The Most Riveting, Long-winded Christmas Recap You’ll Never Finish Reading.

First of all: am I just insane or is anyone else having problems with their iPhone insistent on autocorrecting Christmas to “chrostmas”? Cause 50/50 times, Carolyn’s DumbPhone is determined that’s what I really mean. yaw. ____________________________________ We hosted Christmas Eve … Continue reading

Simplicity, Sanity, & Supermoms. Part II {FOOD}

So here’s part two of my Bare Minimum series: What I Cook.

 I have definitely cooked crappy dinners. We definitely have days where (as Jen Fulwiler puts it) my children’s meals consist mostly of goldfish, or graham crackers. Cereal is always a fallback. Good ol’ trusty.

This is like the fourth or fifth time I’ve sat down to finish this entry, and each time I do, I’m like,”WHY am I writing this, again?” I feel completely unworthy of the advice I’m giving. I’ve got friends who are way more motivated and organized than I am, who should be writing this, and who could contribute way more! So just keep this in mind. I am constantly asking for advice from my family and friends. I was only half way finished putting this series together when I had a conversation with a friend about couponing!  NO! I don’t really coupon! WHY!? I just don’t know enough! So there you go: Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone is in a different place, a different pace and of a different temperament. Take something I do that might work for you and your family, tweak it, make it better, then share it with me! Or take something that I do totally wrong, and relieve me of my ignorance, please!

That said, let’s set the foundation about what my family and I consume:

I’d probably qualify myself as semi-crunchy. (crunchy= granola hippie or, as some have called me, “Earthy”) If I had the funds and inexhaustible drive to search for the optimum health foods—- I’m not gonna lie, I still would probably drive through McDonald’s and order some fries and a Coke. I try to maintain a balance of healthy food choices, and ingredients, but we allow some junk. That’s us in a nutshell.

It all boils down to what I’m willing to sacrifice. Health, money, or time?

If I were willing to sacrifice my money, my health and the health of my children, I’d buy a ton of frozen foods and prepared meals. We’d eat out often. I would never cook.

To me, I like to believe that my time is well-spent cooking meals for my husband and children. By doing this, I’m saving money and I’m looking after the health of my family. There are many days during the Bare Minimum Mode when I can barely find a minute to pee, let alone cook a meal. So here is what I do:

My Basics for Meals:

  • Stick to what you know: Now is not the time to try recipes which contain ingredients you’ve never tasted before. I can’t afford the time or money on a meal experiment.
  • Don’t be enslaved by brand names. We buy the store brand for just about everything save for a few items that I definitely notice a difference in flavor/quality or ingredients. It saves money. I always laugh, thinking of the Dave Ramsey line about Heinz 57 Ketchup vs the store brand ketchup “…Heinz claimed to be thicker, tastier. The store brand is accused of being watery, uglyyy …and made in the same factoryyyyy…”
  • It pays to shop around. There is a particular store which I refer to as The Russian Storefront. I can’t stand shopping there. It’s always cold, they’re always out of essential groceries, and their produce sucks assmar. I don’t like it, my husband doesn’t like it, and even my oldest boy whines “NOOOO, I DON’T WANT TO GO TO W**-***T!” when we pull into the parking lot. But guess whaaaat: the groceries they do carry are cheaper than everywhere else. Shopping there cuts our grocery bill in half. I go elsewhere for the other items. I go to Target when I want a vacation. Tarjay Vacay!
  • We buy fresh and organic to an extent. I’m aware of the partially hydrogenateds, the high fructose syrups, and the artificial sweeteners that are packed into nearly all dry grocery foods. I buy organic if it’s ever on sale- mostly, I wash fruit in a water/vinegar mix. I read the labels and avoid buying food for my boys containing any of the above ingredients. At first, it took a little extra time at the grocery store, but now I know what’s semi-healthy and that’s what I go back for. I also have ambitions to drown -er- grow a tiny garden this summer with the aid of my mother and my green thumb husband.
  • I make the bulk of my meals from scratch. Cooking from scratch is the best for my family because I can better control what ingredients go into the dish, the recipes generally make larger quantities or are easily doubled, and it’s cheaper.  No, I don’t roll out and make my own pasta, milk my own cow, nor churn my own butter.  I definitely buy some frozen foods, I put half a pack of instant vanilla pudding into my cookies, and I always keep a box or two of cake mix for an easy dessert when family visits. We buy a frozen pizza every two weeks and it qualifies as our “ordering take-out”
  • We never go out to eat.

