Monthly Archives: February 2019

How I Meal Plan

I thought I would take just a minute and share here how we do meal planning in our home. It isn’t anything really fancy and I can’t share a bunch of spectacular, pinnable recipes with you. But I will share what works for us and maybe you could share what works for you too?!

I enjoy cooking and baking but I get tired of making the decisions about what we are going to have each night. And the reality for us is I need to have something planned/prepped ahead of time or dinner time would be cereal and eggs most nights. We work long hours so crock pot meals or things that I can plan in advance are important!

Coming home {late} and having the kids ask what’s for dinner would frustrate and overwhelm me. So several months ago I sat down and made a list of some of their most favorite meals. Every Saturday we will pull the list out and I will ask one or all of the kids to pick a couple of the meals as options for the following week.

Now when I cook, I make big portions. We always have leftovers. So I don’t need 5 meals to plan. Usually 3 gets us through the week. Yes there may be a night we have a pizza or eggs and cereal, let’s be real it happens. And with all the snow days we have had lately, our leftovers have not lasted as long because we are eating them at lunch too. But for a typical week I plan to prep for 3 meals.

Once they have made their choices I will look to see what ingredients I already have to make those meals, and then add the things I don’t to my shopping list. Anything that I can cook/prep in advance I will do on either Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon. I like to brown any hamburger or cook any chicken required on those days so they can be stored, either frozen or refrigerated, depending on how quickly in the week we plan to use them.

I also try to have a couple of freezer meals on hand in the event that we change our mind about a meal or {hello snow days for DAYS} and we need some extras. Right now I have a jumbo shells, tator tot hotdish and a spaghetti ham bake frozen meal that we can use.

On Saturday morning I also always make up a large batch of kodiak cake waffles. I started buying their protein packed pancake mix last year at the recommendation of a friend. My kids adapted quickly to the flavor difference, and I liked that the waffles were a much healthier version than the Eggos I had previously purchased. {Here’s a little tip….add a tsp of vanilla per cup of mix to add a little sweetness/flavor}

I make a full 5 cup package each Saturday and then we cut the waffles into 1/4’s and once they have cooled I freeze the pieces in gallon bags. In the mornings the kids pull out the waffles and rewarm them in the toaster! Easy, healthy, filling breakfast and they typically last all week!

This week we are trying to clean out our freezer a little so we are frying up some walleye today that Dominic caught last spring, having pork roast with carrots and potatoes on Sunday, I am frying up the chicken now that will be used to make white bean chicken chili and we also plan to grill hamburgers and pepperjack brats at some point in the week. We fill in where needed with fruit, rice, and various sides. But this type of planning ahead helps relieve some of my stress when it comes to our meal prep and it allows my kids to be actively involved as well!

Last week it seemed like we ate a lot of pasta so we knew we didn’t want any of that this week! On the week Karlena was in change of picking meal choices, she only wanted pizza….so I had to help come up with some ideas that week! It isn’t a perfect system, but it seems to be working overall for us! How to do meal prep each week?

And So I Journey On….

Our pastor has spent the last 5 weeks walking us through the book of Jonah. I love this type of study, one where we piece apart the scripture verse by verse. When they share background about the time period, a better understanding about what the verses mean. It has been a powerful and convicting series for me.

Sometimes it is easier when we are not confronted and convicted with our sin isn’t it?! Jonah found himself there, sleeping in the belly of a ship, while he was the very reason that the storm was raging. Once the shipmates confronted him, he admitted to his sin. v. 12  “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” {This was Karlena’s favorite part of the story!}

We would rather hide and pretend it isn’t there, until it can’t be ignored any longer. And even then, we may find ourselves repentant and cry out to God – just like Jonah did from the belly of the fish…but have our hearts really been changed?

