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It’s 11:30pm . . .

Why am I awake?

Because this is the time of day my house is quiet.  Everyone is asleep – for the moment.  My husband was able to take a day off today, and it was his first day off since June.  Which means it was also my first day off since June.  Not that parents ever truly get days off, but something as close to “off” as I can get right now.  I ran an errand by myself.  He took the kids to the park, and I stayed home with the napper and the newborn.  After dinner was done, I hid upstairs in my room and just wasted time online.  And reveled in the solitude.  And reveled in the fact that when anyone poked their head in (which happened a lot), I was instructed by my husband to send them back to him.  Exhale . . .

Our precious baby #6 arrived at the end of July.  And it has been hard.  One kid to two kids in 18 months was hard for me.  Three babies in three years was hard again.  Number four and number five slipped in quietly and just made life more full.  Number six has humbled me.

He (yes, he!!) had a rough start, and in the crazy newborn days it is hard to remember what life will be like a few months into the future.  And it weighs you down.  And makes you wish for an extra body to take care of the other five at the same time.  Or a spouse who isn’t overworked himself.  We survived.  Not without tears – from me and all the kids.  

Since my husband has been working Sundays since June, we have only been able to attend church very sporadically for months.  And I miss it.  Oh, I miss it.  I miss the songs.  I miss closing my eyes and lifting my voice and just being washed in the fellowship of other believers and renewing my hope in Jesus.  It is a season, and I need to figure out how to endure the valley.

Part of enduring the valley is this – writing.  Reaching out to someone, anyone, who might be in the valley as well.  Or just in the trenches of the battle of motherhood.  Writing down my days so I can remember them myself when the fog lifts.  And remembering to cherish these days in the present.  I do not want to miss these days hoping for the future!  Writing at 11:30pm, when the house is quiet, sets it all in perspective again.  Renews my strength to be Mom again tomorrow.  

Lord help me . . .

This Week’s Menu Plan

English: A "panoramic" image of a ch...

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To mention my recent absence, or not to mention??  Truth is, blogging is not a business for me.  Just a fun hobby.  And as just about everyone in the entire world knows, there are seasons when hobbies cannot take a front seat.  Or even a back seat.  Or even a sidecar.

This, for me, has been one of those seasons.  Is she pregnant, AGAIN?!?!?  That will probably be the first question many of you will think to ask :).  The answer is, right now, no.  The Lord has seen it fit to keep me plenty busy with my current role of wife and mother to five.  I am content with that!

My husband’s business has kept our family extremely busy lately, and it seems that any time we have him to ourselves, I just don’t feel like sneaking away to blog.  I just want to enjoy our togetherness.

But, we are still eating.  So, at the very least, I can share with you what we have on the menu for this week!

Gluten-free was a short-lived experiment for us.  We just didn’t see any differences – good or bad.  Still very thankful that we do not need to be gluten-free.  I am still making a conscious effort to limit our wheat, though.  Mostly because I just don’t feel comfortable eating any food several times a day, every day of the week.

BREAKFASTS:

Chocolate Banana Smoothies

Oatmeal

Granola

Yogurt

Granola bars

Honey Nut O’s from Trader Joe’s (my kids thought I deserved Mother of the Year for this one)

LUNCHES:

Baked Potatoes, steamed broccoli, cheese

Bean Bowls (refried beans with fixin’s), corn chips

Turkey Sandwiches, fresh veggies

Pancakes, sausage, maple icing

Leftovers x 3

DINNERS:

Taco Joes (like sloppy joes, but taco-y and eaten with chips), shredded cheese, tomato, sour cream, corn chips

Roasted Potatoes and Sausage, green beans

Chicken Spaghetti, steamed peas, carrot sticks

Tuna, Spinach and Rice, oranges

Beef and Black Bean Stew, fruit

Pizza, fresh veggies

Church Pot Luck – breakfast theme this week . . . Still not sure about this one . . .

So, that’s the plan!  Are you in a busy season right now?  What are you doing to stay sane?

This Week’s Menu Plan

Continuing with the gluten-free experiment this week.  I am still avoiding most baking and definitely avoiding all weird ingredients (gums, starches, garbanzo bean flour, etc.) just because I do not want to incur the expense or invest my time learning a bunch of new skills if this isn’t a permanent way of life for us.

