Hello there. What’s new?

I love it when my kids are home from school for the summer. I love the no pressure, hang together, play board games, take swimming lessons, go to camp, play legos, organize a closet, and build a campfire at dusk kind of life. I hate to say this out loud, but my most favorite part is no music lessons….I want my kids to be musical, but keeping track of that many kids’ practice times and lesson times and where in the world is their book times wears on me. It’s nice to take a little break before we go at that pace again in August.

I haven’t felt like getting online much. I just want to be present with them and soak in their childhood this summer. It’s my oldest daughter’s last summer as a child…and I don’t want to miss a moment that she might give me.

My mom is doing summer reading lessons with my 6 year old. He read 70 words for his teacher in kindergarten but couldn’t read a single word for me at home. We are hoping that some time with Grandma, who is a master reading teacher, will do the trick. I know I’m a teacher too…with extra training in phonics and reading instruction….but my kids won’t work for me like they will someone else.

Two of my children and I are involved in a summer musical—Mary Poppins. I’m teaching the choral pieces and our first rehearsal was a disaster. The cast is amazingly talented and sounded amazing in spite of me…I was the disaster. Our second rehearsal is tonight and I have a better plan. Here’s to hoping I improve for all their sakes.

We are also spending the summer working on my office. We tore down the old 1970’s paneling and bought new white bead board to replace it, except we came across some ventilation/water/mold issues when we had the room opened up. So thus, our 1 week easy project has turned into months of little progress. Such has been every remodeling project in this house. I’m still not sorry we bought it, but I do wish I could snap my fingers and have the projects done like they are with the magic of television.  The only big inconvenience this time is that our guest bed is now set up in our formal living room…and I’m not really sure where to go with it from here. I might need to make a rabbit trail to organize the basement and set up a temporary guest space there.

We have a new set of foster kittens. We got them because they were so wild—hissing and spitting. It took us about 5 days to be able to get close to them and now they snuggle and purr for us. We named them Cuddles, Sunny, and Snowflake. They will be available for adoption through Great Plaines SPCA in a few weeks or as soon as they weigh 2 lbs.

I’m still going strong with the meal plan service. There are a little more than 200 families that use our meal plans, and 91 of them have joined us for a Summer Fitness Challenge. If you are looking for easy weight loss meal plans and a sisterhood of accountability, we’ve got you.

Prep ahead Mandarin Sesame Chicken Salad, with easy homemade dressing and seeds that stay crunchy.

Prep ahead black bean and tomato salad–we’ll add avocado at the last minute.  The chicken breast is marinating until tonight, when we’ll grill it to slice over the top.  Yummo!

I’m also growing my MomCeo team.  It’s really rewarding to help families with an extra income stream.  If you’ve been looking for extra income from home, fill out the form and I’ll give you a call and explain what we do.

In the cracks, I’m helping my kids launch their own business, CleanKids.Club. They’ve already had several clients and find the work really rewarding.

Oh and I started a little crochet project to do when I must sit and wait for something.  It’s a wheat stitch baby blanket for one of the many baby showers coming at church this autumn.  Even though the beautiful boarder wasn’t included with the pattern, our local library had the book it is in.  I’m using Hobby Lobby’s Yarn Bee Soft Secret yarn in Mist, a light silvery tone. It’s so soft and shiny and affordable too.

So that’s all I know since I last wrote. What’s new with you?

Simplifying Breakfast

When I was a new mom I had dreams of sitting around the table every morning, with Daddy leading devotions to smiling children memorizing Bible verses set on a backdrop of a hearty home cooked breakfast. I had no idea at the time that we would welcome one baby after another and that I’d have 12 years of rough mornings. We’d be up all night taking turns with a colicky baby and Darren would peel out of bed barely rested, just in time to throw on clothes and dash to work where he had a loaf of bread stashed for breakfast toast.

Read the rest at http://www.kansascitymom.com/simplifying-breakfast/  and get the make ahead Always Ready Bran Muffin recipe that my family loves.

Meet MomCeo Ashley Finnegan

I mentioned yesterday that Darren and I were at a conference together last week and it helped us get on the same page with our family and business plans. While I was there I met one of my colleagues at Mom Ceo, Ashley Finnegan.  What a great person!  She knows her stuff when it comes to building a successful business and I asked her to share with us some of her thoughts.

First, here’s a little facebook live I did on my MomCeo page about what to look for (and what to avoid) in a work from home situation.

