Mar 162016
 

snow filled basketball hoop

This was written as a rant, after an episode.  It was not a horrible episode, though it was headed that way.  I was the mom who stepped down from the bleachers and walked over to the bench to do what was needed.  As an introvert, it takes a lot for me to do that. I am trying to step back more and let my kids learn on their own, though watching other adults fail, then get mad at my kids for said adults lack of observation, usually gets me over my introverted tendencies.

Parenting is an adventure. You are given responsibility of a crew with the goal if getting from point A to point Infinity. The catch, your crew were not given the choice of joining, and they do not always want to be there.  You gave to somehow convince them to follow you.

This wonderful opportunity for personal growth is made all the more adventurous when you add in kids from hard places.  Their brains are wired differently. That is a fact, not just a saying.  Trauma of any kind changes you, some more severely than others. Ever heard of PTSD?

The minds of children are especially prone to neuroligical changes that can not be undone.  The first 2 years of your life contain over 80% of your brain development.  Whether those years contained time in an ICU, surrounded by beeping machines and people you did not know, all the while not being held or touched enough; chronic sickness, resulting in going to the doctor a lot; stress in your parents’ lives resulting in less attention given to you; lots of yelling, fights, or even frequent moves; being in foster care or even private adoption (loss of main caregiver); not to mention drugs, abuse, and chronic neglect (not enough food, ignored, needs not met, etc.); trauma has a huge impact on the brain’s wiring.

In a neurotyipical child cause and effect are learned at a normal rate. Things ARE eventually learned.  However, those from hard places (histories involving trauma) have trouble with this connection. Studies show they are more likely to have ADD/ADHD, impulsiveness, end up in prison or be arrested, unemployed, drop out of school, etc.

And here is what gets me, all the effort to get foster parents, to promote adoption from foster care … I have yet to hear anything aimed at teachers, coaches, employers saying, “When you are in a place to influence these kids, here is what you will most likely see ….. and here is how to handle it …. ”

Not that people purposefully set out to keep these kids on a path to failure, they truly do not realize their brains process data and situations differently. And that makes me so sad. And mad. To the point of tears, which means I am beyond yelling mad.  It means I have to be hyper-vigilant around certain adults to make sure they do not cause my (young) kids to completely escalate and explode.  Again, they are not doing it on purpose. The methods they use, the way they respond works very well with their neurotyipical child.  It does the exact opposite for mine. Trust me, I tried and thought I was going crazy when it did not work.

In these situations I resemble an Army Apache helicopter parent. My scopes are set, ready to step in at any moment. However, it is usually to remove my child from the situation, rather than tell you that “little Johnny can’t help himself”.  Then we go off to a safe place while I spend the next 30 minutes to an hour undoing what just took the other adult under 5 minutes to create. Better for me to do that than let it escalate and have to spend a whole day ‘fixing’ it.

I am a big believer in self-control, personal responsibility, manners, and growing into a responsible, independent adult.  We are working on it. Doing better. Still a long way to go. So, while I understand most other kids that age can handle this situation without reacting this way, mine can’t.  So, please, just do not make it worse. Act like an adult and think, do not react off the cuff, it will do wonders for modeling it for my child.

Mar 022016
 

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We are back to routines for the most part, sort of. All kids are doing school at their respective locations, a load of laundry was done, lunch was cooked, and a new morning routine has been formed in my mind.

I did change things a bit:

  • During afternoon Quiet Time I took down some wallpaper.  This was aided by a kid who got up, thereby necessitating a restart of the timer. This is normally a morning activity before everyone wakes up. However I have a renewed urgency to get this HUGE project done.
  • While writing this Jack is writing his spelling words. Who says I gave to write everything at one time?
  • During math practice I expanded some seed starting pellets.
  • Jack’s computer time was used to order a pencil sharpener and switch laundry, via another computer.
  • Lunch time also found me unloading and reloading the dishwasher. (Okay, that is pretty standard.)
  • Jack’s read aloud time allowed me to clear off part of a counter.
  • We got behind on our composer studies. Thanks to a CD from an inter-library loan Franz Schubert has been playing in the house all day long. Could this be lending a hand toward me feeling calmer?
  • A shower did not get on the list for me this morning, I didn’t even get a coat on when I left the house.  So Jack gets half an hour of t.v. while I add this indulgence to my afternoon activities.

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Today feels better, calmer.  Could it be because I have not had 3 boys (8, 6, & 6) behind my in the car for the last 1.5 hours?

Or because life still has a semblance of normal? 

Or because I know our new guy, who still needs a blog name, will be gone during George’s after school time. This will allow us to get his homework done and spend some QT together. He has so many big feelings going on inside, but doesn’t always know how to express them.  Also, new little guy doesn’t seem to understand leaving someone alone while they do homework. George has trouble staying on task as it is, having a new friend constantly telling you to come play does not help.

I also bought some school supplies between dropping kids off at school and coming home to start home school. Boy, things are expensive during off season and at a store in Small Town.  Saved me 40 minutes of driving, though, which was worth it.

