Introducing Our Sixth Messy Baby!

We are so incredibly blessed to introduce to you our sixth messy baby girl!

Meet Violet Rae!

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Violet Rae

Miss Violet was born just over a week ago at the healthy weight of 8 pounds 6 ounces, our biggest baby yet. She’s absolutely perfect in every way with deep blue eyes, lots of dark hair, and delicious cheeks!

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Precious baby feet

As anticipated, her sisters can’t get enough of her!

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The triplets are especially fascinated with this new little person!

They constantly give kisses and want to hold her. So far, Lydia (our 2-year-old) has shown no signs of jealousy. The excitement of the bigger girls has rubbed off on her, and she, too, gives constant kisses.

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Lydia holding Violet for the first time. And Lydia suddenly seems so big!

We’ve captured many of Violet’s sweet sleepy smiles already.

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Smiling in Meemaw’s arms

And I’ve been having fun setting up photo shoots at home! 🙂

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Violet at one week old

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Violet in a violet tutu! 🙂

Yes, the baby messes have begun once again! And not only do I have several loads more laundry each day (how exactly does that happen with the addition of one tiny little person?), but Lydia has also decided that she’s a big girl now, ready to potty on the toilet. She noticed that the baby wears diapers, and she’s not a baby anymore! Translation: Now I have lots of toddler messes to clean up too! She’s doing well with it really, but there have been lots of little accidents here and there to mop up. Oh, the stories I could tell… Six messy babies keep this mama hoppin’!!! And, boy, do I look forward to this:

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Sweet sleep

In all seriousness, Violet is another miracle to us, a testimony that God is actively involved in our everyday lives. (Check out a little bit of our infertility history here to see what I mean!) SIX GIRLS SIX AND UNDER! Who would have thought?! No, it’s not all sunshine and roses; we’re tired and busy, and Violet can cry with the best of them. But in the midst of it all, I’m trying to enjoy every cuddle, each sweet baby sigh, and all the tender sibling moments. We’re so very thankful for our newest addition, for this precious family that God has given us.

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Change

Happy New Year! As we welcome 2015, it seems as though so many have made their resolutions, setting goals, and striving to live a “better” life this year (which can be translated in so many ways). I know I’m a bit behind the curve, but I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last few weeks, reading mommy blogs about goal setting, financial blogs about getting out of debt, foodie blogs about simple ways of eating cleaner, Christian blogs about setting a one-word goal for the year…

It’s that last bit that has sparked my interest: a one-word goal. Hmmm? What exactly does that look like? Focusing on one word throughout the year and really embracing all that it might mean?

And rather than choosing a word for myself, it seems as though one word keeps popping up on my radar:

CHANGE.

Change has chosen me. Yes, I realize that change is a part of every single year. It happens constantly, like it or not; we are all subject to it. And yet, I keep getting this nagging feeling that this year I’m supposed to recognize it, accept it, and even (gasp) embrace and welcome it. Sounds so clichĂ©. But I truly sense the Holy Spirit nudging me to notice changes in myself, in my marriage, in my children, in my circumstances. Some of these changes will simply happen, some will hopefully be the work of the Spirit in me, and some I must proactively seek.

Change.

It’s already happening all around me. My heavily pregnant belly has changed rapidly over the last few months. In just 3 short weeks (or even sooner), we will welcome a tiny new addition into our family. Eager with anticipation, I can hardly wait to meet her, but I know that she will bring about so much change in our lives and the lives of our children. A family of 7 to a family of 8. Five girls to six. The little sister will become a big sister, no longer the baby herself. And the biggest sister will take on more responsibility as she tries to help me care for the baby. (And believe me, this is self-imposed, not mommy-imposed; it’s just how she’s wired, just like me.) Our lives will grow messier yet again, burp rags galore, pacifiers abounding, blankets everywhere, and bouncy seats and baby gear to stub our toes on once more.

Change.