Ashley is a former marketing executive turned work-from-home mom, who mentors other women to create a career that doesn’t take time from their family. I wanted to ask her about her business, MomCEO, and get her expert advice on achieving that perfect work/life balance.

Welcome to Grocery Shrink, Ashley! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a mother of two, an entrepreneur, and a proud Gainesville, Florida resident. I used to work in the corporate world, but like many professional parents, I eventually became dissatisfied with the strain that my work was putting on my family time.

Now I’m a partner with MomCEO, which makes it possible for women to build their own businesses from their homes. Through MomCEO, I help other women build fulfilling careers on their own terms.

 

MomCEO caught my eye because it allows you to boost your family’s income without losing quality family time. What’s the secret?

The big secret is that a healthy work/life balance is totally possible with a supportive team like MomCEO. In many professions, it can feel like your job and your family are competing for your time. MomCEO was created to change this.

With MomCEO, I choose and schedule my own hours. I can work from home, part-time or full-time, weekdays or weekends, morning or night—it’s all up to me. This way, I can schedule my work around my family, not the other way around. It’s also such a relief to be working with a team of other committed, entrepreneurial moms who understand that family time is just as much of a priority as work.

What type of work do MomCEO team members do?

MomCEO partners with a U.S.-based manufacturer that produces earth-conscious and affordable wellness products. Our team members educate consumers about how to avoid toxins and choose products for their home that will help them build healthy, safe, eco-friendly lifestyles.

What kind of income can MomCEO members expect?

Since MomCEO launched, it has grown to more than 100 team members across the country. About a third of those women get their primary source of income through MomCEO. The other two thirds work part-time with MomCEO, providing an additional revenue source for their families. Some women want to earn a few hundred dollars a month while others are looking to replace a six-figure income. Each mom has a different financial goal and motivation for joining our team. I help them create an individual plan to accomplish those goals.

What are the best parts of being able to work from home?

Working from home has given me incredible freedom, as a professional and as a mom. Most importantly, I don’t need to go out of my way to make time for my kids. Any time I’m not at my desk is quality time with them.

Before you joined MomCEO, you were working as a marketing executive in the corporate world. Do moms need your kind of background to join MomCEO?

Not at all! Our team members come from all different backgrounds, experiences, and education levels. What matters is that they’re self-driven and passionate about their work.

You can see more of Ashley on her YouTube channel and request a personal call from a MomCeo team member to get more information.

Resurrection Rolls: An Easter Recipe

While I was working on next week’s meal plan, I came across a video I made 5 years ago that was never published.  Brandon who is now 9, was just 4 years old and while I was watching the video today, Grant (5) walked over and said, “Hey, is that me?”   I’m a little envious over my hair and smaller waistline (which is coming back thanks to Fit Mama.)  This video was taken a few months after we moved into our fixer upper and about a year before the illness that would leave me bed bound for months and never quite the same physically or emotionally. It’s a little nostalgic and surreal to watch it.   I’m excited to get back to that healthy place again and each day is closer than the last.

Traditionally this recipe is made with canned crescent dough, and if you are a busy mama and the thought of making homemade dough puts you over the edge, just buy it.  Really….it’s ok.   Making your own isn’t too hard though and the dough can be made in a stand mixer or bread machine on the dough cycle.

In my meal plans, I automatically break the recipes into 4 different sizes.  It’s not that my subscribers couldn’t do the math. but I don’t want them to have to think about that.  Then they can use their energy interacting with family around a table full of good food.

Crescent Rolls

Ingredients

Servings

2 4 8 12
Butter or coconut oil, melted 2 Tbs 4 Tbs 1/2 cup 3/4 cup
Yogurt or applesauce 2 Tbs 4 Tbs 1/2 cup 3/4 cup
Eggs 1 1 2 3
Milk or water 4 Tbs 1/2 cup 1 cup 1 1/2 cups
Sugar 2 Tbs 1/4 cup 1/2 cup 3/4 cup
Salt pinch 1/2 tsp 1 tsp 1 1/2 tsp
Yeast 1 tsp 2 tsp 1 Tbs 4 tsp
Hard White Whole Wheat Flour 1 cup 2 cups 4-5 cups 7-8 cups

Cinnamon Sugar

Ingredients

Servings

2 4 8 12
Cinnamon 1/2 tsp 1 tsp 2 tsp 3 tsp
Sugar or Stevia 2 Tbs ¼ cup 1/2 cup 3/4 cup

If you are gluten free, you can try an all-purpose gluten free flour with xanthan gum in place of the wheat.  I haven’t tried it personally but the butter and egg content will help this dough stick together and it should work well.

