Monday, December 30, 2013

Plan To Eat

As always, I am looking for a way to simplify mealtime.  I would also like a way to eat more good food and less junk.  Add to that the need to cut the grocery budget and it is a tall order.  I found Plan to Eat during a Black Friday sale.  I decide to give it a try.   I have spend the last month loading recipes into my recipe book online and will start using the planner in January.  It even creates a grocery list!  So far it is super easy.  I am looking forward to using it! 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

May the blessing of this season be with you and your family.  Here is to you and yours!  Baking a cake with the kids tonight to celebrate the world's greatest gift!

Happy birthday Jesus!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Cute and Easy Baby Jesus Craft

Here is No Sew Christmas Craft so easy even I can do it.  I love Lacy at Catholic Icing.  I have her preschool ABC curriculum and the Mass Books too.  Her ideas are so cute and easy even This Mom can find time (and not have to be too crafty!).

Check her out!  She has stuff for the entire year!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cleaning the Dryer Vent

My dryer was not getting the clothes dry in one cycle.  Sometimes not even two.  I clean the dryer vent after each load, but I had never cleaned the vent in the back.

Here is how:

My dryer works better now!  You might want to try yours.


Thursday, December 12, 2013


I have typically used this blog as a way to vent, plan, and document what is happening in our life as I have had the time to do it.  This post is not different.  I am overscheduled.  My whole family is.  I am tired.  I don't want to go anywhere or see anyone.  Not that holiday feeling for sure.  Add to that the bronchitis and sinus infection I have been walking around with for 12 days and I am done.  I say that all the time.  This overscheduling has led to grouchy kids, poor food choices, grouchy parents, a messy house and no fun.  I can't even enjoy what we are doing because I have the rest of the stuff hanging over my head.  Time with my husband??  Forget it.  We try, but it seems impossible.  A family meeting is coming soon.  During that we are going to set priorities and make plans for some fun.  My concern is that I see my kids falling into the same habits as their parents.  They sign up or volunteer for everything, they want to try everything, they are disorganized and they are stressed.  We have to make a change soon for everyone's good.  I know life with 4 kids is stressful, but we have not been doing anything to make it easier.  My return to work has caught up with all of us.  So over the holiday vacation, this family is going to do a little reset.  Plans to follow.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grocery Summary

I had planned to only spend $450 in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  I fell short by $189, but I did take a really look at how much we spend on food.  I still need to get better at the grocery budget.  It is on my list of things to tackle for the new year.  I have been trading convenience for budget. I have been buying groceries online at a local supermarket that I know is more expensive and I have not created my coupon binder (another new year project.).  How do you save money on groceries?  Is there a specific store?  Do you use coupons?  Any suggestions are appreciated.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thanksgiving Grocery Challenge

Our 1/4 beef was delivered.  Our freezer is stocked.  Between the stuff I preserved from our garden, the beef, the pork we have left, and my stockpile of frozen supermarket veggies and gluten free bread we are bursting at the seams.

Then there is our pantry.  Our local grocery store has had canned beans and veggies on sale recently, so I have several cases.  I also stocked up on condensed soups of varying varieties.  During Back to School time I used coupons and great sales to stock up on our favorite breakfast cereals, cake and brownie mixes, and dry pasta.

As I was fitting the last bit of beef in the freezer I decided, we have ENOUGH food for a while. So I am giving myself a challenge.  No "big" grocery shopping until Thanksgiving.  I am budgeting $450 from October 15-November 22.  This is all groceries - my Amazon stuff, my Market Day stuff, take out pizza night, and my biweekly produce delivery.  Keep in mind, I have a gluten free kid and his groceries are expensive which is why I budgeted $75 a week instead of $50.

My plan for the extra is holiday shopping!  Check back and see how I do.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This Mom Recommends an Online Health Coach

I have been a follower of Angelle Batten since Kid #1 was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  She has practical, useful advise that is easy to use.  I even took a few of her classes.  She is a busy mom of 3, so her advise is also realistic and not judgey.

Check her out at!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cooking Ahead weekends

Since we are all so busy, I have taken it upon myself to use Saturday and Sunday mornings to Cook Ahead for the week.

Here is what I am doing this weekend:
  • Boiled a dozen eggs
  • Baked a 5 lb of potatoes
  • Cooked 2 chickens in the crock pot
  • Boiled a box of pasta (regular and gluten free)
  • Made blueberry muffins (with freshly frozen blueberries)
  •  Browned 4 lbs of ground beef and made taco meat to freeze

It does take some pressure off the week and gives the kids some quick grab items.

