Monday, April 30, 2007

May Grocery Challenge

Try as I might, my grocery bill constantly is constantly inching up. This month was worse than most as I didn't have the energy to stay on top of it all month. I need to challenge myself to have a turn around month. And, this is the month to do it.

Off the top of my head, in the freezer we currently have the following meats:
2 chuck roasts
3 whole chickens
4 pork chops
1 pork roast
10 lbs b/s chicken breasts
10 italian sausage links
4 lbs ground beef
1 lb pork sausage
2 lb kielbasa

Combine that with all the pasta, rice (20lbs) and 3lbs of potatoes we have left. I think we have plenty of food for the next month.
So, I have made out my list of what we have to buy this next month and it still comes to nearly $200. That is so scary. This is what I am allowed to buy:

4 gal of milk @ $2.99 each (this is the cheapest price in the area)
5lbs shredded cheese (~ $11)
3 containers Formula (~ $60)
Diapers (pullups for EM, overnight for K and 1 pkg for Junior)(~ $20)
2 lrg containers Yogurt ($5)
3lbs frozen veggies ($ 4)
Lrg Bag Fish Sticks ($7)
2 loaves sandwhich bread ($2)
lrg tub cream cheese ($3)
3 lrg Apple Juice ($10)
1 container powdered lemonade ($2)
20 ct tortillas ($2)
Dr. Peppers (my vice) $22 (8 12-packs on sale and will last until next sale)

Since we are going to be at the mountain house this coming weekend I am also giving myself permission to spend up to $20 on cheese from the Cheese Factory.

We are going to use up what we have in preparation for fresh eating in a couple of months. And, just to give us a break from the grocery store for awhile.

Wish me luck. I don't have shoe and clothes buying issues - I have grocery shopping issues.


19lbs of Strawberries

We went strawberry picking this morning and came away with 19 pounds of strawberries. I'm taking little break from cleaning, cutting and bagging them.

Don't they look yummy?

These local, sweet berries cost us $1 per lb. The sour, packaged strawberries in the grocery stores are on sale this week for $2.50 per lb. I took MB and K to help me, and it only took us about 30 minutes to pick this many berries.

We will freeze most of them to eat later in the year, make ice cream, smoothies. Tonight's dessert is probably the best of all: fresh strawberries & whip cream.



Sunday, April 29, 2007


My children have all had somewhere different that they wanted to be as babies to keep them happy. The trick is finding out what it is. Junior had finally gotten to the age that he just wasn't all that happy to be carried around all the time, and I'm trying not to take it personally that none of my children appreciate attachment parenting past four or five months.

I've ran the gaumet in our house to try and find his 'place' or activity. For MB it was either the floor or exersaucer - she could entertain herself happily. Nada for Junior. The floor is a no go for him and the exersaucer works for about five minutes. I didn't even have to try to comfy sofa/overstuffed chair that worked, and still works, for K. The swing (Em's passion and would still want one if I could find one large enough to hold her) is fine for feeding him, but if food isn't on the horizon he doesn't want to be there either.

Since he will stand up in my lap and 'jump' I figured it may be time to try out one of those doorway jumpers. It just so happened that at my last therapist appointment I mentioned this in our opening, general conversation (the one where she so sneakily converses about family going-ons over the past week to see how homicidal I'm feeling towards either husband or kids) (Really, I'm just joking I don't feel that way about the family). Anyway, she excuses herself for a moment and comes back into the room carrying a doorway jumper. It is free for my use until November!!

I came home and set it up. Junior has found his thing:

As you can see I can move him around depending on where we are. He loves when the other kids & dogs go racing by him, swinging him madly around.

Now I can get back to doing things in longer than 3-minute periods.



Friday, April 27, 2007

A new grocery store

About six months ago a Trader Joe's opened about three miles from my house. Everytime I drive by I have wanted to stop. I first heard about TJs from my sister who lives in Portland, Or. and loves the store, but it wasn't something we had here. I never stopped because I was either in a hurry or had all four kids with me and I wanted the opportunity to just browse.

