Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

It’s that time of year again. The kids clamber up onto the big yellow bus. I do a little dance of joy. Then the kids come home…

Not only do they always manage to come home with homework for me, as well as for themselves, they also always manage to bring home some sort of cold. And of course, as the natural laws of the mommy-verse state. If one child gets it, every child gets it. And Mom.

These little babies are kept in my illness arsenal. Along with our cold medicine. And when your head is stopped up and you feel like banging it against a wall, or anything else equally painful just as long as it comes with some relief and the long-lost ability to breathe through your nose, these puppies are a God-send.

I used to buy them from the pharmacy down the street, and they cost me a pretty penny. However, they worked wonders and were worth it. I was sad to see when our local pharmacy stopped carrying them and they gradually disappeared from store shelves. I didn’t need to mourn their loss long because Sarah at Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity provided me with a recipe for making my own batch.

When set they smell just like that familiar comforting aroma you’re used to apply under your nose and massaging into tiny little congested chests. While you’re enjoying a nice, hot shower these gradually melt away releasing the essential oils within and clearing out your congestion. Aside from congestion relief, these also help provide relief from similar allergy symptoms. The combined scents and steam help relax the cold (and symptoms) right out of you. It’s like watching your illness wash away down the drain. It’s positively glorious after a day filled with dragging yourself around from one sick bed to the next, all while being sick yourself.  I make these ahead, because I know getting sick is inevitable. So are son # 4’s allergies. I leave them in the wrappers until ready to use and store the whole batch in a large zip-locking bag. Low maintenance, and I don’t have to drag my derriere off to the drug-store when the sickies are storming the gates.

The moral of this tale? When showering sick, use a disk, especially before going to bed. You will actually find some relief and get a solid stretch of sleep.

Copy-Cat Vick’s Vapor Shower Disks

4 Sons 'R' Us: Copy-Cat Vick's Shower Disks

  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lavender
  • Muffin/Cupcake Tin
  • Muffin/Cupcake Liners

Directions

  1. Add baking soda to a mixing bowl. I don’t really measure.  About 2-3 cups.
  2. Slowly add water, just a little at a time, until you’ve made a thick paste.  You’ll want the mix to feel like putty.
  3. Spoon in to a muffin tin, and let sit out for 12-18 hours overnight. Or, for a quicker set, you can bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. If using paper lines, as opposed to silicone, and baking make sure to remove the liners from the pan before it has completely cooled.
  5. Add 15 drops of each essential oil to every cooled, set puck.
  6. Remove from the liners and place in the bottom of the tub during shower. These typically last about 10-15 minutes in the shower, out of the direct spray of water.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

I’m convinced little boys are magnets. Pint-sized, powerful dirt magnets. I’m constantly going through wet wipes. In the house. In the car. In the store. Everywhere. There’s not a dust bunny, dirt speck, or food particle within a good mile radius that does not find it’s way onto their person. And by person, I meant their face, hands, shirt, etc. You name it, if they’ve been awake for 5 minutes, something has found them. Knowing this, I’m always armed with some handy-dandy wipes to scrub them down on the go. That leftover kool-aid mustache? Check. The hands that are now black from tracing every wall we’ve walked past for 5 minutes? Check.

About a year ago, I started to notice how many wipes we were going through and how the cost was really adding up. Being the fastidious penny-pincher that I am, I began to look for a way to make my own that were not only cheaper, but just as durable. Only a strong wipe can compete with my grubby boys and keep them as presentable as humanly possible until bath time. A friend of mine with a gaggle of her own children told me about this recipe that she swore by. I tried it, and from the very first swipe I was hooked!

As I’ve mentioned before, Son #4 struggles with eczema. We’re dealing with a very itchy bout of it now. These wipes are gentle enough to even use on his super-sensitive skin. Not only do they not cause any reaction or irritate his condition, they even seem to help soothe his itching. That alone would have sold me on these.

But there’s more…

One of the best things about these all-natural, homemade baby wipes is that they do not contain alcohol and are super gentle on those delicate areas, especially if you’re dealing with diaper rash. The tea tree oil, as well as the coconut oil have anti-microbial properties and protect against molding. Also, both the tea tree oil and coconut oil provide a multitude of skin benefits.

