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On A Budget, Week One: Grocery Store Challenge

25 Feb

Yesterday, I explained why I’m pinching grocery pennies and hoping to save $2,000 a year while still eating wholesome, healthy foods and mostly home-cooked meals.  Today, I’m putting the proof where the pudding is.  Or showing you the meat.  Or … I give up on the pithy sayings.  Y’all are gonna keep me honest, okay?

Now, I only want to do this IF it will save me money and not detract from my happiness.  My time is valuable, and well worth $40 an hour.  So in order for this to be worth it, there’s gotta be a system, and I have to not be miserable while using it.  Mine has three parts:

1) THE PLAN

I already menu plan each week in my family binder.  This week was easy because we’ll be out of town Friday-Sunday.  I try to plan things that make at least one night of leftovers or can be used for alternate meals.  And I always check my deep freezer and pantry to see what we still have to use up.

If you’re not already meal planning, I highly recommend it, both for budget’s sake and for a little less stress in your life.  Sew Curly even has a planner for sale that is simple and stunning.  I happened to win one a few weeks back and it’s gorgeous.

This week it’s:

  • Monday – Spaghetti with meat sauce.  Homemade from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  I’m making a big batch to freeze.  Homemade rolls. (The rolls were missing a little something, sugar maybe.  Will be looking for another recipe to substitute in future weeks.))
  • Tuesday – Chicken burritos.  Stick some chicken breasts in a slow cooker with chipotles in adobo, green chilies, and some garlic and it’s perfect for filling burritos, tacos, quesadillas, you name it!  We have plenty of rice and black beans in the pantry already.
  • Wednesday – Veggie Chili.  I’d like a few vegetarian meals each week and I’m hoping this one hits the spot.  We shall see.
  • Thursday – Quesadillas with leftover chicken from Tuesday.

Weekly Menu Plan

2) THE LIST

I buy organic meat and eggs, if possible, and do that shopping at Whole Foods.  The welfare of the animals matters to me and we find animals who are raised as naturally as possible result in not only a better conscience, but also better food.  I try to buy organic produce for things where we eat the skin, but even when it’s conventionally grown, the quality of the produce is just so much better there.  But there are just some things that the great WF doesn’t have, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  With two stores to visit, I’ve got to be organized.  I checked out each store’s circulars and coupons online and made my lists.

What?  You don't write your grocery list on crumpled pieces of torn construction paper?

What? You don’t write your grocery list on crumpled pieces of torn construction paper?

3) THE SHOPPING

It was easy to hit Whole Foods with the toddler while the preschooler was at school – it’s right down the road.  I walked out of there sans coffee and vegan chocolate chip scone (boo hoo), but did so for $69.33!

But will I have to give up my Stop and Shop curbside pickup?  By putting all the items from the list on the right into my Peapod app, I came up with a total of $55.62.  The same foods at Market Basket cost me $46.75, saving me $8.87.

I think I can save $20-$40 a month just by being more cautious when planning meals, but I can save an additional $8 by walking into Market Basket instead of getting my groceries curbside at Stop & Shop.  Worth it?  I dunno.  That’s another $32 a month, $416 a year.  But it’s also an hour with two kids at the store.  Probably a wash.

Grocery Store Challenge

THIS WEEK’S VERDICT:

  • Whole Foods: $69.34
  • Market Basket: $46.75
  • Stop and Shop Virtual Shopping Basket Comparison: $55.62
  • Total Spent: $116.09
  • 4 Nights of Meals with 2-3 additional meals from each cooking session for leftovers and future meals.

So far, I’m please with what I’m learning and with the lower bill this week.  At least it’s progress!  Compared with last week’s bill of $140, I saved almost $24.

Full Circle Mess

18 Feb

My friend Story tells me I should just start writing. And when I warned her that it will be one big, rambling mess, she rebutted with, “I love your mess.” Words thrown back at me from an earlier conversation when I insisted she doesn’t have to be perfect (or even close to perfect) in order to be loved – to be happy.

Why is it I am immune to my own wisdom? Well, not all the time, but it seems that often the hardest advice to take is my own.

And another thing. I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother a few weeks ago and had a blast. Met some great people – bloggers from my actual neighborhood instead of my virtual neighborhood. It’s always nice to have faces (and hugs) to put with the websites. But as soon as I got home, I realized the piece I auditioned with? Wasn’t done. It was a work-in-progress and I fear didn’t really dig deep enough. I wrote about my conflicted feelings about my 5 year old – how much I mourn for the loss of the baby and toddler she used to be. And before the audition, I was really happy with it, but looking at it now, it misses the mark. It doesn’t really show the depth of my sense of loss or how much it keeps me from enjoying her now. I expect not to make the cast and that’s okay. I will audition again next year. I will keep writing. I’m just disappointed that I missed the chance to really polish something.

