Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday--Jan 31

I am so glad January is over! It's always a hard month for us. D only gets paid once a month and they pay us mid December for January. It's very strange. The money which normally lasts well other months, never seems make it as far in January.

We've had quite a few ups and downs this month: broken windows, broken hot water heaters, broken toilet...the best part of the month is now that it's over!

February is looking very busy. I'm glad my challenge is going to be being smart with my time! We are going to be running around a lot. We have one Saturday where we have to be in three different places in two states at the same time. We're still trying to figure out the details on that one!

I'm also going to try this month to be better at my menu planning to coincide with the sales. My pantry is looking pretty sad lately. I am hoping for some good sales to help me stockpile something other than snacks. Don't get me wrong, the snacks are great, but one can't live on a diet of Chex Mix alone.

MENU

Sunday: Meatloaf, yellow rice, salad
Monday: BBQ Pork Sandwiches, coleslaw, dessert
Tuesday: Chicken, rice, veggies
Wednesday: Turkey Alfredo, biscuits
Thursday: Pork Fried Rice, egg drop soup
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Spaghetti

Friday, January 28, 2011

This week's grocery trip





That's what $28 before taxes will get you around here. The retail price of the groceries is $101 according to my receipt. I look at the pile of things and think "no way would anyone in their right minds pay $100 for this much food!" I have trouble paying $28 because there's just not a lot.

This was a junk food stock up week because of a weekend camping trip. I did get a great deal on Silk soy milk and cheap potatoes. But it wasn't a good "staples" week, that's for sure. Thank goodness I still have staples!

I was able to get some good staples at Winn Dixie today. I spent $16 before taxes and came away with some goodies :) The total pre-sale and pre-coupon was about $55.


4 boxes of cereal
2 boxes jimmy dean breakfast sandwiches
2 dozen eggs
2 boxes popcorn
2 bottles soy sauce
2 boxes pretzels
2 litre
1 small soda
2 dz eggs
4 candy bars (not pictured)

My car died and well...now I'm stuck at home with four kids and they are driving me NUTS! Trying to find a ride for the kids who missed the bus. Not fun at all.

What made things worse? I came home from WinnDixie to discover that The Fabulista (who is still has moments when her secret identity The Terrorist comes out) used too much toilet paper and it was overflowing...everywhere. D was home but he was getting ready for the camping trip. He managed to stop things but the cleanup was my job. Good times.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheapie Meal: Homemade Pizza

I promised I'd do another cheapie meal for everyone this week, highlighting what you can get with couponing. This week's meal is our weekly Pizza Night!

I make homemade dough using the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day master recipe. As an aside, before we jump in to things, this is a must have book for anyone who likes to cook, eat, thinks they might like to start baking, doesn't have time to bake bread...it's so easy and versatile. It's so easy even my 12 yo daughter can do it herself.

This makes enough for FOUR large pizzas.

The cost breakdown:
flour: $1.50
yeast: .20 cents (COUPON)
salt and water (freebies)

2 packages of preshredded cheese: $2 (COUPON)
half jar of spaghetti sauce: .40 (COUPON)
Pepperoni: $1 (dollar tree!)

I know, dollar tree for meat? It's actually the cheapest place I've been able to find pepperoni, even with a coupon unless I go to the dreaded W store. I don't go there unless I have to, and I won't go there only for pepperoni. My sanity is worth more than that.

So, for about $5 you can get enough pizza to feed a small army my family. That's about 1/10 the cost of four pizzas from a delivery place and about 1/3 the cost of buying frozen cardboard pizza.

We don't just do pepperoni and cheese, tho those are favorites. This is a great chance to use leftovers. BBQ sauce is a great alternative to spaghetti sauce and can usually be found for free, or awfully close to it. Toss on pineapple or other veggies and you've got a great dinner!

Or if you're not interested in putting the leftovers in the pizza, roll the dough out thin and fill it with the leftovers, a bit of cheese (cheese makes everything better), seal it up and bake. Instant hot pocket, food on the go!

