Author: Abby Teuber (Page 1 of 2)

I'm Abby, follower of Jesus, committed wife of 13 years, and homeschooling mother of 3 amazing kids. I love languages, coffee, travel, good books, and all things thrifty.

How to Clean Practically Everything in Your House Using Only Natural Ingredients

Are you looking to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals but don’t know where or how to start?  Here is an incredibly simple guide to replacing toxic household cleaners with safe, natural alternatives, many of which you probably already have on hand.  You’ll find out how to safely clean practically every surface in your house, from the windows to the toilet and everywhere in between.  These cleaners are safe enough for kids to use, so the whole family can pitch in around the house without any concern about what they’re being exposed to.  You will still want to keep these things away from young children who might accidentally ingest them.  While perfectly safe to use for cleaning, some of these ingredients can be harmful if ingested, so make sure they will only be accessible to people who won’t try to drink them ūüėČ

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Quiet Book Tutorial-Part 2

Version 2

Hopefully you’ve seen the first part of this tutorial and are already obsessively working on your own quiet book! If not, go check it out here. ¬†There are some tips and suggestions you might want to read before getting started. As promised, here are instructions for the rest of the pages in my book, as well as a cover. ¬†Feel free to get as creative as you want and come up with your own page ideas, too! ¬†I don’t have templates because I free-handed everything, so it’s all far from perfect, but that’s part of the charm ūüôā

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Quiet Book Tutorial-Part 1

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My cousin ,who is really more like a sister, recently had her first baby and she wanted someone to make a quiet book for him. ¬†So, my 8-year-old daughter and I decided to take on the challenge. ¬†After months of working on it little by little (because, let’s face it, that’s how projects go when you’re a mom), we finally finished it! ¬†I’m so excited to share the tutorial with you and I hope it will inspire you to start your own. ¬†But be forewarned: ¬†it is ADDICTIVE and you won’t want to do anything else once you start. ¬†If you’re like me, you might even lay awake at night planning new pages and losing precious sleep, but it will be worth it. I know some of you will want to make one similar to this, so I’m including instructions for each page I made, but if you have other ideas to try out, go for it! ¬†Half the fun is in designing your own. There are no templates because I freehanded everything, but if I can do it, believe me, you can too.

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Here are some things to consider BEFORE you get started:

  • What age child will be using the book? ¬†This will help you determine what activities (buttoning, lacing, zipping, snapping, moving things back and forth, matching, learning numbers, letters, etc.) will be age-appropriate. ¬†Also, make sure not to include small parts that could pose a choking risk if the child is still very young. ¬†This¬†book will probably be ideal for a toddler who is between 2 and 3 (my almost-3-year-old¬†has tested every page out and can do all the activities without help).
  • What size should the book be? ¬†I cut my fabric pieces 9″x 9″ so the pages are slightly smaller than that once they’re sewn together, but you might want to make it smaller if it will mostly be used on the go or larger if you are planning to fit lots of things on each page (like the entire alphabet or a road for felt cars to drive on, for example).
  • How much time do you want to invest? ¬†A quiet book can literally take months, or it can be a much shorter project if you don’t make it too detailed. ¬†Either way, it can provide hours of fun for a child, so decide how much time you honestly want to spend on it and you’ll be more likely to finish.

Once you’ve thought about these things, it’s time to get started.

Step 1: ¬†Plan your pages. ¬†It’s really helpful to make a list of what pages you want to include and what activities you will put on each page. ¬†I didn’t want to have to use interfacing to make the pages sturdier, so I made sure to end up with one felt background and one regular fabric background sewn together (see photo).

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This makes the pages sturdy enough without having to mess with an extra layer, but you have to plan a little to make it work.  Or you could make all your backgrounds felt to simplify things.

Step 2: ¬†Gather your supplies. ¬†Make a list of what supplies you need for each page. ¬†Don’t forget things like thread, velcro, specific colors of felt, background fabrics, grommets, etc. ¬†There were so many times I had to stop in the middle of something because I hadn’t thought it through enough to get everything I needed. ¬†Don’t do this to yourself! *Felt is much easier to work with than most other fabrics because it doesn’t fray and you won’t have to stitch around the edges like you otherwise would, so plan to use lots of it if you want to save time.

Step 3:  Get to work!  Here are instructions for the first three pages in my book.  (The rest will follow soon!)

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For the Dress Me page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 background pages (felt or other fabric)
  • 4 1/2 x 3 in. piece of pillow fabric
  • 5×6 in. rectangle of blanket fabric
  • Contrasting brown felt for the dresser (2 shades)
  • Various felt colors for clothing
  • Felt for the boy, his hair, and his undies
  • Small amount of fiberfill for the pillow

Start by hemming one 6-inch edge of the blanket fabric.  Pin the other three edges under and onto your felt about one inch from the bottom of the felt and sew (leaving the top edge open for the boy to fit under).  Fold the pillow piece in half right sides together and sew around the edges, leaving a small space open.  Turn right side out, fill with fiberfill, and sew closed.  Sew the two short sides onto the felt background just above the blanket.  Cut out a dresser shape, drawers, and knobs.  Sew the pieces together and then stitch the sides and bottom to your other background page, leaving the top open.

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Cut out the shape of a boy (I only made him one layer but I would strongly recommend cutting two layers and sewing them together before you make the rest of him so he will be sturdier.) Now cut out hair for the back and front of his head.  I did this by laying him over dark brown felt and cutting around his head, just slightly larger, and then cutting a front piece to fit over just his forehead.  Use the same technique for cutting out his underwear.  Now pin the hairpieces and the two underwear pieces on and sew with whatever color thread you want to use.  (I hand-stitched the hair and used my machine for the underwear.)  You can either take the easy route and draw on a face with a permanent marker, or you could stitch on his features.  As you can see, I went for the lazy way.  Finally, you can lay him on different colors of felt and cut out various types of clothing for him: PJs, sports jerseys, jeans and t-shirts, etc.

