Wednesday, July 31, 2013

School Lunch Ideas

I've been packing lunches for a long time and for two reasons.

1.  To provide a healthy meal from home for the kids to eat.  There's still some high fructose corn syrup and other real food no-nos, but I think we're still doing a good job.

2.  To save money.  Lunch at the elementary school costs us 1.75 each.  My son who eats like a man is usually still hungry and gets extra for lunch.  The items priced individually costs more than the entire lunch so we were easily paying nearly 6.50 a day for lunch for two kids.  That would equal to about $130 a month.  My husband who is away most weeks adds another $200 a month on food.  We were already looking at $330 a month on food and none of it was for the house.  I'm pretty sure lunch is going up just a bit for the middle schoolers, too.

At the end of the last school year, I ordered these Bento type containers from Amazon that I mentioned in my lunch box packing love post.  I also ordered the silicon muffin liners.  Prior to that, I used a billion containers and plastic baggies.  (I've added making reusable sandwich and snack bags to my to do list.)  And yes those are paper Halloween muffin liners that I flipped inside out and stuck in the containers.  Thank God, I was able to order the real thing and likely spare my children the shame.  LOL. 

So at the end of the school year when my package arrived I decided I would take pictures and share our lunch box meals with everyone.  Then, I thought, "It's the end of the school year.  Nobody cares about lunch.  We're just trying to make it out the door."  I was anyway.  I think I wrote a check for the last week of school.

So here are the few lunchboxes we packed near the end of the year with our new containers.

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This year I'm going to try and get creative with lunches and try to put more combinations together so the kids don't get bored.  Occasionally, they still get to eat lunches at school if it's something they really want.  I'll give them a small budget for the month and they have to circle the meals they want on the school lunch menu.  If they want anything extra, they have to pay for it with their money.  However, one perk of AJ going to the middle school is the microwave.  I am so excited about that!  It opens up more lunch possibilities.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My First Attempt At Freezer Cooking

Freezer cooking was one of the things I had hoped to get done before school started to give me some extra time during the day and hopefully save some money along the way.  School starts on Thursday.

First I spent too many long hours searching the Internet for recipes.  Recipes that we might actually eat.  In this house we have a half-way vegetarian, a ketchup sucker, a "what's that sauce on it" analyst, a "my foods can't toucher, and me the "hmm.. that don't look right-er."  I finally found some that I was willing to try and hoped everyone would like. 

I tried to find recipes that had similar ingredients so I didn't have to buy that much.  I wrote down each recipe and then planned out what I needed to get.  I could see a few of the items were on sale from the ad but I wasn't sure what this was going to cost me.  I was determined to get the cost down as low as possible.  So that was going to take some strategic planning.  I knew I'd be going to a couple of stores for the best deals.  I loaded my cooler up with ice and stuffed it in the back of the car.  Not before Caleb decided to taste it, though.

We got to the store to shop and then things just got crazy.  That toddler went bonkers.  I mean bonkers.  I'm the type that's like "Can you help me find the...",  Can you put the grapes on the scale?" "Here, put this in the buggie for me."  Do you want a snack."  Shoot.  By the time we made it to the second store, I couldn't tell if I was about to have a heart attack or a nervous break down.  I was already stressed from previous events and not sleeping a lick.  (Currently writing this post at 3 in the morning)  I had given that little monster my best evil teacher look to get his act together that had likely morphed into this:

But anyway, on to the real issue here:  freezer cooking.  This is a picture of everything I got on my shopping trip.  Some things had nothing to do with freezer cooking.  The total cost of everything was $110.89.  However, the total cost of everything that had something to do with the freezer cooking meals including rice and cheese that wasn't frozen in the bag was $77.27.

First, it took me a looonnng time.   Partially because I had many helping hands, meltdowns and this also ran into bedtime.  I also washed things continuously.  Everything. And was just taking my sweet time.
I used my gallon zip lock bags and started labeling them.
My little helpers used the food processor.  I couldn't find the knife that I like to use, otherwise I would have chopped it all. 