Today DH ended up staying home from work. He has had a fever for the last few days and this morning he just gave into it and decided to be home and be miserable. Late this morning he felt well enough to let me go out with just MB and K so they could pick some gifts to take to a b-day party this weekend. While we were out I thought it was the perfect opportunity to stop and check out the store and see if it is worth putting on my grocery store list.

I was so surprised by the prices. For a store that specializes in healthy, organic, free-trade foods the prices were so good - especially on the staples which is what I buy. They had the cheapest price for a gallon of milk in the area, beating out my warehouse store which is generally the best. And, the milk while not organic is hormone-free. The egg prices were better than any of the grocery stores. Bread products were cheap considering it was high-quality name-brand. And the non-organic produce was in-line with the grocery stores (although I try to get my produce from farmer's markets it is good to know).

Since I had my own (hand-crocheted) grocery bag with me, I was even entered into their monthly $50 grocery drawing.

This is definitely going to add this store to my bi-weekly, payday shopping trip. I can't afford to buy all my groceries there but it is well worth it for breads and dairy products.

I came home and checked out their website and one of their links is a pdf file listing everyone of their foods that is gluten free, pages and pages of grocery items one can buy with no gluten.

Now I just need the Aldi's to get built a little bit closer to us and I would be in grocery heaven. Right now my 'grocery store' list looks a little bit like this:

Warehouse store - payday trips for formula, meats and pastas
Aldi's - once a month or when we start to run short on canned goods/boxed goods
Local grocery store (1) - within walking distance, good for picking up basic groceries other stores don't carry at any better prices, often find good meat deals as manager's specials. This tends to be our default store when we run out of things
Local grocery store (2) - sometimes has really good loss leaders, otherwise prices run a little high for me
Farmer's Market(s) - weekly, still trying to figure which one I want to be my primary as we have a choice of three

...and just added...

TJs - bi-weekly/payday - dairy & breads



Homemade Baby food

Had I known how easy it was to make my own baby food I would have not waited until my fourth child to do this. I am having lots of fun with it. Junior never turns it down, except for bananas - he doesn't seem to like bananas. And, I can whistle my way right past those 2 oz jars for $.54 each on the grocery store shelves.

In our freezer right now we have frozen cubes of: butternut squash, apple/banana puree, blueberry/banana puree, and sweet potatoes. In less than 10 minutes I can also freshly prepare green beans, peas or carrots from the frozen bags. In my frig is my large jar of (natural, old-fashioned - basic apples, water, citric acid) applesauce and large tub of vanilla yogurt. The only thing I have chosen not to make are rice or oatmeal cereal.

I didn't have to buy anything new and I don't have to shop very hard to find appropriate foods. I was already using the unsweetened, old-fashion applesauce for us and our stores carry a generic brand of it. Bags of frozen veggies are perfect and fast. Often I will just seperate out enough for him before I season and cook for the rest of us. My normal, everyday blender works perfectly for pureeing. And since we don't have an ice maker we have plenty of ice cube trays to freeze in.

The best thing is that I don't have to think "I'm running low on babyfood and need to go to the store." We always have food right here to give him.



Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Interesting conversation

Sunday afternoon I had an interesting conversation with one of my neighbors. She is the mother of two of MB's friends. She had called to invite MB to the school field trip to the zoo with her daughter for Thursday. I had to decline as we have the zoo already on our schedule and MB missed her piano class last week because she was sick. I appreciate her invite though because I do keep wondering if there is a way I could give MB first hand experience with how a class is managed - but the timing just didn't work out.

We moved on from that to discussing MB going to the elementary school next year. Apparently she talks about it with her daughter and all that. Neighbor mom asked me if it was true. And, to be honest we are still waffling. It is up to MB at this point and she keeps changing her mind. Anyway, neighbor mom told me not to do it. She started telling me about her last three years of experience with the school and the issues she has to deal with. She volunteers in the classrooms, and was a elementary teacher in a previous state, and told me about how the classes are managed at the school. Nothing that would fit MB's style of learning at all - which is the major problem she is having with her oldest son.

