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Project Food Budget (a smidge late)

PFB2015

Good morning, friends.  Yesterday simply did not allow for blogging, but here I am with my shopping news for the week.  This week is atypical because we are doing some traveling.  I’m sure that I am going to have to add some food costs after the weekend.  Nonetheless, it was exciting to be UNDER BUDGET!

Goal: $120          Actual: $88 at Wal*Mart

I had a few things in the freezer, so I didn’t have to buy meat this week.  That helped a lot.  I did include my multivitamins (kids’ next week).  I also bought some extra snacks for a long car ride and ingredients to do some baking.  I had to stock up on both all-purpose unbleached flour and whole wheat flour.  I hate shopping at Wal*Mart.  I really, really, do.  I went at 8 o’clock in the morning, and it was still crazy busy.  BUT…I kinda had to.  Aldi doesn’t seem to carry whole wheat flour, and I didn’t have time for two trips, and my only shopping opportunity (without four kids in tow) was early Tuesday morning before Aldi even opened.  So…off to the craziness that is Wal*Mart.

Here’s the short menu:

Monday:  Unexpected dinner at Grandma’s house (I had an English muffin at home!)

Tuesday:  Chicken stir-fry with rice

Wednesday:  Fish tacos with mixed veggies

Thursday:  Leftovers and maybe a treat out

Weekend:  ???????

Let’s see how the other bloggers did:

Project Food Budget : Q&A (Week 3, Week 8 official)

PFB2015

Hi, friendly readers.  I’m back with another installment of Project Food Budget.  I had a few great questions from readers concerning our food budget, and I thought I would take some time to answer them here.

1.  Do you count cleaning supplies in your grocery budget?

The short answer is no, but it is a little more complicated than that.  Since the last time I did Project Food Budget, I began making my own cleaning products.  I have a multipurpose cleaner, a disinfectant, and a window cleaner.  The ingredients for these cleaners are simple household items that I do include in my grocery costs.  They are essentially food products anyway.  They include water, vinegar, baking soda, sometimes lemon, tea tree oil, and a little dish soap.  The ingredients are extremely inexpensive.  They are not affecting my budget much at all.  However, every now and then, I like to buy Method brand window cleaner.  I love the mint scent.  It smells so clean and fresh, and I like to “treat myself” to one every now and then.  I buy it at Target, and I do not consider that in my food budget.  Paper towels and toilet paper tend to get scooped up into the general food budget because I buy them at Aldi when I’m doing my grocery shopping.

2.  What about diapers?

No, I don’t include diapers in my food budget.  Again, I buy diapers at Target when I’m not grocery shopping, so it is easy to not include them in my total.  Plus, they are expensive and would blow my budget.  Because this project is focused on food expenses, diapers would skew my numbers.  One last note on this topic– we use cloth diapers about 75% of the time.  When we are out and about, I tend to reach for a disposable diaper. I just prefer not to carry around a poopy diaper in my bag when I’m out all day or traveling.  We also use disposables over night (unless we run out).  Cloth diapers are an investment, but they do save you money in the long run.  We’ve used them for 3 of our 4 kids, and many of those first diapers are still being used by Baby #4.  Now that’s savings.

3.  Do you only include suppers in your food budget?  This is a really important question!  When I got this question from one of my very loyal readers, I realized that my posts definitely made it look like I was keeping a tally of dinner costs only.  Oops.  No, my goal and total expenses include suppers, lunches, breakfasts, and snacks.  I only list the suppers because our lunches and breakfasts are rather a la carte affairs.  We don’t all eat the same thing at the same time.  Typical breakfasts for us are eggs, oatmeal (with various toppings), English muffins, breakfast sandwiches on English muffins or bagels, bagels with cream cheese, sometimes cold cereal, fruit, or yogurt.  Lunches are often sandwiches–tuna or peanut butter or egg salad or sometimes turkey.  We like hummus, raw veggies and fruit.  Sometimes I make soup or grilled cheese.  Just simple things.

Let me know if you have other questions.

Here are my stats for the week:

Goal: $120         Actual: $18 at Giant Eagle + $110 at Aldi = $128  (Edit:  Messed up the math.)

I’m a little bummed that I went over again.  On to next week!  Let’s see how my blog friends did.

Summer Evenings

I love summer evenings.  Most of our evenings this season are wide open.  We have no set obligations.  Cory’s work schedule has left him with almost all day shifts (yay!), so we have long stretches of family time.  It’s been marvelous.  During the school year, we have evening activities on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Cory is usually prepping for classes or grading papers every night of the week.  His summer job is blessedly without prep, so summer feels like a dream.

