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Family Dinners

Growing up, my parents were divorced and working. So instead of splitting my time between Mom and Dad, I went from one grandparents house to the other. Now most people say their grandparents were the ones that always had family dinners. Well not mine. I grew up in the age of TV dinners. You know those fantastically, nasty trays of food that you could cook in 2 minutes and eat while watching your favorite show. So most of the time that is what happened. And I have to admit, in the beginning of my Mommy years, I let my kids do the same thing.

Then one day it all changed. We just moved into a house that actually had a dining room. And so our tradition began. Every night, with a few exceptions, we eat dinner at the table as a family. I’ll admit at first it was just a way to keep my white rug looking nice. But now it has become a tradition. A moment in time where we can all sit around and talk, joke and laugh. Or in my son’s case to have the attention of everyone in the house at one time. It’s hard to get him to be quiet long enough to stick some food in his mouth. But that’s okay because we are together.

But being a homeschooling family and eating almost 3 meals a day together, we now have family breakfasts and lunches sometimes.

Sometimes I am that cool mom that says yes you can enjoy pizza with a movie.

On holidays the kids get the TV table, so the adults can talk and eat in peace, but it’s still as a family.

Very rarely is there a constant flow of people in and out of the kitchen eating.

I am hoping that my kids will pass on these little traditions to their children. Family dinners are essential to knowing about your child and what is going on. We don’t always talk sometimes we are way too tired. But being around each other is comforting. Like a blanket on a cold day. It’s knowing your family is there no matter what.

 

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

One day at Disney World can be expensive for a family of 6, but 5 days can be down right ridiculous. You can read about how we save for our Annual passes and this vacation here.

We stayed at the Fort Wilderness Cabins. I chose here because I have always wanted to stay in a cabin and it also came with a kitchen. Now Disney has quite a few options for large families. There is the option of getting 2 rooms at the same hotel, but you are not guaranteed side by side rooms, though I have never had a problem getting them. But there is no kitchen and would have to go out to eat for every meal. Then there are family suites at some hotels that sleep up to 6 and have a kitchen, problem though is you hear everyone walking through the halls and talking loudly. The cabins are placed about apart from each other so you don’t hear all the footsteps and voices. ¬†Comparing the cabin and the family suites, the cabin turned out to be much better priced. Now the cons, we are early to bed and early to rise people, so I didn’t take that into account when it came to the daily 10pm fireworks show that we could hear clearly even though it was at Magic Kingdom across the lake. The kitchen was poorly stocked as far as cookware. Let’s say it took some adjustments to cook the meals I did cook. Can you say aluminum foil cookie sheet?

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After we checked in, we headed for the nearest Publix to do some grocery shopping. I had it planned where we would have one dinner and one breakfast out and the rest at the cabin. And of course for the first night we grabbed some subs at the store. For a total of $160 which we took from our grocery budget.

Breakfast: Pancakes, french toast sticks, toaster strudels or breakfast sandwiches and then out to eat. You have to have Mickey waffles once while at Disney.

Dinners: subs, Burgers, chips and leftover potato salad, Golden Corral, Chicken Cordon bleu and tater tots.

Not the healthiest meals but better than hamburgers and french fries everyday.

Now as you can see I left lunch out because we were mostly at the parks during that time. And most of the time we didn’t eat breakfast until 9am so we weren’t hungry for a big lunch. We mostly purchased snacks. First day was fruit, second day we actually ate a big lunch, third day funnel cakes and last mickey pretzels and churros. (Don’t judge it’s a vacation from our diet too!)

Souveniers are a given when you are at a place like Disney. My older kids had earned or saved some money before the vacation. I had also earned 4 free $10 Disney giftcards with our movie rewards and then my grandmother gave each of them $5. So each had $10-15 saved, a $10 giftcard and an additional $5, once it was gone it was gone. And Mom and Dad weren’t handing out extra. This was to be spent on whatever (within reason) they wanted. We provide necessities but if you want a bag of candy, you have to buy it yourself. This worked out well for some and not so well for others. But maybe it was a lesson learned. (Hopefully?!)

In the end, we came home with over $100 still in our pocket to put towards our next vacation fund. And a lot of priceless memories!