I internally freak out pretty easily when we go out, so eating out with three baby boys is a trifecta for me.
Imagine me, for a moment:    

Attempting to discreetly wrestle a 4 month old under the bewildering fabric of a nursing cover while he flails his limbs, gazes distractedly at the fabric’s print, perhaps screaming, perhaps squalling, while I’m having letdown (MILK EVERYWHERE). Baby perhaps sputtering, coughing, or possibly drowning, whilst my middle child may or may not be wailing in protest of the bondage of highchair-ery, or of the crackers he’s not being fed quickly enough because I’m busy with the noodly nursing baby and the fabric which feels like the volume of a ship’s multiple sails yet also like a simple tea cozy because noodle boy is now wrapping himself with it, negating its purpose and threatening boobie exposure. All the while, my husband frantically waits (in a forced, nonchalant manner) for the YouTube app on his phone to detect WiFi to silence the middle child, while our oldest boy jovially rattles on about EVERYTHING he sees, does, tastes and touches, as well as providing the sound effects of pirate life and animal bellowings because he loves to hear his own voice- but who can blame him?

I repeat, we never eat out.  I know I will someday be wined and dined, but I don’t even want it right now.

  • Generally, I cook 2-3 HUGE meals (dbl batch) a week and freeze half of each, so that I have two meals I don’t have to cook the second week. 
  • The rest of the week I keep very simple. Meat & veggie, with pasta or rice.
  • I freeze nearly everything. Especially uncooked veggies or cooked pasta or rice. Those items thaw nicely and can be used or added to any meal with ease. Here is a pretty good Pinterest link on the basics of freezing food. I have hopes to save for a deep freezer un jour

 Pinterest is a great source for meal ideas, if you know what you’re looking for!

The Pinterest Recipes that have earned a permanent fixture in the family menu are:

BREAKFAST:

  • Breakfast burritos- I’ve shared this one before, here. It’s such a great breakfast go-to. Instead of wasting $6-9 dollars on a small box of 4 frozen (full of mystery ingredients) breakfast burritos, taking 2 hours (which includes stopping to change diapers, feed children or get them to nap) on a Sunday afternoon gets me 2 weeks worth of breakfast for my husband and I. I don’t know if that can be beat!
    image 
  • Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuits.  OH.MER.GERSH.

    image 

LUNCH:

  • Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad– I make this maybe twice a month instead of buying lunch meat. It’s mostly to feed ME. It makes a quick sandwich, and I save myself from grazing or eating the boys’ graham crackers as a meal. I cut this recipe in half. It calls for 4 large cans of chicken, I use 2, etc.. However, I used more Greek Yogurt than the recipe calls for. This is a flexible recipe. I used chopped almonds instead of pecans, I added way more celery because I love the crunch. image
    [Source: http://foodfolksandfun.net/2011/12/day-4-of-12-days-of-christmas-fun/]

DINNER:

  • Pasta Milano- A chicken dish derived from a recipe from Macaroni Grill, it’s my favorite dinner. Full of flavor, freezes and reheats wonderfully. This recipe calls for only 2 chicken breasts, three strips of bacon and half a pound of pasta, so it’s fabulously easy to double and freeze for a quick meal next week.  This one does take a little more time than the other recipes, but once you get the method down, it becomes second nature to throw it together. If I can do it, so can you!
    image
  • Chili– There is no such thing as a small pot of chili.  I’m not a huge chili fan, but my MIL’s recipe converted me. I just found the above Pinterest recipe today, and it’s nearly identical.  I do not double this recipe.  In fact, I cut it in half (only 2lbs of meat, etc.) and there is still enough left to freeze for dinner next week in addition to lunch to send with my husband to work for a few days.  It can be served by itself, or over rice or pasta. You don’t have to use beef.  I use a mix of beef and italian style sausage. My sister makes chili with ground turkey, and I think it’s delicious.  A very flexible recipe; one can use the beans they like, can add potatoes or extra vegetables, make it spicy or sweet. 
     
  • Polska Kielbasa with vegetables- This one is my easiest go-to. Chop up veggies of choice, sauté to desired tenderness, throw in diced Kielbasa and brown.  Serve over rice. You don’t even need any sauce or dressing with it because the Kielbasa is so flavorful. 
    image
  • Crock Pot Roast.  I haven’t made this in a long time, but the secret ingredients make all the difference!  This is another flexible recipe, as you may add veggies and serve with pasta or rice.

EXTRAS:

  • Crusty Bread- This is hands down, my greatest Pinterest treasure. It’s a three ingredient, no-knead bread. I whip it up in a bowl at bedtime, let it sit til the morning or until the next evening, throw it in the oven, and I have fresh bread with dinner (spaghetti night, anyone?), or toast for breakfast, or extra bread when I’m out of regular sandwich bread. It freezes nicely.
  • image
     I recently cut my dough in half and made two mini loaves: cute little baby loaves.  I used to work at Jeff Ruby’s and they serve bread with a salty crust which I still think about and drool, so I sprinkled coarse sea salt on the top of one loaf before baking and it turned out beautifully. Make sure you read the instructions carefully, and read the comments for further ideas and tips. Before my mom gave me a dutch oven with a lid, I simply used my crock pot with foil as the lid to bake the dough.  For these two loaves, I used two of my mini crock pots with foil.  Chopping fresh rosemary and mixing it into the dough before baking is absolutely delicious. The blog gives other flavor ideas that sound lovely!

So there you go! visit my Pinterest board for more ideas.  As far as food goes, I try to pin recipes that are realistic to accomplish, and that I’ve tried and approved. 

Next week I’ll post my final part to my Bare Minimum Mode series: How I function with 3 Boys at home. 
Please message or Tweet me with your Bare Minimum recipes! 

Simplicity, Sanity, & Supermoms. Part I

 I want to talk abut “BARE MINIMUM MODE”.  (Yes, it’s Jennifer Fulwiler who, to my knowledge, first penned the term. I can’t help that I’m always referring to her blog- it’s so genuine!)

Right now, I am in the thick of Bare Minimum Mode.
And I am relieved and rejuvenated to know there’s a name to it! YES!  A Cathsorority friend of mine posted this article on Facebook last week (I can’t promise I don’t rake through Conversiondiary some days, but this was a coincidental find).  I read it, and with a sigh of relief, realized I’m not (that) lazy.  Ever since I became pregnant with our first child, I’ve been in the dumps, feeling like I’m “being lazy” because the house is a shambles, while trying a variety of things to help myself out of it (vitamins, drinking more water, half-heartedly eating less gluten, reading inspirational motivational stuffs, making checklists, setting alarms, LOTS OF COFFEE…), while every now and then, dazedly blurting out “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!”.  

The above article helped me to realize that while I definitely have tired, lazy, selfish tendencies, each mother and her family has a different temperament, and that this phase of my life is, again  …just a phase. (cue Incubus song).  …but not only is this a simply a phase, it is an extremely difficult one!  I am trying to fit into the shoes of a veteran mother and wife.  Something I certainly am not, yet.  