And just as our house will get a bit smaller, so has our mini-van! We no longer all fit in it! Yes, we’ve moved up to a 12-passenger van this year. Can you believe it?! Can I believe it? According to my title and registration, I officially drive a bus. A BUS! And you know what? It’s really great. The girls have tons more space, we can haul other people around with us (like grandparents and friends), and it rides really well. Did I ever, in a million years, think I would be saying these words, especially given our infertility history? Absolutely not. This is one change that I certainly wasn’t looking forward to, and here I am realizing how much better it is already for my family. A huge blessing.

Change.

There have been some other major changes in our household recently as well. The triplets turned 4 at the end of November. Annabelle, Madelynn and Chloe have grown up so much, even in the last few months. I can’t believe how big they are, how just one year of growth makes such a difference. In preparation for the new baby to arrive, we needed to upgrade the cribs-converted-to-toddler beds that the girls were still using. On the last night in their little girl beds, I snapped this picture.

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How wonderful and precious is this? Daddy can get them laughing like no one else on earth!

As I snapped shots of them all together, I couldn’t help but feel reminiscent. I left the room full of utter joy and at the same time, crying. Small, quiet tears. Because I remember bringing the triplets home, so tiny that they all fit into one crib quite easily. Because my babies are growing up so fast. Because I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Because I am grateful to experience these moments.

The next day ended with this:

Triple Bunk Beds

Still a bit rough with a few boards to paint and screw holes to fill in, but really fantastic!

Brand new big girl bunk beds, perfect for my girls who could not even fathom the thought of moving into separate rooms!

This meant a change in the nursery as well. Lydia’s room now houses her crib and another, awaiting the child growing in my belly, the one that she and her sisters kiss repeatedly throughout the day! And with the arrival of a second crib in her room, Lydia has learned to climb out of her bed and into the baby’s bed. Oh, the time I’ve already spent trying to teach her not to climb in with the baby, and the baby isn’t even here yet! It will most certainly be interesting to see how she adjusts to a roommate, especially one who wakes up to eat in the middle of the night. Will this work?

Just yesterday after intently watching our sweet Lydia (who is about to turn 2), my husband said to me, “It seems like she’s grown 6 months in the last 2 weeks!” And that says it all.

Change.

How could I speak of change and not talk about our oldest daughter, Emily, too? She’s six-going-on-sixteen. A first grader. She lost her front teeth early in the school year, and they have been nearly fully replaced already by her big girl teeth. I can’t believe it! She is still a sweet, innocent little girl, unashamed to laugh and love and be silly. But I see glimpses of a much bigger, wiser girl coming out of her. Sometimes she says the most profound things, and I am amazed. Yet within five minutes, she may have a sudden teenage-like hormonal response to something petty. It’s maddening and hysterical all at the same time. I see her changing before my eyes, and I am so hopeful for her future.

I’m absolutely stunned at how blessed I feel to have been given the privilege of raising these children, and yet I realize the weight of this heavy burden to raise them all well, showing them love, teaching them how to be loving adults, pointing them to a Savior who is so much better than me.

I don’t want to change who they are, but I hope to help shape them into who God created them to be.

THIS is an important job. THE MOST important job.

Change. I realize that I do have a choice in this. Change will happen inevitably. (I’ve even talked about change here.) But my choice comes in how I respond. This year, I am going to consciously choose to recognize change and, clichĂ© as it is, embrace it. I want to see my children, each one for who she is now and for who she is becoming. I want to actively change my marriage for the better. (Not that it’s bad, but we all know things can always be better!) I hope to find ways to change some of those nagging habits that I don’t like so much, and replace them intentionally with better things, like more prayer, daily Bible study, caring for others, writing more, developing my business… Now I’m starting to sound like I’m making resolutions.

Perhaps.

But the point is, I can choose change for the better. I can notice change around me. And I can change, through grace, in love.

I find so much hope in this: my God, who never changes, longs to do something new in me.

21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

-Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)

And this:

Behold, I will do something new,

Now it will spring forth;

Will you not be aware of it?

-Isaiah 43:19a (NASB)

I intend to become aware of it this year. Will you notice with me?

