Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Pack Your Kids' Clothes & Keep it Organized

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I spend most of yesterday filling up 6 suitcases & 5 carry-ons full of freshly roasted coffee (want to buy some?!), handmade products from our trade school, gifts for our supporters, random things and in the midst of all those stuff... our clothes.

How often do you find yourself going crazy trying to keep your kids’ clothes organized in suitcases when traveling? This has been my dilemma year after year for the past 6 years of traveling back and forth from Central America and the States.

Most of you know by now that we travel to the States every fall for our 2-month furlough. We always look forward to this time as a family to reconnect with our family, friends and supporters. The only thing I don't enjoy is the constant mess I had to face every week with the kids' suitcases.

Especially as our family grew from 1 to 4 in the past 6 years!

So, each year my packing method changes as I try to find the best way to pack all the kids clothes that would meet 4 requirements:
  1. 7 days worth of outfits that they can grab easily without making a mess.
  2. Shows clearly who’s clothes are who’s.
  3. Everything stays organized & compacted.
  4. Everything fits nicely into two tubs (or one large suitcase) with room to spare for extra things.
What you think? Sounds & looks almost impossible, right?!

Well, maybe not...

Last fall, we flew to the West Coast from the Midwest and traveled around AZ & Southern California. It was essential for me to find the best way to keep their clothes organized and make sure they all fit in the tubs as we traveled to a new location almost every week. I did not want to be stressed out over silly clothes!

Thankfully, I was able to create a packing system that worked brilliantly for us last fall! The pictures you will see below were taken during that time and this is how I packed my 4 kids' clothes yesterday.

My Packing System… Using Plastic Bags

When July rolls around, we start counting down the weeks until we head to the states. I also start thinking about what we need to bring back to the States and how I was going to pack them into our suitcases... especially the kids' clothes.

As I was thinking (and praying!) about how I was going to pack everything and not lose my mind in the process, an idea came to me...

Pack 7 outfits along with dresses, PJs and extra socks & underwear using gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and mark them with different colors of duct tape to help the kids know which bags were theirs.


So, when the time came to start packing. I grabbed one box of gallon-size plastic ziplock baggies and went to work:
  1. 7 outfits (along with socks and underwear for each outfit) for each kid.
  2. 2 PJs for each kid.
  3. extra socks and underwear for each kid.
  4. 2-4 dresses for each of the girls.
  5. 1 light jacket or sweater for each kid.
First, I fold each outfit into 7 plastic baggies along with a pair of socks and underwear. When folding the clothes, be sure to fold them flat. Do not roll them up! I will explain in the next few steps.

Second, I fold the PJs and extra socks & underwear in one baggie.

Third, I took the dresses and put one in each of the seven baggies of outfits. That way if the girls want to wear a dress instead of shorts and shirt, they can wear the dress from the bag I set out for the day.

Lastly, I would zip up the bags but leave a 1 inch opening to squeeze the access air out of each bag to make them completely flat. You will have compacted clothes that take up less than half the usual space!

With the light jackets or sweaters, I simply put them on top of their clothes along with 2 pairs of shoes so that it is easy to grab on any day they need it.

Each kid had 8 plastic bags… making it a total of 32 plastic bags to pack. They all fit in one large suitcase with plenty of room to spare!

Now. I had two rules with the kids on this system:
  1. Wear the outfit in the bag, no mixing it up with other bags.
  2. After the clothes have been worn for the day, they do not go back into the plastic bags… they go into the dirty pile.
Honestly, I have to say this is the best system by far for me with 4 kids. Our travels last fall was SO much easier! Laundry days became a breeze because I knew what needed to be washed and was able to quickly fold and put the clothes right back into their baggies.

Some Extra Details
The bonus of using plastic bags is that you can see what is in each bag without having to take out the clothes. I've thought about using reusable cloth bags because they would be much more earth-friendly and last longer, but then you would have to take out the clothes to know what is inside.

For some, that would be no big deal… but for me, I like to be able to quickly browse through the suitcase and get out what the kids want without wasting precious time looking through each bag to find a specific outfit. Make sense?

