WEEK 2 Update: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Last week, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read that post here. If you want to skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 2 Update. This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I will pick up later this month when it is available. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 2 Update:

The second week of May was a bit of a mess for us here. I have been battling gallstones all month and was scheduled for surgery. Friday brought an attack of pancreatitis secondary to gallstones which lead to my admission into the hospital that afternoon and my surgery was fast-tracked to Sunday evening. I came home on Monday morning. Needless to say, our stockpile and freezers came in very handy in keeping the troops fed during this unscheduled interruption. On the upside, I wasn’t able to do any grocery shopping until last night, so this week the total is nice and low! I will likely use that money to splurge to buy the crew pizza for dinner tonight (none for me and my battle-scarred carcass) to celebrate our anniversary (which is today, yay!).

Since I did end up spending about half of my budget last night though, I will list what I got for the money.

Food Basics:
5x 3lb bag macintosh apples – 1.67 each
2.07 kg red grapes – 2.80/kg
1.5 kg Barlett pears – 2.16/kg
Total spent: $17.36

Shoppers Drug Mart
2x PC snacks (clearance) – $.79 each
2x Danone yogurt (clearance) – $.59 each
1x 4L 2% milk – $4.39
3x 2L Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi – 3/$5
Total spent: $12.80

Grand Total – $30.16

The apples will last almost a week if I’m lucky (except that at one point last night, I did notice that Pax had an apple in each hand, ugh) and the grapes should make it through the weekend. The pears will be gone before Sunday. The PC snacks will last just over two weeks and the yogurt will provide 12 servings (total), or three days of yogurt for my smalls. The pop will last the entire week from Saturday to Saturday. Overall, can’t be sad.

We still have romaine, cucumbers, other apples, broccoli, frozen veg and pretty well stocked freezers, so this week I will need to restock the milk (tend to use 16-20L a week) and pick up berries, but overall, I think keeping to the $60 should be completely doable.

Oh! And I get to pick up our Good Food Box this afternoon, so I’m excited to see what produce we have to work with from that source as well!

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $30.16

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Money. Some people have so much they never notice where it goes or how much is going. Other people never seem to have enough dollars to get to the end of the month without using credit and wracking up debt. Others of us though, do have enough dollars to get to the end of the month and carefully track where each and every dollar and dime go, updating the spreadsheets or notebooks daily, weekly or at least regularly. I fall into this last category. For the past five or more years, I have maintained an annual budget spreadsheet wherein I have tracked each and every expense, in sometimes painstaking detail. Before the spreadsheet, I maintained our budget in notebook and tracked bills, expenses, and income. For some people, the idea of doing this is sheer agony, but for me? I love it. I like knowing where our money is going, knowing approximately how much we’ll need for this expense in the upcoming year or where our spending has gotten a bit heavy and needs to be cut back in order to stay within our family values.

For years, while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. The fact that I also like to maintain a small pantry/stockpile and shop the sales, while it definitely ensures that I tend not to pay full price for meats, tinned goods or grocery items, it does mean that sometimes, the weekly outlay is more than I have allowed for in my budget. An occasional month of that, here or there, does not have much effect, but when it happens a few months in a row, I know that it’s time to pull back and re-evaluate. I also know that it’s time to start whittling down the freezers and stockpile in order to make room for new products, so nothing goes to waste.

This year, May is my month in which to do this. April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I will pick up later this month when it is available. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

I will update weekly with my actual spending on each Thursday.

May 2019 Weekly Grocery and Food Spending Challenge

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $TBD

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

When the long-awaited prognosis is “there’s no hope for recovery.” What then?

To set the scene, you’re at the doctor with a complaint. They diagnose the problem and your first reaction is relief (that you’re not crazy and it’s an actual ‘thing’) followed closely by a practical “okay, so what do we do about it, how do we fix this?” You’re given your options (there are usually at least a few) and maybe a plan is set forth to rid you of this issue, or at the very least, to deal with it. Disgust, fear, sadness, anger, frustration, depression, all of those feelings may come later, and none would be unexpected, depending on the diagnosis and prognosis.

So, that covers what may be a typical scenario, but there are other scenarios, aren’t there? Ones where the outcome is less positive, less reassuring, and far, far less okay.

You attend a hospital clinic appointment for a years-long issue (an issue which was, incidentally, discovered quite by accident when receiving annual follow-up for an unrelated and non-fatal condition). While the doctors have never been able to pinpoint or explain to you how you ended up with this very rare (you meet exactly zero risk factors), and likely non-genetic yet life threatening condition, you have so far endured years of treatments to manage the situation. All the while, never imagining that the mystery of the ‘why this, why me and how?’ will never be answered, but there is it. No answers.

