Plarn Balls {for Operation Christmas Child Boxes}

For years, I've loved the Samaritans Purse Operation Christmas Child Box ministry! We've packed boxes with our small children as a family and now pack dozens of boxes with our church family as part of our way of spreading the gospel across the world.

My mother in law recently let me in on a little project she's been working on for our boxes- Plarn Balls! "Plarn" is short for "plastic yarn". Plarn is made by cutting plastic grocery bags into strips, which are then strung together into a single long strand, like yarn. She used to make water proof mats with a group of ladies as a ministry to the homeless. Since that time, she has discovered endless uses for this recycled material. You can use plarn to crochet sturdy, reusable tote baggs, purses, pool/beach bags, doormats, and more.

Today I want to share her awesome idea, how to make plarn, as well as the pattern for the plarn balls that will fit perfect into OCC boxes!

How to make plarn

  • Lay bag flat and fold it in half lengthwise.
  • fold bag in half again.
  • cut folded bag into loops, discarding handles and bottom.
  • Knot lops together to form a single strand.
  • Roll the strand into a ball and crochet or knit as you would with yard.

Plarn Ball Pattern

Abbreviationss
  • st/sts- stich/stiches
  • sc- single crochet
  • sc 2 tog- single crochet 2 together

Round 1: Make a foundation row with 6 st using the magic ring method. Optional, but highly recommended, place a st marker at the beginning of the round, moving it to the first stitch of each new round as you go.

Round 2: 2 sc in each st around (12sts)

Round 3: 2 sc in next st, sc in next st around (18sts)

Round 4: 2 sc in next st, in next 2 sts around (24sts)

Round 5: 2 sc in next st, in next 2 sts around (30sts)

Round 6-10: sc around (30sts)

Round 11: sc 2 tog, sc in next 3 sts around (24sts)

Start filling iwth plastic straps or plastic bags.

Round 12: sc 2 tog, sc in next 2 sts around (18sts)

Round 13: sc 2 tog, sc in next st around (12sts)

Round 14: sc 2 tog, until the opening end is closed enough to tie off.

Weave in the ends hiding inside the ball.

Cut plarn 1" wide when marking plarn.

[note: I no NOTHING about crocheting so I won't be able to answer an questions in that regard- so so sorry! I just copied this pattern exactly as my MIL wrote it having not idea what any of it meant. Also, remember food items are prohibited so no filling the balls with beans...I don't know who would have had that bright idea :/ lol] 

I'm so excited that more and more people are falling in love with this simple but life-changing ministry!!! Click learn more about Operation Christmas Child!

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Resetting Halloween

For years, my husband and I have gone all out for Halloween. We love dress-up and that's the best part of Halloween.

From our first Halloween as newly weds all the way through adding 4 children to the mix, we've done couple, group, or family costumes. Having boundaries help make us more creative. Last year was HUGE. My hubs destroyed our house for months getting ready. He put so much into our family's costumes that we took them to the local Comic-book Convention for a costume contest.

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Although it was fun, it also come with tons of stress and each year, the standard for what we were gonna come up with got bigger and bigger. The bar just kept getting so high, I wasn't sure our sanity or checkbook could keep up. I dreamed of the old days when you made up something for Halloween night with randomness you had in your closet, or kitchen drawers. lol I think every kid should experience that fun.

So moms, if you need to reset the bar for Halloween, I present to you: The Boxtrolls!

2016-boxtrolls

Yep, just
*boxes collected, some from neighbors, the weeks right before Halloween, with the bottoms cut out along with holes for heads and arms.
*We even added a bit of dark foundation to make faces appear dirty
*Messy hair helped us appear troll-like.
*Adding some toilet paper on hands and feet made it kinda look like their wrapped limbs.
My hand was bruised a bit and had a blister from cutting the cardboard with scissors {my box knife wasn't as sharp as the scissors} and the TP quickly came off on our trek around the neighborhood making it look like teen vandals traveled with us but this was by Far the easiest costumes to throw together. We were "double waterslide, typerwriter, moving box, music stand, shoes, eggs, diapers, baby doll, and wipes."

A couple people knew who/what we were, possibly because my kids tried to explain, but for the most part, it was hilarious to see people inspecting our kids and laughing because I'm sure they were thinking, "wow. you're wearing a box as a costume." To that I say, "WINNING!" #resettingthebar

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Using a Responsibility Chart for Multiple Children

I found this awesome Responsibility chart made by Melissa and Doug at a consignment event. It comes with all kinds of magnets to create a very unique chart.

How to Use a Responsibility Chart with Multiple Children

I think most families use it as a kind of "sticker chart" by rewarding kids with smilies when they do something. BUT you know I can use very few things for just their intended purpose. I use the magnets to assign jobs for the week. The kids rotate jobs each week so they learn to do all the household chores. I've also started assigning table chores to be done after eat meal. I paired the most difficult household chore with the simplest table chore.

I use the bottom dry erase part to group things they're all supposed to do daily- the ones they don't earn commission for doing.

Over the years, the commission pricing has changed a lot. I'm still a cheap mamma living on a tight budget but I understand the benefits of paying my children to do some chores so they are learning to manage money...even if its not a lot. These days, I pay based on the difficulty of the chore. I also use commission that can be visually seen in a single coin. They're learning the value of coins, and mamma can easily count it out on pay day. 😉

  • Laundry/clear the table earns $0.25
    I load/start laundry every night and the children move the clean load into the drier the next morning and then sort it into each bedrooms' basket when its dry
  • Dishes/wash the table earns $0.10
    I load/start the dishwasher [usually just] every night and the children unload/put away all the clean dishes the next morning; most dishes are down low for this reason
  • Trash/Dog/Sweep earns $0.05
    Our dog sleeps in a kennel every night and the children let the dog out in the morning and feed the dog once in the morning and once at night
    They empty the small bathroom trashcans every morning, occasionally help their daddy take out the big kitchen can, and the night before trash day they help take the outside cans to the street and bring them in after it's been picked up

Each child in our house is color coded meaning, they know based on the color on the chart which chore they're on that week. Color coding may seem odd, but with lots of littles its super helpful in lots of areas. {ie Cups: they get a single cup per day and we can always tell who lost theirs}

Responsibility Chart {with cousins}

This chart is how I broke it down when my niece and nephew came for a week. THEY ask to be put on the chore chart for the record. And yes, it's in age order. We start "training" our children on chores around 2 or 3 years old and by 4, they "get to be on the chore chart".

