Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Challenge for Myself

I am taking a break from the many Christmas pictures (because, yes, there are more to come :) to put my challenge in writing. Or rather typing.

This is a challenge for myself. And I guess it is for my family too since it will affect them. :)

Here it is...

For the month of January, we are going to TRY (as in make every attempt) to eat on 1/4 of our usual food budget.  I actually don't have a true budget (which is another challenge for 2013) but I am basing this on what we normally spend a month.

The kind of funny thing is what I am proposing is what actually was the total food budget for hubby and me when we first got married.  Now that is what we spend in a typical week!


I don't know.

The other day I was driving home from my umpteenth grocery store stop feeling a bit ill about all I spend a month.  That on top of the holiday spending that takes place in December, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

I LOVE to cook and have had so much fun trying new recipes, making favorites, cooking healthier and more from scratch this past year.  And we eat at home more now than ever; eating out is a rarity.

But with that (along with a child's food sensitivities), our spending has gotten out of control.

I know that housing is supposed to be like 30% of your monthly income (or less) but should food be that high on the list?

So as I was driving, I thought to myself, "Why not live out of the pantry and freezer as much as possible for the next month?"

The ironic thing is I had a friend do this in the past and thought she was a bit crazy. :)  But now it makes perfect sense.

My freezer is still full of beef and some other foods I have bought while on sale.  Our pantry is rather stocked.  Hubby just stopped at a specialty food store and picked up some much needed supplies for our food sensitive kiddo.  And we got some of our favorite (and more expensive) treats for Christmas (like pistachios, Ghirardelli chocolates, Red Bull for the hubby, etc).  So we are stocked up.

We are not going to starve.

We just need to use what we have.

I tend to plan for the week by going solely on my cravings.  I don't have to be pregnant to have those. I just get in the mood for a food and decide that will be on our next menu.

The problem is that I go out and buy for the week, ignoring the items we already have that we have stocked up on.

Which comes back to why I need to do this challenge.

Don't get me wrong.

This is not a long term solution. We can't do this forever.  With six of us, our pantry and freezer will eventually be empty. And those people around my table will still expect some kind of meal on the table.

But maybe for just a month, we will see what we can live with food wise and what we can't.

I don't expect us to have a lot of extra money at the end of the month to go live it up with...I am pretty sure my December spending already used up part of January's anyway.

But I like a good challenge.

I am eager to see what we can do.

Even if that means no shrimp for me. :(  (I almost got some the other day since it wasn't technically January but felt like that was cheating, so I put them back)

So I am putting it out there, in print.

Now I have people (all 3 or so readers :) to hold me accountable.

I do have a few guidelines for myself:
Paper products/personal care will NOT count in the total.

While I want to be frugal, some things are non-negotiable.  Things like milk, bread, and fresh fruit.  I may try to be more economical buying them but they will have to be bought. I will just have to be careful about the extra stuff I get.  I cannot skimp on the healthy stuff just to stay in budget.

Hubby is heading to the store in a bit and that total WILL count for January since the bulk of the food will be used in January.

Eating out will not count in the total. We rarely eat out any more other than an occasional sushi night.  But that is a separate part of the budget, so if we do, it will not count against us.

I can always use coupons to help but that is not my strong point. :)  Plus coupons are almost always for processed foods which we are not as likely to use these days. But it is a possibility.

Snacks and supplies for school (my class) do NOT count in the total.

While I don't want to share how much my total is for the month (mainly because I am embarrassed to admit what I typically spend :), I will give occasional updates with a percentage.  If I can remember how to do the math to figure that out.

So there it is.

It is out there.

Now it is up to me to meet that challenge head on.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Reason for the Season

So many things to say, so little time.

I feel SOOOOO behind in Bloggerland.

Part of me hears the word "failure" over and over in my mind.

But honestly, I am not just lollygagging.

Every moment of the month has been filled.

Filled with appointments.  School.  End of the semester assessments.  Homework (for the kids).  Meals.  Christmas parties.  A child's birthday.  Wrapping books.  Buying gifts.  Writing out cards (actually, still working on that one :).  Cleaning the house.  Remodeling the toyroom.  Gifts for teachers.  Gifts for students.  Gifts for students to give to their parents.  Special holiday treats.  Making Christmas cookies for Santa. Driving around to look at lights.

I have gone to bed after 1 most days the last two weeks. 

I wake up exhausted.

I am exhausted.

I find myself prioritizing...what has to be done.

That is why as much as I love Christmas cards, they are going out late (though I had them printed early).

They are important but not top priority.

The one positive is that we aren't celebrating Christmas for another few days with my family.

So I haven't had to wrap everything. Yet. :)

And it has been good.

It really has.

I have lots of pics to share.

But that isn't what the post is about.

This is about one little baby.

The reason for the season.

I know, I know. That saying is posted on cards and signs and uttered often this time of year.

But how often do we really stop to think about it?

Last night we attended our church candelight service.

I will admit, when our pastor started those a few years ago, I balked.

Christmas is a time to be home.

A time to be with family at home.

This service was going to interfere.

I mean, I can worship at home.

But Hubs insisted we go.

