Monday, May 28, 2012

Frugal in the kitchen

I've had a few people ask me recently to share some frugal tips. I thought it'd be easiest to share my frugal tips room by room, just for organization's sake. I'm starting with the kitchen, because it seems to be the easiest place to see fast results.


Here you can read my post about how to start the ball rolling on frugal grocery shopping. Stockpiling is key!

Next, you must make sure you're using everything you buy. I'm not always perfect in this respect, especially since returning to school. Here is a post about how I used up our turkey leftovers at Thanksgiving, just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Dinner leftovers make great lunches the next day. Grilled chicken can become chicken salad, or be diced and thrown into a tortilla with some salsa and a bit of cheese. Even a couple of spoonfuls of veggies can be a side dish for Sam (14 months old) at lunch. I've dressed up fried potatoes with cheese to make a quick lunch for me. And remember to save the heels of bread for homemade croutons or breadcrumbs! Get creative! Try stretching your dollar by delaying your grocery trips by just one more day, if possible. An eight-day week might make your creativity blossom! My trips are usually about every 10 days, not counting a quick stop by Aldi for milk every few days.

Think ahead! I really liked the suggestion in The Tightwad Gazette, that dinner plans for the next day be made while washing dinner dishes. That way I'm still in the kitchen, thinking about dinner, thinking about what we had and what leftovers I've got - it helps me decide what I'm going to make the next night and determine if anything needs thawing. (That means I'm less likely to have a dinner emergency at 4:30 the next night and run down to the corner grocery for a pricey convenience meal!)


Most of the cleaning supplies I use, I make myself from non-toxic ingredients. There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel and detail all of my recipes, as so many other women have done a better job than I of putting the info out there. I recommend the book Clean House, Clean Planet for the best recipes. I've also made my own laundry soap in the past. Go Google it, I know you'll get a few 100 recipes. My tip? Use the dry recipe. It's easier to put together.

The basic of cleaning with homemade ingredients is vinegar. Don't like the smell? So what?! The smell goes away as soon as the vinegar has dried. I also use tea tree oil, castile soap (Dr. Bronner's Peppermint is my fave), and baking soda. Borax (my one toxic ingredient) is used in the toilet bowl.

Trash Talk

Don't buy paper products to clean with. Good grief! Talk about throwing your money away! Show of hands - how many people have stained t-shirts that they just throw away? Mismatched or holey socks? Start yourself a little bin in your laundry room or in your kitchen for those odds and ends, and put them to good use. Have an unmentionable mess that you NEED to throw away? Then use that old t-shirt to clean it up and THEN throw it away.

Are you reusing your food containers for storage? There are so many uses for salad containers, for coffee cans, for cereal boxes - you can pretty up so many items that most "normal" (read: in debt up to their eyeballs) people would throw away. Don't even get me started about milk jugs. Those little wonders are GOLDEN in a frugal kitchen. And don't even tell me if you're not washing out your ziploc baggies after every use - 'cause you know that those couple of bread crumbs left in that bag makes it completely unsanitary for reuse. (that was sarcasm, btw.) That kind of waste keeps me up at night. *shudder*

Are you composting? Recycling? Trash bags are expensive. Some of you have to pay for trash pickup by weight or volume. Ask yourself, every time you throw something away, "Can I reuse this?"

Are you using cloth napkins? Handkerchiefs? (Use the 100% cotton variety of both.) Handkerchiefs can often be found at Target after Christmas for a steal. I've also found some beautiful vintage ones at garage sales for a quarter. If you have children, are you cloth diapering?

Okay, that's all I've got for now. Next up? The laundry room!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Suffer the little children...

Today, when we walked into Mass, it was as quiet as a tomb.

How prescient. 

Two parents with five children trooped into church today. Before the Gospel, two parents with five children trooped back out.


Because I will not stay where my children are not welcome. 

But let me back up and give you the full story.

A few months ago, our parish (because of a lack of priests) cut out one Sunday Mass and shifted the remaining Mass times. Our "normal" Mass time was pushed half an hour earlier. Because Hubby works nights (and by necessity sleeps late), it was tough for us to make the new, earlier Mass time. So we started going to Mass at a different parish that had a later Mass time. The new parish has no attached school (read: fewer children), but does have a young priest who gives excellent homilies. I loved going to Mass at the new parish because my sons got to see a young man, vibrant in faith, who has answered God's call to the priesthood. As an added bonus, the building was constructed in the mid-1800's, and is absolutely breathtaking. (Our parish church was built less than 10 years ago. Eyesore. Sad, but true.) There is beautiful, beautiful music - great cantor, knock-your-socks-off choir, pipe organ. Smells and bells all the way. Hubby & I had considered officially changing parishes.