The urge to drop a coat off at the dry cleaners was ignored. Once home, I checked the tag – wash gentle cycle with cold water. Perfect, no extra bill.  I feel like I’m handing out money left and right this week.

My car problems may be passed. Maybe. The mechanic cleared the error message to see if it would come back. So far so good. My husband is insisting the kids and I take his (smaller) car to visit family this weekend. He would rather my car give out near home instead if two hours away from anyone we know.  It is crowded enough with two kids in the back, 3 is going to be interesting. I’m thinking movies from the library and getting to our destination as soon as possible may be the only hope for my sanity. Supper will be in the car. Potty breaks? I have not figured that one out yet.

Mar 012016
 

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If you have not been following me on Facebook, you probably missed the news. Yesterday another kid came to live with us for a while.

On top of an already busy week, one where I had not yet made a menu plan, we have someone new who does not know our routines or expectations.

My answer when they first called was, “No. We need a bigger age gap. But call back if you can’t find anyone else.” For the first time ever, they called back. I said “Yes.” I was also honest, with the supervisor who called, about my concerns. They understood and we went from there.

I am also working with renewed gusto on taking down wallpaper so I can paint our spare bedroom. Once painted, we can get new flooring and actually start using the other half of our house.

So far I have found the early morning hours to be the best time to work. And Sunday afternoon, which is why I have no menu plan for this week.

While I get the wallpaper and painting taken care of, as well as adjust my nerves to having another personalty in the house, the blog may be a bit quieter.  We’ll see.  I know today is packed. The only reason I have time right now is because it is 5:14 a.m. and I am using this to finish waking up.

Keep checking back, as I have a few posts planned. I may also get the opportunity to post if some of the others things leave my plate.

Thanks for understanding.

Feb 012016
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

This post contain affiliate links to a great meal planning website.  My hope is that you find something that works for you and helps with this task of homemaking.

Last week I responded to a Facebook post from another homeschooling mom.  The question asked was, “What do your lunches look like?”  The question was brought up by an infographic showing school lunches from various countries around the world.  Let me just state, while I loved some of my school lunches, they NEVER looked like that.  Amazing what food staged for pictures look like versus what food served up by lunch room workers look like. Also, we rarely if ever got a cookie.

It seems I was in the minority, with most of the responses being along the lines of “Whatever we can find” or “They fend for themselves.”  Lunch at our home tends to be the largest meal of the day.  This has not always been the case.

When both my husband and I worked outside the home, I took my lunch (see below) and he would eat out.  Supper was the largest meal, but with only two of us and me not getting home till about 6 p.m. even that meal was not always really large.

Another factor in what our meal plan has become is my husband.  If it were up to me it would look something like this:

Breakfast – egg sandwich and coffee x 7, add tomato or cheese if feeling ‘fancy’

Lunch – peanut butter and jelly with a piece of fruit and a cup of yogurt x 7, change up flavors of jelly and yogurt and type of fruit for variety

Supper – soup and a sandwich (tomato soup, chicken and noodle soup, chili, beef stew, etc.)

And yes, there would be no meal plan each week because, frankly, there would not be much planning needed.

There also may not be a husband in the house because I am fairly sure he would have revolted over a decade ago.  For one, he does not like egg sandwiches.  Secondly, he does not like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Thirdly, he thinks changing the kind of yogurt and flavor of jelly does not constitute having variety in ones diet.  I think he would be okay with soup each night if we have nice break in the house.

Sun Dried Tomato Soup

This is where being a homemaker comes in.  It is my job to make a home for others, a place where they actually want to be.  To think of them while going about my routines of keeping thing going.

While I would not mind such a simple meal routine, I did it for many years on my own, my husband disagrees strongly.  What is one to do?  Tip: Digging in your heels till he sees the error of his ways is not the way to go.  I began looking for new recipes and taking more time out of my day to make a meal we both like.  In order to make those meals, I had to have the ingredients in the pantry.  In order to have them in the pantry I needed to know what I was making so I could buy what I did not have.  And so began meal planning for one or two meals a day.

Yes, it has meant more time in the kitchen and more dishes.  It has also meant finding some really delicious recipes.  This is what works for us at this time.

When a recipe seems time consuming or complicated and I really do not think I have the time to make it, I invite my husband to try it on a Saturday.  He is a good cook and enjoys doing it when he has time.  And time right now, time during the week is often in short supply for him.

Last week was one of those crazy weeks of my own making.  We were going to be out of the house over the lunch hour for 3 days, doctor appointment one day and field trips the other two days.  It would have been easy to say, “You are on your own” and leave it at that.  The result would have been a much higher eating out bill.  Instead, I made two meals ahead and the third one left up to my husband to decide.  There were supplies enough in the kitchen to make a sandwich or soup if he wanted to come home.

By having two meals already made, not only was my husband still able to have his large meal at home those days, but the rest of us were also able to still have a nice meal and not have to eat out.  It did mean making 3 meals one day, which I really did not like doing, but I preferred that over spending 4 times as much each day for us to eat out. (It can cost us $5 -$6 a person to eat out and $1-$2 to eat at home.)

apple muffins in freezer bagMy meal planning took a turn for the more detailed about 5 years ago.  What happened then?  We had two little boys move into our home with a very high need to know what they were going to be eating.  They also had no ability to wait.  If I stood in the kitchen thinking about what to make, 30 seconds later I would have 2 whining kids at my ankles begging for food.

