Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Guatemala focus, Day seven.

Wow.  Poverty awareness month (PAM) is hard.  I miss my variety of veggies.  I miss my fruits.  I really miss my salads.  The kids' Halloween candy screams at me every day....

I could sit here and write about everything we're learning--we are learning a lot--but instead I'm going to confess.  --There has not been one day of PAM that I have not cheated.  Yep.  There you have it--I suck at sticking to poverty foods. In my defense, I didn't want the lettuce to go to waste on day four (okay, and I have a salad almost everyday and was going through serious withdrawals).  Also I figured, I can call it an "ensalada" and I'm golden.  :/

If it were just the salad, I probably wouldn't feel the need to confess.  But it's the yogurt, cup of tea, Reese's PB cup in a pumpkin shape (the shapes are the best), peanut butter with my banana.... Everyday it's an internal struggle and every day I fail at least once. 

In all honesty, it doesn't help that Donnie is sending us pictures of his Guatemalan fare and it looks nothing like our meal packs (which one week into a daily pack and I have taken to bribery--finish your portion without complaint and you get a piece of your Halloween candy)! 

They call it "mamón chino" but it's called a Rambutan in the States.
He said it had the consistency of a peeled grape and was quite tasty.

The waiter gave two options when ordering steak: with or without fat. (I might not be too jealous of that!)
OK, this one I'm not jealous of at all, but I had to share the picture!

Moral of the story: while I'm constantly cheating and unable to stick with my own rules for some reason, doing this challenge has opened my eyes and amazed me by the countless blessings in my life, my family member's lives, and my friends lives.  I am so grateful that I am able to "cheat" by having a salad or a yogurt or a cup of tea--or allowing my kids to have a piece-of-candy bribe.  I know that I am jokingly complaining about stumbling through this month, but I still wouldn't change it and won't quit now.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's in the bag

Guatemala Day Two.

Wow, I was so focused on getting through October that I didn't take time to really think through November. It makes sense that it is harder--instead of forcing yourself to live off of the items you've already purchased, you have to live off foods that you only eat if you cannot afford anything else. 

We're doing normal breakfasts--at least for now--so no complaining there.  And then lunch came around.  Today I made our first meal bag:
and it did not go as well as I was hoping.  It actually smelled good as it was cooking so I wasn't sure why the small ones were so nervous.  The kids kept popping in and out of the kitchen asking to see what it looked like, so they were all there when I started to dish it up.  The cooking directions said 6-10 cups of water so I elected to go with eight which was apparently too much because as I turned the cup over the bowl it made an ever so unappetizing slopping sound.  HA!  I could not stop laughing at the looks on the girls' faces. 
Our one cup serving sizes all dished up.  Yes, I used a kids bowl too.
We started with a prayer--which included asking for the kids to have wisdom beyond their years to understand the poverty issues we are studying and that they remember that food is meant to be fuel, not always a favorite taste.  I then told them about some of the research I had found and these meals are a way for people to help send food to families who have nothing to eat--or sometimes nothing more than tortillas like in Guatemala. 
To be honest, it wasn't bad at all.  I added a little salt and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor (I didn't necessarily have high hopes).  The kids started off eating without complaint so I took a second to snap a picture of each:
You can tell by the fake A-Okay sign in the bottom corner that the complaints were coming.  Actually, she was fairly sweet about it saying "It's not my favorite but I am grateful I have food and I will eat it."  (Sweetie)  Then the middle one piped in with "I would be grateful for only tortillas!"  (cue eye-roll)  The youngest had a problem getting it to stay on his spoon for some reason, but finally ate eat his entire serving.  As did the oldest.  The middle one sat there for an hour and ate 1/4-1/3 of her serving.  I finally released her explaining that if she wasn't hungry enough to eat this, she wasn't hungry enough for anything until dinner.  About three hours later, we were walking around the grocery store and she was holding her stomach, whimpering and asking how much longer until we went home. Ahhh, hunger pains. 
Dinner of mashed pinto beans and tortillas went over very well.  Absolutely no complaints.  I think we'll stick with the meal bag at lunch so they have satisfied tummies at bedtime.  I understand that many kids go to bed hungry, so I may change my mind so we get an extra dose of empathy, but--selfishly--I really want them to sleep, so I can.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Guatemala in a tortilla shell

1/1/32.  No, I'm not thinking it's New Years day in the future.  It means: Day One of Poverty Awareness/Day One of Guatemala Focus/Day Thirty-Two of challenge.

