Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Today's Accomplishments

I am pretty lazy when there is no schedule. Also a lack of schedule really sets my anxiety off. My anxiety had been rearing its ugly head over the weekend, but sort of took a vacation yesterday. Yippee. Today I got up and spend a lot of time drinking coffee, surfing the web, feeding the kids. My first plan was to go to work. Yes, over vacation go into my classroom and get some things done. I eventually got there but not until close to 11:00 am. That is okay though. I did organize, clean, make some copies. Heck you could live in your classroom and never be done, but it was something. At 2:00 I left and headed to the gym.

Yes, the gym. My new venture, with the plan to hit it three to four days a week for some stress relieving cardio. It has to happen. I need that release. Too much to deal with without working it out. Now if I lose forty pounds that will be a bonus, but really my main reason to join was to gain tranquility and inner peace. I left the gym with phone in hand because my dearest friend who lives on the opposite coast was calling me to catch up. I grabbed a quick latte ( I am so not frugal) and chatted with my long time friend before heading into a grocery store to grab a few items. Since we are all home we are eating things very quickly. We both have hit the store a lot in the past few days. I needed napkins on Saturday and spent $42.00. Yikes. Today I spent $63.00, but I felt like I got a lot for my money.

When I got home I unpacked, showered, and made tacos for dinner. I cooked over three pounds of ground beef, used half for the tacos and froze the other half in two separate bags for quick meals next week. We did not eat all of the taco meat, which I must say is unusual for us. The kids did not eat much and I am trying to eat less. I took the left over taco meat, added tomato sauce and cheese and layered with tortillas for an enchilada casserole. We will either eat that New Year's or I will freeze it for next week. Tomorrow I have a big package of chicken breasts that are defrosting as we speak. I want to cook them in the crock pot and make up a few meals with them while I have the time.

For an unscheduled day I felt pretty accomplished. Tomorrow is catch up on the laundry and declutter day. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The First Official Day of Vacation/Feeding Picky Kids

It's Monday, so it is the first official day of vacation. Instead of getting up at 6:00, shower, clothes, make up, breakfast, motivating the kids to get ready, leaving the house without any breakdowns, dropping the kids at school, going to work, flying through the chaos of the day, cleaning my room up, getting the kids around 5:00, getting dinner on the table (always a struggle), share our day with each other, argue with kids who can't sleep, maybe do some school work, fall asleep, repeat, I am sitting on the couch drinking coffee. I also left out throwing in random loads of laundry, emptying the dishwasher, making four lunches for most days. The weekend isn't much better. On Friday's I could go to bed at 7:00. The weekend is full of activities, church, and housework that could not get done during the week. I know we aren't alone in this crazy busy life. My point is I would like to try to enjoy this vacation week and try to take some time to relax so I will feel renewed when the craziness starts again next week.

So how did I enjoy the first official morning of vacation? My five year old friend was up at 6:55. Once I was awake there was no going back. He is the hungriest friend one could have. Yesterday he helped me make two dozen banana muffins http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Banana-Oat-Muffins/. I doubled the recipe, and they are good. I kept twelve for this week and froze twelve for quick breakfasts or last minutes snacks next week. After eating his muffin he was still quite hungry. I made us scrambled eggs. While I was making these my other friend woke up. Instead of adding another egg I just split it all between the three of us (frugal try) and it worked. It was only one egg a piece, but I think that is probably enough. Less than I usually would cook, but enough for breakfast.

Now I sit on the couch as the kids watch television in their matching pajamas. So cute! Last night I turned the turkey breast from Christmas into turkey soup. It was pretty successful with everyone except "she who is never quite happy with dinner". Such a good girl, but her Christmas dinner was pineapple, cranberry sauce, and a roll. I like such a wide variety of food that it is hard for me to empathize with her. My husband is much more particular, so he does feel for her a bit more than I do. Also, since I do the cooking I get sort of VERY ticked off at the constant complaints. We also had ham on Christmas day, so tonight's dinner is going to be some sort of repurposed ham with mashed potato pancakes. I have never made them, but I thought if I fried them crispy they may get eaten. I really don't think so, but I am going to give it a try.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rain, Nausea, and Christmas Anxiety

Weird and random topics strung together,but I will do my best to provide some connections. Maybe.
It is raining, just three days after Christmas. Well actually, we had Christmas yesterday because someone, yours truly, had to cancel dinner on Christmas day due to some wacky stomach bug. I should have realized Christmas morning when I felt drained and terrible, coffee tasted off, and I could not get off the couch, but alas I did not realize it until the nausea hit at 2:30 that afternoon. Prior to that I thought my system could not handle the rich food from Christmas Eve. Maybe I had combined too many weird things at one time? Finally I realized I was pretty ill. I spend the next ten hours in bed sleeping, groaning, shivering, having crazy dreams and sipping juice to combat dehydration. The next day I no longer thought I was dying, but it took 24 hours to feel back to myself. Yesterday I went to the gym and thought things were just grand. However, during dinner I just did not feel right. Maybe I ate a few too many snacks. I could not even finish my wine and drank tea instead of coffee after dinner. Today I did eat breakfast and had some coffee, but still don't feel quite right.