As we found out more about them, the reasons became clear.  That did not make it easier, but it helped when I became frustrated with the issues.

You see, every night when I said, “Good night, I’ll see you in the morning.”  The automatic response would be, “What are we having for breakfast?”  “Cereal” was not an acceptable response as these kids did not eat cereal.  Well, at least not the kind that is in anyway healthy for you.

And so began me planning not only lunches, but all 3 meals. Every day. Each week.

It quickly became apparent that I needed to find a more efficient way to plan some of these meals.  Thankfully, unlike my husband, the kids did not mind having the same meal for breakfast every day.  AND they thought a change in flavor of jelly fully acceptable to keep things exciting.

For the first 6 months of these two little, bursting at the seams with energy, bundles of boy-ness we had the following for breakfast – eggs, toast, fruit, milk.  My husband had his choice of breakfast meals, though he usually opted for a shake.

Not only did having the same thing for breakfast everyday make meal planning easier, it also created a routine.  They knew that food was going to be there and they knew what it was going to be.

After 6 months I decided it was time to introduce a bit of variety into their lives.  Each day of the week, breakfast got a meal type.

  • Sunday – shakes
  • Monday – eggs and toast
  • Tuesday – cream of wheat or other warm cereal
  • Wednesday – a muffin or other carb
  • Thursday – shake
  • Friday – oatmeal or other warm cereal
  • Saturday – eggs, toast, fruit, meat or eating out in Big Town.

And here we are 4.5 year later with almost the exact routine still in place. I can often tell you which day of the week it is by what we had for breakfast.  It really throws off our week if we have shakes on a day other than Sunday and Thursday.

breakfast collage bacon eggs hashbrowns coffee

Over time it would have been easy to stick with what used to work for me, to say “no” to change.  However, my love for others, wanting to show them I care about their likes and dislikes, and wanting to care for their needs, has led me to taking time to do something they may not always think about – meal planning so there is something there for them to eat.

Please, do not take this as me saying, “If you do not meal plan and cook everyday you do not love your family.”  That is not at all what I am trying to get across.  I am saying that this is one way I have chosen to express my love for my family.  I could say the same thing about doing the laundry or requesting movies from the library.  Neither of those two latter things would be activities I would give much thought to if it were just me.  My love for others, though, has shown me that sometimes we have to stretch and be willing to invest in activities that we may not otherwise seek out.

Meal planning has allowed me to do this activity of love more efficiently and frugally.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

 

 

Breakfast:

  1. Shakes
  2. Eggs, toast, fruit
  3. Cereal
  4. Doughnuts
  5.  Shakes
  6. Hot rice cereal with nuts and raisins
  7. Strawberry-jam Hand Pies

Lunch:

  1. Eat out
  2. Chinese Barbecued Pork, steamed veggetables
  3. Salad
  4. Pulled Pork Sandwich, potato salad
  5. Black Bean Burgers
  6. Tuscan Style Beef Stew
  7. Sandwiches, fruit, chip

Supper:

  1. Leftovers
  2. Healthy Slow Cooked Tikka Masala, rice
  3. Cream of Tomato Soup
  4. Falafel, barley
  5. TBD
  6. Crepes
  7. Leftovers

 

This post linked up at OrgJunkie.com and This Week For Dinner

 

Jan 092016
 


Children at work cutting with scissorsWhat’s Going On Inside The Brain Of A Curious Child – Ah ha!  This is so Jack. 1,001 questions every day. I have learned to ignore some, as they are him thinking out loud, and answer others.  So many questions, it is often hard to stay on track.  He tends toward ADHD or autistic type behaviors (cumpulsion at times, trouble transitioning always), so that does not help with all the questions either.  He sure impressed our HVAC person with his knowledge (and questions) yesterday.  Perhaps there is something to curiosity and retaining knowledge.  I will have to keep that in mind when looking to teach some of the ‘boring’ subjects.

Rich Children And Poor Ones Are Raised Very Differently  – interesting read. The findings were not quite what I thought they would be.  I expected more of the “preschool is great, screen time is bad, spend time with your kids” rhetoric. Instead, they actually looked at the differences, both a young kids and as adults. Seems we all love our kids and want what is best for them, even if we try to achieve it in different ways.

We very much used to, and still at times do, parent out of fear – not that they will be shot, but that they will grow up lacking skills to learn; that they will be so far behind academically and skill wise that they will give up, that there would be no striving to gain knowledge.

From almost the first day they lived with us it was Enrichment 101 at our house, or so it felt. They were both about a year behind on many skills, this at a point where 1 year was a significant portion if their lived, so we focused on those needing the most work. We didn’t know how long they would be with us, so we made the most of the assumed limited time.