I woke up today realizing that it's no longer $0 month and my first instinct was "I can shop!!!" and then I realized--other than rice, beans, and some veggies--there is nothing I need.  What an amazing feeling.  I need nothing.  So blessed!


I'll confess, when I first started researching Guatemala with Donnie I wasn't 100% sure how to spell it.  (Don't judge, all things English class related were never my forte--which I'm assuming has become crystal clear by now.)   Now I can not only spell "Guatemala" I know quite a bit about the country's poverty issues. 

Quick Facts:
  • 50% of all children have chronic malnutrition; in some areas the rate is as high as 90%
  • Guatemala has the highest percentage of malnourished children in all of Latin America
  • 42% of Guatemalan citizens do NOT have access to clean water
  • 75% of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line (defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services)
  • 58% of the population have incomes below the extreme poverty line 
  • 45% of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate
  • The infant mortality rate is 55 per 1,000 live births
  • The maternal mortality rate is 110 per 100,000 live births
  • 16% of infants suffer from low birth weight
  • Whenever there is a financial crisis within Guatemala, the government cuts education and social sector expenditures (food subsidies, housing allowances, healthcare, etc.) first; showing a lack of willingness to invest in their citizens
Poverty Foods:
  • Tortillas (mostly corn but some flour)
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • Coffee (often times one of the first liquids given to infants there!)
Foods that are available to purchase but often not affordable:
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Chilies
  • Tropical fruits
  • Cocoa
  • Chicken
  • Some beef
  • Diary products (milks and cheeses)
  • Breads
What I found stated over and over again in my research is that for most of the underprivileged it's not that they don't eat, it's that they don't eat well.  Some families live solely on tortillas.  Others are "lucky" enough to add rice and/or beans to their meals.  (I tend to think of malnourished people not eating, not that they can fill tummies with nothing but starchy foods--essentially eating but yet starving their bodies.)   Regardless, the poor are severely lacking in proteins and vitamins. 

I'm not entirely sure what I plan to make and eat during these next nine days.   I know that I will keep my kids healthy and thriving because I am blessed enough to be able to provide the luxurious poverty foods.  An oxymoron--luxurious poverty.  What I haven't decided is if I will be sneaky with how I give them proteins, fruits and veggies (so that they think they're eating as the Guatemalans do) or if I will simply explain _____ items are normal Guatemalan fare and ______ are blessings we have to keep us healthy. 

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is, I will be preparing the family one package a day of a protein meal sent to various places--now including Guatemala.

This pouch offers a remarkable amount of vitamins and protein.  And SIX servings for $1.25!
Thank you Katie for your willingness to send us some!

I do know one thing, with each passing day of this family challenge I have never felt more blessed by my surroundings and possessions, nor have I felt more blessed to be an American.    

A startling video from World Focus on the poverty conditions in Guatemala. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Part Two -- The Balance

First, and most importantly, let me update the orphan water situation I wrote about a week ago.  Two more children have died in a new wave of dysentery and all of the remaining eighteen children are alive and receiving care.  Another orphanage has been found (by a team who got lost going to help the original orphanage) who is also suffering from the epidemic and have already lost five children.  Please look into to get more information on how to help and continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. 

Day Thirty-one.

My thoughts from day twenty-seven have left me conflicted. 

On one hand I absolutely refuse to go back to turning a blind eye to the grave food and water conditions around they world.  It's unacceptable to me.  I will find a way to help.  I have returned to school, this time focusing on nursing (not so sure what I'll do with that business degree just yet).  I'm hoping that a nursing degree will eventually allow me (through both finances and knowledge) to travel on missions trips and make a difference to those in need. 

On the other hand I also know I must find some balance to my discoveries.  I need to find ways to help, but I also need to live my life and--more importantly--allow my kids to live theirs.  So how do I go from the knowledge to the implementation of helping without becoming a fanatic?  What is the balance?  Will I know it when I find it?  Is it possible?

Tomorrow we start our "Poverty Awareness" weeks (thanks Donnie for the great title).  What will it bring?  I am going into it with only a dab of excitement.  I am nervous it will be met with much more resistance from the small ones since living out of our pantry hasn't been nearly as hard as we imagined.  But I also feel the lessons will feel more tangible so that is an exciting thought to me. 

As the oldest said tonight: time for rice and beans.  :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NOT Funny

Day Twenty-Nine

My sister and brother in law are in town (they have been since Saturday night) and are living the poverty life with us. ;) 

Even willing to have beans and cornbread with us!

It has been fun sharing our food challenge with our family again.  Brittany and DJ have been great sports about it all and have helped with groceries since the amount of people in the house has nearly doubled. 

