Women: Can't live with them. Can't live without them.

So this is Part 2 of Meagan's question about how I deal with the expectations of others. You can read Part 1 where I talk about how driving a commuter bus has it's challenges and how I often find people judge me by the size of my butt! Ha ha! However, what I really want to talk about today is Women.

In thinking about how I deal with the expectations of other's, I have to say that most of my toughest pressure and criticism has come from other women. I know there is a saying that says, "Men: Can't live with them. Can't live without them". I also feel that this applies to women. Women: Can't live with them. Can't live without them.

Women: Can't live with them. My first thought in relation to this is, why is it that we judge each other so much? We are fierce in our support for the roles of women in society but harsh in our judgement of each other in our every day lives. We want society to accept us as equal but we can't simply accept each other for who we are and the way we raise our children in our homes. When it comes to being a mother we are often at our worst. We speak out against other women who are trying their best to raise children and go out of our way to embarrass them when they are doing the best they can. I have even been guilty of doing this myself. I have often judged others and then felt terrible that I let myself get caught up in such crazy thinking. 

As women we talk, we gossip, we whisper, 
'Did you hear what ... did with her kids?', 
'I can't believe she is feeding them ... !!', 
'I saw ... today and she had her kids dressed in ... !!'. 
The list is never ending.

Now I know not everyone does this and I am being very general here in making this statement but I find that if you are going to be a mother and especially one of a large family you need to be aware and prepared that other women will not like what you are doing and will tell you so if given the chance. Women love to share their opinion. If you have been pregnant you will totally understand what I am talking about. Just think of how many birth stories you heard and how many opinions about hospitals you received! Being aware of this helps me to deal with the pressure and expectations of other's.

Women: Can't live without them. As women we can't live without each other. We need friends who are women in our lives, we need to talk about girl stuff and to share our hearts with each other. We need to chat and share our mothering challenges, our birth stories, how our husbands or partners sometimes drive us crazy and to know that we are not alone in our parenting journey and trials. We know that other women just get it, they know where we are coming from and that makes all the difference when we are having a bad day. We seek out other women who like minded because our heart tells us that is what we need in our life and we know that having great relationships with other women is healthy and necessary.

They are the type of friends who lift us and inspire us. They help us stick to our expectations we place on ourselves and they don't let us quit when the going get's tough. They are a shoulder to cry on, open arms when we need them and a listening ear that never judges. They accept us for who we are and stand up for what we value and against those who may be putting us down. 

Even though most of my harshest criticism has come from other women they have also been a source of great support and encouragement when I need it most. I need them when people expect me to be a super woman. Just because I have seven children it does not make me a super woman. I make mistakes, I feel vulnverable, I feel overcome with my parenting role, I get hurt, I cry, I struggle with situations that come up in our family and I worry. I worry if I have done enough to help my kids, I worry I may have destroyed their life already and I worry about if they know I love them enough. 

The only time I find that I have trouble dealing with the expectations of others is if I am upset, people often say, 'Don't worry you will be alright'. Well, some days I am not alright and I feel it is unfair to put that expectation upon me. Yes, I know I will be alright eventually, but right now I am not. I am hurting and my kids are draining me and I have nothing left to give myself. I need someone else to give me some strength, I need someone to simply care and to listen. On days like this I find myself saying, Women. Can't live with them. Can't live without them!

Dealing with the expectations of others: Part 1

Meagan asked me: 'How do you cope or deal with other's expectations of you?

When I first started this blog I wrote a blog post addressing this topic: Does my butt look big with this bus? In this blog post I share how as a mother of a large family I never really thought about what car I would have to drive and how I was adjusting to driving a commuter bus everywhere I go. I also talk about how I often feel like women are judging me on the way that I look and by how many children I have.

"One of the funny things about me driving this bus is the reaction from others. When I pull up somewhere, lets say at a playground where lots of other kids are playing. It is as if the whole playground goes silent...it stops...parents included, to see what sort of tragedy is about to happen. This is when I start to smile to myself... The sliding door opens, normally loudly...and all my kids start to tumble out. I see the other kids on the playground looking scared and I know they are thinking...'it's a gang of kids coming to get us'. Now my kids are not perfect but they are kind! 

Then I see parents counting my kids and it is fun to see them start to shake their head, like I have committed some crime bringing all these children into the world, and then their mouths drop when they get to the end. Yes! There really is seven! Then when all the kids are out of the bus. It is my turn. This is the funniest part. When I get out of the bus and make my way around to the other side of the car, to normally close the sliding door because the last person out has of course forgotten to close it, people stare at me. It is like they are in shock! After they have stared for a while they then look me up and down, I mean, totally look me up and down. Especially women! They start forming a judgement in their mind and begin to wonder about this spectacle and they always seem to look at my butt. I get so tempted to give them a big flash of my butt just so they can have a closer look - with clothes on of course! 

They love to see if I am overweight (which of course I am in my own small way) and it is as if they are saying to themselves...no way are all those kids hers, she doesn't look like a woman who should have 7 kids."  