Sometimes, the kids aren't that hungry and we have leftover dough. In the past, I've just saved it for Sunday dinner rolls. This week, I'm going to make breakfast pizza for Sunday morning. They usually aren't ravenously hungry for breakfast, so I'm hoping one pizza will be enough. If not, I may have to change up the plans again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tips for Living without Hot Water

It's been a week without hot water. I never knew how much I loved having hot and cold running water until it was gone. Sure, I love to camp but even camping, we go to places that have hot showers. Not to mention when we go camping, it's truly a vacation. I don't actually *do* anything. D loves camping. He takes over all the cooking and clean up. The kids follow Daddy around like puppies trying to be involved in everything camp related. I get several days of taking it easy with no house to clean, no dishes to wash, no meals to prepare. It's truly a vacation for this mom, even if I do have to sleep on an air mattress.

But this is not camping.

I am stuck in a house that needs cleaning, dishes washed, people washed...and no hot water. This is not my vacation. This is my worst nightmare. A nightmare that could only be made worse by the kids being on "vacation," too. Thankfully, everyone is in school this week.

In case you're ever out of hot water and Sears has promised to fix it...since like early December (!) ... and still haven't completed the task in a satisfactory manner, here are some ideas for keeping the hot water going.

1. Turkey roaster pan...in the oven. Takes about 15 minutes at 450 to get the water piping hot. You need about 4 pans worth to get ankle deep water in the tub. This is actually sufficient to wash yourself. Barely.

2. 7 qt crockpot....keeps water warm all day long. this is perfect for hand washing. Place a bowl in the sink. Ladle hot water into the bowl and you have a nice basin. Save the water and wash a few dishes while you're at it.

3. Still with the crockpot...a large crockpot has JUST enough water to wash a small load of dishes. You need to mix a bit of cold in with the very hot crockpot water to stretch it out. Drain the soapy side of the sink and rinse your dishes with the plug in. Save this rinse water to soak any dishes you may have left.

4. The dishwasher...it has a dry cycle. Use it as a giant dish drainer.

5. Paper plates. Don't worry about killing a few trees.

6. Did you know it uses less energy to wash your clothes in cold? And there's Tide Cold Water for the things you need to wash in hot normally.

7. Gym Membership. . . the one you never use? yeah, that one. Go take a shower a the gym. Sneak your kids in.

8. No gym membership? Beg friends to let you shower at their houses. Good friends will offer. Better friends give you a key.

9. Toddlers and preschoolers and teenage boys don't seem to care about the lack of bathing. Perfumes and cologne help. The little ones feel special. The teens feel "manly."

10. Shaving is overrated. Learn to braid your armpit and leg hairs.

Sears promised the part would be here Friday. I called Monday and the part would be delivered Tuesday. Tuesday, they said for sure by Wednesday. The technician is supposed to be here tomorrow between 8 and whenever he feels like it. The part isn't here yet. I am trying hard to find something to be grateful for in this situation...other than I will be VERY thankful when the hot water is restored. I will down right giddy if it's fixed properly this time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hair accesories & Make up Holder

I was inspired by a project I found a few months ago for a Hair Pretty Organizer.

The great thing about tutorials is you can take a great idea and customize it for yourself.

I didn't need to use something for hair clips, but I did need a good place to stash hair ties, hair brushes, headbands and some makeup.

The frame for this project was found at the thrift store for just $2. It fits perfectly in the spot where our bathroom cabinet used to hang...before Punky Brewster decided to climb it and pulled it down on her head.

I used leftover fabric from Leelee's Christmas present, so this whole project cost me less than $5! BARGAIN!



The sewing tips are very basic. I used several left over scrap pieces. Instead of sewing each piece individually and then sewing it on to the fabric, I pressed all the pieces, folding over the edges and THEN sewed it down.

The long vertical strips were sewn across creating places to hang head bands, necklaces, or whatever suits her needs. Small pieces of elastic were added to hold brushes.

And here it is all done:




And finally, hanging on my bathroom wall, in use. D still has to secure it. The hooks I used just aren't doing the trick.

 UPDATE 1/2013 : This lovely project moved with us to the new house and now lives in Leelee's room...still as a hair and make up organizer. It sits high on her wall making the make up and accessories completely out of reach of little sisters.




linked up at: Six Sisters Stuff ** Create and Inspire ** Cheerios and LAttes **

 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday-- January 24

It would appear that my last blog post generated a lot of interest! I think I'm going to start making a regular posting of my Cheap Meal of the Week ;)

Last night we hit Publix again. They were running a special on cereal. What made this a better bonus was coupons arrived from my mom. She is in a larger market for coupons and gets ones that we don't down here in central Alabama. Mom sent on some great coupons that made the trip to Publix a real winner.

