Monday, June 30, 2014

How to be successful at the dinner table...with kids.

My oldest daughter came craved fruits and veggies when she was in the womb, when she came out, it didn't change. My youngest wasn't as much of a fan, but I did not give up.

When I was working a ton of hours, the kids got out of the habit of eating fruits and veggies. Hubby did his best, but would often forget to offer them fruits and veggies at snack and meal times.

While my oldest continues to raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night for carrots, my youngest wants candy, chips and cheese. Since I have been home, I have made it my goal to introduce her to fruits and veggies again, and hopefully develop a love for them.

One rule for introducing foods to kids, is that you MUST give them to them more than once or twice. It will often take 7-8 times of introducing a food to a child before they will accept them. Despite the fact that my youngest refused to eat an apple, I continued to give a few slices to her at meal time. The other day she surprised me by eating them and asking for more. She will not eat green apples, but loves the red ones. So the red ones she will get.

If you still cannot get your child to eat a certain food, try cooking it or preparing it differently. Many children will not eat cooked broccoli, but will love it raw, maybe with a little ranch dressing. After awhile of eating them raw, try cooking them again, but maybe just a light steam. Eventually, they will eat them like you prepare them for the whole family. It takes work, but isn't it worth it to have a child that will eat a wide range of foods?

Another thing you must do, is not to give them the same thing every day. If they always have waffles for breakfast, nuggets for lunch and chicken with rice for dinner, they will not develop a taste for anything with flavor. Do not be afraid to season their food a little. When my kids are young, I do not season the food, I let them know the food in its pure state. Once they get older, I will start to add things like garlic and onion and herbs.

Try not to cook something different for your kids than what you eat. I find this one hard at times. I will use my oldest as an example. I would always make something different for her when hubby and I would make steaks for dinner. She is not a meat eater and calls everything chicken. After having a friend of mine ask why I wouldn't share a great steak with the kids, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter had all the steak I gave her and said it was the best chicken she had ever had.

Make sure the meals and snacks you set in front of your kids have a wide range of colors and textures. We all love pretty things, food isn't any different. Offer a fruit, veggie, meat and maybe a starch or grain at every meal. You do not have to offer a whole lot of a food, but a few pieces of each, will go a long way to filling up your little one. Remember, their tummies are tiny! You can always offer more if they want more of something. We have a rule though, they have to try one bite of everything on their plate before having more of something.

One last bit, do not offer snacks before dinner time. We are all guilty of this. We are trying to get dinner going and the kids are yelling at us that they are hungry. This is a great lesson in patience. Find something else to distract them, whether it is a game, a chore, or having them help you in the kitchen. The last one is a great idea. My oldest would only eat cheese pizza until I had her help me make pizzas. She went to town adding different veggies to hers. She was so happy to have created it, she ate three pieces!

To wrap it up, offer new foods to your kids multiple times and in different ways. Eventually they will eat them. Offer a wide array of colors and textures, who wants to eat a bunch of bland texture lacking foods. Have the kids help you in the kitchen to distract them from snacking before dinner. Last but not least, have fun experimenting with food. Your kids will end up having a wonderful developed pallet for all different kinds of food.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Leftovers - from terror to terrific

I hate leftovers. I really do not like eating something two meals or two days in a row. Unless it is cold pizza. How can you not eat cold pizza!

In trying to cut the budget, I have realized that the best thing that I can do is embrace leftovers. I found that as long as I can turn the leftovers into something new, I am more than happy to eat it.

Adventures in Pulled Pork
I was able to get pork butt on sale for $8.88, regularly $21.94. I knew I liked pulled pork, but I was uncertain the family would eat it. I figured if the experiment was a failure, we were only out the $8.88 instead of the $21.94. Luckily the family loved pulled pork sandwiches, but what to do with the huge amount of pulled pork left over? You can only eat so many sandwiches!

On the internet I went, searching for things to do with pulled pork. I came across a recipe for Pulled Pork Enchiladas. I am not a huge fan of enchiladas, but my hubby loves them. Since, I made him try one of my favorites, I thought it was only fair for me to try one of his.

I received a lot of Anaheim peppers in my Bountiful Basket order this week, so I thought it would be a good chance for me to try to make my own green chili sauce. I found an easy recipe online and went to making the sauce to use while making the enchiladas. Note to future self, use gloves while handling hot peppers. My hands burned a bit for a few hours after making the sauce.

I want to say that the enchilada's were fantastic. Hubby approved wholeheartedly and we were able to use up some of the remaining pulled pork. I did end up putting some of the roasted peppers I did not use, in the freezer for the future. Once I portioned out the amount of pork needed for the enchilada recipe, I did end up freezing the rest. So I am all set to make another batch of this yummy dinner in the future.