Now I understand that people are just fascinated, in shock and intrigued with the fact that I have seven kids. I have days where I am in shock about it too! I am happy to answer questions and tell them that yes, I did plan to have all these children (all except the twins, we did not expect to have twins) and yes we do have a television! 

I know I am not alone in having a large family, there are so many combined large families today and there are plenty of other women who desire to have lots of kids too. Most comments from people are kind and on the days I get unkind comments I try not to let it get to me. I am used to driving my bus now, I love it, and I am used to talking to people about our family. 

Once upon a time I would have piled my kids in the bus and gone home and cried when people said unkind things to us about the size of our family. Now I have a collection of comments that I use as a reply and I am much stronger in dealing with criticism. Having a blog has sure helped me toughen up in a lot of area's and I know that if I am going to put myself out there with things that I do and opinions that I have, I need to be prepared to also accept the opinions of other's, even if they are not nice.

I also know that as a mother of a large family I simply can't keep up with many everyday situations in life that others do. For example, the kids homework. It takes me a lot longer to help my children with their homework than it might for another family. With 6 children currently at school and 6 lots of homework to deal with each night I have to let other things go in my life to keep up with it. Yes, I would like to attend an event, read more blogs, comment on more blogs, watch television, visit a friend etc. but I simply can't fit homework and all those other things in my life. So I accept that I let people down, I can't meet the needs of friends or others and I can't do everything. Homework and my children comes first in this season of my life and everything else will just have to wait. Some days this makes me sad, especially when I feel like I am tired and want to bang my head against the wall because the homework is way above what I remember learning at school, but most days I cope with it fine.

Recently, I had an experience where people were asking and wanting some more of me with my time. My desire was to fill that need because I wanted to help and I knew it would be a good thing in my life. But, when I looked at my family situation I had to say No. I knew I could not fit it in our schedule, that it would take more time away from my family and that we were already stretched to the limit. I had to say No. I explained I would love to help but right now I simply can't. I was really tired that day and had a little cry about it. After I let those emotions out, I moved on.

But really, to be honest, most days I don't worry too much about what other's think of me or expect of me. I am simply too busy keeping up with my own life and that of my children to let it get to me. I know what I do with my time, I know I am working hard, my family knows I am working hard and that is all that matters. 

I do have a little more to say about this topic and am going to share Part 2 tomorrow. 

home inspiration: family clothing checklist

I have several checklists that I use around my home to help keep it organised. One of the checklists I use is a family clothing checklist. I simply write down all the names of my children and then list all of the basic wardrobe needs that they have. I find this is easy and works well for a large family. 

I then print my checklist out and go around to all of the children's bedrooms to see what they need to have updated or purchased or swapped from the extra clothing storage containers we have to keep their wardrobes up to date. 

The way I use it is to cross off all the items that they have enough of and then I am left with they need. I can then plan how I am going to meet those needs according to our budget and the time and season of the year. For example, I don't need to worry about new swimmers in winter time, I can put that off until it warms up a little more later on in the year.  

I also might write a number next to an item to remind me how many they have or how many more they need. Often they might only need one more of a certain item and recording a number helps me to save money and to remember what to keep track of.

If you have a smaller family you might not have a need for a checklist like this but I find with a large family it is of great help to me. It can be hard to keep track of what the clothing needs are for everyone in the family and it really saves me time and money.

How do you keep track of what clothing purchases you need to make in your family?

harmony turns 9 and bright star kids wall decal giveaway

As the middle child of seven children, with three above her and three below her, it is easy for Harmony to feel that she doesn't fit into either group on some days, so I love to shower her with love any chance I can get. When her birthday comes around is one of those times when I can go out of my way to give her some extra attention like by giving her a little Bright Star Kids treat shared below! 

This year she celebrated her ninth birthday. She is growing so fast and into such a lovely young woman. I find nine is such a fun age as they start to want to take care of themselves a little more but also love to do all the fun kids stuff too. 
We had a family birthday this year and kept is simple. For every child when it is their birthday they can choose what they want me to make for dinner and what type of cake they want. This year Harmony wanted sausages in bread with a cake from Woolies. A big step up from the cheese on toast she had last year. Can I just say here that I love this girl! 

In keeping with my blog tradition here are the reasons why I love Harmony:

1. Harmony is extremely helpful. If I ever announce that I need something she runs off immediately to get it for me. I love that she is so willing to help and be of service to me and others in our home. 

2. I love that she is kind and cares for others. She has a soft heart and is demonstrated by her love of collecting broken things. This drives me a little crazy some days but I love that she is so considerate and wants to help. 

3. I love that she has an inner drive to excel at school. She works really hard on her school work and knows how to celebrate her achievements. She sets small goals and works hard until she achieves them.

4. I love that she is very active. She is always dancing, skipping, or doing gymnastic moves around our home. She reminds me to stay active as well.

5. I love that Harmony comes and lays down next to me in the morning. She will come in for a chat and a hug and I treasure that time we have together. 

6. I love that she loves art and to create. In her room she is always working on some project and designing some colourful image or structure.