For $11.51 (pretax)

2 boxes Special K red berry
1 box cinnabon cereal
1 box s'mores cereal
1 box cocoa krispies
2 boxes Cracklin' OatBran
1 box yakisoba noodles meal
1 package of pepperoni
1 candy bar
1 yoplus
8 oz package of Sargento shredded cheese

That's SEVEN boxes of cereal, for those keeping track. And for my fellow lovers of Cracklin Oat Bran, you know exactly how few coupons there are for this cereal and how rarely it goes on sale.

It was a pretty awesome score!

This week for dinner, we're keeping it pretty low-key. It's the end of month, which means...we don't get paid til Thursday night ;) Plus, we are currently without hot water. Sears promises we'll have hot water some time this week. That means I want to cook with as few dishes as possible. And, we're eating on paper plates. I didn't know how thankful I was for hot water until we've been without!



Menu

Sunday--Pot Roast, scalloped potatoes, veggies
Monday--My take on this Easy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Tuesday--Beef tips in Gravy over noodles
Wednesday--Curried chicken Stir Fry
Thursday-- Venison Stew
Friday--Pizza
Saturday--Spaghetti

For the chicken and rice casserole, I poach the chicken and shred it up. I cook the rice with the soup chicken stock instead of water. Then, I add shredded chicken and sprinkle crackers over the top.

The rest of the poached chicken will go into the curried chicken stir fry later in the week.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dinner for 8 for $1!

Many of you aren't convinced that couponing works. Shows on TV and some of the blogs show hoarders worthy stockpiles of toilet paper, razors, deodorant, and toothpaste. I don't coupon to hoard massive quantities of food and assorted goods. Sure, I admit I have hoarding tendencies, but I try to limit it to crafting supplies.

I coupon in order to feed my family and achieve our goal of getting out of debt. My favorite financial guru suggests a diet of rice and beans and beans and rice. That gets boring after about two minutes. Couponing and careful meal planning really go a long way to eating well for less. I'm not getting organic and free range, but I am able to provide nutritious and well balanced meals.

This is what I was able to get for just $20 this week!


Included:
5 bags of Kraft Homestyle Mac n Cheese
6 dole fruit bowls
3 yoplus
6 yoplait
4 boxes instant oatmeal
first aid kit
bandaids
2 ragu
2 minute maid OJ
margarine
country crock
canola oil
garlic infused red wine vinegar


I'm not a huge user of convenience meals like the Kraft Mac n Cheese. With my family size, I usually have to use 2-3 of them to feed everyone. They are good, however, for those days when there aren't enough leftovers and D needs some lunch. This week, I changed up my menu plan for Wednesday night. I made dinner for just $1! That's not $1 per plate...that's $1 for EIGHT people total!

The Kraft dinners were 30 cents each. I used two. Several weeks ago, I purchased some chicken sausages for 74 cents a pack. I sliced up two of those sausages and added some caramelized onions into the Kraft dinners. It was delicious and the addition of the meat really stretched the meal out.

It's these kinds of additions of beans, rice, and fresh vegetables (and in this case a meat) that can really stretch a meal for not a lot of money. Another quick tip: Check to see if your grocery store sells it's imperfect produce. Mine does at crazy low prices. Last week. 1.5 lbs of cherries for 98 cents! And this week, I picked up assorted peppers (anaheim, banana, jalapeno, ets) for $1!

Tonight's dinner was also around $1, thanks to a bit of generosity of a friend. Pasta is almost always free or darn close to it. We had spaghetti and one of the 80 cent jars of Ragu. Our generous friend gave us some venison we mixed in...creating Bambi-ghetti. We don't usually add meat to our spaghetti, so this was a nice treat.

There's really no sense in couponing and stockpiling for the sake of HAVING it. It needs to be used. And you can absolutely plan delicious meals for very little money using the foods that go on sale.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stop Clowning Around!