She is seriously considering homeschooling beginning next school year because of all the troubles. Her son, who is smart, is getting very discouraged and his grades have plummeted this year in 4th grade. Her daughter, in first, comes home whiney and exhausted (not her personality at all) because of the amount of quiet, seat work they are expected to finish during the day. Her daughter has been held in during recess because she will not read the 1st grade level books as homework, and instead wants to read the chapter books she likes. Apparently her 15 minutes of homework reading must be in the "See Dick" range.

Her last words were: "MB is such an original. I would hate to see what the school would do to her."

I so appreciate another, insiders viewpoint on the public schools. It was very interesting getting the inside scoop on the actual school MB would attend. I so don't want her to go. It tears me up just thinking about it.

But, MB is an experiential learner and until she actually experiences a ps class she is always going to wonder if it is like it is on tv or in books. She has this fairy tale idea of school. And if a month or six weeks in school would be enough to see that school is not like that then maybe it would be worth it. We could chalk it up to a personal experiment.

My biggest fear: that she would actually like it and want to stay.



Monday, April 23, 2007

How did you spend EarthDay 2007

I think we had the perfect weather for Earth Day this year. It was so good we didn't want to be inside, at all.

We stayed here at the house though, as EM is the next participant in spring ickies 2007. She woke up early in the morning spiking a fever. But being the two year old that she is, once the dose of motrin entered her system she was ready to go, and go, and go.

I started off the day hanging clothes outside on the line. I hung clothes and thought about the day. I hung clothes and gave thanks for the beautiful weather. I hung clothes and listened to the birds singing to each other. It was a wonderful meditative exercise in my normal chaotic life.

We finished planting the garden this weekend. The last to go in were a spur of the moment purchase of black bean seeds. I figured they would be fun to try.

Here is the garden bed. From left to right we have planted zuchinni, bush bean, green bell peppers, tomatoes, a volunteer vine (I'm thinking pumpkin), spinach, and broccoli. Along the back of the bed we have butternut squash, onions and carrots.

Back here was my original lettuce and spinach bed. It took a very bad hit from the heavy rains last weekend. The spinach in this bed was decimated except for one plant. On the lettuce side I have one plant doing well, and five others struggling. This was also an experimental, first season bed. Hopefully I can improve it over time.

The potato bed finally decided to start doing something. I hope it is working as hard underground as all that greenery it has sent up in the last couple of weeks.

Over here I will have cucumbers (in the container with the latice), trying Roma tomatoes from seeds (a little experiment for getting later season tomatoes) in the other square container, and the round container has the black bean bush seeds.

Here is another view of the garden bed. I love looking and seeing all these things growing. I don't have a black thumb!

We also opened up some of the Easter basket gifts that were not appropriate for the weather we had over Easter and following. Junior finally got to watch the automated Pooh bubble blower in action. And EM played with her new HUGE collection of bubble blowing wands.

We finished up the day playing soccer in the front yard. DH and I against MB and a friend. K served as our cheerleader and 'junior-sitter' while EM was the moving hazard on the game field. It was fun and we played right up until 8pm when the friend's mom called for him to come home. It was only then that we even thought about dinner.

We ordered chinese, got comfy on the couch and watched this week's installment of Plant Earth.

A good day was had by all.



Thursday, April 19, 2007


It's after 9 and the children are barely stirring. They were up at about dawn only to sink back into lifeless states in the living room later. Unfortunately we are having a run of spring illnesses through the house this week.

MB tries to be a trooper, getting upset when we tell her she shouldn't do something because she is sick. Yesterday she did perk up for most of the day only to have her dad carry her into the house after soccer practice. So, in light of that, I'm canceling the rest of the week. We are going to stay home, read through the generous piles of books I got from the library on Monday and watch movies. And, we are going to wait for the spring weather to return this weekend when I can finally air the house out, again.

I have to say that not staying on track with history has been a boon. Since we are still on the Ancient Greeks with plans to begin Ancient Rome over the summer months I was able to pick up a large supply of history resources at the library this week. These are part of the books that I get to keep until August!! I've never had such a large selection to choose from. I even located a science book on Ancient Machines that I thought would be a nice tie in.

