Lessons

March 23, 2010

These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

1. A tired mommy makes for a crabby, emotional mommy.

2. Tired kids make for crabby, emotional kids.

3. I cannot do two big “cook nights” in a row. Last night I was so productive, even after a full day of work and making supper for the kids. But tonight I’m exhausted and I was so thankful to have the meal done and ready to nuke! Tomorrow was supposed to be pizza night, but I think it will be taco night, because I’ve gotten nowhere with looking for a gluten-free pizza crust recipe and I have no energy to do so tonight, let alone making it.

4. I cannot practice this “new” parenting approach – The Nurtured Heart Approach – when I am this tired and I and my kids are this crabby. I just want them to sleep. I want to sleep. We did good…….pj’s by 6:30, ready to get in bed at 7:30. And yet it’s now 8:15 and there’s still several out of bed….getting a drink of “water with ice.”

5. Sometimes I really hate being a single mom. OK, most of the time. And then I think about it and I’m so glad I’m not still married. For so many reasons. That I won’t go into now. But life is better. Life is good. I just have to remember that.

Thus ends my random thoughts for the night. All I want to do is climb into bed (even though my children are not sleeping), but I’m trying to be a “good girl” and wait until my kids are sleeping so I can get on my treadmill for 30 minutes (two days in a row!). I’m not sure how much longer I can wait, though.

It’s been a while since I actually wrote out a menu for Menu Plan Monday. But after some near-disasters last week – and by near-disasters, I mean fast food and/or processed food – I’ve decided to plan it out in writing this week. I’ve discovered that the key to my sticking to my plan is not only planning out my menu, but actually making the meal the night before I need it. You see, we don’t get home until at least 5:30 and then figure in time to prepare, eat, and clean up the meal. Ideally, I get the kids started for bed at 6:30 so they can be in bed and sleeping by 8:00, if not earlier (trying to get to 7:30, but that’s been a bit of a struggle so far). Thankfully, my kids don’t seem to mind that the meal was prepared the night before and we just warm it up. Actually, I think they would prefer that over the wait time needed for a “fresh” meal! With that in mind, I baked chicken tonight, made mashed potatoes, and browned ground turkey and made it into taco meat. I was hoping to get farther, but I’ve also decided I’ve GOT to get exercise into my daily schedule! (The possibility of *two* high school reunions is the most motivating factor, at this point!) I’m very proud to report that I did the treadmill for 30 minutes today. Now, just gotta stick to it.

Back to the menu:

Monday: Noodles, leftover ham, peas
(We’re once again embarking on the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free diet, but this is what happens when I don’t plan far enough ahead of time. We’re just getting started again, and I know it takes a little bit to get back into the whole gluten-free thing, but tonight was definitely not a good start!)

Tuesday: Faux Fried Chicken (chicken coated with dry, crushed cereal and baked), mashed potatoes

Wednesday: pizza
This should be interesting. I need to do the crust and prep work tomorrow night so I don’t end up buying one, because goodness knows, there’s no such thing as a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free pizza in the store! I have a recipe or a mix (depending on my mood, I guess, and time) for the crust, and I got some soy “cheese” to try. I’m quite interested to see how close this gets to “regular” pizza.

Thursday: Pork chops and potatoes (I bought a 15 lb bag of potatoes on sale last weekend, so we’ve gotta use ’em up!) Might be leftover mashed potatoes, or I might do rice – I’m on the lookout for a crockpot recipe, so depends on what I can find. Again, I need to know what this is by Wednesday night, though, so I can just turn it on Thursday morning.

Friday: Leftovers. I’m thinking there should be a good bunch of leftovers by Friday night!

In other news, my son who is actually on the “special” diet is also (surprise) asthmatic, like his mother. He just graduated from the nebulizer to the inhaler while at school this fall. But he’s still learning to identify when he needs it. Actually, I think he may know when he needs to use it, but he’s not quite ready to single himself out to actually go to the nurse’s office and use it. Anyway, last year when we tried this diet and throughout some of the “stuff” he’s had to go through, he’s wondered why he always has to take medicine and why he has to eat different food. Poor kid. Seems he’s always on antibiotics. And he’s such a sensitive soul. This past weekend I found a brochure I had from last year for an asthma camp. Last year I kind of shrugged it off (he wasn’t old enough, anyway), thinking it was kind of a dumb thing to have a separate camp just because you have asthma. So I found the brochure and I mentioned it to him – his face lit up like it was Christmas! It was almost heartbreaking, realizing how “different” he must feel and how excited he got at the idea of this camp. Last year he went to Bible camp for the first time, which he absolutely loved. We talked about how he could go to one or the other, but we just couldn’t afford both. He wants to go to the asthma camp – absolutely no hesitation! He almost can’t stop talking about it now. It’s just so sweet. So I’m thinking it will be a good thing (even though it’s over 3 hours away!!) for him to go and learn how to deal with his asthma and food sensitivities and meet other kids like himself. It’s also something that’s all his – he’s the only kid (out of four) diagnosed with asthma at this point, so this is pretty special for him. Poor kid has middle child syndrome, I think (he’s the second oldest), so I think I’m getting almost as excited as he is for this!

