How We Do: Lent {this year}

Most years Lent goes something like this:

We’re sitting in the pew wrangling our kids at Mass at their bedtime on Ash Wednesday and it dawns on me that I have given very little thought to Lent, except for what I hear in church weekly. {Side note–church at 7pm on a weeknight is very very very difficult with young children, but we try. That’s another whole blog post for a later date} Then I feel really bad about that whole idea of no-thought-giving, as Lent is a very important and reflective season. I quickly decide that I’ll ‘give up’ something popular for the next 40 days, usually chocolate, dessert, or something like Facebook. (I once decided we wouldn’t eat out or buy food anywhere other than the grocery store for Lent–that was….interesting.) We leave church and I feel a little better about things and we continue on through Lent.

I wanted to do better this year. I wanted to actually go through Lent and be reflective on the actual meaning. I wanted to think a little ahead. I wanted to do something that made a difference and that showed others God’s love. I didn’t want to ‘give up’ chocolate, because, well….there’s gotta be something else I can do!! I follow some awesome Catholic mommy bloggers (my idols, if we must be real), and they do an amazing job with preparing during Lent and getting their families involved in the season. Inspiration….

So last Sunday we talked as a family what we wanted to do for Lent. We thought it would be good to get the kids involved. We first had to decipher between ADVent and Lent. Similar sounds, I see now. G thought we should pray before AND after dinner. Good thought. I like where you’re going with this. L thought we should read out of the Bible every day. She suggested one of the kid’s Bibles. Wow! They actually listen sometimes! A thought we should stop talking and go home and eat hot dogs. Well…… J thought we should pray a decade of the rosary every day and completely give up television. A good idea, but I don’t see it happening…because…well…4 children…..and family movie night! I thought we should, um, give up chocolate?! JK

So we decided to ‘do good’ for Lent. I found this awesome chart of ideas  and we’re going to try to cross of at least 4-5+ each week. Ok, I’ll be happy if we get 2 or 3 a week, realistically. They range from not complaining to watching a religious movie as a family to visiting a shut-in to praying for different people.   I feel like the kids ‘get’ this and will happily take an active role in most of these things. We’ll see how it goes. I’m kind of excited to ‘make hot cross buns’. 😉

40 Lenten Activities for Catholic Families and Kids {Free Printable Available in Both Color and Black and White!}

We’re going to continue to do a decade of the Rosary on Friday nights. This is a tradition we started with the kids about 18 months ago that has stuck. I wrote once about that here and it’s been a great thing.

I personally am not going to ‘scroll Facebook’ during Lent. This is such a huge time suck and I find that it sometimes just brings. me. down. I always tell my patients at work that they shouldn’t compare. Don’t need that during Lent…or ever, really! I am still going to use it for certain things, such as this blog and events that are coordinated through Facebook, but I’m hoping that’s it.

We’re going to not eat meat on Fridays. Well, we’re Catholic, and Jesus ate fish, and he died on the cross for us, so we’re going to eat fish, and that’s an easy thing for kids to understand!

Jeremiah has declared he’s going to do more spiritual reading. It’s actually something he really enjoys, but doesn’t always make time for. He’s currently working his way through The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. I know, sounds super exciting, but he likes it. He’s also committed to taking a 6 1/2 min shower in the morning. Seem odd? Well, he’s known around here to take 20-30+ min showers. He actually set a timer for himself in the shower this morning and got to school a whole 30 mins earlier than usual. He declared today to me, via text, that a shorter shower was ‘life changing’ in that he had ‘so much more time’. Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up…..

So that’s how we are doing Lent this year. Hopefully we hold ourselves accountable. And I’ll still be eating chocolate, just not on Fridays. 😉

How We Do: Groceries

This post is going to be rivoting. Mind-boggling good. Blow your socks off. Super boring?….Or maybe actually very interesting for others….I don’t really know!