For me, I picked up a pile of cook books to read through and try out over the summer months as we move into our fresh food self-challenge. I have already enjoyed my quick read-throughs and it has served to perk me up and get me back on track a little bit. I'm really aching for all the fresh summer foods. I'm thinking this is also a good time for me to experiment with using less gluten foods. My IBS has become very bad recently. Partly stress related, but I notice that it tends to hit after I've eaten pasta or bready meals. I've had to remove most Chinese foods (with sauces) from my diet already. But, when I'm not feeling well I've noticed that protein foods, unproccesed fruits & veggies, and foods marked 'gluten-free' don't seem to have a negative affect. Things that make me go hmmmm.....

I'm going to go try and get some cleaning energy while it is quiet.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Something for me

The week has gotten better, I've gotten better. The medicine kicked in so I no longer looked as if I was doing a very bad Katherine Hepburn imitation. Unfortunately I came down with a head cold on the other side of my adrenal overload. Tends to happen to me as stress overloads my immune system and I will come down with whatever is floating in the air at the time.

Amazingly we actually did accomplish some schoolwork this week!! Having something like that to concentrate on does make it easier than rambling around the house thinking about how bad I feel. And by Friday I was actually able to pick up my crochet needle again to work on the bag I had to set aside a couple of weeks ago. That is one way that I could tell I was improving.

Yesterday morning we had a yoga session. The first one we have actually tried since I found out I was pregnant with junior. I did my yoga DVD and then put one in for the girls to do. We had forgotten how much fun we could have with it. Of course I have to admit during my turn the comments from the peanut gallery were a little disturbing.
"Its okay (mom) that you are not as flexible as her. She's like in her twenties, and you are just older than that"

"When you bend over your head is supposed to be touching the block. Why isn't your head touching the block?"

The girls had their first of two choir performances last night. This was the one for the homeschool group art festival. DH took them and my sniffly, coughing self stayed home with the little ones. They did very well and DH did enjoy himself. Of course convincing him to go without me was kind of like pulling teeth. Tuesday night they will have another, longer performance mainly for family and such. My mom will be in town to attend so I will go to that one. After that Choir will be done for the year. The girls have really enjoyed it, but can you feel the excitement - one by one we are reducing our class load. Tuesday will become another day that we can plan activities for us and not feel like we are working around a noon class.

I did something wild and crazy and just for me yesterday afternoon. I had this need to do something to feel better about myself. I had this huge mane of hair - it is thick and curly (thank you pregnancy hormones from junior) and all I ever seemed to do was pull it back into a pony tail. About three months ago I had gotten so frustrated with it that I actually had DH just give me a blunt cut. But I never seem to do anything with my appearance. It is always so secondary in my life.

Once DH was home from working I went to the haircut place in the shopping center and told them to cut. I told them Reese Witherspoon from "Sweet Home Alabama", but the hairdresser got a little scissor happy and it is a shorter version of that hair cut. It looks good, but what I didn't expect was that I really have curly hair now. I've always had wavy hair if I let it grow out. But, short - it was always straight. She cut all these layers in the back and they just want to curl up. When I stood up 7 and 10-inch strands of hair fell from my lap.

Then I picked up a box of haircolor (Light Auburn) the closest to my childhood hair color. I came home and colored my hair.

I can honestly say that I've probably managed to cut five years off of my physical appearance (meaning I'm looking a little bit closer to the age I am actually). It was a great boost to my spirit. To do something meaningless, yet just for me.

The kids had a mixed bag reaction:
MB did not like it at all. She wants me to have my longer hair back.
K wants a hair cut just like it.
Em keeps repeating "cut hair?" and touching my head and then her head
Junior keeps studying me intensely, showing off all his worry lines on his forehead.

Not going to do anything wild and crazy today. The weather is horrible and I am going to stay home and rest. I want to be able to move into next week ready to tackle what comes.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pause in my life

A few times I have commented on some personal level stuff that I have to fight. Generally, though I try to keep it separate from my blog life and homeschooling life. But, KathyJo at Barefoot Meandering has posted about a bill in Illinois called the Postpartum Mood Disorders Prevention Act .