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Be as creative as you want! ¬†I wanted to add a mirror above the dresser but couldn’t find anything that would work for that. ¬†If you do it, post a picture so we can all admire your handiwork!

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For the Laundry Time page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 in. background pieces
  • Felt for the poles, washing machine, and clothes
  • Fabric (or felt) for the laundry basket
  • String or ribbon (approx 10 in.) and mini clothespins OR a strip of velcro about 8 in. long (go with the velcro option if this will be used by a very small child as the clothespins could pose a choking risk)

 

Cut out laundry poles about 5 1/2 in. tall and snip a tiny hole near the top of each one.  Sew them on at a slight angle, leaving the hole at the top.  Thread your string through each hole and pull until it hangs down slightly, then tie each side really well.  Hook on your clothespins.  (Alternatively, sew a strip of velcro (the sticky side) between the tops of the two poles and the felt clothing will stick without clothespins.)

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The grass on my page was added because I had to fix something on the page behind it¬†after they were sewn together, but if you want to add some, I would suggest placing it closer to the bottom of the page. ¬†Now, cut a 4×4 square of felt for the washer and fold in half to cut out a large circle from the middle. ¬†Cut your vinyl to be a circle slightly larger than the hole in your square and then cut a coordinating color of felt to fit around the edges of your vinyl circle. (Confusing, I know. ¬†See the photo below.)

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Now sew the felt circle onto the vinyl. ¬†Sew the outer edges of the washing machine square onto the background and then sew the left side of the vinyl door onto the washer. ¬†Add velcro to keep it closed. ¬†Now cut out a laundry basket and hem the top edge. ¬†Zig-zag stitch the sides and bottom of the basket so it sits on the washer. ¬†Cut out some fun clothes and you’re done!

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For the Winter Wonderland page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 in. pieces of snowy-looking fabric
  • White felt or fleece for the snow and the snowman
  • Felt for the hat rack, hats, arms, nose, and sled
  • String or ribbon (I would suggest ribbon) approx. 10 inches
  • Snaps for the hats

Start by laying out the white fleece over the snowy background and cutting a blanket of snow for both pages (be sure to make one side slope for the sled to “slide” down). ¬†Zig-zag stitch the top edge of each snowy piece onto the background. ¬†The other sides will be sewn down when you attach all the pages later. ¬†Cut out three circles for the snowman and zig-zag stitch them on one at a time, starting with the biggest and working your way up. ¬†Remember to leave a seam allowance!

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Cut out and sew on arms, a nose, and eyes. ¬†Cut out a felt hat rack about 7-8 inches tall and stitch on. ¬†Sew the back half of a snap on the snowman’s head and also on each end of the hat rack. ¬†Make various hats to fit on the snowman and add the front part of a snap to the back of each, first making sure the placement will work. (You don’t want the snowman’s eyes to be covered when he’s wearing any of his hats!)

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Cut out two identical pieces of red felt in the shape of a sled and stitch them together with two parallel lines down the middle with a small space in between.  Thread your ribbon (or string) into the space so it can move up and down and sew the ends of the ribbon to the edges of the page, going over them a few times to get a strong seam.

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And that’s it!

There are instructions for 4 more pages, plus a cover, coming soon. ¬†I hope you’ll be inspired and get to work on your own quiet book!

 

 

 

 

Why I Decided a Pet Was Worth the Trouble…Again

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MorrisKnowsBest #CollectiveBias

If you ask my son about his siblings, he’ll tell you he has two sisters and two brothers. The sisters are both regular¬†human girls, but the “brothers” he’s referring to are our cats, Edmund and Phil. And the funny thing is he isn’t the only one who thinks of the cats as important members of the family. We all love these little guys more than I ever dreamed possible. I never knew I was a cat person until we rescued Edmund from a shelter two years ago. ¬†He was a sweet, playful little kitten and we all loved him from day one. ¬†He brought so much fun and joy into our household. ¬†It left us wondering why we hadn’t adopted a pet years earlier. ¬† But we were perfectly content with one pet and never even considered adopting another. ¬†We had no idea that it wouldn’t be long before we took the plunge again.

One day, we were outside and a tiny gray tabby cat just wandered over to us looking completely adorable. ¬†He was friendly and affectionate¬†with¬†beautiful green eyes and the softest fur ever. ¬†The kids were all so excited and begged to keep him. ¬†I was certain my husband wouldn’t want to mess with adopting another pet, so I dismissed the idea and started asking around the neighborhood to try to find his owner. ¬†After all, we already had a cat. ¬†What if they didn’t get along? ¬†And adopting another pet means vet visits, added expenses, more responsibility…It just seemed like too much trouble.

No¬†one claimed him, and he¬†took up residence on our back porch and made himself right at home, while we were still trying to find him a home somewhere else. ¬†Thinking he was a girl (we hadn’t bothered to check), my son named him Phyllis. ¬†My kids would call him and he would jump right up on their laps and purr like crazy. ¬†My youngest would pick him up and he would just stay on her lap looking absolutely content. ¬†He never scratched or snapped at anyone. ¬†He would playfully chase strings as long as someone wanted him to, keeping my kids entertained for a long time. ¬†Everything about this cat was wonderful. ¬†After¬†several¬†days of this, my husband and I both agreed that he would be¬†worth whatever it took to make him ours. ¬† And we’re so glad we did! ¬†He loves everyone in the family and appreciates all the affection we can give. ¬†We weren’t sure how Edmund would handle it, but after the first couple weeks, Phil (as he is now more appropriately called) and Ed became¬†best buddies. They play together, eat together, and follow each other around. ¬† Edmund actually seems happier now that he has Phil around.