I wonder if my not quite right feeling is a lingering illness or that old Christmas anxiety. I love the Christmas season. There's nothing better than hearing Nat, Dean or Frank crooning Christmas songs on the radio, watching It's a Wonderful Life, and singing carols with the kids, but the stress of Christmas is just too much. Too much giving and worrying, and planning and spending. Too much. Too much.

Since the kids attend Before and After care there were many people I wanted to thank with a small Christmas gift. I know baking is sweet and fairly economical, but I also know that some people will not eat food from a stranger's kitchen, so I choose not to bake for strangers because I worry that it will be wasted. Also, as a teacher, I try to stay away from mugs, too much candy (though I did give some people candy too), candles, ornaments and things that people just may not need. I opted for Dunkin Donut gift cards. They were only $5.00 cards, but I bought a lot. We wanted to try to catch everyone that runs activities for the kids and it really adds up. We totally forgot our mailman, so I actually regifted a gift card that was given to me. (My thoughts on regifting have changed a lot. If you receive something that you will never use, and you do not use it, I think it is perfectly acceptable to regift it. It is frugal, environmental, and cost effective. Go for it!) All those little gifts did not even include the classroom teachers. Both classes took up collections, which we just contributed to so the class could purchase a class gift. It was nice to check that off the list.

What I want to figure out is how to fix this so next year I don't go through the same old Christmas stress. Scour the aisles for the best sales and stockpile gifts all year. Take every $10 Kohl's coupon I receive and get some free dishtowels? That actually isn't a bad idea. What I could do is use the summer to plan, organize, and take care of a lot of Christmas stuff. It is early, but it would use the time that I have in the summer that I just don't have in December. We will see what I do. It's a good idea, but right now that is all that it is.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dealing with death

My family is dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy. One of my cousin's died last week. He had a heart attach while riding his bike. He was 43.

It is still surreal, even though a week has passed, and the services are over. I am not sure what to say about it. My aunt and uncle have to endure a loss that no one parent should ever experience.

When someone dies, those directly affected by it will continue to suffer and mourn the loss of someone they love. After the services my aunt and uncle had to go home. Now they have to live without conversations and phone calls. They are directly and forever more affected by his loss.

I watched my family members at the wake, as we all made small talk, battling our internal struggle with death. For most of us life just goes on. That is the uncomfortable truth in death. Others carry on without us. It is that simple. I was at work the day after I got the news, trying to make sense of what had happened. That night I said to my husband, "you know after I die, someone will go to work the next day. That seems strange to me." We think, when we die, that life stops, and it does not.

When we returned from the wake we were trying to make some last minute decisions about paint colors. I got upset. It did not seem fair to me that we were picking out paint colors knowing that my cousin was being buried the next day. That is what life is. Going on even after people die. Obviously certain losses stop us in our tracks. My aunt and uncle will not just go on.

In 2003 I lost my best friend. It was the most heartbreaking loss I had endured. As bad as I always felt, I knew her parents and sister felt worse. It has been almost 12 years since that time. I think about her every day, and sometimes it does catch up to me, but I have processed that grief. For many years I struggled with her loss. Anything that reminded me about her would break my heart in pieces. Rites of passage like getting married and having children made me feel guilty, but I knew I had to do these things.

The funeral for my cousin was done at the funeral home by a family member that is also a priest. He is a gifted and talented speaker, and possesses a great faith in God. Yet, though his faith is evident, his down to earth way of speaking reaches the whole room. He has done many family weddings and funerals, and always finds words to lighten the burden. He spoke, through his own tears, about how hard it is to rationalize death, because essentially we can't. We are born and we die, and there is no control. It is out of our hands.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting a Handle on Teaching

The days since school started are flying by. I have been with my new class for almost twenty days. Amazing. I don't write much about my job. When I was trying to get back to work I did write about all interviews I had, and how much I wanted to get back into the full time work force. In October of 2012 I thanked my lucky stars as I was offered a long term position for the remainder of the week.