I feel like I have been trudging through the last 6 weeks of this new year. Seriously has it only been 6 weeks?! It feels like a lifetime. Maybe it is the fact that for the last week I have been dealing with the plague in my home…my children finally, finally seem to be on the mend and {of course} it seems that I am now coming down with something. I could cry. I should be working right now but I can’t focus and my head and body hurts and I just want to cry because I did everything to try and protect myself this past week (while Dominic did nothing) and I am getting sick (and he is fine!) I may be holding a resentment over that. I will pray about it….

Maybe it is the heart work that I feel like God is walking me through over this spending freeze. I am learning a lot yes, but mostly I am being confronted with my own selfishness and sinfulness and while I can admit it is there, I can also just as easily point to someone else and say “yeah but look at that….am I really that bad?!”

I have found myself discontented. I voxed my best girlfriends and said that I just want to run away. Not forever mind you…but for a time. Dominic and I were supposed to go on this trip last October and we had to cancel it. I still fully agree with why we made that choice…but it also was such a disappointment not to be able to get away. So I have been longing to try and arrange something, anything to escape for a weekend away.

Up until now there have been roadblocks. Timing wasn’t good, prices too high, doors closed for various reasons but then yesterday I thought that “the stars had aligned” and I might be able to pull something together. I almost booked the airline tickets without asking Dominic, but in an effort to really stay true to this issue of being open about my spending, I waited until we could talk about it.

As you can imagine the incredibly LOW price I found on the airfare was a very limited time offer and because I didn’t jump immediately, I missed out. Dominic had some other ideas about some fun things we could do instead. Ways we could do a family trip later in the year, or a more affordable way we could get away to the Cities for the weekend instead. Both valid but not what I wanted.

When things don’t go MY WAY, how do I respond?!

Our pastor asked if we are a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? I have always been half empty. Focused on the negative. I don’t like that part of me. I try and focus on gratitude but the reality is, when things don’t go my way I instantly feel slighted. “It’s not fair!”

I guess the positive is that I have started to recognize this character defect much sooner when it happens. I used to wallow in self-pity for days/weeks. Today I can see it for what it is and recognize it as an opportunity for God to teach me something new. Even when I am not happy about it.

And hopefully I can use these moments as teachable opportunities for my kids as well.

Yesterday Elijah came to me upset about something at school. In the upcoming school musical he was assigned the drum to play when he really wanted to play the xylophone. He said the drum is sooo easy and his part isn’t hard at all. He just has to keep a constant beat. I told him that I was sorry and immediately he responded “I know, I know, life isn’t fair…”

And he is right – life isn’t fair. But I told him that doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard to accept when things don’t go our way. I told him that when I am doing something I don’t really want to do I try and turn my heart towards how that activity could honor God. That when we do our best with a good attitude, it can honor Him.

And then I reminded him that the drum has a very important part in the band. The drum keeps the beat for the rest of the musicians. So having a good drummer that can play well is so important. Even if it feels insignificant, it is integral to the entire performance.

There are days that the mundane parts of my life seem insignificant. I start wishing for a getaway that will bring me something that I think I can’t find at home. When the reality has been I haven’t done a great job in being intentional about making time for rest and connection here a priority.

I have a choice to make every day. Some days that choice comes without even thinking and I can find gratitude immediately. Other days I have to fight for it, I have to pray that God would continue to refine my heart so that it would be more like His. That is the continual faith walk isn’t it? A constant renewing of our heart and mind to the things of Christ. I pray He gives me strength for the continued journey because I know it won’t be easy. If it were though…I wouldn’t need Him like I do, so desperately. And so I journey on.

I’m Right Here, You Are Not Alone

“I’m right here, you are not alone…” I whispered those words out loud to Elijah as he fell back asleep. I was laying on our couch while my youngest son slept on the floor next to me. The hum of the humidifier was masked by the labored sound of his breathing.

The night before had been a scary one for me. I shared the following on Facebook yesterday.

“This wasn’t how I planned to spend my early morning hours. Elijah had a dry scratchy, throat on Sunday morning. No fever, no other symptoms. Fine all day. Wanted to go to the church Super bowl party. He ran around a bit and all of a sudden was super tired and his throat was hurting. I had him sit and rest and eventually he fell asleep. He woke up and he had lost his voice, throat in bad shape so Dominic took him home. I arrived home a short time later and he had a fever of 103. It all came on so quickly. 