But aside from the fact that they look very similar, they are as different as can be in every way. ¬†And that’s one of the best things about Phil! ¬†He’s not just another cat like the one¬†we had, he’s a completely different cat with his own personality and habits. ¬†Edmund prefers to relax in quiet places, while Phil loves to play with balls, string, or anything he can chase around. ¬† Ed finds a hiding place when he’s had enough attention, and Phil never seems to get tired of being around people. ¬† Having two cats that are so different is a tremendous blessing. ¬†While one is sleeping next to my daughter as¬†she reads, the other is playing with my super energetic¬†son. ¬†Phil’s playfulness is the perfect complement to Edmund’s seriousness.

Even their taste in food is different. That’s one reason 9Lives¬ģ wet and dry cat food varieties are just right for our cats. For wet food, Edmund prefers the Meaty Pate selections, with smooth ground meat, fish or poultry, while Phil devours the Hearty Cuts¬†made of tender, meaty morsels with rich gravy, flakes of fish, and savory shreds.

Check out DollarGeneral.com¬†to find coupons and save on 9Lives¬ģ wet and dry cat food for your own feline family members! You’ll find great savings through 5/31/18, and there are so many varieties your cats won’t be able to resist. They also offer specially formulated dry food to meet the nutritional needs of cats in every stage of life. Plus Care helps support digestive health and a strong immune system for older cats like Edmund, while Daily Essentials provides nutrition to support heart health, vision, strong muscles, and healthy skin and coat for cats of all ages.

We love to support companies that give back in some way, and the 9lives spokescat Morris has visited countless schools to promote kindness to animals.  He also launched an initiative to save animals in need of homes.  Check out his Facebook page here.  These are causes our family can feel good about supporting every time we purchase 9lives products.  Our local Dollar General Store carries a great variety of 9Lives cat food, so I can always find all the wet and dry food types that both of our cats love.

We’ve only had Phil for a few months, but it’s hard to imagine life without him. ¬†He’s not just another cat to us, he’s really become a treasured member of the family. ¬†Now the reasons we had for not wanting to take on another pet seem trivial as we watch how much our kids love Phil and how much joy he adds to all our lives. ¬†Just look how adorable he is!

If you’re considering adopting a pet (or like us, another pet) I can tell you it’s worth the trouble. ¬†The little bit of extra work and cost it takes to have him is nothing compared to the joy, excitement, affection, and comfort that this¬†little guy brings to our family. ¬†Plus¬†my son is pretty happy to have as many “brothers” as sisters now ūüôā

Have you recently adopted a kitty of your own? ¬†Tell us about it, or share a photo of your sweet new family member. ¬†And don’t forget to go to DollarGeneral.com¬†to find great savings on the 9lives wet and dry food your cat will love.

Easy Crustless Quiche

 

You know that game where people ask questions like, “If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?”

“What one book would you take with you to a desert island?”

“If you had to live on one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Well, my answer to the last one is always CHEESE. ¬†I. Love. Cheese. ¬†Cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella, blue, feta, goat…I’ve never come across¬†a cheese I don’t like. ¬†It seems that all of my kids inherited this cheese addiction, so most of the recipes we all like revolve around this delicious dairy goodness. ¬† They’ll even eat vegetables that they normally wouldn’t touch (like spinach) if it’s covered in enough melty cheese.

So, one of our favorites is this amazing crustless quiche that my mom used to make. ¬†It’s super easy to throw together and it can be baked right away or made the day before. ¬†We eat it for breakfast or brunch with fruit, or for lunch or dinner with sweet potato fries or salad and bread.¬† I’m telling you, it’s delicious anytime and with anything.

And one of the best things about this recipe is that it’s a perfect¬†meal to take to exhausted new moms or friends who just need a night off from cooking. ¬†Our family eats the whole thing now that we have a seven-year-old who eats like a teenager, but I used to always split the recipe into two pans so I could take one to somebody who needed a break.

Enough about why you should make this. ¬†Here’s how:

Gather your ingredients.

  • 10-12 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed until dry
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 10 drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

First thaw the spinach.

When it’s completely thawed, squeeze out all the water. ¬†You can use a cheesecloth if you have one, or place it in a colander and press all the water out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure cottage cheese and sour cream into a large bowl.

Add eggs.

Mix well.

Add parmesan cheese (or have an adorable helper do it for you.)

Try not to eat any.  Did I mention my kids love cheese as much as I do?  This one proudly calls herself a cheese monster.

Add flour (not pictured) and onion powder.

If you want a little kick and more flavor, add tabasco sauce.  One of my children has a serious aversion to anything even remotely spicy, and he can detect even the tiniest hint of spice, so I left it out of our quiche.

Once all of this is mixed well, add the mozzarella…

And the spinach (which should be really dry.)

Mix everything together and spread mixture in an 8-inch round pan.  I used a springform pan but anything that is deep enough will work. Alternatively, pour into two pie plates and make two quiches.  Just make sure to adjust the baking time.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden around the edges and no longer jiggly in the middle. ¬†If you’re making two, bake for¬†30-40¬†minutes. ¬†If you’re making this the day before, simply cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake it.

Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. ¬†And if you’re tempted to feel guilty about all that dairy you’re eating, just remember¬†it’s low-carb and packed with protein and spinach ūüėČ

Easy Crustless Quiche
Recipe Type: Breakfast, Brunch, Make-ahead
Author: Abby
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
Delicious and easy spinach quiche
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 10 drops of tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 10-12 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed until dry.
Instructions
  1. Thaw spinach completely.
  2. Squeeze all the water out of the spinach using a cheescloth, or press in a colander until dry.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Mix cottage cheese, sour cream, and eggs.
  5. Add parmesan, flour, onion powder, and tabasco sauce and mix well.
  6. Stir in mozzarella and thawed spinach.
  7. Spread mixture in an 8-inch round pan and bake for 1 hour, or until edges are golden brown and middle is no longer jiggly.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Homeschooling–Even with a Toddler

 

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In the almost 4 years we’ve been homeschooling, there has always been a baby or a toddler in the house. Without a doubt the biggest challenge for me has been figuring out what to do with the youngest during school time. ¬†I can’t even count the times our school day was cut short because of a younger sibling whining or getting into mischief or having a potty training accident, and after dealing with the situation I was often too frustrated to get things back on track. I realized that most of my frustration was coming from trying to fit our lives into¬†a picture of what I thought homeschooling should look like, and it simply wasn’t working.

