Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gestational Diabetes, yay.... (late onset)

I know I am sensitive to sugar. Some may call it insulin resistant, though I haven't been diagnosed. I just know if I eat too much (read: any) sugar I don't feel great, so for the most part I try to avoid it. Also eating sugar makes me crave sugar more, which is usually an indication of mild addiction, which usually also indicates a sensitivity.

I passed my 3 hour Glucose test with flying colors over a month ago, but because my 1 hour test was slightly high, my midwife had me test my blood sugar at home (4 times per day, for a few days) about a month after the lab test. They do this so they can catch any late-onset gestational diabetics. Those who may not develop symptoms until later, but can still be helped by a modified diet. I am very glad that they do this. I think it should be standard practice with borderline patients.

Having worked in a lab, I knew before I even brought my home test results in to be evaluated that I was going to be over the cutoff. I wasn't surprised when the midwife told me I had "crossed over to the dark side" and needed diabetic education. She prescribed a glucose monitor and had me come back in for a gestational diabetes consult.

She said that since my fasting tests were high, but my after-meals tests were mostly pretty good, that she believes I probably have what is called Dawn Syndrome. After night fasting the liver dumps a bunch of glucose into the bloodstream in the early morning. Due to hormones that are produced by the placenta causing some insulin resistance, it causes blood sugar levels to spike because the body is unable to regulate the blood sugar levels.

Gestational diabetes is different than Type I or Type II in that in most cases it usually goes away after delivery of the baby and placenta. As my midwife explained (she is also a certified diabetic educator), the diet prescribed is different also because of the unique dietary restrictions and increased protein (and other nutrient) needs of a pregnant woman.

The midwife told me that my post-meal levels would have been bad too if I ate poorly, but she knows I don't. She has hope that with some tweaking of my diet, I can regulate it without needing medication. She also said I have a week to get my fasting levels under 95 and my post-meals under 130. As if I needed more motivation...

There are a few complications that can arise from gestational diabetes. It is important to regulate blood sugars during pregnancy because it can cause the baby to gain too much weight. It can cause too much amniotic fluid, which then becomes dilute and slows the maturing of the lungs in the baby. It can put the mother at a higher risk for pre-eclampsia as well as pre-term labor and other complications.

While I was waiting to turn in my results, knowing that they were going to tell me they were too high, I began to research gestational diabetes. One of the best layperson's descriptions can be found on this blog. I am trying to take it in stride. I am glad to be prescribed a glucose monitor so I have one for future use since I will probably be needing to eat right to prevent type II diabetes.

Last night I came home and ate my prescribed dinner and pre-bedtime snack. This morning my fasting glucose was down to 97 (it was averaging around 110 two weeks ago). That already gave me hope that given a few more days of this plan I can get it under 95. After breakfast it was 109, already within great range. My post prandial (after meal) levels were not horrible before. The average was under the cutoff but some did go over. I hope that my commitment to this will pay off. The ultimate goal is to avoid medication, have a healthy baby and be a healthy mom.

It was reassuring to see results so soon, as I have been concentrating more on what I eat and eating more regularly since doing my first at-home testing. It looks like I don't have to change much to get on track and I can't tell you how relieved I am. I am so thankful of my wonderfully supportive husband who decided he wanted to eat healthier too and help me prepare his lunches for the week while also prepping food for me to eat more vegetables during the day. Not only is he taking much healthier lunches but we cut the cost of his food for work down by 30%. Healthier and cheaper, who knew??

His support inspires me and I am glad I can inspire him too. We make a great team. There is not much time left and soon we will be welcoming a new little member of our family.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Our Sweet Harlie

RIP Sweet Grandma Harlie Dog 1/25/2002-12/1/2012

The first time I met Harlie I bonded with her. We met three of the Bittner's dogs and only intended to take one home. Even though she was older, she was the sweetest and softest dog I had ever met. We decided that even though she may not have many years left that we would love her and give her a home as well as Kaci.

She was the calm one of the two and it was great to see how different their personalities were. At the same time when it was time to play, she could run and jump after the stick or frisbee as well as any dog half her age. She could get really rowdy with David when there was something to chase.

When I was pregnant the first time I noticed that she started acting differently when I took her to the dog park. She would not wander away when off the leash and while not aggressive, she would watch over me and stay close. If anyone came close to me to talk to me she was on alert. She knew something was different and she was protecting me. I am glad we never had to test it out, but I was confident that both Harlie and Kaci would fight to protect anyone in our family.

We could not have asked for better dogs to be around children. Harlie took it upon herself to patrol the house every night and would check in on our daughter before settling in to sleep on her doggie bed. We called her "grandma doggie" because she seemed to watch over everyone in the family. She was so tolerant of our nieces and nephew when they dressed her up or hung on her. If there was a stranger in the house or at the door she would position herself between them and the children in a protective stance. Not threatening, just watchful.

She had the softest fur of any dog I have ever met. I loved petting her. She loved walks and going to the dog park. Even though we always had two chewies for the dogs, if she wanted the one Kaci had she would either lick her face until Kaci got tired of it or sit on her. That always made us laugh! While she was possessive of chewies with Kaci, if a child picked up the chewie she would just stare at us as if to say “uhm... she has my chewie... help...” but would hardly move if the child offered it back to her, not wanting to take it from the child.

Through her adoption we were also able to get to know a special family that we may not have gotten to know otherwise. Our prayers go out to the Bittners too.

Harlie passed peacefully Saturday December 1st, 2012 and will be fondly remembered by our family. She was a brave and sweet dog until the end. We love you Harlie!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Food Budget Challenges

We have been successfully using a budget plan for over a year now. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey) It is quite an accomplishment for us. We have paid off all of our credit card and medical debt and all we have left is David's student loans.

One thing I have still found challenging, however, is budgeting food. The constant change in the price of food, the variety that I like to cook, examining the various purchasing options (local food store vs. Costco wholesale), perishability (is that a word?), etc. There are so many variables, plus the fact that I just haven't gotten this meal planning thing down because either I plan too much or I don't plan enough or something comes up like getting invited over for dinner last-minute and then what do you do with what you planned to make....

Food was also the hardest to budget because of my fear of depriving my family of nutrition. Weighing the value based on NUTRITIONAL VALUE instead of weight or volume is very complex. While refined food is cheaper, it is also less nutritional. While I want to buy nutritional food, I also have to stay within a certain budget that is reasonable for our overall budget. Then there is that thing that I'm a foodie. I love deli olives and fancy cheeses. I love to try new recipes with obscure ingredients like that $6 bottle of gluten-free soy sauce that I will use only once a month that I really cannot justify in the budget any more.

Two months ago it occurred to me that what worked for our overall budget could work for our food budget. Namely itemization and prioritization of items. Like Dave Ramsey's irregular income budget (which you can print for free off his website) you make a list of all the things you buy and their average cost, then you prioritize the most important and then the next most important, until you get to the end. Because of the varying cost of food, I must buy proteins and vegetables, dairy and eggs before I buy gluten-free bread or convenience snacks for my toddler. If the price of meat goes up, things at the bottom of the list just don't get purchased that month. It makes so much sense to me I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Yes, it is tedious at first to write down everything we buy and the cost. I grouped items on a spreadsheet by type (meats, vegetables, dairy, frozen (veg and fruit), non-perishable, convenience-packaged food (string cheese, individual yogurt, etc.), and other. The first month I just tried to stay on budget and bought things like I normally did. The second month I put the items in order of priority. Tried to buy the things we needed before the lower-priority items. I found that just doing this helped me stay on budget better. This is the third month and I am refining my list.

