Grocery Budget and the Bulk Store

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Today I took my monthly run to Costco to pick up my bulk items like toilet paper, paper towel and other random household items where buying in bulk makes financial sense. Over the past year I have learned what to buy and what not to buy at Costco and this has helped me avoid the trap of overspending. Unfortunately, while I was waiting to check out I witnessed a common situation where someone had attempted to do all of their grocery shopping at Costco and blew their budget. The lady in front of me had filled her basket with meats, cheeses and produce as well as some household items. When the cashier gave her the total of $400 I thought she was going to pass out right there in the line. Instead of assessing her purchases she swiped her card and left the store in what appeared to be shock.

Stores like Costco, Sams Club and other bulk stores are a great way to save money on household items and random groceries but you have to be strategic when shopping these stores. First never attempt to do all of your grocery shopping at a bulk store because this is a great way to overspend. Second make sure you know the unit cost of items that you buy on a regular basis because this will help you make an informed decision. Unless you have a very large family that can consume bulk produce before it goes bad do not purchase produce from a bulk store. My last tip is to avoid impulse buys if it isn’t on your list walk away and take a day or two to think it over. The seasonal department is the best place to encounter items you feel you must have so either avoid this section all together or practice will power. If you see something that appears to be a great deal take the time to investigate other stores and make sure it’s the best deal first. You can always go back and grab the deal later in the week.

I love Costco and often refer to it as “Disney World for adults” because it really is in my opinion the most wonderful place in the world. While I enjoy my Costco membership I have learned that not everything in a bulk store is a great deal and you have to be pretty choosy if you are working with a tight budget. It’s so very easy to overspend in bulk stores because you could purchase your entire shopping list in one convenient place but you will pay for that convenience. When it comes to items like paper goods, trash bags, laundry soap, dish soap and pet supplies you can find amazing deals in bulk stores.I have even snagged some pretty awesome deals on clothes, shoes and books at Costco.  You can find additional deals within the grocery aisles but you really have to hunt for them. Remember just because a deal is advertised as a “deal” doesn’t necessarily make it so. Things like cookies, crackers, cereal, chips and other snack items are often over priced and would be best purchased at your local grocery store.

If you often find yourself overspending at the bulk stores take a look at the things you are buying to see if you are really getting the deals. Take a notebook and jot down prices at your local store as well as the unit price so you can really compare the prices. I know it sounds like a lot of work but make it fun. Leave the kids at home with your spouse or a babysitter, grab something from your local coffee shop and stroll down the aisles at your local grocery store writing down prices. You don’t need to record every price in the store just on the items you buy weekly. Whenever you are out shopping this little record will help you determine if you have found a deal or if you should pass it by.

They say the one place American’s spend the most money is on their grocery budgets and I believe it. Life is hectic and we often find ourselves overworked and tired so a simple run through the grocery store never feels like a simple endeavor. This is why it is so important to plan your shopping in advance with a meal plan and a shopping list. When you do shop stay focused, stick to your list and really pay attention to prices. You will be surprised how a few simple steps can save you money in the short term and how it can really add up in the long term.

 

 

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Hollywood College Admission Drama

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It was recently made public that a number of parents including two very well known actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman used their position and power to manipulate the college admission process. Now I believe that parents should invest in their children’s education but this is going to extremes. What bothers me most about this entire situation is that these individuals have the wealth to purchase educational materials, tutors and other resources to help their children excel. They should have been investing their time and resources into making sure that their children received a quality education from day one. Instead, it appears that they waited until the last minute and decided it was best to pay people off to make it appear that their children had received a proper education.

A parents job is to love,  nurture, and educate their children while preparing them for a future where they can be productive and independent. When parents choose to make life easier for their children they make life harder for them when they become adults. I have a great deal of compassion for the children involved in this situation and while they might have been complicit they were simply following the path their parents laid out for them. They will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the fallout from this situation while dealing with the pressures of living a publicized life. It’s ironic that these parents invested so much money in creating a facade of academic success when in the long wrong they were destroying their children’s chances to be successful.