Start making your own wipes today. They blow all the store-bought competition out of the water. And, they’re cheaper! These, my friend, will totally ‘wipe’-out and reservations you may have.

{Easy} Homemade Baby Wipes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy Homemade Baby Wipes

  • 1 roll of Bounty paper towels (I found mine at the the Dollar Tree)
  • a very sharp knife, or an electric knife
  • 1 tbsp baby wash
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • tea tree oil
  • container to house the wipes in (the one pictured came from the Dollar Tree as well)

Directions

  1. Cut the roll of paper towels evenly in half. It will resemble two rolls of toilet paper at that point.
  2. Carefully remove the cardboard paper tube from inside the paper towels.
  3. In a bowl, mix the baby wash, oil, hot water, and 2-3 drops tea tree oil until evenly combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the wipes container.
  5. Add the cut paper towels and let sit, for about an hour, until all the mixture has been soaked up and saturated throughout the towels.
  6. To use, pull wipes from the center.

The First Day of School

I’m thinking next year, I’m going to host a big brunch, with mimosas of course, so that all my fellow SAHM’s and myself can raise a glass and a toast to the fact that we all managed to retain our sanity throughout another entire summer, and of course that all children are still happy and healthy. While I love my boys, I’m always happy to see that first day of Summer Vacation, and I’m just as happy to see it go. Does it take anyone else an entire school year to recover?

First Day of School

No, I didn’t lose a son. Son # 1 was struggling to get out the door this morning and missed the group photo ops. It seems somebody was a little to used to secretly reading half the night, and didn’t realize how early 7am would come. The days of sleeping in until noon are over. At least until next Summer, or the weekend. Here are the bright eyed and bushy-tailed ones, ready to go. I found these free, printable grade signs, which I LOVE from Designs by Nicolina.

Now, let me introduce you to my latest idea. The Homework Caddy.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homework Caddy

In an effort to cut down on wasted time, misplaced assignments and supplies, and mismanaged time all 3 big boys will be doing homework at our very large, and accommodating kitchen table this year. The homework caddy will be on-hand each day, smack dab in the middle of the table with all the supplies each boy could possibly need to complete their assignments. Best of all? There will be no reason, or excuse, for any of our homework supplies to be ‘walking off’ this year. Here’s to hoping this also prevents the over-used, ‘But Moooooom, I can’t do my homework because I don’t have…’.

Inside the caddy, which I found at Jo-Ann’s craft store, are 3 pint-sized Mason jars containing markers, sharpened pencils, and colored pencils. There’s plenty of loose-leaf tucked in the back, and even a pad of construction paper. Pens have been included and tucked away in the bottom is a pair of scissors, manual pencil sharpener, and two glue sticks. Did I manage to forget anything?

Make homework time just a little bit easier this year by making your own homework caddy today.

Oh, and fellow parents? We made it! Happy 1st Day of School 2013.

1, 2, 3 … Lollipop Tree

I love my sisters completely, but years into adulthood, I still have vague recollections of us disagreeing, and possibly fighting, throughout our childhood. I’m still convinced I’m imagining most of the excessive bickering though. We couldn’t have possible argued all the time. Right?!

Now that I have four boys, the oldest three of who are extremely close in age, I am plagued by bickering, tattle-tailing, ‘he-said/’she-said’ disputes, etc. Just bickering, over everything. Over anything. Sometimes…even over nothing. I love my boys to death, but I just can’t deal with constant, and needless conflict. I’ve had to get creative to not simply ‘cope’ with this sibling issue, but to combat it head-on. While my husband and I are no strangers to ‘consequences’ I do like to try an incentive or reward-based program first. The lollipop tree was something I had stumbled upon on Pinterest, as a party decoration, but I had other things in mind for this adorable little ‘plant’.

Our lollipop tree is used as a reward system for acts of kindness. Every time we witness an unprompted act of generosity, helpfulness, compassion…you name it. The kids get a lollipop. While I hoped this practice would work when I began it, I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical. However, after almost a year in action, I can definitely see the successes. Of course, being realistic, it hasn’t weeded out all the bickering and combativeness, but it has gone a long way to serve as a permanent, visual reminder to think about their actions, and even the consequences that may result from them.