I don't see that happening now.

Today, we arrived for Mass our usual 15 minutes early. We came in, crossed ourselves, genuflected, and entered the pew. I didn't have to bug anyone to scoot down, everyone filed in like we've done this 1000 times before - which we have. We sat in our usual spot: a few rows from the front, on the right. Hubby & I knelt to pray. Adam, Luke, and Joey did the same. Gracie thumbed through the missal. Sam babbled.

The nerve of that baby. He made normal baby noises.

By the looks I got from the older women sitting near us, it was apparent that this joyful noise unto the Lord was most unwelcome. This sound of LIFE, to members of a religion that goes out of its way to profess its unwavering conviction about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, was very, very unwelcome.

Let me make myself clear - he was babbling. Not screaming. Not crying. Not hitting anyone, throwing anything, having a tantrum, making a scene. He. Was. Babbling.

So the woman sitting two rows in front of us was apparently so distressed at his presumption that she felt it her duty to turn and give my son The Eye. She turned herself, head and shoulders, all the way around in her pew, to make sure that my little heathen child - who's sole purpose was to wreck havoc upon the the Holy Mother Church and bring about all of our ruin and damnation - she had to make sure my evil child (and, by association, my heathen husband, who was holding said Spawn of Evil) knew that he was disrupting her serene and quiet contemplation of her own silent perfection, moral spotlessness, and unparalleled charity.

Sensing the snit that was brewing, I motioned for Hubby to pass the baby to me, thinking that it was pretty close to nap time and some good walking at the back of the sanctuary could send Rosemary's Baby into dreamland and therefore avoid snittery.

I rose with Sam, exited the pew, genuflected (no mean feat with 27 pounds of evil in your arms) and started walking back down the aisle that I had just come up not three minutes earlier. I passed a pair of grey-haired ladies on my way, one of whom whispered to me, "Thank you."

Um, I'm sorry, but WHAT?!


And this is where I rant, because I couldn't do it there. 

We are (supposed to be) a Church that embraces - no, celebrates and rejoices in - LIFE. Guess what? These are the sounds of that life! Here I am, a married mother of five children, a cradle Catholic who loves her faith, the Holy Father, the Sacraments, the Church - and you made me feel ashamed, if only for the smallest fraction of a moment, of my child.

Do you have any idea of the Herculean effort it takes to get a family of seven to Mass on time? Everyone must be breakfasted, hair brushed, teeth brushed, shoes found and on the right feet, clothes clean and pressed and on, baby nursed, everyone bathroomed, out the door ("No! Do NOT brush against the dusty car in your clean clothes!") and in the pew before the entrance hymn. My husband gets home from work at 3 am. He gets up at 8 am on Sundays so that we can be out the door on time. I am a full-time nursing student. We homeschool. We are busy people. The Church - the Mass - is at the center of ALL of that. I bank on that grace to get me through another week!

Let's assume for a minute that I'm not well-grounded in my faith. That I'm not a card carrying member of the open-to-life club. That I don't know my cherubim from my seraphim. Let's say that I was a mom who had to beg and cajole her husband to bring the kids and come to Mass. What did you and your judgement just do? You denied my family a place at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You made sure that we wouldn't darken the doorstep of another Catholic Church for a good, long time. You are culpable in the eternal damnation of seven people. Good job! Glad you got that quiet time before Mass started.

Children are not the future of the Church. Let's be crystal clear on this point - my baptized-and-well-catechized children have just as much right to be at Mass as anyone else. My children are the Church, just as any baptized person is.

They are the children of the Almighty. And He loves them.

Mt 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Mt 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

How can we expect children to be raised in the faith if we do not welcome them into it? Here we could take a lesson from our Protestant bretheren: they know families. They know how to treat little people. Ah, the irony is rich here! I know that as Catholics we want our children with us at worship - and I agree that children should be in Mass and not at CCD or "Sunday School" during Mass time. Their place is at Mass. They need to be present at the Consecration, to see the miracle of Christ made real, Christ present for every one of us. They need those graces. So do I. But after a few minutes with my fifth blessing in the back of the sanctuary - where neither of us could see a darn thing and I couldn't let him down, as he would have drooled all over the pretty display for the Young Adult Ministry (yes, Lord, I see the irony, too!) I left. I fled the church. Me. I got the stroller out of the minivan and I walked two blocks to the mall.