I had such a great time finding a use for leftovers, that I am going to make this a new goal of mine. I am not going to be afraid to try new recipes. I will EMBRACE leftovers and make new things out of them. I want to make sure we are not wasting food. It is not cheap! So come along with me in future posts to see what I can come up with for leftovers. If you have any great ideas for leftovers, send them my way!

Links to recipes used: (note: in the green chili sauce recipe, I substituted cumin for the coriander)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Reading Club

The other day we went to our local library for craft and story time. We found out that the library we went to all this time, was no longer our library. Our city decided it wouldn't support it anymore. I was so upset. I wanted a free place to go with the kids, where we could interact with other people and where they could develop a love for reading.

What seemed to be a loss, was really the beginning of something wonderful. You see our library is a one room library. It doesn't have many books and only a few computers. There really isn't a good area for the kids to sit and read. But it was what we had.

After leaving the library I was bound and determined to find a library where we could go. Certainly, we wouldn't be left out in the cold. I pulled out my trusty phone and called neighboring cities. I was so lucky to have found a neighboring city that allows anyone with a State ID to join.

I didn't really expect much, maybe something along the lines of what we had before. Little did I know we were going to be welcomed into Nirvana!

The library is connected to the cities police department. It is surrounded by a lot of restaurants, shopping and parks. The parking lot was shaded by a lot of trees and it felt like a clean, safe place to be.

You walk up the stairs into a building that is cool and smells fresh. Wonderfully clean bathrooms are right there, for the toddler in the midst of potty training and the 7 year old who holds it until the very last minute.

When you walk further into the building there is the information desk, staffed by some of the nicest people around. They were so helpful and welcoming. It took a matter of two minutes to get my new library card.

Within steps of the information desk is the children's wing. Yes, I said WING. There are about 6 computers set up (first come first serve) for the younger children. They have three touch screen computers and three standard computers. All loaded with educational games and programs. Even my two year old couldn't get the darn thing to shut down and she tried. About 15 feet away there are another 6 computers set up for older kids, wanting to do research and homework assignments.

To the right of the computers is a big area full of play centers. There is a kitchen, blocks, trains, and more. There are comfy chairs surrounding the area for the parents to sit.

There are several sections of books, separated by reading level and types of books. They are all on a children's level so that they do not have to ask for a parents help to pick out a book.

The free fun, doesn't stop there. The library offers summer reading programs, where the kids get prizes for reading either 25 days (for 30 minutes), 25 hours or 25 books. Just for signing up, they got tickets for Legoland and the Aquarium. They offer a ton of free entertainment programs and story times. I didn't hesitate to sign them up. Even babies can sign up! All the parent has to do is read to them. At the end of the program they get a free book and other prizes.

There was an adult reading club too. For every 3 books I read I get a raffle ticket. The raffle tickets go into a pot for the big prize at the end of the summer. But I also get a free paperback and prize package. If I choose to do a book review, I get a drink tumbler.

Needless to say, a really bad day turned into a fantastic day. I have a FREE place to take the kids to play and read. Which is fantastic when you are pinching pennies and don't want to spend every waking moment at the pool.

The moral of the story is to check out your local library. If it isn't a great library, check out neighboring cities to see if you can join their's. We do not have to spend a lot of money to have fun things to do. Get out of the house. Have some fun. Read a good book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting a life

One thing that is very important for stay at home mom's, is to not get in a rut by staying at home. If all you do is stay home, you are asking for depression to take over. Unfortunately, that is what happened to me. For the past two months, I have focused on the kids and getting the house clean. I need to get a life.

Here is what I am doing:

I found a library about 10 minutes from us, that has fantastic children's programs, totally free. They have at least one thing every day for the kids to do. In the process, I will be able to have some adult interaction with the parents. It will also allow the kids to be with other kids. We went there today and the kids had a BLAST!

Secondly, I put in an inquiry with a local mommy group. I was scared to do so, but I need to get out of my comfort zone. I have always heard that it is hard to get involved in an established group. I emailed the group yesterday and the president got back to me today. They are having several get together's this month, one of which is tomorrow. I can go to two get together's before I decide if I want to become a member. There are yearly dues of $25.00. I plan on going tomorrow, so I will let you know how it goes. I sure hope it works out. They even have monthly mommy night out's!

A good friend of mine recommended that I get active. I know she is right. I need to get some exercise every day. Not just in housework or going to the pool with the kids. I need to find some time by myself, where I can workout and be in my own thoughts. So starting tomorrow, I will be returning to my aqua-fit classes three times a week. I will also take advantage of all those personal training sessions I paid for, but didn't use up. This will help me reach my weight loss goals, as well as helping me battle this depression.