It is while you are in attendance this latest appointment, that you ask the question “so, what can be done to get rid of this?” You are told, for the first time throughout the entire ordeal “nothing. There is nothing we can do for this particular problem.”
“Can it get bigger/worse?” You ask.
“Oh yes, it could.” Your clinic specialist physician says immediately.
“So, I’m a ticking time-bomb? The walking dead, essentially? Nothing will help? No treatment? No laser, surgery, medication, nothing will make this go away?”
“No, nothing. It could stay the same, it could change. We have no treatment options. Please make your next clinic appointment on your way out.”

Now, before I continue, this is NOT happening to me, my husband or my children. None of us are the patient in this scenario and I will not reveal the person’s identity out of respect their privacy. I am, however, a completely entangled and emotionally devastated ‘other’ receiving this news and I am, for the first time in my life, absolutely devoid of coping strategies or ways to either help the patient or myself to deal with the twisted rainbow of emotions, the paralyzing fear and grief upon hearing this news. If I can’t speak the words out loud, or even think them in my head without crying, how am I expected to deal with this?

What do you do when you are given NO hope? How do you cope with the news that not only is there no hope, there is no fight? There is no chance to over come, that no matter what, nothing you do or don’t do will have any impact on the outcome?

How do you prepare to be left? Knowing full well that everyone who is born, everyone who is in our lives will one day die, how do you prepare knowing that it may not be from very, very old age, but rather an unexplainable, unforgiving and untreatable malfunction from within? How can there be no hope?

I can deal with a lot and I have dealt with a lot. I have survived a lot and I will continue to survive a lot. What I don’t know, what I can’t figure out is how to deal with any of this without any hope. I can’t figure out how to survive any of this without even the smallest possibility that it’s all going to be okay.

This is all still new information for me and I am processing while absolutely losing my collective mind at the same time. My immediate rational reaction, to search for studies, treatment, other doctors, specialists, third, fourth, fifth opinions have been exhausted and now I am just broken and sad and trying so very, very hard to pull myself together. My being broken hurts everyone I love and I know that if I am not okay, then none of them are okay either but honestly, how am I going to fake my way through this one? How do I hold on to or even find any hope when I’m told in no uncertain terms that there is none and the only certainty is the loss of this most precious person from my life?

I am open to any and all suggestions, because I got nothing on this one.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

This is the price that I gladly pay for raising literate children.

So. Mugsy here insists that her children read. Before these babies could properly sit up, they had shelves of books to look at, chew on, drag around and drop. She also insists upon reading to her children (currently only the younger four, between the ages of 8 and 14). She reads books upon books, chapter after chapter, novel after novel. From the time the children were hardly more than delicious little morsels with chub-chub thighs and wrist-less sausage-like arms over which she could marvel and upon which she could nibble during their 2 a.m. parties (turns out that some babies are really quite crap at sleeping – who knew?) and afternoon cuddles alike, she would read to them. She reads them stories from L’Engle, Dahl, Pilkey, Shannon and Blume. She reads them poems from Silverstein and Mother Goose, and tales from Parks, White and Rowling. She reads them Llama Llama and Dr. Seuss until they can all recite them from memory. She thought she was responsibly and rightly encouraging literacy. Being an only child herself, she had no idea that she was also promoting something else entirely.

One day a year or so ago while she roamed around Costco bemoaning to herself about the price of baby carrots (she doesn’t get out of the house often), she came across an absolutely irresistible boxset of books and before she could stop herself (as if she really tried 😏), she purchased it and once home reverently removed the cellophane wrap. Mugsy and her children were about to enter the weird and wacky worlds and words carefully crafted by David Walliams.

Isn’t it beautiful? 😍

Beginning with first book in the box, The Boy In The Dress, and whipping through one novel after another, in the prescribed order, Mugsy and her children shared in the joy and pleasure of each new chapter. They laughed at the crazy characters and waited to hear the next ‘special deal’ the kind-hearted newsagent, Raj, would offer his next ‘favourite’ patron. Finally finding a story without Raj shocked them all, and not believing that it could be true, they waited for him to appear. When he did not (won’t spoil for you which novel he’s absent from), they all felt, well, a little betrayed. Alas and ahoy however they pressed on, for they were “readers” and not “quitters.” (Whatever that is supposed to mean).