7. I love her smile. She has a natural beauty that blows me away.

8. I love spunk and determination. With so many brothers and sisters she could easily be swayed to change her mind and her personality but she is true to who she is and what she loves in life.

9. I love commitment to her friends. Harmony takes relationships seriously and will go out of her way to keep up to date with her friends and to care for them any way that she can. She loves to organise her own social life and it is fun watching her reach out to others.

As a little treat for Harmony this year for her birthday, Bright Start Kids sent me a gorgeous Bird House wall sticker to add to our home. We had a great time putting it together and it looks excellent in her room.

The image is of cute and colourful bird houses that hang from a long branch with colourful leaves while little birds chirp up above. It is perfect for children’s rooms, play areas, hallways and more. We have had a lot of different wall decals in our home over time and I have to say that this is the best quality one that we have had. The actual make up of the sticker decal is very different. It is thicker and is made from an innovative fabric material that is virtually indestructible. You can also apply and then remove the stickers as often as you like. Brilliant!

Harmony and I put the decal on the wall of her room together and it was so easy to follow the image and apply the stickers to the wall. They stuck easily and the colours are bright and fun. Harmony is in heaven with some new fun stickers to help brighten her room and loves the happy birds that great her each day. Bright Star Kids has given me one Bird House Wall Decal to giveaway to a Seven Cherubs reader. To enter use rafflecopter below: 

Good luck x

{Disclosure: I received a free wall decal which we love and I also charged a fee to run this giveaway}

National Bandana Day: Hannah's story

Each year in Australia about 18,000, 12-24 year-olds are confronted with a cancer diagnosis. CanTeen is the only National charity dedicated to helping young people fight cancer, no matter what their cancer experience. Today is National Bandana Day to help raise awareness and funds for youth living with cancer.

CanTeen provides free support to young people living with cancer in various ways including running peer support programs, resource books, a counselling service for young people who have a parent with cancer, or if their parent has died from cancer, as well as establishing youth cancer centres and services in hospitals so that young people can get age-appropriate access to treatment and facilities. National Bandanna Day is vital in raising funds to continue to provide free services to help young people fight back against cancer.

When I was approached by CanTeen to write a blog post to help spread the message I was delighted to support such a worthy cause. Cancer is sadly, very well known here in Australia and I have had several friends pass away from this disease. Today I wanted to share with you a personal story from a gorgeous, young girl who has experienced the challenges and pain that living with Cancer brings. Let me introduce you to Hannah and please read what she has to share with us:

"In late January of 2006, after a few months of intense ‘growing pains’, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. The tumor had eaten through my femur and was making its way down into my ankle. I started intense chemotherapy a few days after I was discharged from hospital and took the first step in the 12-month journey that dragged everyone around me to hell and back. 

I was on a 21-day cycle, 5 of those days spent in hospital on chemo, the rest, throwing up into every possible inconvenient place I could find! I was constantly in and out of hospital for transfusions, tests, appointments, or the free cocktails (commonly known as good ol’ chemo). 

Things got pretty hard for me, at the age of 9, life wasn’t supposed to be a struggle. I was angry at everything and I fought with everyone. I scratched, bit, screamed, and thrashed, anything to avoid the poking and prodding for even a minute. 

On May 31st, I had my first prosthesis put in. They removed my femur to my knee and concreted it into the knee joint and removed up to the joint in my hip. It took them a while to get me under, Mum going down three times before me (not on purpose of course!!). 

Chemo went down to 2 days. And I seemed to be getting better with the whole bashing people up thing. I had a few nurses that were just amazing and I felt like I could trust them with things like accessing my port and all of that. So it got easier. 

And on the 22nd of December, I finished!! Right in time for Christmas! I came home to signs all over the house and balloons and a lovely dinner. I had my family, my life, and food (of course). What else could I have possibly asked for! 

I recovered fast and went away with my family for the trip of a lifetime! We had 6 weeks in New Zealand in a campervan. My hair was growing back, and I even went out a few days without a hat. It was the best way to begin the New Year. 

When I got back though, I suffered a huge blow. Three of my best friends from when I was in hospital had died. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had lived, and they hadn’t. I lost most of my friends from when I was in hospital and each time, I couldn’t bare the thought of their families being so distraught. The thought that I had lived so much more than they had, and yet I was the one still alive cut me to pieces. 

When I was in hospital for a check up, mum picked up a CanTeen brochure. And I decided to join. It was, without a doubt, the best decision I have ever made in my life. The people I have met are the most incredible and influential I think I will ever meet. I literally have no words to describe how purely, brilliantly, terrific they are. They are my Earth Angels. 

I know that everyone suffers throughout the journey, and it isn’t just the patient, oh do I know! But it does, somewhat determine who we become. Although everyone says it shouldn’t, it changes A LOT about us, and we have no choice but to just go with it. 