I did break the rules for them though: I promised my BIL a special dessert while he was deployed and I got to make them an entire 13x9 pan this weekend.  --And I don't feel guilty about that rule break at all.  Ha!

I found one thing completely ironic and NOT funny while I was out with my sister yesterday.  My little niece needed some winter clothes, so we went to various stores--one of them being Children's Place.  Some of you may remember my poor attitude regarding the shoes I really wanted for the middle one--high-top, leopard print tennis shoes with pink glitter laces.  Well we walk into the store and there sat this shirt:

"I ♥ my...."

Her birthday is fourteen days away and the frustration at wanting the shoes--and now this shirt to go with those shoes--came flooding back.  But I stood strong. 

Thanks DJ and Brittany for being great house guests and being brave enough to visit during the end of our $0 October.  Now time to "hillbilly" it up.  ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Part One -- The Ruined

When I started writing about my experiences during this challenge, I expected it to mostly be light-hearted and funny experiences.  But I'm finding more and more that's not always the case.  Please remember that I use this more as a journal than anything else so if my emotions vary and I seem passionate about something, it's simply because I'm writing my thoughts--my confused and conflicted thoughts.

Day Twenty-Seven.

I'm ruined.

No longer can I go about my normal life or through my errands (like the grocery store) without thinking about some of the things I've read or learned or the pictures I've seen over these past few weeks. They are forever etched into my brain and will haunt me until I die. 

But, I'm not upset about my ruining, I'm upset by the ruining.  There is a difference. A huge difference.

You see I've been guilty of living my life with a terrible case of  defense mechanisms.  I use them all the time: projection, displacement, repression, compensation.... But I have a favorite when it comes to seemingly insurmountable situations.  I use it all the time:  denial.

Denial works beautifully for me whenever I learn or hear something that I am unable to control--even if it's something I really want to help with.  If I feel that I am too insignificant to help, then I am well trained at feeling horrible, "realizing" there's nothing I can do (somehow pretending it doesn't exist) and then going back to my life. 


I even don't do it consciously.  I simply feel "What can I do? I'm only one person." or "My finances couldn't go far enough to make a difference; there's no way!" .  It's true that I am only one person.  And it's true that our finances are tighter now than they ever have been.  But is turning away from the problems around me--to pretend as though because I cannot directly see them they don't exist--the right way to handle it? No.  I firmly believe: no.

I may only be one girl but even if I can only help one person, isn't he/she worth it?  Isn't that one life, one living and breathing human being ,worth my effort?  Worth my feelings of intense sadness and frustration at the living situations around the world?  I can't help but think about the starfish story.  I know that I can't help everyone, it is literally impossible, but if I can help just one then I have succeeded. 

No longer can I have the "luxury" of denial.  Poverty, starvation, deadly drinking water, orphaned children, abandoned elderly, etc exist all around and turning away only helps me cope.  In my tiny, all-American bubble I've been selfish.  No way around it.  The old me would want to use one of the defense mechanisms in my repertoire; but I will not.  I will no longer allow my selfishness to win.  I cannot allow it to win.

I am ruined.  --And I'm so grateful for it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Back to the grind(ing)

Day Twenty-four.

Wow, what a trip!  We learned so much in three shorts days at the ranch.  And, we came home with extra food--always a plus but even more so during this challenge.  My MIL was incredibly giving and sent us home with fourteen quarts of our freshly made applesauce, two quarts of spaghetti sauce, one quart of salsa, one pound of raspberry jam, two pounds of yeast (so I can keep practicing my bread making), and a roast!  Plus, she sent me home with an entire bag of coffee beans and the grinder needed to grind them!

Sorry, Katie, I wish we were neighbors and could share--I mean it has your name on it.  ;)
We all ate very well while we were there so I was expecting some rebelling when we got home and back to our quickly dwindling pantry; however, I was pleasantly surprised.  The middle one did have a hiccup after asking for a pomegranate and--after being told not during our grateful month--she came back with "Is this month EVER going to end."  haha  I couldn't help but smile.  The innocence of a five year old.  To her, she was upset she couldn't get a much loved, special fruit.  To me, all I could think was how blessed we are that we can afford to buy her such extravagant foods.

A pomegranate is extravagant??

Yes.  When I look more and more into what the underprivileged in other countries are eating spending $2-3 on a piece of fruit is extravagant.  Extremely so.  Does that mean I will never buy her one again?  No.  We are financially blessed--very blessed--and with those blessings comes some extras.  Pomegranates.  Cable TV.  High speed internet. Nice clothes. Cars.  Water. 