Sometimes it feels like we're spinning plates in a circus. Somewhere prowling around the big top is a lion threatening to pounce if we drop a plate. The problem is, we keep piling unnecessary plates on our piles, making our lives more difficult for no reason! And that lion? It's a really a balloon animal created by a creepy clown. No threat at all...the clown on the other hand...

The Clown making those balloon animals needs to find a new home. He represents not focusing on the important things in life. Clowns are devious and deceptive. (and did I mention totally creepy?) February is the month for me to kick the Clown out of my life. The clown of distractions that are making my life complicated. February is the month to be SMART about things, like my time, my money and my life.

Making simple changes in my life will likely prove challenging. I've got to keep a few plates spinning, but I can move the clown out of my space and make my family the center of attraction instead of all the other "stuff" that clouds it up.

Let's look at the three rings of my life's circus that can be simplified:

TIME
1. Kids Clothes. We need to PURGE. They need just 5 outfits for school since they are in uniforms. Less clothes, less laundry! MORE TIME! It also means less mess in their rooms!

2. Toys. Again purging out toys no one plays with. Toys need to be neatly labeled in proper baskets. D got me a label maker for Christmas and I need to start labeling more. This will simply my life by removing chaos and clutter.

3. REST. A well rested mom is a happy mom. When I get enough rest, I simply have more energy and can focus better. It's such a small change but one that can have a HUGE impact on the quality of my life.

MONEY

1. Make a budget and stick with it! OK, I already do this. But I need to remind myself with sticky notes that it's those $2 purchases that don't seem to matter at the time that blow the budget.

2. Grocery shop ONE day a week. I make extra trips as I see extra deals. This wastes a lot of time and gas. I need to plan my strategies better. I think this may be best served by changing my shopping day from Wednesday to Tuesday. Tuesday is the last day of the sales here. That way I make sure I have all the coupons in front of me for the week. No back and forth.

And how will this help move the center ring of my life in to a simplified focused circus?

It means I can focus my attention on my kids and husband. I'm not going to be distracted by all the things that MUST get done every day. Sure, I can skip a day, but I'd rather not. But I can make it so those jobs are easier. I don't need to keep all these things spinning around. I do have family and friends for support, too!

And, by making better use of my money (including gas in this...have you seen gas prices lately??) we can put that towards getting out of debt or even doing a fun trip with family. Those are things I'd much rather be doing, wouldn't you?


disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Simply Orange® blogging program. If I am one of the first 65 blogs received by SocialsMoms, I will receive a $25 Target gift card and a gift pack that includes a Simply Orange® cooler bag and logoed fleece.

Monday, January 17, 2011

menu plan monday..jan 17

The kids are home for two days this week. They are driving me absolutely batty!

I'd love to hear any and all advise to encourage the fabulista in staying in her bed asleep through the night. She started sleepwalking about a month ago. Last night she got up around 3 and told me how danger girl was sleeping on the table. I know danger girl has done some crazy stuff but she was most definitely not on the kitchen table asleep! Add to this little miss who is teething...I'm not sleeping terribly well.

Since it is a holiday today, D is also home. Big blessing there. It means I can try to catch up on some sleep!

We are having another fabulously frugal menu this week. Well the fabulous may be overstating things. Definitely frugal. Though!

Sunday...lasagna (made veggie & meat)
Monday... mexican beef in crockpot. Never got to it last week
Tuesday...roast turkey breast, scalloped potatoes, veggies, homemade bread
Wednesday...quick & easy night...sausages, onions and potatoes hash, pierogis
Thursday...beef stew
Friday...pizza night featuring taco pizza
Saturday...pasta night. Maybe some turkey tetrazinni? Someone have an amazing recipe?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I spoke in church today

Here are a few of the highlights. I'll leave out the boring parts :P

I'm all for setting goals. My problem is I set huge goals and never achieve them. I set out to run a marathon at a sprint. Any runner knows that's not realistic. Slow and steady wins the race. Setting out fast right out the gate leaves you winded and you don't even make it half way through the race.

Last year, my goal was to get organized. I didn't set very clear or concise goals. I went at it haphazardly when the notion struck me. I had to clear plan of action.

From my past failures, I decided to change my approach for this year. Sure, my goal is just as lofty, To BE Her...but it is still very attainable.