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Momma’s sick week

Last week I came down with a sinus infection that just really wiped me out. All I wanted to do was sit and rest, watch TV and drink Sprite. But as a stay at home~schooling mom whose husband works from home that was not happening. Instead of trying to be Supermom and keep doing everything, I made some adjustments to our days so that I had some moments of rest. I think it is the first time in years that when I got sick I took sick days and didn’t feel guilty at all. Life still went on and school went on but without me being in the middle of it. And I honestly think it was good for the kids.

First thing was school. It was more of independent learning. I would say the lessons and activities I wanted completed and they would go about and do their thing. Now everyday I did manage to do History and Science with them and grade some papers before I was spent. And my lil man did keep on doing preschool work, just a little less than usual. Which of course he was fine with.

Unfortunately, I picked the wrong week business wise. Hubby is working on some solid surface countertops, which is like a stone countertop, and he needed me all week for moving and lifting and flipping. So that was where my focus was, helping him and resting in between. I would lay with my sprite and tv until he called, go out back, help, come back and rest.

I delegated the cooking to Cailin because she is an aspiring chef. I even drove my two oldest up to Publix with a grocery list and money and waited in the parking lot while they shopped. ¬†All the girls helped out with the Dakota, fixing him lunch, snacks and drinks. Daddy even put him to bed one night which never happens, because he is a Momma’s boy. It was nice. My hubby tried to get me to rest more, by telling me to let the kids be kids and just rest and watch movies, but then 5 minutes later he would call for help. It was a nice thought though.

All in all, I did realize that my children are getting to that age where I can ask more from them when I need to. But I also realized that they too are becoming independent little adults and don’t need me as much. Which means pretty soon they will be off on their own with their lives and families and not momma’s little babies no more. So bittersweet.

Eye opening experience

The Wednesday before Christmas I was watching some TV with my daughter when my Lil man came up complaining about his back hurting and asked if I would rub it. As I was rubbing his back I felt a huge lump. It wasn’t there before and was about the size of a golf ball. I asked if he bumped it but he said no. I secretly started to panic thinking of all the things it could and everything was the worse possible scenario. I made a doctor appointment and took him in the next day. The doctor was puzzled too. So she sent us for an xray. I kept calling about the results and driving the nurses crazy. By Monday I was livid and wanted answers. I had barely slept in 4 days and kept thinking this could be the last Christmas together. I know that is crazy for my mind to go there but I always feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Finally around 1:30pm Monday I got a voicemail from the doctor. Everything looked normal! Now here we are a week later from when I discovered the lump it has almost completely disappeared. I feel stupid for panicking but I would have felt worse if it turned out to be the worse case scenario and I brushed it off.

But, in a way, I am very thankful that this happened. It opened my eyes to how fast your life can change and everything can be taken away from you. I feel like life has been going by so fast that I haven’t really enjoyed it. Or took time for the little things. This whole thing made me take a deep breath and relax. I feel like I am always planning. Planning a grocery trip, planning menus, planning homeschool for next week, month and year. I am always trying to get ahead instead of just stopping and enjoying what is now!

And on top of that it made me realized that tomorrow is not a guarantee. There are so many things that I always say I want to do but then never get around to doing. I always say oh maybe next year. But between being busy and my anxiety, it has prevented me from doing so much.

Not anymore!

YOLO~ you only live once~ my new life motto.

2014 is going to be the year of enjoying the little things and seeing and doing the things I always say we would do.

 

Back to basics~ turning frugal

6 months after we moved out here, the economy tanked and my hubby’s business took a massive hit. We had to quit paying on our credit cards and let 2 cars and hubby’s motorcycle get repossessed. It was awful feeling knowing you had a very, VERY successful business and in a blink of an eye it could all be taken away. But we kept at it and Hubby’s business was one of the few small cabinet shops to pull through. A lot of friends of his had to close their doors and walk away after years and years of being in business. We did everything we could to make it through and the best part is our children never knew we were poor. Today when I talk about the bad days, they are shocked. That I am thankful for.

During that time, I found ways to be frugal and live on cash only. Something I had never done in my entire life and something my hubby had to relearn. If there was no cash for it, then it wasn’t happening.