Chopped onions, garlic and bell peppers
We're making marinades and rinsing the meat.
And these are the meals we ended up with.  There were 13 in all.  All of them are to be dumped right in the crock pot except for hamburgers and a batch of the meatballs.  I also left two plain bags with pork chop and chicken with no sauce.  My picky eater was starting to get nervous that everything had sauce on it.  So I decided I would just bake these two with regular seasoning.
Italian crock pot chicken
2 meals of Meatballs
2 meals Barbecue Ribs
Barbecue Ribs- I originally had this recipe then combined a little of this one to the first one.
Italian pork chops
Salsa Chicken
Garlic Honey Chicken
Barbecue chicken
Cheesy chicken and rice
And then the 2 bags of meat without seasoning
The linked meals will take you to the recipes but I couldn't remember where I got the last two.  That second barbecue rib recipe called for liquid smoke.  I got a little happy with that and started smoking up everything.  Well, not everything but both rib meals, the hamburger and I added a dash to that barbecue chicken. 
I had to buy most of all the seasonings and sauces, but I'll be able to use them for a while.  Since summer began, I've been cooking straight from the cabinets and fridge.  There was no extra buying things until it was time to go to the store.  You know that can of beans that's been sitting in the back of cabinet for 6 months, we ate those.  These are some of my new stricter attempts to save more money and get out of debt.
 I'm excited and anxious to try everything out and see what it tastes like.  I've already saved a couple of recipes for the next time around.  I'm sure there will be a next time.
Have you ever tried freezer cooking?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The weekend with Rudy Bridges

In a previous post,What Are We Learning During Black History Month?, I talked about how we should make the effort to learn about black history all the time vs the one month out of the year.  Well, that's exactly what we started doing at our church.  After we had our Black History program in February, we've been continuing to learn about black history throughout the year.  We dress up as someone in history and have a "guess who" type thing, some people read or write poems,  and we'll do plays and skits. 

The message, of course, is to learn about your history and to not let the color of your skin hinder you from all that you can accomplish.  People back then might not have known how things were going to change but they had to believe that there was a higher power that was going to deliver them from the oppression and cruelty they faced.

Yesterday, I let Cate have a turn.  I'll admit I've been a little slack with getting more people involved but we are still going.  We decided to let her be Rudy Bridges.  I surfed the web for pictures and inspiration and saw these:

I tried to take inspiration from the real pic but we didn't have a gray skirt or dress.  We ended up looking more like the picture on the story book but with pigtails.

So here we are!  Little Rudy Bridges! 
 She already had this little white "little house on the prairie" dress.  I actually love it.  My husband, not so much.  He says it looks like an old slave dress, especially in some pictures we took by an old railroad depot.  I thought it fit perfectly with what we were trying to do, so I'm glad we still had it.  I found one of my old pink cardigans to wear over the dress.  Despite it being too hot outside, she didn't complain.  The hubs wasn't crazy about those socks and shoes either. LOL.  Clearly, little Rudy Bridges didn't have on socks and open toe sling backs but we improvised.  I think we did pretty good.

She was escorted down the middle of the church by the ushers. ( The US Marshalls)  When she made it to front she sat her "school bag" down and read this from an index card.

"People were yelling and throwing things, but I didn't cry.  Mama told me to pray on the way to school to protect me.  Only one teacher would teach me.  I was the first black child to attend an all white elementary school in the south.  Who am I?"

She did very good.  She's shy like me so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. 

What I wish I had a picture of to show you was our Pastor dressed as Harriet Tubman.  Now that was sight, especially when she is always dolled up.  I couldn't take a picture because I was introducing the acts and didn't have my camera.  However, that was a good one.  We've had a lot of participation in the church and everyone had gotten really creative coming up with ideas.  We've had Michele Obama escorted by security, Thurgood Marshall,  Madame C J Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks and many more. I am currently working on a skit for the little rock nine.  Of course, most of us older folks know about these things but we need to educate the younger generations and also let them know that God was the one that created the vision in the people, led the people, and delivered them.

"Same God right now.  Same God back then!" 


Friday, July 26, 2013

Fitness Friday - Flopped

Maybe it's the fact that school's starting next week, maybe it's the fact that I'm not sleeping at night, or maybe I've just gotten a little comfortable with that weight loss and decided to take a break.  Whatever the reason, I just haven't done anything this week, at all. 

Well, I did sit on the sofa and lift 5lb dumbbells all of 5 seconds before I dropped them.  I'm just lacking a little something.  No doubt energy from not sleeping.  It is currently 3:06a.m.  I just can't sleep but I'm tired.  Not to mention that I just saw the biggest cockroach I've ever seen in my life on the wall.  I was nearly in tears.  Rapid heartbeat, fear, and near hyperventilation was about to put me in cardiac arrest.   We live in the country so every blue moon we get a VERY unwelcome visitor.  I managed to baptize it in half a bottle of Lysol, and the wall, and the table, and my husband's trophies.  Whatever.  As long as it doesn't move.