Besides the fact, that in my opinion, medical professionals are horrible at diagnosing mental disorders. This type of bill is just another way that the state would like to step in and become the 'parent' for the child. Only those who meet the states rigid standards are now allowed to parent children. If any parent is shown to have any weaknesses or and inability to fall lock-step with government mandates will be unable to raise children for the fear of creating another generation of free-thinkers. (these are just my own thoughts on what the ideas are behind the law) Remember the Hitler saw mental illness as a weakness and had those people killed - no matter that he was psychotic himself.

My children are the most precious beings in my life. There are times that they are the reason I get up in the morning and do what I do. The time during the day that I spend with them are generally the most sane times of the day for me, even with the chaos of four young children.

I have suffered from mental illness (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), mostly undiagnosed or diagnosed wrongly, for 90% of my life. And that does include my childhood. Thankfully I had a period of remission from about age 20 to age 30, in which I married and began having children. A few months after Em was born, or about two years ago, my symptoms were triggered again. And since then I have been riding an up-and-down roller coaster.

Eighteen months ago I started therapy again. And with that and some breathing, meditation techniques I have for the whole, been able to control the anxiety to a functionable level. I try very, very hard to avoid medications for me. When you have a depression episode and an MD prescribes the newest and hottest anti-depressant and it ends you up in the nuthouse, then you might be wary also. It wasn't the only bad reaction I had from anti-depressants, so I tend to shy away from them as long as I am functioning.

I had noticed that my anxiety had been growing stronger over the last few weeks. And this weekend my anxiety has just about reached non-functioning levels. What do you mean its not normal to want to throw the prayer book during Easter Morning services and run out of the sanctuary screaming? No, I didn't do this I just really wanted to.

I saw my therapist on Monday and we decided that it would be helpful for me to take a short-term anxiety medication. I agreed with that, I'm not opposed to meds when necessary - just a life-long dependency on them to be 'normal.' She referred me to a local doctor that has been very helpful to her in the past, and I went to see her yesterday.

Well I must have hit her on a really bad day. Because she had not reviewed the letter my therapist sent over and she starts quizzing me on all these things and then gave me a diagnosis and started writing a prescription for Prozac. Thanks, but no thanks. We argued, yes argued, for twenty minutes. Apparently at the beginning of the session she thought I was moderately depressed with anxiety and by the end she was telling me that if I don't start on an anti-depressant that I would be in the hospital by the end of the week. Which doesn't make any sense to me since she was telling me that it would be about two weeks before I started to see the drug working.

By this time my anxiety symptoms had exploded exponentially since they are adrenal (fight or flight) based. I could tell she just wanted this crazy, stubborn, stupid woman who doesn't know what is good for her out of the office.
I told her that I wanted a prescription for X.

"Well X isn't generally given for depression with anxiety."

But I don't have depression - I have PTSD, and it is given for anxiety related to that

"I don't know. It's nothing I have ever done before. But if it has worked for you I'll give you the prescription. You need to go see a psychiatrist about getting your depression treated soon."

Stupid MDs. That visit did nothing to improve my feelings about doctors in general.

Now, I'm thinking I need to be looking over my shoulder for CPS to show up soon since I refused the anti-depressant.

Kids on ritalin, parents on prozac = happy little sheep. Baaaaa.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

What happened to Summer?

With the weather we have been having it has been pretty easy to fall into a false sense of 'summer.' This morning we woke up to the reminder that it is still Spring and that means temperature changes. We will be cold, or shall I say colder, until this time next week.

Yet, this morning MB brought to me an example of how even the insects were being fooled by mother nature. She had a tick embedded - ewwww and of course dh the master tick puller had just walked out the door. I've slathered it with petroleoum jelly and I've soaked it with rubbing alcohol - and then I couldn't find the tweezers. Where have those little pullers gone? I tried with some nail trimmers and even the plastics tweezers that MB had in her room. We decided to wait until dh comes home tonight. By then I will have time to get a new pair of tweezers.

During MB's piano class today I'm going to have to run over to the home improvement store and see if I can find some sheets of plastic to make a temporary cold frame for the garden. What I have planted are considered 'cold hardy' but they are looking so nice I hate to take any chances. I have a frame for a play castle tent - I figure I might be able to hang plastic over that and secure with some bricks.