It means so much to have the time to do those things that have become normal. The other cancer patients I’ve met at CanTeen  are amazing ,we all have this incredible bond that stretches beyond explanation. We just have these instant connections. We can go months without talking and seeing each other, but as soon as you see each other again it’s a massive slow-mo’ run/ hug/ jump/ fall/ tackle thing that brings tears and goose bumps every single time. We’re a family. We’re best friends. We’re each other’s angels. That’s the only way I can describe it."

I love how Hannah shares that CanTeen gives young people the chance to develop strong relationships and helps them to extend the support network around them as they face Cancer. If you want to support National Bandana Day pick yourself up a cool bandana at a local Woolworths, Woolworths Petrol, Wendys, Super Cheap Auto, BCF, Amart or Rebel Sport.

CanTeen also has recently created a great iPhone and iPad app named Bandanna Art. The world-first app allows mums and kids to design a 100% customised bandanna that is then delivered to their door, with all proceeds going to CanTeen. Very cool!

My heart goes out to families who are dealing with the challenge of living with Cancer in their lives every single day. I admire their strength in fighting this disease and how they keep such a positive attitude and keep moving forward each day. If you are able to support this wonderful cause please take the time today to donate or pick up a Bandana. Our family will be rocking our bandana's and thinking of those young people who are so strong and fighting for the will to live.

{Disclaimer: I was not paid any money to write this blog post. I am sharing it because I love to support great charity organisations and believe this is an important message}

i heart my saggy, baggy body

I am sure most of you are familiar with the golden book story: The Saggy, Baggy Elephant. Like the elephant, I always felt confident and happy about my body when I was growing up. I kept myself fit and active and it was not until somebody pointed out to me that my body did not look the way they thought it should look, that I started to have a problem with it.

Your thighs are too big.
Your breasts are too big.
You walk funny.
Your tummy is too large.
You are short.

Just like the saggy, baggy elephant I decided I need to improve myself. So I started to eat less. I began to seek the opinion of others on how to look better and over time began to love my body less and less.

I tried to shrink my thighs.
I tried to shrink my breasts.
I tried to walk better.
I tried to starve myself so my tummy would shrink.
I tried to buy shoes that would make me look taller.

In the end I hated myself and the way I looked. The harder I worked to change myself the more my body seemed to rebel. It was as if it was screaming at me to just love it, to accept it the way it was and to embrace it.

I am now happy to say that I heart my body.

My thighs have been strong enough to help carry me through many pregnancies.
Those breasts that were too large have helped me to breastfeed seven children.
My funny walk my husband adores!
My large tummy is now covered in battle wounds from having children and I couldn't be more proud!
My shortness has not stopped me from any goals or dreams I have had in life.

I may not look the way some people wanted me to look and I may have a saggy, baggy body after having seven children but my body allows me to love them and hug them and to serve them in many wonderful ways as I raise them into adulthood. My body is a precious gift from God and I am so thankful that it is healthy and I am able to do whatever I desire in life with it. 

I now embrace who I am, I take pictures of myself, I dress up more, I celebrate my soft tummy, my bigger butt and I work a little harder at keeping fit. I am so thankful to my husband who constantly tells me I look great and on days where I feel a little low he always lifts me up. I know I am not going to ever be really thin and all I really want is to be healthy in life and to be fit enough to enjoy my kids. I love that I heart my body and hope that you do too! 

two sets of rules in the home

We are lucky that we all live together in one home. That we are one family and have one set of rules in our home that we follow. I know there are many who do not have this luxury in life and deal with children struggling to live in two different homes with two sets of rules. That is a completely different topic than what I want to talk about today. 

For me, along my parenting journey I have learned a few lessons. One of the lessons I have learned is that in our home it really is a bad idea to have two sets of rules that we follow. One rule for the parents and one for the children sends a mixed message and confuses our children. We have discovered this the hard way and have found that having one set of rules in our home saves on arguements and creates unity for us as a family.

Now when I am talking about 'rules' in the home I am talking about guidelines that we follow as a family. I also understand that there is a difference between adults and children and they are not the same in how they live their lives. For example: I am not going to expect a child to clean the kitchen the way an adult would, I am not expecting a child to have the freedom to stay up to midnight every night if they wanted to or that a child is allowed to drive a car. What I am referring to are general family rules or guidelines to follow. Having one set for everyone as a large family allows us to be clear on what we value and expect to be upheld in our home. It gives us a protection in a way. 

We have found that with so many children in our home at differing ages it just became too difficult to keep track of what rule applied to what age. So we set clear rules that apply to all of us as a family. We also made sure that we set rules that we agreed on as parents as we were the one's who needed to be consistent and follow through with them. We also needed to be able to live them ourselves!

So here are some examples of what we came up with in our home:
We have one set of rules for watching movies. We have a set family rating and we all follow that guide. 

We have one set of rules for words spoken in our home. We don't use any swear words as a family so we don't have to deal with the 'only mummy and daddy are allowed to use that word' situation. 

We have one set of rules for music. We all check the lyrics on songs before we purchase them and only invite music into our home that we feel is going to be uplifting and fun for us as a family. 

We have one set of rules for physical punishment such as hitting, smacking or kicking. There is NO hitting, smacking or kicking in our home. There may at times have been threats given when tempers have exploded but as a rule we have no physical punishment given in our home.