That brings us up to present day. The motley quintet are reading the last book in the boxset, Grandpa’s Great Escape, relieved to find that the world has been righted and Raj is back. Giggles and guffaws from Mugsy’s eager listeners come in short order when Raj tells young Jack “I have an excellent deal going on yoghurt. Well, I say yoghurt, it’s last month’s milk and…” But just a few pages prior to that classic Raj moment, on page 110, is the place where things take a bit of a turn and what inspired this blog post. The passage is on page 110:

Usually, learning new terms and words is something I celebrate, but sometimes, it leaves a little something to be desired.

Fast-forward a week or two later, after still more reading of three-to-five chapters of GGE while the children eat dinner (most weeknight evenings). Everyone is happy and invested in the story, although they do not discuss the book outside of their dinner hour. That is, until one early morning (and all mornings are such early mornings during the week), when Mugsy asks her youngest son if he would like a second egg on a second English muffin for breakfast (his usual school morning breakfast fare). Without looking up from his plate, without batting an eye he says “Oh, yes, please Char Lady.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Yes, please Char Lady” Said now, with an elfish, cheeky smile starting to spread across his face as he lifts his eyes to meet Mugsy’s shocked expression.
“Char Lady!?! Are you kidding me? You cheeky booger nugget!”

The explosion of giggles that follows, from both the boy and Mugsy are the sort that can only happen in spaces were there exists absolute trust, love, and the safety for spontaneous outbursts of silliness.

So now, when I ask any of my younger sons to do anything, they’re apt to reply with either “yes Char Wallah” or “yes Char Lady” and immediately start to laugh. At times when I am giving them a list of things to do, I will end the with “and thank you, Char Wallah” just to make them smile as they set on their way to scrub their toilet or make their beds.

It is in these exchanges, these small moments in time, around forgettable and mundane tasks that we are able to create the happiest memories, the times they will (I hope) one day look back on and smile about, remember yet another ‘inside joke’ that only the four of them will share long after I am gone.

So, since Mugsy here is to be called Char Lady or Char Wallah by a small army of my own making, I can’t think of a more lovely memory to have (and to share) of the moment when I realized that all time spent reading to and with my people has been so much more than ‘just reading.’ The time spent has encouraged them to become readers themselves, helped them discover the magic of being lost inside the pages of a book, and has (gently) forced them to become literate (despite the occasional ‘more better’ that may slip out when one of them is tired or distracted).

Our time spent reading has done all of that, yes, but even more than that, we have been stitching together moments like this “Char Wallah” moment which ultimately help to create the fabric of their shared experience of childhood, of parent-child interactions, of their relationships with one another and with me. Realizing this, it is my dearest hope that one day, when one of them needs it the most and expects it the least, that another one of them will let loose an eye roll and a “yes, Char Wallah” on him and that their memories of this time together and the feelings of safety, of family and love, of happiness and home may encircle each of them like a warm hug and make their hearts happy again. If only for that single moment in time.

Right then. Enough of the soppy stuff. This Mugsy / Char Wallah/Lady must go and prepare the evening meal. The children are hungry and we are all looking forward to reading chapters 47-52 of G.G.E. For now that Mrs. Trifle has finally found a loo, had her tinkle and “shaken it off” (no loo roll left, of course) and she, Grandpa and Jack have resumed their escape attempt from Twilight Towers and it’s matron, the high-voltage cattle-prod-wielding diabolical Miss Swine. We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to find out where the story will take us.

And finally, please believe me that no matter how tired, busy or fed up I am, hearing any of my children ask if I will read to them, do ‘the Word of the Day’ calendar with them or plead for ‘just one more chapter, please!’ makes my heart so incredibly happy (well, happy that is until I stop reading and they kick off one argument or another, for the fifty-billionth time, but that’s a different post for a different day), and I suspect that it always will. 📖❤️
~A.

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, if you like what you read here or hate what you read here, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Oven-Baked Black Bean Burger Recipe

During this year’s March Break, I posted a picture on the blog’s Facebook page of a black bean burger that I prepared for Miss M, so that she could participate in our family burger night while also staying true to her stated intention to eat less meat. There were a few requests on the FB page for the recipe, so now that the kids are back to school and I’m finding my ‘normal’ again, here it is.

First, I need to admit that while I LOVE cookbooks (to an almost pathological degree) and I have, probably thousands of recipes that I have collected, written and cultivated over the past twenty years, I tend to use them more as loving guides rather than absolute rules that must be followed. While this can be a low-stress way to prepare food, it can also lead to unpredictable results, especially when trying to reproduce an amazing meal. I chalk this up to the whim and whimsy of my particular set of mental and emotional issues. My family chalks it up to the cost of doing business with me. Either way, you’ve been warned. 

