Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No I am not the fool

So here’s the deal. I have been giving the whole ‘organic, lots of veggies and fruits’ diet a lot of thought. Then I turned on the TV and watched Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’ . You all know how I love Jamie Oliver (my brother-in-law just replaced my favorite cookbook of his that I lost in the fire and I have been over the moon but that’s another story) so I had to watch.

Jamie visited kids in West Virginia that didn’t know what a potato much less a beet was. The kids in school had pasty skin and flabby muscle tone. The parents were literally dying from heart disease (the number ONE killer of men and women) because of their food choices.

Jamie visited one family, got out the food she fed her children and in the sweetest way possible, informed her she was killing her children.

I looked at my children--cheeks so rosy it looks like they had make up on, bright eyes and hair, generally glowing. I feel so blessed to have ability and knowledge to give them a diet to help them thrive. Because of post about saving money, I was about to ignore that blessing.

So we are doing our Dave Ramsey budget. The grocery portion will stay generous and we will sacrifice on other things--my SUV and its 127,000 miles will need to last at least 15,0000 miles more, our home (when we get back to it!) will be our tiny little one story home for longer than expected.

And that’s OK.

As Dani mentioned, if you are healthy, you are rich. I always knew this. It just took some help from y’all and a TV to remind me!

I want to thank all of you so much for the great tips on the grocery post. I am going to make the time to hit the farmer’s markets, the local farm that has fresh eggs and compare compare compare my prices with my newly created ‘price journal’.

Now back to the kids and the parents who don’t the time or energy or money to get the ‘right’ food. I am going to be taking a few days off during Holy Week (details on a later post) and pray on a way to help. I just can’t sit back and watch these kids die an early death because of something so easy to prevent.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Income Equality"--An Analogy for Kids

Take your typical classroom. There are the kids who get straight A’s--some of these kids are just naturally smart and the tests and papers come easy to them; but more often than not, these kids work hard. They get to class on time, complete their homework and really strive to be the best they can be. They like the A.

Then there are your ‘C’ students. For some of these kids, they do try hard and school is a struggle. They just can’t seem to get it but they put fourth the effort and do the best they can which equates to average. There are also those 'C' students who could be 'A' students but would rather not put forth the effort

Finally you have your ‘F’ students. Now some of the kids are in bad situations--possible victims of abuse, parents who don’t care, or truly mentally disadvantaged. But let’s be honest (and if you’ve been in school you know this is true) most of these kids don’t care, are lazy and just would rather do something else than their homework.

Now let’s say a couple of the ‘A’ students feel badly about the ‘F’ students. They don’t think it’s fair they get an ‘F’ because they have bad homes or true mental disadvantages. The ‘A’ students are smart and focus on these children rather than the lazy ones even if there are some ‘A’ and “C’ students who have similar bad circumstances.

These students start the cry of unfairness pointing to those ‘naturally’ smart kids--they usually always dress nice, mom is always at school helping and they tend to break the curve in class. They are careful not to mention those 'A' students who do have a tough life but work very, very hard for that 'A'.

This gets the ‘F’ students, and even a few ‘C’ students, attention. Now the majority of the class sees an unfair situation.

The teacher decides to make things ‘fair’ She talks all the points in a test and divides them among the students until everyone has a low ‘C’--all the same grade (many of the ‘A’ students who protested the ‘unfair’ system petition to get extra points for bringing up the cause to bring their grades up slightly higher--not mentioned to the other students of course).

Now, no one waits to see how they did on the test. They already know what they got.

The hard workers start to relax a bit---if the work they do is going to be taken away, why bother? Right?

Slowly, the individual test scores drop until almost everyone is close to scoring the same every time--Ds and Fs. Even the naturally smarter students are doing worse--they feel unvalued and cheated.

Life is not fair, we know that. There are horrible circumstances out there. The glimmering hope out of the hard life is hard work--like it or not. ‘Giving’ someone not doing well by taking away what other kids earn is not right. And helps no one. The kids who never tried will continue never try and the kids who did try will give up. A tragedy.