Fast forward to my third year in the same district teaching the same grade. They kept me and the time has flown. When I accepted the long term position I was dropping my three year old at preschool twice a week and saying goodbye to my kindergartener. Now my three year old is the kindergartener and my sweet girl is in second grade. So grown up and changing fast. My thoughts about both working full time and teaching have been all over the board since I returned to the field. I never talk about teaching, but I think I need to today.

Teaching is hard. This is not a complaint; just a fact folks. It is the type of job that forces you to be "on" all day. It does not matter how much sleep you had or if your mood is good. You are working with kids and they need you to be upbeat, knowledgeable, firm and loving. These things can be done simultaneously or in different combinations. For example: you are redirecting the same child who really struggles to pay attention and make good behavior choices. He or she has missed the directions and possibly half the lesson and needs something reexplained. So you smile (upbeat), redirect the behavior or provide a gently reminder (firm), encourage them or gently put your hand on their shoulder (loving), and finally teach what they missed, while assessing where they are academically (knowledgeable). Whew! That is just one student and one situation. There are probably twenty students in your room who need different combinations of knowledgeable, firm, loving, and upbeat all day. Teaching itself drains you of your energy and that is just the teaching part. There are lesson plans to write, assessments to grade, students to refer, experiments to set up, papers to copy, and entire weekends spent completing report cards to complete. (Join me some weekend when I spend my entire weekend reassessing work and writing thoughtful comments on each and every report card about how children are doing.)These things can not get done in the short prep time that we have each day. Where I work we get a 40 minute prep each day. No matter what I try to do that prep time flies by. Even something like a jammed copier can steal precious time. I try to get to school between 30 and 45 minutes before my student arrive. Arriving earlier is impossible because I need to drop my kids at Before Care. Some days I stay at work for an hour or an hour and a half. It depends on what my own kids have in the afternoons and evenings, but truthfully I could stay every day until 6:00 PM. There is no drama in that statement. It is so true. Unfortunately it would be impossible, so I do the best I can when I am there and bring some things home to do at night and on the weekend. So then after my own kids are in bed I am sitting on my couch at 8:00 at night trying to weed through what I need to do. There are nights I just can't do this.

This is the point where people point out that you have the summer off. Yes, we do have about eight weeks off during the summer, and I very much appreciate it. However, I will go out on a limb and say that teaching is a job where you are expected to do work during your own time because a daily forty minute prep isn't going to cut it.

Teaching is also a job that weighs on your mind all the time. Every weekend I bring things home that need to be done. Whether I tackle them Saturday or Sunday night, they are in my mind ALL WEEKEND. It isn't just work teachers think about either; they think about kids. Kids that they worry about and are unsure of how to reach.

So why don't I just do something else. Well, I think about it a lot. When the pressure's on, and another initiative is added to our plates, when MCAS scores come out. I really do think about it. However, teaching matters. It matters that I am upbeat and reassuring. It matters that students know I care about them and will help them when they have a question. It matters in ten years when kids look back and say a teacher made them feel good and taught them something they never forgot. It matters during Open House when my students from last year pop in to say hi and their parents do too. It reminds me that I can positively affect kids and their families. That they care enough about me to visit and reconnect, that our year was valuable, and our time mattered. I want to keep teaching, no matter how hard it is, because every single day with children matters.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just a two minute share

Really more of a rant, but share is more inviting. Sitting on the couch dressed with a Dora towel on my head. That should look great at work. My stomach kills because I ate so much junk yesterday. What is wrong with me? Oh right, I sent my oldest to school with a cold and no fever, but she got a fever and I had to leave work and get her. Poor thing. She is fine, but can't go to school today. Thankfully my parents are coming to watch her so neither one of us will miss the day. It is only September-there are only so many sick days we can take until June.

Evidently when you leave work to get your sick kid you should eat a lot of Cheetos while sitting on the couch. Why did I do that? Overall coming home early caused me to indulge in things that have bloated me and made me feel like crap. Now I am ranting sharing (when I should be blow drying my hair) and contemplating whether I should make my own oatmeal or stop at Starbucks on the way. Also, I have yet to wake my five year old friend who needs to come with me so I can drop him at before care. A final note is that my lunch today consists of leftovers (mostly carbs)because I did not want to waste food and I could only handle making two sandwiches this morning while I had a full blown allergy attack. Lovely.

Maybe I left my gratitude at work?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The day got away from me......