A Little Wall Art and Some Corn Muffin Mix

Hey there! Been a while since I’ve talked with you lately.

Here’s just one little reason why:

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Beautiful Wall Art

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And it even wraps around and flows down onto the crib slats!

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We can’t forget those closet doors and adjacent walls, right?!

These beautiful blue designs were created during nap time. Well, the girls were supposed to be napping. I heard some movement and laughter about 15 minutes after I put them in their bedroom. Hmmm… When I peaked in and saw the scribbles, I immediately asked who did it. Madelynn was quick to confess, especially since Chloe and Annabelle simultaneously yelled, “Madi did it! Madi did it!” Hysterical! They all jumped right back under their covers and tried to be as quiet and still as possible as I cleaned it all up!

At least this lovely masterpiece was created using washable crayon, evidenced by one tiny remnant left on the floor. I am so glad that daddy and I chose to pay the extra dollar a box to get the washable ones for their stockings! Worth. every. penny.

The girls have really been living up to their Five Messy Babies name recently, especially the 3 three-year-olds. Let me tell you about one day in particular.

The morning started out jerky. You know, those days that are just not smooth sailing out of the gate? Everyone was arguing over breakfast, leading to a large spill of cereal all over the kitchen floor. Chloe got a tiny spot of milk on her shirt in the process, so of course, she had to change clothes. She’s going through a major dress-up phase right now, so I see her in a minimum of a dozen outfits a day. Yes, you heard me correctly. Doesn’t seem to matter how close I keep her by my side, she can sneak away and change clothes in the blink of an eye!

On this particular day, I had a little mommy talk with her about keeping the same clothes on for the whole morning. She nodded and agreed and promised not to change clothes again. So while I was feeding baby Lydia, guess what Chloe did? Yep, she changed clothes. But not just that. She emptied every single dresser drawer onto the bedroom floor looking for that perfect outfit, flinging those clothes over her entire room! One large dresser houses all of the triplets’ clothes that don’t need to be hung. That’s A LOT of clothes! The floor was covered.

So, I brought Lydia into the triplets’ room with me while I put the clothes away. She loved rolling in the piles! Meanwhile, the triplets asked if they could jump on my bed. Our bedrooms share a wall, so I agreed since I was close by. (Yes, I just admitted to you that I let my children jump on my bed sometimes! It’s cold outside, and they have to get their energy out somehow, right?! And I did put pillows on the floor around the bed, attempting to make it safer.) They were jumping around, laughing and squealing with joy, having a grand old time while I was folding and putting away all those clothes for what had to take at least 15 to 20 minutes.

When I finished, I walked next door into my bedroom and gasped in horror.

Yellow powder covered every inch of my bedroom.

Every surface. Every ledge. Every shelf. Every sheet. Every blanket. Every pillow. Every nook, cranny, and crack. Even in Matt’s shoes, inside our tower fan, and smashed into a few pieces of clothing that had been on our cedar chest at the foot out bed. And ground into the carpet.

The triplets immediately stopped jumping and laughing. They slunk off the bed and quietly tried to sneak out of the room. Oh no! I stopped them and asked who did it. Again, Madi did it!

In the middle of the piles of yellow dust on my bed, my eyes were drawn to pieces of torn up cardboard. I picked up several pieces, enough to decipher that it had been a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix. When I asked Madi why she’d opened it, she said, “I wanted to eat it, Mommy,” and then she stuck out her lower lip, looked down, and sniffled. She was hungry. She must have snuck out using the other door to my bedroom, gone to the pantry, and picked up the box with pictures of “cupcakes” on it. Then she brought it back to share with her sisters, ripped open the box, and discovered that yellow powder is much more fun than cupcakes! No wonder they were squealing and laughing!

It’s really sweet and funny when you think about it, but my, oh my. What a mess! Amazing how one small box in the hands of one mischievous toddler caused such damage! I locked the doors to all the bedrooms, put a movie on in the living room for the triplets, put Lydia down for a nap and headed to my bedroom for an overhaul cleaning. After 45 minutes of vacuuming, moving furniture, vacuuming more, dusting, vacuuming more (plus four loads of laundry that day), my room was clean again.

