is the first time after receiving this cocktail that he has not needed an automatic blood transfusion on discharge day. But because his Hemoglobin is hovering just above the transfusion number (his is at 8.2 right now, they typically transfuse when it hits under 8, though it isn't "automatic" unless it is 7 or under) they decided to just go ahead and transfuse him to boost his numbers so that hopefully we won't have to return to the hospital later this week as his numbers start to drop. Once that is finished we will be heading for home.

Jacob just had a blast playing TV Bingo with the Child Life workers here. They are on the tv and Jacob fills in his Bingo card and calls on the phone if he gets Bingo. He won one trivia question, "What dance can be done on a trampoline" by answering "Bunny Hop". While the real answer was "Hip Hop" they gave him the prize because it was a good answer too! He then won on the Bingo Blackout game and when I wondered aloud what the prize was he said "To get to go home early!" It was a funny and sad answer at the same time - but no worries since we will be out of here in a few hours and won't have to return for another three weeks.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fast Food

One of the many dilemmas of hospital stays is food. It's just plain difficult finding good food to eat in the hospital. The cafeteria has a variety of foods, but not many healthy ones and the prices are outrageous. There are some stores around the hospital but I can't just up and leave whenever I need something to eat.

4 days of being away from home equals 12 meals. I first started by bringing the Hormel Complete meals as a way to save money and have food on hand. I'm sorry for being honest, but those meals taste (and smell) like dog food. The next stay I brought frozen meals, which were a bit better but a bit inconvenient as well as not very nutritious.

Don't get me wrong, I bring the basics with me from home: yogurt, nuts, cheese sticks, granola bars, and other foods that travel well but I need some nutritious filling foods as well and the cafeteria, pre-packaged, frozen foods just weren't cutting it. Then I remembered MaryJane's Farm food and browsed the website only to realize that I had been missing out all along. The food is often advertised for backpackers and campers as it can be made directly in the pouch by pouring in boiling water. This would be perfect for making meals where only a microwave was available for cooking.

I ordered several meals. While it is a bit more expensive than I would normally spend on a meal (around $5), it is not a daily purchase for myself and I feel better, health wise, while eating healthy food in the hospital instead of greasy, fattening, junk food. It was worth it to me. The meals are organic and packed full of nutrients. They are easy for me to make; I bring a glass measuring cup along to the hospital, heat the water in the microwave, pour it in the pouch and close and within minutes I have a healthy meal.

This evening I enjoyed the Creamy Potato Soup with a few saltine crackers from the hospital drawer and a plate full of celery and sliced peppers that I brought from home. Tomorrow I plan to try the Bare Burrito, which looks delicious. I can not forget to mention the mouth watering chocolate that they have. I splurged on a Milk Inspired Collection and bring one bar of chocolate per hospital visit as a treat; this visit being the last bar. It is divine and I savor every bit of it - and the adorable post cards that come with it is a great addition!

I am in no way getting paid to mention these products. As a matter of fact, MaryJane's Farm is unaware that I am posting this. I am just sharing a product that I like and that may come in handy for those of you who want fast (yet healthy!) food on the go.

ZAZA Couture Winners

Winners of the ZAZA Couture dresses were chosen by Random.org and are #14 and #8, which are:

Lee said: I tweeted about it.


Lindsey said: Aquamarine is my favorite.

Please e-mail me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo.com with your address! And thank you to everyone who entered - there are a few more giveaways coming up!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cancer and Clutter Update

This week has been a fairly normal one. Since Jacob has had an extra week without chemo (since his platelets were too low last week) he has gained a bit more energy and is feeling more like himself this week. We are heading off soon to get his labs and will wait to see if everything is high enough for a 4 day hospital stay this weekend. If so, this will be the last 4 day stay on our schedule! Yay! Just a few more rounds of chemo and he will be finished...I'm anxious to get it all behind us!

This week I have been preparing for a garage sale that my mom will be having towards the end of the month. Just last night I was able to fill a box with shoes and toys - proving that we have too much of both! We dropped a garbage bag full of donation off yesterday. I have packed several boxes for ThredUp this week and have already mailed several out. It helps that they now have a new program for the top 500 threaders where you get paid $15 per box that you send out and get a 3/4 star review on. That extra money would come in handy so I've been packing as many boxes as possible since the program may last only a few weeks. It's an incentive to clear things out, that's for sure! How has your clutter control been going?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Memories and Berries

What says 4th of July better than a bowl full of warm black raspberries freshly picked from your Grandma's woods?!
It was a tradition to spend the 4th of July at her house. Incidentally, the berries were always ripe for the picking that day too so I remember my fair share of fresh raspberries picked and popped directly into the mouth each year. It took some debating on whether or not to go to her house this year for raspberry picking but I finally decided that she wouldn't have wanted them to go to waste.