So that’s my post for now. Now I need to get to bed so I can get up in the morning for work. Just made it under the wire for Menu Plan Monday. 🙂 At least for my time zone. I’ll try to be more regular about posting.

P.S. If you’ve got a recipe you love for pork chops and rice or potatoes that can be adapted for the special diet, will you share it? I’d prefer not to do the cream soups (especially since they contain gluten). Something simple that I would have most of the ingredients in my pantry.

Food Waste Friday

February 26, 2010

Boy, oh boy, I picked a doozy for the first time to post a photo of my Food Waste Friday! In my defense, February was an absolutely chaotic month as far as work. Ended up being pretty chaotic personally, too. Anyway, last weekend we drove 6 hours for my new nephew’s baptism, so we didn’t get a lot of food eaten and little time to prepare food this week due to a busy work and personal week. So I wasn’t going to even take a picture, but then I figured that is exactly the point of this! Even though I’ve cut down on what I buy as far as weekly groceries, I still overestimate how much we will eat in a week. So this week I do not plan on buying any groceries other than the absolute necessities like milk and eggs. So, without further ado, here is my cumulative food waste from the week (I now have a pretty clean fridge!):

Yes, that is half a Sub sandwich.  It’s been a processed food week as I desperately needed quick foods and didn’t have to cook or even do dishes.  Also some leftover pizza from our pizza night last week – normally it would have been eaten on the weekend, but we were gone.  A few peppers from many weeks ago when I actually “overbought” them – forgot I had some at home so I bought more at the store.  You can’t see it, but they’ve got some fuzzy growth on the stems.  Grapes and salad that I just didn’t put out enough for the kiddos.  Plain yogurt that the kids ended up not liking, even with fruit added.   A little chip dip – one of my weaknesses!  And then the meals from last week – some rice and steak and rice with beans – mostly went to waste because the kiddos didn’t like any of it and again, because we were gone for the weekend.  Sadly, the frosting is from more than a month ago, from my daughter’s birthday.  We really tried to use it, but it just didn’t go.  Same daughter asked to try brussel sprouts, but I just never got around to taking the time to learn how to prepare them.  And last but not least, the beans.  I had such good intentions of doing something with them.  The chickpeas were going to be snacks for my daughter’s lunch and I was going to use the kidney beans in recipes.  I should’ve known better than to start soaking on Saturday and then do nothing with them on Sunday.  My weekdays are way too busy.  Which is the whole point of this.  I plan to try freezing the beans next time and cooking the chickpeas right away.

And now, to avoid another bad Food Waste Friday, I’ve got some veggies to prep and fruit to push!

Encouraged

February 8, 2010

I must say, I have been so blessed and encouraged by the comments you all have left! Something I’ve needed this week. It’s a rough month at work and it’s been a rough time lately at home, healthwise, and so I ended up getting some Coke at the grocery store today – as my friend put it – “my car just turned right into the parking lot!” Yes, it’s an emotional crutch for me. But I’ve decided that I need to do whatever I can to make it through the month.

I didn’t actually get the sandwiches made last night, but did this morning and had a few other things to bring, too, for supper tonight. So though I had to pay for drop-in childcare to attend my work thing tonight, at least I didn’t have to pay the outrageous prices they charge for meals. And though it was tempting, we didn’t get fast food on the way home, either. I even made tomorrow night’s supper when we got home (a school thing tomorrow night, but babysitter coming to my home). I’m a little discouraged that I had to pay for childcare tonight, but it was an unforeseen circumstance that my parents couldn’t watch the kids.

Actually, it’s been a little discouraging (hopefully just this first month), realizing what seems like a lot of things that I’ve forgotten to include in my spending plan. I’m trying not to get too down with it, as I know it has to be the norm in the first month or two. And I try to remind myself that if I didn’t menu plan we’d be eating fast food much more. For instance, we’d probably have gotten fast food tomorrow night because I would get home shortly before the babysitter arrives and not have thought ahead to supper or have time to make anything at that point. Now I have it all done and it’s in the individual sealed plates, ready to just heat and eat!

I’ve been thinking about getting one of those Kill A Watt gadgets to see where I could save the most money. I’ve been trying to unplug things much more, but there are still a few places, I’m sure, that I’m missing. One I thought might make a noticeable difference is the flat screen TV (and maybe the computer). At a homebuyer ed class I attended a while ago, a lady from the electric company was saying that a plasma tv kept plugged in uses more electricity in one month than I think a refrigerator in a year. (If you have the actual stat, go ahead and post it – I hate being inaccurate, but it was something crazy like that.)