So, I haven’t really answered the “Why gluten-free?” question.  Mostly because the post would actually turn into a rambling series that would induce sleep in most readers.  Basically, I have had digestive issues since I was old enough to remember constant stomach aches when I was little.  And headaches.  I also weigh less than I would like – I know, terrible, right?  But, it does both concern and annoy me that I cannot seem to look like a grown-up.  There are other little things that seem to possibly be gluten sensitivity related.

And, my middle daughter (who turns five today!!) also has several issues that could be gluten related.  So, why not try?  See if we feel better.  See if we look better.

I have found several great blogs that have some amazing gluten or grain free recipes.  And, with a little creativity, but not too much effort, avoiding gluten has been pretty pain-free.

So, here is this week’s plan:

BREAKFASTS:

Still in a healing phase from “Breakfast Burnout”.  This choose-your-own-adventure thing is a little more work, but a lot less complaining.  I’ll take that trade.

  • Eggs
  • Smoothie
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Apples and PB
  • Cheese
  • Fresh Fruit

LUNCH:

  • Lettuce Wraps (PB & J or veggies and hummus), fresh veggies
  • Sloppy Joes (no buns for the gf gals), steamed corn
  • White Bean Chicken Chili, green beans
  • Bean Bowls (Refried beans with fixin’s), corn chips
  • Egg salad, fresh veggies
  • Leftovers x 2

DINNER:

Have you tried any new recipes that you loved lately?  Calico Beans are definitely one for me! Have a yummy week :)!

Join me at Menu Plan Monday for more inspiration!

Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free and dairy-free)

I survived “eat from the pantry” week!!  Do they have t-shirts for that?  Am I the only one who does not enjoy a break from grocery shopping?

Anyway, I took my usual trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s today instead of tomorrow.  Some of the kids are a little sick, and I am not sure if my sidekick (she does not prefer the title “mother’s helper” :)) is coming tomorrow.  And I do not want to go one more day without grocery shopping.

Always a problem when I go to the store hungry.  Even bigger problem when I am hungry and I have been eating from the pantry all week.  Needless to say, we have plenty of food in the house now!  And those treasured Trader Joe dark chocolate PB cups are mine again.

My middle child and I are still avoiding wheat for now, so all of our meals are gluten-free this week.  And I don’t want to buy a bunch of weird new ingredients, so this is gluten-free with plain old food.  Not too hard actually, if you are used to making many things from scratch anyway.  And you don’t mind eating a hot dog without a bun :).

BREAKFASTS:

- Still letting kids choose from a list of options until we get over the breakfast burnout phase:

Eggs

Smoothie (GF girl and I have been enjoying one of these almost every morning – YUM!!)

Oatmeal

Granola

Apples and PB

Leftover GF muffins (Orange Coconut or Banana Nut Chocolate Chip)

Yogurt (plain, sweetened with berries or maple syrup)

LUNCH:

- Still going with my “big meal of the day at noon” plan.  Works well for Jason’s schedule and managing the dishes.

PB & J Lettuce Wraps (I know this sounds so weird, but all of the kids like them!  Try it.  I swear.), cheese, veggies and hummus

Hot Dogs (the no nitrate/nitrite version), steamed green beans, apples (we GF gals will just go without the bun.  No biggie for us.)

Chicken Divan, oranges

Deviled Eggs (otherwise known as “egg boats” around here), fresh veggies and hummus, apples and PB

Split Pea Soup, apples

Leftovers x 2

DINNER:

Lemon Tuna and Rice, steamed peas

Baked Potatoes, steamed broccoli, cheese

Bean Bowls, oranges

Pizza Spaghetti and Movie Night (This is my GF substitute for pizza and movie night this week:  Rice spaghetti, topped with shredded Italian cheeses, spaghetti sauce with more “pizza-y” seasonings, sautéed mushrooms and sausage, and parmesan cheese on top.  Who is going to miss pizza?), oranges

Chili Burgers with lettuce, avocado and tomato, corn chips, apples (bun-less for the GF gals) This is my soon to be five-year-old’s favorite meal for her birthday :)!!  Ice cream sundaes for dessert since I will not be attempting a GF cake at this point.