Meanwhile, Madi was up to it again. She must have been needing an extra amount of attention that day. While I was running the vacuum (therefore couldn’t hear her), she had to potty, then she must have decided she’d like to find out what was behind the cabinet doors under the sink. I don’t keep any cleaners there, and the girls have never bothered it, so there are no child safety locks on those cabinets. What was I thinking?

Somewhere in the depths of the cabinet, she found an old bottle of manly body wash. And she opened it. And she dumped it out. All over the bottom of the cabinet. On the bathroom floor. In the toilet. In the sink. All over.

Am I sensing some deja-vu? Yeah. At least it wasn’t carpet, I suppose.

But the bubbles. Oh, the bubbles. They filled my sink and toilet for hours! And the masculine scent. It was so strong that it burned my nose! Took me another 15 minutes to clean up that mess, plus another load of laundry.

I could tell you about the rest of the day which follows the same pattern, or about the girls getting into Nesquik strawberry powder a few days later (very reminiscent of corn muffin mix, but pink, and in the living room), or about…

But instead, I’ll stop here. You see why I haven’t written a post in a month?!

Insanely Messy + Insanely Busy = Insane Mommy (with lots of funny stories to tell)

🙂 Hope you’ve had a great holiday season and you’re getting back to normal, whatever your normal may be! A little less messy than mine.

I’ll be back tomorrow to show you what I’ve been up to lately with soap, including my newest Soap Challenge Club creation!

Thankful

I am most thankful for this.

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My sweet five messy babies

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And one with Daddy!

God has so richly blessed us!

Not only did we celebrate Thanksgiving last week, but also a very special birthday! The triplets turned…

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Putting up just three fingers is so hard! 🙂

…THREE!!!

And a few more pictures just for fun!

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They were so excited to have a berfday pawty! What they don’t realize is that it’s a party everywhere we go, every day of the year!

A Soap Massacre

In honor of Halloween, I bring you a soap massacre for your viewing displeasure.

Warning: The following content may cause you to cringe.

Massacred Soaps

Several Pumpkin Soaps and one sad White Tea & Ginger Soap met their match when the triplets found them!

Slashed White Tea & Ginger Soap

Slashed White Tea & Ginger Soap

The triplets struck again! Sometimes I forget that I can’t leave ANYTHING within their reach that I don’t want destroyed! I really blame myself.

Soap Massacre

Pumpkin Soap cut in half after a few practice slices.

You see, I’d cut five loaves of soap at about midnight when I was completely exhausted. Rather than haul them all out to the garage to cure, I left them on my kitchen counter where I’d cut them (it was too cold to cut them in the garage). I planned to take them out first thing in the morning.

But the triplets had other plans. They found the soap the next morning while I was changing the baby’s diaper! After climbing on the stools at our breakfast bar, they found the soap cutter. Thankfully it’s not sharp at all; at least I remembered to put away the large knife I used the night before! Within three minutes, they’d cut through two bars completely and managed to partially slash several others. And boy, were they having fun! Shavings all over the floor. Chunks of beautiful soap strewn about.

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At least I got to see another view of the cool swirls in the soaps!

I heard the giggling coming from the kitchen and knew something was up. When I walked in, the girls just looked up at me and got very quiet. They knew! It amazes me how that filter develops. They immediately started to pick up the chunks of soaps and hand them to me. “Look, mommy! We cut the soap! We’re picking up now! We’ll help you!”

Needless to say, I immediately hauled all of the soap out to the garage!

Oh well. Worse has happened. Much, much worse. Now I just have several pieces of bars that I’ll get to use! Or, I can turn them into samples I suppose. Another lesson learned!

A Baby Changes Everything

Five babies change, well,… Is there more than everything? I’m amazed at how much life has changed since having children. Yes, there are the sleepless nights, sweet sloppy kisses, crazy tantrums, love I never knew I could feel… But I’m not talking about all that stuff, as wonderful (and trying) as it all is! I’m talking about how much my perspective and lifestyle have changed.