And now my thoughts are running in all sorts of random directions. Which means it’s time for me to go to bed so I can conserve *my* energy – meeting tomorrow and who knows how many trips to the doctor this week (it was two last week). Good night and thanks again for reading!

Menu Plan Monday

February 7, 2010


I am going to participate in Menu Plan Monday.

Since becoming inspired by the likes of The Frugal Girl and I’m an Organizing Junkie, I’ve been doing my own sort of challenges. I’ve started Food Waste Fridays, which led me to do my own Eat from the Pantry Challenge.

I had already had an eye-opening experience with this last summer when my son was put on a gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, egg-free diet. I was AMAZED at how much processed, flour food was in my home! I began trying to use up things I had on hand and began at that point trying to buy mostly what we needed for the week, instead of stockpiling. Well, he got off of that diet and I sort of slid back into my pattern of relying on prepared, processed foods on those days that I just hadn’t planned well enough and didn’t want to get fast food.

After poring over my statements last week and discovering how much money I WASTE (not to mention finding tons of great, inspiring blogs), I once again sought to simplify my life and start really working towards my goals (the two biggies are getting a new vehicle because mine is, I believe, on its last legs, er, wheels, and buying a house).

So, creating a Spending Plan, going on my own Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and anticipating Food Waste Friday naturally leads to menu-planning. Last week was the first try for me, and I must say, it was much less stressful than normal, knowing what we would be eating for dinner and not once getting fast food! I’ve tried menu planning before, but I’ve finally found the key to my success – I cannot plan it to a T, but if I have the main dish and maybe a side dish figured out, then I’m set. And in the process of thinking about Food Waste Friday, I’m amazed at how many days I can feed my family with what I thought was only a little food in my pantry and refrigerator. Apparently it’s much more than a little! Boy, have I been wasting money on food! So, in the spirit of frugalness, here is my week’s menu (I planned it on Saturday):

Sunday: beans and rice or soup

Monday: chicken sandwiches, fruit, veggies

Tuesday: organic mac and cheese (last prepared box of food in the pantry), Lil’ Smokies (last prepared food in the fridge/freezer), green beans

Wednesday: our standing pizza night, since it’s a church night and I only have half an hour between getting home and getting to church. We vary it on whether it’s bought hot, ready-to-bake, frozen, or homemade.

Thursday: spaghetti, green beans

Friday: steak, potatoes

By creating this menu on Friday, I discovered that I didn’t even have to go grocery shopping this weekend! Just one more reason it pays to plan.

The Spending Plan has been going well, too. It helps to be able to look at such specifics – much easier for me than just going straight to a budget. Which, of course, preceded the Spending Plan. I was never taught these things growing up and certainly never learned them when I was married, so I’m excited to be learning now and will be so excited when I actually meet one of my goals!

I’ve also created another challenge for my family – how much can we decrease our energy consumption (and thus, energy bill) by the next statement? So I’ve been reminding the kids to turn lights off when leaving the room, etc. I must admit, this is definitely an area where I’ve been lax. I hadn’t been too concerned with conserving energy, until I really looked at the last electric bill (it’s on automated payments, so I hadn’t been watching it real closely, knowing that it was getting paid anyway). It’s not that we’ve increased our usage – it’s exactly the same as it was last month, as well as last year – but it’ll be interesting to see how much we can bring it down just by awareness.

And now it’s off to make the sandwiches for tomorrow so I don’t resort to fast food!

(Since this linking up may increase traffic here now, does anyone have any suggestions or tips on cloth “pull-ups”? I’ve just discovered they are available and think I could save a ton of money if I go that route instead of the disposables – it’s only for nighttime, but for 3 kids. If it’s important, they are super skinny and very heavy wetters. This is my first venture in cloth “diapering”. Thanks for any help!)

Change in focus

January 31, 2010

I didn’t know where I was headed with this blog when I started it. You see, I’ve got a different one, a public one, where my identity and that of my children is known. But I was prevented from “venting” about my ex and things going on, so I decided to start an anonymous blog where I wouldn’t have to worry about holding back. Funny, I haven’t written about any of that anyway, and now I am nearly over most of that. That’s a whole other entry (or two, or five, or 20), though.