So here I am halfway through the challenge and the past few days, I've slacked off on the blogging. But, then I remind myself that the challenge is NOT to blog every day. The challenge is find something to be grateful for, every single day. THAT, I have done!

The goals need to be clear and concise. Next month, the challenge is to be Smart. I want to be smarter with my time and resources. This goal is going to take much more careful planning.

My kids have been my biggest cheerleaders on this project. Whenever you set a goal, having a good support system is important. Even The Fabulista is loving saying her gratitudes each night. I have a feeling this is something the family may keep doing beyond this month!

I have to look at this month as a success already for the positive impact it's had on my family. We are going to win this race together or at least help each other stumble across the finish line.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New post coming soon

Been busy the last couple of days. The blog got neglected. I'll be updating soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why be Grateful?

They say misery loves company. That's not true. Misery does, however, love chocolate.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I'm thankful for each day. Some days, I have to think much harder than others. It's silly because our family is very, very blessed. Sure, we live in a tiny house with one bathroom, but at least we HAVE a house! And a job. Two cars.

My kids have to share rooms. They think it's horrible. Leelee longs for privacy. She hates her little sisters getting in to her things.

But my kids have so much that I didn't as a kid.

A house
A car
Two parents who are still married
Siblings (not just half and step)
Food on the table each night
A life without addicts
No abuse
Unconditional Love

Maybe because of the environment I grew up in, it's harder for me to appreciate their struggles. My childhood wasn't ideal. But, it shaped who I am today. It shaped why I became the mother I am. I decided I was going to defy all the statistics.

My mom was an amazing example of defying statistics. She was a teen parent and hearing impaired. Either one of those can be a huge hurdle by itself. Then, she got in a bad second marriage and our lives spiraled out of control.

I still remember the day when reality hit our family between the eyes. My mom saw things for what they were and got us out. We moved far away. We started over. Clean slate. She fell in love again to her knight in shining armor. They've been married 21 years in April. My mom lived the American dream: she went from single welfare mom to a college educated homeowner with a job she loves.

With her as my example, how on earth could I define myself but what happened to me as a kid? It happened TO me, but it is NOT me.

And, I wasn't going to let any of that impact my children. They have lived their lives free from all of that hanging over their heads. We may not have fancy new cars, go on lavish vacations every year, but that's not how I measure success in my life. I measure my success in life by my ability to bring joy to those around me.

And, the first step in sharing joy is having gratitude.

How can you be happy if you can't see what you have?

Count your blessings. That knowledge of blessings will bring you strength when you need to defy the odds.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heart Attack

Today, I'm just grateful Danger Girl was where she was supposed to be!

I got a call around 10 a.m. from the school nurse to check on Danger Girl since she was absent.

My heart skipped a beat because I put her on the bus this morning!

The secretary called to her classroom teacher (a sub!) and sure enough, Danger Girl was there and the sub had pulled the wrong attendance card.

For about 30 seconds, my heart was beating a little faster.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thankful? I'm gonna have to work on that

Today is one of those days where I have to keep a sense of humor about the things I'm thankful for.

Little B got his voice back by morning, so there went that.

We survived the storm with electricity intact, which means we get to watch the game. That's a biggie.

And, I'm thankful that Leelee and Danger Girl are still alive. Mainly because D and I nearly killed them this morning. As it is, those two are my personal slaves for about 20 hours worth of work at minimum wage, each. I'm hoping that will cover the home owner's insurance deductible.

I wasn't quite sure which child to strangle first: The one who pushed the other into the window and breaking it, or the one who started the fight in the first place.

No one was actually hurt in the breaking of the window. I suppose that's a blessing of having lots of small panes of glass on the window. Only one pane broke. But that's now TWO windows within 12 months that my darling daughter has been involved in. Both times, she was the instigator. For a kid as smart as she is, she's certainly lacking in the common sense.

Pretty much everything in town was shut down due to the ice storm except WalMart. They salted the entry way and were open for business. We bought shrink wrap for the window. Ours is a non-standard window size and will take several weeks for the window to be made to order. We still have storm windows, so that's a bonus.

It's going to be a chilly few weeks around here...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I don't want to be right

How does that saying go..."If this is wrong, I don't want to be right?"

That sums up my gratitude for today.