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5 Ways to Make the Most of Fall with Your Family

#advertisement I received compensation from Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ to write this post. All opinions are entirely my own. #CustomFitRelief #DrScholls

Is it just me or is fall the BEST season of the year? The air is crisp, the leaves are turning gorgeous colors, and the holidays are just around the corner. Something about this time of year just makes me want to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather all the time. Maybe it’s because we’ve just come out of months of heat here in Texas, but autumn somehow makes me feel energetic and ready for anything. There are so many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the season, but most of them involve being on my feet for long periods of time. ¬†Sadly this can be a real problem for people like me who often suffer from aching feet or pain in the lower back and knees, both of which can originate in the feet.

I have a really hard time finding shoes that offer the right amount of support for my feet so I pretty much gave up on finding shoes that would work for my feet and decided to just live with the pain. But then I found Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ Custom Fit¬ģ Orthotic Inserts. ¬†Oh my goodness! ¬†Who knew a cushiony little insert could make such a difference? ¬†These things have four different layers, each serving a different purpose in supporting your feet to relieve the stress that can cause foot, knee, and lower back pain.

Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ experts in biomechanics have developed an incredible Footmapping¬ģ ¬†Technology that evaluates arch type, pressure points, and foot length using over 2,000 pressure sensors, which then recommends the inserts that are right for you. ¬† All I had to do was find the¬†Custom Fit¬ģ Kiosk in my local Walmart and follow a few simple¬†instructions to get my personalized recommendation.

Here’s how easy¬†it is.

Step 1: Remove your shoes.

Step 2: Step on the mat.

Step 3: Touch the screen to begin. ¬†Follow the prompts on the screen and in under 2 minutes you’ll know exactly which Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ Custom Fit¬ģ Orthotic Inserts¬†are right for your feet. ¬†I had no idea I had high arches, and it was great to have a custom recommendation just for my feet!

Thanks to these inserts¬†I can truly¬†enjoy¬†my favorite season! ¬†If you experience pain in your feet, knees, or¬†back from being on your feet for long periods, give¬†Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ Custom Fit¬ģ Orthotic Inserts a try and start moving around comfortably! ¬†To find a Custom Fit¬ģ Kiosk near you click here. ¬†And right now you can even get a $10 rebate at the Custom Fit¬ģ Online Rebate Center right¬†here!

The season has so much to offer and I don’t want to miss out on any of it. ¬†Here are some of the beautifully simple¬†ways¬†I like to make the most of fall with my family.

  • Take a nature walk. ¬†This can be as simple as a trip to a local park or even a walk around the block. ¬†No matter where you live, a new season always brings with it changes in nature that your family can enjoy together. ¬† Slow down and really enjoy the beauty of the season. ¬†Stop and look up at the trees and the clouds. ¬†Keep your eyes open for acorns, pine cones, pretty leaves, or any other signs of Fall. ¬†Gather special finds in a basket and make simple crafts out of them, or simply display them at home for a free seasonal decoration. ¬†Need a way to get the kids interested? ¬†Make up an age-appropriate scavenger hunt using¬†local plants and animals and see how many you can spot. ¬†You might even make a habit of taking an evening walk together because it’s such a pleasant way to end the day. Just being outside in the fresh air is a great way to slow down and reconnect with your family!

  • Have a family work day outside. ¬†Outdoor chores have to be done anyway, so why not make it a fun family experience? ¬†Turn on some music and get to work raking, gardening, pulling weeds, organizing the shed…whatever needs to be done to make your outdoor space enjoyable for the season. ¬†Just remember to keep it fun! Let the kids rake up a big pile of leaves and jump in it (and then rake it up again, of course :).) ¬†See who can pull the most weeds. ¬†Make a leaf maze or obstacle course. ¬† Keep some cups and a thermos of apple cider outside for breaks. ¬†Snap some photos of everyone working hard and having fun!

  • Dine al-fresco. ¬†Enjoy the results of all your hard work by eating outside. ¬†¬†Bundle up and enjoy¬†a steaming bowl of soup out on the patio while the sun sets, or take your morning coffee outside and listen to the birds singing. ¬†Here in Texas we can be outside most of the day in the fall, but if you live somewhere that’s much colder make the most of the sunshine in the middle of the day by enjoying a picnic lunch. ¬†Having a meal outside somehow makes it feel special and memorable, so make a habit of dining outside as a family once in awhile during the pleasant autumn months before winter sets in.

  • Take advantage of local seasonal activities. ¬†Most cities have certain¬†activities that are only open for a few weeks every fall. ¬†Pumpkin patches, apple-picking, hayrides, corn-mazes…these¬†won’t be available for very¬†long, but the memories can¬†last a lifetime, ¬†so check to see what’s available near you during this season. ¬† We’ve gone to a local pumpkin patch for the last few years and my kids always look forward to¬†spending the day running around, climbing on hay bales, and having a picnic there. And don’t forget your Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ Custom Fit¬ģ Orthotic Inserts so foot, knee, or lower back pain won’t cut your experience short. ¬†Get clinically-proven all-day relief so you can keep moving and make the most of the season!

  • Hunt for treasures at flea markets and yard sales. ¬†I love finding unique things that people are getting rid of and giving them a new home. ¬†Autumn is the perfect time to spend¬†a day at the flea market or checking out garage sales. ¬†You might even find some perfect Christmas gifts for people who are difficult to shop for. ¬†I have a friend whose family decided one year that they would only give each other gifts from flea markets or yard sales. ¬†They all had so much fun Christmas shopping, and there were some unforgettable gifts that year! ¬†My kids often want to buy gifts for people at Christmas with their own money, but they don’t usually have much money to spend. ¬†So I love helping them find just the right thing at a garage sale that hardly costs anything. ¬†This way they’re learning smart spending while we shop together!