A long-anticipated event occurred earlier this month.  We put up a hammock!  Cory has been wanting a hammock for our entire marriage, and we finally have a great spot for one.  We also have a nice, new fire pit–made with stones we’ve discovered around our property, and the kids have loved having “campfires” from time to time.  Of course, we’ve made s’mores.  I’ve never been a big fan (looks like a bellyache on a stick to me), but the kids adore making them.  I have to say yes once in awhile, right?

We still have lots of work to do in our yard, but it is feeling more and more like a beautiful extension of our home.  My childhood memories are loaded with images of summer nights–going for walks at dusk, listening to John Prine and Rod Stewart in the picnic pavilion that my dad built, catching lightening bugs and trying to feed them grass, going up and down on the swings while the sun set pink over the river.

I think about the process of making memories, and I wonder which images will stick in my children’s minds 20, 30, 40 years from now.  Will pictures of these nights in the yard come to mind when they swing in the twilight with their own children?  I hope so.

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This Girl of Mine

This girl of mine is four years old.  Charlotte is such a fun little girl.  She is a wonderful mix of tough and tender.  She loves being girly with me, but she naturally enjoys the things that her brothers do and love.  I took these pictures at her oldest brother’s playoff baseball game earlier this month.  She wanted to wear eye black like the guys, but she loved twirling in her pony dress along the sidelines.  These photographs reminded me so much of this blog post from 2013:  Funny Girl.

Happy fourth birthday, my love.

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Thanks and Summertime

Dear Readers,

Wow!  Your response to my last post (June 6th) blew my socks off!  Thank you.  Your comments here on my blog, on my Facebook page, and in conversations elsewhere on the web showed me that I am not alone in my feelings, and they served as evidence that sometimes a little inspiration from others can be the catalyst for positive change.  I am humbled and delighted to have been a tiny spark of inspiration for some of you.  Other comments in the places mentioned above, as well as in private conversations and correspondence, pushed me to think and to further analyze my words and my situation.  Being pushed isn’t comfortable, but it can be useful.  So thank you, sincerely, for reading and for considering.  The huge increase in readership over the last week has astounded me and certainly made me smile.  I hope some of my new readers will stick around.

So…summer has come!

Sure, the calendar hasn’t given us official summertime yet, but the weather certainly has.  We are on our second day in the 90s, and it is gorgeous out there.  Our family made our first trip to the community pool.  I have never been a public pool kinda gal, but nothing lights up my children’s faces like the sight of a big, blue swimming pool sparkling in the sun.  We’ve been driving past this pool in the park for weeks, waiting for it to finally open.  With no vacation plans this year, we felt that the rather affordable family pass was a worthwhile investment.  The anticipation of today’s outing was monumental!  You would have thought we had arrived at Disney World as we entered the pool grounds, marveling at the patchwork of brightly colored beach towel.  Let the fun begin!

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Oh my goodness!  Look at that!  A rare image of Mom in the pool.  Wonders never cease!  :)

In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

Have you ever simply known that your life had gone a little out of focus?

You are still doing the same basic things, the same routine that has been keeping you going for years.

Yet, something is off.

You find yourself holding your breath, waiting for normal to arrive.  Hello, Normal?  Where are you?

You don’t seem to have time for the things that you once did simply for pleasure.  Tea from the kettle–not the microwave.  An impromptu photo shoot simply because you’ve got cute kids and a perfect patch of sunlight coming in the window.  A game of UNO.  Popcorn and a movie after the kids fall asleep.  Falling asleep yourself next to your dearest love (even though that kind of irritates him).

Where did those joyful little moments go?  When did every day become decidedly less fun?

That’s where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been restless and lacking contentment.  Late 2014 and all of 2015 so far have brought in new challenges that I had never faced before.  There have been many joys and amazing days, but illness and losses in my life and in the lives of people I love put things into a new perspective.  I expected those painful events to fill me with an urgency to LIVE–really live deeply and abundantly–but instead, I felt stuck, disappointed, angry, and frustrated.  Instead of turning to sources of encouragement that I could count on–God, family, the Scripture, dear friends–I turned inward and to technology.  Have you ever drowned your sorrows in Facebook?  Have you numbed the here and now with a hefty dose of daydreaming while reading about other people’s lives on other people’s blogs?  That’s been me.

And then my nine-year-old was working on a family crest.  He worked hard. Markers everywhere!  He drew a shield, divided it to represent each family member, and then he came up with an icon to represent each of us.  Cory was a weight because Daddy is strong.  I was a little laptop–because Mommy loves the computer.