If you have any other suggestions for a SAHM looking to "get a life", please don't hesitate to comment below.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Depression and the Stay at Home Mom

I have been a stay at home mom almost two months. Overall it has been a really good experience. I love the time I am spending with my girls. However, I have found myself falling into a depression.

It has been a really tough month. We have had a lot of expenses come up, that have blown our budget out of the water. So it is hard to determine if I am depressed or super stressed. Hubby thinks it is both.

I got an email from him today saying that he thinks I need to get out of the house. Yes, that is true. I HAVE to get out of the house. It is not enough to go to the pool every day, or get my adult interaction online. I have to get out and talk to people that are not my kids or even my husband.

When my husband comes home all he talks about is his work. Who said what, what he accomplished, what accolades he got from his boss. While this is communication, it is not the form of communication I need or want. All it does is make me feel more isolated.

When I was working I talked with my co-workers throughout the day. It wasn't always about work or the kids. I want more of that without having to work full-time.

I am yearning to go back to school. I was originally intending on staying home with the girls this summer, then when my oldest went to school in the fall, I would find a part time job to save up to go back to school. Then I would start back to school after the Holidays. Now I am thinking I will find a part time (evening/weekend) job sooner rather than later.

I was also going to go to school online (to obtain my teaching certificate). Now I am pretty sure I will attend a traditional university, so that I have that much needed interaction. It will be more expensive to go to a traditional university, but I think in the end, it is really what I want and need to do. The main thing is, is that I cash-flow school. No more student loans for me. I refuse to do that again.

All of this stuff is going to take time, so in the meantime, I have signed up for Bountiful Baskets again. Last winter I did it for awhile, but I drifted away from it. Now that I am going back to it, I thought I would volunteer every Saturday for an hour or two. This will be a great way for me to feel like I am doing something non-mommy related. It is also a great way to get some fresh produce for less money than at a grocery store.

I have also reached out to a local "mommy" group, to see if they are still active. If not, I think I will advertise and start my own. It is a lot of work, so I would rather join one, than start one. I have heard that these groups can be both wonderful and horrible. So we shall see what my experience is like.

This fall I am also signing up my oldest for Girl Scouts. This should be another way for me to get involved and "have a life". It is also a great way for us to do fun things that are subsidized by the group. Last year they went to Legoland for $5. They have camping and other fun things. I was never part of Girl Scouts when I was young, so this should be interesting.

To solve the other problem (financial) I have been having, we are going back to a strict budget. It is not that we have "overspent", it is that things have come up that have depleeted our savings. We need to be on a strict budget in order to build it back up again. I will be doing all I can to cut expenses and save save save.

Wish me luck in conquering the funk I am in. The house needs to be cleaned and I cannot find the energy to do so...depression sucks. You want to do stuff, but you just can't. I will have to force myself. One thing is for sure, I have to do it. No one can do it for me.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In a funk...

This past week was insane. My oldest went to Vacation Bible School with a friend of hers. This meant that every night from 6pm to 8:30pm she was there. This lead to everyone getting to sleep late. In general our whole schedule was thrown off. Then on Friday I watched the same friend from 7am to 5pm. Two tired 7 year olds, plus a two year old was not what I call fun.

In general I have been in a funk the past week or two. I do not know what it is. I think I am looking for a way to be productive. Maybe I am depressed? I have a history of depression and anxiety, but I got off the meds 6 months ago.

I was going to take the whole summer off from work to spend with the girls. Then in the fall I was going to go to work part time in order to afford to go back to school. I want to get my masters degree in education.

I find myself daydreaming about being back in school. Having a life outside of Mommyhood. I think this is why I am in a funk. That and the fact that this week was totally out of my comfort zone.

I like having a schedule. I like knowing when I am going to wake up, when I will be able to go to school. I like having dinner with the family, watching some tv, giving the girls a bath, then bed. This past week that was thrown out the window.

So how am I going to fix this mess. Next week we will return to normal. I think I am going to start looking for a part time job. I was going to return to The Children's Place, but I think I will look for something different. Its all up in the air.

Enough rambling for to you all later.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It has been a tough month.

This month has been hard. We have had a lot of things come up that have tested us.

First off, we had to get the truck repaired. I will say this happened the last day of May. Sarah's last day of school. It cost us over $500 to get it fixed. I have said though, I would much rather pay $500 once or twice a year on car repairs, than $500 every month on a car payment. While fixing the truck wasn't what we wanted to do, we were ABLE to do it. We had the money.