Clean, drinking, yummy tasting water. 

Why am I so focused on water?  You see just a few hours ago I read a blog about an orphanage in the Congo where 31 of the 52 orphans there died of dysentery.  Contaminated water.  Sixty percent of the orphans died from it!  And I have the nerve to complain about tap water "tasting" when I like my bottle water "tasteless." 

The shame I felt was great.  I have an endless supply of clean water available through seven faucets in my house. Seven!  

Perhaps our nine weeks of consciousness isn't only about making my family aware of the blessings we do have--perhaps it's mostly about opening our eyes to the basic needs those around us do not have.

Monday, October 21, 2013

City-ranch folk

Day Twenty-one. 

Today I felt like a true ranch hand--without the cattle. 

We did more canning: 

My MIL taught me how to make fresh French bread:

Can you guess which loaf is mine? Ha!

We went and loved on Bunny (the horse) and took care of the chickens: 

And Grandpa taught the youngest how to drive while taking us adults shooting: 

We ended the day with a card game after the "youngens" were in bed:

This has been such a wonderful and educational trip. I am so thankful for both the life-lessons and practical teachings we received. Thank you so much Ron, Robin, and Masternet for the scholarship!! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let's get our can on!

Day Twenty.

Wash, peel, quarter, core, prep, repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat....

When we popped open those cans of applesauce my mother-in-law gave us, I had NO idea the prep work she had gone through in order to make that tiny quart of applesauce.  (I can now say tiny after seeing how much those apples shrink down!)   I will forever more appreciate how much work canning actually is.  

It was fun working together and very interesting to hear stories from her childhood--which the girls loved and ask for another the second she finished one.  

Making the applesauce is straight forward enough--I'm fairly sure I could do it again--but the actual canning process I'm not so positive I could remember on my own quite yet.

Not too sure what tomorrow will teach us, but we are having so much fun learning what the land around us can offer we are soaking in every moment--and enjoying some of the "fruits of our labor."  ;)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not-so-slim Pickings

Day Nineteen. 

The girls are quickly learning the main difference between a vacation and a field trip is a field trip includes homework. Ha!  We started with school work in the morning and then moved outside to get some gardening lessons from Grandma. 

Tomato and tomatillo picking (and enjoying)  
Even the green tomatoes get picked at the end of the season

After the garden it was off to the orchard. Donnie, being the tallest, was elected to be in charge of the apple picker, but the girls loved helping. Grandma was on hand to instruct which apples could be used for various canned goods and snacks and which should be left behind for the deer, turkeys, and other wildlife to enjoy (ones that were too soft or rotting or ones that were already munched on by something else).  Today the harvest, tomorrow the canning and prep! 

So many apples--oh the possibilities!

On the road again!

Day Eighteen. 

We've been given a scholarship!!

My mother and father in-law have been reading my updates. About two weeks ago my MIL called me with an idea/question: would a trip out to their ranch (Hidden Canyon Ranch by Great Basin National Park) be $0 October cheating IF 1) we didn't have to pay for the trip, 2) the kids (and adults) were given some lessons in working and living off of the land and canning the harvested produce, and 3) if my MIL could share how her parts of her childhood trained her to be grateful with what she had--even though it wasn't much. My response: No! --That's not cheating the $0 October!  

I love the idea of the kids getting to see their grandparents' root cellar and help harvest the remaining produce from their multiple gardens and orchards.  Technically my kids have seen those before but not in the same way. I saw the trip as an amazing opportunity for the kids to get some hands-on lessons and hear about their grandmother's history. 

So we left today--and not without some speed bumps. 

Coming up with food to take on the road with an ever-shrinking pantry was quite the challenge! The weather moved in and nearly stopped us since the I-80 was closed in several places, but we were able to go the scenic (aka long) route. Thirteen hours, ten PB&Js, three cucumbers, one bag of mini-carrots, and a gallon of water later, we made it!

We are so excited and incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. I'm very curious to see how the kids respond to the lessons and I'm so excited to FINALLY learn how to cann. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Having my eyes "opened" complicates everything

Day Sixteen.

Yesterday and today have thrown a curve-ball at us in regards to our challenge and newfound consciousness. 

Our dog Cocoa became ill Monday morning.  I didn't think too much of it until Monday evening when she left "evidence" all over one room in our house.  I got up with her in the night and still found some "evidence" in the morning when I got up Tuesday.  So yesterday afternoon I considered a trip to the vet a need.  A full panel blood test, fecal test, and three medications later we were sent home to wait for the results.

That got Donnie and I to talking: what is the need vs. want when it comes to our pets' care? 