Wait, did you hear something?  Oh, yeah.  That was my heart shattering.

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A number of things–the laptop drawing near the top of the list–helped me to finally see that I needed to take some concrete steps to turn things around–to pull things back into focus.  These are the steps I took, and I’m still working!

  1. I prayed.  I confessed that I been focusing on me and my shortcomings instead of the larger picture of the life God wanted me to live.  I confessed that I had not been living with gratitude.  I confessed that I had not been using my resources (including time!) with intention and intelligence.  I thanked God for loving me anyway!  I thanked Him for my children, my husband, my parents, and the rest of my big, wonderful family.  I thanked Him for friends at our church, in our community, in our past and our present.  I asked for focus, for patience, and for the grace to approach my family and MYSELF with gentleness.  I asked for contentment and peace.
  2. I reached out.  One of the biggest sources of my frustrations and disappointment is the lack of organization in our home.  This has been a problem forever.  I could blame having four children.  I could blame homeschooling.  But I would be pretending!  Let’s be real here.  I have struggled with messes since I was a kid, seemingly cleaning my room every single day but always living in a disaster.  My mom keeps a beautiful home.  I had plenty of positive examples, but I fail regularly.  So…I reached out to an old friend who is an organizer.  We are just figuring out what working together will look like, but it feels wonderful to feel like I have a teammate!
  3. I returned to activities that matter to me.  It might seem crazy to add MORE when my plate is already pretty full.  However, I did some real soul-searching, and I realized that I had dropped a few things that were true treasures in my life.  So in April, I returned to a La Leche League group.  I’ve been an accredited Leader with LLL since 2008, but I have not been affiliated with a group since we moved in 2013.  It was time.  I always thought of LLL as my “positive peer pressure.”  The meetings lift my spirits, confirm my parenting choices, and connect me with like-minded mothers.  Serving mothers and babies in the Leader role always does something good in my heart.  In addition to La Leche League, I added a little crafting and remade my old homemaking binder.
  4. I set some healthy boundaries.  That sounds all psychological and sophisticated, but it is actually code for “got my lazy bum off the computer.”  I use the computer for good things–researching homeschool ideas, looking up recipes, connecting with friends and family–but I get sucked in.  I get wrapped up in things of no importance.  I’ve been feeling like I had way too many voices in my life.  Articles, comments on articles, opinions upon opinions upon opinions!  I needed some mental quiet.  I so easily allow time to slip by, and I’m often left with a lingering feeling of disquiet after I’ve read something controversial.  I’ve strictly limited Facebook to Saturdays, and in general, I’m keeping my computer time quick and on task.  This is a hard one for me.  I asked Cory to make up a new password for Facebook, and he is under strict orders to never tell me!
  5. I surrounded myself with inspiration!  I visited a long-time friend who always inspires me with her amazing work ethic and her fun sense of humor.  I also found two quotations that spoke to my situation and made me feel motivated to create change.  I printed them on pretty paper and taped them on the wall.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

^^This passage from the Psalms helped me remember that as long as I am in God’s presence, I have what I need to be content and joyful.  Everything else is bonus!

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” ~Kevin Ngo

^^This quotation by Kevin Ngo helped me to think about where I do want to place my focus, and it made me realize that the time I spend planning and strategizing is valuable–not just silly day dreaming.

Nearly a year ago, the auto-focus on my camera’s basic lens stopped functioning.  I was struggling with the manual setting.  My brother-in-law who is a photographer and film-maker gave me some good advice.  He told me to take my time.  He said to slowly move the lens back and forth between the extremes on both sides until I find the sharpest focus in the middle–even though the people around me (including those in the picture!) seem to want me to hurry.  The clear image and perfect light are the reward for taking the time to find that sweet spot.

I’m feeling good these days.  I think I am back in focus, but I’m not afraid to put in the time and effort to live life beautifully.

 

Memorial Day 2015

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It’s the morning of Memorial Day.  We don’t have big plans today, but that’s exactly the kind of holiday we need.  We made pancakes.  We hung a flag.  Cory will be finishing up our porch, and we’ll hit the good playground after dinner.

I have complicated feelings surrounding military action.  It’s a somber sort of thing.  I hate the thought of war, of combat, of families separated–sometimes forever.  Yet, I feel thankful for men and women who are willing to give their lives if necessary.  I respect them even when I hesitate to celebrate the work that they must do.  I pray that God’s will washes over our nation, makes our missions pure, and our actions selfless.  To that, I can raise my flag and give thanks for the men and women who died in service and those who are still willing to serve today.

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