We have one set of rules for name calling. We do not use degrading words to put each other down and on many occasions I have had to bite my tongue off not to use them! It drives me crazy to see parents calling children degrading names and then when the child says it they get in trouble for it. 

We have one set of rules for computers. All computers are kept and used in family rooms where everyone can see what is being watched, played or used on them. This keeps us all accountable.

As you can see, as parents we take this kind of thing seriously. It is not easy to follow these rules some days but we have found that it stops resentment and any bad feelings between children and parents and it helps to bring more unity and harmony to our home. To us that makes it worthwhile.

practical parenting: a dinner time apprentice

{Pasta making lesson from Dad and I have no idea what is going on with Liberty's hair!}

Over the years I have discovered that one of the most common times when things get destroyed around my home is when I am preparing and cooking dinner. As I am busy chopping and cutting up food and watching pots and pans, my cherubs are often off getting into things they should not be. It is almost as if they have planned and waited all day for me to be busy in the kitchen so they can get into that drawer or cupboard they have been dreaming about all day!

So to help overcome this little problem I started to always cook dinner with a dinner time apprentice. My apprentice normally was the child I knew would get into the most trouble {normally the youngest at the time!} and they would become my special assistant in the kitchen. On really bad days I would have several special apprentices helping me in the kitchen. 

You know the days that I am talking about, where everyone is tired, where no matter what you do, it is not going to run smoothly. I would have all my cherubs lined up along my kitchen bench with a job to do and even though it would take me twice as long to get dinner ready, it would bring a much nicer feeling into our home. 

I found it a wonderful opportunity to praise them for their efforts, to teach them to share, to help them be patient while they are waiting for the next person to do what they need to do and a way for them to serve our family. It also started a new family tradition where over dinner we say things like, 'Thank you Harmony for the wonderful potatoes' or 'Thank you Sam for the salad you made'.

All of my children have been a dinner time apprentice. They know how to be careful when using a knife, how to chop vegetables, how peel potatoes and carrots, how to mix food in a bowl, how to crack an egg, how to be careful with mixing hot food items, how to mash vegetables and how to sneak taste tests when I am not looking :)

Lucky for me I have a husband that also loves to cook. He often will decide to do some baking {bless him!} and will grab several children to help him out. They love helping him out in the kitchen and some of their fondest memories are cooking with Matt. He has taught them how to make bread, ham and cheese rolls, pasta, cinnamon rolls and pancakes just to name a few.

I know it requires a little more effort and planning to have a dinner time apprentice and some days you just want to do the cooking by yourself, but it has been a great blessing to our family and now that my kids are older, they still love coming to help me cook in the kitchen. I think it really is because they love all the praise they get at the dinner table!

my sanity saving dinner time secret

People often ask me how I run or organise dinner time with such a large family. So today I thought I would share with you my special sanity saving secret to success with so many people to feed every day. I believe these items are essential for any woman and mother to have in her home and kitchen. Whether you have a large family or not, it will help you be prepared for when people drop by or you just feel tired and exhausted after a busy day. They will bless your life. Truly. Here is my secret to success below:

Yep! Paper plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons and napkins. Blesses my life people. On days where I feel too tired to cope with the dishes and clean up routine or arguing with the kids to do the clean up, {which tires me out more than actually doing the dishes myself!} I pull out the paper/plastic utensils and plates and it is amazing how much of a burden is lifted from my shoulders. 

Now that I have older kids I hardly ever use them but it is a huge relief to know that I have them there if I need them. It doesn't make me a bad mother and it doesn't mean I can't cope. What it does mean is that I am aware of my needs, my emotions and that I am giving myself a gift by taking an easier option to help myself out. Best of all the kids and Matt don't care what plates we use!

So there you have it. My sanity saving secret to dinner time success. 
Get yourself a supply if you don't have one. Immediately! 

{P.S: I am going to write a more serious post about this topic. Hope this one made you smile though.}

food storage to bless the lives of others

I know many people who have read my blog posts lately about why I have food storage and how to create a food storage supply are still really struggling to grasp the concept of why I have so much food piled up in my home. If you have never heard of this idea I can understand that it seems a little weird and freaky even!

So I have one last thing to say about the topic of food storage and why I have so much food in my home. I hope that this will put you at ease and help you to understand why it is so important to me and why I put so much effort into making it work.

As I have mentioned previously, the main reason that I store food in my home is:
1. To be self reliant
2. To be prepared incase of emergency or crisis
3. For peace of mind
4. To save money on shopping
There is one last reason why I have food storage: To bless the lives of others

Now I have been a little reluctant to share this reason because I am sure someone is going to think that I am proclaiming that I live some higher way of living than everyone else or that I am bragging about what I do to try to help others, but that is not the case at all. I simply want to share that when you reach a place of feeling like you are living a more self reliant life, {which has taken us a long time to get to!} you can use what you have to bless the lives of others.