As a homeschooling parent, I work very hard to make sure that my kids have educational resources and opportunities available to them.  When they struggle I provide love and support and help them figure things out. I do not “do” things for my children I teach my children “how” to do things. We may not have a lot of money but my children are receiving an education that will allow them to become life long learners who value education. They are learning how to be accountable, respectable, and compassionate individuals. They are learning to walk alongside people instead of walking over people.

I would love to see one of my kids make it into an ivy league school but only if it is truly what they want and they do the work to get there. It honestly doesn’t matter to me whether any one of my children goes to college. All I want for my children is to be happy, balanced individuals with the confidence and drive to go after their dreams. I have faith that they will be successful because we are helping them build strong work ethics with good character. Parents all over the world are doing the same thing with their children and it doesn’t take a monetary investment just love and time.

I hope that Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and the other parents involved in this situation learn a powerful lesson. I pray that their children will also learn a lesson and that this situation will propel them forward to do good with their lives. I pray that those who had their college spots stolen will get another shot at admissions and find forgiveness in their hearts. This is a teachable moment for us all and we should share this with our children so they can understand that while their path won’t be made easy in the end the bumps along the way will help shape them into the people God wants them to be and the people that we can be proud of.

 

“In all the toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

            -Proverbs 14:23

 

Planning 2019-2020 School Year

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I know we are a ways off from the start of the  new school year but this is the time of year that I begin to plan. I gather my curriculum catalogs together along with my trusty notebook so that I can plan out what materials I need for next year and where our journey will take us. I love this process because it allows me to recharge, gain motivation and let’s face it I get to buy books so of course it is my favorite time of year.

Before I begin the process of planning I like to sit down with each of my kids and go over where they are and how they are feeling about their progress. I think it is important to have these conversations with my kids because it’s the best way to keep them on track and involved in their education. During these conversations I like to find out if there is anything in particular they are interested in learning or adding to their curriculum. For instance, my oldest this year has told me that he is really interested in aviation and would like to learn all about flying. When I am planning next year’s curriculum I will be looking for aviation themed books and resources for him to explore this interest. During these conversations I like to take notes that I can refer back to during the planning phase.

Once I have had a conversation with each of my kids I then like to review what we have done over the past year. This is a great time to get rid of what doesn’t work and find replacements. Starting this far in advance with my planning allows me to research and read reviews so that I can make an educated decision on what to try next. Of course things that are working well will be continued into the next year. This past year we have had great success with CTC Math so we will continue this program next year. Again I record these notes in my notebook so that I can reference back to them.

Over the next few weeks I will peruse through my catalogs (my favorite is the Rainbow Resource Catalog) and conduct online research. I usually do this after the kids have gone to bed so I can relax with a cup of coffee while I read uninterrupted. When I find books that interest me or materials I want to try I will write down the information in my notebook. By the time I am done my notebook will be pretty filled in but it will become a valuable tool when I finally write out my scope and sequence for next year.

When the research part is done this is when the real fun begins I like to take myself out for a parent teacher conference. I go to a cafe where I can sit down with my books and my laptop so I can work for a few hours uninterrupted and I can keep the coffee coming along with a delicious lunch. I will use my notebook to fill in what we will be learning next year in Bible, English, Math, Science and History and a list of materials for each subject. I will also determine what extra curricular subjects or activities will be covered. Each of my kids will have an outline created and I will create my short term goals for the year and re-address our long term goals to ensure we are on track. I will then create a homeschool budget and create a game plan to stay within that budget.

Once I have everything figured out on paper and typed up I print up a materials list. Since I plan in advance this allows me several months to purchase materials and gives me the opporutnity to get the best price. I love ordering books through sites like abebooks because I often find gently used books for a few dollars a piece. I keep this materials list on me whenever I am out because I have found resources at used bookstores, thrift shops and even garage sales.

Over the years I have found that this approach to homeschool planning works best for me but what works for me may not work for others. However you plan your homeschool curriculum make sure you make it fun, use it as a way to invigorate your homeschool and find out what your children think about their education and what they might be interested in learning.