I have one child that gets great delight from teasing his siblings. Little B loves to stir the pot. It drives me bonkers on a good day.

Last night, he and D went to watch a live action soap opera WWE wrestling. They were performing here in town and we surprised Little B with tickets.

He screamed so much, he lost his voice.

School is out for Monday due to bad weather. It's too cold to play outside. And my one child who likes to get the others riled up can't talk.

Is it bad I'm almost giddy with delight?

Menu Plan Monday--January 10

School is out today due to an ice storm. We are very excited for the game tonight and hopefully we'll be able to watch it! We have another short week next week for school. I need lots of things to keep the kids busy.

Leelee's idea of staying busy is baking. That's great, but not for my waistline!

Here's what's on the menu this week. I'm in the shop my pantry mode, so these are recipes for things I generally have in my pantry/freezer at all times. In general, they are VERY affordable especially since I started stockpiling.

Sunday: Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup
Monday: Pulled Pork
Tuesday: Chicken & Dumplings
Wednesday: BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Thursday: Mexican Round Steak
Friday: Pizza (any attempt to change this leads to revolt)
Saturday: Spaghetti

And just a note to myself so I don't forget the things I MUST buy at the grocery store this week:

Sugar
margarine
spaghetti sauce
mozarella cheese
yeast
Buns (tho I may make some from scratch, I'm not sure what Tuesday will bring)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A good coupon day

After the horrible experience I had couponing earlier in the week, it was nice to end the week on a high note. Couponing has really helped our family stay on budget. We should be debt free except for our house by the end of the year!

I spent $5 at three different stores yesterday. I managed to get:

2 bottles of laundry soap
2 candy bars
1 box of whoppers
6 pack of ramen noodles
3 cans of ravioli
2 boxes of frozen vegetables
2 bottles of Apple Carrot juice

Not too shabby, right?

At one store, if i hadn't bought the ramen, my total would have been a whopping 9 cents! I spent $1.19 at the store after coupons and taxes.

Is it bad that I felt disappointed that I didn't have more of an audience for this?

The day was made even better watching The Seattle Seahawks win against the Saints! And if you are the praying type, please offer up a prayer in our behalf that we will have power Monday night so we can watch the Ducks game. It's a hard day to be in the south...we're cheering against all the local teams!

We are expecting a terrible winter storm. Auburn has closed the campus for Monday and won't be showing the game. I think this shows that God just might be a Ducks fan and wants to spare all those Auburn fans the horror of watching them lose.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sew Sew Grateful

One cool skill I have is sewing. Those home ec classes in high school actually did pay off. I had no idea way back then I'd actually make money sewing.

A few cool things to know about sewing:

1. It's usually faster to make a pair of elastic waist pants than it is to do a load of laundry.

2. Pillows are super easy. And they can even give a face-lift to a super ugly couch.




3. With a little practice, you can decide on a whim to sew your girls matching dresses for Santa pictures in a little more than an hour.




Or show team pride!



The only drawback to the team pride is people around these parts think sporting Ducks colors mean we pull for Alabama. So not the case. We WAR EAGLE the rest of the season and generally cheer for whichever team is playing against Alabama. Never in a million years did we think our beloved Oregon team would play against Auburn. To be fair, we were told we had to pick one side and choosing a team outside the SEC was not ok. We picked Auburn.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today's Gratitude

Naptime.

Better when both girls go down at the same time.

Yeah. Naptime is a good thing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My MIL's better than your MIL

I know a few of you thinking, "ha! That's not hard!" I'm sorry your MIL is really Stinky McStinkypants. I hit the jackpot on inlaws. I am really really really grateful for them. Sure, we have a few apples that need to be thrown a bit further from the tree, but all in all, D and I both married in to pretty good families.

The first time I met MIL, I wasn't so sure. D and I became engaged while at college. I hadn't met his parents, but he told me how great they were. I told him my step-dad was in the Army and might pulverize him. I figured I could embellish the truth on my parents, too, if he was going to tell me how awesome his were.

The family can be a bit overwhelming at times. As a mom to 6 kids myself, I now understand how things get so loud. As a young 19 year old who grew up without a large family...it was daunting. I could barely keep track of names (all but one start with a D). The family stories were like nothing I had experienced before. There weren't really any funny family stories from when I was a kid.