And it was beautiful.  A beautiful time to worship.  With my family.

So we have gone every year since.

The last couple of years I have put baked potato soup in the crockpot so it was hot and ready when we came home.

Then my parents have joined us for dinner and to watch the kids open up presents from us and their "secret Santa sibling".  (We do family gifts Christmas Eve, Santa gifts Christmas morning)

I have actually come to treasure that candelight service.

It forces me to be still.

I can't worry about sending out Christmas cards, getting gifts wrapped,  making all of the good "holiday" foods. 

All I can do is be still.

Be still and know He is God.

It is in that quiet sanctuary, candles aglow, singing Silent Night, that brings tears to my eyes every year.

I love the time with family.  The gifts (both giving and receiving...I won't lie :).  The food.  The giving nature of the world around us.

But those are NOT the reason for the season.

The reason for the season is Jesus.

It is a God who loves me in spite of all I am.  Even with my many shortcomings.  My prideful heart. My selfish nature. My deeply rooted humanity.  He loves me for all of the things I am in spite of what I am not (patient, always sweet spirited, joyful in all things).

He loved me so much that He sent a little baby to earth for the sole purpose of later dying so I, in all my imperfectness, could have eternal life.

And when I take time to really think about that, it is overwhelming to me.

I am loved.  Unconditionally.

I am worthy even when I don't feel like it.

I am treasured, even when the world throws stones my way.

That is the reason for the season.  The reason I celebrate. 

Merry Christmas to you!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Buddy Da Elf

As you may recall, the last time I wrote, Buddy was sitting in the exact same spot on Sunday morning that he had been on Saturday morning. A BIG no-no in Elf World. All I can say is that he must have been one tired elf. But apparently he wasn't completely slothful. He brought a movie along with him...How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  By the way, Buddy has good taste. It is the original cartoon version. :)  We got to watch it that night with shakes and popcorn for dinner.
The next day was Child 1's birthday.  Buddy was apparently celebrating in his own way by hanging from the candy cane which gets moved from day to day on our Christmas calendar...

On Tuesday (the 11th), Buddy apparently wanted a birds eye view. He propped himself up on top of the tree, holding onto the star for dear life.
On Wednesday (the 12th), Buddy seemed to remember the TRUE meaning of Christmas as he held the baby Jesus in his arms.

On Thursday, Buddy apparently got a little tied up. Or rather tangled up.  In the dining room blinds. This caused hysterical laughing when we came home later that day and the youngest child couldn't help but blurt out, "I can see Buddy's bottom!" (through the window).  Gotta love kids. :)

On Friday morning, Buddy was found on top of the breakfast table (though we rarely eat breakfast there anymore), cutting out snowflakes. I guess he was in the mood for some winter weather.
Then Saturday, Buddy was caught red-handed.  He was hanging out in the pantry, eating Daddy's almonds.  Ask any of my kids. They can tell you. That is a BIG no no in our house.  Daddy's almonds are for him, NOBODY else. :)

Apparently Buddy was a hungry elf.  The almonds didn't fill him up.  On Sunday (the 16th), we discovered that Buddy had changed the weekly menu. You can't really read it but every day reads "syrup" for the dinner for that day.  He even added "syrup" to our grocery list on the fridge. 
What a crazy elf. :)

More soon,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Words

I was all prepared to write a Thankful Thursday (on Friday, of course).

But in light of today's tragedy in Connecticut, I just can't.

Not right now.

When I came home at lunch today, I saw a couple of posts on Facebook that had me wondering what had happened.

When I read the news, my heart just broke.

Into a million pieces.

When I say good-bye to my kids in the morning (even the ones who attend class in my same building), I do not ever think, "I am not going to see you again..."

No, I casually wave good0bye.  Give a half-hearted "Have a good day".  Then my last words are almost always, "Make good choices!"

Not "I love you."

I do say those words.

Just not usually before the school day.

I hurt tonight for parents who are sitting at home without their children.

Who have wrapped presents under the tree that will not be opened this year.

Who are thinking about the last words they said to their sweet boy or girl that morning.

Were they happy words? Or were they words like we all have used..."Hurry up!"  "Let's get moving!"  "Don't you talk to me that way!"

I pray tonight for the broken hearts.

For a nation that doesn't know where to turn, who to blame.

I want to wrap my arms around the children who remain, the witnesses of such horror and tell them that things will be okay.

But even if I were physically there, I couldn't do it.

Because there are no guarantees that it will be okay.

Not here.

Not in this lifetime.

Not on this earth.

We live in a fallen world.

A world of sin, a world of pain, a world of hurt.

People will always make poor choices.  Some will be angry. Some will just be sick.

And my heart hurts for them too.  For them and for their families.

Tonight thousands of Americans are sitting at home wondering why.  Asking the questions we all want to ask..."How could this happen?"  "What is our world coming to?"  "Where is God in all of this?"

And there are no immediate answers.

I didn't have any for my children who asked me some of those questions after hearing the news.

I don't know.

I don't know how it could happen.  Or why.  Or what is going on in our country, in our world.

The only one I can answer is that God is here.

We don't understand why He let this happen. 

Yet I don't believe He is the reason it did happen.