Now here we are 2013 and I have been looking back at all the stuff we spend money on that we really don’t need right that minute. First off, my hubby loves to spoil me and sometimes it’s very hard to say no when he wants to buy new boots (my obsession) or when he wanted to buy me an expensive camera because I said I would like to photography classes. And if a computer or TV breaks, we have to replace it ASAP. These are all things that could have been bought as christmas presents and he wouldn’t be struggling to get me something now. Hubby can be very extravagant sometimes, spend a $1000 at one time and not even blink. That shocks me.

We are still on a cash system, but have not been frugal at all. We eat out too much….way too much! And every time we go to the store the kids want drinks, snacks or toys. Hubby is constantly buying tools or other things he says he needs.

So with that said we have taken another hit. Now we need to cut back our grocery spending to just $500. I was spending anywhere from $800-$1000 and still listening to everyone complain there was nothing to eat. They also are in a phase of everything needs to brand name. My family also had an aversion to leftovers. Some family members would have a cow if they didn’t have a freshly prepared meal. I don’t even want to know how much money I threw out with all the leftovers.

Well change is coming. I am getting back to basics. The snacking all day is out! The sodas all the time is out! The fast food lunches is out!

We are self employed! We don’t have a 401K or retirement plan. We have only what we have saved. And since my hubby turns 40 next year and isn’t getting any younger. 2014 is my getting back to being frugal and saving year.

Time to break out the Dave Ramsey book and refresh.

Life of chaos

Well the holidays are upon us. And the reason I can tell it’s the holidays is because I can’t get a break.

First there is the Christmas shopping for the millions of family members that we have. Which I do it all. Hubby doesn’t know any other store other than Lowe’s. And he likes to pull the last minute I need a gift for so & so trick.

Then there was the fact that my car broke down on the way home from an 8 1/2 hour power shopping with my mom. And did I mention that I had groceries in the car at the moment….frozen groceries. Luckily I was 5 minutes from home so Hubby came and rescued me. Now I am without a car for a while. This is after putting it in the shop 2 weeks ago for some repairs on worn out parts on the vehicle.

Then there is the income hit that came unexpectedly. So I am having to really, really budget now and be extra frugal.

Next we move on to sickness. Of course, somebody has to be sick. My middle daughter came down with some kind of respiratory infection. Heck, even 2 out of 3 of my dogs were sick. Lysol was my best friend those 2 weeks.

Last, my youngest daughter can’t handle the holidays too well. It over stimulates her, which triggers her ticks and meltdowns. Factor in that she is a teenager and her hormones are kicking in, oh it’s been a joyous season.

Needless to say I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays:

I love the weather, but hate the chaos.

I love the decorations, but hate the amount of money I spend.

I love this season and hate to see it go.

But I also hate this season and love when it is over.

The last 4 weeks

The last 4 weeks have been a nightmare around here. It was bad enough that I was struggling with getting in the groove of back to “school”. But then Hubby just up and decided that he needed a vacation! He needed to get away from life, his responsibilities, stress, me, the kids….I don’t know. But he up and left for 2 weeks to Alabama and South Carolina to see family members.

In a way this was good and bad for me. One I don’t have to fight over the TV remote or listen to him bitch and complain about something not being done. I was also able to relax; I have to admit he was stressing me out for a bit. I also got down and dirty and cleaned out some areas of the house that needed to be sort through without him coming in and saying I need your help in the shop.

The bad part was now I had to get my high schooler to the bus stop by 6:20am and hope Lil man didn’t come looking for me. Because no matter what anybody told Hubby, when he left, they did NOT get up and help at all! I was also left to deal with the attitudes and the discipline instead of having moments where I pushed it off on him. The last bad part is I know this is only a one way road. There will be no vacation for momma by herself because the kids always have to come with me. Hell I can’t even go to the bathroom, let alone vacation by myself.

Then he came back home and 3 days later gets Pneumonia! REALLY?!? Can it get any worse? Yes! He got it from being stupid and fixing up an old barn and not wearing a mask. So he was down and out for a week and a half with it. During that week and a half, our septic pump and our hot water heater elements went out!

And now beginning our 5th week, I am sick. Not with pneumonia (I hope) but with some kind of sinus/ upper respiratory thing! But is anyone taking care of Momma?

I think all the stay at home whatever you are should start lobbying for hazard pay or something! This job is hard work!

Our family grew over the summer

And no I didn’t give birth or adopt, my 18-year-old brother moved in.