So if I felt unwelcome - (me! Cradle Catholic. Homeschool nutjob who has her kids memorize the Baltimore Catechism. Married in the Church. Former Pre-Cana sponsor. Me.) - how would a lonely, searching, unmarried mom of one little baby feel, surrounded by so much judgement? One hairy eyeball and one smarmy comment were enough to ruin my whole morning, and make certain that I'll never cross the threshold of that sanctuary again. What if I had no other options? What if I couldn't drive to another Mass? What if the only experience I had of the Church was that one from this morning?

No wonder vocations are at a critical level.

Am I angry? You bet your chapel veil I am! Don't mess with my children. Don't mess with my Church.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Nursing school hit me like a ton of bricks. Really. It's ridiculous the time that I DON'T have. 

Beforehand, I thought, "It's an associate's degree, how hard can it be?" 


Let me just say that after I graduate, I will have the same letters behind my name as a bachelor's-prepared nurse. I will be an RN. I will be responsible for keeping people alive. Because of that, I'm not complaining that my schoolwork is hard. I'm going to have some hefty responsibilities on me when I pass my boards. I need to be prepared. 

That said, let me update you a little on what's been going on 'round here. 

Playing in the mud 

Pumpkin picking

Did some learnin'


Took a nap

Celebrated some milestones

And studied. A lot. 

I promise to try to keep up a little better! See you soon! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kids are resilient - a rant

I picked up a book at the library a few weeks ago, upon the suggestion of someone on a message board. The book is called "Free from Lies" by Alice Miller. She outlines, in broad strokes, her theory that childhood trauma must be validated in order for the adult to have a healthy emotional life. She asserts that most people who suffer from adult depression do so because they have denied (and others have ignored or denied) the trauma or abuse that depressed adults suffered as children. Though I don't agree with every premise the author suggests, there are some points that she makes that are very insightful. First and most important, she challenges the idea that "kids are resilient."

I've always felt and understood, as a child of an abusive home myself, that children are NOT resilient. Children have no power in the world. Children do not CHOOSE to "deal" with the situation in which they live. Children have to cope, with the best (read:inadequate) mechanisms they have, with what adults subject them to. Children are not resilient. The definition here tells us that resilient means "recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like." In situations of abuse, there is no "ready recovery." There is suppression and coping. Children do not have the capacity that many adults have, to emotionally process what's happening, to escape the situation that's causing stress, to compare a situation to a frame of reference and understand the abnormality of an event. Children are NOT resilient. They cope because they have no choice.

There are a few situations in which I see this happening - situations in which adults deny the trauma to which children are subjected:

1. Divorce. Do I really need to say this?! How is it that many of us don't understand that divorce emotionally devastates children? The very foundation of a child's life is the dependance he has on his parents. "Oh, they'll be fine. They'll cope. They'll get over it." Really? REALLY?! A child's entire world changes, is turned upside down, and we just expect them to get over it? How do we assume that children don't feel? That because they are young and little that their feelings are less than our own? As adults, we have the choice of whether or not we subject our children to suffer such a monstrous blow.

As a society, we frown on "staying together for the children." Why the hell shouldn't we try, with every, every, every effort that we have to keep marriages intact for our children? Are people really so selfish that they can't work like their own lives depend upon the success of their marriage? How about working on their marriage because their children are worth it? "Oh, I just fell out of love with my husband." Are. You. Serious? This isn't like falling off a ladder- you don't "fall out of love" with someone. The kind of love it takes to hold together a marriage is a love that has to be chosen. Every day. It's work sometimes. (Heck, some years it's even work a lot of the time.) But these are our children we're talking about.