He fell asleep and next thing I knew it was 3:30am and he is crying at my bed telling me he can’t breathe. He sounded terrible, couldn’t take a deep breath and we didn’t know what to do. Dominic had him take a shower to see if the steam would loosen things up but it didn’t help…so I took him to the ER. Not really where you want to end up but I wasn’t sure what was going on and if I could wait 4 hours for the clinic to open.

Making those decisions is hard. We don’t just always rush to the Dr and certainly not the ER…but it was confirmed that he had Influenza A and croup. He was given a medicine/treatment that helped open his upper airway and is has made a tremendous difference already. He still has a fever and has completely lost his voice. The Dr said this could hang on for 7-10 days.

Would you say a little pray for our Elijah. For quick healing and that this stays out of his lungs. Also please pray for protection for the rest of us.”

It seems as though the croup is causing us more problems right now than even the Influenza. When we were in the ER they had an O2 monitor on Elijah. It said that his oxygen levels were really good. He stayed right around 97-98%. So while it felt like he couldn’t breathe, the reality was his body was getting enough oxygen.

But tell that to the boy who feels like he is suffocating and can’t take a full breath. I am certain it is terrifying. At one point last night he was just crying that he was so scared. He was worried that his throat was going to continue to close and he would die. Because that is how it felt to him.

I rubbed his back and tried to calm him. I told him over and over that his oxygen level was fine. He asked me how I knew. I didn’t, but I prayed that I was right. I told him to go take a hot shower to try that and I admitted to Karlena that I was so so worried about my boy. “We need a miracle” I said.

Several minutes went by and Elijah came back down. The hot water had caused him to cough really hard and he threw up. Apparently a “bunch of snot came out” (sorry for the grossness of it all) and when that happened he was finally able to breathe more freely. Praise God!

Karlena looked at me and said “Mom, you wanted a miracle and you got a miracle.” I will take it. Miracle or not…it was such a relief for a few hours.

I knew that I wanted to be near him so that I could hear him while he slept. Neither one of us slept well last night. He was up several times, coughing and struggling to breathe well. Not as bad as the night before…but certainly not a night of peaceful rest.

Each time he would stir awake I would whisper those words, “I’m right here, you are not alone…” I know he is scared right now and I needed him to know that I wasn’t going to leave his side.

And in the dark of the middle of the night I knew that I had heard those same words over and over in my spirit. “I’m right here, you are not alone…” There have been many moments that I was the one awake and afraid. Worried about what was going to happen, wondering if things were going to be ok…struggling to breathe. Yet God was always there for me. Comforting me with peace even in the unknown, being my firm foundation when I could not stand on my own.

I am able to be that comfort to my son because my Father has been that shelter for me time and time again. I felt such a feeling of gratefulness last night. I am not happy about my son’s present circumstance and I wish I could take it from him…but I am so grateful to know that God is with us in every moment. We are not alone.

I don’t know what circumstance may be crushing your spirit, making it hard for you to breathe…but may I remind you that you can give those fears and worries over to God. He IS with you and you are not alone.

January “No Spend” Recap

Example Budget Form

Well the first month in my 1st Quarter spending freeze is over and I thought I would come here and just share some of my highs and my lows!

I knew that going on this budget would be difficult for me. I have an impulse problem, I shared about that. And specifically I seem to be even more impulsive when I am struggling (angry, sad, grumpy etc…) Well January was a TOUGH month. From computer problems that extended on for weeks and made me VERY crabby, to general stresses with work and home life – I was over January by about the 7th.

I called my best friend and said I just wanted to buy something, anything to feel better. A true indication that there is a problem if I feel like that is the only thing that will cure my woes.

For the most part I was determined. I wanted to be able to remain strong. I wanted to break old, bad habits and create better, more healthy new ones. I can’t say that I am totally there yet but I feel like I am on my way.