So does this mean we should just ignore those kids who really got the bad brakes and are stuck with the 'F's? No, but hand-outs won't help. Personally giving them a hand and helping them experience success for themselves is what will help. Everyone deserves a shot at success but to punish those who do find success is just silly.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, March 22, 2010

You can't Spoil a Child who just Lost her Home

After our fire, our children received a parade of visitors and gifts. Neighbors we never met dropped off bags of toys, fellow moms took my children shopping and bought them whatever they wanted, relatives sent packages daily filled with lots of fun little treats. Even I was more laid back--they got soda at restaurants along with dessert, every store we visited, we got them a toy. I remember taking them to get shoes a fews after the fire and Sarah pulled down some UGGS while Miley grabbed some Michael Kors dress shoes and the boys begged for these fancy light up shoes with a special sole. I bought them not even caring how much they were. They had been in either hand me down shoes or no shoes since the fire. (I did get the boys some very cheap shoes at Wal-mart but they got some pretty bad blisters--flat footed kids!)

And then there was bedtime. They did not want to be alone and strangely neither did Mike or I. We all piled into one of the hotel beds every night. A tight fit but we did manage to sleep.

There was some attitude creeping in about a week after the fire. I got concerned that maybe we needed to bring back our ‘real’ lives and stop living in this fantasy kid world.

I remember asking a friend who went through her own fire a few years back if she was worried about spoiling her child.

She laughed, “You can’t spoil a child who just lost his home!”

I paused to think about what she was saying. I hadn’t really thought much about how they felt about losing their HOME. I was so concerned making sure we had food, clothing and something to put a smile on their faces, I didn’t remember that the place they have been their entire lives was burned and half destroyed. I knew because of insurance our house and all the items in it would be replaced, eventually but then I am an adult. My kids, even the oldest, really have no concept how home insurance works.

I talked to them and we talked about what happened. Spanky, the three year old, cried about how spiderman (his Christmas present) was burned. Dino tearfully said he missed his bed, and the girls--oh the girls--they were sad they didn’t have the stuffed animals they have had since little babies.

And then it really hit me how devastating this was for them. Their world was destroyed. Any sort of comfort Mike and I could provide was needed.

So we continued the toys and the desserts for a while.

Three months later, there are not as many gifts nor as many desserts (yes even the kids got sick of sugar) and we are starting to reach a new normal. The kids are helping to pick things for the ‘new’ house and are eagerly excited to have a big party when we get home.

And they know we will be HOME soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Honor of Spring--flashback to an earlier Spring Post

Ahhhh..finally time to discard the lightweight coats in favor of short sleeves. Yes, it's that one week in Texas when we can frolic about outside under the big blue sky without fear of freezing rain or heat stroke. It is the perfect week. But which time honored spring tradition shall we do?
Take an invigorating bike ride?
Pick up a bat and enjoy America's great past time?
Prepare our feet for open-toe shoes with a pedicure?
OR wallow in the mud like a spring piglet?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pennywise and Pound Foolish or am I the Fool?

As I may have mentioned Mike and I are following the Dave Ramsey plan to save and prosper. Anyway, I have been looking for more ways to save and stumbled on another frugal grocery shopper who followed Dave Ramsey via ‘the web’.

It turned out, I spend three times as much on groceries per week as her. Now true I have a larger family (by 2) but still--three times as much?! I read her money saving tips and one thing stood out. Her fresh produce consisted of one item--3 yellow onions. My produce on the other consistently represents 60-70% of my entire bill. She went on to discuss buying discounted milk in bulk (she freezes it) and then any mark-down meat which seemed to almost always be ground beef--I am not sure what mark-down or discounted means but I am thinking it means about to go bad. She also mentioned she went to a health food store and bought a few items like organic whole flour (no meat, eggs, dairy or produce) but only bought items that were marked down--actually she said she only bought items that were marked down.

I told Mike about her grocery bill and rather than saying ‘we should try that’, he actually said ‘I bet she goes to bed every night feeling like crap."