1, 2, 3 … Lollipop Tree

4 Sons 'R' Us: 1,2,3...Lollipop Tree

  • small plant pot of your color, size, and choice
  • a Styrofoam ball that fits into the opening of your pot, and is snugly supported by it
  • an economy size bag of Dum-Dum lollipops

Directions

  1. Place the styrofoam ball on top of the plant pot.
  2. Start sticking your Dum-Dum lollipops into the styrofoam ball, keeping the lollipops close together.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Lollipop Tree

3. Continue sticking the lollipops in until you’ve filled up the entire part of the ball that is showing outside the plant pot.

lollipop tree

You’re done! How easy was that?!

And, I have to add that if I did have a daughter or an opportunity to plan a girl’s birthday party, this would be the perfect table decoration for any Candyland, or candy ‘themed’ party!

Summer Car Crayons

I can’t get a single thing by my youngest. At four, hell hath no fury like him discovering me throwing anything away, ever. I have to smuggle out crayons like a Mexican drug lord. While I really hate throwing things away that I can re-purpose, I can’t stand to see his tiny little hands cramped up, struggling to make the tiny broken bits of crayons create the perfect little pictures he has in mind. So yes, me, the meanest Mommy in the world, takes them away. Contrary to his belief I don’t actually throw them in the garbage though. I have accumulated quite a stock-pile in my craft bins. When I saw heard about this idea, I just knew that this was the reason I had held onto them. Now, using nothing more than the summer heat as a power source, we now have a whole new batch of fun crayons to create with. At his age, he thought it was magical as we periodically checked on the melting crayons and how they ‘transformed’ from something old and broken into something brand spankin’ new.

For my older boys, I used this as a teaching point and science experiment to help explain how truly hot the inside of a car gets on a typical summer day. When we did this it was only about 85 degrees out, and pretty comfortable outside. However, our car was sitting in direct sunlight and I think they finally saw why their are always ads on tv and the radio about not leaving your children or pets in the car. While comfortable outside, they watched as our car was transformed into a virtual oven.

Before this experiment, especially with the oldest two sons, I would face a chorus of complaints, and ‘but why‘s’ when they had to come into stores with me while I was out running my errands. Since the car crayons, not a single issue. Instead of spending time wasting my breath lecturing them on the potential ‘dangers’ (the eye rolls suggest they typically think I’m just being an over-protective mother), it was so much easier to simply show them.

Summer Car Crayons

4 Sons 'R' Us: Summer Car Crayons

  • old crayons, papers removed and broken into pieces
  • silicone baking mold, or silicone ice tray
  • your car
  • a hot summer day

4 Sons 'R' Us: Summer Car Crayons

 

  1. Add a variety of broken crayon bits into the molds. You can combine similar colors, or a mix and see what combinations you end up with.
  2. Place mold on a cookie sheet for stability and sit on the dash board of your vehicle.
  3. It will take about 2 hours for the crayons to melt all the way. Periodically, come out to check on them and view their progress.
  4. When fully melted, use pot holders to carry the cookie tray back inside.
  5. You can leave them to cool on their own, or place in the refrigerator to help speed up the cooling process.
  6. When completely cool, pop out your new crayons and get coloring.

DIY Tiki Torch

During the summer months, I love being able to sit out on my porch in the evenings and enjoy a good book, watch the kids play, and just take in the beautiful weather. I’ve always loved the look and feel of lit tiki torches on summer evenings. Something about it just totally sets the scene for me. There prices, however, horrified me.

I was so excited last summer, when I came across little globular tabletop torches in the store. For a great price!! I could totally envision the queenly atmosphere they would create. The part of my brain that logically rationed as Queen of my Castle I deserved to stoke my fairy-tale inspired fire, demanded their immediate purchase. I automatically saw my little piece of far, far away where I could decompress, and just lose myself for a few minutes each evening.

Naturally, I came home with a matching pair, assuming we’d live out the rest of our days creating beautiful, enchanted Summer memories together.  Unfortunately, my happily ever after just wasn’t meant to be.  Both pots (let’s face it, at this point their ambiance setting fairy God mother had abandoned them and, in my eyes, their clock had already struck twelve) leaked horribly. Despite my valiant husband’s best efforts, they just weren’t salvageable. For me, the whole affair was quite tragic. So much for my illusions of grandeur.