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Best Catalogs for curriculum:

https://rainbowresource.com/catalog

https://www.bookshark.com/request-a-catalog/

https://www.sonlight.com/about/catalog/

https://timberdoodle.com/pages/free-catalog

https://www.nature-watch.com/online_catalog.php

https://www.christianbook.com/apps/catalog-request

https://www.libraryanded.com/request_catalog.html

The Terrible Teen Stage

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My oldest is almost 13 years old and he is a crazy, funny, unique individual but recently the terrible teen disease has begun to plague him. If you have a child between the ages of 11-13 who is exhibiting the following symptoms your child might also have this obnoxious disease.

  • Moodiness
  • Suddenly knows everything under the sun
  • Argumentative
  • Clumsy
  • Forgetful
  • Accident-prone
  • Strange odors emitting from body
  • Refuses to change clothing
  • Eyes rolling

 

In all honesty the terrible teen stage is not that different from the terrible twos with the exception of temper tantrums. So far I haven’t seen any signs that my 12 year will fling himself to the floor in fits of emotion but I will keep you updated on that situation. I survived the terrible twos so I am pretty confident that I can handle the terrible teen stage too but only time will tell.

This is such an awkward time for kids because they are in between childhood and adulthood and everything in life seems dire. It’s equally painful for us parents because we have to come to grips with the fact that our children are no longer little caterpillars. In fact they are going through the final metamorphosis to become full-fledged butterfly’s ready to make their way in the world. It’s a beautiful, awkward, and painful transition for both parties.

 

 

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Toddlers afflicted with the terrible twos act out because they are learning how to communicate and understand the world around them. Pre-teens and teenagers are attempting to do the same thing they are learning how to communicate, understand and participate in a world of adults all while dealing with the physical and hormonal changes brought on by puberty. I remember living through this stage of life and I wouldn’t go back if you paid me a million bucks.

Whenever the eye rolling or moodiness gets to me I do my best to remind myself of my own teen years. I draw on empathy, patience and my abundance of love for him to help me through the trying times. If your child is also going through the terrible teen stage remember to…

  • be patient
  • pick your battles
  • follow through on punishment
  • keep open lines of communication
  • help them set short term and long term goals
  • keep life simple when they are feeling overwhelmed
  • remember to tell them you love them often
  • keep an arsenal of room freshner on hand and a window cracked for fresh air

 

The terrible teen stage doesn’t last forever and with faith, love and family on our side we can get through any challenge life might throw our way.

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If you have survived the terrible teen stage let us know how you made it through!

 

 

It’s Never Too Early!

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It’s never too early to start home education, in fact, the best thing you can do for your little ones is to begin their education early. Even if you intend to enroll your children in a traditional brick and mortar institution you should still start them off with old fashioned home education. Many parents engage in home education without realizing that this is what they are doing but recently I have come across a large number of moms and dads who are passively raising their children. Instead of interacting with their children and teaching them ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes and other basic skills they are plopping their children in front of televisions and electronic devices. I know that this is the electronic age and I appreciate what technology provides us but I am disheartened that so many people are using technology to raise their children. Young children are the most receptive to learning new skills and this includes social skills. Sure you can download an App that will sing the alphabet to your child but this doesn’t provide the same level of education and it’s missing the social element. Children flourish only when they are being nurtured. Electronic devices can’t nurture and they do not provide the love and support that young children need and desire.

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Passively parenting your children not only hurts children but it hurts the parents as well. It prevents parents from making the deep connections with their children and as their children grow they will find it difficult to bond and to parent. We want our children to grow up in happy, healthy families where they feel love and are connected to their parents. This is the best way to secure a future of young people who are able to be compassionate, empathetic, and productive.

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You should be educating your children from day one in the early days this means simply holding them, singing to them and reading them stories. Talk to your little ones and tell them what you are doing and what your plans for the day are. They may not be able to communicate verbally but they are learning how to communicate. As your children grow they will be able to participate for instance when reading a story help them find objects on the page. Another fun activity for little ones is to give them a ball and an empty laundry basket to shoot hoops. Get out the bubbles and finger paint and let them make a mess and then show them how to clean up the mess. A lot of parents are nervous about kids making a mess but kids should be allowed to get messy.  I know that this sounds a lot like play but this is the best way to teach kids of any age. If you can make learning fun they will enjoy learning.

