Friday, September 14, 2018

Healthy Meal Planning on a Budget

Quite a while ago I led a short little class on how my family meal plans and budgets for food. I thought I would jot it down for you here!

I'm throwing this out there right now: We do not eat "perfectly". Yes, we have a well balanced, nutritional diet but,  sometimes I let my kids eat corn dogs, granola bars, and Lucky Charms. 80% of the time we do get it right. Life is about balance, and I'm a big fan of nachos.

Typically I start my weekly meal planning of by writing down exactly what my family will be eating throughout the week. Look at this adorable planner I use! I clip it to the side of the fridge (I'm a "nothing on the front of my refrigerator" kinda gal).

By planning each and every meal I am able to shop for specific items. I'm not buying random things and then letting them spoil. As an added bonus, when my kids are aware of what's on the menu, they are a lot less complaints, and "suggestions" about lunch.

One of my friends shops and plans her meals through the weekly grocery ads. If chicken and pork are on sale, that's what she will plan her menu from. She is really specific about buying fruits and vegetables that are $1 a pound or less and meats that are $2 a pound and under. She will also shop at ethnic markets when looking for something specific. If you need sesame oil, it will be worth a trip to the Asian market.

Our community has an amazing discount store named Esh's, that offers many organic and name brand items at a discounted price. Many of these items are near their expiration date or past them. So be mindful of using them promptly. You can saves loads shopping for produce at a place like this.
I want to take a moment to address expiration dates. The US is one of the most wasteful nations in the world. They throw out far too many foods that have past their "expiration date" but are perfect. One of the items I buy past it's expiration date is yogurt. I have purchased hundreds of yogurts past their dates, and have had 3 that have been sour. So, use your best judgment, but don't alway judge a product by it's date.

One of the easiest places to blow your budget is Costco and Sam's Club. Firstly, you are paying an annual membership fee, which would equal out to be a cart of groceries. Secondly, many of the food items you buy will be thrown out due to spoiling. Yes, buying in bulk can save money. If I don't go into Costco and buy ONLY what is on my list, I've blown it. If you wouldn't be buying chocolate covered almonds at the grocery store, don't buy them at Costco because it's "such a good deal". I do buy paper towels, toilet paper, produce (we eat a lot of produce), Olive and Coconut oil, roasted almonds, chicken nuggets and rice at Costco. But if I start looking at the yoga pants, it's over.

Somebody suggested using your Amazon Prime membership to buy toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry supplies instead of getting them at Costco, Walmart or Target. I love this idea. While it may cost a bit more to order them online, I would save so much more money not walking into the Target dollar section. But, I did find the most adorable mini cake stands so.......there's that....

I try really hard to only shop at my local grocery store. I have downloaded their app and can clip coupons and have them loaded directly onto my loyalty card. They also mail out some paper coupons and I use those as often as possible. I do not cut out coupons from the newspaper, however, I know that's proven to work for people as well. I don't buy groceries at places like Walmart; while their prices might be less, their produce isn't nearly as good and I will usually leave with a beauty blender. Extra.

One of the most important things to me is that I make everything from scratch, at home. I make everything down to their waffles and pancakes (which I freeze for them later), spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, Mac and cheese, biscuits, pie crusts, etc. You can find quick and easy recipes at the click of a button for all things homemade. I never buy pre made and frozen meals from the grocery store. This has been really a really intentional step in how I feed my family. I can control exactly what goes into their mouths and know what the nutritional value of the food. We eat a lot of veggies, 100% whole grain breads and pastas, nuts, and lean meats (aside from chicken thighs, because they are so delicious, chicken breasts are overrated). We strive to eat a well balanced diet, as best as we can. Yes, we have cinnamon rolls, but I made them so I know what's in them.

We buy as many "whole" meats as possible too. When I buy a rotisserie chicken, nothing goes to waste. I use the bones and left  to make bone broth, and will usually use the chicken pieces that were clinging to the bone to make chicken soup, or pot pie. We also are able to buy a 1/2 cow at a time and deep freeze it. This saves so much money on beef. We pay $3 a pound for KC Strip Steaks, not bad.

Want a few of my go-to favorite recipes?


I have a Pinterest board page dedicated to this topic alone!

Follow it HERE!

Hope this has given you hope that you can do it! It takes time and effort, but it's so much better for your family (and your bank account) when the planning has been executed.