Well, I am delighted to share that I just recently browsed through a friend's newly released ebook, Sewing School 101, and came across a tutorial of hers where she used mesh to make her daily clothes bags. This is where I have to say... great minds think alike! Here I thought I came up with the most unique idea of packing and already this gal is two steps ahead of me! I am excited to tackle this project soon and these bags will be very handy for many years to come.

It really helps that the kids clothes are small enough to fit in the plastic bags. I know in a couple years I will not be able to do that for my oldest daughter, but by then she will be responsible for her own clothes and keeping them organized. That will be interesting!

For now, this system keeps this mama sane and happy!

What do you think? Would you try this packing system? Do you have your own packing system that works for your family? Please share with us in the comments below!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

If You Are Willing

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With the morning sun caressing my face, I prepared to read the section of verses for my quiet time in the Word.

What I read stilled and pierced my heart...

"In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. "Lord," he said, "if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean."

Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared. (Luke 5:12-13)

I have read that verse multiple times over the years, but right that moment... it touched something deep in my heart.

A deeply buried desire. A desire that I don't want to have or feel anymore...

The desire to be healed.

I tried, again, to bury that hope & desire to be healed as deep as I could, but I could feel the Lord digging down in there... reaching and pulling aside the dirt, rock and cement that I painfully & deliberately used to bury, over the years... that desire.

Looking out to the mountains and seeing the golden glow of the rising sun... a whisper escaped from my lips, "Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me hear. Today. Right now."

For so many years, since I was a child, people have come to me and asking to pray for healing for me. They would put their hands on my ears and pray with all they had. In the beginning, I was grateful... 

But as the years went on by and still no healing... I grew to resent the prayers.

While on the outside, I would smile and say, "Sure!" when someone innocently asked if they could pray for me. But on the inside, over the pounding of my heart, I would be yelling, "No! I am fine just the way I am! Leave me alone!"

As I grew up over the years, I buried that hope & desire to be healed as deep as I could...

Because I was afraid.

Afraid to let my hope rise.

Afraid to feel the crushing disappointment.

Afraid that I would be denied once again.

Afraid that I would be told that I don't have enough faith to be healed.

For years I used to silently ask... demand... beg the Lord to heal me, but I stopped doing that a long while ago.

It wasn't until I served at a deaf school in Mexico that I started to "accept" being deaf. 

That is where the prayers stopped. I still had my struggles, but at least I had more peace about being a deaf woman.

Sitting there and listening to my thoughts rolling around, I sense the Lord speaking to my heart, turning the verse around and saying...

"Marillyn, if you are willing, you can embrace being deaf and make Me greater in your life for others to see Me."


Really, Lord? My being deaf will make You greater? What about healing me? Won't that make You even more greater?

"Yes, but for only a short time and people will forget. Even you will forget, but your deafness is my gift to you. For I am greater in your weakness! Your inability to hear is what drives you closer to Me. That's why I created you to be who you are"

I sat there... speechless, a calm settling my thoughts.

"My daughter, you are a miracle to many because I have given you many gifts, abilities and talents. You can speak. You can read lips. You are able to wear a hearing aid. You have been able to do many different things that doctors claimed you couldn't and shouldn't do! Those are the things that bring glory to me."

I could sense a a different kind of healing happening at that moment...

"I promise you, Marillyn, you will be healed. Be patience. Be steadfast. Be courageous. And most importantly...

Be who I created you to be."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (dairy-free & sugar-free)

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Summer is in full swing. The ice cream truck is playing its music on every street. Fresh watermelons abound. Swimming pools are full everyday of the week. Books beckon to be read & cherished. The light of day lasts longer. Fireflies fly lazily about when the night finally falls. Mosquitos swarm around for blood. The air is warm and with a hint of sweetness... These are my sweet memories of all the summers in the midwest after moving there when I was 9.

But my all time favorite memory were the brownies my mom would make once a week and served with a big scoop (or two) of my dad's homemade strawberry ice cream.