Honestly though, I have made these, as written below, a few times and they have turned out perfectly each time, so while I do not exactly adhere to all of the exact measurements all of time, I think the recipe is forgiving enough to still be a delicious alternative to a meat burger, even if you add a bit more bread crumbs or a lot more garlic, or toss in some carrots julienne. Lean in and own it, make it your own. The way it is presented here, is how I make them and the 50% of my kids who have tried them (and I) like them.

Oven-Baked Black Bean Burgers

Plant-based, not Vegan.

Makes 4-6 patties, depending on preference (I make 6).

Ingredients

1 can (19oz) Black Beans, rinsed and drained

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsp diced garlic

1 large egg, beaten badly

2/3 cup bread crumbs (about a handful, really)

1 tbsp chili powder (optional, I omit usually)

1 tsp cumin (again, optional)

Salt and pepper (and they’re in a fix), to taste (but don’t taste it raw, just guess)

Directions:

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. Rinse, drain and drip-dry beans. Place in a large bowl and mash with a fork (or, if you have one, a handy-dandy pastry cutter does an amazing job).
  3. Add onion, garlic, and spices (if using) to the bean mash.
  4. Add egg and bread crumbs and combine. 
  5. Form into patties and put on cookie sheet.
Perfect bun-sized patties 😍
  1. Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet, 10 minutes per side.
  2. Toss on a bun, load up with condiments, pile your plate with sides and enjoy!
  3. Refrigerate left over patties for a day or two, or wrap and freeze for later. Reheat in toaster oven or microwave (about a minute on high from cold, not frozen).

Notes: You can opt to pan-fry these in a pan using a bit of oil, 4-5 minutes per side, but that will change the nutrition facts accordingly. I haven’t tried to grill these, but if you’re brave and have a well-greased grill, I suppose you could also cook them that way. Experiment, be creative and have fun with them. xx

Let me know if you make them and how they turn out for you! If you like them, share the recipe with friends and family and spread the love 🌱❤️

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Even when I think I’m an adult, I’m not really an adult. Can my kids fire me?

Some days, I am sure that I have it all together (like, really, really sure, positive even). On those days, I am adulting at gold medal levels. I’m feeding children, I’m packing lunches, I’m getting children on the (correct) bus, and on time. I’m cleaning the kitchen of all evidence of breakfast and I’m listening to my Rachel Maddow podcast while I eat my peanut butter and toast and check CNN, BBC, and CBC. I write my ‘to-do’ list with every intention of completing it. You tell me, does that not all sound terribly adulty? Right. I thought so.

But then, something will happen and I prove once again that I am merely an imposter and if my kids could find any takers, I would be made redundant on the double (after, of course, being forced to provide a comprehensive list of who likes what and what makes who sob in despair, you know, those things that only a mummy would know and keep track of, right?).

Not being a master of suspense writing, it is pretty obvious by now that something happened this week (and it’s only Tuesday), that has brought my ‘adult status’ into question (or more accurately, at risk of being completely revoked), and despite the fact that Miss Moon found it completely hilarious at the time, I do believe that this event will resurface in some far-in-the-future therapy session between her and therapist number 26. She will likely still think it was funny and the therapist will (perhaps rightly) point out that I was not the fittest person to fill the role of ‘Mummy’ during her childhood. But I digress. I’ll get to the point.

This week, I was tagged in this post on Facebook:

raspberry-headed lego person
Oh, you know who you are, tagger-lady. ❤️

Since we had been grocery shopping the day before, I just happened to have a few berries lying around. Miss Moon was hanging out with me in the kitchen because her brothers were watching The Goonies and she wasn’t that interested in seeing it again. So I made her my accomplice. Without knowing why, she fetched me three Lego people. Two from her Lego Friends set and one regular Lego lady person. Then this happened:

“Mummy! Why are you doing that?!? You’re so crazy! Wait, you’re taking a picture too?!?” ~Miss Moon, laughing wildly.

It’s hard to explain to an eight-year-old that you’re just doing what your friend told you to do, but that’s a little bit, kind of like what I had to tell her. She nodded knowingly, but being lovely and loyal and used to my eccentricities, she was quick to excuse my bending to peer pressure by pointing out that 1) no one got hurt and 2) the berries were still edible (the latter point being her main concern, I believe, based on how quickly she popped them into her mouth upon seeing my nod of agreement – cheeky girl).

Also, as an aside, I feel it is only fair to tell you that getting berries to stay on those little Lego heads is very tricky business and the added weight of the berries completely changes their centre of gravity and makes them incredibly tippy. Almost as though they are drunk. Which would not be unexpected from one wearing a giant blackberry as a wig, would it? Right then.