Let me know what some of your budget friendly, healthly meals are too!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Grief of Miscarriage

I  have never had a miscarriage.

This is a statement I don't take flippantly. Statistics will show that 31% of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. That is nearly 1 out of 3 women. Devastating. The loss of a child is never something to be brushed off, or ignored.

It is a life, gone too early. As we see it, they never received the chance to be who God intended them to be. It is not a ball of tissue, randomly placed together inside of a womb. It is a person.

That baby had life.

My sister miscarried their precious baby about a week ago. It is a brutal loss. Any loss of a child is brutal. In a perfect world, babies don't die.

They gave the baby the name Salem Lael (Peace, Belonging to God). Salem lost their sweet little life at just 9 weeks in utero. Rachel, my sister, began to suspect something wasn't right around her 10 week mark. Going in for her ultrasound, they detected no heartbeat. Sweet baby Salem was gone.

Make no mistake, that baby was loved and was created with great purpose. We live in a fallen world where death doesn't play fair, and will take an innocent baby.

Salem leaves a great testimony. My sister labored in the tub and gave birth to a perfectly intact baby. This is rare. This is a miracle to be able to hold a child that small.

Below are a couple of photos of sweet Salem, at just 9 weeks old. This is the beauty of early life.

These photos were taken with my iPhone and I regret not having my camera on hand. I had no idea what I was about to witness.

Meet Salem.

It is a miraculous thing.

You can clearly see their eyes, ears, mouth, arms, legs and a nose.
This is only at 9 weeks. Many women don't even realize they are pregnant at this stage.

Friends, life is precious.
Savor the miracle of life as you hold your littles. 
Comfort those who cannot.

For those of you who have experienced a great loss, I am so sorry.
Your grief is not lost on me.

Ps 34:18
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Parenting a Hurting Child

This is one of the most humbling posts I will write.

When we entered the adoption process we were nothing but optimistic and hopeful. We sat in classes on bonding with your new baby and told ourselves we would have no issues bonding with our new baby. After all, we could bond with any new baby! Turns out, we were right about that. We had zero issues when it came to loving Caleb the same way we loved our biological children. It felt exactly the same when we looked into his eyes. In fact, that is one of the greatest moments of my life. Seeing him, my new son, and feeling like I had just given birth to him. The gravity of that isn't lost on me. He was created to be MY son.

However, as time has progressed there is something we took for granted and didn't allow to enter our minds.


We assumed that because we brought him home from the hospital he would never know the feeling of loss. He had us from the day one. I am his mother, and I would never leave him. How could he ever feel loss?

As a baby, Caleb was a dream.

The softest, sweetest big eyed boy. A perfect baby.
As we approached the "beloved" toddler phase we began to notice a twist.


Now listen, he's my fourth baby. I've dealt with my fair share of toddler tantrums. But these were different. Like, intense. I don't want to go into graphic details about my child's bad behavior so I'm just going to leave it there. Something was different. Our first initial response was to parent him the exact same way as our others. After all, he's just another one of our babies. Only time was showing that our "go to" style of disciple wasn't cutting it. His tantrums grew as fast as he did. They were beginning to show signs of deep hurt in his heart. A hurt that he is still unable to express properly.

Caleb is extremely intelligent. He has been impressibly verbal since the moment he understood words. His vocabulary is quite extensive for his age. He's four now and is our smartest up to this point. This intelligence has given him a new tactic of hurt; his words. He is the first to say "I don't love you" to me and James. The first time he uttered those words they brought me to tears. The next 30(ish) times brought me to punish him.
He can't say that! Right?? Surely he doesn't mean it! I'm his mom!

We initially began with reading "The Strong Willed Child" .
Yep! That's Caleb to a tee! 
Ok, now that we know he's just strong willed we will never let him win an argument. We will stick to our guns! He will understand he can't behave this way! I will say this about me and James, we parent nearly identically. We are both stubborn and disciplinarians. When we ask you to do something your only response is "Yes sir!". No negotiations. Armed with this new tactic we went to work. But, it wasn't working. In fact, it was making it worse.