I had a whole different post going this morning, but stopped it mid writing. Whew! What a day. A sick child kept us from visiting my parents. We did make it to church. The day seemed like never ending straightening, laundry folding, and cooking with extra snuggling thrown in for sick and tired kids. The cooking included chicken soup with tortellini, calzone, and a potato, ham and egg casserole. We ended up eating the calzone tonight. I think that is my new favorite meal. One pizza dough made more than enough for the four of us. If I had made a pizza with it we would have eaten it and looked for more. Calzone seemed to stretch it out somehow. Tomorrow we have soccer, so I hope to get home in time to bake it in the oven. After making the calzone it was too hot to put the egg casserole in tonight. Time to go to bed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

6:01 AM on Friday

Last night's Open House went well. However, knowing I would be at work for twelve hours I was filled with the energy to do so. However, when I got home the energy did not leave. I even stopped at the store for some much needed groceries. I read for a bit and then drifted off. When I removed myself from the couch and went to bed I could not get myself to sleep. The middle of the night had some interruption because my son was restless and dreaming. Finally, 5:00 AM came and I got up. Maybe it is that slow progression to midlife change. Maybe I am still filled with yesterday's energy needed to make it through a twelve hour day. I fear I will be sleeping on the soccer field.

I decided I would take some time for me and surf the web. So here I am hitting my favorite sites and shopping. Oops. Not really shopping, but discovering something really amazing.www.stayathomeyoga.com This is a site you can join and do yoga from your house. I have wanted to get into a yoga practice for a couple of months now. I bought a great Groupon for a local studio. I have attended two classes, but getting there is so challenging. Three out of four of our evenings include activities. Our weekends are full too. With some effort I could make a class a week, but with yoga at my finger tips I can get up and do it before work. There is not time in the morning for me to go to a gym before my husband leaves for work. Enough excuses because let's face it; I can be lazy. Well, not anymore. I signed up for the online yoga and tried five minute morning pose. It gave me a boost that I can take through my day. They are starting work here at 7:00, so I need anything I can get.

Tonight is soccer. Tomorrow we have soccer and swimming. Sunday we have church. Peppered throughout the weekend will be house cleaning, food shopping and menu planning. I also need to visit those people who are responsible for for my existence. I did not make it there last weekend and I would like to see them. We always stay for a long time because I like to talk to them and love for them to see the kids. No one tells you exactly how busy life can be.

We had dinner for a week straight. I roasted two chickens Sunday. We had Sunday dinner and left overs Monday. Tuesday we had soup from one of the chickens. Wednesday we had chicken fried rice with left over chicken and a pasta bake from the freezer Thursday (I was at work eating pizza). Tonight we are having homemade pizza with store bought crust. It is a soccer night, and store bought dough is cheaper than two pizzas.

I want to begin today and my weekend with a positive attitude and gratitude. I hope to try some yoga and report how it goes. Enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gratitude with a cold

Happy Tuesday! It is 6:00 am as I drink my first cup of coffee. I just spent 16 minutes making four lunches and yes I have a cold. There was no energy left last night to put four lunches together, so I trudged out of bed at 5:52 to get them done. Today I have meeting at 8:00, so I need to head to the shower and wake the kids early.

It is not a terrible cold. Just a scratchy sore throat with congestion annoying cold. Open House is in a couple of nights, so I need this cold to go away. Sunday's roasted chicken turned into chicken soup. Truly I am the only one who really enjoys chicken soup in this house, but with my husband having a cold too, I think I can safely serve that soup tonight.

In gearing up for the day I think about yesterday. I made it through with a smile and got through soccer without too much stress. My job calls for a lot of patience and psychology, but I still had some energy left for my own kids at the end of the day.

Today I am starting with a required meeting which makes me late for the classroom. Everything is in place, so things should run smoothly until I get there. My plans are in order. Our routines are picking up. I have an appointment at the end of the day, but we have no activities for the kids. Even with a cold I hope to keep a smile on my face, a grateful and positive attitude, and appreciation for the new day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday, coffee, and the best you can do

So it is Monday morning. The kids are sleeping and my husband left for work. It is 6:30, and we should all be leaving in an hour. I have jumped into the shower and quite excitedly skipped my hair because I just had it done yesterday and it still looks great. I never skip washing my hair, so this is huge. I just have to fix the ends that got damp and hope it actually holds throughout the day. Enough about vanity.