So now here we are in today-land. Yesterday was a ‘snow day’ but today the kids are back at school and I have, reasonably speaking, a ten percent chance that Miss Moon has not told her teacher that I was dressing Lego people in blackberry and blueberry wigs last night. Sigh. I shall pour a fresh Diet Pepsi and await the expected home check/wellness visit any moment now.
xx

Mums Who Have Lost It Featuring Lego People in Berry Wigs
I cling to the edge of adulting and frequently lose my grip. I’ve levelled up to dressing Lego people in fruit. I fear that there’s not much further to go now…

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

As it turns out that like my mother before me, elephants make me cry.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

Long ago:

When I was young, on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on CBC (channel 5, cable 6 in Toronto), The Wonderful World of Disney would sometimes play a full-length movie, much to the delight of thousands of Canadian children. Escape from Witch Mountain, Herby The Love Bug, you know, well-loved Disney fare. Remember, this was before the days when every household had a VHS player and a video store rental membership, or even just cable. CBC was available to anyone with a t.v., rabbit ears and a working knob dial that turned to change channels.

It was on one of those Sunday evenings, that I remember seeing the animated full-feature movie, Dumbo for the first time. My mother watched it with me and (spoiler alert) when baby Dumbo went to see his mother in elephant jail and she pushed her trunk out between her cell bars to reach out to stroke and rock him gently, my mother lost it. I was shocked by her tears, and I remember laughing at her for being so silly. It was just a cartoon! I remember her starting to laugh too and she was still dabbing her eyes when she tried to explain to me that having a baby (me) had turned her into a weepy mess and just the idea of that poor baby elephant being separated from his mummy was just about the sadness thing ever and it just killed her every time she saw it. I listened without really understanding and eventually just shrugged and turned back to watch the rest of the film. But that moment stayed with me.

Present day:

My mornings start at 5:30a.m. I put my first small on the bus at 6:45 a.m. and my last on the bus at 8:40 a.m. Between the third and fourth departure, there is approximately 20 minutes. I have been using that time to read to small number four. We usually read a chapter from a book that is just for her (currently Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton), as the books we read at dinner time or bedtime are of interest to all four of them. This morning though we could not find her book in any of the usual places. So, rather than waste more our time looking, she (wisely and practically) suggested that we read her school library book about elephants. Great, we love elephants! Except that it was a book based on the true story of three female elephants (two born in the wild and one born in captivity) who were slowly dying at the Toronto Zoo and were (finally) allowed to go to a sanctuary in California in 2013. Remembering Dumbo, I understood my challenge almost at once.

I made it through the entire book, not a tear in sight. No lip-biting or quivering voice. Until the last sentence.

At the end of the story were a few pages about elephants, their statistics, needs, health and habits. The last few paragraphs were specifically about one of the elephants in the story who was relocated to California with her two friends. While she showed improvements at the sanctuary, it was, sadly, too late for her health to improve enough. She was 46 when she died (around mid-life) and that last bit, about how happy the author was that she (the elephant) was at least able to enjoy her last couple of years of captivity living comfortably, happily and closer to her natural environment broke me. I couldn’t make it through the sentence. Tears spilled over and my voice cracked. I had to stop reading. In that moment, I became my mother.

I did finally pull it together and finish the last seven or so words, and wiping my tears away looked at my girl and said “ah then, what a lovely story!” And while she looked a bit taken aback, she simply gave me a hug and nodded in agreement, putting the library book in her backpack to return to school.

I love that we have this precious time in the mornings together, a quiet moment without the chaos of our ‘real’ lives. I love that she loves animals, big and small, and that she actively seeks out opportunities to learn more about them. I love that she wants to include me in her learning. I love that rather than laughing at me (as I did to my mother), she sat quietly and cuddled in, understanding that it was genuine empathy and caring for that poor elephant and the tragedy of her life circumstances that was the cause of my tears and not merely silliness.

I have always read to my children and I have also always advocated for others to do the same. Aside from encouraging literacy (very important), it creates these precious moments of connection between a parent and child, whether that connection is based in empathy, humour or excitement stirred up by the story being read.

So,

If you like elephants, or you like crying in front of your children, or you like crying while reading about elephants to your bewildered children, here is a link to the book on Amazon.ca. The story itself is fine and the illustrations are lovely. It’s that last page you need to look out for.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

Money Woes Lead to Money, Whoa! – The Results

A week has passed. Here’s a breakdown of how the ‘no-spend, no-shop’ week went:

Monday

Spent entire $30 budget (plus $0.76 on yogurt, raspberries, milk, eggs, shortening and sugar). Hmmmm. This is not awesome. Will have to make it last and make it work. I know I can do it. Best I stay in the house as much as possible.