Matt and I have worked hard to strive to be as self reliant as we can be with a large family and we know we live a blessed life. We have made it a priority to accumulate a bonus food storage supply, a vegetable garden, a herb garden and an extra chest freezer of food. 

We love to have this supply for ourselves but also to help others. We feel very thankful that we are in a situation to be able to do so. We are not rich but have sufficient for our needs and try to be wise with how we use our finances and excess. 

Some of the ways we like to bless others are:

*When we hear that someone is having a hard time we often grab a bag and fill it with items from our food storage cupboard to give them. 
*When I visit someone I often like to take a tin of peaches. It is not much but I find it is always nice to help someone feel you are thinking of them and most people love peaches.
*When we know someone has lost their job we can take bags of food over to help them from our food storage supply. We do this to help them get through the next week or longer if possible and we can slowly build up our own personal supply again over time.
*From our vegetable garden we can share our bounty with friends
*If we want to donate money to a worth cause we can live off our food supply to make up the difference
*If I hear or feel that someone could do with a nice dinner, I already have supplies on hand to quickly make them a meal and take it over right away. 
*If I see a great product on special I will often buy an extra one to give to someone else. 

There are many other reasons but that is just a small example of why we love to have a food storage supply to help bless the lives of others. I love that we can use our food storage to teach our children to think about reaching out to help people and that small sacrifices we make can make a big difference to touch other people. Food storage to me is not just about hoarding food, it is about blessing lives. My own families life and the lives of others. I am going to have food storage for the rest of my life. I won't need as much as my children leave home but I hope that I will continue to use it to bring a little happiness to those who are in need. I hope that helps put your mind at ease and you no longer feel I am crazy and look like I am stockpiling as if the world is going to end an day now!

how to create a food storage supply

After sharing why I believe it is of great benefit to have a food storage supply in your home, I want to share with you how I created my supply, how to make sure you have the right items in your storage and how to store all that food in your home. Now before I start, remember that what works for me might not work for you, that I am in no way saying this is something you need to do in your home and I am just sharing what I do because so many people have asked me questions about it. I am no food storage professional. I am simply a mum of many cherubs who tries to store a reasonable amount of food to help us be self reliant and to have a backup incase of emergency. I am also not writing this blog post about how to organise your pantry or preaching about what products I believe you should have in your home. That is your personal choice. I am also not trying to promote any brand or type of food. I simply buy what I see on special and if you have a problem with the type of food we eat and use, please keep it to yourself. So now that I have that out of the way, let's begin!

How I first started my food storage supply:
When I first looked at creating a 3 month food storage supply, Matt and I were newly married and both studying at University. Finances were not good and the thought of spending all our spare cash on canned items of food was not a happy thought. Practical but not happy! So we decided to start small. Every time we did our food shopping we purchased a couple of cans or items to add to our food storage supply. We really just started out with 2 cans of food. Often this did not add up to be too much of an extra expense and we were able to afford it. 

When we got home we placed them in a place different to our normal pantry so there was less temptation to use them and we knew that we had to try to stretch everything out to not use them. There needed to be a sacrifice involved with starting the storage to make it work. With one can or item at a time we were slowly able to build it up until we had enough to sustain ourselves. 

When our food storage was small we kept it in empty nappy boxes {we had plenty of those!}, spare boxes and large plastic containers stored in any weird place we could find around our home. We have stored it under beds, in the linen cupboard, in our wardrobe and in our kitchen. I think people believe you have to have this beautiful looking dedicated pantry to have a food storage supply. When you are starting out, simply store it any where you can!

As more children came to our home we simply kept up our routine of putting away a few items every time we went shopping and over time we were able to maintain a 3 month food storage supply. Over the years I also became better at keeping an organised home and was able to find more and more room to store food. This has led me to where I am today. At a place where having a food storage supply is more of a priority than many other things in our home. If you are like me, I often need a visual picture to motivate me to do something, so I thought I would start out by showing you how I keep my 3 month food storage supply. 

My food storage supply now:
Just like most people I know, I have a normal kitchen. I don't have a walk in pantry to enjoy and only have one main food cupboard in my kitchen. I keep this stocked with food that we normally eat in a high rotation. I keep cereal, cooking supplies, cans of food and other items that we use every day here. I am not going to show you a picture of what that looks like. What I am going to show you is extra to what you might have in your home. So these pictures are of food that we have as a bonus, an extra supply to draw from in time of need.

One of the first places I store food is in my dining room in this buffet. I use glass jars I picked up at Woolworths and at one of those cheap $2 stores to give me this look. In these glass jars I keep items that we use on a high rotation as well as in my kitchen cupboard but I keep them here so that I can store them more in a bulk supply. Some examples of the items I store here are: flour, sugar, coconut, pasta, rice, banana chips, nuts, bean mixes, wheat, bread crumbs and popcorn.