The second cup of coffee is brewing. The first cup is long gone. Trying to decide on the best outfit for work since it is 38 degrees right now, but it will be 70 later, is tricky. I have been thinking since yesterday's post about prospective, and enjoying each moment. A lot. It is so important. It slows us down and helps us notice the little things that matter. For the rest of the month I want to share the best parts of each day. Maybe it will just be my positive attitude about it.

Today I have a full day at work, followed by getting the kids, feeding them dinner, and soccer practice. I know tonight I will be prepared and wear my sneakers so I can walk the track with my five year old while my seven year old practices. I am grateful and look forward to that chance to exercise. Even this very moment that the kids are still sleeping and I can organize my thoughts and decide how to approach my day is a moment to enjoy. Saying good morning to the kids and helping them get ready to go to school. Listening to their stories when I pick them up is really fun. It can be hard, but nothing is more than important than my own kids. Finally, my own job is a job where attitude makes all the difference. As a teacher my enthusiasm and encouragement can make or break a child's year. I want to start this third week of school full of energy continuing to build a classroom where ideas are expressed and opinions are valued. If I am having fun, they will have fun too.

So as I drink the second cup of coffee and gather my thoughts together I hear birds outside, see the beginnings of fall peaking through and want to be part of this beautiful and new gift of a day. Each day we have is really a gift. We can choose to open it and say thank you or make a face. I have sure made my share of faces, but for today I want to open it and say thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enjoying the Journey and Getting Prospective

The weekend goes by so fast. We ate dinner Friday night after a busy week and before you know it I am asleep on the couch.

Saturday started with two soccer games. My sports memories as a child are pretty blah, but I am trying to enjoy watching my children learn different games. If they are having fun, I am happy for them.

When we returned home our goal was to get down to our town's yearly celebration. It has kiddie rides, and food. There are vendors and local businesses set up and a wonderful community feel. We were anxious to get here, but something had happened in our house. It may have started with me. No one under forty could find anything clean to wear. Probably my fault, but life is busy. It caused lots of problems and tears, but solutions were found. My mini friends needed to pick up their room, and that was not working out well. Overall the cranky monster had infected Mom and was slowly making its way into the kids. Thankfully I married someone who is usually immune to moodiness. After tears, frustration, some raised voices, and apologizing. (I apologized to my seven year old, because I was grouchy with her) we were able to head out to the town celebration.

While waiting in line for an inflatable slide I heard some people complaining about the event. "Too much line waiting." "Not enough room". Standing there with my seven year old, I couldn't disagree exactly, however, aren't we missing the big picture. Sure, waiting for twenty five minutes to get on an inflatable slide may seem annoying but spending twenty plus minutes with my seven year old presents its own opportunity. While there, we were chatting, she was holding my hand, I could randomly hug her, she could randomly hug me. The anticipation of the inflatable slide, pony ride, anything else we were waiting for were exciting for her. My husband and five year old were standing in other lines having their own time. Is it that bad to be in line with your child while they enjoy your company? The weather was cool and comfortable. The rain held out. Many people in town were there. The kids are running into friends and excited to see people they knew. I am sure the complaints I heard were innocent. We are all guilty of that sort of thinking. More and more though I am trying to enjoy each moment. Moments that we can't get back. Time that is gone forever. My seven year old is almost eight and there will be a time her eyes may roll when talking with me, and those random hugs may go away. As the event ended the four of us headed home.

Now it is later in the afternoon and time for food shopping. Though I do like food shopping it takes some time from the weekend to plan and get it done. Thankfully I could do it alone. Instead of being annoyed that I had to food shop, I tried to be grateful that we can afford food. I shopped carefully and fairly quickly. I was impressed with what I got for what I spent. I was hoping to squeeze in family dinner and was able to do so. The work week is so busy for us and the kids that we can't guarantee family dinner seven nights a week. My goal is three to four. Our Saturday night family dinner was at 7:00. The kids were tired. There was lots of reminders for my five year old not to eat with his hands and reminders to my seven year old to eat her dinner. We we were together, laughing, and having fun. Building a large book of memories that I hope both kids can reread when things in their lives are not going the way they want. When they need an example for the own future family, when they want to learn how to enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Prozac or walking

Seriously. I do mean it. When time permitted at 7:00 p.m. I got out there and hustled myself around the neighborhood for thirty minutes. Just me, some music and walking as fast as I could. It relieved so much of my anxiety. I have skipped any exercise for the past week and half, but that ends today. THAT ENDS TODAY. It is not about losing thirty pounds. Sure, I could lose plenty of pounds, but it is the mental part of it that forces me to make exercise a priority. That anxiety that was running through sort of left itself on the street during that walk. I have finally realized that it is not a choice. It must be a priority. Saturday and Sunday are not a problem and I can make it happen three other nights a week. I want family dinner, I want family time, but family time is not good if I am not myself. My health is a priority. I must walk.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Worry, worry, worry

What is it that is so wrong with me? I can't be the only person who feels like a train wreck inside half the time. Maybe not half. It depends. We are back to work and it is busy. I am fine with that. I like to be busy. All day I felt great, and then there I was sitting at my desk when the dread sort of crept up on me. During the summer I have too much time, and during the school year not enough. I should shut up already.