What are your favorite Make Ahead items?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall Meal Planning

This school year started with us running.  #1 to football and Boy Scouts, #2 to horseback riding, #3 to hockey and swimming and #4 to Baby Ballerinas.  Also factor in religious education and school work, WOW!

Our meals have become a victim to my lack of planning.  Kid #3, the "planner" of the family has helped me come up with a plan.  It has sort of gone with way before the plan, but knowing what's for dinner before dinner really does help.

Monday is Hodgepodge day.  We eat the weekend leftovers.
Tuesday is call crock pot day. (Or soup for dinner)
Wednesday is breakfast for dinner day.
Thursday is our busiest night and we have pizza.
Friday is "real dinner' night.  I try to cook a real dinner.
Saturday is restaurant night. (Sometimes we switch Friday and Saturday)
Sunday is sit down dinner night.

The kids know what day it is and it cuts down on the "I don't want..." *Cuts down, does not eliminate!

What is for dinner at your house????

Saturday, September 21, 2013

This Mom Recommends...

I love this book.  I am exclusively packing lunches right now and this has some great ideas to get you out of the PB&J rut.  If you are a lunch packer and already running short on ideas, this mom recommends this book!

Friday, September 20, 2013

No New Backpack

#4 Goes to Preschool
I have a confession to make.  I do not buy my kids new backpacks every year, or lunchboxes, or pencil boxes.  Don't get me wrong, I totally get caught up in the displays for back to school.  I love a 25 cent box of crayons as much as the next gal, but a few years I learned to resist the temptation.
#1 is in sixth grade.
I buy good stuff from good companies and it lasts.  I shop the sales and use a coupon, but mostly I do spend a little more and expect to get a couple of years out of it.  No one, except #4, got a backpack.  Only #3 got a lunch pail.  Hers fell apart after 2 years, but #2's lunch pail is on year 3 and #1 has had his stuff for 2.  They know we clean the stuff up at the end of the year and evaluate it.  If it is good, we will reuse.  If it is not, we wait until back to school sales and buy new.
#2 and #3 in third and second grades.
  It just seemed so wasteful to get a new everything just because, so we don't.  My kids haven't minded and actually appreciate the new stuff a little more (I think.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Going (Gone) Back to School for This Mom

I recently finished a first graduate level course since motherhood.  Not as easy as it was before kids.  I was so nervous.  So much has changed in 11 years, but when I got back to campus I felt good.  I have 6 more classes to complete my degree and I will take 2 classes a semester for the next 3.  By June I should be finished.

To be honest, it is the first real thing I have done for myself since motherhood.  It seemed weird at first to spend the time and money on me.  But honestly, I am enjoying it - even the late night procrastination!  I think it is good for the kids to see me working towards a goal too.  I know the kids are watching.  They are asking questions and all wanted to see my report card!

I got an A!  GPA is 3.72 so far.  This mom is working her rear off!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lowe's Build and Grow

We have tried to find things to do this summer that are fun and inexpensive.  

We have attended some Lowe's Build and Grow workshops.  

The kids get a cool project, patch and apron.  

The most recent one was the Monster's University Box.  

There are two Toy Story projects scheduled in July.  We had a lot of fun and it was free!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Real Garden Update

Since I wrote about the big harvest, I thought I’d give an overall garden update.  Things are growing well.  The tomatoes, peppers and squash are getting huge.  We will have green and yellow beans too.  I have already trimmed the cilantro.

I also have a really cute helper!

I am beginning to read about canning and preserving so that we don’t waste any thing. I am reading about drying herbs and freezing beans.  Should be fun!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fairy Garden Update

A new house appeared in the Fairy Garden.
A garden remodel is in order!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Water Fun and Fear

This summer I have put my foot down about learning to swim.  My kids don’t like water.  I jokingly say that my kids sink like rocks.  They are not water babies.  They have had swimming lessons before and they have not enjoyed them.  Kid #3 has spent many a lesson clutching the side and screaming.  For a long time I didn’t push it, why make them miserable if we didn’t have to?  We have a boat and it is important to me that my kids are safe around water. 

This summer I have pushed the issue and signed Kid #1 and #3 for swimming lessons.  (Kid #2 is a special case.)  Kid #1 is doing well.  He has gained confidence and has moved up 2 levels in a week.  Kid #3 is another story.  She is scared.  She is nervous.  She is trying. 