Adam tells this story about when he was at a dinner (or meeting, I can’t remember) with his PhD program advisor. The professor recounted a visit he had with an academic, crypto celebrity. He explained that as he admitted to the well-respected expert-in-his-field-PhD that he felt like a fraud, expecting to be discovered for his lacking at any moment, the crypto-god said “I feel the same.” I wonder if other experts ever feel this way. Does Yo-Yo Ma ever shrink back from his cello?

There are so many things in my life right now that are sucking the confidence right out of my spirit. I rely on that confidence to tell me that I am okay, so its disappearance is always a warning sign to me that I need to stop and take stock of my mental health. I’m so very worried about my girls, for different reasons. We are really struggling with some difficult behaviors with Doodlebug and Bean is falling behind on her growth charts. And because I love them both so fiercely, the fear that something may be seriously wrong leaves me trembling. And though I try not to borrow trouble, it’s been hard this week to stop the worry cycle.

And it’s snowing. Again. It IS pretty, falling gently from the clouds, unlike the windblown, rainy mess from Sunday. Today’s snow is a magical one, but it would be better if I had a fireplace. And some palm trees. On a beach. With no snow.

This piece? Is not polished. I don’t think I’ve ever published one of these hot messes. Maybe that’s the exercise today – to let go. To find some peace in the unpolished, the unfinished.

Well, shit. We’ve come full circle, back to my friend Story and her love for my mess. Funny how that happens. You write and write and write and then all of a sudden, you feel like you can breathe again.

Thanks, honey. I needed the push.

#DayofLight

5 Feb

Day Of Light

I’m joining the blogging community today to shed light on something many of us keep tucked in the dark. If you’re like me, you experienced it without knowing, assuming that all people lived their lives on an emotional roller coaster, destined, once on top, to roll back to the bottom. Always to the bottom.  For me, it began in college.

At first, it was an added exhaustion, no matter how late the morning classes or how early the bedtime.  In trickled the self-doubt, followed by amateur apathy.  I was too busy to not tend to the activities I loved, but I had ceased to look forward to the orchestra rehearsals and coffee dates.  Last to enter was the emptiness.  Not sadness, exactly, but an inability to feel anything: joy, fear, sadness, love.  The feelings I had for people in my life I knew I loved were shrouded in a fog and out of reach.  I began to doubt I ever loved them at all.  The only emotion that cut through the depression, sharp as a knife, was anger and irritability.  The most insignificant things annoyed me to the point of rage: ice trays left empty, people late for appointments, unreasonable homework assignments.  I look back now and wonder if I didn’t cover the sadness with that anger, afraid of what it might mean to let myself experience the pain of feeling worthless.

All this, and I had no idea anything was wrong with me, or if I did have a suspicion, the denial hid it cleverly with its stories of stigma, perfectionist excuses, and lack of self care.  It took 8 years, the birth of my daughter, and a battle with postpartum depression before I realized I had been suffering from depressive episodes and anxiety for much of my life.

I believe if depression and other mood and anxiety disorders were talked about as openly as cancer and heart disease, patients would have the information they need to identify their struggles as symptoms and to seek help.  I believe that if treating those disorders was not shaded in stigma, that people like me would find that they can get better – that there is hope.

I am living proof that you can survive depression and anxiety.  I am proof that good great people can struggle with mental illness.  And I am proof that you can be open about your mental health and still have people think you are amazing.

Because, guess what?  You are.

———

I’m joining Mama Knows It AllPushing Lovely and Say It Rah-shay, along with a multitude of other wonderful bloggers today for #DayOfLight.  Please won’t you join me?

From Say It Rah-shay:
#DayOfLight was created to shine a light on depression, and share resources for those who are struggling with the mental illness. Bloggers from all over the country are collaborating on Wednesday, February 5th to flood social media with personal stories about living with depression, and accurate information on managing and living with the mental illness.

How Can You Participate?

  • Write a blog post sharing your personal experience of depression and/or share resources to help others. Add the #DayOfLight hashtag in your post title.
  • Watch the #DayOfLight Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5th at 11 AM EST. Tweet and ask questions.
  • Participate in the #DayOfLight twitter chat on Wednesday, February 5th at 9 PM EST. Follow @PushingLovely@NotoriousSpinks, and@BrandiJeter for more information)
  • Turn your social media avatars black and white on Wednesday, February 5th so we can visually represent all of those affected by depression.
  • Share inspiring tweets, posts, and photos on social media to encourage those who are suffering with depression to let them know that they are not alone. Use the hashtag #DayOfLight

 

Happy Birthday, Grammy!