We adopted Cocoa (a large mix breed) five years ago when she was 5-7 years old. She has been an amazing dog to our kids and gives me a sense of comfort and security in our home.  I love her; however, I love her as a pet.  She is not a human.  In my opinion, humans are far more important than animals (although a few of the humans I've met have tempted me to change that opinion).  I realize this is not everyone's view and I can respect that; but I truly believe that--while I love animals--I have a much greater duty to save a hungry and/or abused human than animal. 

But this isn't "some animal", this is my dog.  She feels like a part of our family.  I am willing to spend more money than I probably should to find out what's wrong and solve the problem. 

Back when our pug lost her eyes (yes, lost--as in both eyes (at different times) popped out and had to be surgically removed) some people couldn't understand our willingness to spend that kind of money on her.  However, we felt 1) she is our dog and we have a commitment to her, 2) we love her, and 3) we had the money (and since the eye loss happened a year apart it helped spread the cost out--of course that just means we got the criticism twice).  Money was also different then--both Donnie and I had paychecks coming in and we lived in a less expensive city.

AND, that was before we really had our eyes opened. 

You see the money we spent on her eye surgeries could have bought 6,000 servings of food for the underprivileged around the world. While I can't imagine putting a dog down for lost eyes, I also cannot wrap my brain around the fact that her eye surgeries cost the same as 6,000 meals in other countries.  SIX THOUSAND.   Putting it like that sounds shameful.

So back to Cocoa. 

Because we do love her and we do believe that to have a pet is to also have a commitment to it, we decided to run the tests to get an idea of what we were dealing with (the same as 1412 meals btw).  In the 24 hours we were waiting for the results we went back and forth on how much is too much.  Finances are not the same as they used to be--we're a one income family, I'm in the long and expensive process of returning to school, and we are in a more expensive area--we may have a commitment to our pets but our greater commitment is to our kids.  It's hard to learn the things we've learned during these past few weeks (both from experience and research) and look at pet care the same way. 

Thankfully Cocoa's tests came back with relatively good news--her large intestine is not digesting food properly so she needs to be on a special diet.  But going through those discussions with Donnie has left me feeling confused and troubled with my priorities. 

Where do I draw the line?  How can I balance having a happy life here full of fun adventures, special times and events, having and caring for pets and reaching out to those hurting and hungry around me?  In regards to the impoverished around the world I've only seen the tip of the iceberg--would I be able to recover if I researched more?

Do I want to "recover"?

Here's a link to the food outreach I got my info from:


Monday, October 14, 2013

My family is a bunch of show-offs!

Day Fourteen.

We've made it two weeks!  And, thankfully, it's getting easier.  Sure we've--okay I've had some bumps in the road (those leopard shoes for child #2 still haunt me) but the last few days have been easier to keep focused on the needs vs. wants.  So I thought I would use today's writing to give you an update on my family's progress since you constantly get to hear about mine.

The small ones are doing remarkably well: 

The oldest--let me just brag on her a moment--I cannot believe the impact this is having on her attitude and generosity.  I mean she's always been a sweet, caring girl but there is a noticeable difference.  As I hoped, it's spilling over into other areas--books, toys, clothes, supplies for arts and crafts, even with her time with her siblings she's more generous.  Her gratefulness all the way around is improving tremendously.  And, if she needs a little reminder, I am always astonished at how far a little sentence like "It's our grateful month." can go to change her mindset.  She's not perfect, but I'm not expecting her to be.  I'm so pleased by her overall attitude that her minor hiccups are nothing. Plus she is only seven; if I can't offer her a little grace at seven what's my hope for grace at 34?

The middle one is doing well too.  She has always had a more....."expressive" personality.  And those of you who know her well know that can be actual words or not-so-subtle body language and gestures.  For such a tiny thing she has a huge personality. Ha!  So with that over-sized feistiness I was expecting much more resistance. However, her sweet spirit has come shining through.  She is showing kindness to her siblings more often and rarely complains about her food--which may be the biggest feat of all (she HATES eating anything but most fruits and veggies, PB&J's, and sweets)!  She may need a few more reminders than her sister, but she is also nearly two years younger, so I feel that is more than fair.

The youngest....well he's three and that is a struggle in itself.  It's a little more difficult to fully explain our family challenge to him, but I still do just so that he hears the words again and again.  One thing I have noticed is the more strict I've become with "This is our grateful month so eat it or wait until [enter the next meal here]!" the more he's getting used to it.  I rarely made different foods for the small ones vs. us adults (usually only if it's too spicy for them) so that's not what I mean--more that he can refuse the food but that means NOTHING else for hours.  I used to be guilty of forgetting he didn't finish and offer a snack when we was hungry; now he knows that he eats or he's hungry.  Case closed.

