Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column this week from The Everett Daily Herald. Check me out in the “Good Life” section.

MyPlate on My Budget, Nearly Empty

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients? That’s the question I asked this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

Today my experiment is complete!

(And my freezer is really hurting.)

The best thing in there is a rib-roast I bought in December that I’m counting on for Easter dinner.  Other than that, you’re looking at ice, blue ice, some ground beef, some frozen berries from last summer, an old TV dinner I forgot about, and a couple of Annie’s pizzas that I bough on sale for $2.75 each.

This is what my freezer used to look like:

There’s something unnerving about a nearly empty freezer.

I know that this whole experiment was just that, an experiment.  I can go to Fred Meyer and stock up on whatever I like.  I don’t really need to follow the USDA thrifty budget.  But I’m still kind of freaked out.

This is what my fridge looks like now.

(The “after” door shot.)

Here’s what it used to look like.

(The “before” door shot.)

So did I do it?  Can I follow the USDA thrifty budget and follow the Choose MyPlate requirements?


But at what cost?  And could I keep doing this month after month?  Probably not.

I have a bunch of other thoughts to share, but I’m saving them form my “I Brake for Moms” column on April 7th.  Stay tuned.  😉

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American Winter

A recent comment suggested I take a loot at the documentary American Winter.  It’s currently running on HBO.

MyPlate on My Budget, Fish Tacos

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients? That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

Can you stomach another post about how my kids won’t eat fish?

Because guess what!  They still won’t. 

This fish taco dinner was a total bust. Even looking at it now in the picture, it doesn’t look that appealing.

And you know what?  It was still a lot more expensive than the yummy vegan soup I made another night, (which my kids actually ate.)

I’m really starting to freak myself out that I might have ruined my kids for fish forever.  Before this whole experiment started, they willingly ate fresh, Wild Pacific Salmon all summer.  Now they’re thinking fish means frozen fish, and I’m just not as good at cooking that.

So I’m revolting!

I don’t care what the USDA Choose MyPlate recommendations are.  In Week 4, I will not be serving fish twice a week.  I’m done with that.

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Love No Matter What, by Brenda Garrison

Love No Matter What by Brenda Garrison is a Christian parenting book that goes against the genre in a radical way.  Instead of promising that A + B = C, she says that sometimes parents can do everything right and that their kids might still turn out mixed up, screwed up, or worse.

I think that’s a really powerful message.  Your kids’ choices are not your choices.  Just because your kids are on a roller coaster of emotions doesn’t mean you’re on the roller coaster too.

But here’s why I’m giving this book a 2.

It’s all about Garrison’s definition of what the wrong path is.  Specifically, it is the example she uses of a daughter named Andrea  who “chooses to follow a lesbian lifestyle”.  Garrison praises her parents for continuing to love Andrea and refusing to ever meet her girlfriend.

This made me so upset that I decided to wait a week before I wrote this review so that I could calm down.

My message is directly to Andrea.

Andrea, I am member of the United Methodist Church.  I believe God made you exactly how you were meant to be made.  You were made in God’s image, just like me.

I want you to know that there are leaders in my church who are not just praying for you, but fighting for you too.  We are heartbroken that your parents and so many members of the Christian community continue to hurt you.  We will continue to speak up on your behalf for as long as it takes.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

MyPlate on My Budget, Accidents

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients? That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

Today’s post is about accidents.

My fridge is empty. I’ve got a cold.  All of the chocolate is gone from the house.   The final week of this experiment cannot be over quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.

Normally, if one of my kids spills some milk or I accidentally burn some bagels I don’t freak out.  Big deal, right?

Like, if the coffee filter gets messed up and the coffee tastes like sludge, you’re not supposed to start ranting and raving at your husband like a total lunatic.  (That’s really bad.)  You just make some more coffee and move on with your life.

But what I’ve learned this past month is that when a family’s food budget is so tight that you are literally counting every quarter, then life’s little food accidents become bigger problems.

Burning your toast might mean there’s nothing for your lunch.

Spilling the last bit of milk might mean that Dad and the kids eat bagels, but mom can’t eat her GF cornflakes that she was really counting on…

It can all just snowball into something bigger.  Families with generous food budgets aren’t necessarily dealing with any of that.