I also store food in a spare cupboard in our rumpus room. Well, I say spare because I made it spare to keep food in. I cleaned out a whole bunch of toys and junk to make this space more practical. It is not a large space but I find it works well for storing cans and jars. In this cupboard I keep an extra storage of tins such as: diced tomatoes, baked beans, spaghetti, peaches, tuna, corn, kidney beans, peas and carrots, tomato paste and beetroot. If I run out of an item in my kitchen cupboard I can restock it from here and then easily see what is running low and needs to be replaced when I next go do the shopping.

The last main place I store food is in a cupboard on the other side of my dining room. You can see what my whole dining room looks like HERE. I have one normal looking cupboard that I use to store extra food in. Since cutting out a lot of sugar from our diet my cupboard looks very different than it used to! In this cupboard I store extra cereal, oats, soup mixes, vegemite, pasta, honey, rice, long life milk, vinegar, flour, coconut, oil, noodles, tortilla wraps, crackers and dried fruit.

I also have other places around my home where I store water, extra cleaning supplies, medical supplies and emergency supplies. I have a vegetable garden to help out as well and I will do a blog post about that in the future. But today, I just want to focus on what I do for food storage. So now that I have shared with you how I organise my food storage supply and you have a picture of what it looks like for our family for three months, let me help you get started if you are interested.

Starting your food storage:
*One of the best ways to work out what food to store in your supply is to write out a list of what food your family actually eats. There is no use storing food that your family will not eat. It is a waste of money and space in your home. Also you want to be able to rotate your storage by using the items. You don't want it to just sit there for years doing nothing.

*Write out a list of the meals you cook and what ingredients you normally use. You don't have to have all of those ingredients in your food supply but it would be an excellent idea to have most of the main ones. 

*Once you start writing out your list of food items you will be able to see that with the meals you cook you will have several items you use a lot more than others. There are the items you want to focus on buying in bulk. For example, I use a lot of diced tomatoes, tuna, flour and pasta sauce so I have more of those items in my storage.

*When you have worked out what items you use regularly as a family it is a great idea to also think about what basic food items you would need if you had to cook from scratch. Think about what would you do if you had no electricity or shops to purchase food items from. Items such as flour, grains, beans, long life milk, pasta, water, sugar, yeast, salt etc. are a great start to add to your supply.

*Once you have worked out what items you want to add to your food storage, then decide how much of that item you think you will need as a family for 3 months. Write out a list of how much you think you need to aim for. Don't feel like you need to reach this target right away. Any extra food you have in storage is a bonus to you as a family!

*Once you have an idea of what items or products would be good to have in your food storage keep an eye out for them on special in the shops. If practical and you are able, buy them in bulk to save money and to help build your supply faster.

*Think about variety with your food storage. No one likes to eat the same food all the time. Feel free to add treats to your food storage as well. If you were ever in a difficult situation and needed to rely on your storage, a few special treats would totally boost your spirits and bring some short term happiness to the family. 

*When starting out with your storage think about mixing things up. Don't spend all of your money on say buying 10Kg of wheat and that is all you can afford and have in your storage. Start off by buying items from a variety of food groups to keep it mixed up. 

*If possible, think about allocating a certain percentage of your food budget to food storage. Even an extra $5 or $10 a week or fortnight will make a huge difference and you will be surprised how quickly you can grow your food storage supply.

How to store food storage in your home:

*If you are just starting out and want to start small, see if you can find a spare shelf, box or any corner of your home to store some food in. It does not have to look lovely, food storage is mainly practical not beautiful, and keep that area as your designated food storage spot.

*If you already have a small supply of food storage look at organising it in a way so you can clearly see what storage you have. Look around for more storage space in your home and see if you can find a place to extend it a little further. Clean out a cupboard, purchase some extra shelves at a second hand shop or on ebay {book shelves are great!}, pick up some boxes or find some clean large plastic containers to store food in. 

*It is also important to consider what food you can store for a short time and what food can store for a longer time. For example: wheat can store for years and years but yeast not so long as it has a used by date to consider. You can store the items that keep for a longer time together in one place and the items that last for a shorter time in another place so you can keep track of the rotation that needs to take place.

*Consider the temperature of the room you are storing food in. It is best to store food in a place that has a cooler temperature and is dark in nature. For example, in a cupboard is much better than sitting out in a plastic container outside in the sun. Just use common sense in what you think will affect what food you are storing. 

*It is worth spending money on good quality containers if you can. Know that there are insects, moisture and other nasty little bugs and creatures who will love to get into your food storage. It is a sad day when you have put a lot of money and work into creating food storage only to have to throw it out because of these issues. Try to keep your food in a way that will protect it the best way you can. These days you can purchase sealing packs to keep your food in and I always put my rice and flour in the freezer for 2 weeks to kill any bugs. 

Links and lists to help you:

{I had a hard time finding any Australian links so if you have written about this topic feel free to leave them in the comments section below}

Now there are many other parts of food storage that I could share with you, such as how important to include your pets in planning your storage, how to rotate your storage, how to involve children etc. but today I just wanted to give you an idea of what my food storage looks like, how I started organising it and to hopefully motivate you to start your own small storage supply. I never thought when I started my blog I would be showing people what food I keep in my house but here I am doing it! Hope you found it helpful and thanks for the encouragement. N xx

why have food storage

{Source: Here}

Food storage. The idea or thought of it either freaks you out or you get excited and immediately think it is something you want to start. I find people either love or hate the idea. For me, I love it. I am not obsessive about having a food storage supply in my home but I do believe it is of great benefit to have an extra supply available. 