You see, when the triplets came along, I started thinking about ways I could save us money. We suddenly jumped from one child to four, and I became a stay-at-home mom, cutting out a good chunk of income. Somehow I stumbled upon the giant world of cloth diapers.

And that’s where it all began.

What started as a way to save us money turned into a more natural way of living. I never intended to become so green. It just happened more and more over time. Cloth diapers led to natural remedies, which led to natural cleansers for our home, laundry, and bodies, which led to making my own soap. Once I realized I could make a lot of the things that I used to buy in the store, intrigue and even excitement set in. Creating things from scratch is exciting! It’s domestic triumph! And when you succeed even once, it spurs you on. From making soap to designing soap molds, from crocheting hats to knitting scarves, from making cute hair bows to sewing. The satisfaction that comes from creating is addicting.

This is true in the world of cooking as well. I’ve always loved to cook and bake (which is one of the reasons I love to make soap; it’s just making and following recipes, after all). And lately, I’ve been cooking up a storm. Maybe it’s the change in weather. Fall beckons me to make chili and homemade bread and pumpkin muffins. Or maybe it’s all the fresh produce we’ve been getting this year. Our measly garden has actually produced a nice little crop of tomatoes and cucumbers, and our neighbors have generously shared with us a bounty of strawberries, peaches, corn, potatoes and apples. I’ve spent a large chunk of time making jam and pie fillings, and freezing and canning the tastes of summer. Once again, domestic triumph! Preserving natural goodness and cooking from scratch = victory! And it all tastes SO GOOD! It’s fun to pull real food out of the freezer. It’s fun to make yummy and healthy meals for my family. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not always easy. It takes planning and work. But it’s so worth the effort. 

Five short years ago, it would never have occurred to me to do these types of things! Food from scratch? Canning? Making freezer meals? Being only me and hubby back then, we were content to eat out a lot and throw in a few home-cooked meals every so often. Now, I find myself researching real food cooking and eating. Who knows? Maybe in another five years, we’ll be nearly self-sufficient! My hubs and I are already planning a bigger, better garden for next year, and we’re excited at the thought of including our kids in harvesting, cooking, and eating well. We’re hungry to learn, and we’re fascinated with how it all works. We certainly haven’t arrived yet! We still eat processed foods and get take out, but it’s becoming less frequent. I don’t know if our goal is to always eat all-natural, but we do want to be more natural. This is true of our lifestyle as well.

I’m beginning to feel a little bit Martha Stewart-ish. Or Amish, maybe. An Amish Martha Stewart. From crafting to cooking to making my own soap. But I’ll keep my electricity, please.

In all seriousness, we are so very blessed that God gave us these five babies who changed absolutely everything. We feel like God has called us back to Himself, focusing us on His creation and His intentions for our family, and showing us how He provides for us continually. He’s given us the desire and ability to do all of these things. We love to create because He loves to create. And it’s a fun process, all this creating! We’re thankful for all of the changes that have come with our five messy babies, and we’re looking forward to the changes that will keep coming as we all grow up together.

Yogurt, Soap and Candy Apple Red

As promised, I’ve just completed my first yogurt soap! And as always, I got more than I bargained for in the process. Here’s a first look at Enchanted Apple Soap.

Enchanted Apple Soap

Enchanted Apple Soap made with yogurt

Silvia of SoapJam has been raving about how wonderful yogurt soap is, and her soaps look divine! When I saw her posts, I started looking around the web for more information about making yogurt at home and then using it in soap. Apparently I’ve been missing out on yogurt awesomeness for years by paying for it in stores! I had no idea it was so easy to make. Why would I do this, you ask? Well, first of all, it’s much cheaper to make it than to buy it. One of our local discount stores has milk on sale for $1.49/gallon! That’s less than 5 cents per serving compared to the typical 50 cents or more per serving for store-bought yogurt. Second, I have the pleasure of making something myself. That’s one of the main reasons I make soap. I find sheer joy and satisfaction in creating things. Plus, yogurt is quite useful; I can eat it and make soap with it! Yummy and healthy, inside the body and out. Last but not least, it’s really easy! So why not try making it at least once? No harm.