2. Bullying. One of the main arguments I hear against homeschooling is that I'm not teaching my children how to handle bullies. And that's a valid argument, because I'm not teaching them about bullies. In the adult world, if someone at work harasses you, you take it up with HR. If some acquaintance physically assaults you, you call the police and press charges. In the kid world, those aren't options. In the kid world, you keep your mouth shut and your head down and you hope to God that adults don't get involved because then the bullying worsens and becomes more insidious. But as adults, we forget that. Frankly, I think that all the "bullying awareness" that we have now in schools sounds great on the surface (sounds great to adults), but is just another impotent attempt of adults to make an artificial environment (school, where everyone is segregated by age) operate as a cohesive society. Crazy talk, I tell you. Let's put a group of people who don't have a skill (socialization) together to teach each other that skill that they don't know. Blind leading the blind. Brilliant.

3. Alcoholism. As the child of two alcoholics, I became an expert at keeping The Secret. Any ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) knows what I mean. No one outside the family must ever, ever know what goes on behind closed doors. Problem? There's no problem! See? Good student! Involved in school activities! Has a part-time job, boyfriend, friends! Cheerful! Normal, normal, normal! But the problem comes later, when The Secret is out. When the adult (and less often, the child) stops hiding the truth and lets it free, there is a huge, huge tendency of others to deny the reality of what happened. "Oh, you're such a normal person - surely you're exaggerating! I've met your parents. They're great people." Yes, they're great actors. The whole family is. That's why you don't believe!

Back to the book - the author has some things to say about how we, as adults, validate the feelings of children. We should admit our own mistakes. We don't want to put the expectation of forgiveness on our children - that is a child's free will, a gift that they can choose or not choose to give, without coercion. But we must acknowledge the "wrongness" of a situation. "I yelled at you, and that was wrong. I'm sorry, and I'll try to do better." And also, we need to understand, truly internalize, that the feelings of children are just as valid as those of adults. Children are people - they feel, oftentimes more acutely, the same feelings we feel. We adults should keep that in mind when we expect children to be "resilient."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Holding myself accountable

I'm having fun with my kids this summer, and soaking in Sam's babyhood. I love this picture.

Keeping in mind my vow to keep them away from the TV, we're finding more to do in the backyard. Bucket of soapy water and some stained t-shirts that I cut up along with a scrub brush and a backyard toy made for an hour of fun.

I realized again that I can't do it all. Now that my kids have more time (because the TV isn't eating all of it) they can help more. Good for them and good for me.

And this one is so painful to post, but I will be accountable! I must lose the last 25 pounds of baby weight. This was taken on July 3 - that's my belly in the yellow! OUCH! I will remember that my body is not a garbage disposal, and I will mind what I eat! I will NOT sit on the computer every evening. I will get out and WALK with the kids as soon as my husband fixes the gate so that I can get the stroller out.

Summer reading

Upon reading the recommendation of another blogger, I picked this up at the library:

Yes! This is JUST what I needed to hear!

It's okay to cut the kids' TV time to near nothing.
It's okay to not study current events with my ten-year-old.
It's okay that our house is not overflowing with toys. (Really, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never felt the need to have lots of toys around the house. Small house, lots of people... too much stuff makes me feel claustrophobic.)

I really needed a kick in the pants. The last third of my pregnancy with Sam was physically taxing, moreso than with the other four. I relied entirely too much on the television and video games to entertain the kids. It's time to kick that habit to the curb! To that end, I found this website that gives me TONS of good ideas to engage the little ones. I intend to pass these little nuggets out occasionally for Gracie and Joey, when we're desperate. As for Luke (8) and Adam (10-almost-11), they are just fine finding their own entertainment, thankyouverymuch.

Lest I get on my soapbox (too late!), I feel that it's important to say that boredom is not the enemy of childhood! (It might be the enemy of an orderly kitchen, but if I really wanted a neat house I'd live alone.) If a child's every moment is filled with noise - not only the sounds of video games and TV and computers, but the visual clutter of a room packed to the gills with STUFF, and the spiritual and emotional crowding of having an entertainment committee (aka well-meaning parent who schedules every moment) - he cannot exercise creativity and imagination. And we all know what happens without exercise, right? Atrophy. So I'm going to let my kids be kids without the gadgets, bells, and whistles. Boredom is our friend. It forces them (and me) to exercise a little creativity and imagination.

Now someone remind me of that when I'm trying to get dinner on the table and they're all underfoot, okay?

Isn't this the coolest?

Our neighbor, Mike, built a replica Model A from scratch. Like Hubby said, "He's like MacGyver and Mr. Wizard, all rolled into one!" Of course, all the kids (except Sam) took a ride. What a cool way to celebrate Independence Day!