I was doing so well walking, but since school started back up I have slacked big time. There is really not time to do it during the week, but I chose not to walk over the weekend. THAT WAS MY FAULT. Walking is a great stress reliever. I can't believe that I was so lazy.

Renovations are so stressful. Why did I think I would be the only person with perfect contractors. Is my head that high up in the clouds? There are no perfect contractors (repeat and breathe deeply). We need to head to soccer in just a few minutes. I needed to take a minute and throw my thoughts down to relieve some of the anxiety. Maybe I could get to yoga this week? Maybe I could work out later? Maybe I should stop being lazy :)

I am proud to say that we have attended church six weeks in a row. It is nice to feel committed to going and my five year old pal is hanging in there.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Renovations and back to work

We are week five into our renovation. It has had its share of ups and downs, but overall it looks really good. We hope that it will be finished by the end of October. They still need to insulate, plaster, paint and finish the electrical and plumbing.

I go back to work Tuesday, and like my usual style I have started to clean under beds and organize drawers. I know, I know, I could have done this in July, but that is just not me. I am a woman who needs a deadline to get things done. That is just how I do things.

The kids will be spending a few days with my parents, so even though we will both be working we will have some time alone, which is nice. Life is so busy and stressful, time alone is an important thing to have.

I have started a walking routine and have thrown a couple yoga classes in as well. Yes, I do need to lose weight, but I am really exercising to improve my overall mental health and clarity. I have always been a worrier, and now I realize that the exercise is a must for me. It makes me feel accomplished to complete that 30 minute walk. It boosts my energy and mood as well.

We recently started going back to church with the kids. It is sort of stressful to go to church with a five year old, but we feel that it is important. I want to give the kids something to hold on to when things are hard. I want to be grateful for what I have. I want to be thankful for simple things.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Food Philosophy

I love grocery shopping. It could be because I love cooking or maybe because I usually don't bring the kids. It is alone time to allow me to sing along to the grocery store radio and read labels. You know you are old when you like the songs on the grocery store radio. This summer I have been thinking more and more about what I feed us as a family. The habits that the kids develop will take them into adulthood, and I want those habits to be good. I think our food industry has gotten out of control. There is so much packaged, preserved, nonfood out there that is is starting to scare me. However, I do believe in moderation. I think it is okay to have some of these things on occasion. For example, when we are at someone else's house I would not intervene in what the kids eat, but I would limit the juice to one:).

Overall Food Philosophy

I have been trying to purchase more organic and local products this summer. I have also been trying to make more from scratch, which is great in my lazy, summer fun. There is this thing I do have though, called a teaching job that will be pulling me back into the classroom in a few weeks. I love my summer, and feel very lucky to have it, but it is virtually impossible to explain how stressful and busy teaching can be. That being said, I know that once we are all back to the grind, I will not be able to make homemade granola bars. It just won't happen. Right now I am reading labels and trying to find the best snacks possible that can be purchased and are fairly healthy. Last night I bought Cascadian Farms granola bars. They only have seven ingredients, and if the kids like them that will be great. When I compare seven ingredients to the forty ingredients in the other granola bars that my husband eats I know what I want the kids to eat. I want my husband to eat them too, but I am taking it in baby steps.

Overall I feel like our summer menu has been popular. We have eaten fish tacos and it has become a family favorite with everyone. My picky second grader has been great about trying things and broadening her horizons. She is constantly asking me if something is healthy before she eats it. She will still eat it if I say no, but at least she is asking. My five year old is a pretty good eater already.

Below are some thoughts on the drinks that we buy. I will post some of my food thoughts later in the week.


This is something I purchase when one of the kids are sick or for a birthday party. Other than that you will not see juice in my cart in the grocery store. I think there is way too much sugar in it. Also, many concentrates, including apple, are made in China. I am uncomfortable with that. When at other people's houses I do allow them to have juice or a sweetened drink. My seven year old has developed a love for Sprite, but my five year old does not like carbonated drinks.