Not only do I have a better idea of what things cost, I also have a better idea of our monthly consumption of each group of items. That is very useful when budgeting because then you can see if it is worthwhile to buy in bulk. I was hesitating to buy some more perishable items (dairy and deli meats) at Costco for fear that they would spoil before we ate them, but it turns out we can save about 30% by buying certain items now because I know we will go through them.

For now I am still keeping track of each item and how much I am buying in each category to see if I can refine the system more, but it really seems to be helping me plan meals better. I know I am kind of a perfectionist but making the most of our food budget is my job. I take it seriously.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Will It Be The Perfect Christmas?

My childhood memories of Christmas include baking cookies, decorating the tree, making ornaments, visiting with friends and family, big dinners, homemade tortellini, hot cocoa and cinnamon rolls or homemade donuts on Christmas morning. Every year I would look forward to unwrap the carefully packaged ornaments to rediscover each and every one. Those familiar objects brought back memories of past Christmases. Each one being linked to a person, meaning or moment. Setting up the nativity was also a big part of my childhood Christmas. I always had more fun watching people open the presents I gave them than opening my own gifts.

We are preparing to move soon, so packing has begun. While I am good at organizing, David has to do all the heavy lifting due to my pregnant state. We debated not putting up a tree this year since we will be moving shortly after Christmas and after our son is born. But these things times are not the times to be practical. It is the little family traditions and memories that enrich our family and our daughter's life.

Ours will not be the Pinterest Perfect Christmas, but it will be full of tradition and familiarity. We will make ornaments and decorate our tree. We will rejoice for the birth of our Lord and Savior and these beautiful, familiar things will enrich and enhance the memory of our celebration for years to come. Taking the time to do so is a form of worship. Some argue that the Christmas tree originates from pagan traditions, but I would argue that in my life and in my family it has always been a way to honor our own traditions and our own Faith. It is my belief that rituals and traditions are all about intent. "As for me and my house, we serve the Lord."

We have so very few traditions any more. We will savor the ones we have and try to make new ones. Making the most out of each time and situation. Is every Christmas perfect? Yes. It is what you make of it, not because of how much money you spend or whether you get to see everyone you intend to or make the number of batches of cookies that you think you should (or whether they all turn out as they should).

This year, as in the year I was pregnant with Blueberry, there has been some illness in the family that would threaten my health at a very vulnerable time. It saddens me to disappoint people by staying away from those sick and exposed, but my hope is that they understand the situation and forgive the inevitability of my absence from their holidays. As for my little family, we will make the most of this time. We hope that others will not let this ruin relationships (or their own holidays) so we can enjoy future holidays together when everyone is healthy. Families are complicated.

So this will not be the perfect Christmas because we have to disappoint people. It WILL be the perfect Christmas because of the memories we will build and the traditions that we keep. Will yours be the perfect Christmas?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Day 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

My husband volunteered to work today so while I miss him, I am thankful for double-time-and-a half pay he will get and appreciate his desire to put money aside so he can take a week off when the baby comes. I am so happy to see him enjoying his work, excelling through challenges and feeling recognized for his strengths and talents.

I am thankful for my darling little girl who I took to my Midwife's appointment yesterday. She interacted so sweetly with an 11 month old little boy. She brought him toys and talked to him. She got down to his level and just showed me a glimpse of what a great big sister she is going to be. I had tears in my eyes because of her sweetness. She is SO EXCITED about baby brother. It warms my heart and I pray that they will be close.

I am so thankful for my mother. She drove us to Eugene on Tuesday to look at apartments, then yesterday she drove us to my Midwife appointment. I am kind of on a modified bed-rest. Basically I can't do much but I don't have to lay down. Whenever I get up I have contractions, whenever I walk I have contractions, etc. They stop when I am not doing anything. The midwife says to take it easy and that it is a sign I need to rest. So I am thankful for my Mom who did all the dishes and laundry for me yesterday, plus all the driving lately. I don't know what I would do without her help.

I am thankful for all of my friends, wherever you are. I hope you are with loved ones.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful Day 21

We took a last-minute drive up to Eugene/Springfield yesterday to look at an apartment. I am thankful for my mom being willing to drive Blueberry and me up to the appointment and that David was able to meet us there.

I am also thankful that despite getting very little sleep the night before that I had a great day and that I made it through the day. I am also glad that I only had one Braxton Hicks contraction all day. Blueberry was so cooperative.

Overall it was a great day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful Day 20

Saturday night David and I got to go out on a date. We were going to go see Wreck it Ralph (because we are nerds like that) but it was sold out. We ended up seeing Skyfall instead. It was really good. We then went to a delicious meal out to Rodeo Steakhouse. We took our time, talked and enjoyed our meal. It was awesome!

We can't afford to go out once a week like some couples, but we have a great time when we do. Setting a monthly budget ahead of time helps me to enjoy it more because I'm wondering (in the back of my mind) if we "should be spending money on this." I have come to enjoy date nights much more since we set a budget for them.

I am so thankful for date nights and the special time with my husband. I enjoy his company MORE all the time. He is my best friend, the best dad and a wonderful husband!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful Day 19

I have made mistakes in my life, but I also learn pretty quickly. I rarely make the same mistake twice. I also have the ability to learn from other people's mistakes. I am grateful for these abilities.

It is hard for me to regret anything I have done (or not done) in my life because all of my choices have brought me here. I am grateful for where I am despite any actions that may have been judged as errors. I have tried to listen to the Spirit and I am so grateful for where my life has led me so far. I often see the hand of God where I had struggled and was lifted out of it. I am grateful for the strength and resolve that I have gained through experience. I am grateful for where I am, my home and family.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful Day 18

The Little Things

I am not a material girl. I don't need the biggest and best of everything. I am a huge fan of useful things, even if they come to me second-hand. Things that I use often, that make my daily tasks easier, faster or just more fun. Some are just sentimental. Things I am thankful for because I don't want to take anything for granted.

Here are my top ten:

10) If you ever had to fiddle with ice trays then you also would appreciate an ice maker. I really appreciate that we had the plumbing put in so we could get a fridge with an ice maker when we moved in. We use it daily.

9) We bought a used van this year, cash. It does not have a perfect body. It has a few quirks, but it is comfortable for our family and it runs well. To us it represents no more debt and family first. Even David is starting to enjoy driving it (though he may not admit it). Already it has proved to be useful on long drives and group adventures.

8) The computer is one of the most useful tools in my house. I use it to organize our household and bills. I keep in contact with friends and family who mean so much to me. I keep and organize our photos. I tried using paper to do a lot of these things and first of all, it didn't work; secondly it is such a waste of paper.

7) This is my favorite mug because David gave it to me. He and Blueberry picked it out when they were out on a Daddy-Daughter date. I love the colors and I love elephants!

Favorite Mug

6) French Press. For coffee! (duh!)

5) I remember my mom wasn't able to afford a Cuisinart Food Processor until I was in high school. I got to use it a lot but I really don't need all of the different blades. Years ago I got a mini-Cuisinart. It is perfect! It lasted nearly 10 years and I recently replaced it with another one. It does everything I need it to do. I mostly use it for chopping stuff for soups and sauces. It also chops nuts for cookies and breads. Recently I found it to be the perfect thing to mix the cheese and flour for gluten-free Cheeze-Its.