This is the first time in his 18 years that we have ever lived together. By the time he was born, I was permanently living with my grandparents because it was easier that way. So we would see each other during the day and then I would leave or he would leave something. But let me tell this 24/7 thing is tough.

I mean he is a TEENAGER, for goodness sake! And a lazy one at that! For most of the summer, he sat around playing video games and not doing much of anything. But now that we gave him some chores and he is working with the hubby on jobs, it’s not so bad.

But then there was no motivation to do anything other than that. I had to keep telling him hopes and dreams don’t pay for gas in his Excursion. It took a while and there was a few arguments but he is enrolling in Culinary school and begins in a few weeks as long as financial aid comes through. Then he has a job that will hopefully start soon.

So fingers cross he is on the right path and won’t be sleeping on my couch for the next 3 years.

Here is his first day of college picture we took.

 

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If only I was a more organized mom

I feel like I have a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to my kids. And sometimes (ok A LOT of times) I think if I was more organized then I wouldn’t miss them so much. I feel like we miss out on a lot of the fun aspects of homeschooling because I am so focus on finishing the books and saying we did it. I am definitely missing out on things with my son because of being so focused on the girls and not having a plan of attack. Sometimes he will ask to do school and then I have to scramble. And to me that sucks! I feel like it is half ass done then.

I also feel like if I was more organized then we could do the experiments and the art that my kids thrive on. We could take the field trips that they drive me crazy about.

For example, this past Monday I thought I was having oral surgery done. And I had nothing planned for the kids to work on while I was recovering. I had barely any menu planned that wasn’t microwavable and processed. I felt terrible. Luckily the surgery didn’t happen and I am feel to live about my life without stitches in my mouth and with yummy solid food in my belly. But then yesterday, reality hit that I have no meal plan, no grocery list made, no homeschool plan, coupons from the last month that needs organizing and a huge TO DO pile that has deadlines.

So I am determined to get more organized this year (what’s left of it). I want to make my life easier. I want to have time to myself because right now all I do is cook, clean and try to get organize. I have no hobby or anything for me. And I realized that I need that, no crave that me time.

First things first, the present task at hand. We have to eat, so bring on the meal plan. I usually try to make a months worth of menus but decided a week was good considering everything going on.

Then grocery list!

Homeschool plan is very vague and non detailed but gives me an idea of what to accomplish so done there.

Work on coupons with the kids.

And I want my To Do list done by Friday.

So that leaves the weekend open to think of more ways to organize and make my world simpler.

The phone call no parent (or in this case, sister) ever wants to get

I have the best baby brother in the world. He truly is like one of my kids to me. I was 13 when he was born and I just took over as a little momma hen from the moment he arrived. I taught him to show respect to adults. I also taught him that out of everyone I am the one to fear when misbehaving because I am the one who expects the most from him. I just knew he was destined for greatness and I pushed him to show that.

Now flash forward 18 years, he is a senior and has his whole life ahead of him with a bright future. He is learning to drive and be an adult and everything that means.

About a month and a half ago, my mom called around 5pm. Which was unusual and I knew something was wrong. First thing out of her mouth was Brandon and 2 of his friends had been in a car accident and he was driving. She sounded calm but I was an instant mess and I was driving at the time. Thank god for my back country roads with no traffic! Not trusting anything my mom says sometimes, I was yelling is he ok. Do you physically see him in front of you and he is ok? Then she was like Oh my god, the cars are totaled. And I am trying to judge how fast I can make it from my little city to the big city at quitting time. But she assured me that he was ok. So luckily I was 5 minutes from home when this phone call came in. I was shaking and had a ton of questions.

So a couple hours later, I needed to hear from him that he was okay. And I was overjoyed when I heard his voice on the other line. I even had my cousin go check on him the next day since they both go to the same school.

Needless to say, Brandon was very worried about the other driver and took responsibility like a man. He worried about the financial aspects of it since my brother decided a 2012 Lexus was the perfect match for his 2000 Chevy Malibu. Would he owe on what his insurance didn’t cover? But listening to him fret over real world stuff made me both proud and heartbroken.

Proud because I feel like he is the man I wanted and knew he could and would become. And heartbroken because I don’t have that smarty pants little baby brother who thought it would be fun to run into a wall to see what a fly felt like.

Graduation will be in a month and then he is off to boot camp for the National Guard for about 9 months. 9 very long months without my first baby boy!