A few years later it was actually hard to realize that they had caught up in some areas, others were almost there, and the ones that were not would get there with maturity and time. Yes, consistent work still needed to be done, but we did not need to fear anymore. Now the goal is to relax some, but still provide tool to encourage learning.

This past month our home school routine has been more relaxed as I was focusing more time on the house. The result? Jack began understanding some math concepts he had been struggling with before.  It was like they needed to simmer for a time before becoming ingrained.

In public school, George finally latched on to the idea of adding. He went from not understanding at all over the summer and having nothing memorized, to now being able to subtract. There are other areas of struggle, especially where memorization is involved, but that is something with which he will always struggle. I am growing to acceptance of that reality. We still work hard to get him to fix these things in his memory, while knowing that Time has its place, too.

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Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You To Chill Out – A great reminder that we do not need to be Martha (as in Mary and Martha) about everything.  It is a great reminder and encouragement, as I often ‘fail’ to achieve the do-everything-perfect-mom which I have set for myself.  I have relaxed more, both in parenting and homemaking, but have a ways to go.

Here Are 7 Sky Watching Events In 2016 You Don’t Want To Miss – late Autumn through early Spring is my preferred sky watching time. Yes, it may be cold outside, but you do not have to be up late waiting for the sun to set.  Not only does it allow me to get some sleep, it also increases the likelihood that I say “Yes” to letting the kids observe the event.

 

Dec 292015
 

first 2013 produce stand

This past year was harder than I had anticipated.  Though I will further explore that statement later, I want to talk about one aspect in particular relating to this past year – the street-side produce stand.

Since 2009 I have put a small stand out in front of the house.  It started with extra produce which was more than I could give away at church.  The idea was to charge less than Small Town Grocery, who is expensive and has a poor selection,  but enough to cover my gardening costs.  I was not in it to get rich.

Over time I have come to realize how much my neighbors appreciate the close availability of fresh produce.  The working mom across the street would send her kids over for peppers to make with supper.  The assisted living residents would stop by for a tomato or a hanging basket of begonias, as those were one of the few plants able to grow in the limited light of their apartments. Someone canning and needing just a few more tomatoes knew were to stop. The family with only a few dollars to spend on fresh produce could make their money go further.  The neighbor across the street bought me out of bedding plants to complete her yard work.  The mail carrier needing a few things, but no time to run into the store after work.  As time went on, I began to get a feel for the community, realizing what a blessing this was for people.  That is one thing I would remember when I needed the extra energy to keep it going.

(Side note: my husband recently shared with me that at least one person stopped and bought from the stand assuming we needed the money. “Why else would someone do it?”, they reasoned. )

cart of produce auction hay tomato apples

The stand was started before we became foster parents, before the loss of my husband’s father, before the loss of someone close to me to suicide, and before other trials in our lives. It was one of the things I would do to keep my sanity in times of otherwise emotional chaos.

Over time, my friendship with my neighbor grew due to the time we spent on gardening related activities, including running this stand together.  Without her, I am not sure I could have seen it through that first summer with George and Jack.  The following year she had some major medical issues that kept her from gardening at all, let alone helping with the stand. I was able to pick up things and still help her family have some of the fresh produce they had now grown used to during the summers.

processing tomatoes for spaghetti sauce dinning room table

Having the produce stand has also resulted in some unintended opportunities.  It has allowed my neighbor-friend to realize another area of need outside of our community that provides better income on a more consistent basis, during the summers, with not a lot of extra effort.  I too have begun noticing other areas of opportunity and have had the confidence to try them.

When this past Spring was approaching I knew I had to say “no” to more things in my life due to new priorities.  It was going to be for a season, but it was still hard to accept. The produce stand had become so second nature I was not sure I could stop. It had become a part of who I was. “My house is the one with the produce stand out front,” was often how I explained to people where I lived. It had also started taking up more of my time and mental energy.

My biggest worry was how to share this with my neighbor-friend. My second thought was for those who had relied on the stand as a source of affordable fresh produce.

When I shared my conclusion with my friend, her reaction was a sense of relief. Not at all the reaction I was expecting.  She too had been trying to figure out the words to use to say that she could not do the produce stand this year.  Her family responsibilities were going to be increasing, taking up more of her time. We both had been worried about letting the other down when in reality it was not the right season for either of us.

large white pumpkin at stand

As Spring turned into Summer I had several people ask about the produce stand. While they were disappointed, I assured them it would be for a season, not permanent.

It was the right decision. As Summer went along, it was very obvious I could not have done it all. I did not want to do it all.  While we missed the extra cash flow, it was not something we were relying upon to make ends meet.

I did not even need it as a source of extra produce to preserve, as that was something else to which I had said “no”. It helped that I had canned a lot of extra the past 2 years, enough to see us through on several different items.

What started out as an act of desperation when I had begun to feel overwhelmed, ended up being a very healthy thing. It allowed me to step back, re-evaluate if this was something I wanted to keep doing, to spend my time on, or something I needed to let someone else take over. (Several other gardeners had begun doing the same thing in the last year or two.)