4) I am thankful my mom taught me how to sew. I use my sewing machine to mend clothes, make clothes, make gifts and alter clothes. It saves so much money to be able to alter my family's clothes. David's pants, Blueberry's dresses and pants, my shirts and dresses. It is a great tool!

3) My smart phone. While I am looking forward to upgrading when our contract renews next month because our phones have started malfunctioning, it is fun to have. One of the nice things of not having the newest and best whenever it comes out is really appreciating it when you can upgrade.

2) Using my glass tea pot makes me happy, mostly because David gave it to me so I think of him whenever I make myself some tea. I enjoy seeing the loose leaf tea swirl around in the hot water.

1) I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer just about every day. It is the single most useful tool in the kitchen.

There are other things that didn't make the top 10 list that are worth mentioning only because they are things that we do take for granted. Running water and indoor plumbing. My MIL told me that in their first house when they were married they did not have indoor plumbing. I know I take it for granted, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I appreciate running water. I think electricity goes in this category too. Access to food and healthcare like we have is not seen everywhere in the world. Even those of us who live modestly in this country, live in luxury compared to some people around the world. May we never stop being thankful for those "little things".

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful Day 17

I am thankful I have less than 9 weeks left before my due date. Pregnancy is a wonderful time. I love the expectation of a new family member. I love the preparation and planning. I love feeling the baby move and kick. I really love it. I cherish it because it is a fleeting experience. Towards the end it feels like "forever" but it is such a small part of a mother's life, almost forgotten once she meets her little one. The aches and pains are annoying, but you take the bad with the good. I am thankful I can nap when my 2yo naps and catch up on the sleep that I don't get at night.

Towards the end, in the final trimester, things are almost fully prepared for the new little person. It becomes a waiting game. Waiting and a little bit of "holding on" because one does not need to be too eager. We look forward to meeting our little one, but we want him to come when he is ready and not a minute sooner. The mental preparation is also completing, I remember having finished most of my book list from my doula friend by this time in my last pregnancy.

The second time around it is so different. There is less fear about what could happen. There is less apprehension about the delivery and breastfeeding. We held off a move so I could have the same midwife I had with the first delivery (and she even cancelled a conference to be around for my due date, bless her heart!) Even my husband is less nervous. He is "been there, done that, ready to do it again!" He was great last time and so I know he will be great again.

So, yes, we are waiting. Making the most of this time. Enjoying the moment. And it is grand!

Ultrasound September 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful Day 16

Just bear with me, I will get to the thankful part...

I don't consider myself a republican, but in this election I leaned more conservative. I consider myself more of a libertarian, if you need a point of reference, but don't go looking up "libertarian" and then assume that you know every thing I stand for. I am just a financial realist and I love my freedom in this country and I like capitalism. I also believe social issues should be a regional issue, not a national issue and that cities/counties/states should decide on their own. I'm pretty sure I could permanently display the above sign quite proudly because I voted for Gore, McCain and Romney. I don't remember an election that the candidate I voted for actually won... but I digress.

I was sorely disappointed by this election. It has nothing to do with "values" and simply that none of the social issues were nearly as important to me as the economy and healthcare. Sorry if I don't care about free birth control and gay marriage (both of which affect a relatively small portion of our population) as much as I care about issues that affect 100% of us like the looming fiscal cliff and national healthcare, 'yall.

I envy liberals. My liberal friends are so happy and excited with the outcome of the election. Honestly, even if Romney had won, I don't know that I would be that excited. I would have more hope, and I was sure he could make the tough decisions and try to get us out of this mess, but I would not be excited and partying. Unfortunately you just can't compete with Giving Away Free Stuff. There is no such thing as "free" anything. Impressionable and idealistic romantics (like I was in college) simply don't get this.

As I look at the details of what this fiscal cliff looks like and the potential outcome I know that eventually social services will not be available as promised because we cannot sustain a greater portion of our population "taking" than "contributing". It doesn't take a math genius to figure that out. It also isn't rocket science that if you start taxing businesses more, or demanding more benefits (unions) that they simply cannot sustain themselves here and will either move to another country, cut jobs or close permanently, leaving even more people out of a job. Government cannot create jobs and wealth, only businesses can. I have a hard time being thankful and hopeful right now for our country's future. 

I turned to my husband, David, and I asked him how we are supposed to make it through this administration, another 4 years. He is more optimistic. He says things can't get so bad that they cannot be fixed. I have my doubts. I do have fear that our children will inherit not only the nation's debt but also the poor economic times that are ahead. David says that as long as we don't count on the government to take care of us and just keep trying to be self-reliant, that we will be OK. I am so thankful for his optimism and when I am with him I do feel like everything will be fine. We don't plan our future being reliant on the government's help, we don't expect any bail-outs, we don't expect social security to be there when we retire. For this I am glad, even if it means living a more modest lifestyle so we can take care of our own needs.

I don't know what all those unconcerned, happy people are smoking (figure of speech) but as much as I wish I was worry-free I will not partake. I am thankful that I have a realistic outlook. I am glad that our family has CHOSEN not to be slaves to entitlement. I am glad we don't base our decisions based on what we can get out of the government, but rather on what we can do for our children's future. We hope one day to be completely out of debt (all we have left is student loans) and hope that one day we can have enough extra to GIVE. 

We may be heading down a socialist path as a country (because that is working so well for Europe), but if I want to be the change that I want to see in the world, I have to 1) not be dependent on the government and 2) WANT to give. I believe that in a capitalist society, when people are doing well and are affluent, they don't just spend all the money on themselves because it is actually FUN to give when you are able to and I like to think that there are a lot of generous people out there. I think we would still have social programs and they would be better run if they were not controlled by the government. If you are forced to or taxed too much to be able to give, then it is NOT FUN. 

So it is times like these that we can lift each other up. Be there for each other and hope for the best. The alternative is not an option. I am thankful to those who help me keep my head on straight during times when I would nearly fall into despair or panic. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Preschool Activities

I have been posting a lot more lately because of the "Thankful Day" meme that is going around. I don't want to neglect my preschool posts.

Blueberry knows all her capital letters so now we are working on lower-case letters. She still amazes me with her attention span. I have upper and lower case cards. She put all of the capital letters in order. We sang the alphabet song after every letter to figure out which letter was next. Then she matched the lower case letter to the upper case. She did at least 20 by herself so she knows most of the lower-case.

Matching Upper and Lower Case Letters

We have done letter projects before (where she glues, stamps or sicks items of that letter onto the letter) but she enjoys them so much that we are doing them again, this time with a tracing element and both capital and lower case letters. We got the template from Confessions of a Homeschooler Blog. The Hot/Cold Worksheet is from the Weather Curriculum by Living Life Intentionally Blog.

Hot/Cold Worksheet and Letter A a is for Apple

This week we also went to the Veteran's Day parade. I don't know how much of that she associates with the significance, but it was a fun activity that I hope she will remember. Blueberry is also helping more and more in the kitchen. Last night she helped me make pizza dough and prepare the pizza stones by brushing oil on them. She helps put ingredients in the blender for smoothies (one of her favorite snacks) and last week helped cut out the dough and poke it with a fork for cheesy gluten-free crackers.