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In regards to the electronics, I am not completely against their use but I feel like they should be used rarely especially with very young children. My kids enjoyed Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when they were little but I wouldn’t just sit them in front of the television and walk away. Instead, I would sit down and watch the shows with them while singing the songs and doing the silly dances. These weren’t just moments to educate these were moments to bond and make memories.

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My favorite people to hang out with are my children and I enjoy spending time with them and learning with them. If you are passively parenting you are missing out on so many opportunities to make memories and bond with your children. You are also missing out on an opportunity to start your children off on the right path towards education. Children grow so quickly so it is important to be as present as possible and to teach them the skills they need to be independent, productive and loving individuals.

Check out my Early Homeschool board on Pinterest for fun ideas for your little ones!

 

***Quick Safety Reminder***

When planning activities for young children make sure that they are age appropriate and keep choking hazards up and out of reach.

Introducing Blackberry Ridge

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We are about to do one of the craziest things we have ever done in our entire lives. We are in the process of packing up our life in the Midwest and moving to our property in southern Tennessee. This past weekend we spent a few days visiting our property and mapping out our ideas for our mountain side homestead. This was my first time visiting Tennessee and I have to say that it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. I was enthralled by the rolling landscape, the southern hospitality and the serene quiet of our little woodland property.

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We found this property just around Christmas time and fell in love with the pictures of the property. After a great deal of research and phone calls to ensure this wasn’t a scam we put down our deposit without actually setting foot on the property. Thursday night we loaded our little car up and made our first treck down to the property. When we arrived in Tennessee it was just after 7pm and after checking into our hotel we couldn’t help ourselves we had to see our property even though darkness had fallen. The drive out to our property was exciting but we were also feeling a bit uncertain. Once we arrived we got out and took in all that we could see with flashlights and the uncertainty grew. We went back to the hotel with heavy hearts not sure if we had made the right decision. Having lived in Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio we weren’t prepared for how hilly Tennessee really was and we were expecting our property to be a tad more level.

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After a long night of sleep we drove back out to the property to see what we had with the light of day. The second time viewing the property washed away all of our uncertainty. We fell in love with the property all over again and spent the day walking our property line and exploring our little wood. One of the things that I love about the property the most is the running stream there is nothing more soothing than the sounds of water bubbling over rock and stone. During our exploration we discovered a hidden pond full of aquatic life and a bubbling spring. This property is definitely wild and it is going to take a lot of work to clear areas for our house, gardens and chicken coop but I know in my heart that it will be worth it in the long run. A lot of people would walk away from this property because of the hard work needed to make this a livable spot but we are up for the challenge. In fact I have never been more excited to do anything in my entire life.

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While enjoying our future home we noticed some physical changes with ourselves and our children. Every one of us battles congestion and allergies and for us it is just the way of life but within hours of being in Tennessee our congestion cleared. My husbands dry eyes improved and our youngest kids who have “allergy shiners” lost their black eyes. In fact my daughter who is rather pale had a healthy pink glow that we had never seen before. The fresh mountain air is so clean and pure and obviously much healthier than the air we breathe in Toledo that I think perhaps our overall health will improve with this move.

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I am so grateful to have found this property and already I am accumulating ideas for our future home. We applied for an address and began kicking around ideas for naming our property. When we were exploring our property we kept getting tangled up in these rose bush like vines growing up around the trees. We weren’t sure what these were but after some online research we discovered that we have wild blackberries growing everywhere. This inspired the name for our property which will now be known as “Blackberry Ridge”. I can’t wait to go back down in a few months to harvest some of those blackberries and make a delicious jam.

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So as you can see this is pretty crazy moving our family hundreds of miles to a wooded property in Southern Tennessee. While it may be crazy we feel that God is moving us down this path and that this move will be the best thing for our family and especially our kids. We want them to have a safe environment to run, skip and play. We want them to learn valuable skills that will build character and make them appreciate the things in life that really matter. So while it may be crazy this will be an adventure that our family will remember for a lifetime. Our hearts are filled with hope and joy as we plan out the details that will help us down the path to “Blackberry Ridge”.

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Homeschooling on the Run!