Ran all errands first thing in the morning. Returned an online shopping purchase that was not suitable (free, paid-for returns = zero cost to me), picked up above-noted bits and pieces and delivered something to one of the children’s schools. Then home again and stayed put.

While at home, I dug out the glue gun and repaired the kids’ bathroom hand mirror that had fallen apart months ago and as been sitting collecting dust, waiting for me to fix. Done! Made beef stew in the pressure cooker while the vegetarian chilli cooked in the slow cooker, both made with ingredients entirely on hand (no spending!).

Worked in my office, paying bills, updating various projects and compiling various items to sell and items to donate.

In the evening, I had to attend a parents’ meeting for one of the kids sports teams, so a trip to Sutton was necessary (darn!).

Overall, Monday was a win.

Tuesday

Did not drive anywhere = no gas used (yay!).

Hung the laundry to dry from the night before.

Made tacos for dinner, using tortillas from the freezer rather making fresh (preventing freezer burn = no waste = yay!).

Sold two items on Varagesale (budget booster!).

Purchased a few Christmas presents online, budgeted for and free shipping.

The weather cleared up in the afternoon, so I went for a walk. A half-hour out of the house and in the open air was good for my soul (no monetary savings, but great gains for my mental health!).

Hanging laundry and weeping willows. Same, but different.

Wednesday

Followed the menu plan, used the slow cooker and added rice for my non-potato eater. All lunches were made at home (x6).

Volunteered at one of the kids’ schools, so had to use the car. While out, also picked up much needed UV light bulb for the water treatment system. This was a budgeted for purchase.

Logged onto the library website to confirm due dates for our borrowed items to ensure no overdue fees will be incurred.

Thursday

This is always a high car-usage day. Tutoring, soccer, yoga (Miss M, not I), so my limited use of the vehicle was blown to bits today. I did however make everyone lunch and dinner, (well, I provided leftovers, since our fridge was over-flowing with them so it seemed less than thrifty to prepare yet another meal when we were so well situated for a ‘choose your own adventure’ meal night).

As always, I didn’t use the clothes dryer and hung the clothes to dry (or hanged? I don’t know, I didn’t kill them, I just dried them. Sigh. Whatever).

Overall, spending is at a all-time (ok, recent) low although I am BEYOND annoyed that the  printer ink that I ordered last week (before this spending freeze) has been held hostage by Canada Post for the entire week now. And before you ask, I did send (maybe a snarky) Tweet to CP requesting my inks release. This was my follow-up Tweet:

Annnnnnnd, no replies. Go figure. No answer to go with my no ink situation.

Friday

Jumped in the minivan to attend the Remembrance Day assembly at one of my smalls’ schools. So glad that I could be there, but it chokes me up every single time. I guess that’s a good thing, proves my heart has not yet turned completely to stone.

Did NOT follow the meal plan today (although I pulled everything out of the freezer in time to do so). Mr. KB came home WAY early from work (fire in one of the adjoining offices – all was fine, no worries) and suggested (or perhaps just said) “pizza?” And I jumped on that like it was the last train to Clarksville and said “I’ll order!” Frugal challenge FAIL. But oh so delicious in my belly, nom nom, so = WIN?

Saturday

Back on track(ish). Made dinner (used Friday night’s plan) WIN!

But…

Also headed out afterwards to pick up eggs, Diet Pepsi (stop judging me), and butter – damn you Shoppers Drug Mart and your “One Day Only” sales. Either I spent on Saturday, or spent almost $7.00 more buying the exact same items on Monday. So, I justified the heck out of it and spent the money. Still though, used two free product coupons, so the total was under $19.00. I have decided to call it a ‘winnish’ and just give myself permission to live my life.

Used the minivan twice today, once to Mass and once for my rogue shopping trip. Could have combined the trips into one (heading to SDM after church), but the children were acting particularly punchy and kicky, so decided it was probably best to feed them sooner rather than later (4:00pm Mass means we’re close to dinner time when we get home). Survival of the small people = WIN Cost of that survival = Extra trip out in vehicle.

Sunday

Mr. KB came up with the awesome idea of taking the kids up to Orillia to walk the boardwalk and explore. It was chilly but such a nice day to be out. Then he treated us to lunch (so I didn’t hurt the budget – yay!).

My smalls failing at being small but winning at being strong, smart and caring humans. 4/5 of my ❤️

After that, it was home to work around the house and bake some goodies for the week’s lunch prep. Also, made dinner using up the rest of our chicken and potato leftovers, along with some frozen veggies with a side of baking powder biscuits, we had a pseudo-chicken pot pie.