Anyway, I should resume with my journey hopefully next week.  When the kids go back to school, I will start going back to the track in the mornings.  I do miss going and I wouldn't dare try to take them all and go around it.  I'm not completely crazy.   I do have some exciting news though.  A friend and I were discussing doing our first 5k this year!  I am super excited.  I used to have this crazy fear of doing one because surely I would be the last one to cross the finish line likely gasping for air.  I've decided to not let fear be a hindrance to what I can accomplish... while working out or in life.  Fear can hold us back from doing so many things because we don't believe enough in ourselves that we can.  I've made up my mind.  I'm going to do it.... among other things.  I will conquer that fear and I will conquer that track.  Then, the conquered shall submit to me.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!  Now, I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


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Why I'm Excited and Not So Excited About School Starting

There are so many things going through my mind as school approaches.  A lot.  From everything that I need to do to get the kids and I ready and everything that is likely to come with this new school year.  It's exciting, overwhelming and to some degree terrifying. 

The reasons I'm excited are easy.

1.  For one, the kids are out of the house!  Well, two of them anyway.  No more whining, complaining, arguing or I'm bored antics at 6 in the morning.  Yes, they are up this early almost every day.  They should have a job getting up this early but I'll settle for school.

2.  The pictures will stop falling off the walls. 

Notice the arrows.  Empty spots where pictures once hung.  And this is just one wall in one room in the house.  I haven't even bothered to put them back up, yet.  Among others.

3.  No one will be arguing over what to watch on tv!

Or some other combination that is likely to drive me mad.  Take turns or turn it off!

4.  Caleb and I can finally get back on some kind of a schedule. 
Summer has been exhausting.  Fun but completely draining and exhausting.  I need a nap.

What I'm NOT so excited about

1.  Getting my time management skills in perfect order!

2.  Getting up early and actually having to leave the house

3.  AJ's going to MIDDLE SCHOOL and Cate is going to the THIRD GRADE! It's so beautiful, amazing, scary and wonderful, and terrifying to watch them grow.

4.  Middle School Kids.  Are we entering into the gates of "Ahhh!"...where kids are all "I hate you", "Leave me alone" while exhibiting all of their hormonal/ frat boy type behavior. 

4.  Kids in general.  Let's face it kids are so not kids anymore and some are just plain mean.
5.  The carpool line. 
The mornings are horrid.  People running late (me), pajama clad parents, people cutting you off, little jimmy taking 10 minutes to get all his stuff out the car, people "catching up" on life while the line is backed up a mile down the road.  Helllloooo!  And I won't even start on the afternoons.  My car just might shut off from the wait.
6.  The meltdown from the backseat when we drop the kids off.
This happens about half the time.  Some times we have good days but then they are days where there is nothing in the world that will appease that beautiful ball of fury.
Well, I think I've gotten it all out. I don't have a choice but to jump on board or get left behind.   Of course, it is the beginning of the year.  Everything will start out great until around March.  Then, we're like doing whatever just to get cross the finish line.  Just put the thing in the thing and let's go. 
I'm hoping for the best and it's going to be a great year.  It's going to be a great year.  It is going to be a great year.  Speaking it into existence....
You fail to plan.  You plan to fail.   
And just in case the drama bubble is breached
HAHA!  You know you laughed!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Weekend and Back To School Goals

So this weekend the hubs decided to take the kids out for a fun trip because he was busy with work all week.  I thought that was a great idea except for one problem.  I wanted no part of it.  Usually when the hubs gets home at the end of the week I'm like "hey, I missed you", "I love you", "now here." ( hands kids over)

I love my munchkins but mama needs a break.  I contemplated not going.  Uggg.  Would I be the bad mom? 

I mean I would technically have to dig some energy somewhere out of something to enter this kid crazed world of organized chaos.  Let me mention that it was already 7:30.  I'd been fantasizing about bedtime for the last hour and a half.  Dear Lord, help me.  I'm wearing a tank top and haven't shaved in ummm.... So I need to put on different shirt which will need ironing.  (sigh) That was almost a deal breaker, right there.  Then, I would have to run after a indecisive toddler and a high spirited Disney princess.  AJ is pretty much on his own.  He's teetering into that tween "just let me be" stage which is making me nervous. 