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Have you ever had one of those days where you have your day planned out and then something happens and everything gets flipped upside down? Well, I have those days quite a bit, I feel like I am always on the go and sometimes this creates issues with my homeschool routine. Luckily over the years I have learned the value in flexibility and have learned how to homeschool on the run. This skill came in to play the other day when my brother needed a last minute babysitter for his little ones. I packed up my three kids and grabbed a couple of resources that I could use to finish out our homeschool lessons for the day.

I find that the best way to be ready for last minute emergencies or general routine upsets is to have a basket with resources that I can quickly grab. For instance, we are working on the American Revolution so I keep several books and handouts in the basket in case I need them. This basket is kept updated with books and resources that correspond to the topics we are studying. I also keep a few pencils and pads of paper in the car for moments when homeschooling on the run is necessary.

Another great resource for homeschooling on the run is YouTube. On YouTube, you can find a number of documentaries for free that cover a wide range of topics. You can also find educational cartoons, songs and you can even listen to books. I keep a playlist titled homeschool and whenever I find content that I know my kids will enjoy I add it to that playlist. Most cars these days allow you to connect your phone through the speakers via Bluetooth but if your car doesn’t have this feature you can invest in a wireless Bluetooth speaker that will play content from your phone or tablet. This is truly a great way to homeschool on the run and not only are your kids learning but they are being entertained as well.

I also like to engage my kids in lively discussion as we homeschool on the run.  This is a great way to see how much information they are retaining and to review pertinent information. You can also practice math facts and spelling words and trivia as you are going down the road. One day we were in the car for an extended period of time and I had the kids making up silly poems about random nouns. This was a lot of fun and we created some very interesting poems that day.

If you are in a season of life where you feel like you are constantly on the go and feel like your homeschool is suffering give homeschooling on the run a try. Find resources, games and audio content and keep them readily available for those days when life gets hectic. The greatest perk of homeschooling is that you can homeschool anywhere and everywhere. It doesn’t matter if the learning happens at the kitchen table, in the car, on the beach or at the home of a friend. The only thing that matters is that you keep those kids learning even on the run.

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Additional ideas for homeschooling on the run…

*listen to a podcast

*hear a book with audible or another audio book service

*madlibs

*educational dvds/cds

*listen to music… classical, jazz, big band etc.

*listen to theatrical plays

*learn a foreign language

 

There are so many great resources out there and most of them can be found for free. Have you found a great resource that would help others homeschool on the run? If so please share in the comments below.

In Remembrance

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A couple of weeks ago my cousin lost her fight with cancer leaving behind her husband, her son, daughter-in-law and her unborn grandchild. It’s never easy when someone we love passes away but it is more difficult when they pass away so young and with so much life to experience. But, I know that her legacy will live on and that her granddaughter will always be surrounded by her grandmothers love.

I remember the first time I met my cousin it was 1990 and I was six years old and a bit shy. We were attending our very first family reunion and this was my first time meeting my 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins. I remember feeling out of place and nervous meeting all of these new faces so I found myself a quiet place to hide. It wasn’t long before a pretty lady with sandy colored hair and glasses came and sat down with me. The first thing that stood out to me was that she didn’t speak to me like I was a baby she actually engaged me in real conversation and I remember that made me feel special. The family reunion was being hosted at her house so she gave me a tour and showed me where I could grab a pop from the coolers. She introduced me to her son who was about my age and her cat “bud” who I instantly adored. She made me feel welcome and she helped me join in on the fun everyone else was experiencing. Because of her the family reunions will always have a special place in my heart and in my memories.

Over the years we would meet again and again at family reunions, weddings, days at the beach and a few times her and her husband joined us for campfires at a local state park. I have a tendency to fade to the back and observe and she always pulled me into the thick of things making me step out of my comfort zone and for that I will forever be thankful. I remember one wedding we attended her and her sister helped me sneak into the men’s bathroom because the line to the women’s bathroom was wrapped around the building. They made sure the bathroom was empty and stood guard so I could go.  It’s such a silly memory but it still brings a smile to my face today. Later when I was a teenager the whole family met at the beach to play in Lake Michigan and ride ski-dos. I had never been on a ski-do and I kinda wanted to do it but being more reserved and shy I decided to sit on the beach instead watching everyone out their splashing through the waves. It wasn’t long before my cousin came along and whisked me over to her nephews ski-do she had arranged for his wife to take me out on the water. Somehow she knew I wanted to go out there and she made sure that happened even though I never voiced the desire.