O... my... sweet... goodness... there is nothing like a spoonful of fresh homemade strawberry ice cream straight out of the old-fashioned ice cream machine!

This Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream, in a way, brings back those memories.

My husband commented that this ice cream tasted very much like a cheesecake ice cream, even though I used coconut milk instead of dairy. I believe it the combination of tangy balsamic vinegar and sweet strawberries along with the nutty milk gave it that yummy flavor.

This is actually a simplified version of my Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Crème Fraîche Ice
Cream that you can find in my book, Just Making Ice Cream.

I chose this ice cream flavor to make ice cream sandwiches specifically for a friend's birthday. I wanted to go the extra mile for her and make something special, but I had to make over 30 ice cream sandwiches! That's why I simplified the ice cream recipe...

They were a huge hit.

And you can totally, easily make these yourself with my simple 'step-by-step' tutorial over at the Healthy Aperture Blog

Go on now and whip up some of this easy & yummy ice cream. While you are at it, make a batch of your favorite brownies to make some homemade ice cream sandwiches... you will wish you had started doing that summers ago!

Easy Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
(dairy-free & sugar-free)

6 cups whole strawberries (fresh is best, but frozen is fine)
2-3 Tbsp coconut sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Remove the stems and rinse the strawberries in cool water. Place them in a strainer.
  2. Slice the strawberries and place them in a large bowl. Toss with coconut sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour the strawberries and juices into a large ovenproof dish.
  4. Roast them in the oven until they start to caramelize, juices are bubbling and strawberries are hot (but not mushy). About 15-20 minutes.
  5. Scoop the the strawberries and juices into a container and let them chill in the fridge while preparing the ice cream base.
2 cups coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup of roasted strawberries
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together coconut milk, coconut sugar, sea salt and roasted strawberries.
  2. Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. When ice cream is done churning, quickly scoop it into a container and serve right away or let it firm up in the freezer for a couple hours before serving.
Top your ice cream with the more roasted strawberries and drizzle with homemade chocolate syrup (didn't have any, boohoo)... there you have it! Told you it was easy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pregnancy Notes: Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath {recipe}

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Herbal sitz baths are extremely soothing, relaxing, healing and a great way to pamper a new mama after going through the tiring workout of laboring and birthing a little baby.

What are Sitz Baths?
Some of you might have never heard of a sitz bath. I sure didn't know heck about it until my midwife explain it to me. A sitz bath is literally what it sounds like - a bath where you sit in warm water that covers the buttocks and hips.

Sitting in warm, herbal infused water helps clean the sensitive area, bring healing, soothe soreness, aid in shrinking hemorrhoids, prevent infection, relieves pain, reduces swelling, heals tears and increase blood flow to the areas starting at your belly button, down around to your lower back bone & to the where the baby made an appearance. These herbs can truly help speed along recovery!

You can do your sitz bath in the bathtub or in a large bowl, but make sure you have someone to help you in and out. After my 2nd & 3rd babies, I used my kids' little bathtub and it worked great, but this 4th time around... I was able to use an actual bathtub and enjoyed a long soak! Taking a relaxing bath is a rare treat for me  :)

My First Sitz Bath
My midwife brought a bag of herbs over and prepared my first sitz bath after Tabitha's birth. I was eager to give it a try, but was a little skeptical that it would do much to relieve the little pain I had from my tear.

I was so wrong... It was amazedly soothing and totally won me over. I took a sitz bath everyday for a week and wanted more!

Plus, I noticed rapid healing of my tear along with putting on a combination of aloe vera, coconut oil and raw honey. I am thankful to say that I never tore again with my 3rd and 4th babies.

I, of course, asked her for the recipe when I became pregnant with Tobias. Unfortunely, her recipe called for a lot of herbs… making it a little too expensive for me to make a small batch for myself.

So, she recommended simply using a combination of Lavender, Chamomile, Rosemary and Calendula Flowers… much like the ingredients used for the Soothing Postpartum Pads! I also decided to add in Comfrey leaf as it is excellent to use on a stretched & sore perineum, Yarrow for is ability to stop bleeding and sea salt which provides needed minerals to help speed healing.

