Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Mini Batch Cooking Session

  Cooking has been something I've enjoyed since my mother set me loose in the kitchen when I was eight years old.  The first recipe I prepared was Tuna and Noodles.  Twenty-six years later, my recipe box is digital and much bigger. 
  Having a child changed how I cook.  I added a few more quick and easy recipes to my box.  Having another child changed it again.  Take out, fast food... oh, wait.  That's not cooking and it's expensive.  If I get overwhelmed and resort to takeout while I am a stay at home mom, how can I add a full time job to the list and find time to cook?

 Here's my plan to save money and eat food that is better for us, while not pulling my hair out.  (Hopefully)

Step One:  Meal plan every other Thursday for two weeks.  Plan as many crock pot meals as possible for the work week.  Plan 2-3 batch cooking recipes.

Step Two:  Write a grocery list.  Don't skimp on food.  Saving a few $$$ at the grocery store can cost us a lot more if we end up eating out.

Step Three:  Grocery shop.  This may sound like an obvious step but I hate grocery shopping.  I hate it so much that I avoid it, we end up eating out, thus spending way more $$$.

Step Four:  The day of grocery shopping or the day after, prepare the batch cooking.

Below you will find my first attempt at mini batch cooking.
Browned Hamburger
Quite a few recipes we make take browned hamburger. I bought hamburger in bulk while it was on sale at Meijer's, browned it, bagged it and froze it. This will decrease my time time spent preparing the meals.
Taco Seasoning
Tacos are easy and quick.  Plus, both of my kids will eat tacos without complaint.  I noticed we've been buying a lot of taco seasoning.  I have at least three recipes that use taco seasoning and so I found a recipe for taco seasoning and made some myself.  This stuff doesn't have the additives in it, which is one step towards a healthier family.

I also use the ranch dressing mix recipe from this website.  Saves $$ and it's healthier than what you buy in the store.
Breakfast Burritos
My husband and I need a quick breakfast to grab as we're heading out the door.  (And something we will want to grab!)  For this recipe, I brown a package of breakfast sausage and put it into a large bowl.  I scramble a dozen eggs, cook and then add them to the bowl.  I put a little oil into the pan and brown a bag of southern style hash browns.  Add those to the sausage and eggs and mix in a little colby jack cheese.  I put about 1/2 cup into a slightly warmed flour tortilla shell and roll it up.  Then I roll the breakfast wrap into a paper towel, followed by tin foil and place into a freezer bag.  Microwave 1 frozen wrap, in the paper towel, for approx. 1-1 1/2 min.  This recipe made 14 wraps.
Caramel Brownies
This isn't a batch cooking recipe but I made it while I was making the others and so I'm including the picture and the recipe.  It's very yummy, so be careful!



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An unexpected moment alone...

I just got home from day #2 of work.  My husband has this week off and has child care duty.  I miss my sons so much that I spent yesterday feeling overwhelmed and very sad.  Yet, today when I pulled into the driveway and they weren't here, I felt relieved.  I have been given the gift of a few minutes to compose myself after a day of training.  Dinner has been started and I may even be able to get it into the oven before they return.  I'm not even going to text my husband to let him know I'm home.  A person wouldn't want to ruin the time they can spend collecting themselves and getting back into mommy, wife, homemaker mode.
I really want to spend time writing a post on batch cooking.  I even have pictures! Not sure if I'll get to it tonight because it's family game night.  I have told Matthew and he was talking about it all week.  Thus, it is written in stone.

Here's what's for dinner:

Italian Baked Chicken Pastina

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sitting in a Parking Space

I felt like I had done everything I could possibly do to help my son, Liam, with his frustration.  He's two.  If you have ever seen, cared for, or parented a two year old, you understand.  He'll be happy one minute and then you'll hear him screaming and crying (like you ripped his arm out of his socket) the next.  I have given him time to transition.  I have sung fun songs to help him transition.  We've tried yoga breathing, hugs, distraction, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, etc.  If it's been put in a book, on a blog or said by another person, I have tried it.  It's been six months of the terrible twos.
After scheduling a parent/teacher/therapist conference with myself, I realized that I was reaching my breaking point.  Out of sheer frustration and emotional exhaustion, I had started scolding and yelling.  (Not saying that's okay, just being honest.)  I had even tried ignoring it. He only gets louder and more hysterical.  During the "conference", I told myself that since ignoring the behavior only made it increase, it was probably not only for attention.  Scolding and yelling only reinforced the behavior and made me feel terrible, and the other stuff only helped if he was calm enough to hear me and could calm himself down.  Time for a new plan of action.  A plan that I could follow through with 99% of the time.


This is not your every day version of time out.  This is new and improved!  For Liam, it seems to be highly effective.  (This is not based on a longitudinal study, only the past 4 days.  I have hope. So far, it is the only thing that has worked every time.)  When he begins to scream, yell, hit, bite, kick, or just generally loose control of himself, we sit.  Not just him, both of us.  I sit across from him and tell him that as soon as he has calmed down, we can talk and he can get up.  He usually sits for about 30 seconds until I see a complete transformation.  He looks at me, smiles and says "I all done."  Then I briefly tell him what he did and what he needs to do instead.  For example "Liam, you were screaming at mommy.  In our family, we use our kind voice."  Then we go on our merry way.