What are some things you do with your family in the fall? ¬†Share your ideas with us for making the most of the season. ¬†Don’t let foot, knee, or lower back pain keep you from enjoying everything this beautiful time of year¬†has to offer. ¬†Try Custom Fit¬ģ Orthotics risk-free, with the Dr. Scholl‚Äôs¬ģ Money Back Guarantee¬†and experience all the fun of the season pain-free!

How Books Changed Our Lives–One Family’s Literacy Journey

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone.  #MyLiteracyStory #DGMyStoryEntry #CollectiveBias

We all know reading is important. If you can read, you can learn about the things that fascinate you and experience far-off places you long to visit and see life through the eyes of someone who is different from you, all within the pages of a book. ¬†As a homeschooling mom, every day of my week centers around reading with my children and encouraging them to appreciate and love reading. ¬†For the last 5 years we’ve been using the Charlotte Mason method for our home school, which focuses mainly on learning through reading great literature. ¬†All those hours we’ve spent immersed in great books have shaped us so much as individuals and as a family. ¬†My kids haven’t just learned history and science and grammar. ¬†They’ve learned empathy and compassion and courage, and that “normal” doesn’t mean “exactly like me.” Reading has a way of changing us for the better, and it’s a joy¬†that everyone should be able to experience.

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and how they’re making the dream of reading¬†a reality for so many people. Since it began, the Foundation has awarded more than $140 million to nonprofit organizations and schools that have helped over 9 million people improve their literacy and education. That’s a lot of good! ¬†You can learn more about this literacy initiative and also enter the #DGMyStory sweepstakes to win a $50 Dollar General gift card (nice!) by clicking here and sharing your own personal literacy story with the hashtag #DGMyStoryEntry.

And now I can support a cause that’s really important to me by buying the cereals my family loves anyway, because Kellogg’s¬ģ is a proud sponsor of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! Head over to your local Dollar General to pick up some Kellogg’s cereals. I found several varieties on an end cap in the food section and grabbed a few because we really like our cereal around here.

This initiative is a great example of the fact that every day, Kellogg employees work together to fulfill their vision of enriching and delighting the world through foods and brands that matter. ¬† Hover over the image below to be a part of this great initiative and start conveniently shopping right now for Kellogg’s timeless¬†cereals, including Rice Krispies¬ģ, Froot Loops¬ģ, Frosted Flakes¬ģ, and my family’s favorite, Frosted Mini-Wheats¬ģ!

Check out the literacy stories featured on select Kellogg’s cereal boxes and be inspired by the encouraging stories people have shared. ¬†We’ve all been on some sort of journey that relates to reading, and sharing our stories with each other has a way of connecting us.

Each of my children has unique¬†strengths, interests, struggles, and abilities, so it makes sense that each one would¬†learn to read in a different way and at a different pace. ¬†¬†Today I’m going to share about my experiences in teaching three very different kids to read and how we have all grown as a result of reading.

Let me introduce you to my 10-year-old. ¬†Sweet, helpful, conscientious, thoughtful…a typical firstborn child. ¬†Teaching her to read should have been a joy. ¬†She was eager to please and willing to learn anything I wanted to teach her. ¬†Unfortunately for her, we had friends whose 3-year-old was doing a reading program and already knew more than my almost-kindergartener. ¬†My daughter¬†could recognize letters and knew many¬†of the sounds (which, in hindsight, was absolutely fine), but comparison had me in its clutches and in my mind we were suddenly way behind. ¬†I got the same online program that our friends were using and she¬†started official reading lessons. ¬†While my daughter caught on quickly and was soon able to read short words, it wasn’t a joy for either of us. ¬†She didn’t love reading, and that broke my literature-loving heart.

So I did some serious soul searching and realized¬†I was burdening both of us with an¬†unspoken pressure to measure up to a ridiculous and unnecessary standard. ¬†Did I want her to learn to read early just to keep up with someone? ¬† No! I wanted her to learn to read in a way that made reading enjoyable. ¬†So I¬†took the pressure off and went back to the things that make reading fun–books! ¬†I started simply reading lots¬†of books to her again for the sheer pleasure of it. ¬†Reading became fun again. When she started kindergarten and it was time to pick up reading lessons again, it was a breeze. ¬†This time I had the ultimate goal in sight–cultivating a love of reading. ¬†We¬†tried¬†some traditional methods,¬†like flash cards and early readers, and some hands-on activities using things like Easter eggs and popsicle sticks. ¬†But no matter what approach I used this time, her reading improved rapidly because now there was no pressure and she could learn for the joy of it!

Then came my son. ¬†Energetic, creative, stubborn, wild and wiggly…he didn’t have the time or inclination to sit and learn anything in the “normal” way. ¬†Luckily I had learned my lesson already and was determined not to make learning to read a chore for him. ¬†So I spent hours just reading books to him and my girls. ¬†When I read biographies or mythology¬†or poetry to his older sister for her¬†lessons, he sat at our feet building creations¬†with Legos. ¬†He seemed completely engrossed in what he was doing, but he was quietly listening to every word. ¬†He would exclaim over a surprising turn of events in the story or ask a question about why the characters did a certain thing and I realized he was really interested in hearing these stories. ¬†And as he sat there playing with his favorite toys, he was unwittingly learning. ¬†His vocabulary grew, his grasp of language improved, and his love for literature blossomed.