Farmer's Market Stand

While I see myself picking it back up this coming summer, I also see myself setting boundaries.  We had both begun feeling as if we had to put the stand out, not because we had extra produce but because people expected it to be there. It was becoming more of a burden than a blessing.

Having the extra time this past year has allowed flexibility in deciding what was best for our family at this time.  Even that has changed several times as various needs have come and gone.

While I wish I could say, “This is what is going to happen, this is what is going to work for us in the upcoming 12 (unforseen) months”, I know better.  Forget about His laughing at my presumptions, I would do it for Him.

So, for now, I see that this past year was only “for a season”. Whether my forecast is accurate or not remains to be seen. I now know that I can let go and still be Me, that my identity is tied to more that something I happen to be doing at this time, even if it is something I greatly enjoy doing. This is a lesson I seem to have needed reminding of yet again.

 

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Nov 122015
 

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Up since 4 a.m.  Good Morning! Wish I had the coffee above to start my day.  Instead I had old work clothes and a cold room.  Maybe I will get some of the coffee tonight; we have several great mixes here at the house.

Found the Ghost in our house – a window that looked closed was actually open a smidge, causing a moaning sound as the wind passed between the upper and lower parts.  That was quickly corrected.

Listened to several Market Place Money and TED Radio Hour pod casts.  Really enjoyed, though that is not the best word, the episode called “Headspace”.  As someone who has had multiple friends and family members deal with depression, I appreciated the further delving into some of the science surrounding it.  Here it is if you find yourself with some extra time to listen.


Finished painting walls and ceiling with primer in 300+ square foot room and stairway.  I got a lot of painting done in those first 2 hours of my day. 🙂

Unloaded dishwasher. Reloaded it (with dirty dishes from last night) and ran the new load.

Dropped car off at mechanics for brake repairs.

Dropped husband off at work and son off at school.

Got a call that there is an issue with my car and it will have to stay in the shop till the part come in tomorrow.  I would not feel bad about this, except it is literally stuck on the lift of the mechanic.  Who is a friend and whom I know has other cars waiting to have work completed.  Of course, my husband’s car was supposed to go in after mine, but it can wait another few days.

Made a from scratch lunch. (Contrary to the picture below, there was no wine involved in this meal.)

Measuring items for cooking

Then within a 5 minute stretch:

Lunch finished.

Sold a book online.  Found issue with book before sending it. (Small issue, but one I want to correct before selling it.)  Got flustered and canceled the order.  Then realized I should not have done that and got flustered even further.  {sigh}  I do not always like learning opportunities.

Got a call about a (foster) kid who needs a place to go, someone right between George and Jack’s ages.  Due to issues, this kid would need their own room I suspect.  Our extra room at the moment needs painting, a door, and electricity restored to it. We are not the place for this kid.  I was in no way tempted to say yes.  We would have caused more trauma than help in this case.

unpainted stairway collage

I sent my husband back to work with his car, found George a ride home from school and have a plan to engage Jack’s mind while I tackle the garage.

My big goal for the day is to finish priming the garage.  It is about 40% done.  All that is left are the flat surfaces, which go fairly quick once I get going.

This is not the way I saw today going at all, but sometimes you just have to roll with it.  (Painting pun unintended.)

And the day is not yet over.

With only one car, we had to rearrange some activities that were to take place tonight.  It also will change tomorrow’s plans a bit, as my husband is taking the day off of work.

Being down to one car is not something about which I will be complaining.

  • We have a roof on the house that does not leak and a garage to keep the wind from finding its way under the kitchen door.
  • Most of the drafts in the house have been blocked, which is great as it is gusting something awful outside.
  • My car works, apart from the fact that the brakes are currently locked up while on a lift in the mechanic’s shop.
  • Even with the added cost of parts, we will be able to afford the repairs on the car.
  • I have friends who are willing to help with getting my kid home.
  • Jack is in a great mood today which allows me to focus on painting. (This is a HUGE thanksgiving, as this time last year it was very different.  Those were the days where a good day meant no call or note home from school and only yelling at me, no hitting me or others, for the hours he was here.)
  • We have food in the house with which to cook.

I could keep going, but have already been on here long enough.  Before my afternoon completely disappears I am going to grab a bit of chocolate and get back to painting.  You never know what tomorrow may hold, but I am going to try my best to make the most of today.

Oct 282015
 

Today has been a nice boring day.  At home.  It started off with me waking up on my own versus kids yelling at each other.  Perhaps that had something to do with it?  Either way, I was okay with a day that included school, laundry, painting and dishes.

2 hours this afternoon spent on the Mega Project, this time edging around the room above the garage left me feeling like I made good progress.  I might even get in another hour tonight if I have energy.  I have the ceilings in two rooms to do then I can go back and use the roller on the walls in all the rooms and stairways.

store flash cards math

School work completed with a great attitude; so much so that we were able to add in a few extra things.  Jack was happy that “we did not have to do math today!”  Of course, he finished 2 lessons on MathSeeds just so he could see the theme of the next map.