The husband has been my biggest supporter.  This was an idea I presented to him with a bit of hesitation and he was immediately on board.  Through my hiccups and successes he's cheered me on and has always encouraged the kids.  He appears to have more self-control than I do (I'm fairly sure he only misses pizza and Taco Bell).  I would like to believe that is because he isn't used to doing the shopping and he's at work a lot of the time anyways, but I'm beginning to think he's just a goody-goody. 

So to summarize: my family is doing remarkably well and has been practically the entire time.  I'm so happy for them and proud of their attitudes and accomplishments these last two weeks.  Now if some of it could rub off on me. Ha!  ;)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A supportive family is key

Day Twelve.

Today was special.  I took my state licensing exam (mentioned in the post from 10/9) and passed.  So my incredibly thoughtful mom and sister took me and all five kids to lunch--their treat!  If I'm honest, lunch was YUMMY--very yummy.  But what made it more special was the experience.  Not just going to lunch with my mom, sister, two nieces, and three little ones, but their entire trip. 

My sister and mom were so understanding and supportive of the meals yesterday.  Not one hesitation or concern.  They asked questions and said they were proud of what we were trying to do and trying to teach our family unit.  Lunch was modest with sandwiches, veggies, and pretzel crisps for all three adults and five kids.  For dinner I made taquitos and my first attempt at homemade beans.  Thanks to my SIL Erin for the recipe and my friend Katie for an insane amount of instruction, I made a H.U.G.E. (accidentally) and tasty crock pot of pinto beans.  (A little preview to November Guatemala eating I think.)  It was fun having conference texts and phone calls with Katie and my mom and sister as we figured out what to do with an entire crock pot of beans.  (PS For those of you who have never made beans at home, they grow--A LOT!)  And then homemade peach cobbler for dessert. 

So thank you mom and Brittany for making me feel so supported both in my test and in our nine weeks of consciousness.  Your support means the world to me.  --Although the Reese's tucked into my congrats card may mean a smidgen more.  ;)

My flowers (one from each child) and my card and treat.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I lost the war today

Day Ten.

I ventured out today. 

It did not go well. 

We needed soap--I had a legitimate reason to go to Target, but next time I'll send Donnie.  :/

What really did me in was not the soap aisle--it was shoe section. 

We've hit that strange time of year where flip flops don't always work for the kids.  (gasp I know!)  Sunday we left for church in 48* weather and the oldest was in flips.  Parent of the year here.  So I decided--after checking the hand-me-down box and coming up empty--that shoes do count as a must in this situation.  After finding the needed soap, I took the little ones over to the big-girl shoe section to see if I would strike it lucky with a sale.  And I did!  I got her some adorable, yet practical shoes that will work for church without breaking the bank. 

And then I saw them.

The shoes that I had had my eye on for the middle one's birthday (mid November) were 25% off.  TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT!!!  They're beyond perfect for her--leopard print tennis shoes with pink, glittery laces.  She would not just love them--she would adore them.  I felt like I was in one of those old cartoons where I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  I wanted them so badly for her!!!!

While I'm happy to report that I did not give in to the intense temptation to buy them, I am embarrassed to report it lead to some major pouting--by me.  My attitude failed me greatly.  (Thankfully my determination to keep the kids oblivious to the shoes also kept them oblivious to my pouting.)  You see I could not justify them.  She doesn't need them.  She would absolutely, positively want them, but they are far from a need.  But even though I knew that, I couldn't seem to convince myself to have a grateful heart. 

So even though I won temptation, I lost the attitude war.  :(

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Day Nine.

Today brought a new challenge: the scheduling of October visitors!  I have a state licensing exam on Saturday (eek!) and, since Donnie is working, my mom, sister, and two nieces are coming up for the weekend to watch the little ones. 


That was my moment of panic this morning.  Not that we don't have enough food in house but it's strange combos at times and not always enough of one thing to feed eight people.  Then I remembered--I had put some things aside for my mom and for the end of the month (trying to save some "normal meals" for the end of October).  Phew! Saving has paid off.

I still felt weird asking them to come up and do me a favor and yet not have some of their favorites in the house, so I sent them the meal plan for this weekend. They were both 100% on board!  (I have such amazing family.)  They didn't complain or even hesitate at the food combos but instead my mom verified the "rules" and my sister verified we had enough for her and her two girls.  --Um yes!