Conclusion

While I did manage to reduce our weekly shopping greatly, I did exceed my $30 goal. That said, between not needing to gas up the minivan and not spending $200 on groceries, I feel really good about how much I was able to help our budget. This week, I will need to replenish some of our fresh food options, since we are starting to run perilously low on apples (since the kids tend to go through approximately 24 pounds of them a week, including core weight, lol). I will also continue to use what we have on-hand, in the freezer and find creative ways to ensure that our food waste continues to be as low as possible.

While not using the clothes dryer is a bit of a pain, I know that I will see the savings on our next hydro bill from not running it six times a week (although always during off-peak times, it still really adds up).

Next, I think I may try to cut back on the dishwasher to every other night and wash the dishes by hand on the ‘off’ night. I know that it will save a ton of water and an hour of running the dishwasher and hot water heater (the ‘normal’ cycle takes an hour in this ancient machine). Bottom line, there is still work for me to do in order to tweak and boost and stretch the budget. 💁🏼‍♀️

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.

 


Money Woes Lead to Money, Whoa!

Yes, I’m exaggerating. I don’t have actual money ‘woes’ (bills are paid, everyone is well-fed, clothed, entertained and the future is being saved for) but I did notice that some of my budget categories are climbing a lot faster than I can juggle the money around make them all happy again. So, in the grande scheme of woes, this is a small one, I’ll admit, but it causes me stress so I’m pumping the brakes and saying “whoa!” to the spending.

Of course, right before Christmas is a wonderful time to stop spending, that I realize, but with climbing food prices, gas prices and growing children, I think it’s time to revisit my days of yore when needs and wants were very clearly defined and gratification was delayed in the name of frugality.

This week is now a “no shopping/out of pocket spending” week. There are regular bills that need to be paid and I have allowed $30 for fresh produce and milk (if we run out), but nothing else. All meals will be prepared at home using what I have on-hand and I have already worked out the menu for the week (posted below). Between the gas savings and the grocery/household purchase savings, I think that we should (conservatively) save around $250 just by staying out of the grocery store, taking fewer trips in the minivan and using up some of the stockpile in the freezer.

I have also implemented a few other cost-savings strategies. I have set up our drying rack, so the clothes dryer has already been dormant all week (save for once, yesterday, when I did use it to dry a comforter cover that is too large for the rack). Our dryer is 21 years-old, so you know it’s a hydro hog. I also decided a while back, to stop spending the big bucks are ready-to-eat baby carrots and bought a few big bags of regular carrots (at a fraction of the price). Peeled and chopped, the kids will eat them in their school lunches just as happily as they ate the pricier ones. Taking advantage of all of the various berry sales, price matching (and coupling them with Driscoll’s coupons) has also helped to procure fresh produce for far less.

I admit to having hit the ‘Easy Button’ for dinner a little too often in the past couple of months, but I’ve tossed that button out the window now and have a solid plan in place (the plan mostly involves me not being a lazy numpty and making ALL of our meals, pretty sophisticated plan, yes?).

Dinner Menu Plan (including vegetarian options)

Sunday – Pasta with vodka sauce and garlic bread
Monday – Beef stew and vegetarian chili
Tuesday – Tacos and taco salad w/o meat
Wednesday – Chicken, potatoes,  peas and corn
Thursday – Tuna casserole
Friday – Burgers (choice of beef or black bean patties), fries and veggies
Saturday – Pizza and panzerotti night
Sunday – Spaghetti with garlic bread

Lunches are always homemade, various sandwiches, bagels, cereals, salads or last night’s leftovers. Yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables and applesauce (and whatever Halloween candy the kids have managed to hold on to – lol!) are included for snacks.

So, this week started yesterday (Sunday) and will end next Sunday. I’ll post the update on Monday (even if I fail miserably) and I will be sure to include the other cost-cutting measures that I remember or figure out to try throughout the week and whether or not any of these measures resulted in any savings (real or imagined).

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.

 

 


Mourning the end of my Fertility chapter and sharing my internal conversation, with hope.

I often have full blown conversations in my head (well, when we’re all lucky they stay in my head anyway). I provide the dialogue for both sides of the conversation, yours and mine. In this context, “you” aren’t you though, “you” are what I imagine anyone outside of myself would say, listening to me talk. This conversation is one that has been playing, over and over in my mind for months, perhaps even years (before the “baby” door was forever closed, maybe?) and today I think that if I share it here, then just maybe, my mind will resolve the conversation and move onto one that is more productive and positive, less pitiful, woeful and futile. Or maybe it won’t, maybe this melancholy broken record will just become part of my new normal internal dialogue. Sometimes, for the smaller things that gnaw at my soul, just getting it off my chest is enough to lay it to rest but for the bigger things, I can say from experience, it can take years of writing, talking, crying and sorting through the muck in order to find a peaceful resolution.