This composed the entirety of his kindergarten reading “curriculum.” ¬†The next year I wanted him to really start reading so we started working on some phonics and sight words. ¬†He didn’t enjoy this at all, so we took it REALLY slowly and only spent a few minutes a¬†day¬†on it. ¬†He couldn’t handle more than about 5 minutes at a time and would melt down if I tried to go any longer. ¬†(We’ve since discovered that he struggles with anxiety and ADHD, making traditional learning incredibly overwhelming and frustrating for him.) ¬†I got discouraged and started to wonder if he would ever learn to read at all. ¬†But I was determined to let him learn at his own pace and in a way that would foster a love of reading. ¬†So¬†I just kept reading lots of books aloud, and he kept listening. ¬†We also found some audiobooks at the library, which we put on to help him settle down at night and fall asleep. ¬†He loved these so much that he started listening to audiobooks anytime he was in his room building with Legos (yep, it’s still his favorite pasttime.) ¬†He was being exposed to hours of literature every day and couldn’t seem to get enough of it. ¬†I was tempted so many times to push him to catch up to¬†where I thought a typical first-grader should be, but I reminded myself over and over to just let him love literature until he was ready to read it.

Now he is in 2nd grade and he just read his first chapter book, which he finished in two days. ¬†On his own. ¬†With no prompting. ¬†I almost cried. ¬†Only a few months ago, I could hardly get him to read a few sentences without becoming¬†overwhelmed. ¬†Occasionally he gets stuck on a word, but his vocabulary is so extensive from all those books he’s been soaking up for the last few years that he can almost always figure out what something says without help.

After these two polar opposite experiences with teaching my first two kids to read, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my¬†youngest. ¬†Fun-loving, bright, chatty, intelligent, cuddly, compassionate…this little 4-year-old is very much her own person. ¬†I was expecting to start teaching her to read when she starts kindergarten next year. ¬† Boy, was I wrong! ¬†Right around her 4th birthday she started asking me to teach her to read.

We were part of a home school co-op and she was in the kindergarten class for lack of a better option. ¬†We really joined the co-op for the sake of her big sister and brother, and she was pretty much just along for the ride (or so I thought). ¬† I honestly didn’t expect her to learn much academically because she was only 3. ¬†She quietly listened every Friday as her teacher introduced a new letter, and one day it just clicked for her that each letter makes a sound. ¬†After that, she wanted to read her letter cards every day, so we read those five cards over and over, and the next week she got a new one, and then came cards with two or three letters on them…and still she couldn’t get enough.

I created some hands-on activities to help her recognize upper-and lower-case letters and practice letter sounds and even make words from loose letters.  For this one I simply wrote letters on paper, laminated it, and had her fill in each letter with Froot Loops and Frosted Mini Wheats.  Bonus: She got to eat them for her snack when she was done.


For her all of this is fun and exciting, and if she gets discouraged or frustrated at any point we put it away until another time, because I want her to continue to see reading as a joyful experience and not a chore.

I can’t take any credit for this early interest in reading. ¬†Maybe it was her co-op teacher, maybe it was seeing her older siblings reading, maybe it was hearing so many hundreds of books read aloud. ¬†Whatever it was, I’m not complaining!

The one common element in each one of my kids’ reading journeys was hearing lots of great books read aloud. ¬†It’s also the reason they love books! ¬†¬†So I want to share with you a list of read-alouds that I highly recommend for elementary-aged kids. ¬†These are all wonderful¬†to read with the family or listen to together in audiobook form. ¬†Some kids will want to read these themselves and that’s great too!

  1.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • I know this is actually a series of books but every one of them is absolutely worth reading. ¬†They’re beautifully written and filled with adventure and imagination. ¬†The characters are so easy to relate to, and every character struggles through something at one time or another. ¬†In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund, one of the four siblings, starts off mean-spirited and cynical and ends up betraying his family. ¬†In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, cousin Eustace is petty and cowardly and appears to have no positive qualities at all. But these characters that struggle with selfishness, fear, pride, and other issues that are common to humanity¬†experience undeserved redemption and they’re forever changed. ¬†My son deals with lots of anger and he often lashes out verbally and physically when he’s frustrated. ¬†He knows he shouldn’t and is always repentant afterwards but he can’t seem to stop himself when he’s angry. ¬†For him to see these characters, who don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, completely transformed into people who can put others first and choose what’s right gives him hope for his own life. ¬†These books also have a way of infusing us with a sense of purpose and greatness beyond the smallness of our day to day lives. ¬†There are a thousand reasons to read the Narnia books, but that would probably be an entire post ūüôā¬†These are definitely more suitable for elementary age and up.
  2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • This book is only a few years old but someday it will probably be considered a classic because it’s that good. ¬†It’s about 10-year-old ¬†August Pullman, who had multiple surgeries for a medical defect¬†and is left with a¬†severe facial deformity. ¬†The story follows his journey of entering public school, being rejected and ridiculed by some, and finding acceptance and friendship with others who see past his appearance and appreciate him for who he is. ¬†This one sparked some great conversations with all my kids about giving everyone a chance to be known for who they are and not judging people by their appearances. ¬†Several sections of the book are written from the perspective of different characters, and we even felt bad for Julian (the bully) because we got to see into his life. ¬†All of my kids¬†developed a new level of empathy and compassion for people who are obviously suffering, but they also realized that everyone’s story involves some kind of sadness or diffuculty. ¬†I strongly recommend this book for the whole family. ¬†The audio version is great because the voices are done by different people and it’s even easier to connect with each character.
  3. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
    • This one is definitely a classic. ¬†Set in the Swiss Alps, this book¬†transports you to a place where life is beautifully simple, yet rich. ¬†Kids growing up in today’s world don’t always think about the simple pleasures in life, but Heidi makes all of us, children and adults alike, long to run with goats in a field of wildflowers and watch a glorious mountaintop sunset and have toasted cheese and milk for supper. ¬†This book somehow had a calming effect on my son. ¬†Every time I started reading it he settled down and listened. ¬†We all laughed at Peter the goatherd and his jealous antics. ¬†Heidi’s determination, optimism, and genuine concern¬†for others are an example for us all, particularly kids who struggle in those areas. ¬†The contrasts between her life on the mountain and our modern lives make us want to slow down and enjoy the little things in life rather than always wanting to add more to the busyness.
  4. Ramona the Pest (and all the other Ramona books) by Beverly Cleary
    • There’s a reason most of us read these books as kids. ¬†Beverly Cleary weaves so much humor into these stories about an ordinary girl and her everyday life. ¬† She writes what kids often think, making Ramona such a relatable character that kids can’t help but empathize with her many mishaps and fiascoes. ¬†The way she thinks people see her is exactly the way a lot of kids think of themselves–as bothersome, or not smart enough, or not as pretty as someone else–and realizing they’re not alone in feeling this way can be a huge relief. ¬†My son specifically identifies with Ramona because he’s often the one getting in trouble or causing a problem without intending to. ¬†He sometimes thinks of himself as the “bad” one just like Ramona, but she’s the heroine of the whole collection in spite of (or maybe because of)¬†her tendency to make a mess of things. ¬†Sometimes just knowing there are other people (or characters) out there who share our struggles makes us feel understood, and that’s a tremendous relief for kids who are a little different. ¬†I love Ramona for making so many kids feel this way ūüôā
  5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    • We just finished this book. ¬†Every time I started to put¬†it down my kids begged me to keep reading just a little longer. ¬†Teenager Sam Gribley runs away from his over-crowded New York City apartment to make a life for himself in the Catskill mountains. ¬†I was a little skeptical of this one because I didn’t want to sensationalize the idea of running away. But Sam isn’t running away to escape his family–he simply believes he can make a great life for himself on his family’s old property in the wilderness. He reads many books and prepares himself extensively before he goes on this mission. His experiences are fascinating and fun for kids and adults alike, and he makes all of us want to get out and enjoy nature.