Since I don’t feel the need to journal about that journey anymore, I thought I would change the focus to reflect my new personal mission: financial freedom. I’ve come across several “frugal” blogs (The Frugal Girl, Getting Freedom from Debt, and other personal friends’ blogs) that have inspired me to make dramatic changes to the way that I live. Namely, knowing where my money is going and creating a budget so that I can meet my financial goals (the obvious ones – new/used van, house and the not so obvious ones – gas grill, extracurricular activities). I know it’s a long road, but I truly feel that I am on the right track, as long as I can keep at it. I’m gathering tidbits from various places that I’ve seen financial advice. I have to do what works for me, as a single mom of four. I stayed up way too late last night PORING over the last six months of online banking activity and meticulously recording each transaction in different categories. Wow, what a wake-up call! So though my income has changed and not stabilized completely yet and child support seems to be different every month, I have a good idea of what I spend each month on the different categories…..as well as what I SHOULD spend each month. I’ve written down a spending plan for the month of February (though I already forgot a couple of things to put in it, so I can see this is going to be a learning process). So I’m hoping that with the heightened awareness of the money I’ve wasted in months past, I will be much more reluctant to spend so nonchalantly and make each purchase a thoughtful one.

In the interest of saving money, as well as being a better steward of the earth’s resources, I have challenged my children – who, admittedly, are quite young to care much or change a lot – to see how much money we can save by conserving energy this month. So we are making more of an effort to turn lights off as we leave rooms and I’ve unplugged the upright freezer. Other than that, not sure there’s much I can do in an apartment (we don’t pay for heat).

In addition to the financial changes, we are attempting to eat much healthier and I am trying to only buy for the week what we need. I love The Frugal Girl’s Food Waste Fridays. And so I will be starting that as well. Actually, it’s really a lot like seeing where every penny you spend goes. Kind of humiliating, humbling, and eye-opening. So I think it’s a good idea. Not sure if I will have the guts to post my first one, being that I didn’t “prep” beforehand, but we’ll see how the week goes. I will say that I’m starting the week by NOT buying any groceries. I really am attempting to use everything that we have – there is plenty of meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains – so I really think we’re fine and a trip to the grocery store would be superfluous. I was really surprised to see what I spent on groceries in the last couple of months. I really don’t think those purchases through much, either, and have a lot of little “here and theres”. Besides, most of the fruits and vegetables I bought a week ago will last probably only another week anyway and I definitely don’t want to think about wasting all that money!

Beyond the financial and healthy eating goals (we are cutting out processed food, which will help with the cost, as well as improve our nutrition), I am also attempting to “get organized”. Which for me, at this point, means simplifying and getting rid of that which we don’t really need (not an easy thing to do!) and making sure that everything has a place and is put in its place. This should make the secondary goal of keeping clean a little easier. That’s another thing I’ve always struggled with. I hate cleaning. Especially floors and toilets.

And then someday I’ll get to that exercising regularly and losing weight goal. Actually, I was sort of working on that one, but have yet to exercise regularly. Another thing I hate to do. Which is quite apparent by my appearance. But I got a kick in the pants motivation last week when I got the reminder of my 15 year high school reunion. I’d love to go and have everyone say, wow you look really good! So I guess I still need that external motivation.

It all just seems like a never-ending struggle. As I sit here typing, it just occurred to me that I didn’t sit with my son and do his homework. I’ve failed there yet again. I will say that it seems ridiculous to me that kindergarteners can have so much “homework”, so I just kind of shrug it off most of the time – getting home at 5:30 with bedtime at 7:30 and supper and baths in between there kind of eats up the night! Ah, but I should make it important and start instilling those schoolwork ethics.

So I go to bed feeling a little like a failure in the world of (kids’) school, but also a little proud of myself for setting up my spending plan and starting my journey.

Do you ever wish you could make time hurry up?  So many times I wish I could see in the future and how things work out.  I am currently waiting on results of some medical testing on my six year old.  Both diagnoses would have major impacts on our lives, but one would actually mean a shortened life expectancy which scares me to death.  There was a time before the initial testing that I thought it could come back positive because it would explain so many things, but then I convinced myself that I was just looking for “trouble” where there was none.  And then the test came back “borderline” – inconclusive – so further testing had to be done.  The good news is that this testing cannot be inconclusive – it either is or it isn’t.  At least for the one condition.  The other one may be inaccurate but I guess I’ll deal with that when the time comes.  I just don’t know what to think now.  I’m scared both for a positive diagnosis of either condition, for the above stated reasons, but I’m also scared for a negative result because it means starting over and trying to figure out what is going on with him.

I suppose this doesn’t make much sense without the background info, but it’s a start.  We had this test done on Tuesday and will find out the results in 7-10 days – which translates to a week and a half to two weeks – a LONG time to wait!!  I just wish I knew now.  Or could make time go faster.  Or could forget about it.  You’d think with as busy and tired as I am that wouldn’t be hard, but I guess it doesn’t work like that! 

I’m going to close this post now and head to bed.  There’s a single parent group meeting tomorrow – my second week in a row of going.  I’m hoping it will be helpful talking with other single parents and getting support and ideas from them.  I look forward to it.  The kids do, too, so that’s good.  Alrighty, goodnight and thanks for reading!