  1. Place the ingredients for your crescent rolls in the bread machine overnight (in the order listed, except add the flour before the yeast.) Set a time delay dough cycle so that they will be ready in the morning about 1 hour before breakfast.

2. Turn your oven on to warm (between 100 and 120 degrees)

3.  Roll the dough ¼ inch thick and cut with a 3 inch biscuit cutter. OR break off a ping pong ball sized piece and flatten it into a circle with your fingers. Place a marshmallow in the middle of the dough and wrap it completely sealing the edges. The marshmallows are perfectly white, showing Christ’s purity as he was placed in the tomb. Some recipes I’ve seen have the children roll the marshmallow in butter and cinnamon-sugar showing the embalming of Christ and his anointing with spices.  We skip this step–but you can do it if you like.

4. Spritz the rolls with cooking spray or brush with butter. Roll the balls of dough in cinnamon sugar and place on a greased baking sheet. Sit the rolls in the slightly warm oven for 20-30 minutes or until they have risen slightly.

5. Remove the rising dough and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Before eating, instruct the children to break open their rolls. They will find tomb is empty!


Our Grocery Shrink Plus meal plans empower you to efficiently cook nutritious and cost affective food for your family. Become a member and download your first plan today.

What I’m Into this Week

Ashley Black Fascia Blasting.  The tools aren’t cheap (and I haven’t purchased yet) but I joined the facebook group and have been lurking for awhile.  The success stories and before and after pictures are inspiring.  I’m interested in the process to gain more range of motion and reduce body pain, especially in my jaw, neck and shoulders. When my husband heard the testimonies, he said, “Will you buy me one for my back?”  He had a painful back injury 3 years ago that hasn’t healed even after months of physical therapy.  We can totally share one. I also plan to convince my mom to try it on her knee.  She has had horrible pain for more than 6 months that even surgery and steroid shots haven’t helped. I think this could be really helpful to her. If you decide to lurk in the group, search #storytimewithjoanna to hear how the business began. It’s inspirational.  (PS side affects include loss of cellulite, increased hair growth, increased collagen production, and some temporary bruising.)  If you are a physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist–this isn’t optional.  You should at least look it over.

Irlen Syndrome.  I alluded to this briefly in this post, but we have had even more experience with it since.  My daughters have struggled with learning disabilities from a very young age and I’ve spent a lot of hours and money researching and trying different things to help them reach their potential.  Both girls are extremely bright, but process slowly and have visual misperceptions.   The younger one was diagnosed with Irlen syndrome in August.   Since then we have discovered 2 more members of the family who also have it, and are screening the rest to rule it out.  This is a fascinating subject for parents of special needs kids, educators, and optometrists.  If you’d like to hear more about our experience with it, I can write more–just let me know in the comments.  I don’t want to bore you with the details if you aren’t really interested.  (This is likely the main trigger for my adrenal issues and I’m hoping with proper treatment, I will finally be able to heal.)

The Young House Love podcast. I’ve loved this blogging duo for years now. Their topic of expertise is home decor and I couldn’t figure out how that would translate to a radio show, but it totally does. I look forward to listening weekly as I do my kitchen chores.  I love the way the couple interacts with a big dose of humor.

Do you listen to podcasts?  Leave your favorites in the comments below.  (Also…let me know about the Irlen thing.)

How to Know if It’s an Ear Infection

She’s crying…again.  She seemed fine during the day, but now that it’s time for bed, she’s screaming.  Is she just overtired?  Being naughty about bedtime?  Or is there something seriously wrong?

As a new mom, I felt a lot of stress over knowing when to call the doctor or run to the emergency room.  It was even harder when they were too young to really tell me what was wrong.   Is it just a cold?  Or a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics?

One of my babies was a real screamer.  At his 6 week checkup, he screamed royally for the doctor. The doctor looked at me and said, “Does he do this often?”

“All the time,” I responded, exhausted.   I couldn’t just stay up with him at night holding him. We would have to leave the house, because his screaming would keep everyone awake.  There was nothing I could do, except put him in the jogger and run. If the breeze stopped cooling his face, he would scream.  2am.  3am.  I ran, so the family could sleep.  (You would think I would lose weight quickly that way…but nope.  Not a pound.)