I got a lot of questions after I posted in passing that I get groceries 2 times a month. So this post is about just that. I like to figure out ‘systems’ for doing things; I guess I’m a creature of habit and it makes life a lot easier. As far as groceries go, I’ve done the once-a-month system, the freezer-meals system, the no-plan lack of system, the I’m-hungry system, the I’m-nauseated-constantly-but-still-have-to-cook system………everything has had a season. HA! I like reading how other families do things and stealing their ideas. 😉 I stalk other bloggers and pinterest in my spare time, AKA after 10pm when I should be sleeping!

Get ready for this wildly exciting ride….

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Aldi here we come! (They’re remodeling)

I start usually 1 or 2 days before I get groceries, and I plan dinners for 2 or 3 weeks. Sometimes what I plan actually lasts longer than that. I have a master set of dinner recipes with listed ingredients that I have in a binder in sheet protectors. This way the papers don’t get all nasty when I cook, because when the kids help in the kitchen there’s no hope for neatness. There’s probably 30 of the recipes, I’ve never counted. They are easy recipes that I know we like and are decently healthy and GF. Win-win-win. I don’t like to re-invent the wheel every 2 weeks. I don’t plan for breakfast or lunches because it’s always the same…..we eat eggs or cereal or protein bar for breakfast and leftovers for lunch (G and L eat school lunch). I have the name of each recipe written on a post-it. I keep this all in a binder. So I take my calendar and stick a post it to the days for the next 2 or 3 weeks to designate which meals we’ll have when. I like the post-its as then I can change it up if I want without having to scribble all over the calendar. And yes I recently color coded the post-its because I AM A HUGE ORGANIZING DORK. I blame Mel for that quality. 😉 Blue is soups/stews, green/yellow is stuff to bake or grill, coral/pink is crock pot. And the fighter plane on the right is just for you to wonder about 😉

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So then I make a grocery list for all the recipes I’ve stuck to the calendar. This is super quick because all of the recipes have the ingredients listed in the binder! Genius, I know. Too bad it wasn’t my original idea (thanks Pinterest). I have a little magnetic list on the fridge too where we write things when they run out, so I add those to the list as well. I get super nerdy here and organize my list by category – pantry (canned/boxed goods, etc), fridge/freezer, and produce because this makes sense to me and saves me time. I’ve also started buying flats of common canned goods that we go through a ton of. A flat at Aldi cost like $4-5 depending what it is. I get what’s on the list plus quite a bit more because I don’t always write the regular things down (ie bananas or milk) or specials they may have in store that day. This whole planning session takes me maybe 15 mins depending how many times I’m interrupted.

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So then it’s time to shop. I seriously have to psyche myself up for this, and sometimes I’ll even tell my coworkers or J that tomorrow I’m getting groceries so I’m trying to prepare myself. This is legit. It’s an undertaking. I pack the diaper bag and put my list in there the night before because it really sucks when you go to all this work then forget your list!

Amelia and Ruth are always my 2 tag-alongs because we go right after we drop the bigs at school in the morning. Ruth goes in my sling and Amelia either walks or sits in the top of the cart. We  go to Walmart first and get the few things that we cannot get at Aldi, then we go to Aldi and get the rest. Amelia does really well grocery shopping if I let her get licorice. You see, the licorice is right by the entrance door to the store. I let her get a licorice, and she sits in the cart the rest of the time coddling and protecting her tiny box of licorice that she’s been told she can have a few of after we’re done, as long as she’s a good helper. She does this through the whole store. I try to cross stuff off as we go, but soon my cart is overflowing and I cannot locate the list because it’s now buried beneath the 6 dozen eggs and 3 loaves of bread…..

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Would you believe that on this very day I forgot my BAGS!? Rookie mistake! It was almost a tragedy. I snagged a mountain of produce boxes and we trudged along. Aldi rocks.