9 Jan

It’s my amazing mother-in-law’s birthday, folks.  I tried to make her a nice birthday video, but instead she gets this, which in its own way, is as special as she is, because only we could make something so hilariously terrible.

Shirley, we love you so very much.  You have always been a supportive and loving mother-in-law and I have always felt that you were thrilled to have me as your son’s wife and the mother of your grandchildren.  I am very lucky to have inlaws that make me feel so loved.

The girls love and miss their Grammy.  We hope your birthday is amazing.

xoxo,

Susan

This Is My Brave

17 Dec

Have you heard about This Is My Brave the show?  Jennifer Marshall’s (from Bipolar Mom Life) kickstarter raised over $10,000 and the show is scheduled for May 2014!  It will be an amazing opportunity for people with mental illness to speak out, tell their stories, and decrease stigma.

From the This Is My Brave website:

I believe in the power of community. There’s strength found in people coming together to propel a movement forward. Which is why I created the show.

 “BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD” -Gandhi

This Is My Brave will function as a platform for people with something positive to say about living with ‪mental illness. It’s time we bring mental health issues into the spotlight because they’ve been in the dark too long. This is an effort to encourage people to be brave and to stand up and talk about mental illness.

I envision the show will include readings of personal essays, original music performances and also poetry. Everyone has a story and I’m positive there will be incredible tales of inspiration and hope shared through this mental health theater production.

Auditions will be held in February of 2014 (only 5 months from now!). Follow the show website for details as they emerge.

The show will debut May 18th, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia which is right outside of Washington, DC.

I’m writing about courage over at the show’s blog today.  I hope you’ll head over and support this amazing venture!

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World Breastfeeding Week

4 Aug

World Breastfeeding Week

I’m only one day late, in typical fashion. I have a post brewing about extended nursing and how I never expected to still be breastfeeding. About how it contributes to my mental health and how it impacts our family. But for now, this beautiful moment from this morning.

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Climb Out of the Darkness

22 Jun

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What an amazing, empowering event to take part in! Thank you to my friend A and her husband and son for joining us!

Back in my darkest days I could have never envisioned having a day as good as today. Thank you, Postpartum Progress, for all you do to help moms like me.

I’m Doing It Right: The Flu Edition

15 Feb

It’s no secret that it’s been a challenging few months health-wise in this house.  I’m honestly starting to weigh the costs and benefits of the oldest’s time at the germ factory we call preschool.  I mean, I *do* want her to learn to read, but I also like being able to breathe through my nose.  I’m torn.

And I don’t know about you, but I think back to the days before kids and long wistful for a time when one could recover from the flu by spending a week in bed.  Back then, having the flu was like a vacation compared to this torture.

So what exactly am I doing right?  I realized this week that I have the medical knowledge befitting a second year medical resident when it comes to my kids and illness.  I have dosages memorized for acetaminophen, ibuprofen, benadryl, and sudafed, and know exactly which one to use based on the symptoms.  I can keep a running record of times medication was dosed for each of us and can identify early symptoms of dehydration and know how to mix my own electrolyte solution.  And perhaps most impressively, I have cared for a sick four-year-old, the worst of all patients, with gentle concern and patience.  I have changed more dirty diapers this week than I think in the last 4 months combined – something I never thought I’d be able to handle before having kids.  All while being sick myself.

In so many moments where I heard my inner-critic whisper, “You can’t do this.  It’s too much,” I shut her up with a silent chant of “courage.”

I know that everyone gets sick, and everyone takes care of their sick kids, but this week feels like a triumph for me.  Sometimes it’s the little things.  Or the things that seem big despite their smallness.  Winning those battles is an exercise in courage.

By the way, I saw today courtesy of Chookooloonks.  If you don’t know who Ze Frank is, you’re in for a treat!

 

JamesandJax.com

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Christmas Eve

24 Dec

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Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.

- Susan

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When Naptime is a Battleground

25 Oct

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We’ve entered the fun phase when babies hate to nap for fear they might miss something. Every naptime begins as a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears: too tired? Not tired enough? Just right?

I only hit “just right” about 50% of the time. Which means at least once a day, I nurse and snuggle her only to have her thrash her body and smack her face as soon as she realizes she’s drowsy. It takes a toll.

So on the weekends, even though I desperately want her to nap in her crib, I relinquish control and hand her over to my husband. She falls asleep with the autumn leaves dangling over her head and the pavement under her daddy’s feet. Turns out, she loves running as much as he does. And it’s one less nap battle I have to fight.

Having a second kid means worrying less about how they sleep and just doing what works. I love it and I’m happier for letting go.

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