I basically expected to give birth to our first son and BAM, also be instilled with the keys and secrets to being an awesome, efficient, multitasking robot of a mother and wife. Oh, how naïve

Something about becoming a mother that I didn’t realize I was being hurled into is the depth of self sacrificing to which I would need to surrender.  

Right, right, right, having the ol’ unplanned pregnancy and baby thing is the obvious sacrifice. I’ve done that one.
But that sacrifice is, quite honestly, an easy sacrifice (I say that lightly- I don’t mean to belittle the sacrifice of giving life.), once a mother gets down to the nitty gritty of actually BEING the mother: the tiny, pinpricking sacrifices mothers make daily.  Constant pinpricking needles which are the tiniest of sacrifices, build up, and can make mothers feel suffocated.  A mother can find herself saying “can I not even have one moment -ONE MINUTE- to myself …to BREATHE!?”  

Part of my thinking, as a new mom, in my earliest of days was similar to this:

“Okay, so I’ve gotten the baby washed/fed/sleeping,” or, “I’ve gotten the kitchen cleaned/laundry done/bills paid, SO…”
 ”… now I deserve some time for myself.”

But nearly every time, my “Me Time” gets interrupted.  By the mailman, by a phone call, by a waking child, by whatever under the sun could go wrong, my me time was always interrupted or short-lived.  I’m not exaggerating. Any mom knows this.  Simply peeing without someone laying at my feet, rolling Hot Wheels around the *extremely sanitized* toilet is considered “me time” nowadays.

 It really translates like this: my time = my will. <that’s how I’ve been looking at my free time.  Anything I really want to do, is part of MY TIME.  IT’S MINE FOR GOODNESS SAKES! Let me at least have that!

So, after nearly 4 years of continually, frustratingly fighting for my deserved “me time”, I’ve some to a conclusion:

I don’t want my time, Lord.  You take it.  My time is yours.


“Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10)

If there’s something I really want to do, I now pray a quick prayer, “Lord, if it is Your will that I do this, help my baby to nap/behave/be occupied long enough so I can either get it done, or get some part of it done.”

One of my fave Catholic writers discusses the battle we wage when we battle for MY TIME.  Peter Kreeft hits the nail on the head (as usual) by calling it what it is, pride.  ”UGH, really? This is what it is? Pride?” said I, upon reading his excerpt:

“Pride does not mean an exaggerated opinion of your own worth; that is vanity. Pride means playing God, demanding to be God. ‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,’ says Satan, justifying his rebellion, in Milton’s Paradise Lost. That is the formula for pride. Pride is the total ‘my will be done.’  Humility is “thy will be done.” Humility is focused on God, not self. Humility is not an exaggeratedly low opinion of yourself. Humility is self-forgetfulness. A humble man never tells you how bad he is. He’s too busy thinking about you to talk about himself.”

 This is not a new thing to me.  It swings me back around to my current pilgrimage toward becoming less, so I can hardly be shocked when I blundered onto these thoughts.  It’s just like… ugh!  I gotta surrender my time too?!  

Yup.

image

Shifting my paradigm, y’all. Little by little, facet by facet.  It is helping to bring my soul to a deeper peace.  Instead of frustration about not being able to write my 7 Quick Takes last week, I’m assuming I wasn’t supposed to. And wouldn’t you know, I’ve been inspired to write this entry! Perhaps it’s to help a friend of whom I’m unaware, struggling like I am.  Perhaps its just a little reprieve for myself.  Whatever it is, I thank God for allowing it right now.  I’m not saying that I’ve now mastered a complete surrender of my will to God’s will.  Goodness gracious, I’m only human!  This is going to be a continual LIFE LONG BATTLE.  But now I know. Now, I can move forward to becoming the best version of myself.

And this isn’t to say that I’ll never get my ME TIME.  But by not expecting it at every job Well Done, I am surprised to be given it.  I regard it, then, as a grace from God, not an entitlement.

SO.  Bare Minimum.  What is that for me?  