Leftovers x 2

That is my week!  What do you have planned?

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday!

This Week’s Menu Plan

We have reached the end of the month.  And the end of the grocery money.  I do think it is a cruel coincidence that January – the month I stick to my budget like my ultra-shy-four-year-old sticks to me in public – has five Mondays.  Monday is the day I do my shopping, and I budget per month, not per week.  Darn it!

I do not feel like making do, or eating from the pantry.  I love to read other people’s blog posts when they do it, but I really don’t enjoy it myself.  Alas, I am really not giving myself the choice.  Laziness is not an option.  

Thankfully, I am not even close to out of food.  My freezers are bursting and my pantry is an amply supplied walk-in.  Yes, I do need to get real and stop whining about this.  I need to hit the freezers and pantry hard this week.  Please leave a comment and let me know if I am not alone.  And tell me any great bean recipes you have, because that is one thing I have in abundance :).

Also, I am still on the “big meal of the day at noon” kick.  It worked out so well this week!  I loved being able to tackle the bulk of the dishes in the morning and afternoon.  I also really enjoyed making a simpler meal at the end of the day, when my energy level is not at its peak.

Here is what I have come up with:

BREAKFASTS:

Smoothies (plenty of frozen berries and even some frozen bananas, and nuts in the fridge)

English Muffins (freezer)

Leftover muffins

Eggs (still have some from this past week)

Granola (all the ingredients in the pantry)

Oatmeal

LUNCHES: 

Zesty Soup, steamed green beans

Chicken and Noodles, steamed peas

Vietnamese Fried Rice, applesauce

Black Beans, avocados (still have from this past week), fresh carrots

Frijoles, cornbread, steamed corn

Lentils and Spinach, oranges

Leftovers

SUPPERS:

Baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, clementines

Tuna salad, bread (I’ll be baking), steamed peas

Waffles, Blueberry syrup, chopped nuts, fresh carrots

Pizza (happen to have three of these in my freezer :)), steamed green beans

Orange Coconut Muffins, steamed peas, fresh carrots

Leftovers x 2

Honestly, my workload should be about the same this week in the kitchen.  I do need to cook a chicken I have in my freezer and make stock as well.  I also plan on baking two loaves of bread.  Everything else will be done the day of.

What are you eating this week?

Find out what many others are planning for the week over at Menu Plan Monday!

Husband and wife

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Welcome to my next installment of forced accountability through blogging!  No, really, that isn’t my only goal :).  This is my first year being very intentional about my goal setting.  Not just talking, but planning and writing down.  Making sure my goals are both measurable and attainable.

With the help of the book Tell Your Time, I have identified nine major roles in my life that deserve my attention.  My roles are:

  • Myself
  • Wife
  • Parent
  • Homeschooler
  • Home Manager
  • Friend
  • Worshipper of God
  • Business Owner
  • Dreamer
This post is focusing on my role as wife.  Remember, my goal setting began by asking myself the question, “What kind of wife do I want to be?”  I want to be a forgiving, gentle, supportive, helpful and fun wife.  I want to be my husband’s soft place to fall.  I want to someday look back on seventy years of marriage and know that I honored the Lord with this role, and blessed my husband.
Honestly, I am really humbled when I think how far I need to come in this category.  My husband is so loving and so gracious, that he would probably say I am already these things.  But, I know better, and so does Jesus.  I want to do better.
So, with an end goal that, to me, is very intimidating because of how far I need to come, I need to start small.  Remember, my goals need to be as measurable and attainable as possible, so that I have a way of assessing my progress.  Here is what I have come up with:
  • Thursday Morning Meetings – Sounds really romantic, doesn’t it?  Well, we take what we can get :)!  My husband’s work schedule is completely unpredictable, but he is almost always home on weekday mornings.  We have carved out this time (this was his idea!) to set aside for each other.  Thursday mornings, from 9:30 to 11:30, is our time.  (The baby is with us for the first half hour, but then she goes down for a nap.  The older four are in a bedroom together listening to an audio book and playing.  Training your children to play well together is priceless!)  Sometimes we just talk.  Usually we pray.  We are reading a book together, so sometimes we read a chapter and discuss things.  It is just a time to make sure that we are coming together at least once a week just to stay connected.  If there are things on my heart or mind, I can save them for this time.  So far, I am loving it!
  • Holding My Tongue – Well, I wish I could say I am making great strides here.  I too often voice what I think at the time are my thoughts, when in hindsight, they are merely criticisms.  I want to change that.  I have been praying for awareness of this habit prior to speaking so that I can more readily exercise control.  By the grace of God!
  • Reading Scripture and Books about Being a Wife – My daily time in the Word and in prayer brings me back, every morning, to where my focus needs to be.  God speaks to me about my habits, my behaviors, and my ways of thinking, and leads my heart back to where He wants it.  This makes me more able to glorify Him in many ways, being a wife included.  I am also reading Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl with a fantastic group of ladies from church.  The wisdom, encouragement and accountability in our group is phenomenal!
  • Planning Fun Time Together – This one is easy.  Or at, least this one sounds easy.  Play time with my husband is something that brings him so much joy!  He likes for me to poke him in the side when I walk by or tickle him when he is standing at the sink.  I can do that!  He also loves to just play – board games, card games, dominoes – and  I need to make sure those things happen.  Marriage should be fun!
  • Date Time Once a Month - This one is tricky.  We do not have extra money in the budget for this, and we do not have many people in our lives who are willing to watch our five young children for us for free.  However, this time together is important to our marriage.  We figure if we make it our goal to get out once a month, maybe it will actually happen once a quarter :)!  We do have some family and friends who are willing, and we need to allow them to bless us in that way!  Dates inside the house are also a great way to connect for free.