I'm so excited to share a portion of our month with my family and hope that the kids will show their Gammy and Auntie their grateful attitudes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Zoo (NO) bucks

Day Eight.

We went to the zoo (membership so it was $0) and I packed a picnic and some snacks in case the little ones got hungry (always!).  To my surprise--and delight--there was NO asking for extra food or souvenirs.  They did ask to go on the carousel, which I had to say no to since my membership does not cover that, but the girls took it well (the youngest, not as well but I gave him grace since he's barely three ;) ).  But what I really appreciated was that I realized how easy it is to go to something more special and yet skip even the small purchases.  I often times feel compelled or obligated to get them a little something when we go someplace fun--even if it's tiny.  But I stood firm and they barely noticed.  That is a savings that will come in handy for years to come.

Perfectly happy without zoo treats! (Looking at a komodo dragon)

Getting out of the house = nice.  Spending $0 = awesome.  Practically no complaining = priceless. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

I need a makeover!

Day Seven.

One week!! We've made it an entire week!

The kids are doing well.  Donnie's doing well.  I would've said I was doing well except I had an epiphany today.  --I keep thinking "After October and November....blah, blah, blah".  It was anything from explaining to the kids I'll buy bagels again soon to telling myself soon I'll be able to drive down to Denver and meet my family for  lunch or dinner.  But that is NOT the attitude I want to have. 

It's not that planning for special occasions or having some favorite foods in the house is a bad thing, but the attitude behind my thoughts is wrong.  It's one of wanting.  Wishing.  Craving.  Discontentment.  Ungratefulness.


I've been so focused on the little ones doing well that I neglected to keep my own thoughts in check. How will I change my heart and viewpoints long-term if I'm unwilling to completely give myself over now to the concept and training?  And how can I help continue to guide my family if I'm not 100% living by example?

It's time for an attitude makeover.

Go Broncos!

Day Six. 

Another good day. We did a little bit of eating and a little bit of saving (see yesterday's post). Breakfast foods for breakfast AND dinner and sandwiches, cucumbers, and popcorn in front of the Broncos game for lunch--no one complains about repeated food during a football game. Go Broncos!!  ;)

I love the fact that the girls are responding so well to "We're having a grateful month, remember?".  Yes, they may start off a little frustrated by the foods put before them, but that one statement changes their attitudes. It warms my heart and gives me the strength and encouragement to keep going. I can only hope and pray it will continue. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The $0 Question

Day Five.

Today was much better than yesterday.  The small ones (or big ones for that matter) didn't complain at all.  We did things a little differently today: breakfast like normal but at 11:30 everyone wanted to sample the fresh banana bread--effectively throwing off the rest of the meal schedules.  So we grilled zucchini from Donnie's garden, some potatoes I found in the pantry, hamburgers, and roasted some cauliflower (yummy!) around 3:30 and gave the kids some fruit and cereal before bed.  (PS if anyone has any suggestions for the leftover potatoes and squash I would appreciate the ideas/recipes!!)

I have run into a strange dilemma--every time I go to the pantry/freezer I stare into it and wonder should I use that now or save it?  But isn't saving it how we ended up with as much food as we have?  Or was it truly stocking up during sales? Are we going to end up living off of oatmeal, roasted green chilies, and black beans halfway through the month? Should I have some of the dreaded green beans and boiled pinto beans dinners now and save the frozen chicken for later?  It's hard to know.  I don't keep THAT in my pantry and freezer so--while we have plenty for now--I have always doubted it would last an entire month. 

So the $0 question--eat it or save it???

Friday, October 4, 2013

The teeniest of rebellion ripples

Day Four.

Is it starting?  I hear small murmurs and catch tiny glimpses of eye rolls.  Are the small ones starting to turn on me?  How long do I have?  Will we survive if they assemble?

Who would've thought that mac and cheese given to three small children would start the teeniest of rebellion ripples?! 

What WILL tomorrow bring???

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's in the definition? Everything

To truly understand what we're striving for, here are the definitions of our challenge:
  • Consciousness: n. a state of being aware  
  • Contentment: n. a state of happiness and satisfaction
  • Gratefulness: n. acknowledgment of having received something good from another

So much meaning in those three words.  They sound so simple yet if I apply them to how I look at my possessions and needs vs wants, it puts so much perspective on things. 

Will this change me?  Can I open my eyes and live in a state of happiness--recognizing the good I have already been blessed with??  And, just as importantly, can I live with that view in such a way that it will be contagious to those around me???

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

And thus we begin

Day one.