She was the kind of person that always went above and beyond to make people comfortable and happy. She was the type of person that you could meet one time and you would always remember her kindness. I wish I had an opportunity to tell her how cool I thought she was and how thankful I was for her always including me in the fun. It always seems to happen that way we don’t realize how much a person has touched our lives until we are no longer able to tell them. It still amazes me how much one person can really touch your heart and it makes me realize the importance of every interaction we have with others. Every interaction is an opportunity to impact someone’s life in a positive way.

I will never understand why the ones we love are sometimes taken from us prematurely. I wish she had the chance to meet her granddaughter and I wish she had the chance to grow old with her husband who was truly her soul mate. The hardest part of dealing with death is seeing the pain in the eyes of those closest to the deceased knowing that there isn’t anything you can say or do to ease that pain. I pray that they are able to find peace in the memories she left behind and that as time moves forward they will be able to as well.

In honor of my cousin give someone you love a call and tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Be mindful of how you interact with others and try to leave a positive impression.

 

We Love Amelia Bedelia!

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As a homeschooling family we do a ton of reading and I am always on the hunt for books that will not only inspire literacy but a love for reading as well. I don’t want my kids to just be able to read I want them to adore reading as much as I do. Recently, my daughter started reading the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish and I have had the opportunity to revisit these wonderful books. I have to say that they are still a favorite of mine and Amelia Bedelia will always hold a special place in my heart. It is so much fun watching my daughter devour these books and I love when she reads them to me  because our reading sessions are filled with laughter. These reading sessions remind me of when I was a little girl reading these books with my own mom laughing at Amelia Bedelia’s silly antics. I hope one day Madeline will share these books with her children and remember the hours of enjoyment we shared.

If you have never heard of Amelia Bedelia I encourage you to hit up your local library or bookstore. There are so many different stories in the series and each and every book is truly wonderful. I was excited to see that a set of chapter books has now been added to the series. Herman Parish is the nephew of Peggy Parish and he has continued the legacy of Amelia Bedelia for future generations to enjoy. While my daughter has really taken to these books my sons have also enjoyed the stories so these are great books for both boys and girls. The reading levels vary from easy to challenging and with the stories being so funny and unique my kids have challenged themselves just to see what she will do next.

I would love to hear what stories from your childhood you have shared with your own children? Did they enjoy the stories as much as you did?

 

Puberty Stinks!

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Puberty stinks literally and figuratively! It all started back around Christmas time my husband and I noticed that an odd odor was coming from our oldest child who had just turned twelve. We purchased him his own supply of deodorant and explained the importance of personal hygiene. We expected the odor to go away but it only got worse this is when my husband took our son down to the health and beauty aisle a Walmart to purchase additional tools to battle the stench. They came home armed with manly soap, a large scrubby brush and a loofah. During their outing my husband again went over the basics of hygiene and we crossed our fingers and pinched our noses hopeful that we had won the battle. Unfortunately, we were not victorious and the stench continued in fact it seemed to get worse.

I really didn’t know what to do and I could tell that it was really beginning to bother him as well. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about kids bullying him at school since he is homeschooled. Still this was a difficult situation for the entire family and it made simple things like car trips almost impossible. Finally, after months of battling this atrocious smell my father suggested that we try an antiperspirant instead of deodorant and he recommended a brand that he liked. I wasn’t super hopeful because at this point we had tried pretty much every product sold over the counter but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try one more product.

At first it didn’t seem to be working but now I can say with confidence that after several days of use my son now smells human. I can give him a hug without my nose and eyes watering and we can ride in the car without having to crack a window. This is why it takes a village to raise a child. It is so important to have people around you that you can trust to provide sound judgement especially in moments like these when your own judgement is being addled by a gruesome stench.

If you happen to have a pre-teen that is being followed by a similar odor I am here to tell you that it is normal and there is hope. Sometimes you just have to keep trying different soaps and deodorants/antiperspirants until you find the one that works best for your child’s personal chemistry. Just remember to keep air circulating at all times and never I repeat never turn on the heater in the car without cracking the window first!