It was like going from 0 to 60 in the family department.

I was intimidated by the family and my future MIL. A lot.

Turns out his mother is actual a saint. She's the type of woman who, if she were hugely pregnant and crossing the plains with the pioneers, she would have been all "Oh don't mind me. I 'm just gonna stop here in the tall grass and have a baby. Go on ahead. I'll catch up." She would have been very matter of fact about it and not at all passive aggressive. In fact, after she had one of her kids, she came home THAT DAY and finished canning 20 quarts of peaches.

She is an amazing example of patience, humor, grace and lots more patience.
I totally want to be like her when I grow up. She's the HER I want to be.

And she stays out of my business, even when I ask her to butt in:

ME: MIL, your son is driving me NUTS! What's the best way to handle him on this?

MIL: Uh no. He's your problem now.

Me: But you raised him!

MIL: I had him for 19 years. You've had him just as long.

I start doing the math. Crap. She's right.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Kick in the Pants

I roped my husband and children in to this gratitude challenge, too.

It came complete with eye rolling on the part of D. He doesn't get the blog thing. He doesn't get why I have to share ridiculous little details of our lives. He finds it rather annoying, especially when he's reprimanded by friends for things I've written here. ha ha

It's a good lesson in treating your blogger wife nicely.

After I put my foot down (and made a pouty faced plea to please just play along), he rolled his eyes a few more times and set some ground rules for himself the family.

1. No one is allowed to repeat the same gratitude.
2. I'm not allowed to post specifically what each one is grateful for on the blog.
This rule was seconded and carried before I even had a chance to protest!

With this in mind, the general lack of support I was having on this task, I was more than surprised that tonight after we had read Scriptures together and said prayers, the CHILDREN said "Wait! We haven't done gratitudes!" And they took their turns, and some of them actually thought about it before blurting out an answer.

It was one of those days where I wasn't feeling particularly grateful for anything. I was home all day with the two little girls. I talked to a friend on the phone. I made a quick in and out trip to the grocery store. Nothing magical or special happened. It was just one of those going through the motions days.

I was struggling to find something to be grateful for. A story. A crazy incident with the girls. There weren't any.

And that in itself is something to be grateful for, I suppose. But better than all of that, my kids are supporting me and are learning to be grateful. I'm teaching THEM something through this silly little blog project.

And that's something to feel pretty darn grateful for.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Big Ladle of Learning

Today, I'm grateful for learning.

And that's not just because the kids go back to school tomorrow and I am more than ready for that to happen, believe me!

It makes our house...interesting.

For Christmas, we hit a used bookstore and filled a large gift bag with books of all variety. The kids were so excited. Books we picked out for one kid, were scooped up by another. There were disagreements over who got to read first.

When Little B opened his new book for Christmas, he screamed with delight. How could you go wrong with a book that includes instructions for blowing things up?

I feel like this is one measure of success as a mother. My kids love reading. They love learning. They ask to play games like Trivial Pursuit. They watch Jeopardy!

Best of all, in those rare moments when they solve problems themselves (sometimes I feel like little more than a referee, especially during vacations), they use logic.

Picture this familiar scene: Kids in the kitchen fixing a meal because mom's too lazy to cook. They've made pasta and some sort of sauce from scratch. The head chef (that would be Leelee) gets bossy because SHE made the dish and wants full creative control on how its served. The one who thinks he's boss because he's the oldest (The Boy) thinks dinner is taking far too long and demands a change in how it's being served.

The Boy: Dear Sister, please consider using a ladle to pour the sauce.
Leelee: My wise, yet mistaken older brother, I believe it is best to continue using this serving implement.
The Boy: But fair sister, the ladle would speed the process along.
Leelee: Brother, I have labored long over this meal, please refrain from offering suggestions. It would be in your best interest to seat yourself at the table and I will happily serve you.
The Boy: Sister, please look at my ladle versus your spoon. The surface area of the ladle is much larger and will make your work go much faster.
Leelee: Oh My Wonderful Older Brother, you speak the truth. I shall use the ladle!

Ok, so Leelee is reading this over my shoulder and wants me to assure you all that she would never ever speak like that. Ever.