Ever my knight in shining armor, my husband came to my rescue! If I couldn’t buy the perfect table top torch, then he would make me one! This was his brain child.

This easy to make tiki torch was a roaring success. Using citronella infused torch fuel I’m able to keep the mosquitoes at bay, all while adding a little ‘enchantment’ to my evenings. My still full wallet was feeling pretty enchanted too!

DIY Tiki Torch

4 Sons 'R' Us: DIY Tiki Torch

  • old, sturdy glass bottle
  • 2 washers that fit the lip of your bottle
  • 1 spacer
  • rubber grommet (make sure it will fit tightly down into your bottle creating an airtight seal that prevents the wick from moving around)
  • tiki torch fuel (I used one with citronella to keep the mosquitoes away)
  • tiki torch wicks

Directions

  1. Add fuel to your bottle. Be careful not to over fill.
  2. Place a wick into the bottle. Leave about 2 inches exposed above the lip of the bottle.
  3. Thread the end of the wick through the grommet, pushing the grommet towards the bottle opening. Force grommet down into the neck of the bottle, leaving it flush on top with the lip. Make sure to hold onto the end of the wick so it doesn’t also get pushed down into the bottle.
  4. Take one washer and thread it onto the wick, pushing it down until it rests on the top of the bottle. Make sure there’s not gap between the bottle and washer # 1.
  5. Thread a spacer onto the wick and push it down until it’s resting flush against washer # 1.
  6. Thread washer # 2 onto the wick, pushing down until it is resting firmly against the spacer. The washers will keep the flame away from the glass preventing it from getting hot, at all.
  7. Push the exposed wick down into the bottle, leaving only about 3/4 of an inch of wick exposed and ready to light.
  8. Allow the wick time to completely saturate with tiki torch fuel before lighting.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

In the rush of everyday life with a large family, and four children, there isn’t always time for a lot of relaxation. Usually just stolen moments. Even my showers have had to become ‘efficient’. However, on the weekends when the kids are in bed, I love to enjoy a nice, long soak in the tub. One of my creature comforts, despite budget constraints, has always been expensive bath products. I frequently use scented ones to create my own little atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It’s this wonderful little private bubble, where for a chunk of time, I don’t have any obligations or demands to meet. Something about the scented steam, just does it for me in the ‘reclaim a piece of my sanity’ department after a chaotic week. While I used to frequent kitschy stores and purchase the latest fragrant combinations to induce my ‘me time’. I’ve gradually shifted to making more and more of my own bath products. As I’ve found to be true with the majority of things, I like the results from this homemade version better than other’s I’ve purchased over the years toting the same ingredients. These bath salts are a breeze to mix up, and are heavenly to use. Just a few ingredients, and you can easily, and cheaply, produce your own affordable, quality bath salts. Make your reservations today for a little ‘spa’ treatment in the comfort of your own home.

Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts

4 Sons 'R' Us: lemon rosemary bath salts

  • 2 cups epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary; finely chopped
  • 6-8 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine epsom salt and baking soda.
  2. Add in half of the essential oil drops, mix, then add in the remaining drops.
  3. Mix in the chopped rosemary and lemon zest if you decide to use it until fully combined.
  4. Store in an airtight container. 
  5. To use, add as much, or as little, as you’d like to hot bath water and stir around until dissolved.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

Last month we went to watch my middle sister graduate from college. This was one of her ‘gifts’, also doubling as the centerpiece for the food table at her graduation party. My sister happens to have a soft spot for anything sweet and sugary so this was a perfect treat for her. The candy bouquet had originally been my mom’s idea, but the finished product was my youngest sister’s labor of love. All of the graduate’s favorite treats were featured. Recently, I’ve seen these in all the stores as a ‘sweet’ and trendy gift to give, but the mark-up on them is insane. With just a few items, several of which you probably already have in your home, you can make a beautiful ‘arrangement’ for a special someone with something to celebrate. I absolutely love this fun, new twist on the more traditional floral arrangement. Customizable, fun, and most importantly, edible! What more could you ask for from a ‘bouquet’?! Help celebrate someone ‘sweet’ in your life, and commemorate a special day, with a personalized candy bouquet.