There are recipes all over the internet on how to make yogurt. Some ways look a bit complicated, but I chose the seriously simple crock pot method:

  1. Put 8 cups (a half gallon) of milk in the crock pot set on low for 2 hours 45 minutes.
  2. Turn off the pot and let it cool for 3 hours with the lid on.
  3. Stir in half a cup of yogurt that contains live and active cultures. I tempered it first, then whisked it gently into the milk in the crock pot.
  4. Put the lid back on, wrap it in a towel (this is so much like insulating a soap mold 🙂 ), and let it sit overnight.
  5. The next morning, transfer the crock into the fridge.

A few hours later, voila! Homemade yogurt. Pretty cool, huh?

To make soap with yogurt, I followed Silvia’s (and many other soapers’) advice and made a 50% lye solution with water, added yogurt to the oils, then added the cooled lye solution to the yogurt and oils. I was going to do another two-color Holly swirl of red and white into plain base, then finish it off with white on top. Unfortunately, my fragrance sped up the process dramatically! I poured the main uncolored soap into the mold then worked quickly to get the other colors swirled. To match the Enchanted Apple scent, I wanted a bright red pop of color, but it was muted when I swirled it with the white soap. In the short time it took me to mix the red and white, the soap was already completely set in the mold. Once again, I got layers more than swirls, but it actually looks kind of pretty.

Enchanted Apple Soap

Each bar is so different than the next!

Enchanted Apple Soap

There are a few little air pockets, but for the most part (to my great surprise) it turned out smooth.

Since the colors didn’t mix quite as I’d hoped, I thought I’d try to add some pizzazz to the top of the soap with some peaks and gold mica sprinkles. In my typical klutzy fashion, I spilled the gold mica right on top of one end of the loaf. A few bars will just be extra sparkly! My girls will love it, I’m sure.

Loaf of Enchanted Apple Soap

See that sparkly spill of gold mica? It’s not as noticeable now that it’s cut into bars.

Now, here’s the extra kicker that I wasn’t expecting. As I was cleaning up my soaping mess, the triplets woke up from their nap. And I was home alone with them. I had already put away the lye, the oils, and anything that I thought might be even slightly dangerous to leave out and about. But apparently I missed one little sample jar: the candy apple red dye powder. BIG. MISTAKE. While I had my back turned, Chloe must have sneaked in and stolen that little jar of horror. She also must have thought that it was some form of food, because she ate it! In a matter of seconds, she’d eaten some of the colorant, then tried to spit it out, wiping her tongue off with both hands, and spilling the remainder of the powder on my living room carpet. She came running into the kitchen with what looked like blood spilling out of her mouth! I panicked, ran water in her mouth and over her whole face. It was obviously not blood, but was staining everything red. So I ran into the living room looking for what might have caused this, saw the spill on the carpet and immediately knew what she’d done. I was so thankful that it wasn’t blood, but I was also so mad that I’d accidentally left that jar within her reach!

This was a monster of a mess. I put Chloe in the bath tub and scrubbed her down. After a long soak, the red stain finally disappeared. Then I had the task of attempting to clean my carpet. That’s still a work in progress. Candy Apple Red dye powder is as fine as dust, easily spreadable, and darkens upon contact with liquid. Oh my! Believe it or not, it’s only a very faint pink now! That Bissell carpet cleaner is the best tax refund money I’ve ever spent.

Candy Apple Red water from my carpet

After cleaning my carpet for the third time, this is what the water still looked like coming out of the cleaner! If I hadn’t been so mad, I might have thought to take a picture of the carpet before I started cleaning it!

It’s amazing what soaping has brought into my life. I now know how to make yogurt and how to clean red dye out of carpet! (#thingsineverthoughti’ddo) I’m hoping this yogurt soap will be as wonderful as everyone says, making this mess worth it!