Because my kids have grown so much through exposure to great characters in well-written books, I’m incredibly passionate about literacy. ¬†The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is celebrating over 20 years of helping individuals learn to read, prepare for their high school equivalency, or learn English. ¬†Just think of all those lives that have been forever changed because they were given an opportunity to better themselves. ¬† Kellogg’s is committed to providing 3 billion Better Days through 2025 through initiatives that feed people and their potential. ¬†So have a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops in honor of all the good these two companies are doing!

And don’t forget to go tell your own literacy story here¬†and enter the #DGMyStory Sweepstakes with the hashtag #DGMy StoryEntry for a chance to win a $50 Dollar General gift card!

Sharing Poetry with Kids

Every summer, I spend a few weeks planning everything we’re going to cover during the upcoming school year. Call me crazy, but I love those weeks of planning and researching and ordering books. I figure out all the historical time periods and people we’re going to study, choose a focus for science lessons, settle on a math curriculum, plan writing practice…all the core subjects.

And then it’s time to add in the fun stuff–subjects that aren’t usually given priority because they’re not considered as important. Things like literature, Shakespeare, art, and poetry. ¬†This is my favorite part of planning because, not only are these subjects vitally important to study, they’re also fun! ¬†In a Charlotte Mason education, these subjects are valued just as highly as core subjects because they expose our kids to rich, beautiful language and timeless works of art. ¬†They give our kids a chance to see greatness.

 

While all these “extras” are wonderful, today I want to focus on sharing poetry with your children. ¬†With all the subjects you have to cover, do you really need to add poetry to the list? ¬†Is it important enough to take up valuable school time each week? ¬†Does it provide any real benefits?

Experts say YES!

Hearing the meter and rhyme of poems in the early years helps create phonological awareness and can lay the foundation for literacy.  Poetry exposes kids to language they might not otherwise hear, expanding both their vocabulary and their understanding of the world.  And well-written poetry can awaken the imagination and speak to the soul like nothing else.

 

So how do you go about sharing poetry with your kids? ¬†The good news is that it’s ridiculously simple. ¬†Just read it! ¬†No need to analyze it or search for hidden meaning. ¬†Simply reading poems that your kids can enjoy is all it takes. ¬†You can read a poem a day, study a certain poet’s work for several weeks, or institute weekly poetry teatime.

We’ve tried all these options and my kids enjoy poetry teatime the most. ¬†(I’m sure it has nothing to do with the apple cider, hot chocolate, or treats we enjoy with our poetry ūüėČ ) It started as a nice way to end our week on Friday, but now my kids love it so much they ask for teatime more often. ¬†All we do is pull out some poetry books and read whatever poems we’re in the mood for. ¬†I try to include something new along with the old favorites. ¬†I’ve also recently started having my kids recite something they’ve memorized each time. ¬†This can be Scripture, poetry, or stories in German (the language they’re learning). ¬†That way they’re learning to speak in front of people in a way that isn’t too intimidating.

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? ¬†I’ve compiled a list of some¬†great poets and books that are perfect for preschool and elementary-aged kids. ¬†Here are some of our favorites.

  • A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • His poems are fun for even really young kids. ¬†Most of them are about happy aspects of childhood so they’re relatable¬†and easy to understand.
    • Most are relatively short, so they’re great ones to memorize
    • Some favorites by Stevenson include The Swing, A Good Play, and Whole Duty of Children.

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
    • By far my kids’ favorite–all of his poems are funny and a little ridiculous.
    • Great ones to read include Hungry Mungry, Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Sick,¬†but really the whole book is wonderfully fun.
    • Shel Silverstein has a few other books of poetry as well if you just can’t get enough of his work.

  • Lewis Carroll, edited by Edward Mendelson (from the Poetry for Young People series)
    • His poems are full of nonsense and made-up words, which makes them especially fun.
    • They’re better suited for elementary ages–the language and length of the poems might be a little difficult for really young kids.
    • This book (and the whole Poetry for Young People series) is wonderful because it gives some interesting information about the author and his life and also gives definitions for some of the more difficult words (including the words Carroll made up!)
    • Favorites include Matilda Jane, Father William, and especially Brother and Sister (which my kids happily memorized together).

  • Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
    • This book is mainly short stories, but there is a poem that goes along with each story.
    • Kipling also wrote many other poems that aren’t specifically for children but some are still great to share with older kids.
    • Great poems by Kipling include If and How the Camel Got His Hump.

Hopefully this gives you a starting place for beginning to share the beauty of poetry with your children. ¬†Other great poets to study include A.A. Milne, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman…there are so many great writers and resources out there. ¬†Whether you’re looking for something that makes you and your kids laugh or something that speaks to your heart, there’s plenty of beautiful poetry out there for everyone. ¬†Share some of your favorites with us!

 

An Active Family’s Guide to Keeping Laundry Fresh

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone.  #SparkleWithGain #ILoveGain #CollectiveBias

Laundry.  Piles and piles of laundry.  If your family is as active and busy as ours, you know what I’m talking about.  Between my husband’s gym clothes, my yoga clothes, and my oldest daughter’s sports outfits, we go through a lot of laundry.  Factor in my 5-year-old’s need to change into 12 different outfits a day and my son’s super-human ability to sweat at the first hint of activity, and we keep our laundry room really busy.

I used to hate this particular chore because it just felt so mundane and never-ending.  To make things even worse, sometimes I would pull a load out of the dryer to fold it and notice that it didn’t smell clean.  It seemed like the odors I was trying so hard to get out of our clothes somehow ended up ingrained into the fabric permanently after being washed and dried.  Something had to change.  After a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out some tips for truly getting our laundry clean and fresh every time.

  • Wash wet or smelly items as soon as possible.

    This might seem like a hassle, but it makes a big difference.  The longer unpleasant odors and damp clothes are allowed to sit, the harder it is to get them really clean.  I learned this the hard way.  I remember actually having to throw away someone’s favorite t-shirt after multiple washes because it just never smelled clean.  If you can’t wash something right away, be sure it is in a laundry hamper or bag that is breathable until it can be washed so it has a chance to air out and dry.

  • Use a good detergent.

    This is a big one.  We’ve tried so many different detergents over the years, from incredibly cheap bargain detergents to well-known brands, and there really is a difference.  My absolute favorite liquid laundry detergent is Gain Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ.  It smells heavenly!  One cap of Gain liquid laundry detergent keeps clothes smelling fresh from wash until wear for up to 6 weeks.  It would take a 50 oz. bottle of the leading baking soda detergent to provide that much freshness.  I love that the cap is clear so you can actually see how much detergent you are using and know you are getting the right amount for each load.

    All Gain Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ products are exclusive to Dollar General, and you’ll want to try all the great laundry products in this scent.  For extra savings, check out these coupons. If you want to make doing laundry even simpler, try the new Gain flings!‚ĄĘ laundry pacs in Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ.

    Gain flings!‚ĄĘ are packed with 50% more scent than Gain liquid laundry detergent.   Just place the pac into the drum of the washer before adding your clothes, using more than one pac for larger loads.  No pouring or measuring required, and the pacs contain everything you need for a load of extra clean, great-smelling clothes.  Doing laundry has never been so easy!

    They dissolve in hot or cold water, so you can use them for any temperature setting.  Even our stinkiest clothes and towels come out smelling amazingly fresh after using Gain flings!‚ĄĘ.  Plus, they make doing laundry so easy!  Both Gain liquid laundry detergent and Gain flings!‚ĄĘ are compatible with regular and HE washing machines.  As always, keep laundry products away from children.

  • Don’t overfill the washer.

    It’s so tempting to squeeze in just one more towel, or pair of jeans, or sweatshirt, or whatever.  Don’t do it!  Don’t exceed your washing machine’s maximum capacity for each load size because your clothes won’t come out as clean as they should.  They need plenty of space to move around in lots of water if you want them to get as clean and fresh as possible.  Plus, a huge load of laundry takes much longer to dry, often more than one cycle.  If you’re like me and you often forget to turn it back on right away, your clothes could end up smelling like mildew.  And who wants to start the whole load over again?

  • For ultra-smelly loads, use an extra boost of freshness.

Let’s face it–sometimes you end up with things that are just extra stinky.  Your kid’s gym clothes that were left in a locker all weekend, or wet towels in your trunk from swimming three days ago, or a sweaty shirt shoved under a bed from who knows when.  These situations require a little more odor-fighting power than regular loads.  That’s why I’m so glad I found Gain Fireworks‚ĄĘ In-Wash Scent Booster Beads in Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ scent.  Gain Fireworks‚ĄĘ are scent beads that give your clothes an extra boost of scent.  Simply sprinkle the beads into the drum of your washer before adding your clothes.  The more you add, the fresher your clothes will smell!  My husband loves it when I use these.  He can’t get enough of the Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ scent, and when I add Gain Fireworks‚ĄĘ he always comments on how amazing his clothes smell.

  • Always use a dryer sheet.

    This not only makes clothes smell great, it also keeps static at bay, reduces wrinkles, and makes things feel extra soft.  I always toss in a Gain Dryer Sheet in Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ scent to finish off the laundry routine the right way.  Folding laundry never smelled so good!

Head over and pick up all of these great Gain Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ products exclusive to Dollar General stores.  For extra savings on Dollar General’s already low prices, click here.  Add the new Gain flings!‚ĄĘ laundry pacs and Gain Fireworks‚ĄĘ In-Wash Scent Booster Beads in Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ scent to your laundry routine and your clothes will be fresher than ever.

My local Dollar General store had all the Gain products I was looking for in a convenient place so I was able to quickly stock up on all the things I needed in Fresh Water Sparkle‚ĄĘ scent.

Do you have more laundry tips for getting clothes smelling fresh and clean?  Share your ideas with us in the comments!

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