The whole idea, for me, this year is to make decisions that work towards my goals, and to avoid actions that don’t.  These written goals are my compass this year.  Make sure you subscribe to future posts, so you don’t miss any of my coming posts in this series.  Let’s encourage each other!

How are you doing in your role as wife?  In other roles?  What areas are you working on this year?  Tell us about it in the comments!

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

Image via Wikipedia

You’ll see in my menu plan this week that I am planning on bringing back dinner.  The midday meal of yesteryear!  Whether a larger midday meal works for your family or not, crock pot cooking is extremely convenient.  So, if you are a “High for 4 hours” or a “Low for 8 hours” kind of gal, read on!

In theory, if I can plan ahead and get dinner (otherwise known as “lunch” :)) in the crock pot in the morning, either before or during breakfast prep, this should work like a dream.  Think about it!  This will mean that the bulk of the supper prep dishes that are usually staring at me (and often laughing) when I come downstairs after tucking the kids in will be done before noon.  Oh, that sounds so good.

The problem with crock pot cooking is that it can mean a lot of trial and error to find recipes your family loves.  And, if you are into eating real food, like we are, it can be difficult to find truly healthy crock pot dishes.  No canned cream soups allowed!  The following are some of my favorite sources for real food crock pot dishes:

  • Soups and stews – Just about any of your favorite soups and stews can be modified to cook in the crock pot.  If you plan to use ground beef, brown it before putting it in your crock pot.  Beans will need to be cooked ahead of time, or use canned, if you plan to eat the soup at noon.  If you plan to cook a cream soup in the crock pot, don’t add the cream or milk in the beginning.  If you add it about half an hour before serving, the results should be delicious.
  • Large Family Logistics – Kim Brenneman (who inspired me to use my crock pot more for the lunch meal!) has five yummy recipes specifically for the crock pot.  If you are not into eating meat, or are looking to save money by eating fewer meals with meat, these can easily be converted to meatless as well.  Also, check her easy lunches here.
  • Make It Fast, Cook It Slow – Stephanie O’Dea is a wonderful writer in addition to being a fantastic source of amazing crock pot recipes.  I happen to own both of her cookbooks, but all of those recipes, and many more, are available on her website.  And, bonus – they are also gluten-free!
  • Nourishing Crock Pot Carnival – Lindsay from Passionate Homemaking hosted a Nourishing Crock Pot Carnival back in 2009.  Who knew I would still be loving it in 2012!  There are definitely treasures in this link up.

These should absolutely be enough to inspire and motivate you to drag out your crock pot or to add a few new recipes to your usual line-up.  Come back here and let me know if you find any gems!  Or, just post your favorite recipe for us all right here in the comments.

I’ll be sharing this post with the readers over at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Good Cheap Eats.

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