So, that’s my food for thought for today.

P.S.  Don’t forget that RoseMcAvoy from Our Lady of Second Helpings is hosting a free breakfast for a month give away!

Teaching My Babies to Travel

My “I Brake for Moms” column this week in The Sunday Herald.  Check me out in The Good Life Section.

MyPlate on My Budget, A Porridge Vent

A time honored way of saving money is to eat hot cereal for breakfast.

Well I’m not so sure that’s true.

Hot cereal doesn’t save you any money if your kids won’t eat it!

Yet another bowl of porridge down the drain…

Along with the brown sugar, toasted nuts and whatever else my kids had fun sprinkling on.

But guess what!

Rose McAvoy has a breakfast cereal give-away going on at Our Lady of Second Helpings right now.  Be sure to check it out!

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MyPlate on My Budget, The Basics

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients? That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

Rose McAvoy from Our Lady of Second Helpings is providing support, guidance and yummy recipes.

Coming back from vacation in the middle of Week #3 of my experiment means my food budget is shot.  So I decided to recoup by allotting myself $42 for four days of groceries.  (That was the money left in my wallet.)

By the time I made my second lap around the grocery store, I knew I had to be careful.

Here’s what I bought:

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 tub plain yogurt
  • 1 package string cheese
  • cheddar cheese
  • 1 dozen, cage-free eggs
  • Fair Trade, organic coffee (my splurge)
  • bread
  • bananas
  • organic apples
  • frozen spinach
  • frozen broccoli
  • chocolate chips

I’ve already got meat and fish in my freezer, carrots in the fridge, and potatoes in the garage.  So I think I’ll be able to keep up with the Choose MyPlate requirements.

But I had to make some tough choices.

I started out with a three lb. bag of oranges in my cart.  I traded them for the bananas.  That allowed me to buy the frozen spinach.  Not buying gluten-free bread (for myself) meant that I was able to afford the frozen broccoli and chocolate chips.  Now I’ve got veggies for dinner, plus I can make cookies for the kids.  That will keep them happy since there’s basically no desserts in the house.

When I got to the checkout stand I had a revelation.

Cashiers are awesome.

Because you know what? I bet they can totally tell what moms are doing.  I bet they know when you have to put back oranges and buy bananas instead.  I bet the cashier looked at my cart and knew that I was really making some tough choices.

I  usually live on the other side of that.  But it doesn’t matter if I’ve got a $200 cart stocked with organics, or a $40 cart supplying the basics, the cashiers always treat me well either way.

Of course, I have no idea how they treat you if you are paying with an EBT card…

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MyPlate on My Budget, AM Veggies

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients? That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

Rose McAvoy from Our Lady of Second Helpings is providing support, guidance and yummy recipes.

And now for a confession…

Week three kicked off with a two-night trip to Victoria, British Columbia.  I’ll be sharing more about our adventure in my “I Brake for Moms” column this Sunday.   We had a blast, but for the purposes of my thrifty food experiment…. Eeek!

I could beat myself up over my derailed food  budget, or I could give myself a break, and reflect on what I learned from Canada.

Thanks to a restaurant called Cora, I learned a lot.

(This is the part where I wax philosophical on how much I love this restaurant, and my Canadian readers can mock me for falling in love with a franchise.)

But wow!!!

Every single thing on the menu was loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Here’s my son’s breakfast.  Notice all of the fresh fruit.  If this was an American diner, that fruit would probably be canned or covered in syrup.

This was my husband’s breakfast: Eggs Benedict loaded with asparagus.

My breakfast was tons of hashed up potatoes and veggies covered with an egg.

This was myhusband’s lunch one day.  Notice the creative way veggie sticks are presented.  It’s like a shot-glass of veggies with a little bit of dip on the bottom.

My favorite was this omelet.  It is packed with shredded broccoli, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers and I don’t know what else.  It was super yummy.

