Archive for January 2015

There’s Nothing to Eat

January 31, 2015

A few months ago I started doing my grocery shopping once every two weeks.  This means that I do ALL of my grocery shopping every other weekend (while the kids are with their dad), and I try to avoid making any other store visits during that two-week period.

One of the concerns I had when I decided to first try this was that we would run out of food to eat.

As it was I was going to the store every week, and the kids would complain “there’s nothing to eat”.  What this really meant, though, was that there was nothing they wanted to eat.  My kids have been pretty spoiled.  They are accustomed to having TWO sugary bedtime snacks every night.

It took a little trial and error to get an idea of what two-weeks worth of food would be.  A favorite snack one week is out of favor the next.  All of the good fruit and the favorite snacks start running out around the start of the second week.  Sometimes the dinners are cobbled together the last few days.  However, there is in fact still a ton of food left in our house even when “there’s nothing to eat”.

For example, here are some pictures of our food supply on a Friday before a grocery shopping weekend.

Disclaimer #1:  Yes, my family eats a ton of processed food.  It’s my choice how I “poison” my kids.

Disclaimer #2:  Yes, I know this would probably be an optimal time to scrub down the inside of the fridge.  But it probably won’t happen.

pantry This is my tall and narrow pantry.  On the top shelf there are six boxes of cereal (three that the kids will eat).  As you can see we still have a few bags of chips left.  The middle shelf has Cheeze-Its, Animal Crackers, and Ritz crackers.  The snack drawer (shelf above the pans) still has a few packs of peanut butter cracker sandwiches and fruit & grain bars as well as fruit cups on top.  A bottle of juice, a quarter bag of potatoes, and Ramen noodle cups are on the floor.

cabinetThe cabinet under the island still has boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Velveeta shells.  There are Pop Tarts and saltines, cans of tuna and a jug of rice.  There’s chicken broth and four types of pasta (spaghetti, rotini, penne, and macaroni).


upstairs  This is my “upstairs pantry” where I store extras.  You can see more macaroni and cheese, Pop Tarts, Cheeze-Its, spaghetti graham crackers, chicken broth, and peanut butter cracker sandwiches.

Disclaimer #3:  I didn’t take a picture of the cabinet where I keep baking staples and my two remaining boxes of dessert mix (brownies and cheese cake).

fridge freezer We’re running low on skim milk in the refrigerator, but there’s a quarter gallon of 2% behind the water jug.  There are a few eggs, bologna, cheesy hot dogs, two yogurt cups, nacho cheese sauce, and a pound and a half of bacon.  The left drawer still has at least four, half-full, 12 oz bags of shredded cheese and two bags of cheese sticks.  The right drawer has a bag of apples and two bags of carrots.

The freezer still has one medium-sized cheese lasagna, garlic cheese toast, french fries, french toast sticks, pancakes, chicken tenders, and fried beef ravioli.  Oh, and that quart of chocolate ice cream is mostly full.

chest freezerInside the chest freezer is an extra box of garlic cheese toast, a couple of frozen pizzas, a half gallon of ice cream, lots of Steamfresh vegetables, and way down in there is a whole chicken.

I didn’t take a picture of the mini fridge, but it has one carton of half & half left.


So, as you can clearly see, since it has been two weeks since I last went grocery shopping…THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT!

I realized that we would not in fact run out of food if I only went grocery shopping every two weeks.  Like most people I tend to over-shop beyond our basic needs.  Sometimes this is intentional (when I take advantage of a good deal), and sometimes it’s pathological.

Yes, the kids start to complain when the things they really want are gone and they are left with what we’ve got.  But I remind them of a woman I heard of whose family ate spaghetti for every single meal for weeks at a time, because it was the most filling thing her mom could afford.  I remind them that we throw away more edible food in a week than people in some parts of the world see in a year.  I tell them that it is a good lesson in humility and gratitude and learning to control your desires so that your desires don’t start to control you.  (OK, I don’t tell them that, but that’s what I think about when they start complaining.)

I also think that I’ve learned lessons as well.  I’ve learned to plan better, and I’ve learned to make do with what we have.  For instance, the week these pictures were taken we ran out of some of the kids favorite bedtime snacks, so I fired up the oven and used mixes to make pumpkin muffins one night and brownies another.

I’m not going to say that I never make an extra trip to the store.  Some weeks I’m scattered brain and forget half the things written on my list, or a gallon of milk goes sour unexpectedly.  But now I stop and think about if I really need to make an extra trip to the store or if we can try to do without for a few more days when “there’s nothing to eat”.


Balance and Discipline (1): Daily Schedule

January 25, 2015

The first step of reaching my goal of finding a better balance between work, prayer, self-care, and recreation in 2015 and developing the discipline to keep it balanced is to set-up a realistic daily schedule.  My days need a mix of steady routine and flexibility.  (Disclaimer #1: this felt basically impossible in the days when I had a child under the age of 2 in the house.)

In the past I’ve used Excel spreadsheets to set up 30-minute by 30-minute (a la A Mother’s Rule of Life) schedule charts for the kids and myself.  This time I wanted something a little less stringent and paper-consuming, something that I could print out on a 4 x 6 index card.  This is what I developed.