I've been prepping the kids for a few days now, telling them we were going to have a "grateful month" with the food that is put before us.  The combos may be strange, it may not be what we prefer or even what tastes good to us, but it is food and it will give us the nutrients and strength we need to live.  --You know, normal mom propaganda.  ;)

Everything went well today; no pouting at all.  But, Donnie got his beloved pasta marinara for dinner (didn't have the heart to tell him there is only one box of pasta left) and the kids got their fav: wheat noodles tossed in parmesan and a smidge of butter.  The cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch are so common in the Crouch home no one gave it a second thought. 

I even made my first peach cobbler.  Yes.  Me.  From scratch....using my mother-in-laws canned peaches.* 

*A special shout out to my MIL for sharing her canned goods with us. 

**Another shout out to whoever accidentally unloaded the canned goods into the garage instead of the house during our last move--hiding them in there until just a few days ago (PERFECT timing to find them!). 

***Back to my MIL for another shout out for properly canning so after 1.5 years they are still perfectly preserved. 

****A final shout out to Fort Collins for having the weather to allow canned good to stay preserved even while they sit in a garage for TWO summers. (Sorry, Vegas, your winter's wouldn't even allow that!)

So a normal--even treatful--day.  We'll see what tomorrow brings. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Concept (this one's long!)

As a family, we have tried to come up with creative ways to work on having a grateful attitude--to be content with what we have.  Donnie and I always stress that with the kids, but sometimes forget that ourselves.  When I look around our house, I can be tempted to see things I need--new couches, a bigger kitchen, a maid (ahhh, let's think on that one a second....)--and often times I make the mistake of calling them "needs" instead of "wants".  Really?!?  Do we NEED that new couch?  Why am I not content with the couch I have? We have so much and I often forget to look around and see the items as blessings instead of needs.  How can I teach my kids to be grateful for the toys, books, clothes, food they have if I'm unwilling to do the same?  --even if it's an subconscious unwillingness.

October -- The $0 spending month

When I first heard the challenge of having a $0 spending month, I thought it was impossible.  I have a house and car payment, a student loan, those pesky little things called utilities to pay for every can anyone actually spend $0 for an entire month? 

Let me explain. 

Yes, we are keeping up on our monthly bills.  No, we are not continuing unnecessary ones like OnStar or Sirius XM (sigh).  Yes, we have allowed bread, produce, eggs, and milk  purchases when necessary.  No, ice cream, pizza, and pasta did not make the cut (sorry Donnie for those last two).   Are allowing toilet paper and deodorant purchases?  Ummm, YES!  

So technically the phrase "$0 spending" is misleading.  The point is to consciously think through EVERY dollar that leaves our account.  --Is it needed?  What will buying that item accomplish?  Do I have something at home that fills the gap just as well, even if it's not our favorite?  Do I have food to prepare from our deep freezer or in the pantry?  How little can we buy for an entire month?

November -- The "poverty" eating month

In 2012, we did RACKs (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) every day in December to help get us in the Christmas spirit.  It was a special and rewarding time for the entire family.  This year, after deciding to do a $0 October, we wanted to carry the grateful and content concept over into the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  [We will be taking a break from Nov 12-18 for Alexa's birthday and a special visit from friends.]

So many people in our world go hungry, and yet the kids complain about having to eat another PB&J this week.  Wake up call!  The infamous "There are starving children in Africa..." mom line doesn't seem to be working so let's show them how remarkably well they eat by showing them how the less fortunate eat.  I plan to use this time to learn and teach about other cultures and countries--not just what they eat, but about their agriculture, exports, past times, income, etc--and while learning about the people, we will eat what they eat. 

**I know what you're thinking.  Please do not worry about the kids' nutrition or portions.  We plan to do this carefully and safely.  If the food isn't giving the nutrition or portions the kids need to thrive, I will adjust it subtly (and secretly).  My point is to make them aware of what their normal meals consist of vs the children of that culture. 

The three countries I have chosen to study have very specific reasons (something that I'm hoping will keep the kids a little more interested and less rebellious).  Our first week, well eight days actually, we will focus on Guatemala and will coincide with Donnie's missions trip.  Our second week will be split due to our time off  and we have chosen to learn about The Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Lastly, we chose the good ol' US of A (a special thanks to Katie for the idea).  So often our family is guilty of thinking internationally for missions and forgets that there is a true and real population of underprivileged in America.  Their needs may not look the same as those in 3rd world countries, but that doesn't give us an excuse to ignore or dismiss the issue.

So there is the plan.  I will try to keep an honest and accurate diary of our conflicts, discoveries, challenges, and achievements.