On the daily, it goes something like this:

“I mourn the loss of my fertility. I’ll never feel all of those pregnancy feelings or delivery another baby.” I cry to my myself during those moments when either my house or my mind is quiet.

“How can that be? How selfish can you be?” You ask. “You have a handful of kids and you are constantly running around, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, mending, tearing out your hair, complaining, not sleeping, and almost never really ever done with a task (there is always more laundry to do, food to prepare, carpets to vacuum, errands to run). You are forever thinking about the time when you’ll have the time to achieve a few of your other goals. Goals other than elementary school homework, edible packed lunches and motherhood. You have enough kids, they’re growing up, life is finally about more than wiping bottoms, noses and tears – they can now do most of that stuff themselves. It’s great! Your kids are becoming competent humans, just what you always wanted them to be!”

“True, true,” I say, nodding my head and then shaking it violently back and forth. “But that changes nothing. Their growth feeds my grief. My grief for what is no longer as much as it grows my pride in them. What I would not give to have that one last pregnancy. That one last bump. The discomfort of pregnancy-induced heartburn, swollen limbs and looser joints. One last time to feel that “that’s it! I’m done being pregnant – this baby needs to evacuate now!” feeling. That one last precious (and quick) delivery and that wrinkly, squinty and puckered newborn brow to kiss. Those fingers and toes to count, that tiny human to marvel at. Priceless. To have that one last infant to nurse and cuddle and carry – EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t trade what I have or who I have, but I would be completely complete, given just one last turn.”

“So have one then, what’s one more? You want it so badly, just do it. Or is it menopause? It’s got to be, doesn’t it?” You ask.

“No, no, not at all. I am not menopausal or even peri-menopausal. My cycle is as predictable and regular as ever. My body still functions. My marriage still functions. My ova though, they are past their ‘sell-by’ date and  there is nothing left of them to create a viable, healthy human anymore. And it is cruel for my body to behave like that of a younger, fertile version of myself and deprive me of that one last chance. Better ‘the change’ happen and at least give me the reprieve of the monthly bleeding and bloating with no ‘prize’ for my troubles and inconvenience.”

You, now exasperated “Well, get on with things then. Sounds like unless you’re willing to take some extreme and expensive measures, your baby-making days are behind you. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’ve caught your quota, time to pack up and go home, as the saying goes.”

Me, now defensive and defeated, “yes, I know that. I understand all of that. And I fight against feeling sad and distraught and I feel a right fool for feeling this way at all. I KNOW how blessed I am to have my children, I know how blessed I am to have the family that I have and I understand just how stupid and selfish and ridiculous it is, that I AM, for feeling this way. But I feel it anyway. Grief and mourning are real feelings, whether anyone believes I have a reason to feel this way is neither here nor there, because, at the end of the day, I DO feel this way. The puzzle for me then is to figure out how to have these feelings without letting them own me or stop me from living out the rest of my life with light, love and hope, rather than regret, loss and sadness.”

You, really fed up now, “Focus on the positive, you idiot! You have FIVE frickin’ kids. Each of them are healthy. Each of them are intelligent. Each of them has a kind and generous heart. Each of them are lovely (not a Quasimodo among the bunch). And you get to actively participate in their growing up, you get to help shape them into healthy, productive and kind humans. YOU get to do that, YOU get that privilege. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and count your blessings. ALL OF THEM. Babies you do not have, who did not make it to term, or were never conceived to begin with were not meant to be with you, they were not part of the plan for you. Everything happens for a reason, even sad things. The sooner you accept that and work within the light and blessed space you have, the sooner you will realize that while six may have been your dream, five is your perfect space.”

You continue, tired at this point with my tears and endlessly sad face, “Stop being sad when you hear news of another woman your age (give or take) being pregnant or having a baby. Be happy for her, for she is creating her perfect place. Maybe it is her first baby, maybe it is her last, it matters not, because it is part of the plan for her life. Be happy for yourself because you have your perfect place among a family who loves and needs you, a family who looks to you to steer the ship. You were a mother when you had but one baby, one child. You felt complete and never ‘less than’ other mothers with more children. Think back to that young woman, and remember how proud, competent and sure of yourself you felt. That is still you, you just look a lot older, fatter and more tired now and you have somehow figured out that you don’t always need to drown your fries with ketchup before you eat them. Sometimes, french fries are perfect just as they are. Like you, like your family, perfect in your imperfection.” You say.

“Thank you,” I say. “I needed that,” and I get on with my day, until next time.

🖤

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.