Morning Prep
Coffee & Morning Prayer
Dressed for the Day
Schoolwork (8:30)
Lunch (11:30)
Chores (12:30)
Cassidy Nap (1:30)
Coffee & Afternoon Prayer
Dinner (2:30)
Recreation (3:30)
Chores (4:30)
Evening Prayer (5:30)
Bedtime Snacks (8:00)
Bedtime Prep (8:30)
Bedtime Routines (9:00)

Disclaimer #2:  I didn’t totally reinvent the wheel when setting up this daily schedule.  Some of it is based on rhythms that seemed to kind of naturally develop in our day.  For instance, if we aren’t done with schoolwork by 11:30 bad things happen.  It’s like feeding mogwai after midnight (and I’m just as bad as the kids).  So, by 11:30 we are just ready for school to be DONE.  And I am also usually pretty hungry for lunch and in need of an hour of recreation.

If the toddler gets up at around 8:00 in the morning, then she is normally ready for her nap at around 1:30.  And I’m usually ready for my second cup of coffee then, too.

My oldest is starving when she gets home from school, and the kids often have sports practice or activities at what would be considered a normal dinner time.  I realized last year that it made more sense to move dinner earlier to kill two birds with one stone.  I also found that it made our evenings more peaceful in general.  So, the 2:30 designation for Dinner signals to start cooking.

Bedtime snacks at 8:00 followed by routines at 9:00 has been in place for months, especially on school nights.  Putting five kids to bed at night is often an hour and half process.

Disclaimer #3:  My main focus for this schedule is weekdays.  On weekends and days off of school, I am hoping to keep some of the basic pegs in place with schoolwork being taken over by extra chores (0r recreation).

Disclaimer #4:  Life happens.  So while the times are listed there to try to keep the day on track, the order of things is more important than the exact hour or minute.

Disclaimer #5:  In the past I would have tried to keep to this strict schedule starting on day one, and after about three days I would have totally burnt myself out.  But this is less about keeping a schedule than trying to establish new habits, which must be developed over time.  The human psyche can only handle so much change.  For the past month, I’ve just been trying to cement the first four hours of the day, and I’m slowly working on the early afternoon.  I would like to have the habits of this new schedule fully in place by this August.

Over the next few posts I’ll be fleshing out some of the aspects and expectations for finding balance and discipline within my routine.

How Punching a Heretic Saved Christmas

January 7, 2015

One of my girls has been really struggling since the divorce.  The whole situation has been fraught with good things and bad things.  My feelings have been all over the place about it at times, and I understand way more about the situation than my kids do.  It’s no wonder that my kids would be experiencing and emotional roller coaster, too.

One of them, though, has a tendency to stuff her bad feelings way down deep and try to pretend that they don’t exist.  Then she explodes on the rest of us over trivial things.  Sometimes it’s a constant stream of criticism and verbal abuse.  Sometimes it is hitting and kicking and throwing things at people.  She is old enough to know better, but she just can’t seem to stop.  And trying to get her talk about what is really bothering her is futile.

As Christmas approached, she started to express concerns that she might be on the naughty list.  What if she woke up to a stocking full of coal while her sisters delighted in their gifts from Santa?

I told her that I think Santa understands that she has had a rough year.  Santa knows that her dad and I split up and then he remarried someone else within a very short period of time.  That’s a lot for a little kid to have to deal with.  Plus, she seems to be at a transitional age which can make things emotionally and mentally topsy turvy, too.

Then she started asking me questions about Santa mythology (she still believes).  I reminded her that Santa started out as the bishop Nicholas.  He started out by secretly dropping money for the poor down their chimneys.  I told her how one time Nicholas got so mad at a guy who was telling lies about God that he punched the guy in the face.  I explained that Nicholas had to apologize and go to confession for what he did.

Her face lit up, and she said, “He’s like me.  I hit people when I get angry, too.”  I reminded her that Nicholas knew it was wrong, though, just like she does.  But I think it helped to reassure her that Santa Claus would understand that she has had a rough year and made some mistakes.

Then, because I had been unable to take her to confession due to all of the sickness in the family, we made a plan for her to go to our prayer corner, tell God her sins, and say the Act of Contrition.  It’s not as good as going to actual confession, but it was the next best thing at the time.

New Year, New Blog

January 3, 2015

Seven years ago when I started writing this blog, I was looking for a creative outlet.  I found that writing helped me to process all of the things rattling around in my head.

But I never had any delusions of grandeur, that my blog would make me rich and/or famous.  I’ve always mostly written for myself, and if anything I wrote happened to help others, then that was a bonus.  It’s also been a nice way to share photos and information about life events with friends and family far away.  So, I am totally nonplussed if no one reads my blog.  I can’t even remember the last time I checked my stats.

I decided, though, that I wanted to start a new blog.  I debated about whether or not to just completely start over and leave Box of Chocolates behind, but I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted to do with the new blog.  I just felt compelled to start it.

But I began to realize what I didn’t want the new blog to be.  I don’t really want it to be another “Mommy Blog” if I can help it.  So, I’ll be keeping Box of Chocolates for my “Mommy Blogging” outlet.

However, now I also have crazy but with a good heartNot that I have or will shy away from posting religious content on Box of Chocolates, but crazy but with a good heart is shaping up as a religious travelogue.  I really see it as a journal of what I am learning and discerning spiritually right now, not apologetics or catechesis.  (Although I am sure some of that will come up from time to time.)

I am still writing for me.  And if God uses what I write to help others, then it is still bonus.