Now we are not the world’s greatest eaters but I try very hard to get the best organic produce, dairy and meat (sometimes the meat is only hormone free but it is at least hormone and preservative free---the animal and animal by-products are actually my biggest ‘must’ for being organic (and humanely treated--but that’s another issue)). I honestly feel this has helped our family stay healthy. We don’t have any sort of indigestion issues--no meds or over the counter medicine are in our cabinets (except baby Motrin for when our kids might get sick with very high fevers--and that Motrin always expires half-full).

But is this worth spending three times what this frugal shopper is?

I would love to save more money but I certainly don’t want to risk my health doing it.

But am I?

Is it really better to keep your kitchen free of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artifical food colorings and flavors, growth hormones and animal antibiotics with a smaller bank account or is it better to eat whatever the FDA says is acceptable and have extra money in the bank?

I don’t know. I can tell you I feel well. Head aches, stomach aches, groggy feelings are pretty rare in our home---they mostly show up during a vacation or after a serious ‘out food binge’. But I can also tell you I’d like to save more money. I have talked with other shoppers who shop like me and my budget is much less. This gives me comfort....but spending three times more than this other person----geesh, I dunno know.

Blogger world--what’s your take? Is the healthy diet worth it? Will spending all this money be an asset for my body 20 years from now or will it make no difference?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Meal Plan for Spring and The Tourney :)

Our weekend has been amazing--sunny skies, low seventies, birds chirping, flowers blooming. And what’s even more exciting? The spring produce is starting to find its way to to the farmer’s markets and produce section. Asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, spring peas--all fresh and yummy!

Yes, it’s true you can get these produce any time of the year but they have been either stored for months or shipped from the other end of the world--both of these affect the nutritional value and taste.

In Texas, we get the seasonal fruit and veggies a bit earlier than most because of our weather but cheer up my north of the Mason-Dixon line friends, spring is right around the corner :)

(Remember if there is not a link, email me for the recipe!)


Salmon Teriyaki with Asparagus


Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and fennel (make your own tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes, garlic, wine and basil)


Radicchio, Endive and Asparagus Salad with Grilled Chicken (if I can find a little grill, if not, broiling it) (and of course it’s green--Saint Patty’s Day people!)


Left over rigatoni with a fun salad including fresh berries and nuts (first night of the tourney--no way am I cooking!)


Take-out (yep, more basketball)


Roast Leg of Lamb (yep--meats have seasons too) with some roasted spring veggies (it cooks mostly on its own so I can watch basketball)


Tortilla crusted goat cheese and asparagus quiche (hoping it works with corn tortillas to keep it gluten free) ( a quick dish so I can watch them games)

For more recipes, check out Jen at Chive Talkin’.

And GO BUCKEYES!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Handwriting Tips for Little Hands

Handwriting Matters.

One of the most overlooked things in school is penmanship. I find this heartbreaking.

Penmanship does so much more than create neat handwriting. It helps with discipline and focus--both traits needed to get the perfect loops, the perfect lines and the correct spacing.

I admit I am that mom who will crumble a paper my girls have spent time on simply because the handwriting is sloppy. How can you be proud of your work if you can barely read it? Yes, it is a little harsh but trust me, it takes less than a couple times for them to get the handwriting legible!

Dino, on the other hand, has issues with his fine motor skills. The pencil grip is extremely difficult for him. To be honest, the tripod grip is next to impossible so we have adapted using just two fingers on top. The one thing I won’t let him do is the fist grip--using three (or more) fingers to hold the pencil. You press down too hard with this grip and you can’t get a solid fluid control. If you see your kids holding the pencils this way, please keep reading. (If you are completely in the dark with all of this--check out this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM_dia8QGr0 ).

I have a number of tools to help Dino hold his pencil right--a grip, a special pencil and ‘flip-crayons’. I love all of these because they force Dino to hold his pencil correctly.

Another thing to help is something as simple as Play-Doh. Making shapes, rolling and other Play-Doh activities actually build muscles in little fingers. A very favorite activity here is rolling letter shapes and placing them on cookie sheets---phonics lesson and fine motor exercise at the same time!

Handwriting Without Tears” is an excellent program to help kids with handwriting. I love the stamp and see board. They use one of four shapes to ‘build’ letters. It teaches how the letters are made and of course more fine motor exercise!