A lot of learning these days is just doing different things and becoming more independent and including her in things that we do every day like shopping and putting dishes away.

Thankful Day 15

I am thankful for the people in my life that can be my friend despite our differences. I hope I communicate that just because I choose to live my life a certain way that it is not a judgement against you if you choose differently. This is what works for me and I hope that what you are doing works for you. Taking offense to someone choosing differently from you is a sign of insecurity. Being forcefully argumentative is a sign that you have to convince yourself, not others. (That goes for Christians too.)

I am thankful for those who show respect for differing viewpoints, either by kind and thoughtful discussion or by restraint of comment. I have friends of different religions, different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and different lifestyles. Nothing compels me to persuade them otherwise.

"I love you too much to argue." -- Love and Logic Institute

Lately there have been a lot of heated Facebook discussions about politics especially. Many people have posted information in line with their political stance. Recently I have chosen to refrain from commenting against those with whom I disagree ON THEIR PAGES. That doesn't mean I do not express my own opinions. I will not be silent just because I disagree with you. On my own page I have the freedom to form a rebuttal or to delete comments.

The internet is a unique platform that allows people to express their opinions without being "against" anyone personally. Without argument. The fact that it is posted publicly compels some people  to "educate" others on why they are "wrong" and that begins with a tone of condescention that I will not tolerate. There is an outlet for that, it is called a forum. Personal facebook pages are not a forum. 

I have a very limited Facebook "friends list" and I am not afraid to make it smaller for fear of appearing "not popular enough". I will block people who start drama or harass me. I REALLY appreciate all of those on my list who can differ in opinion and post what they want and what matters to them on their page.

It is not the number of friends that matters, 
but the quality of friendship!

As a Christian, I have in the past struggled with this idea of "tolerance" in balance with "evangelism" which has been highly promoted by every protestant church I have been to. After much prayer and self-reflection I have come to the conclusion that evangelism is not something I am called to do. I am not perfect and I do not wish to preach. I don't believe my salvation depends on it.

What I am called to do is LOVE. I love my friends and my family even though I do not agree with everything they say. I love them even if they are of another religion, ethnicity or orientation. If we do not agree then we should not argue. We need to lift each other up in grace and find common grounds. There is no room for judgement in any friendship.

I have a lot of respect for those who are examples of this in my life. You are a blessing to me and my life is enriched by those who love and give of themselves despite their differences with others. I hope I can be a blessing to others as well, I know I have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful Day 14

My husband knows I am NOT "high maintenance". I'm girly but not "spend-two-hours-in-the-bathroom-primping girly". I dress nice even if it is just for him, and I like getting dressed up for special occasions, but I am glad he loves me the way I am.

I guess I am thankful I can be myself.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankful Day 13

I love to cook. I love making messes in the kitchen, but cleaning is not my favorite. Usually I do clean after myself. Standing over the sink with a baby belly is currently more painful on my back than it normally is because of how far across the counter I have to reach to even touch the stream of water. Did I mention we don't have a working dishwasher?

I have a wonderful husband who has graciously taken over the task and for that I am grateful! It makes me feel loved and that he does understand. So after a full day at work, with a long commute, he does have a hot meal ready for him, but then he does dishes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful Day 12

I wasn't sure how to write this without sounding like an advertisement. So I will just start off with a disclaimer that I get no payment or benefits of any kind for writing this. I am just hoping it will bless someone else.

I am really thankful we encountered Dave Ramsey and his financial plan to get out of debt. I started listening to the Dave Ramsey show on the radio, during short periods of time when it just happened to be on when we were driving around doing errands. I liked his direct, no-nonsense approach to people's financial problems and they seemed like common sense.

I found his website and got his free financial tools, his baby step plan and worksheets. Yes, they are all free. We just started with step one and took it from there. We were struggling with debt mostly from medical expenses and paying for David's school and student loans. We aren't big shoppers, so it was just bad planning.

ig·no·rance  (gnr-ns)
The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.

We eventually realized we could clean up this mess if we set our minds to it. These tools gave us hope. Hope for the financial future of our family. It also gave us a different perspective: that debt is not necessary. In fact, there is no such thing as "good debt". Anyone who believes that is in denial.

We eventually bought the "Total Money Makeover" book by Dave Ramsey (which is currently on sale for $10 on his website). It was a very motivational book, but all of the worksheets and information are found for free on his website. The literature goes into more detail on how to apply it, but he really does give this information away. It is a great ministry.

I only wish we had learned this sooner. We were ignorant and we have learned so much, mostly on how to apply this wisdom to our lives. I am thankful that we learned and that we came together and it has strengthened our marriage. It gave us a common goal and plan for our financial future. It also taught us to lean on the Lord to provide for our needs (and not our wants) and see that he truly does provide us with what we need.

We are happy to be out of credit card debt, and never looking back. We are still working on baby step 2 but we see a debt-free light at the end of the tunnel.

Here is another blog post about Dave Ramsey: Why I Dislike Dave Ramsey by Life with Four Boys

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thankful Day 11

A BIG THANK YOU to all our Veterans! Your service is so appreciated. I am especially grateful to all of my friends and family members who have served our country both stateside and overseas.

On a very personal note, I am so thankful that the Lord saw fit to spare my brother's life as he served in Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. You see, on the last day of his service over there, Nathan was in a 5 hour firefight and his team took two hits from missiles that had a 30-yard kill radius. They should have all been dead on the first hit but they survived two hits.

Nathan with his Daughter
Nathan prayed that morning. He sensed something was coming that day and was the first one geared up and ready before they were attacked. He prayed over each man in his unit. His squad leader was hit hard enough in the attack that he passed command onto my brother because he was not feeling in his right mind. Nathan continued to lead the mortar team and they retook the base that had compromised their position. The team has suffered concussions, scratches and one man lost an eye, but the two missiles that should have killed them all did not succeed in doing so.

Nathan has recounted this story to me a few times. He tells it with a reverence for what he feels was the protection from the Lord. He said that though he was thrown back during each explosion, and he did black out twice, he remembers feeling like he was moving surrounded by a bubble of protection. Sometimes things happen that are not logical, that cannot be explained by physics. We choose to believe it was a miracle.

As I listen to this story, to his testimony, I am reminded of a story my mother told me of her father, my grandfather, during World War II. My grandfather, Mario, was part of the underground resistance in Italy during the invasion by the Germans. As a young soldier, before he met and married my grandmother, he worked to smuggle jews out of Italy and other covert operations. There is a story my mother tells us about one night where divine intervention saved his life.

He was trying to get across town in the cover of night, after curfew. If he had been caught he would have been arrested and possibly recruited against his will into the Italian army in the service of Hitler. He was walking down an alley through a town he was familiar with, as he was carefully staying in the shadows, he passed a corner and he heard a voice: (translation) "Mario, over here!" He obeyed the voice and went to look behind a shed. Just at that moment a pair of German guards came through the alley on their patrol. There was nobody else behind the shed. Mario was hidden from getting caught but there was nobody from whom the voice might have come.