What I learned

  1. I’m going to start hashing up random vegetables and keeping them in a Pyrex in my fridge.  Then I can cook them up in a skillet for breakfast, before I add eggs.
  2. Instead of presenting my kids a plate of horizontal veggie sticks, I’m going to to give them their own shot-glass of veggies.  It’s so much cooler!
  3. Maybe I should buy a mandolin slicer?  I still don’t know… But vegetables sliced in creative ways seem more fun to eat.

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Chickens on the Brain

Here’s My “I Brake for Moms” column in The Good Life section of The Everett Daily Herald this morning.

I have seriously had chickens on the brain recently.  That’s why today was something to cluck about.

Brian from The Real Housewife of Snohomish County invited my family to meet Wendy, Chynna, and Carnie in his Edmonds backyard.

Okay, actually what happened was that me, in my chicken-crazed-frenzy, invited my entire family over to his house, and Brian graciously said yes!  😉

Brian has built an absolutely amazing, predator proof, chicken coop which you can read about here.  It even has rain gutters!

My son Bruce and I have been doing the math, and we think that after coop costs, Chynna, Wendy and Carnie are probably laying eggs that cost about $4 a dozen.  But wow!  Those are some happy, well-cared for chickens.

The MyPlate on My Budget project has really been making me think about the true cost of food.  When you buy eggs for $1 a dozen at the store, those eggs are cheap for a reason, right?  Somebody or somebeing is probably paying a higher price.

Maybe that’s why the idea of backyard chickens is so powerful to me.  I would love to know that my breakfast was provided for by happy chickens like the Wilson Phillips girls.

Stay tuned for more of my chicken-crazed musings in the future…  In the meantime, I hope that you will check out Brian’s blog, The Real Housewife of Snohomish County. It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking, volunteering, chickens, or equal rights; Brian writes with a lot of heart.

Shattered, by Dani Pettrey

I received a free copy of Shattered  by Dani Pettrey, from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Shattered is a fun read.  It tells the story of a family in Alaska that is trying to prove the innocence of one of their own.

Some of the things I liked about the book was that Dani Pettrey does a good job portraying strong women.  All of her female characters are independent thinkers and central parts to the action.

What I found annoying about the book was that almost every reference to premarital sex involved rape, murder, or late-term miscarriage. I understand that this book is written for a Christian audience, but come on, we’re not idiots!

That being said, I am going to tuck this book away for when my own daughter becomes a teenager someday…  😉

MyPlate on My Budget, Soy and Gluten

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients?  That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

One of the questions people have been asking me about this project, is “What about food allergies and sensitivities?”

Lucky for me, I’m dealing with both!  I have a soy allergy and a gluten intolerance.

Allergies and intolerances are two different things, but they both mean you have to be extra careful.

I’ve been dealing with the soy allergy by entire life.  The gluten intolerance popped up mysteriously in my mid thirties.  I’ve been to several doctors about it including a GI specialist.  It’s a real thing.

$$$ and Food Issues

1 lb spagetti and 1 can pasta sauce.  Total meal = $2.45 for a family of four.  Right?

Not so fast!

Often times the cheapest spaghetti sauce has soy in it.  That’s pretty weird when you think about it.  What’s soy doing in Italian food?

The dry/corn/gf noddles they sell at the store for $3 a lb. are really gross (imo).  The only gluten free pasta I really like is $7.40 a pack.

So on nights when I make pasta, I usually make the standard stuff for my family, and the expensive soy-free/g-free stuff for myself.  That means I end up cooking two meals and spending a lot of money.

That’s why I don’t make spaghetti very often!

Then there’s my issues with breakfast…

The cornflakes on the right are gluten-free.  The corn flakes on the left, aren’t.  Guess which one is cheaper?

And no, I can’t eat oatmeal even if it is labeled gluten-free.  It feels like little knives cutting into my stomach.  I’ve read that a lot of gf folks have the same problem with oats.

I can do eggs, potatoes, fruit, smoothies, gf toast, grits, brown rice cereal, and gf corn flakes.  A lot of that ends up being more expensive than the $1.50 box of cereal on sale at your local grocery store.

What about carbs?

Usually I eat about 2-3 servings of gluten free bread, crackers, scones, or cornflakes a day.  But on the MyPlate on My Budget experiment, I haven’t been able to do this.  $5 a day doesn’t go far when a loaf of gluten free bread is $4.50 and half the size of a normal loaf.  So I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast.