I’m breaking this up into 3 parts, or else I’ll have a mile long blog entry, and I know I’ve probably lost 3 quarters of my readers by now anyway soooo…

Part 1: What I DO
Part 2: What I Cook (and Pinterest ideas that have made my life easier)
Part 3: How My Children and I Function, Together

For me, Bare Minimum Mode is an indefinite period of time where I don’t go to any extra efforts to be anywhere except home, doing what needs to be done in order to survive. 

 This is pretty cleansing for me because a lot of time, we as mommies tend to feel like we HAVE to be… anything that “every other mom” seems to be doing.  Truth is, we don’t.  And truth is, “every other mom” isn’t doing it all either.  I’ve come to believe that the very happiest of families know what they need, and don’t go chasing around what they think they need, to keep up with Sally Supermom’s family.  These bare minimum moms actually become a supermom of their own, in my eyes anyway.
Here’s a rundown of my Bare Minimum household stuff as of right now.  It fluctuates and changes according to where we are financially, seasonally, and how I am mentally.

The Bare Minimums for me are:

  • The only time the whole family goes “out” is on the weekends: For groceries, to Mass, and to visit my parents or my husband’s parents. 
  • To the doctor if there’s an illness. My second son now has an ear infection, and our youngest is recovering from a double ear infection (I thought breastfed babies hardly got ear infections!?).
  • Many times, we have our family come to visit us.  I become easily vexed with the constant watching, chasing and corralling I have to do with my running boys. I vex to the point of exhaustion. So that when we get home, I need a nap or I’m irritated with my energetic boys until they’re in bed for the night.  I guess I’m pretty introverted.  If everyone comes to our house, I can actually enjoy the company.
  • We are not enrolled in any extracurriculars. Any. 
  • I hardly make note of how much TV is being watched (DisneyJR). I do turn it off, but I’m the opposite of the strictness I used to be.
  • I do laundry once a week. Note: not ALL of the laundry. Probably about half. And half of that half sits in a basket, not put away (but, at least folded, if lucky) for us to rake through as needed.
  •  The sink is always full of dishes. I try to get a viewing of a clean, empty sink twice a week. 
  • I vacuum 2-3 times a week (our carpet shows dirt like none I’ve ever known. Which is a good thing, I believe, or else I’d never vacuum.) 
  • I shower once a week. Twice if I seize the opportunity. A good round brush blowout, and my hair will last a whole week.  Luckily, I don’t have excessively oily hair, and a spray of Dry Shampoo will sustain it if I’ve got to get to the doctor with someone mid-week.
  • I absolutely delight in freshly manicured nails and a vivid colored nail lacquer. But right now, keeping them filed to a length which doesn’t trigger my gag reflex is proving challenging. (long nails make me wretch.)

    BAREST OF MINIMUMS: 

  • Feed people.
  • Wash people. 
  • Trim 60 fingernails once a week (+20 more of my own, if I’m lucky)
  • Wipe rear ends. 
  • HOLD THE BABY. 
  • NURSE THE BABY. 
  • Take lots and lots of photographs. 
  • I blog when I can.

If absolutely nothing else:

  • Bellies are filled.
  • The Rosary gets prayed.

Right now, holding and nursing the baby takes up a ton of time and space.  Baby 3 is 4 months old so he’s getting heavy, and too large to cradle with one arm.  Wearing him in a sling or a wrap helps me do a ton, but eventually my back and neck need a break. 

As this is the third round of baby-dom for me, I am conscious that this constant baby rocking, walking, nursing, bouncing, holding is a very short, albeit very intense, and extremely necessary phase for myself and especially the baby.  I am familiar with the benefits of being in constant contact with my newborn and I’ll alligator-snap anyone who tells me it’s coddling the baby and a “letting him control me” thing.  Wrong-o!

Okay, I’m spent.  Part II to follow very soon. 

Write to me, and tell me what your bare minimums are! I’m always looking for moms to copy from!