That is not the God I know.

The God I know is welcoming several precious children into His kingdom tonight.

He is comforting the hearts and souls of the parents and the siblings and the friends left behind.

He is hearing the prayers of the people of this land.

And He is mourning the pain we endure in times like these.

There really are no words during this time.

Right now anything I think or want to say seems trivial, contrite.

I just know on Monday I will hug my kids a little bit harder, a little bit longer, and as I watch them skip off to their classrooms, I will call out, "Bye! I love you!  Have a good day!"

With a broken heart...


Friday, December 7, 2012

Thankful Thursday...Barely

I will be honest. It is a good thing I do Thankful Thursdays and not Thankful Wednesdays. Not only because Thankful and Wednesday don't flow off the tongue as well as Thankful Thursday (gotta love alliteration), but also because Wednesday was Worse Wednesday or Wicked Wednesday or any other W adjective you can think of that has a negative connotation.

Last night, I was sitting in my house after a VERY long day. I was having my typical one person pity party after having run all over for kid activities and not getting to eat dinner (one of my favorites) until 7:30 (I eat lunch around 11:15).  One child was whining and complaining, another one was dilly dallying instead of doing what needed to be done (cleaning the room), one was resisting a much needed bedtime, another was needling the whiner and complainer.  All this after a long day at school with kids who have one thing on the mind this time of year.  Christmas.  I was looking at my bare tree and very undecorated house wondering when I was supposed to work on it all.  We had some bad family news.  And I was tired.

But Thankfully, it is Thursday.

A new day.

And today I have things to be thankful for.

I probably did yesterday too but I was not in the right frame of mind to think of them.

Today I can.

That in itself is something to be thankful for.

Here are a few other things I am thankful for...

  • The joy of seeing the holidays through my children's eyes.  Child 3 is in awe of Christmas lights. It has made me slow down and truly appreciate the twinkling lights and fun displays too.
  • The warm winter weather. I know a lot of people are ready for the cold. Those people are not me. I do NOT like winter weather.  Not at all.  And I am enjoying each and every moment of this warmer weather. Today felt like spring. I wanted to have class outside the rest of the day. :)
  • A dead battery. Okay, not so thankful for that. But I am thankful that the two times it was dead, I was at home or at school AND my husband was in the nearby vicinity (a rare treat :).  Even better, we were afraid it was the starter or alternator but it was the battery AND that was under warranty.  VERY thankful for that.  Running smoothly now.
  • A rare evening at home.  One child is playing volleyball, another does gymnastics.  Three days of the week involve a lot of running around. Thankful for hubby who came home from work early to take the volleyball player to practice, giving me an entire evening at home.  Little ones and I even got some Christmas decorating done
  • On-line shopping. It is the only way to go. :)
  • A Saturday in Tulsa with my mom for some shopping and some eating.  I very much enjoyed the time.
  • Thankful that my car did NOT die when we were in Tulsa.
  • My daddy.  It is his birthday.  He was and always will be my hero. I am thankful that he gives me a glimpse of who my Heavenly Father is through his unconditional love, his hard work, his honesty, his fairness, his dedication to family and God.
  • Oh Holy Night.  The one Christmas carol that makes me stop and truly reflect.
  • Mrs. Vickey who graciously volunteered to wrap Christmas books for me for our book tradition.  She wrapped about half of them for me which has been a God-send in this crazy time of year.
  • A mostly redecorated toyroom and girls' room
  • My students. This time of year is a tough one but I am so excited to see the learning taking place. That and they just make me smile. Most days. :)
  • Ear infections. Not that I want my kids to be sick. But I had to run Child 4 to the doctor because he has been so congested. That and his golf ball size tonsils.  SOOOO thankful that it was nothing serious (I was fearing pneumonia)...just a couple of slightly infected ears.  The doctor was wonderful to work with me on finding a medicine that (knock on wood) has not affected behavior.  And he could go right back to school. 
  • Special times with friends. 
  • My co-workers.  
  • Pajama Day tomorrow. :) Can't wait!
What are you thankful for this week?  Really think about it. I bet you can think of something...


Sunday, December 2, 2012

'Tis the Season...

'Tis the season for...
  • addressing Christmas cards
  • shopping (both in real life and virtually)
  • checking and double checking lists
  • writing a family newsletter
  • working on the family picture calendar
  • wrapping books for our book tradition
  • wrapping gifts
  • attending Christmas parties
  • baking cookies
  • decorating the house
  • assembling the Christmas tree
  • lighting the tree
  • decorating the tree
  • working on end of semester assessments for students
  • shuttling kids to their activities
  • grocery shopping (and lots of it)
  • reading the Christmas story
  • advent activities
  • visiting the square to ooh and ahh over the lights
  • driving around town to find holiday displays
  • standing in line for hours at the store to finalize shopping
  • pictures with Santa
  • Buddy the Elf's antics
  • Child 1's birthday celebration
  • watching holiday movies
  • listening to Christmas carols
  • singing Christmas carols
  • church holiday activities
  • doing things for others
  • making memories
  • savoring family time
  • gingerbread houses
  • missing blogging on occasion....