Though he wasn't a veteran of our country, my Nonno (grandfather) Mario also fought for freedom and against tyranny. Let us all remember the service of these men and women but also stop to pray for them because the Lord does watch over them and guides them. Though believers need not fear death, if they are spared, then I like to think that the Lord still has a purpose for them. Pray for them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful Day 10

"Friends are your chosen family"

I am a loyal friend, even to those whom I do not always agree on everything with. I can rekindle a friendship after months or years of non-communication. I do not, however, make friends easily. Being an introvert I am actually quite happy, and sometimes need to be by myself. I know it is hard for people who are not introverts to understand that, and I appreciate those who do.

I do not make friends with everyone I meet, but I find that I will encounter people whom I know I will be friends with from the minute I meet them. I build these friendships slowly over time and cherish the little moments of conversation or common experience and carry them throughout my life.

Whether these friendships are still consistently present in my life or not, they have shaped who I am and are a part of me. Those who have endured over the years I can truly say are like family. Even some more recent ones I covet as family members. I believe (and hope) you know who you are. If you are not sure, I guarantee I have a special place in my heart for you, forgive me if you do not know it.

I am so thankful for the jewels in my life whom I can call friends.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thankful Day 9

Yesterday I went to my first prenatal appointment since I stopped working. My midwife comes in the room and says "oh, you look much better! Working while pregnant does not suit you, does it?" *sigh* She is right. It kind of made me laugh.

The mind is willing but the body is not able. I think I stopped working just in time, if not a couple weeks too late.

David and I agree that what is best for our family is that I stay home with our children and homeschool them. I am so grateful for his support. Not just because we are in agreement but also because I know I am not one of those women who can "do it all" and not have either a physical or emotional breakdown. I applaud the women who do, but sometimes I wonder how hard it must be for them.

Believe me, motherhood is a FULL TIME job. You work 24-7 with few breaks, and yet, it is the best job I ever had. I love being a Mommy. I love cooking dinner every night and taking care of my family. It feels right and it feels balanced. I am so thankful we are back to this balance now.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Day 8

About a month ago we got rid of our TV. We never watched much anyhow, and never got cable. Netflix is a great tool because we watch something when we want to for about 3/4 of the time it would take with commercial breaks. Also I am glad my daughter never has to watch all of those commercials aimed at children, making them want things they don't need. She has already learned letters, sequencing concepts, numbers, social concepts and a lot of animal facts from the shows we let her watch. This of course is in combination with preschool activities that we do together.

We also recently sold one of our older Macs and waited for the unveiling of the new iPad before making a purchase. We are glad we did because the iPad Mini is more suited for our needs. It is easier for my daughter to hold and is still a good size for interactive learning apps. So far she has been happy with two highly-rated learning games. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox teaches letters, spacial concepts, memory, shape recognition and more. Bugs and Buttons has 18 learning games including mazes, sorting, hand-eye coordination, spacial orientation, manipulation and more. She has so much fun learning and I have fun sitting with her, talking about what she is doing and experiencing it through her eyes.

Technology is a tool. I am thankful we have it and we enjoy it. The important thing is to remember its purpose and not overuse it. While I can troubleshoot a lot of things I am also thankful that my husband has a talent for technology and can solve almost anything that I cannot.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful Day 7

I am thankful I was able to visit the chiropractor today. I have been in pain for about 2 weeks because I am 8 months pregnant and I slipped and even though I caught myself, I pulled a ligament in my back. My dear husband begged me to call for an appointment on Monday so I did.

Money has been very tight as we are still recovering from a tough couple of months of unemployment from the summer, getting debt paid off and being cautious while restructuring our budget. I feel blessed that we were able to budget for me to see the chiropractor this month because it really helped. I was able to walk without being in constant pain this afternoon, enjoying a walk in the fresh autumn air with my mom and Blueberry.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thankful Day 6

I am thankful for the almighty Lord and my Savior who promises to provide for our needs.

This takes new meaning for us this year because of the sacrifices we have made in our family to be as independent as we can be from government assistance. I don't consider myself a democrat or republican, but I was voting for hope that we all can be successful and independent people. It saddens me that many people voted with fear of losing "benefits" because they don't believe they can provide for themselves. Out of fear that they can't do better, so many families stay in the welfare system. I know because I have personally met many of them in this rural part of Oregon. Some even take advantage of the system, but it still makes them slaves to it. It keeps them down and dependent and that saddens me for them. I don't want to be dependent on the government. I do lean on the Lord and He is faithful.

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil."
2 Thessalonians 3:3

We prayed and our Lord answered when David was unemployed and I was 3 months pregnant. I got a job in less than a week, so I know I was meant to be there, though I did not want to be there, I grudgingly obeyed. The Lord is faithful. We may not always get what we want but the needs of the faithful are met. We did not want to go on food stamps or TANF in order to make ends meet. There are families that need those things more than we do. We did not want to be a further drain on the economy.

I had to go on Medicaid for 5 months because we found out I was pregnant before David lost his job and we did not want to go without prenatal visits. I considered it a blessing, not an entitlement. I am happy that now David's job provides health benefits for our family. Our goal was not to stay in the system. You are not a leach if you use the assistance on the path to a better future. It is a burden on society if you don't improve your situation when you are able to do so.

I continue to pray that things will improve, especially for the future for my children. Just as we have fought to pay off our personal debt to provide a stable future for our children, I don't want them to inherit the national debt that our culture of entitlement has created. I don't have much control over that, but I can teach them to be good stewards of what the Lord has and will bless us with. I hope that one day they will understand what it has meant to our family for the last three years to continue to have faith despite continual hurdles. I hope they will be uplifted by our faith and thankful for what the Lord provides for us.

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus"
Philippians 4:19

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thankful Day 5

My first memories of cooking with my mom were when I was about 5 or 6 years old and she was having me coat some chicken with egg and then with breading. We were making fried chicken and she had me transfer the pieces of chicken with a fork. Then she would do the frying. She taught me most of what I know about cooking.

I feel very blessed to have learned how to cook from my mother. She taught me how to mix flavors in her Italian traditions. I learned to cook by sight and approximation more than recipes and measurements. Over the years I have learned how to experiment and tweak recipes in order to overcome some dietary challenges and my mother has always been a great support and sounding board for my experiments.

These days my (almost) 3 year old is learning how to roll dough, brush oil on pizza stones, pour and mix ingredients. She loves to help. As I share these experiences with her I can't help but reflect on what a happy experience it had been when I was a child learning from my own mother. It brings me great joy to pass this on to my daughter.

Brushing Oil on Pizza Stones

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thankfulness Day 4

It was about a month ago that my daughter and I were playing and all of a sudden she ran up to me, threw her arms around me and exclaimed "you are the best Mommy ever!!" This was the first time she exclaimed anything of the sort, she is almost 3 years old. Since then she has also told me that I am her "best friend ever!" and while I know someday that may change, I am so blessed that she feels that way now.

I have prayed since I knew I was pregnant for many things for her, but one thing for me was that I would have a good relationship with her. I know that a good relationship would bless us both, but me especially. I pray for this for my second child as well.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thankfulness Day 3

I am so thankful for where we live. I love visiting cities, but I don't want to live in one. We are close enough to Portland to be able to visit. I love the ocean, I never want to be far from it but having lived in Santa Cruz for two years, I know I don't want to live in a beach town. Where we live we are close enough for a day trip to the coast. I love hiking and the mountains, we are close to those as well. We have beautiful rivers, hills and valleys.

River Forks on our Wedding Day 2006

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thankfullness Day 2

I am thankful for a loving husband who I love more every day. I am thankful for how we have grown together over the years as he is my very best friend. I am thankful for how good of a father he is.