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So we go to check out. I forgot the salsa…dang it. My kids have been great, Ruth hasn’t even made a peep. I always get a lot of looks at the checkout. I think it’s either pity or the she’s-crazy look, but I can never tell. What???? Doesn’t everyone buy 6 gallons of milk at a time?!?! So some guy named Larry (Amelia wanted to know his name) who’s behind us in line gets tired of waiting on me to unload this heap, so he takes it upon himself to unload half of the cart for me. Bless his heart. I pay for our food and thank him, then it’s onto another huge task, boxing/bagging all that food! I get it all in the boxes, but then it won’t all fit in my cart. I’m mentally assessing the problem when stranger #2, and Aldi worker, takes pity on me and tells me to take an extra cart that she has. So I have TWO CARTS. This is another issue. I have a baby strapped to me, a 3 year old who is darn ready to eat her licorice, and 2 carts to get to the car. I take the gigantic cart first, put girls in the car, unload cart #1, lock the car, run furiously back into the store and grab cart #2, unload it into the car, buckle up kids, lock car, run furiously again to return the cart to the corral, then hop in. Another issue–Ruth needs a diaper change! There is no empty available flat space in the car. I am NOT going back into the store. I change her on my lap.

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Cart #1

So we drive home. At home I unload all the groceries into the kitchen….my weightlifting for the day! Talk about multitasking! Amelia is in charge of putting away canned goods into the corner pantry and I put away the rest. If G or L happens to be home on grocery day, they are in charge of putting away produce and upper corner pantry stuff, but today it’s just me and the 3 year old.  4 gallons of milk and 4 dozen eggs go into the overflow fridge in the basement along with anything else I can’t find a home for. 3 loaves of bread go into the deep freeze. The rest goes in the kitchen.

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I’m tired. And now it’s time to make lunch. Licorice for lunch, anyone? JK….

 

How we do: Gluten free

In my last post I mentioned how we’ve gone gluten free, mostly. I guess people are super interested in this, and I feel like us GF peeps need to encourage each other! So, here’s my post on doing the GF thing. We are still figuring it all out, it’s definitely a work in progress, and I definitely do not consider myself an expert, probably not even novice! Here’s what’s working for us.

I don’t cook 2 separate meals. Although the kids and I are not obligated to be GF, we pretty much do it anyways, simply because it’s easier. The kids or I will have a flour tortilla with our tacos or an occasional sandwich, and I do put wheat crackers in my chili, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.

I do the majority of the grocery shopping and cooking, and I’m pretty sure J would eat eggs and cheese for every meal if I didn’t do a little research 😉 I’ve learned a lot. First of all, reading the labels is really important. It says common allergens right on the bottom of the ingredients list “Contains: Milk, soy, peanuts, wheat” etc.  That’s the easiest and quickest way to tell. Often, but not always, you can find “Gluten free”on the front of packages that are. That being said, we’ve found many things that are labeled GF that you’d think would be a no-brainer. Raisins, for example. Yes, duh, they’re gluten free. Same with bacon, cheese, vegetables, fruit, etc. Gluten free green beans?! What a find! 😉

Then there are a ton of things that have gluten that I would have never thought. Chili/taco seasoning, most chocolate, frozen turkey meatballs, beer, condensed soups, salad dressings, many pre-made sauces, anything malted or malt flavoring, of course anything with wheat, flour, or barley. It seems like almost all processed things have gluten. I do buy some specifically GF stuff, and it’s usually made with rice or oat flour instead of wheat. They mostly taste pretty good, but we just do a few of them. We’ve kind of just switched to not eating the kind of stuff that normally has gluten in it, or I . They are more expensive and a bit harder to find. Aldi has a great GF line called ‘Live G-free’ that is really well priced and tastes great. Here’s a look at what we currently have in the specific GF variety:

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So here’s basically what we’re eating:

Breakfast: eggs, omelets/salsa, some protein bars, bacon, hashbrown egg bake

Lunches: corn tortilla quesadillas/wraps, eggs, salads, GF leftovers from dinner

Dinners:

Mexican lasagna (this is a big favorite in our house)

Hawaiian chicken bake

Crock pot chicken apple sweet potato 

Tacos (corn tortillas)