So here's how the conversation really went:

The Boy: Use the ladle! It will go a lot faster! I'm hungry!
Leelee: No! I'm using the spoon. GO AWAY!
The Boy, shoving the ladle in to the pot: USE THIS NOW!
Leelee: NO! I made the food. Sit down and leave me alone!
The Boy: The ladle has a larger surface area. I want to eat. So use it!
Leelee: Oh, ok.

It's proof, to me at least, that they can be taught logic, reasoning and there is hope that at some point in the future they will be able to communicate with each other in a more human-like manner.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Menu Plan Monday-January 3

It's easy to be grateful about food. We have plenty of it and our waistlines show it!

The kids are going back to school this week, and for that I am VERY grateful! I love my kids, but boy do they EAT! I'm looking forward to having some snacks to myself again.

Sunday--turkey & dumplings, dessert
Monday-- Buffalo Turkey Chilli, corn muffins
Tuesday-- Mexican Rice Casserole
Wednesday-- Baked Spaghetti. french bread
Thursday-- Spiced Honey Lemon Chicken with caramelized Brussels sprouts
Friday--Pizza
Saturday--breakfast (pancakes or french toast), fruit

Gratitude Day 2

Often the words and actions of those closest to us go unnoticed and unappreciated. I am very guilty of ignoring my family when I should be saying thank you to them. I know I'm not alone in this.

When I do say thank you, I don't always do it right.

Last night, I went to the store before dinner and asked D to do a simple task. I came home to find that he not only had done that task but another that I was planning on doing today. Instead of saying "thank you, you did great!" I told him "thanks, but doing it this way would be easier."

That wasn't the reaction he wanted and it wasn't the one I should have given.

He was an example to me, though, and wasn't offended or upset at my "thankful correction." I am very thankful for my husband who puts up with this kind of oversight from me on far too regular a basis.

This morning, he came home from church early with a sick child and started the prep for dinner. He put the crockpot in and turned it on (and yes, it did contain food!)

I am grateful he came home with the sick child today. It is a task that I usually take. I was able to attend a church meeting and the words of a visitor really touched my heart. She said it so much more eloquently than this, but we shouldn't take offense at what church leaders or members of our congregations say or do. We don't go to church for them. We go to church for our relationship with Jesus Christ. Church isn't about socializing, it's about learning about Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and doing all things in Christ. Not that anyone has offended me, but I am guilty of socializing a bit too much. I very much needed this reminder that church is for feeding my soul. It is not about catching up with my friends.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

31 Days of Gratitude...Day 1

Today marks the first day of 2011 and my first day of Gratitude. For the next month, my goal is to blog every day about something for which I am grateful. Giving my blogging history of late, this is a pretty lofty goal. ;)

We rang in the new year with extended family. This is a definite gratitude.

Six years ago, we moved from Oregon to Alabama and left our families behind. Our closest relative was D's sister S and her husband DD. They are in the Air Force and were stationed a few hours away. One of the perks of serving our country is moving around. It didn't take long for them to be transferred to a very frozen place. S was so excited to move some where cold and frozen, since she didn't grow up with snow. That lasted one winter...from August to June before her blog was full of reasons she hated that particular state.

Our next closest relative was D's brother D3 (as to distinguish him from brothers D1, D2, and sister D5...and well, sister S. She's the oddball) D3 and his family lived 9 hours away. To visit them takes a bit of planning. We've seen them once in the years we've been here.

Other than that, our visits with family have taken lots of planning and usually me having a baby or major surgery.

This summer, the Air Force saw fit to transfer S and DD back to the south. They are now just the perfect family distance away...Close enough to visit but far enough away they need to call first!

And call they did. . . Christmas morning, to invite us over. Sadly, we were recovering from some sort of plague. We kept our germs to ourselves.

Wednesday, they called again. DD would be passing through our neck of the woods New Year's Eve and was looking for a place to crash.

We rang in the New Year in our backyard watching fireworks. That's another gratitude. We live high enough that we can stand in our backyard and get a clear shot to the city's fireworks displays. All the fun of fireworks and none of the traffic!

We played games. We ate lots of pizza. Leelee made cupcakes.

It was a good night.

And I realized how much we do have. A large family. A large extended family. And no drama.

That alone is more than most have!