This chart is very helpful for our family. Do you use anything similar? How does it work for your family?

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Back-to-School Supply Shopping Tips {Thoughtful Thursday}

I am often annoyed that Hobby Lobby has fall decor out before 4th of July or that Christmas decor is everywhere in stores before Halloween BUT I might be in the minority when I get gitty when school supplies show up in stores. Eeeek The smell of sharpened pencils, clean new binders, shelves upon shelves of crayola colorfulness!

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I have been preparing my school supply list for the 2-16/17 school year already. Part of my prep included scouring the internet for the best prices on the items on my list. Here's a quick overview of what I've found that might save you some time and money::

  1. Staples price matches 110% of any {even online} sale price. This is #1 because I feel like it could cut down on shopping time by going to a single store. They will not only match a price but give you 10% off on top of that. example: Staples glue $2, Walmart glue $1, Staples glue now $0.90
  2. 7 ways to save with Staples, stack them all!
  3. Walmart's app has a "Savings Catcher".  This means you scan receipt on the app and if competitor advertises lower price, they'll give you the difference.
  4. Target cartwheel app has tons of great coupon deals AND Target Red Car saves you 5% every time you use it and it connects to your checking account, acting just like a debit card. No more forgetting to pay that store credit card you have just for the discounts.
  5. Walmart vs Target cheat sheet to get the best prices {if you don't have a staples to match their prices 110%}.
  6. Tax Free Weekend! Arkansas' will be Aug 6th through Aug 7th. HERE is the list of qualifying items for Arkansas.
  7. Homeschoolers can register your "school" with Office Depot for their 5% cash back. You can have anyone you know use your school name to put their 5% cash back towards. If you don't have a school you use yet, ROTHACHER ACADEMY of Vilonia Arkansas would love your support. 😉
  8. Homeschool moms can register with Staples for teacher discounts.
  9. Christian Books website has a $1 sale right going on right now through Aug 18th. It includes some books that would be great for homeschool.
  10. Deals from several store that you need to grab up This Week!
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DIY Built-In Bookshelf and Desk {Thoughtful Thursday}

Originally, I just wanted something in this awkward corner of my living room. It's the only thing in the room that causes it not to be completely square. This little joint out is created by the master closet and it's kinds fun, adding a little character to the room. Every week when our small group would come to our house, it bothered several friends. "What are you gonna put on that wall?" Ya know, since the rest of the room was covered in pictures and such.

Thoughtful Thursday

Here was my attempt to decorate this space. A cute dresser friends gave me and I painted, my awesome clock I'd been ogling and my hubs got me fr Christmas, and some other random decor items I had around the house. It worked for a while but seemed so minimalism compared to the height of the room and the scale of everything else in the room.  

I always loved the built-in shelves I've seen on Pinterest. But this wall is 12' tall and about 5' wide. I wasn't sure my hubs would be up for such a *big* change. I proposed the idea and when he didn't totally hate the idea, I sketched out what I was thinking and showed him several image ideas on Pinterest. 

At the end of the summer last year, I suggested maybe it could be my birthday present. He agreed 😀

A friend of ours visited from out of town and agreed to help Matt build my monstrosity over the weekend he was staying with us. Eek

There were a couple things that came up throwing a wrench in my plans but we worked around them. The main one was the carpet. We have hardwoods in our living room but the former owner chose to put carpet down with with a tack strip and a one foot of hardwoods showing around the entire room. We had never taken up carpet and discovered the take strip was installed with huge nails leaving big holes in the floor. We weren't ready to deal with holes in the floor every few inches so we chose to build the shelve up to the height of the baseboard. We added [mostly decorative] feet to the front of the shelf that we had intended to use on the bottom of the girls' dresser

In my mind I worked from the top shelves down. I knew I wanted bookshelves up top. Then I wanted a desk-like space for our printer and working on homeschool or other stuff. Below that, I wanted plenty of space to store paper, our laminater, and larger items like completed scrapbooks. Just recently, I caved and bought a cardboard paper divider to keep them sorted and from getting all torn up in a basket. Ideally, I wanted a wooden divider but I was never going to pay for one. After lots of finagling, the cardboard one fit perfect and does a perfect job. 

Yes, I chose to sort our books by color. Most of these books are on the same or very similar topics and have already been read or are only used for reference. Plus, I like color and makes the shelves more decorative since I ended up with more books to fill it than first expected and less room for other cutesy things. 

built in book shelf desk paper divider

A year later, having never posted the original post, I'm still loving this built-in. It adds a decorative aspect to this otherwise odd corner of the living room, stores all our book that would be in the attic if not here, makes them easy to read and or lend, makes printing, laminating, and working on things in general so much more practical.

Recently, I gave up on finding an affordable wooden paper divider the size I wanted and went ahead and bought a cardboard one from Target. With 15 slots, it has enough space for the kids construction paper as well as my printer paper, card-stock, and laminate sheets.

I am a huge fan of when norms are thrown to the wind, thinking up what could make life easier, and doing what works for your family. This giant shelf may not be everyone's design dream but it works so well for us!

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