Enchiladas (corn tortillas)

Loaded chicken and potatos casserole

Chicken enchilada soup

Sausage and veggie soup

Chili

Taco soup

Roast

Baked potato bar (cheese, sour cream, bacon, broccoli, etc)

Homemade pizza with the G-free brand crust

Baked fajitas

THM BBQ chicken

 

Snacks: hard boiled eggs, almonds, dried fruit, yogurt with flaxseed, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, tortilla chips/salsa, cottage cheese, rice krispies treats

Yeah, we’re eating a lot of eggs. We are currently averaging 3-4 dozen eggs/week. I guess they are a cheap protein source so that’s good!!!

Eating out: We haven’t done much of this lately. We’ve got 4 kids and trying to put money towards other things, soooo yeah. I do know that Applebees marks their food as GF and has several choices, and the southwestern salad at McDonalds is GF and VERY good (but hard to eat while driving)!

So that’s my post on gluten free. We’ve got a lot to learn, but are on the upwards swing. And he’s worth it 🙂

 

How We Do [Christmas]

I love Christmas. Who doesn’t?! But sometimes Christmas is too much. The spending of too much money. Too many wants.  Too much pressure. Too many social standards. Too many pinterest ideas. Too many people who really don’t have enough.  Too much focus on the guy in red instead of the babe in the manger.

Christmas is about *CHRIST*, right?

It’s hard. Finding a balance between it all. Keeping Christ in Christmas but letting your family enjoy all the beauty and the magic of the season. It’s hard.

This year, we had a fabulous Christmas, and I know that if anyone asks my kids what is special about Christmas, they will say it’s Jesus’ birthday!  I hope that as they grow they ALWAYS remember this very important thing.

We started off with the Christmas pageant at our church on Christmas Eve. The kids were sheep, and have been for several years. Baaa!  Apparently you don’t move up in the nativity until 2nd grade. 😉

After, we ventured to Nana and Papa’s house for food, and yes, some presents. Kids were stoked. Until one of the light sabers broke. Then Lucy cried. All. the. way. home. Whoops.

We made it home and the kids happily ventured off to bed. I realized that I dropped the ball on a few things this Christmas, including separate wrapping paper for Santa.  Again, that’s not what it’s about, but I do want to try my best. And so when you drop the ball, sometimes you have to improvise…..:

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This morning we had some more presents and watched the Minions movie. We got our kids each 3 things this year, plus a few stocking stuffers. No, I’m not a grinch.  I know that seems absurd to many people, but they really don’t need anything, and we attend SIX Christmases where they all get gifts. We are trying to teach them that life is about gratitude and not about ‘gimme gimme’ every time they see something they want.  They each got something to read, something to wear, and something they wanted (a toy). And the Minions movie 😉

Just as Lucy and I were putting together the beginning of her new Lego grocery store set, my phone rang and it was MITCH!!! We finally got to talk after 3 other missed calls over the past few days. It absolutely made. my. day.  I haven’t seen my brother since mid-October and have not gotten to talk to him much either since he’s been, ya know, on the other side of the world in the middle of the ocean and all.  The USO gifted some of the sailors with a 300 minute phone calling card today, and I can say that the best gift I got this Christmas was to talk to him! He is doing well and it sounds like the morale on the ship is pretty high.  I think all the Muscle Car magazines I sent helped 🙂

Next, Nana and Papa arrived and Aunt Mel, along with Percy the dog, and Mel’s alias ‘Auntie Claus’.  More presents. But Aunt Mel does what she does and is an amazing auntie, and the kids loved everything.  We ate some Christmas lasagna (amazing, btw).

Amelia took a 3 hour nap, while everyone else watched ‘A Christmas Story’, ate cookies, and did Christmas Jamberrys.  It was a good day!

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Tomorrow we have yet another Christmas, our 5th one this year.  It is the biggest, loudest, wildest, and funnest one yet.  Should be a good time 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone!

-The {FALALALALA-ing} Costellos