I don't care about soda in general. I do keep some on hand for company, but find if it is in the fridge and icy cold I may accidentally drink it. Oops. I don't want to do that. My husband, since it is the summer and we are free, likes to enjoy it, so sometimes I pick it up on sale. Overall soda does not make up a large part of our budget.


I have read a lot about milk and dairy in general and go back and forth in my thinking. The kids drink some milk and put it in their cereal. (I only give them half a cup at a time and limit how much they drink. They are both great water drinkers.) We use it for coffee and tea. I am in an organic milk phase (meaning I bought it last night-my phases are brief), but unsure of how I feel about drinking raw milk. I did buy some raw milk cheese that was very good, but certainly not inexpensive.

I love my coffee, and do try to buy the cheapest quality coffee I can find. We both drink tea as well.

We do buy water, but I want to try to get away from that. I know it is a waste of money and bad for the environment. We typically buy it for convenience. This year the kids took water to school in reusable bottles because I don't send in juice.

Speaking of the environment I have committed to using cloth napkins. I am sick of the wasteful way we use napkins. I am the worst offender. I am stocking up on cloth napkins and no longer purchasing paper napkins. People have been doing this for year, and I am late to the party but at least I showed up.

Vacation, Renovations, Summer

So many thoughts to share right now. We are on vacation just up the street from the beach. (This won't actually be posted until we return.)

Originally, due to the renovation, we weren't planning any trips. However, you only live once. We found a very reasonably priced cottage nine houses from the beach. I stuffed a cooler with food and have made all of our meals so far. This morning we are actually going out for breakfast. Well, it will be noon by the time we get there so for the kids it will be lunch. I guess that is a bonus. Now I don't have to make lunch. I have grilled chicken and left over macaroni salad planned for dinner. Our current plan is one night out and one night of take out. I have a few more dinners to prepare. I planned on making grilled chicken enchiladas with the left over chicken. We will be going to the grocery store today to get some ingredients for smores. That will be fun!

Vacation Update. We're back! It was fun, but family vacations are a lot of work. (I told my husband " a family vacation is the same play with a different setting". Basically five year olds don't have a vacation personality. They just have their regular personality, so if they are challenging at times that does not stop on vacation. Parenting is a nonstop adventure.) As I said, we have never gone away for that many nights. We ended up eating one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner out. Also, on the last night we got take out pizza. When we got home yesterday we stopped for sandwiches so we could unpack on a full stomach. Overall, our spending was okay. Yes, we did take a Pirate excursion that was pricey but perfect for the kids. Also a rainy day sent us to a movie. I think, considering it was a vacation, we did not eat a lot of meals out. I can't compare to the frugal blogs are I scour and read, but for my spendy little self I did pretty well.

Renovation 2014 starts Monday. I can't believe it, and I hope we can live through it!!

Renovation Update. We came home to an full driveway that includes a dumpster and piles of lumber. Yikes! This is really happening. I am excited. My original post way back when was about how small this house is. The definite plan is a shed dormer in the back with dog shed dormers in the front. The kids will each get their own, fairly large bedroom and they will share a new full bathroom. That full bathroom will be great for company to use as well. We will stay downstairs in our current (small) bedroom and the bedroom the kids are currently in will be turned back into a den like it was before we had kids. I know, I know nothing goes back to before you had kids, but humor me for a minute. It will be an extra room, which will be a luxury for us. We potentially may put a bar between the living room and kitchen to open up the kitchen, but that only a maybe.

The summer has gone well so far. I am trying to make a new commitment to my health. The "over 40" body just takes a dip. Gravity and flab. It is a wreck. Now this is not from a skinny person. I have always had a weight battle, but this is just ridiculous. When we return from our trip I am going to try some yoga cause this core needs to be tightened.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Random thoughts and thoughts on frugality

Random Thoughts

It is funny that, as a public school teacher, the blogs I gravitate towards are frugal blogs where the authors typically home school their children. I think my love of cooking and grocery shopping intertwine with the authors of such blogs. I have a love for take-out too, but I am trying not too. Part of me wishes I found these blogs earlier. For many years we had an old computer in our cold basement. Logging onto the internet was a chore that included going to the basement. We did not get a lap top until I went back to work full time. I wonder if I had been introduced to the frugal community earlier if I would have tried to hold off on going back to work.