“Take him to Children’s Mercy, Now.”  He said.  “I’m calling ahead, so they will expect you.”

I called my husband enroute to the hospital, who left work and met me there.  They asked me his symptoms.  “He screams,” I said.  They looked confused.  They ran a huge battery of tests.  They found NOTHING wrong.  We received a hefty bill to have our child diagnosed as “fussy.”

It made me cautious.  When do I call?  When is it just nothing?  I don’t have all the answers to that and it’s good to err on the side of being cautious.  But you can get a tool that will help you with your decision making.

There are more expensive versions for sure, but we have this one and for $15 it does the job well.  It comes with a little card showing what a healthy ear drum looks like and an infected one.  I don’t exactly self-diagnose with this, but If I look in there and see the angry red ear drum, we call the doctor.

As a novice, I would call the doctor and say, “He has an ear infection.”  They don’t like that.  Doctors went to school for 8 years to have the right to say, “he has an ear infection.”  I did not.  So now I call up and say, “He has an earache, a fever of 101, and when I looked inside with my otoscope I saw a red inflamed ear drum.”   Just facts, no diagnosis.  That goes a lot better.

P.S. The links are not affiliate links.  Just a product I personally have and hope will make your life easier.

P.P.S. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease.

How to Make Something not a Big Deal

When I was growing up, my mama did a lot of things around the house.  She used power tools, repaired furniture, skim coated drywall, decorated cakes, sewed clothes, baked fresh bread, gardened and preserved the harvest, had a family dinner every night, and taught Sunday School.

bread

As I grew up, all these activities were normal to me.  It wasn’t a big deal for me to bake bread or sew clothes, it was just something that mamas do.  Having a nightly family dinner was just something you DO, it never occurred to me to skip it.  When we were done, we cleared the table, washed the dishes and wiped down the counters.  We didn’t even think about it, we just did it.

hands-in-dough

We walked away from stuff when it cost too much even though my dad made good money. Mom’s willingness to walk away and do without, or wait for the right deal made sure they had savings.  They paid off their house when I was 9 and never borrowed another dime after that.  It built character in me to not have the latest trends and to wait for things. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the skill of waiting has served me well as an adult.

hand-tape-measure-sewing

We went to church.  Every time the doors were open.  I never had to ask if we were going.  We just did.

My babies came so soon after I married and so close together that I lost some of my good habits—like going to bed early, getting up early, working out consistently, and daily Bible study.  Now that life has settled down a little (knock on wood) I’m figuring out how to build these habits back into my day.  My first thought was to get up early and do them before my kids are up.  That way I can have uninterrupted quiet time (sounds so good!)  If I did that, they would never see me do them.  And those are the important things that I want them to think are just part of being a mama.  Mamas read their Bibles.  Mama’s take care of their bodies. Mamas pray.

mama-reads-the-bible

The habits that I want to be second nature for my kids, the ones I don’t want to be a big deal, just something they DO, those are the things I need to model for them now.  They need to see it consistently, day in and day out.  Not stressful, not a big deal, just accomplished.

I wonder what my kids will just do and not think about, because it was a normal part of their childhood.  I hope using cash is one of them, along with saving up to pay for stuff, being ok with roughing it to pave the way for a bigger goal, and giving to people who are in need.

What do you do all day?

little-homemaker-laundry-child

Say the word “homemaker,” and this is the most frequent response:

“What do you do all day?”

This question is offensive to a lot of at homemakers because it implies that there’s not enough to do to keep an at home spouse off the couch watching Netflix and eating raw cookie dough.  (Not that that NEVER happens. Overwhelm can drive anyone to a Netflix cookie dough binge.  And if there’s any job that’s overwhelming, it’s homemaking.)

I thought about it a lot and I think I can put my job description into one tidy sentence.

“I optimize life for my household.”

Cleaning is part of it, but a tiny part.

I make sure my husband can work, and try to take care of the things that would normally interrupt the working day of a spouse in a two income household.  Things like making appointments, a sick child, meeting a service provider, running errands.

I research, research, research, so we get the right products, get appropriate discounts, and stay under budget.

It’s my job to keep food in the house, and prepare meals that are conducive to health, the budget and shared family time.

I learn new skills so we can hire out less. Skills like minor electrical work, carpentry, sewing, painting, interior design, and cooking.

I advocate for our kids, so their health and learning needs are not passed over. This means more research, a lot of research, and sometimes doing interventions myself when there aren’t professionals available to us.