The Ingredients & Benefits
Below you will read the medicinal properties of each herb that help pamper and heal the new mama. This Healing Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath will leave you feeling refreshed, renewed and relaxed.

  • Chamomile Flowers: This herb is best known for its soothing & delicious aromatic smell and taste. It is widely used as a mild sedative. Chamomile displays a wide range of healing properties such as being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic and even anti-body odor... all coming from the daisy-like flowers, which contain volatile oils as well as flavonoids. It also improves wound healing, which is great for tears and c-sections, along with bringing good flow of blood to the skin surface thus inducing perspiration and helps regulate menstrual flow. Chamomile is one of the best herbal sources of niacin, magnesium and essential fatty acids.
  • Rosemary Leaf: Called the "herb of remembrance" by Shakespeare, this herb has the ability to strengthen the entire body and relieve pain (like lavender) associated with muscle pains, sore muscles & headaches. Rosemary helps boosts mental activity, so when your brain feels tired (and we do feel brain-tired after birthing a baby!), take deep breaths as you enjoy the sitz bath for fresh mental energy. It also contains good concentrations of 2 dozens or so antioxidants.
  • Comfrey Leaf: The latin name of this herb translates "knitting together". One of the main healing properties in comfrey is allantoin, an anti-inflammatory that perks up the immune system, speeds wound healing and encourages new skin and cell growth. It has a long history of being used as an external application for mending of wounds and broken bones. Comfrey is a contact healer, relieving pain and immediately helping the growth of new flesh and bone. It is also high in calcium and vitamin C. 
  • Yarrow Flower: Considered the "poor man's chamomile", Yarrow contains a volatile oil which is similar to chamomile and has been medically documented to be very effective anti-inflammatory agent. It contains aromatic compounds that shrink inflamed tissues and promote sweeting. It also contains bitter compounds that relieve smooth muscle spasms, reduce blood pressure and helpful in stopping bleeding from hemorrhage. The herb has antibacterial and antifungal compounds that are helpful in replenishing the intestinal flora.
  • Lavender Flowers: Best known for its relaxing effect on the mind and body, Lavender's soothing properties is readily absorb into the skin and not only promotes restfulness, but it helps in treating pain, anxiety & nervousness, exhaustion, restlessness, emotional stress, headaches and increase mental activity. It is also an excellent remedy for various types of pains caused by sore muscles, tense muscles, muscular aches, backaches and the lumbago (lower back) area. Lavender is excellent for improving blood circulation in the body, which is essential for complete healing in the perineum area. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties.
  • Calendula Flowers: A herb long used through Europe and the Americas for wound healing and ulcer treatments, Calendula is known for its amazing healing properties. The phytochemicals in these flowers opposes fungi, bacteria, viruses and inflammation. Calendula also excite the white blood ells in the immune system to fight microbial invaders with a little more vigor. It is good for treating skin problems of all kinds, especially cuts, scrapes, bruises and minor wounds.
  • Sea Salt: A natural detoxifier, sea salt provides the needed minerals to help the body heal quickly.

Healing Herbal Sitz Bath

Mix all the herbs & sea salt together in a large bowl. Store in a glass jar and keep in a cool & dry place.

Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the herbal mixture or stuff the loose herbs in cotton muslin cloth bags. Cover and let it sit until warm. Strain (or pour it all in if you don't care about loose herbs!) liquid into a bathtub or large bowl/basin and add warm water until it covers your hips & buttocks.

Sit and relax in tub for 20 minutes or more. You can soak with your baby as it will speed along cord healing. If using bowl or large basin, sit or squat carefully in it for 10-15 minutes.

Gently pat dry and do it everyday for at least a week. You can use the Soothing Postpartum Pads for extra healing & comfort!

Have you ever done a sitz bath? Have you used herbs for postpartum care? What herbs and how did they help you?

Note: The links above are my affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you decide to order the herbs and other supplies through those links (no extra charge to you!). Thank you for reading this and supporting my family through your purchases!