If you tell him that he just did school work, I think I will have to ban you from reading the blog. 😉

A few days ago the camping equipment was put away and the space freed up in the kitchen.  No worries, it did not stay empty long.  I brought up the totes of clothes as switching them out while in a stack in the basement was not going well.  It actually was going no where very, very quickly.  So now, maybe some progress will be made.  As it is, we seem to be in the limbo stage, with some summer clothes out and some winter ones making their way into the wardrobes.

Tonight, after the kids are in bed, I am going to check out the deals on Schoola.com.  Jack needs more pants.  We tried getting some while in Big Town earlier this week.  He does not usually do well in these stores.  I am not sure if he is visually overwhelmed or if the abundance of places to play “Hide and Seek” is just too much.  Either way, I really would rather make shopping easy and fun, while knowing the items will be of good quality and reasonably priced.

To make it even better, Schoola is currently offering several deals, my favorite of which is  the free shipping that is being offered for a limited time.  However, there are several more offers.

If you do the math above, you could potentially get $60 worth of clothing plus shipping for free if this is your first time ordering through them.  Now you have no excuse not to have your wardrobe as well as your kids’ (or other kid in your life) caught up for the season.

Clothes shopping without having to even turn on the car?  Sounds great.  Clothes shopping while drinking my favorite warm drink and snuggling under a warm blanket?  Sounds wonderful!

Update: I bought 4 pairs of pants for $13.08 in the time it would have taken me to get everyone unbuckled and into the store.  This does not even count the fact that the nearest store, that has clothes that won’t drain my bank account, is about 30 minutes away.   I paid about a $1 more per pair of pants than I would at garage sales or half-off days at the thrift store.  However, I did not spend $8 in gas and over an hour of driving to purchase them.  Also, Enya is playing in the background, my feet are up on the foot stool and I have a cup of homemade cappuccino sitting next to me.  So worth the extra $4-$5.  (For the record, Schoola says that I saved $36.92.  I never would have paid that much to cloth my active, life loving boys.  Just saying.) 

first schoola used clothes order collage

As I looked out the window today, I realized that I need to put the garden to bed for winter really soon.  The rainy weather we are having did not help the forlorn look by any means.  There are still tomatoes growing, which is what kept me from doing this before.  However, I do not see it lasting much longer and it is better to end this year’s gardening adventure on a good note.

The strawberry patch is overrun with weeds and radish plants that have gone to seed.  I’m not sure how this will turn out, but we’ll see.  If I get to it, then wonderful.  If not, then I have just created a larger job for myself next Spring.

There is still a small pile of wood chips that need to be relocated before the ground freezes, though I do not see that happening for a few weeks.  However, it is going to happen soon and I really want these put in their intended destination.

toddler bedToday I talked to two different friends, both of whom are on the journey to become foster parents.  I find it a bit odd that two different friends of mine, who do not know each other and who live in different states, are at the beginning-ish stages of their journey to become foster/adoptive parents.  The reason(s) that compelled all 3 of us to do this are different, our expectations are different, even our experiences at the beginning are different.  There are some similarities, but each of us is unique.

A misconception I had when I was, let’s say, younger was that all foster parents fit into a box.  They were XYZ kinds of people.  That could not be further from the truth.  I have seen first hand how the variety of homes can work for the best for different kids.  While a kid may thrive in one home, they will struggle in another.  While one home will struggle with a certain kid, they will find another a joy to have.

After going down this road these past several years, it is not necessarily something I push or even suggest for people to do.  It is hard, personally as well as on your relationships.  There are struggles.  Yes, there are also joys, but … it is hard.  If someone makes the decision to go on this journey I want it to be something they have chosen to do, not something I convinced them would be a good idea.  Having said that, I hope I can at least make it a bit easier and answer questions, provide support and being a sounding board.

That is exactly what happened this morning, before we could even start school.  My friend called to work through some feelings she had after a meeting with the agency and get reassurance about a decision being the correct best a logical one.  Of course she did not say it that way, but sometimes you just need to say things out loud and have someone who has been there tell you that you are not crazy.  I can be that person. Give me about 10 minutes and I can leave you feeling as if you have it all under control and know what you are doing.  I’ll even add in a few screaming kids in the background of added effect.  🙂

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Oct 072015
 

rotary phone with border

After 34+ phone calls to all the Oral Surgeons George’s insurance’s website says they cover, plus some names I got from various other offices I called, I was finally able to actual find offices who: 1. had practioners who were not retired or had left to open their own practices, 2. took George’s insurance, and 3. would accept a child under 12.

Yesterday I found an office that was scheduling out till February.  I wanted something sooner.

The office I thought would turn out a great option called me back this morning to tell me their practitioner had left to open a private practice.  “Have you tried our office in (town several hours the other way from us)?”  Well, it was close to my parents and would have made a great quick visit.  I called them.

“Sorry, none of our staff can do that.”  Back to the call list.

A few phone calls later, mostly “Try here”, “We often refer patients to this office.”, “We can not help you, but try this number.” and so on, found me talking to the School of Dentistry in the neighboring state. I could not believe they took our state’s insurance, but I was not going to question it. 3 hours away but, hey, it is an easy drive and I have friends there, too.  Seems like all the places that were possibilities are 3 hours away and in different directions.  Again, we live in Small Town that is in the middle of nowhere but in the middle of everything.