Dino is not a fan of handwriting but it’s one of those “has to be done” things. With the tools above, hopefully Dino will get the hang of it!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

About six years ago, Miley started a new activity, skating. I put her in skating because she had good balance and was upset she couldn’t wear glitter during her ballet recitals (yes, glitter).

I was surprised that was actually really good, except that she wasn’t quick enough for her cross overs. The coach explained she needed figure skating skates, not the hockey skates that came with the lesson. So I shelled out a bit of cash for skates, and of course the money required to get the blades sharpened on the usual basis.

Miley continued to skip levels, but was getting frustrated because she wanted to do more, and she wanted to be in a competition.

I asked the coach how we do this, thinking maybe they sign up and then do their own little dance.

Oh silly me.

I was told Miley needed a private coach. And she needed private lessons at least 3-4 times a week.

I decided to go with the private lessons, thinking it couldn’t be that bad.

Ha--add the $35 per half hour lesson plus the $10 ice time plus the program fee plus the costume plus the figure skating membership plus the skates plus the sharpening and multiply the first two numbers by about 12-15 per month......and you have a car payment.

Because I was pregnant with my third at the time, I decided to give it a go for one summer. Miley loved it. She had so much fun---jumped around excitedly for each lesson. And then had her first show.

She did some Chinese spirals, little jumps and twists. Then she fell and did the most amazing thing. My just turned six year old just got up and continued like nothing happened. Smiling and happy the entire time.

I was so proud.

Then came school time, schedules, a third sibling and of course the tuition that comes with school.

And we had to stop figure skating. She has never stopped asking to go back in the past years. It’s not every day but at least once a week, she asks if there is any way she can go back. It’s heartbreaking---we have neither the time or the income to support this completely.

Fast forward to now. I signed up Miley for track for her physical activity. She hates it. It’s almost every day and she complains each and every time, even if I let her wear glitter (yes, that still matters to my Miley).

I know she can do track. I know she can handle her tough schedule. But she needs better focus.

We discussed focus with her and she asked daddy if she focused really hard and fought for a minimum 92 average at school (this is not a small feat--she has a classical Christian education) along with not complaining but really trying at track, could she please please go back to figure skating during the summer?

Daddy added a few more requirements along with trying gymnastics for a season. Then added he would send her back to skating if he saw true dedication in everything.

I gulped.

She has held up her grade average. She is trying in track.

And summer is closer.

And I am praying. Praying if skating is what God wants Miley to do (she insists it is), that the Lord will find the time and money for us to get it done.

And if He doesn’t bring that, if He could please put the idea in Miley’s head that track is the coolest thing ever? Please?!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Meal Plan---Cookbooks are not written in stone

I really love cookbooks, really! I love learning new recipes and then throwing on my own twist because that is where you can really do something different. Unless you are baking deserts (specifically pastries), you can really shake things up! (Deserts usually need to be followed to the letter or you end up with a flat, chewy cake or a blob that is supposed to be pie crust.)

This week I am going to try some new stuff with of course my own twist. The link provides the actual recipe; the information that follows is my own personal additions. If there is no link and you are dying to find the recipe, make a note in the comment box :)


Ham and Asparagus Frittata--After looking this over I am leaning toward just using 6 whole eggs with two additional egg whites. I am also skipping the onion because I am not an egg and onion fan


Taco Salad--My own take---crushed tortillas chips topped with some baby spinach, and then bison meat sauteed in taco mix (yes a packet--just make sure it’s no MSG or ad stuff) and then some Mammoth cheddar


Pasta Bolognese--I am skipping the bacon (gasp) and upping the carrots. After the veggies soften, I’ll add a few glugs of wine. (no link as it is not yet available---from Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution')


Cinci Chili--This one is mine---I might replace the paprika with just chili powder as I don’t have that spice yet


Lasagna--Using some left over bolognese here. Curious as to how it will work without mozzerella. Not messing with much else here. (no link as it is not yet available---from Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution')


Mexican Stew--Adding more chili powder and some diced jalepenos :)



For more meal ideas, be sure to check out Jen at Chive Talkin’