DH normally goes to the Sunrise service on Easter morning to play his trumpet with the band. The forcast for sunrise sunday - 26 degrees. He is thinking about skipping that one this year. I'm thinking the pretty white sweaters the girls have to wear over their easter sundresses just are not going to cut it this year. And, I still don't have shoes - I keep forgetting that minor detail.

I have tomorrow to run errands - DH is off!

Have a very Happy Easter if I don't get back before then!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Christmas for Me

Last night I was going through my emails when I opened one from the hs support group. It was an FYI from the library that is around the corner from our house. The one we walk to.

It is closing for three months at the end of April for renovations and..... so they don't have to pay to store so many of the books they are asking that we come and check out as many as we want and keep them until....August. I printed off the email to remind my addeled head to go over there in two weeks and gather up all sort of homeschooling materials, knitting/crocheting, cookbooks and whatever else that we may have fun with for the next three months. You just have to check them out so they are not due until May, and we have three week check outs....

I may even pay up my collective library fees out of sheer gratitude.



Monday, April 02, 2007

Thinking of Changing our School Name

Last Friday for part of our Un-school Friday we walked to the library and actually spent a very enjoyable time there, for a change. It is nice to know that Em has finally outgrown the screaming fits she would have every time we walked in the door. While there my eye caught on a Dr. Seuss book I had not seen before, so of course I had to pick it up and bring it home.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! was written after his death based upon sketches and notes he had made. Another book similar to Oh the Places You Will Go, a favorite of mine, in that it was written for children and adults. I must get this book to put on my shelf along with some of his others that really speak to me.

Here is a school that all the children love because they do things differently and the teachers can make their own rules. Teachers teach things like listening and yelling, how to tell cactuses from cows, and why hippos cannot fly - and other things that the kids don't know. The only person who isn't happy is the principal because he doesn't know if they are learning the right things. One day he has to announce to the school that they have to take a test:

"All schools for miles and miles around
Must take a special test
To see who's learning such and such -
To see which school's the best.
If our small school does not do well,
Then it will be torn down,
And you will have to go to school
In dreary Flobbertown."

"Not Flobbertown!" we shouted,
And we shuddered at the name,
For everyone in Flobbertown
Does everything the same.

The favorite teacher in the school tries to calm everyone down with:
"You've learned the things you need
To pass that test and many more -
I'm certain you'll succeed.
We've taught you that the earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more -
We've taught you how to think."

Of course they pass with the highest score and everyone is happy.

With my own opinions about schools lately and testing, this was one of those picture books that my children just couldn't figure out why I was giggling so hard. Kind of like watching Happy Feet with the kids this weekend. DH and I kept catching all the adult references and phrases said under breath and laughing - MB and K would look at us funny and tell us very seriously that those weren't the funny parts.

So, I'm considering changing our school name, at least in my head because that is the only place it matters - from Explorations Academy to Diffendoofer Academy.

This evening I got online and researched googled the story so I could include a link. I thought it was also funny that there were so many links to elementary classroom activities for this book. Like schools are really allowed to be 'creative' and they actually want the children to learn how to THINK for themselves. The kids might actually discover that they could learn something without being force-fed small tidbits of information.

If you haven't had a chance to read this book, get it. There is a special feature in the book showing how the book came to be, along with photos of Seuss' own sketches and rhymes he had been working on. It isn't very often one gets to see an artist's draft work.



Picture Monday

For a lack of anything exciting to write about. I share pictures of the beauty of spring around our home.

Our azaleas this year have really bloomed out. This is the best time of the year for our yard. In a few months we will have very little color except shades of green & brown.

Here is a close up of one of the blueberry bushes. It is full of little baby blueberries like these.

Our broccoli is growing, growing, growing.

The lettuce bed. I can't wait until I can pick enough for a salad for us.

My baby spinach plants. Again, waiting waiting, waiting until I can have a fresh spinach salad from the garden.

The tomato seedlings have come up, along with carrots and my herbs. So far only my bell pepper seedlings and potatoes have been disappointing. After Easter I will be planting more of our tender/summer veggies.

And, by the way if anyone has a special line to the Mother's Day fairy. Could you let her know that I am craving one of these:



A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.