Athletic things come easy for Kid #3. She plays hockey, basketball and softball.  She is the fastest runner in her class.  Struggling to do something physical is new to her.  It is hard - hard for her and hard to watch.  We are going to keep trying.  Has anyone had a reluctant swimmer?  Any ideas we can use?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Don't Feel Sorry For Him

On a raining day I was waiting in the gymnasium of one of our schools waiting for Kid #1 to finish basketball camp.  Another mom approached me and said, “I feel so sorry for Kid #1.  After playing basketball for 3 hours he has to ride his bike home.”

And he does, he rides his bike all over town.  He rides to football camp, swimming lessons, the library, uptown to do his Boy Scout service hours, and lots of other places.  He seems to like it.  I let his sister ride along sometimes.  He carries a backpack with his wallet and a cell phone.

Truth is, while I am at work, they don’t have a choice.  Beyond that it is important for his independence.  He will be 11 this summer.  He has had bicycle training.  He wears a helmet.   We discuss approved routes. 

I explained this (sort of) to the mom with the worry, but I walked away feeling bad.  Should I feel bad that I am giving my son some independence?  What do you let your kids do that their friends don’t?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Therapy

Recently we have been facing some difficult decisions regarding Kid #2 and her disabilities.  She is growing and moving around is getting trickier.  She can walk some, but primarily uses a wheelchair at school and out and about.  A decision needs to me made on how she will continue to ambulate.  There are different opinions, different options, and different doctors.

For 5 weeks this summer, we will spend 15 hours a week at the hospital in an intensive summer therapy program.  The goals are to get her on her feet, standing and walking, sitting and standing, brushing her teeth, feeding herself, getting dressed and moving her chair.

She works so hard.  She does so well – all with a smile on her face.  I can’t believe how much she does.  When they bring her out she looks exhausted.  She falls asleep in the car on the way home.  We are so lucky to live so close with to the best children’s hospital in the country.  I am blessed to have a kid that works so hard.  She is a champ!!!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The First Harvest

Radishes…here is a secret, I really don’t like radishes.  But these are the most beautiful radishes I have ever seen (I didn’t taste them)!  This is the first thing we have harvested from the garden.  The kids were so excited.  My husband likes radishes, so does Kid #1.  The advantage of growing these is that Kids #2-4 all tried them as well, but they all inherited their mother’s taste for radishes.  Even though we are not radish lovers, you should see the excitement when we pull more radishes.  Kid #3 even gave her grandpa radishes as a Father’s Day gift.

There is a certain amount of pride in growing food.  I am really beginning to understand that.  My husband, the hunter, has talked about the pride he feels when the family eats food from one of his hunts.  I thought it was kind of weird, but I get it now.  I get the pride in farming, feeding my family and the pride of hard work.  It has been a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Plans

We have been asking the kids what they want to do this summer and on any day I get a wide variety of answers.  We are doing a lot: Sports and scout camps for #1, softball and swimming for #3, horseback riding and therapy for #2, baby ballet and story time at the library for #4.  But I kept asking, what do you all REALLY want to do this summer?  So finally, we created a bit of a list.  I think I may have started something now, they keep adding to it.

Here is the list:
  • Ice Cream for dinner
  • Sleep outside as a family
  • Trip to the zoo
  • Trip to the farm
  • Berry picking
  • Baking together
  • Going fishing
  • Sign up for library reading
  • Go to the movies
  • Special time with just ONE kid and mom and dad
  • Picnic in the park
And then there are some more specific:
  • Advance for a certain rank in Boy Scouts (I forget which one)
  • Set reading goals
  • Move up 2 levels in swimming
  •  Hit a softball from a machine 
  • Publish a weekly comic
Even though I am working, I still love the possibilities of summer break for the kids and for us.  What are your plans for summer?


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Bedtime Reading

So, I have been reading chapter books to the girls at bedtime.  We are on a Little House on the Prairie kick.  Our latest:

What are you reading at bedtime?


Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Family by Kid #3

I think we look great!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our Boy Scout

Our son became a Boy Scout this spring.  He is so proud!  I am too.  This is kid driven, encourages him to take charge and be responsible for himself.  It has also sent him away overnight on his own which has been tough, but I am dealing with it! 