D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

4 Sons 'R' Us: D.I.Y. Candy Bouquet

  • assorted full-size candy bars (6 were used here)
  • wooden skewers
  • strong tape
  • economy-sized bag of m&ms
  • clean, empty clear vase
  • ribbon (optional)

Directions

  1. Tape a wooden skewer to the back of each candy bar. Make sure enough tapes is used so that it’s securely attached.
  2. Add m&m’s to the bottom of a clean vase.
  3. Stick skewers into the m&m’s, adding more if necessary to hold the skewers in place.
  4. If using, tie decorative ribbon around the outside of the vase and tie a bow for the finishing touch. 

Easy Effective All-Natural Mosquito Repellent

With the beautiful days, and all this rain, the mosquitoes are in full swing on and around my porch. Bug Spray is a must! Being that my house is always filled with little ones who still put everything in their mouths, including their own hands with no concern over what they’ve touched, I desperately needed to find a mosquito spray that was effective, but also non-toxic. I researched and researched potential recipes, including spray, tinctures, creams. You name it, I perused it online and then tried it. Finally, I found a keeper. Eventually, I did modify it slightly to fit my personal preference and found it to be every bit as effective as the original, and with an enhanced, more refreshing scent. This has been a huge hit at my house since the littles can be protected without fear of poisoning, and there’s no greasy residue left on anyone’s skin like with DEET products. Furthermore, Witch Hazel, one of the main ingredients, is renowned for it’s skin benefits. It’s great at de-greasing oily skin, hydrating dehydrated skin, soothing inflammation, and disinfecting problem complexions. An effective bug spray that’s non-toxic with skin benefits? That’s what I call a winning combination.

Easy Effective All-Natural Mosquito Repellent 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Easy, Effective Mosquito Repellent

  • 1 14 oz bottle of witch hazel
  • citronella essential oil
  • eucalyptus essential oil
  • lavender essential oil
  • spray bottle(s)

Directions

  1. In a mason jar, or other glass jar of similar size with a lid, pour in the entire bottle of witch hazel.
  2. Now add your essential oils to the jar. 15 drops each of Citronella and Eucalyptus, and 10-12 drops of lavender.
  3. Put the lid on tightly, and shake vigorously until the mixture is evenly combined.
  4. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a spray bottle. You can either fill multiple spray bottles, depending on size, or fill one, leaving the remainder in the glass jar to refill as needed.
  5. Spray on areas of the skin commonly exposed to mosquitoes.

ImportantThis mosquito spray has not been tested nor confirmed to be effective at preventing mosquito-borne illnesses (such as West Nile Virus).  If you are concerned about you or your family contracting such an illness, please use a different product containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or IR3535.

‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift

Another graduate, somewhere, is preparing to walk down the aisle to receive their long sought-after diploma. Friends and family are trying to figure out the best way to recognize their achievement, or a way to put some finishing touches on a celebration or gift in their honor. I remember, after my sister’s graduation, when she was preparing to leave for college, she couldn’t help but be nervous. I mean, college is a big step. Life on your own for the first time since birth. I wanted to give her a little something at her dinner the night before she left for school, and I hate just sticking money inside of a card. This was the resulting ‘brain-child.’ She truly got a tickle out of it, especially after having seen all of the fire extinguishers in the dorm room whose displays had read them same. This is a quick and easy graduate gift, perfect for the high school graduate preparing to head off to college. It’s easy to make ahead, or even throw together last minute if you’re scrambling for some creative way to display a monetary gift. This would also be cute to give to the college graduate preparing for a move into their first home or apartment. Who doesn’t love a gift that gives them a good laugh? Especially when preparing for such a tremendous transition as embarking on the next chapter in life.

‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift

4 Sons 'R' Us: Graduation Gift

  • A typed up ‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ header, printed on 81/2 x 11 computer paper
  • Either an 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 picture frame
  • 2 bills in whatever monetary increments you choose

Directions

  1. Tape your two bills, evenly spaced apart, to the ‘Break In Case of’ sheet.
  2. Put the finished paper into the frame, and secure the back of the picture frame into place.
  3. Give to a wonderful graduate with a sense of humor.