Frugal Thoughts

We will be renovating our house within the next month. We have taken on a lot of debt in order to do this. Yes, I know many frugal bloggers would disagree with this choice, but I see it this way. A mortgage is debt. Most people have a mortgage. For us to buy a new house we would have to sell our old house, take a loss and start a new mortgage. Not to mention, we had to come up with a down payment. The average house in our area would have cost us well over $400,000. We opted to take out a variety of home improvement loans, proceed with the renovation, and pay the loans back. We refinanced last year to a fifteen year mortgage. We plan to pay everything off early. Once our child care costs have ended (yippee June)we will be able to easily make our loan payments. But back to frugality. I did make some frugal choices this week that I am proud of and some that could have been better. I also needed back brakes for my car, but what can you do about that? Yes, be prepared for those situations, which is what I hope to start doing.

What I really wanted to say is that frugality is hard. I have been working my tail off to make dinner each night, and pack four lunches each day. It is a lot of work and a lot of food. Last night, after a late night of school events we got the kids to bed and ate take-out. Since we had not eaten take-out for awhile it was pretty enjoyable. There was a time (not long ago) we were eating it two or three nights a week. That take-out money could have paid for my brakes this week.

This month my goal is to be frugal and make the best financial choices I can.

Monday, May 5, 2014

I have been sooooo good

for me anyway. I like to read blogs that are pretty frugal. I am really not that frugal. I did try to make yogurt once, and I thought it was good. However, I can be lazy, or scattered or just plain busy. My new plan is to make my own laundry detergent.

I spent all of yesterday morning getting all stocked up. We can eat for two weeks without food shopping. Yes, I will need to grab some fruit on Sunday, but overall we are set. I am so sick of wasting money on take out. It makes me feel so much better after we eat a home cooked dinner. It also sets a much better example for the kiddos.

I also got a great deal on two birthday gifts because I had some Kohl's coupons. So I bought two gifts and only spent $13.00. I was thrilled.

Now I have some medical bills to pay, and my brakes don't sound good. I am worried. That means absolutely no extra spending right now.

Not too mention the home renovation that will be starting soon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I try to be frugal. Well sometimes I guess.

I just added up every restaurant or coffee stop in my checkbook for 2014. The total is $424.00. I am embarrassed by that, but I actually thought it would be worse. It is only my checkbook. It does not account for the meals purchased by hubby. It is too much spending!!! I need to tighten it up.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Renovation 2014 and homemade food

Happy New Year. I can't believe another year is beginning. Since we are both off on vacation weeks, we were able to spend some nice family time together. I realized this year, however, that the holidays are truly the most stressful time of year. I felt so much better after Christmas was over. It feels so wrong to say that, because I do love Christmas, but the hustle and bustle can be too much. Also, since we both have fairly new jobs that adds so much stress to things. Originally I was staying at work and he was getting home first many days, but since he has a new job and a traffic filled commute the sitter is here for a lot longer in the afternoon. One of my resolutions is to get home earlier.

On the house front we are pretty sure renovation is our plan. We have our estimates and most of the money. Now many people would disagree about how we are handling this, but it really does make sense in the long run. We basically had two options sell and buy a bigger house or work with the one we have.

Option One

Sell and buy a bigger house-This option is not possible today because we don't have the equity to get out of our current house or the 5% down to buy something new. It would cost us a lot. We could wait a couple more years, save the down payment and hopefully walk away from the house without a lot of out of pocket costs. Houses here are pricey and it kills me to walk away from what we have after paying a mortgage for so long.

Option Two

There are a lot of people in our "bought at a lousy time no equity boat". Because of this there are many unsecured home improvement loans available. We were able to secure two of them. This will allow us to build two bedrooms and a full bathroom on the second floor of our home. I know, many people would scream "don't take on that debt" but keep listening before you yell at me.

We refinanced last year and only have fourteen years left on our mortgage. These loans will be paid back and the mortgage will be paid in less than fifteen years. If we buy a new house we would probably have to take out a thirty year mortgage, but we can't even do that for a few more years. The renovation will give the kids their own bedroom and open up their current room as den/office/family room. We will still have a crazy small kitchen, but we will deal with that down the road. Once we catch up we will have some equity to expand our kitchen. That is down the road at least seven or eight years. We also love our neighborhood and our yard.

It is tight right now with the loan payments, especially while our childcare costs are so high. June will be the end of high end child care costs since everyone will be in school full-time next fall. So cutting the grocery budget will help a lot!

So the bottom line is I am going homemade baby. I made yogurt last night, and I am working on homemade hamburger buns right now. I do work full-time, but cooking for me is an outlet that I really enjoy. Also we had a really exciting snow day today, so I have some extra time.

I will share my success or failure with my yogurt and buns later today.