Friday, June 14, 2013

My Baseball/Softball Girls

Softball for Kid #3 and Challenger League Baseball for #2.  Love these girlies!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fairy Garden

There is a Fairy Garden where kid #2 rides horses.  We stop at it every week  My girls love it.  With all the gardening being done around here, we decided to make one ourselves.

So here it is!

We started it with things we had at home: a small Mary statue, 2 play horses, and some English Lavender left over from the herb garden.

Most of all, the girls and I had fun.  I think some fairies will come visit, and maybe leave a few surprises!


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Garden

So, last summer our town was hit by a tornado.  We suffered some damage (a tree fell on our house) and we lost a lot of stuff out of the yard (grills, lawn furniture and our play structure). 

This left us with some open room in our backyard, so we decided to plant a vegetable garden.

So we had someone with a big tractor come turn the land over in the area where we wanted the garden.  Then my husband put up a fence and got seeds.  We also got some plants.  We even have a raised herb garden. 

I hope we have a good harvest.  We are novices at this.  What are some of your best tips?

Look for updates!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chick-Fil-A Leadercast

On Friday, May 10 I attended a simulcast of a leadership conference.  I hoped it would give me a tip or two that would help me in my job.  I was wrong...

I got tons of tips, inspiration, motivation, goals to set, plans to make, priorities to change and not just at work - this conference helped me in all parts of my life!  It was an experience I have never had before. The date for next year's event is already set (May 9, 2014).  I already have it on my calendar.  You should too!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This Mom Recommends...

...the coolest idea to keep your kids occupied this summer.  I follow A Natural Nester, both the blog and the facebook page.  Well, she has a great idea - At Home Summer Nature Camp!  You can preorder now, but it will be released May 20.  There are 8 weeks of activities for kids ages 5-11 to do.  The perfect answer to the "I'm bored" comment.  Also goes with one of my goals, unplugging for the summer(well, not totally).  The "counselors" are some of my other favorite bloggers:
Sarah of Imagine Childhood ~ Kara of Simple Kids
Suz of Slow Family Online ~ Ashley of Small Measure
Valarie of Jump Into a Book ~ Heather of Shivaya Naturals
Cerys of Nature and Play ~ Linda of Natural Suburbia
Leah of Skill It ~ Amy of Mama Scout 
Stephanie of Wellness By Design 

Debi of Go Explore Nature ~
Shawn of Awesomely Awake 
Erin of Exhale. Return to Center and More!

I can't wait to get my hands on this!  $39.99 is all you pay for an organized, fun way to engage your kids this summer.  Check it out!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This Mom Recommends - Savings Challenge

As I mentioned before I am participating in the Savings Challenge at  So far the "Family Christmas Fund" is up to $120 ($136 this week).  You can start with week 1 now and end this time next year or catch up to $136 (week 16) and add $17 dollars next week.  This is a fun family challenge and a great math problem!  How do you save money?


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Letting them grow up!

Kid #1 is almost 11.  I think of all the things I did at almost 11.  Riding bikes to a friends house, walking to the library.  Overnights in my friends backyard in a tent. Sleep away camps.

It gives me a sad feeling when I think of my "baby" being out on his own.  But I realize there is nothing I can do about.  Well, I could keep him in the house for the rest of his life, but that hardly seems right.  He is taller than me, his feet are bigger than mine, but he is my baby.

So this is the summer that I will let him go away to camp, ride his bike to activities in town and spread his wings a bit.  He will be a 6th grader and he is pretty responsible, but I don't have to like it!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Freezer Cooking

I have been on an never ending quest to make my life easier.  I meal plan, try and get the family on a schedule and am decluttering like a wild woman.  (Easter Seals got a huge donation last week!)  Sometimes, we all get up late or I underestimate how long it will take to get from here to there and I get stuck!  I have been freezer cooking to help with those crazy times and resist the urge to order pizza or drive through.  I was inspired by Jessica Fisher's book, Not Your Mother's Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook.  There are some many more options than meatloaf.  We will be eating "real food" from the freezer.

Over the weekend I made and froze 2 patches of muffins, taco meat and breakfast cookies.  I also made homemade granola, smoothies and sliced vegetables.  I am also working on pasta sauce and shredded beef filling.  Once I get in the swing it is easy.  My plan is to spend some time every weekend prepping. Baked goods one weekend, breakfasts on another, lunch stuff, then dinner entrees.  Meal time has the potential to be a disaster here, we are all tired, hungry and out of ideas.