A good thing that happened was paying off a rather large bill that had been hanging over our head. We were able to pay off the last $965 of it. This was huge since we also had to pay for the truck repairs. So again, I think this was a huge sign of success for us.

One huge test was something that happened where someone wasn't on top of things and didn't do what was needed. This cost us an additional $293 this month, that we did not plan on. This one hurts, because it was out of negligence/laziness and not something that was just unfortunate. This event is a huge life lesson. Do not let things slide. Do not feel that you have one more day. You don't. DO IT NOW. Love Now. Play Now. Talk Now. Do the adult things that you have to do and you won't have to face the consequences.

Another thing that happened this month was my oldest turned 7. This is so hard for me. My baby is growing up before my eyes. I am proud that I was able to give her a good little birthday. We kept it simple, inviting my parents and having cake and opening gifts. Part of me felt really bad that we didn't have this huge affair. I felt bad that the air conditioner decided to break so it was sweltering during her party. But I do have to say that I feel good that this was the first year I didn't stress over having enough money to buy her a few gifts. I felt great that I stayed within budget and it didn't "hurt" our bottom line. So really the only emotion was some Momma sadness over her baby getting older.

One more thing. I am starting to focus on my health now that I am acclimated to being a stay at home mom. I am back on my medication for PCOS. On the downside is that it makes me severely ill for two weeks, while my body adjusts to it. I am nauseous all the time. I feel like I have been hit by a Mac truck. I hate it. In the past, I would take it for a few days and give up. But with my goal of losing weight, I HAVE to be on this medication. To attain my goal of becoming a healthy active person, I have to get through this. I HATE IT. I hate being sick. So far I have almost a week down, so I need to keep going. I can do this!

The month is only half over and I feel like this month has sent us through so many tests. I feel we are passing them pretty darn well. I feel more confident with my choice to stay home every day. But I need these tests to stop. Ok?!?!?  Thank you God for showing me the path, but can I have a little peace for a fraction of a second?

Monday, June 9, 2014

I wish I didn't feel like I HAD to...

When you work outside of the home, you know what you need to do. Your boss sets guidelines and you follow them. You have reviews and get raises. You KNOW what to do.

When you are a stay at home mom, you know what you have to do, but what is enough, without overdoing, or not doing enough?

When you stay home, you wonder if your husband comes home and asks himself, "what the heck did she do all day?"

I am a perfectionist. I will admit it. When Hubby was home with the kids I would ask the same question. So how do I know I am "doing enough", so he doesn't ask the same question.

I find myself working myself to death, even when I am sick. How do I figure out what needs to be done, what should be done and what can wait?

So these are the questions of the day.

I have decided to conquer one big project a week. Last week it was the closet. This week it is cleaning the carpets. I have no idea what next week will be. But I think if I do one big project, then split the other days between the smaller cleaning chores, I will be OK.

I know, I sound nuts right? But that is what it is like being a stay at home mom. We feel we have to justify our time. Yes, we want to sit and enjoy a TV program. Yes, we want to take a nap with the kids. But in our soul, we wonder if Hubby will think we are being lazy.

It doesn't matter that our days are filled with, cooking, child care, changing a hundred diapers, keeping fighting children at opposite sides of the house, meal planning, the list goes on and on. Why do we still feel we are not doing enough?

I think this is something I need to work on...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stopped living like the Jone's and started living like the Dale's.

One thing I have learned is that life is too short to be living it for someone else. I spent a lot of time trying to impress other people. I wanted to have a great car, a big house, and to look perfect. Granted, having nice things is a good thing to strive for, but when it puts you at risk, it is not what you need.

For years it has been a struggle financially. We made car payments that would equal a mortgage payment. We paid daycare that would equal a mortgage payment. We paid rent that would equal a mortgage payment. All of that and we had nothing to show for it.

Every one of the kids birthdays we struggled to get them gifts. It was always last minute and we always missed paying a bill because of it. We felt guilty and we felt like we were failing as parents and adults.

This year is different. It is my oldest's 7th birthday. I have all the gifts purchased, even the wrapping paper. We decided that we would take her and a few friends to the movies to celebrate, instead of having a huge party. The past two years we had a big party and we went to Great Wolf Lodge for a few days. It put us in the whole big time. To know that we made responsible decisions this year brings tears to  my eyes.

On top of being on top of the birthday thing, we were able to pay off a BIG bill hanging over our heads. We actually paid it off ten days earlier than what we had laid out to pay. Having it paid off means we will be able to tackle other bills and steadily save for a house. YES A HOUSE!

Once we stopped trying to live life like everyone else, we found that we were happier. The things we have are ours. They can't be taken away from us.