Phone call #23 resulted in an appointment for tomorrow morning, but it is 3 hours away. The drive is not bad, but I just was not feeling great about this appointment.  There was such a lack of information and helpfulness.  I was not sure if it was nerves or excitement or my radar going off.  I almost stopped there, but figured calling more places wouldn’t hurt.  (And I checked them out more when I got home to the computer.)

Two calls later found me talking to someone who actually sounded friendly and like they wanted to help, and not just add a name to the calendar.  Turns out they were in the billing office, but gave me the information to actually get stuff done instead of being directed to a voice mail.  🙂  I was given a fax number and told to send the information in for them to review.  They were scheduling out till January but would try to get me in sooner.

I almost stopped there, but figured I would try the rest of the counties in my state (this is how the website was organized).

Many letters in the alphabet later, with only 3 counties left to go, I came across the gem I was looking for – an office that took our insurance but did not have the people in office to do the job.  What they did have were two other locations that did have someone who could do the work.  The first number resulted in another, “I am not sure, but why don’t you try here.  We are not open today but the dentist works at this office also.”  I could not get through.

I was down to the very last number I could get to.  Yes, there were options to chose from, but none really felt great.  I prayed and made the call.

“Yes, we take the insurance, work on kids that young, and … how does October 29th sound?  Can you do 9:30?”  I was so astonished I did not know what to say.  It was close, but did not feel rushed; the person answered my questions and sounded intelligent, and the timing was perfect as it is a few weeks before George’s orthodontist appointment.  I scheduled it, cancelled the one for tomorrow morning and feel at peace.  Here is to hoping this works out.  If not, I have two others I now know to call.

Update: my husband came home and reminded me an Oral Surgeon was needed, not just a pediatric dentist.  I double checked and saw that even though I said as much in the phone call, the final office does in fact NOT have an Oral Surgeon on staff.  So much for the State’s online database being accurate.

Okay, let’s try another route ….

dental xray

Here are a few thoughts after the fact:

  • This whole process would have been a lot harder if I did not have an internet connection at home, as well as a phone to use that could make long distance calls.
  • This would all have been near impossible if I did not have a car and very impossible if I would not be able to afford to travel out of the area.
  • We could have looked around here for someone to do the extractions but it would have cost a lot more money.  If someone does not have a car and can not afford to travel out of the area by train or bus, once you could actually get to an area where those left from, what would make others things you could afford to skip using your insurance and pay for this out of pocket?
  • Some might view this as an elective dental procedure … if you could only see the x-rays would would see how this issue would end up affecting George his entire life.  It would be difficult to eat, there would be almost constant tooth pain, his gums would be sore from food hitting between his teeth … not exactly something I consider elective.
  • If I was working a typical job, I would not have been able to take the few hours to call all of the offices.  Or else it would have taken me a lot of lunch hours to do so.  Again, not really an easy thing for those who need to be working outside the home to help bring in an income.
  • Why in the world ?!?!? is the state’s list of insurance providers so outdated?  It really makes me wonder about others who may take this insurance but who are not listed.  25 out of all the office I called either did not have the person listed or take the insurance they were listed as taking.  There were only 2 or 3 of those that did not do work on kids under 12.  Missing 25 out of 34 is not exactly a passing grade.  Okay, to be fair, 4 of those offices were ones I found in our neighboring state and were not listed on the web site.  So I guess it is more like missing 21 out of 30.  Still not a passing grade.  🙁
  • Paying for this work out of pocket would still be cheaper than having added George onto our dental plan, if we had known during open enrollment that he would be getting this work done this year.  We are lucky in that we have the means to be able to pay out of pocket if needed, but it should not be needed.  He has insurance, he has insurance that will cover this work, he has insurance that is accepted by offices around the state.  It just happens that they are not near us and there are so few they are booked up.
  • The insurance George has is the same one he had when he was still in Foster Care.  Of all the annoyances with this whole process, I am just very glad I do not have to add Foster Care paperwork and approval on top of all of this.  Though, if that were the case, I think we could have gotten him into the surgeon in the county next to us and been done with it all fairly quick.

Above, when I said, “If not, I have two others I now know to call”, I did not think I would have to follow through with that statement in less than 30 minutes.  But it is true.  Not all of the hours today have been wasted.

These are the times when being an adult is no so much fun.

Sep 272015
 

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

This post is a bit on the political side, so I am going to give a disclaimer here.  When it comes down to where I stand politically, I tend to be for small government and less involvement.  I really am not fond of government programs, though we have been involved with a few due to our kids’ histories.  I have also worked for various government offices and actually like helping private property owners. Yes, it is a fine line we walk sometimes, between the ideal world and the one we actually live in. Keep that in mind please as you read this.

One week into the school year, George’s school said we needed to resubmit paperwork for his lunches.  As a foster child he was automatically qualified to received free lunches.  When we adopted him, he automatically qualified for free lunches due to his insurance.  Not liking this fact, knowing that if he was our biological child he would not qualify, I even tried to pay for them but was told it was not even possible.  (After talking with a former foster parent friend in another school district this past week, it seems that this was limited to our school district.)