I shared earlier this month that I started an Excel spreadsheet to track all of our spending. I wanted to be able to look at the month and see where we had spent our money and on what. I worked on finalizing that this morning and it was very interesting.

We spend a LOT on food. More than I realized. When we had met with our financial adviser and he had asked us to estimate that number I told him at least half the amount we apparently actually spend. And that doesn’t include a cost for household supplies. Now some of my expenditures in January won’t need to be repeated in February.

I had a 10% off coupon from Walmart to order online with them by the 15th. It was good up to $20 off – which means I needed to spend $200 on items to get the full 10% off discount value. To do this I ordered 3 bulk packs of toilet paper, kleenex, several jars of spaghetti sauce and noodles and cereal. All things we use pretty regularly and many items that will last us well into February and maybe even March.

It will be interesting to see how that number fluctuates in the months going forward. But doing this exercise opened my eyes to what we really spend and helps me plan going forward.

While there were many “wins” this month, I didn’t end this month perfectly either. There were lots of conversations about spending. More than once I told the kids no when they asked if they could purchase a movie or a mod on their Kindle. I did say that we could talk to Dominic about it and see if it was something he agreed to. Interestingly the topic didn’t come up again…hmmm.

There were some purchases that I made that absolutely would be considered “discretionary” but in the grand scheme were minimal and necessary (justify much?!) Karlena doesn’t fuss with her hair at all. She rarely lets me comb it, so when she mentioned wanting to find something that would dry and maybe style her hair a little I perked up. When I just blow dry her hair it becomes a tangled, huge mess. Most days she was going to school with pretty wet hair.

I had seen a Revlon Hairdryer/Brush combo advertised online and it had a bunch of good reviews. It went on sale from $60 to $43 and I had $14 in Amazon free credit points built up…so I bought it. It is AMAZING. I know we could have waited until after April to purchase this, but it has worked so well, and so quickly…it was worth every cent.

I also bought myself a new $12 belt. Again I didn’t NEED it right this moment – but I saw it and bought it. That was my biggest fail this month I suppose. I justified it again because I told Dominic, it was cheap and my old one is wearing out. But the reality was I didn’t need it right then and could have waited until my older one really bit the bullet. I see it for what it is. I needed to get something and this was an easy out for me.

I did also go out to eat twice, once with some girlfriends and once with a larger group of girlfriends. Total those meals cost me $34. And our family went out to eat for fun one night at Perkins. For a family of 5 we spent $69. The food was ok but it was a reminder to me why we don’t often eat out. I can make much more food (and better IMO) for much cheaper.

Some unexpected but needed expenses came up when I had to buy new shoes for Karlena and new snow boots for Elijah. I also decided (with Dominic’s full approval) to shop ahead and purchased a new larger winter coat for Elijah for next fall/winter. He will need the larger size and this one was on 60% off clearance so it made sense to buy it now instead of at a more expensive cost later this year.

Again I am tracking on my spreadsheet on a separate form to record all clothing expenses so that I can see how much that adds up to over the course of a year as well.

I am sure that all of this spending and budget talk is boring but it is good practice for me to not only spend some time looking back at my month, the wins and the losses, as well as making a record for later. I don’t want this time to be one of just suffering through 90 days and then going right back to my bad habits.

I have said it before, I need to develop better habits and response mechanisms. Maybe I will walk away from this experience with a budget that helps me stay on track. Maybe I will be able to continue to say no when the purchase isn’t a need right now. Maybe this will develop in me that pause that I have been lacking.

I was talking with a friend last night and said that I had gotten into such a habit of impulse that I would just buy things and ended up not loving them. Now my closet has things in it I force myself to wear not because I love them or the way I look but because I don’t want the cost the be wasted. If nothing else, this will hopefully help me to be more considerate of the whys of my purchases.

So while January was a bear in many ways it was also eye opening and valuable and I am grateful that I am going through this.

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