Every day with him is a blessing.

Decorating a Cookie Together

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankfullness Day 1

I am so thankful for David's new job. One that is in his career of choice and that can support our family. One that has benefits from day 1 and opportunities for him to grow in his career.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

100 Things

Inspired by my friend's blog post, and a saying I just read from another friend that says "It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy." These are 100 things that make me happy. Some are little and some are not so little, but they all bring joy to my life. In random order:

1. reading on the couch, with a warm blanket on a rainy day
2. happily sleeping kiddos
3. the sound of children playing happily
4. the smell of cinnamon from something baking in the oven
5. being in the same room with David, even if we are doing different things
6. cooking for friends
7. making gifts
8. my daughter saying I'm "the best friend ever!" or "the best mommy ever!"
9. my husband calling me beautiful even when I don't feel like I am
10. soft couches
11. firm mattresses
12. hot showers
13. deep bathtubs
14. sunny days at the beach
15. reading a book that I don't want to put down
16. a balanced budget
17. having an emergency fund
18. tea party with my 2 year old
19. feeling baby kicking
20. the sound of the rain
21. the sound of the ocean
22. ice water with lemon
23. herbal tea
24. learning new things
25. being around friends
26. the smell of barbecue
27. the smell of fresh sheets
28. the smell of lavender
29. japanese irises
30. my daughter's eyes
31. my husband's arms
32. the smell of the air after it rains
33. nutella
34. losing track of time while doing something artsy
35. being together with my husband and children
36. making meals for my family
37. colored pencils
38. office supplies
39. getting organized
40. my old paid-for van for what it represents (no debt)
41. texts from my husband
42. detailed emails from friends and family
43. repurposing things
44. whenever my daughter surprises me with her brilliance (daily)
45. thinking about what my second baby will be like
46. doing "projects" with kids
47. getting fresh fruit and vegetables at the u-pick farm
48. farmers markets
49. California flea markets
50. writing with a fat ballpoint pen
51. cutting out fabric with scissors
52. sewing on the sewing machine or by hand
53. watching David play with Blueberry
54. going for a drive with the family
55. the peace I feel when I REALLY give my worries to the Lord
56. decorating cakes for other people
57. experimenting with recipes
58. handmade cards, making and receiving them
59. thoughtful gifts, no matter how small
60. having the right tool for the job
61. the smell of sage and rosemary in a roast or roasted potatoes
62. the smell of basil
63. the smell of parsley
64. chinese take-out
65. gluten-free pizza
66. an encouraging word from a friend
67. my daughter's kind and thoughtful nature
68. my husband's ability to balance me
69. my husband's presence that makes me feel like everything will be OK
70. soft blankets
71. herbal scented lotions
72. coconut oil
73. being able to give my time to someone
74. trying out new recipes
75. live music
76. dancing even when nobody is around
77. walking barefoot in sand
78. the sound of wind through trees
79. planning parties
80. organizing digital photos
81. coloring pictures with kids
82. being in the shade on a warm summer day
83. the smell of campfire
84. coconut mochas
85. my mom's homemade tiramisu
86. getting a foot massage from my husband
87. sleeping in, or even just not being in a rush to get up and out the door
88. having brunch with friends
89. good extra-virgin olive oil
90. encouraging others
91. being silly with kids
92. seeing children experience things for the first time
93. animals
94. pretty much all of creation in the beautiful outdoors
95. having plans, but not necessarily sticking to them
96. watching people have a good time
97. watching my husband pursue his career and feeling good about the direction he is going
98. having a good relationship with my mom
99. friends that know I am there for them no matter what, even if we haven't spoken in a while
100. when someone says or does something that tells me that they really understand me and appreciate me the way I am (as an introvert)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beautiful Fall

We started off with the intent to find and ID different fall deciduous leaves. A simple task that led us to a beautiful nature hike around the community college campus trails on a wonderful fall afternoon. The sun came out after a morning rain. Everything was fresh and clean but not too wet.

 Blueberry loved finding leaves and putting them in her paper sack.

 Daddy and Blueberry had fun throwing leaves up in the air and watching them fall.

 Daddy found a little salamander on the forest floor. 
He gently picked it up so we could get a good look at it.
He was brown on top and bright orange on the bottom.

The little guy warmed up on our hands for a bit before we let him free on the ground.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Generosity and Bargains

When we made the decision to be parents and that I would stay home with the kids we knew that we would not always have the newest and best of THINGS but it is a price we are willing to pay for being able to raise our own children.

We were recently blessed with a generous gift of the double stroller I was saving up for. David's grandparents gave us the one we were looking at that our infant car seat fits into. This was a wonderful surprise. It is a sit and stand stroller which Blueberry is modeling in the picture.

I also belong to some Facebook resale groups. They are local groups, some are just for children's items, for people to sell gently used items for cash. We have been selling some stuff too but I found some gently used boys clothes for a great deal and I went through all of the neutral color clothes I saved from Blueberry and with those I am pretty set for boys clothes up through 9 months.

Some people have told me it is not as much fun to buy clothes for a boy, but I have to respectfully disagree. While dresses are fun and pretty, miniature polo onesies are adorable too.

People's generosity is also contagious. Though I have sold Blueberries old clothes pretty cheap, I am thinking I could probably go lower and hope that it blesses someone else.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

6 Great Years and Counting!

We had a modest celebration for our 6th anniversary. We went out to brunch (with Blueberry) at a restaurant that has a Gluten-Free menu. We did some shopping. We paid cash for a used van.

We found a van that was half of what we were budgeting for a "new-to-us" vehicle so we have extra money to get some minor things fixed. We decided to sell our truck because I cannot fit two car-seats in it, not to mention that I can't drive it. I tried, I just couldn't get in tune with that piece of metal. David liked it but he is commuting to work with our car and began to see the wisdom in having two vehicles that we can all ride in. If one breaks down then we can make do with the other.

Our van turned out to be a good purchase. It has a few quirks and dings but the engine is good and the AC works. It might sound crazy but I LOVE my used and paid-for Grand Caravan! Quirks and all.

We have now paid off our last credit card so all we have in debt are student loans. They are in deferment until David's job is permanent. Any money I make right now is going into an emergency fund. Making decisions without debt and with a new perspective seemed like an appropriate way to begin our seventh year together. It is a statement that we have grown together in wisdom and are preparing for a solid future.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Turn Around

We have a lot of news and it seems funny to cram it all in one post, but it isn't like I blog daily or anything.

First of all I want to share that the baby we are expecting is most likely a boy! They will confirm it at the next ultrasound. We are pretty sure based on an ultrasound they did on Thursday. Our little one was kicking and had his hands up by his face and we could see him suckling. He is a little squirmer like his sister. His heartbeat was 144bpm. We are now almost 17 weeks along. Apparently, Blueberry already guessed right and was not surprised at all when we confirmed that she was going to have a little brother.

It's a Boy!

[ photo removed to avoid copyright infringement ]

At the same time that I was getting my ultrasound, David got a phone call with a job offer at Symantec (they make Norton antivirus software and provide other services as well) in Springfield, Oregon. It is a great opportunity and while his job is starting out as "temp" the position is being turned to permanent as soon as the paperwork goes through. The manager that did his second interview said she thought he would fit in there very well. We are very blessed that David's unemployment was only 5 weeks long.