That means that most of my carbohydrates are coming from potatoes, rice and quinoa.

I’m beginning to get crabby…

I feel hungry a lot…

I’m rationing my corn flakes…

For the past two weeks I’ve followed the Thrifty budget.  I’ve fed my family healthy, nutritious, Choose MyPlate following meals.  But I’m not feeling particularly well-fed myself.

This makes me think about all of the moms out there who might not be feeding themselves properly due to cost. 

And that, is a very big issue to think about.

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MyPlate on My Budget; Plant a shrub

Can I follow the USDA thrifty food plan and feed my family the Choose MyPlate advised daily nutrients?  That’s the question I’m asking this March with MyPlate on My Budget.

It’s the end of week 2 and I’m having to be creative.  A lot of recipes call for bay leaves.  As I’m sure you know, those are super expensive; and I’m all out.

Lucky for me my friend, local artist Tina Marohn, has a Sweet Bay Laurel growing in her backyard.

(Check out Tina’s beautiful artwork here.)

Tina has offered me fresh bay leaves before, and often gives them out as Christmas gifts.  So I finally took Tina up on her offer.

Tina gave me about $50 worth of leaves, and let my daughter play with her cats. You can’t get service like that at the grocery store!

I’m drying the bay leaves on my dining room table in a vase.  They look really pretty sitting there, and smell good too.

The ease at which Sweet Bay grows in the Pacific Northwest has really got me thinking that I should plant one ASAP.  Bay leaves are like money growing on trees.  You can cook with them, gift them, and donate them to your local food bank.  Pretty sweet!

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Thanks for sticking with me

Regular Teaching My Baby to Read readers, I wanted to say THANK YOU for sticking with me through my whole crazy MyPlate on My Budget experiment.  This month my blog is veering almost completely off topic, but that doesn’t mean I’ve dropped the ball on Afterschooling.

Here’s what we have been up to:

Painting North America (Jenna 3.5)

Jenna has been really fascinated by maps recently.  That’s because she goes to Montessori preschool, and geography is a big part of the curriculum.  At home she’s been asking to “paint North America” with her watercolors.

I’m a horrible artist, but I try to oblige.  So I use a pen to draw out America, and then Jenna fills in Mexico, Canada, and the oceans.

This is definitely one of those ideas that make me go “Duh!  Why didn’t I think of this earlier?”

TAG (Jenna 3.5)

Jenna got a Leap Frog Tag for Christmas.  It’s just okay.  If you have grandparents who really want to buy something, then go for it.  If you’re spending your own money, I’d pass.

But the TAG system is really good for one thing.  When I’m making dinner, Jenna can occupy herself reading books.  That’s pretty sweet.

Reading and Math Games (Jenna 3.5)

I’ll save myself some time by referring to my earlier PreReading and Right Start Level A posts, but suffice to say Jenna and I are still doing this.  I shoot for two lessons a week.

Floating Math Books (Bruce 7.5)

Bruce is really obsessed with the geometry at the moment.   I came across this notebook paper the other day and thought “Thank you Basher Books!”   The Basher Algebra and Geometry book has really sparked his curiousity.

The interesting thing about the Basher books is that they floated around the house for about six months before they caught my son’s interest.  For a while there, I really thought I had wasted my money. But then Bruce started begging us for more, harder math books.

So I bought him the Art of Problem Solving Prealgebra book.  He has been reading it for fun.  Yes, that’s weird!

School keeps him so busy that we haven’t had time to work through the book yet, but I know that time is coming (probably starting in summer).

Vi’s “Doodling in Math Class” videos (Bruce 7.5)

I feel very lucky that my family is able to afford random math books floating around our house.  I realize that not everyone is able to do that.  So I’m ending this post with some free math inspiration that Bruce has also been intrigued with lately.

Vi Hart’s “Doodling in Math Class” videos are totally awesome and available for free online.  I’m sharing the one we watched last night.  This morning, I found Bruce’s own math doodles in his room. (I just didn’t have time to scan it.)

So see?  It’s not all insane budgeting and Choose MyPlate obsessions around here.  My kids have usual interests too.  😉