So, I said I needed something I could use 99% of the time, right?  I have pulled off the highway, I have stopped my shower, and I have interrupted time in the kiddie pool to follow through.  Today, he started to lose control as we left the bowling alley.  I dropped my bags and we sat down in a parking space until he was done.  By the way, the parking lot was dead and we had been the only three people in the entire bowling alley.

I may just make it through the next 6 months.  I won't be winning any mother of the year award, but I'll make it.  Here's hoping three will be better...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Living With Intention

It's hard to believe that 6 1/2 months have passed since the end of my job as a teacher.  It's a seasonal position and I'm getting ready to go back to work next week.  As much as I love my job, it is a very difficult thing for me to leave my two boys all day Monday through Friday.  I'm constantly reminding myself that God sees a bigger picture, praying that He will direct my path and help me give my best in EVERYTHING I do.  One of the scriptures that Matthew memorized this last year was Colossians 3:23; "In everything you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men."  It's easy to remind my almost 7 year old to do things with a cheerful spirit, not so easy to tell myself.

This morning I shared with my husband that I felt like time is slipping away.  I asked his opinion on "scheduling" family nights.  My theory is that by having them on the calendar, we will be more apt to follow through with them.  Plus, once Matthew figures out the plans, there's no way he would let it go.  :-)  Chuck thought it was a good idea and we talked about some inexpensive things we can do together.  This is what we came up with so far:

Wednesdays will be family game night.

Sundays will be movie and pizza night.

Once a month my husband and I will have a date night.

Once a month each boy will have a date night with one parent.


If we are intentional about spending time together as a family, my prayer is that we will grow closer during this season of separation.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Battle between Relaxation and Efficiency

Multitasking.  For the longest time, I thought it was all the buzz.  Seek out and implement methods that will have you doing more than one thing at a time.  You will get much more done, making your life run more smoothly.  Now I hear and read about how we should only do one thing at a time.  Trying to complete multiple things simutaneously may complete more tasks, but the quality in each task is lacking.

I'll be honest with you.  I suck when it comes to multitasking.  I forget what I'm doing and leave half finished projects scattered throughout my life.  It stresses me out, I get easily distracted and become snippy.

Where is the happy medium?  You know, the beautiful place full of rainbows and sunshine.  The world where there are no grass stains on Matthew's pants, both boy's faces are clean and their teeth get brushed twice a day, every day.  A clean yet lived in home, a full fridge and pantry, and homemade treats available for friends who stop in.  The life where I play with my children without needing to wrestle with the feeling that I have a million things to do.

I have one week before I return to my full time job as a teacher.  My brain is swimming with all the things that need to get done and yet, with only more week with the boys, they're going to be my focus.  The dishes will wait until they're in bed, the floors will not be spotless, and the laundry will just never be all done.  Guess I'll put off finding the happy medium until next month.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Field Trip to the Fire Station

The boys and I went on a field trip today with a few people from the homeschool co-op group we belong to.  While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, Firefighter Johnny asked if we were on a time restriction.  I laughed and said that we had to get back to school.  Our group leader assured him that we were fine with time.  If you allow it, homeschooling can be freeing.  There are some who imitate school but I choose to live life, knowing that is how my children will learn best. 

My oldest son, Matthew is going to be seven in a week.  His brain goes about 3 million miles per second.  Maybe faster.  He asked Firefighter Johnny question after question.  "What if there was a fire at the fire station?"  That wouldn't look very good for us.  "What if a robber came into the fire station?"  We would call the police.  "What if the robber set a fire in the fire station?"  (At this point I distracted Matthew because I didn't want Firefighter Johnny's head to explode.)

Liam is two.  He has a split personality.  Having worked with this age group for many years, it's not something I need to get him treated for.  It's only a phase.  That's what I tell myself everyday.  It's only a phase.  This will pass.  Then my husband gets home from work and I say HELP!  Anyway, I expected Liam to be nervous and need to be held during the trip.  He did really good.  When the firefighter started putting his gear on to show the children, Liam needed to be held.  At this point, Liam decided he was all done with the firestation.  He did sit in the fire truck.  Two seconds later he was done.  We're making progress.  Maybe soon we can make it through a whole day without him hulking out on me.  A mom can dream... and pray.

Loving the Life I've Been Given

I grew up living a simple life.  Being homeschooled from the third grade on, I had more time than most other children to play and explore.  My childhood dream was to grow up, fall in love with the man of my dreams, get married and have lots of children.  Let's just say that life didn't turn out the way I had planned.  Not that I am complaining.  I have a loving and devoted husband, two happy, healthy and very energetic sons and a great life.  It just isn't as simple as I had once thought.