David has a new job!
[ photo removed to avoid copyright infringement ]

I am experiencing some fatigue but my work is going well. They are glad that I pick it all back up so quickly because they are short-staffed and are already having me fill in positions where I have been trained. Since we are so close to paying off our last credit card (which we settled over 2 years ago) we will be in a better financial position. I will work as long as I can during my pregnancy so we can put some money aside for the baby and a possible move. We got all neutral color equipment for Blueberry because we planned to have more and so all I really need is a double stroller. I found the perfect sit and stand stroller (the stroller back seat can be converted so a 3-5yo can sit or stand and hold onto a bar facing forward) that fits the car-seat we already have and I will put some money aside for that too. We are blessed that Blueberry's Nonna is available to watch her so we can clean up our finances. I would rather pay her than send Blueberry to daycare.

Things are turning around for us and our patience and faith is being rewarded.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reversal of Roles

While David is temporarily trying his hand at being Mr. SAHD ("stay at home dad", for those of you who are acronymically challenged) , I am working again, part time in the lab at the hospital. We are both struggling with this reversal of roles, which I need to keep reminding myself is "only temporary".

I don't know how long I will be able to work as I am 14 weeks pregnant and already struggling with fatigue and rising blood pressure (I was put on bedrest for preeclampsia when pregnant with Blueberry). I don't really "have to work", but our main goal with my working is to pay off one last credit card which we settled two years ago and have almost paid off. We had used it to pay part of David's school before we knew better. We are almost done paying it off and it would greatly improve our cash flow and allow me to stay home with Baby #2.

David is receiving unemployment and has some good job leads. He has had a few interviews for a company in Springfield but no job offers yet. The strain of unemployment is wearing on him, but he tries to set it aside and enjoy his time with Blueberry. I am happy he gets some time to bond with her and gain more confidence in fatherhood before the arrival of our second child. Two years old is a really fun age and the summer is allowing them to do a lot of inexpensive things together.

We are trying to take the best of what we have right now. I can't say it is easy but we remind each other that we are together and here for each other. We acknowledge our struggle with this role reversal and we know that we are working towards something bigger. We are not alone in our struggles. We know there is a reason for all of this and that there will be something better at the end.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I am in the middle of planning for next year's preschool curriculum for Blueberry. She is doing pre-writing tracing right now so I will be starting her on letters in the fall. She is already learning the sounds some letters make so next spring she might be ready for three letter sight words. I am planning ahead because we will be pretty busy in the coming year. January we are expecting an addition to our family and I know we will have to take a break around that time so we will need to be flexible too. I am determined to keep her challenged even with everything that is going on.

As we were settling into the idea that we will be having another child soon, we found out David is losing his job at the end of this month. It is not time to panic, and somehow I am not. I would expect myself to be really stressed out right now but I have this general feeling that everything will be OK and that this is a step to something better. I feel like there must be something wrong with me because I am not panicking, maybe I'm delusional or in denial. David's uncle says I am a great wife (supportive and all) and that it must be my faith. My good friends also say I must have a really strong faith. I guess I don't really think it is my faith but my surrender. I haven't really had a problem with faith, but surrender is HARD!

I have surrendered a lot in the last couple of years during the ups and downs of my husband's post-graduation job-search. I have learned to say "Let Your will be done, Lord!" We have surrendered our expectations, humbling ourselves that things do not work out in our timing. We have surrendered our budget to the Lord as we have been led to a Total Money Makeover. We have surrendered a lot of our material things either to someone else who gave us some minimal cash for it or just donated stuff. We surrendered time around the holidays last year for David to work a seasonal job to try to get ahead with some of our debts. We will eventually be surrendering our home back to the bank because we cannot afford it and we cannot sell it since it is worth about half of what we owe on it. Surrendering is getting easier and maybe that is what we are supposed to learn.

Before David and I got married we decided that I would stay home when we had children. Being a SAHM is the hardest and best job I ever loved and we still feel like that is what is right for our family but as his job is coming to an end, as I was helping him search for jobs online, I found a part time position in my old line of work (phlebotomy) that was closing soon. I applied for it and figured we could talk about it and I could still turn it down if we decided against it. I still don't know what to do. I have an interview on Tuesday and I am leaving things in God's hands. I have been praying so much for what His will might be. I know what mine is, but I feel like I am being led in this direction and I have never been one to turn down an opportunity if I felt like it was the right thing.

As it turns out my mom is available right now to watch Blueberry a few days a week. I am still praying for guidance and David is supportive either way. I am relying on faith that I will know the right decision when it is the time to make it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Litte Bean: First Ultrasound

Some days the timing just works out! I got Blueberry to nap early so she could rest before my ultrasound appointment instead of going down two hours late. David got a late lunch approved and we got to see our little bean today!

Ultrasound went great. The expected due date is still Jan 17th. The hearbeat was 155 bpm.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Monthly Food Budget

(This is copied over from my Wisdom Nutrition blog)

The food budget is always a work in progress in my house. Eating mostly lower-carb and gluten-free whole foods is a challenge even with a liberal food budget but with our lifestyle choices (me being a SAHM) we have a tight budget and I am always working on how to minimize cost without compromising nutrition. Saving up leftover money from our budget allows us some luxuries like stocking up on some items at Costco.

We keep cutting back our food budget by finding new strategies and I was curious to see a national average. I wanted to see how we were doing. I came across the USDA Food Plans Average Cost of Food at Home which is updated monthly. It is fascinating how they break it down by different "plans". Even with our food restrictions we are still in the "thrifty" range so I'm patting myself on the back right now.

Here are some ways we cut back: (Please note this is only regarding food purchased to be prepared at home. The first thing you should cut back if you need to cut your food budget is eating out.)

Buying a Chest Freezer: This is a worthy investment. Don't buy all those bulk foods if you don't have a place to store them. How are you going to buy half a cow if you don't have a place to store it? How are you going to stock up when there is a great deal on anything that can be frozen if you don't have a place to put it? Of course, then you have to Cook out of the Freezer.

Getting smart about wholesale purchases: Costco (or whatever wholesale store you shop) is great but you go in there and drop $100 without even filling up your cart. That is not a problem unless you are buying empty calories, things that spoil quickly or things you wouldn't normally buy. Things I never buy at Costco: things I wouldn't buy a lot of if they came in a smaller package, produce, cookies, candies, empty calorie snack foods (I make an exception for whole-grain snacks for my daughter like Annie's snack variety pack), things I don't go through a lot of (examples: spices, or ingredients I only use for that one dish I make twice a year, etc.) Great things to buy at Costco: highly nutritious foods that have long shelf-lives or can be frozen (if you have the freezer space), and things you know you will use a lot of. Compare prices for everything, just because it is at Costco, doesn't mean you can't find it cheaper per unit somewhere else. Always go with a list!

Make the most of bulk foods: Maybe I'm spoiled but my local grocery store recently remodeled and expanded their bulk foods section. Herbs and spices are more fresh and SOOOOOO much cheaper in bulk. Just reuse the shaker bottles you already have, or find some glass jars at a yard sale or thrift store. I have been using mason jars to store things more and more. Compare prices because often staples like rice, pasta, flour, sugar, salt, etc are ALL cheaper in bulk.