The hubs said I didn't have to go and could rest but I could tell the kids were waiting to see my response.  I went.  I was feeling partially guilty already.  Why are moms like that?  You can do everything for your kids but if you miss that one game, didn't make those cupcakes for the bake sale, or buy that whatchamacallit on the fundraising sheet so they can get that toy that only costs a dollar at dollar store, guilt sets in. 

I'm going to put an end to that.  Next time I will stay home and I will REJOICE and be GLAD in it!  Although I'll probably call 10 times to see what they're doing. 
These two decided to take a wild ride.  Cate loves this thing.  I thought Caleb was just too small for all the shaking but he was determined to ride with big sis.
Alley ball.  AJ only stopped to check in for a second. before heading on his way. 
Having a ball of fun in Ballocity.
We all had a good time and the place actually wasn't that crowded.  I was surprised being that it was Saturday night but we didn't get there until 8. 
Then, on Sunday we took a trip to see one of my friends from college.  It's been 2 years since we last saw each other!  We have really got to do better.  It was great catching up with the family.  This is like my sister and I LOVE HER!
Also has her natural hair going on.
There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24
School House Rock!!!!
It's almost here!  School starts in a little over a week and I've got a lot of stuff to smooth out before it gets here.  So I've set some goals for myself.
1.  Clean out and wash the car (No big deal, right?  Half of summer is in there.)
2.  Set up a command center ( our current one is a mess and I need it more organized)
3.  Make weekday labels for the kids' clothes ( I did these last year but didn't laminate- now they're destroyed)
4.  Make a few new hair accessories for Cate
5.  Finish making the rest of the napkins for lunchboxes
6.  Freezer cooking - it's about to get real around here.  (play dates, homework, swimming, football, choir practice,  - a whole lot of stuff is about to hit the floor and I better get ready.  The last thing I'm going to want to do, after all that, is stress out in the kitchen.)
7.  Decide on a back to school hair style for Cate and have an idea of the rest of them for the month.
8.  Go ahead and get back on our bedtime schedule.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fitness Friday - Down 21 Pounds

Hey everybody! I should've written this post earlier but the minions were full throttle today.

I finally got back on a scale and discovered I have lost a whopping 21 pounds in 3 months! Hey!

I'm down to 155 and everything is shrinking and I do mean Everything! Some parts I'm not so thrilled about but oh well. We're never satisfied, are we?

I did start The Biggest Loser Cardio Max this week. I've been doing the cardio DVD in the evenings and doing a mostly strength workout in the mornings. It's usually a full body strength workout with 5 lb weights. I've been thinking of inching upwards though. When I did the 30 Day Shred, I used 5lb and 7lb weights so I think I might make it.

I think I need to do more exercises that Target the Abs because I really don't want to be a stick figure.

I've been there. Stuck at 125 and binge eating to gain weight that never happened...until you have a baby. Then, you realize you can't eat anything!

Here are some before and after pics.

Before- 5'7 and 176lbs taken on 5/17/13

Now - 155lbs - Taken today 7/19/13

These pictures show like a 2 month difference but I think I begin this fitness journey about 3 months ago.  Gotta thank God for the progress made and the many times during a work out I've said
 "Lord, Have Mercy!"
"Ooo, Jesus!"
"I made it.  Thank you, Lord."
While I lay on the floor as if I'm dying. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Funzone

On Tuesday, we were off to the dentist to get some cavities filled.  I wasn't exactly thrilled because it was going to cost near $400 to fill three cavities that Caitlyn had.  It was just too close to school to spend that much money.  However, after some reexamining by the dentist, he decided not to bother them because they will likely fall out soon.  He said unless, they were bothering her, he would just leave them alone. 

Yall, I was shouting!  I had to give God praise because I didn't have $400 to start with.   I sure didn't want to spend it on teeth... especially at the start of the school year.   This was a huge budget buster!  All I could say was, "Thank you, Lord!"

So I decided we would go the fun zone center to celebrate.  We almost got lost trying to find it but we ended up in the right place.  We decided to attempt our best Tiger Woods impressions and play a game of golf, first.

The kids were thrilled.
I'm not sure if Caleb was getting his golf swing or his batter's swing ready.  Eventually he decided his foot and hands would work just as well to get the ball in the holes.  Aj acted like he was a pro.  He left all of us.
The little men are shooting some hoops.
We played a few games and it was so hard to get some good pictures.  I really need want a new camera.
Then, we stopped to eat and saw this guy to wrap up the day.
Thank God for that blessing.