I manage our stuff so we aren’t buried in a pile of it, and can still find what we need when we need it.  That includes turning our used stuff into cash through garage sales, Craigslist, Ebay and tax deductible donations.

I make sure everyone has clothing, within budget, that fits, is clean and repaired.  Sometimes that means making it myself, shopping online, or visiting several stores. Plus taking care of personal appearances like cutting a boy’s hair or guiding a daughter through  makeup and hair for her first date.

I give encouragement and support so everyone can be their best selves.  This includes helping with music practice and homework, listening to their joys and sorrows and stories, and reminding them how great God made them.

I am a full time dedicated cheer leader for 7 people. That’s my FAVORITE part of the job.

This doesn’t mean I do everything myself.  I’m like a general contractor.  I delegate the appropriate jobs.  Sometimes I delegate jobs to my kids that would be easier to do myself, just because it’s good for them to work.

I take my job super seriously.  I’m constantly researching the best ways to do things and learning new skills. I’m also human and with a job list as long as mine, the big size of our household, and our limited budget, my house isn’t always company ready and the laundry isn’t always folded and put away.  Sometimes my time is better spent painting a room than keeping up with daily chores and I’m so thankful my family pitches in and is understanding about that.

It’s true that we sacrifice a little in available cash for me to have this position, but we gain so much more in quality of life in exchange.  I know not everyone can make this choice, so trust me that I don’t stand in judgement of work out of the home moms.  I was once that mom myself.

What do you think?

Before She Leaves

I have roughly 21 months left with my oldest daughter living in my home.  In that time she will graduate high school and head off to college; marriage and babies soon to follow.  I lounged on her bed this weekend just talking about the things that matter to her, that give her hope, that stress her out, that make her excited.   Breathing in the time with her, aware more than ever how precious and rare it is.  Read more

How Three Orphaned Kittens Saved My Parenting Fail

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-36-09-pmBefore school started this fall, we made our kids a terrible, misguided, poorly thought out deal.  We told them if they all made straight A’s at semester, we’d get a puppy.  They have been begging for a dog for YEARS and finally we thought we’d consider it.

First of all this deal was awful, because everyone wanted a puppy except for me.  All of my kids have high IQs and were motivated very much by a puppy.  So bad result #1, they get straight As, earn a puppy, and leave me to care for it while they are at school.  (Which would be fine for a few weeks, but long term would be very stressful for me.)

img_3618

Bad result #2.  My daughter with learning disabilities is working her tail off for a puppy and earning straight Cs.  It’s the best she can do with the mis-wiring she has in her brain, even though her IQ puts her in the gifted range.  It is possible that everyone will earn the puppy except for her, and there’s not one thing she can do about it.   According to our agreement, she could blow the puppy deal for the whole family and bear the guilt and shame on top of everything else she’s dealing with.

img_3619

We either get a puppy—bad, or don’t get a puppy—BAD!  This is why I should THINK before making stupid deals with my kids.  Good Parenting 101:  Give your kids choices when either option is a win.  There was no possibility of a winner here.

I can’t tell you how many hours I laid awake thinking about this terrible situation and how to fix it and stay consistent with our promises.  I knew I had to get an animal in our house some way that would negate the deal and make this ok.  To make the situation a little more challenging, my special girl has on-going medical expenses that I need to save an extra $200 a month for.  With our new budget, pet food and vet bills aren’t a possibility.  Gah!  What was I thinking?

img_3631

I went to the local animal shelter website just to see what foster care was all about.  Turns out it’s amazing.  Our shelter only fosters infant animals or high medical need animals, and it’s usually a 1-3 week commitment until adoption. They provide all the medical care, food, and accessories.  We provide the love.  Since we aren’t trained properly for high medical needs, we’re on the infant only list.  I filled out my application one night and the next morning, got a call to come pick up a litter of kittens.  Kittens!!!!!

img_3630

Abandoned infant animals are a little challenging.  There might be fleas to combat, toilet training, and minor health challenges like loose stools from abrupt diet changes.  But oh my!  They are so cute and snuggly and fluffy and adorable.  It’s so worth it.

img_3624

These kittens will be available for adoption at some point and prospective parents might meet them at our home.  When they are adopted, we’ll be available to foster someone else.  It might be more kittens, puppies or even a rabbit.  I can handle the care for a few weeks and take a break when necessary. The kids help out when they are home and have a lot of the benefits of pet ownership without the long term commitment.  Now that’s a win-win.