Buy Local: Local beef, local eggs, local produce. Often cheaper than the free-range store-bought and more nutritionally packed too. Produce is especially fresh if purchased from a CSA or U-Pick farm. As I already mentioned beef, if bought as a portion of a whole cow usually comes at a fraction of the cost that you would pay if you bought some of the cuts you get individually. Check Local Harvest for one near you. Here in Oregon we don't get much local produce until June and it sometimes lasts through October, but get it while you can. We do a lot of freezing of our favorites like blueberries and peaches. I plan to do more canning this year, but mostly tomatoes as I am trying to get away from using store-bought canned tomatoes because of concerns with BHT in the packaging. Special note about eggs: for the price, it is more important that you know where they are coming from and that the animals are healthy than getting the best "deal" so ask the farmer what they feed the hens and check out their living space.

Price Foods Online: Some examples of high-nutrition-content foods I have found much cheaper online (often free shipping with minimum purchase) are: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Unsweetened Grated Coconut, Sesame Seed Butter, Extremely Fresh and Organic Herbal Teas (high mineral content), and non-denatured whey protein powder (we get Nectar brand.) Some people don't look online just because they expect to have to pay shipping. If there is a shipping cost, just factor it into your comparison calculation.

Read Labels and Try the Generic: Sometimes you will find that the generic or store brand has the same or better ingredients than the name brand. I actually prefer the generic versions of some items. Try new things. Did you know that credit card companies contract with Mattel to get their logos on their toys because studies show we are THAT loyal to brands that if we are exposed to them often as children we are more likely to stick to that brand as we get older. Think about that one...

Coupons: I had to throw this in even though I'm no expert. Some people can get into this and save a ton of money. If you have a good resource for this, please feel free to leave it in the comments. The grocery store we use has the cheapest prices of all of the other stores by far but they don't accept coupons so I don't use them often. I personally find that where I live it is not worth my time and gas money to go to all of the different stores to save just a few cents, but other cities might be different. I also have a hard time finding coupons for the things I buy since I don't buy a lot of prepackaged or name brand foods.

Meal Planning: I don't know how much money I save meal planning, as this was just one of many things I did to cut back our food budget. The fewer trips to the grocery store might  count for something. This frugal mom did find that she cut back significantly by meal planning for her large family. Meal planning helped me more with my stress level and organization than anything, but it also helped me to get more into a rhythm of using what I had first instead of just stocking up on foods I liked to cook with and getting creative when it was time to cook dinner (which I admit has been my strategy until more recently). Even if you can't stick to it from week to week, try meal planning as a way to reorganize yourself mentally. I try to plan Lunch and Dinner every day and breakfasts/brunches on weekends.

Planned-Overs: My mother-in-law taught me this term and I liked it. Instead of making a large pan of enchiladas, split it up into different pans for each meal you plan to serve, so there is only enough for each person to have their appropriately size serving. If I make a big pan, my dear husband (who LOVES enchiladas, his mom said that she never could make ENOUGH enchiladas when all the kids were at home) will eat much more than he should just because they taste good but then I don't have enough for another meal, so essentially messing with my plan. If I make two pans and I say "this one is for Friday", or BETTER YET! not even cook the second one and just freeze it ready to go in the oven then I have enough for two meals. Some people have different names for this and some working moms prep all of their dinners the weekend before. I have never been able to make that work, but when I do get inspired to make something, it only takes a little more time to make a second or third batch, saving me much more time later.

Children: Little ones are great at self-regulating so it can be frustrating when some days they eat twice as much as you do and other days they merely nibble. I don't believe in rationing food for children but do BEGIN with smaller portions so there is less waste. This also helps them to eat a balanced meal. 1 tablespoon per year of their age for each food group (protein, grain, vegetable, fruit or second vegetable) plus milk. Tell them they at least have to try some of the other food groups before they get more of their preferred food. This encourages them to try a variety and allows you to give them more as needed without having to throw away a large portion. I will reheat food once, same day only. Of course, make sure that uneaten food is not left out for long periods of time and follow food handling safety precautions. Err on the side of caution: when in doubt, throw it out!

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Children under 5: If you are struggling with your food budget, do see if you qualify for food assistance like WIC. They have a lot of great nutrition resources and education for young families as well as financial support for putting food on the table. They provide food assistance for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and any children up to the age of 5 if the family meets the income restrictions. Their Farm Direct program even allows beneficiaries to purchase locally grown vegetables and fruit directly from farms or farmer's markets that participate in the program. Their food choices have expanded recently to allow for gluten-free and dairy-free substitutions.

Do you have any strategies not listed here? How do these strategies work for you? 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Raynor Family Version 2.2

Raynor Family version 2.2 is currently under development with a planned release date of January 17, 2013.

We are
a baby!!

[ photo removed to avoid copyright infringement ]

Blueberry will be getting a baby brother or sister for her third birthday! She is already training to be a good big sister.

January baby!

[ photo removed to avoid copyright infringement ]

Monday, May 28, 2012

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Today while I was making my seasonal batch of laundry detergent. (It lasts us for 3 months, see recipe below) I was missing dryer sheets and decided to look for that dryer sheet recipe. I found another use for the cotton flannel washcloths I made more of recently by repurposing some receiving blankets that were too small anyway. I also found some great tips on making homemade dryer sheets. This is all in an effort to reduce paper waste in my household but also I just like to save money. We have not been using dryer sheets because we have sensitive skin in our family and it was just easier not to use them. The ones for sensitive skin are more expensive so I just gave them up for a while.

If you have school-age children, the chemical reaction of the baking soda and vinegar is kind of fun when mixing the solution for the dryer sheets.

Oh so VERY baby safe!! It is all natural and biodegratable. Easy to make- AND CHEAP!!!

-You will need one bucket w/lid (at least 3 gallons)
-one bar of Fels Naptha
-Washing soda (NOT baking soda-- but also made by A&H... found in the laundry isle.)

Boil 12 cups of water
Grate one bar of Fels Naptha
Disolve Fels Naptha in boiling water
remove water from heat
add 1 cup Borax
and 1 cup Washing soda
stir until completely disolved
(at this point- you can add oil essence if desired, or I add 2 TBS of Dr. Brauners Citrus)
pour solution into bucket, and fill to 3 gallons with cold water.

Soap will become gelotinous as it cools, and it is normal for it to be lumpy. It may need to be stirred after it is cold. Use 1/2 cup detergant per load you can add a scoop of OxyClean to heavily soiled loads, or vinegar to balance odor.
You can actually just mix the grated Fels Naptha with the borax and washing soda to make a dry laundry soap, but then you cannot add the essential oils and I haven't tried it this way.

This is actually just a method of stretching your eco-friendly box soap.

1 box Seventh Generation detg. (or any other earth safe detergent)
8 cups of Baking Soda
4 cups of Washing Soda
2 cups Borax

mix together in a large tub or bucket with lid
use 1/8 cup per load

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIY Magnet Dots

I got this idea from ConfessionsofaHomeschooler because she has a lot of dot-worksheet activities for preschoolers. I had my doubts as to the permanents of the self-sticking magnets, but it worked out. For less than $3 I made a set of 24 magnet pom-pom Dots.

2 pkg self-sticking magnets from craft store
1 bag of pom-poms from the dollar store

 Letter J dot-worksheet
from ConfessionsofaHomeschooler 

Blueberry loved them because they were "soft and fuzzy" and easy to handle. After we finished the letter J and j she made other designs with them.