The kids had a blast picking the berries and Becca seemed to eat more than she put in the bowl. Jacob and Ben disappeared into the woods and came back 45 minutes later with the bowl filled. I basked on the front porch, blissful in the fact that I know the house and the woods will stay in the family since my younger brother put his offer in this week. It is magical up there! The only sad part of the trip was when Joe ran around to the back door and started knocking and waiting for my Grandma to open the door. He kept asking me "Grandma home?"

After stuffing ourselves with fresh berries, Joe and I made this delicious treat, which was quickly gobbled up too. I think that the berries will continue to be a yearly tradition now; for that I am thankful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cute? No, Adorable!

You all know by now that I love children's clothing! Boys are fun to dress but one of the best thing about having a girl is all the adorable clothing to choose from! Not only do I like clothing but Becca loves it! Ever since she was able to dress herself she showed an interest in clothing. She likes to sort through her storage bins of clothing and help me organize them. She holds items up to herself, she tries things on, she mixes and matches outfits.

We both share a passion for clothing. We both especially like "girly" outfits and bright colors. Wild designs and crazy patterns. Imagine our delight when
ZAZA Couture sent a dress to be reviewed. The clothing that ZAZA Couture makes matches our style to a "T". I could start drooling when I look at the clothing on their site! Their clothing, by the way, can be found at several specialty boutiques across the US or at different internet boutiques.

The dress they sent to be reviewed is from the Summer 2011 collection "Hummingbird". It is cute, stylish, and BRIGHT - I love bright clothing for children! The clothing is well made and the material is excellent - lightweight for summer but quality. Becca oohed and ahhed as she opened up the package and saw her dress and she instantly wanted to try it on. She fluttered and danced around - quite like a hummingbird! It is a very eye catching dress and has quickly become a favorite in this house.

Do you have a daughter nearing size 4? A granddaughter? A friend with a daughter? ZAZA Couture has so graciously sent me two brand new dresses for a giveaway, which means that TWO readers will have the chance to win a dress in size 4 for their daughter! It will be a surprise which one I send to which winner! :)

In order to enter you must go to ZAZA Couture and click on the Fall/Winter 2011 button on the top of their site. Find your favorite fall group which you would be most likely to buy (the groups are all named after precious gems this season - LOVE IT!). Then head down to the bottom of their website and "Like" them on Facebook - leaving a comment on their Facebook page of which fall group is your favorite. Come back here and leave the same comment that you left on their Facebook page. It's that simple!

But wait, there is more! If you would like additional entries, you can 1. twitter the link to this post 2. Link back to this post on your Facebook, and 3. post about this giveaway on your blog. For EACH additional entry that you do please leave an additional comment below. That gives you up to 4 entries into this giveaway.

Winners will be chosen through Random.org on Saturday, July 9th. Good luck!

Refreshing Morning

It has been hot the past few days. When it's hot I get crabby, tired, and not so hungry. The not so hungry part is probably good for me but it's not because I don't feel like cooking so often rely on quick or take out foods. That is, until I start to get back to the basics and rely on God's good thinking.

God made vegetables and fruits in season during the warm months for a reason. They can be eaten raw which requires no cooking, they are cool which in turn cools us off, and they are easy to digest. Summer time is the easiest in which to try a raw diet. I'm not on a raw diet but we are eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables. A whole watermelon is often eaten as part of our lunch, a big salad fills us up, popcorn and sliced fruits and vegetables are a perfect summer "meal" for us.

My hot oatmeal breakfasts have fallen to the wayside and yet I've found a new favorite for breakfast.
Yogurt parfaits! A cup of yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt), whatever fruit we have on hand (whether fresh or frozen), a sprinkle or two of granola, and a Tablespoon of chia seed. This is refreshing, delicious, and healthy!

Chia Seed was a staple of the Mayans and Aztecs. It was a highly important part of their lives - they would take it on their long hunts to sustain them (supposedly just one tablespoon of the seed could sustain them for 24 hours), it was used for medical purposes (joint pain, skin conditions), and was even used as currency.

It's now easy to see why this seed was so favored that long ago. It has more antioxidants than even blueberries and has the highest content of Omega-3. We hear so much about flax seed but chia seed has more health benefits.

They can be eaten raw and do not need to be ground up. I find that they have no taste whatsoever (though they are crunchy little things!) but some say they have a nutty flavor. These seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition and take little effort to consume: sprinkle them on yogurt, salads, cereal, in baked goodies. Some people even absorb them in water until it turns into a gel like consistency and eat that for a quick energy boost, something that I plan to try soon. I've noticed that since eating chia seeds I have not had the problem of dry eyes like I had been having...the Omega-3 can help produce more lubrication for your eyes.

The chia shots are all the rage now for on the go nutrition but I stick with buying it by the bag. I use the Spectrum Essentials Chia Seed, which I find at our local health food store, but I see that Amazon has it for a bit cheaper than that even.


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