Having food storage helps me keep an organised home and today I want to share why I believe it is important to have in your home and why I think you should consider starting one. It is not as hard as you think and you might be surprised of the benefits that come from having one. I currently have a 3 month food storage supply and find it works very well for us. Here is why I have food storage:

To be self reliant
As a family we believe it is important to be as self reliant as we can be with all area's of our life. We strive to be as socially, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially reliant as we are able, to support ourselves as a family. I just love the idea of being able to provide for ourselves if there was some kind of emergency and not having to rely upon other people to feed us or clothe us in such a situation. We are a large family and it would be a real strain on another family to help us out. I also want to teach our children to look ahead, to see that by putting aside a few items each week that you can slowly build up a great supply to provide for yourself, whether with food or money or any other type of product. 

To be prepared for emergency or crisis
As I sit and watch the news I see many cases of natural disasters and emergencies taking place around the world. I even remember when the Brisbane Floods were on. People went crazy buying up products at the shops. Our family, we did not need to get much at all. We were prepared. We had a food supply. Of course I am totally aware that if our house burnt down or some other type of disaster happened we would not be able to carry all our food storage with us, but if we were stuck in our home, we would have enough for ourselves and could also help out our neighbours. That to me is worth the effort of creating a food storage supply. 

Peace of mind
As the saying goes, when you are prepared, you shall not fear! Crazy as it may sound, having a food storage supply brings me peace of mind. I know that if something was to happen to our family, we would be alright. Matt could be put off work, we could have a large expense happen in our family and being able to live off our food supply, while it would not be the best food we had ever eaten, it would help us to save money and survive for that period of time. 

To save money on shopping
One of the best ways having a food storage supply is of benefit to our family is when I go food shopping. I am often tempted to purchase unnecessary items for our home and if I am focused on purchasing items that I know we use and keep in our food storage, I often find I spend less. I am not distracted by specials when I know I already have a back up supply at home. The only time I strive to take advantage of those specials is when I know our supplies are running low and need to be replenished. Then I buy a couple more items to refill our storage supply and we are back on track and I have not spent a lot of extra money. It is also helpful for cooking meals, I hardly run out of ingredients!

Most of the guidance and instruction and encouragement to have a food supply in our home has come from my church and they really are brilliant at finding resources and giving us tips on how to establish a good supply in your home. Tomorrow I want to share what I have done in my home and some tips on how to start a supply, how to make sure you have the right items in your storage and how to store all that food!

ideas for making special memories with your cherubs

Childhood is a time of dreams, adventures and believing anything is possible. It's a time of fun, of building first memories with family and friends and the foundation on which our children will build their lives. It’s all too easy as parents to get sucked into the monotony of the daily grind and forget to relish in the real joy that’s all around us.

The author Migon McLaughlin famously said, 'Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun'. My goal when starting A Little Bird was to make it easier for parents to find fun family activities that can help them build special memories with their kids.

Here are a few ideas to shake up your day-to-day parenting routine and have fun with your little ones:

Complete a Family Challenge.
A fantastic way to make special family memories is to take part in a challenging adventure together. This could be as simple as a makeshift obstacle course in your backyard or something big like tackling a family fun run, bike ride or doing a Story Bridge Climb. Completing a challenge takes everyone out of their comfort zone, with the potential of some friendly competition and plenty of laughs.

Plan a Family Camping Weekend.
Heading to the great outdoors and back to nature is an ideal way to enjoy the simple things. A weekend camping can be packed full of special memories such as dad trying to get the tent up, singing songs around the campfire, making up ghost stories, listening and looking for wildlife, toasting marshmallows on the barbeque and going on a night walk with a torch.

Go out for a special family meal. 
Meals are a super way of spending quality family time together and a great chance to forget about the cooking and cleaning up – for one night anyway! There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants out there that can satisfy a parent’s need for good food and coffee and children’s needs for entertainment and fun. Look for cafes, pubs and restaurants with dedicated children’s areas or that provide little extras for kids such as colouring in pads and pencils.

Choose your own adventure on regular Family Days. 
Have a regular Family Day scheduled into the calendar every fortnight or month and let family members take turns of having free reign (well, within reason!) to plan the day how they like. Perhaps your youngest family member would like a day focussed on playing games: at the beach, park and in the garden. Maybe dad would like the whole family to go bush walking and then enjoy a drink at a kid-friendly cafe. The choice is yours! It is good to remember that making memories as a family doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are the best fun!

Melissa Rogers loves finding fun things to do for kids and bubs, for her two boys and for the growing online community at A Little Bird. Check out the website for lots of kid friendly activities, cafes, events and outdoor adventures to help you make memories with your kids. www.alittlebird.com.au You can also connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alittlebird.com.au and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/alittlebirdkids