I don't apologize for having a 16 year old truck or a 10 year old car. I say, hey, isn't it neat? They are ours!

I have a friend who is in a hard place. She is where we were not too long ago. It is hard waking up every day wondering when the bank will come and take all of our stuff. There is no security. You are stressing all of the time. I wish I could give her some hope. I wish I could help her. But in reality, there is nothing that I can do. It has to be something she does. I am here for her. I love her no matter what. I hope she takes a little of what I have been through and finds peace in her own life.

Don't be afraid to live like life yourself. Other's may look like they are doing great, but are they really? Are they living life in a reality that will come crashing down around them? Are they on the verge of losing everything? You just do not know. So live like yourself. Live within YOUR means, not someone else's.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Be is passing you by.

I am sitting on the couch watching my girls play. The TV is on, but I am watching them interact with each other. Oh how my youngest idolizes her big sis. She wants to do everything she does.

Her sister leaves the room and comes back with a piece of paper, it has a list of all the reasons why she loves me. I give her a hug and she heads back into the play room.

My youngest comes in with a piece of paper with scribbles of different colors. She begins to "tell" me what her paper says. Of course she doesn't have a very big vocabulary. It is more "wa blah si ma you".

If I had been watching TV, on the computer or playing a game on my tablet, I would have missed this. I would have missed the beautiful exchange playing out before my eyes. I think back to all the times I would tell them I was busy, "just give me a minute", and even the dreaded "I don't have time right now".

I am all for kids learning to play by themselves. Entertaining themselves is a must have skill. But what I want to eliminate is the constant drain that electronics have on our lives.

While I have been trying to make a conscious effort to reduce electronic distractions, I have been trying to also get Hubby to join in. He is still in the place I was a month ago. He is working long hours and when he comes home all he wants to do is decompress. Part of that decompressing is surfing the net or playing games on his phone.

What I try to get him to see is that, while he is tired, it is important for him to spend some time with the girls. To spend time with ME. To talk to us. To interact with us in a meaningful way. It is hard to do, when you feel that you have nothing left to give.

But what I have learned is that electronics drain more from you than help you. Getting hugs from the girls. Learning about their day. Teaching them something. Those are the things that refill your soul.

Is it exhausting rolling around on the floor with them? Going to the pool and catching them while they jump in a hundred times? Chasing them while playing ball outside? Yes. You will be sore. You will be tired. But after spending the whole day behind a desk, you need some activity. You are feeding your soul as well as your body.

Take some time with your kids. Play a game together. Have a meal at the dinner table (ditch eating in front of the TV). Go for a walk. Do something together. You will not regret it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Feeling blessed...on the right path.

I know I keep saying that we have learned so much and grown up so much since last year. We have though! Hubby had a job last year that paid commission and they said they would pay once the claims paid. This usually happens 6-9 months after the item was processed. He was laid off after his 3 month stint. We never expected to see a penny of the money that he should have gotten. What have we gotten for the past few months? His commissions.

A year ago, we would have blown all of the money. I truly believe God held onto that money until we could better handle it. No more is the blowing it on dinners out. No more is the reckless habits. What did we do with this months check (we don't really expect them or plan on them so it is nice to get them). We paid off debt. We paid bills.

We sit here with our baby step one complete. We are working on our baby step two. We are doing this.

I believe if you are on the right path, life will give you good things. If you are on the wrong path, life will be hard, it will fight against you. To feel that we are finally on the right path is the best feeling in the world.

Do I still have my moments when I freak out and wonder if we are doing the right thing? Yes. But then something happens to prove I am doing the right thing.

I feel so blessed to have such supportive family and friends. I didn't tell you, but I finally told my parents about our new life. I was terrified. I told my mom on Mother's day. We cried and I felt so much support and love. In the past, I have always felt that I was being judged. That my choices were wrong. And they were. They were wrong. But the only thing I got from my mom was LOVE.

I left it to my mom to tell my step-dad. I was terrified. But once again I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support. He asked his questions, but none of them were judgmental. All of them were caring and supportive. They told me that I seam so much more relaxed.

The growth I have gone through the past year has done wonders on my relationship with my parents. We had some horrible times, I will not lie. But it was because I could not see that they were doing what they needed to do. I was selfish and far from supportive. Now I see. Now I know what it is like to make the hard choices. To make choices that do not make everyone happy.

Now I see my family moving into a new part of our lives. I see us moving to a place where we can one day buy our own house. To have money in the bank and no debt. I see my parents moving into a great place too! I am so proud of them. So proud of myself. So proud of my Husband. He had come so far, you have no idea. Thank you Hubby. I love you.