As I began to tell my sister (who has adopted 4 kids through the foster system) she would gently tell  me that he just might be broken hearted from the placement of his adoption. I denied these ideas for a solid year.
He's just like my others. He was never hungry, or left alone. He got immense love and affection. He's extremely bonded to our family!
Now, the latter of those thoughts is a really important point I make. He truly is extremely bonded to us. He loves his siblings, and is a complete and total daddy's boy. Like, he REALLY loves his daddy. He loves snuggles, and physical touch, and lots of one-on-one time. He craves attention, and often wanders into our bed in the middle of the night. He really does love us. We are his mom and dad.

Something is still different. Something we are now working to heal. As I began digging into this I learned that oxytocin (the bonding hormone) was pivotal to babies in utero. The lack of oxytocin during pregnancy can potentially cause a child to feel unloved during it's development. A hormone that many birthmothers may not produce during the pregnancy of a child they choose to place. This information began slowly creeping into our hearts and minds. Caleb is a textbook case of feeling abandoned. He naturally wants to try to see if we will leave him as well. He fights the same way an adult does when they have feelings of this nature.
I'll push you away before you can leave me!
The words he chooses to say to us just go to show he is dying to know we will never leave him.
Now that we know his precious heart is aching, we can begin to treat it.

My sister recommended a book called "The Connceted Child".  As James read it we began to realize this is what Caleb needs. He needs an extensive amount of attention and an extra dose (or 12) of patience. One of the best tactics we use to try to deescalate his tantrums (before they get bad) is bubbles. Go figure. These darn bubbles are doing the trick. We will sit in a corner and slowly blow these shiny bubbles. Showing Caleb some breathing tricks, and giving him a way to redirect his emotions.

Yesterday I failed him. I let his words get the better of me and we all ended in tears. I think for the first time I actually believed him. I actually let Satan whisper the lie that, possibly, Caleb doesn't love me. I allowed my emotions to be run by a four year old. We all reaped the consequences of this meltdown. The three other kids were all heartbroken as well. Leaving us all in a pile of tears. It was a scene. The truth is, it's impossible to be perfectly calm and even natured with him, and yesterday I let it get to me.

God has given us the greatest gift ever. Grace. Lots and lots of grace. I have never before understood the redemptive quality of God's goodness, until I gazed into his eyes for the first time.

Caleb is redemption. 
Caleb is the perfect picture of grace. 
Caleb is a gift. 
Caleb will move mountains.

As his parents we have the responsibility to allow him to feel his grief and pain, and to find the tools to overcome them. We have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us. When I stop and listen to the voice of God I am reminded that I am Caleb's greatest tool. That God chose me and James to be his biggest advocate. We are here and will always be here to hear his heart, to listen to his pain, and to remind him that we will never leave or abandon him. Remind him that God has a great purpose for his life.

Caleb is one the the best parts of my life.
I hope that this might encourage other's of you who are struggling with child who has a broken heart.
Remember that you are the best asset in their life.

By the grace of God, I get to hear him call me "Momma" every day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Family Photos With Show Hope

I'm notoriously bad at doing annual family photos. I would call it more of a biannual thing...

This year we were contacted by Show Hope to participate in a quick photo session. 

Show Hope is an amazing organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife to give aid to those who have been called to adopt. We applied for a grant when adopting Caleb, and they gave us a HUGE grant. It was a massive burden lifted from our shoulders. 

They flew in the most amazing photographer, Trisha Locoste, who snapped these amazing images of us within minutes of meeting her. We were floored and blow away with them! 

Amazing right? You would never know that we got ready for these pics in 20, YES, TWENTY minutes.

It's my own fault. We were scheduled for our photo shoot the day before; which we missed. I had put it in my calendar wrong. I woke up to an email from them saying they were sorry to miss us. Guys..... I was devastated. James urged me to call and tell them were were available for anything. We would drive anywhere to be part of this.

I frantically called, begging to have it rescheduled. They were so gracious and told me that they had a cancellation and could have us fill that spot; in one hour. It was a 40 min drive away.

Like a hot mess, everybody was in our master bedroom throwing on clothes and shoes.  Amidst the chaos, I bumped into the ironing board (because, why would I have ironed the night before??). The hot iron fell onto my arm for less than a second, leaving me with third degree burns on my forearm and wrist. I didn't treat it because we were in such a rush. Guys, in these photos my arm is ON FIRE.

The show must go on, right? I ended up having to do my makeup IN THE CAR, while trying to keep my arm underneath the AC vents.

Praise God for his mercies, and for skin regrowth.

Moral of the story, I'm never ironing again.

We will be a family know for embracing life's wrinkles.