So this year, I was very shocked when I was told that the rules had changed and we needed to resubmit the paperwork with OUR income, not just his.  I knew we, as a household, did not qualify, so I did not even bother with filling out the paperwork.

Instead I used this as an opportunity to find out more information and to help the secretary at school become more informed.  In other words, I asked questions.  I had the school double check as they have told me things before that were not quiet true.  I was not saying I should not be paying, I just wanted to make sure they were right before handing over almost $200.

The money is not the part I was upset about.  What really got me was that there was no warning and it wasn’t until the school year had begun that we found out.  As it turns out, the rule was that once we found out we were immediately responsible for the costs of his meals AND owed the school for the ones he had already eaten. It got better (sarcasm), as we were also charged almost $200 for other fees that had also been covered previously.  Again, I am not arguing that we should not have covered them, just that previously we were not even allowed to cover them and now without warning we were being held responsible for them and expected to pay them right away.

I am not sure who came up with the rule that you could not be told about these changes, but once you found out they took effect that very minute.  Really?  No warning?  I am pretty sure this had put more than a few families in a tight spot.  I understand the reasons behind these changes and agree they needed to be done.  The carry out of them, though, was done very poorly.

In my shock I did ask a very important question – “How much do lunches cost?”  Turns out the answer is $2.40 per day.  While that is not a lot if you were eating out, it is a lot if I were to spend that much per person to make a meal at home.  I also knew that George did not eat all of his food.  To make life a bit easier, I went ahead and paid for the meals he had already eaten and added $20 more to his account. That $20 would have lasted him only 8 days for lunches only!  That is almost the amount I use per person per week to plan our grocery shopping! Then I went home and vented.  I can make much better food at home for cheaper.

I must have said as much to my husband over lunch, as he came home that night with a very useful number.  Seems we have spent $1.75 per person per meal over the past year.  I looked at him funny, as there is no way I spend that much on our grocery/household shopping.  The light bulb went on, “Does that include eating out?”  It did.  So, Dear Readers, over the past year including eating out we have spent less than the school is going to charge us, for better, healthier food.  The next morning George’s routine changed and he started taking his lunches daily.  Here are some of the meals I have sent him:

  • Dad’s Meatloaf, rice, peas, milk
  • Sliced ham, cheese, crackers, applesauce, chocolate chip zucchini muffin, juice
  • Spaghetti, juice
  • Pan fried steak with noodles, juice
  • Breaded Pork Chops, couscous, red cabbage with apples, juice
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, applesauce, juice

… all for less than $2 a day.  I am thinking it was more like $1-$1.50 a day, as these were servings taken from our main meal of the day, lunch.  If it had been from breakfast or supper, it would have cost us even less.

So what is the big deal about an extra $1 or so each day?  Let’s do the math:

185 school days x $2.40 per school lunch = $444 if we paid full price

185 school days x $.40 in savings every day = $74 saved with minimal effort ($370 spent for lunches)

185 school days x $1 in savings every day = $185 saved with a bit of planning ($259 spent for lunches)

185 school days x $1.40 in savings every day = $259 saved with better planning and shopping  ($185 spent for lunches)

crackers ham cheese

A few days after I found out about the change, I had used up all the individual milk cartons we had at home.  The store I normally would go to for the purchase of these was not near where I was headed anytime soon.  I was not sure what I was going to do, but figured I would take it as it came.  (It cost $.30 to buy just milk at school and I could get cartons elsewhere for $.25.)

I was very thankful and surprised to then find juice cartons at our Small Town grocer, that same day, on discount for $.15 each.  I was not sure why they were marked down, as the expiration dates were not for a few months.  After a quick check of the ingredients list, I took all they had set out.  He is now good for the next 4 or 5 months.  Hope he likes apple juice.  🙂

My husband’s take-away from the results of him figuring out how much we spend on each meal?  “Eating at home really does save us a lot of money.”  🙂  Yes, Dear.   I have also noted that he has been eating supper at home more often on the nights he has class.  In the past, he would grab a sandwich, chips and drink from one of several restaurant in Big Town.  I  think he realized the cost of eating out, but once put in a different light it clicked as to how much we could save by lowering that number.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Breakfast

  1. Shake
  2. Twice Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
  3. Eggs, Toast, Fruit
  4. Chocolate Chip Monkey Muffins
  5. Shake
  6. Cream of Wheat
  7. Crepes, fruit

Lunch

  1. Eat Out
  2. Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
  3. Grilled Spiced Pork Patties with greens, rice, beets
  4. Meatball Curry, rice, tomatoes
  5. Spaghetti
  6. Super Fast Salibury Steak, rice peas
  7. TRY NEW RECIPE

Supper

  1. Leftovers
  2. Slow Cooker Lentil and Brown Rice Tacos
  3. Salad
  4. Healthy Slow Cooked Tikki Masala, rice, vegetables
  5. Salad
  6. Falafel, rice, vegetables
  7. Leftovers

 


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