Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What've Y'all Been Up To?

You know when you run into someone you haven't seen in a while and you exclaim over how good it is to see one another, comment on how big the kids are getting, and then the question of 'so, what've y'all been up to?' 

Can I just tell you that question makes me choke a little?  Because the real answer is five hundred sentences long, but nobody wants to hear that in the toilet paper aisle at Target.  I generally eye my children and say something like, 'Oh, you know.  Life!'

Life with my people is wonderfully busy and blessedly relaxed.  We are in a beautiful season of no extra-curiculars, so we aren't constantly shuffling off to practice or games.  However, despite the lack of committed time, we are not in a state of dullness.

Oh, no.  Never dullness.

This is how we want you all to think of us... sane, normal, smiling. 
This is what we do when snow happen... find any warm items we have (does it matter if they match) and go play like wild things in the snow!

Occasionally, when it's been too cold for too long (more than 28 minutes), we climb walls and die dead (and giggly) of snake bites.

Sometimes we team up with friends for field trips...

...or spend time capturing silly but loving moments on camera.

One time, we turned all the kids loose with hammers and nails.  Except the baby.  He just stood in bins full of hammers and nails.

Some of us see the sunshine and ask to take off all our clothes (okay, only one of us does that).  Others paint things or stick stickers all over their faces.  Sometimes, Mommy just documents the Tower of Laundry Taller Than a Kid.

So if I look at you like this when you ask me 'What've y'all been up to?', it's because I'm wondering just how much you really want to know...

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

How We Do - Groceries


That word makes me cringe.  It means that I have to think and go and spend.  A lot.

We shop in three major places to keep our family stocked with foodstuffs.
(Edit: Okay, apparently we shop in 5 regular places.  I just had to write it all out to realize it.)

1.  The bulk of our shopping happens at Costco.  We have seven mouths to feed, so I don't have the energy or patience to be going to typical grocery stores every week to pay more for less.  I go to Costco twice a month (and if I had the pantry space, I'd go less!) to stock up on what I consider our basic Costco list.  I also stock up extra on anything that happens to be on sale.

Affectionately dubbed 'the dining room pantry', this wonderful little cabinet stores about half our dry groceries.  It's deep shelves allow for several rows of items and the space between the shelves gives us plenty of room to stack things up.  As you can see, we're a happy hodge-podge of organic and, well, not. 
And I'm just gonna go ahead and confess, I prefer to do Costco with my husband with me, but that's not how our lives work out.  So, I load up the kids and we go around lunch time.  We wander about the store and the kids eat from all the samples being handed out.  This is how I know my oldest child really likes sardines.

I. Can't. Even.

If they aren't full after all the samples, we grab a bit of pizza at the in-house restaurant after we check out.  It's not an easy outing, but it's always fun!

2.  Another place that gets a portion of our grocery budget is Publix - it's really close and convenient, plus they run some pretty good buy one, get one deals.  I keep an eye on Southern Savers for a listing of sales (I LOVE this site and the added simplicity it lends my life!)

3.  Right next to Publix is an Aldi.  Now, I'm leary of Aldi, if the truth is to be told.  But I do purchase some of our produce there and all of our paper products.  We have saved a bundle this past year on toilet paper and facial tissue, thanks to Aldi.  So, I guess they should get a shout out, for anyone who has one close and is trying to care for their family on a budget.

4. Finally, we are a part of a food co-op here in Huntsville.  We *could* order just about all of our groceries through them (many of the vendors we purchase from are also vendors for Earth Fare and Whole Foods, so we're getting excellent products).  However, even at wholesale, I can't stretch our dollars enough for us to eat all organic.  I'd love to, but we do the best we can with what we have.

We purchase cheese, maple syrup, bulk dry items (which we store in 5 gallon buckets that float around my kitchen, much to my chagrin), a fair amount of produce, and a variety of other things.  It's an excellent resource that we don't utilize to the fullest, but we are thankful to have at our disposal.

Once upon a time, I kept the buckets in the laundry room... I don't know at what point I gave up.  We are in and out of these buckets regularly and now they just live in my kitchen.
At least they make great places to sit... 

5.  Another major factor in how we purchase our foods is that we buy all our pork and all our beef from local farmers.  We purchase half a cow per year and half a pig per year.  The animals are grass fed and cared for by families who believe that what you put in your body matter.  We've been purchasing our meat like this for several years now (most of our kids lives!) and love the freedom of knowing we have good meat and lots of it in our chest freezer. 

We will not speak of how this picture makes me twitch.  There's no way to even pretend there's a clean spot in our garage.
There's also no way to park a car in there.   

I'm not a great cook nor am I an adventurous person when it comes to food.  That being said, I keep a list of the recipes we love the very most (I have different lists for warm weather and cold weather) posted inside one of my cabinets.  At all times, I have the ingredients to make any of the items on this list.  It's just the way I plan and shop.  It works for us.  If I run across a new recipe I want to make, it usually requires a special trip to the store, and that's okay.  (Frankly, that doesn't happen very often.)

This list includes a handful of ideas for breakfast and lunch, since the kids are largely responsible for making those two meals (that's a great post for another day!).

This is about as close as it gets to meal planning around here.  Meal planning is a great idea and one I ascribed to until the fifth child.  After that, Streamlined Survival became a motto around here

Want more How We Do?  Hop over to Vitafamiliae!  

Monday, February 17, 2014

How We Do - Date Night

I'm going to be achingly honest here: We don't do a full blown date night like so many folks we know.  There's the issue of childcare.  There are all these fabulous ideas for Free Date Nights, but there's still the issue of childcare to take in to consideration.  We have family that are occasionally willing to watch our kids so we can have some down time, but they all have busy schedules and live an hour away.  We tend to save those favors for big things, like weekends away.

So what does date night look like for us?  It doesn't.  Does that mean we don't take time together?  It doesn't.

We love our kids and we love to spend time with them.  However, bed time is bed time, and there are very few exceptions.  We offer strong discouragement to children who stall and break the bedtime rules.  We have our family worship time, we tuck our little people in, pray over them, and remind them of the next mornings routine.

And then we walk away.

That's the important part:  We all but lay aside our parenting card.  We have a big, noisy box fan that we turn on to help drown out any noise we might make or any of the small noises the kids make (we only go back upstairs for infractions that demand our attention).  

Some nights we watch a movie or a television show.  Some nights we talk about whatever needs to be talked about.  If it's pretty out, we might sit out on the deck and enjoy the scenery (but this is Alabama, so the mosquitoes generally drive us back inside pretty quickly!).  Occasionally, we'll each set up with our respective technologies or books and totally check out on each other.

But usually, we demand the others attention.  And that attention is usually accompanied by a shared dessert or snack of some kind.

It's not an evening at the movies or a restaurant, but there's a comfort in knowing that we have this time at the end of most days to just be together.  I look forward to each evening with my husband and I get cranky if we're too busy to have this time together.  There's a rightness to curling up next to him as we take in a favorite movie that can't be compared with lettuce wraps at the local Chinese bistro.

Here's the thing: It's not about what you do or where you go, it's about being intentional and sharing the time.  Don't get me wrong, we love the free-spiritedness that comes with a true date night when we kiss our sweeties good-bye and head out the door for some just us outing time.  But if it's not in your budget to pay a sitter and leave the house, I encourage you to find contentment in being with the one you love.

Plus, this is just around the corner for all of us.  Even you sweet new mama's with 2 kids under the age of 2 years.  It's coming.  Just hang on, love those babies, and cling to your hubby. 

***Want to know how others approach date night in their marriage?  Head over to Vitafamiliae.***