What are some of your meal time tips?   Share them here please, I'd love to hear.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Cleaning - Inside and Out

I have this week off and as you can imagine I have a huge "To Do" list.  It is full of the basics: decluttering, cleaning out closets, and deep cleaning. In addition, I am using this week to refocus my efforts on our budget, our faith and our diet.

I have spent some time looking around and we have too much.  The kids and I are going to make some hard choices in the basement.  The debate is whether to wait for a May yard sale or donate now.  I am also posting some on Craigslist and taking some to the children's resale shop.  We will spend some time each morning on a room (or two) until we have the whole house done.

I have energized my Pampered Chef business and I have 4 parties this month!  I need to get those items organized and ready to go.  It is my hope that this will supplement our income a bit and pay for the "extras" like summer camps for the kids. I also started a savings plan from Getting Freedom From Debt.  This will help with the expenses of the Christmas holiday.  I also will be calling around for the best price on insurance and dropping our cable.  We need to start "living like no one else".  I have clipped and organized a ton of coupons.  I am going to try and cut the grocery bill by $150 or so.

I will also be updating our family calendar and will be scheduling time for faith and church together as a family.  With all of our activities, this has become more difficult that I expected.  I also need to get over not having "the right" clothes to wear to mass.  We have stayed home because someone had grown out of their church shoes.

Finally, I will be cleaning and organizing the pantries this week.  Again, our schedules have had us relying on convenience which is not always healthy.  In addition, meal time has been stressful and unplanned. I need to get a meal plan and STICK WITH IT.  One day of forgetting to put something in the crock pot can totally ruin the night.

Well, I have designated 9:00am as the time we all get to work and it has arrived.  I will be posting our progress.  Wish me luck!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Our New Favorite Energy Bars and A Giveaway

This is the second time I have made these homemade Energy Bars.  We have made a few changes to the recipe (no coconut and gluten free rice cereal and oats).  We also added a handful (a scientific measurement) of chocolate chips.  My kids were more inclined to eat them because they helped make them.  #1 and #3 almost did it all by themselves.

We got the recipe from Chop Chop Magazine.  ChopChop’s mission is to inspire kids to cook real food with their families. Our vision is to reduce childhood obesity. ChopChop is published by ChopChopKids, Inc., a nonprofit corporation.  We pick it up for free at our dentist's and doctor's office, but you can also subscribe for $14.95 a year/ for 4 issues.  We have enjoyed a few recipes.  The kids like them because they can make them.  I like them because they are healthy and they eat them.

I am giving away a one year subscription to Chop Chop.  Here is how to enter:

1. Enter a comment below on your favorite kid friendly recipe.
2. Like my Facebook page (and leave a comment here to let me know you did).  Search What This Mom Thinks!   If I get to 100 likes on my Facebook page I will give away 2 subscriptions.
3. Follow me on twitter @thismomthinks.  (Leave a comment to let me know you did!)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This mom recommends...

Mini KitsS.W. Basics of Brooklyn!

This is an all natural skin care line.  I bought a Full Mini Kit and I love it.  My skin feels smooth, fresh and hydrated.  I love that there are only a few (5) ingredients and I can pronounce them.  I will be ordering the full sized product when I run out.  I also got the Flight of Lip Balms.  They are wonderful and they come in a cool tin.  Excellent gift idea for the natural loving friends or yourself.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meal Planning

Meal planning is something I know I need to do.  I know it will make shopping easier, budgeting easier, eliminate the chaos when I get home, and help us eat healthier.  I have not done as good of a job at it as I want to.  I have developed a rut.  We eat the same things over and over.  We have been eating on the fly (garbage) and our food budget is out of wack.  So I am rededicating myself to meal planning.  I have a skeleton plan and will fill in the details each week.

Here is the plan:

Monday: Sandwiches/Weekend Leftovers
Tuesday: Breakfast for dinner
Wednesday: Crock pot dinner
Thursday: Chicken
Friday: $40 for takeout
Saturday: Pasta/Mexican
Sunday: Big dinner and meal planning cooking

I will develop the menu around these themes.  I have worked on this for the other meals as well.  The kids come to expect it and there are is less fuss.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bundle of the Week

I wanted to pass along an awesome deal for anyone this goals to prioritize for 2013.  This sale ends January 7.  This is from Bundle of the Week.  There are 5 ebooks for $7.40.

The titles are Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time by Stephanie Langford, Simplify by Joshua Becker, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine, The 2013 Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner by Susan Heid, and One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider.

All good reads.  Check it out.