Friday, September 12, 2014

Family Meals

Slate recently published a piece on an academic study about family meals. It has long been shown that family meals make a tremendous impact on families. Families who regularly eat dinner together usually have kids who are less likely to do drugs, drink alcohol, and smoke. Some researchers decided to study family dinners and the impact on the women who typically prepare these dinners. They concluded that for poor women, making dinner is too difficult, costly, and doesn't yield results. I wanted to throw something at my screen when I read the study, because I think the researchers missed the whole point of the family dinner.

Family mealtime is awesome--not because of the food--but because it is a time for the family to bond and reconnect. Maybe the reason families who regularly have family dinner together have such good results is that they already have strong connections and the mealtime is just one piece of the puzzle. If a family is in crisis--particularly one that is in deep poverty and is homeless or transient--then family mealtime probably isn't making a big difference for them. Their children are more likely to be exposed to drugs, alcohol, and smoking. 

The authors also concluded that cooking well is too expensive and difficult to do. When I read studies like this, I wonder if the authors themselves have ever prepared a simple meal or actually know how to cook from scratch, or if they live off prepared foods or takeout. 

I have been cooking meals for 16 years for my family, mostly from scratch, and always on a tight budget. The only time in my life that my family could afford to eat out once a week or even once a month was while we lived in Saudi Arabia. I have to budget and plan what to purchase. Trust me, my budget isn't as high as you think it would cost to feed a family of 8. I purchase a lot of produce, inexpensive cuts of meat, and pantry staples. I don't buy crackers, chips, soda, candy, cookies, mixes, frozen meals, deli food, etc. I buy meat in bulk when it is on sale. I watch for sales, buying produce in season, when it is on sale. I buy frozen vegetables when they are a good price. My grocery store has a reduced price produce cart where they substantially reduce the price on produce that will go bad soon. For a long time, I had cheap pots and pans from Walmart and cheap knives from Walmart and Ikea. Heck, my favorite chopping knife is one we bought from Ikea for about $9. My dishes are inexpensive ones I bought at Walmart. We've been using them for years. I have seen sets of dishes at thrift stores and all kinds of great pots and pans and cooking utensils. Sure they are used, but if you clean them up, they usually work just fine. There are inexpensive hotplates you can purchase. If you are careful a few dollars does go a long way. Now, I'm not saying that any of this is easy, but it is possible, if you are willing to be creative, inventive, and careful. Libraries have loads of cookbooks with a lot of information about cooking. 

I learned to cook from my mother--the thriftiest and most skillful woman with money I have ever encountered. She paid for Christmas--with cash-mind you, from what you saved on her grocery budget every month. We ate well and were never hungry. She was careful and deliberate about what she prepared. The food was never elaborate, but it was healthy and plentiful. She fed us and saved money on an uncertain income. My dad owned a construction business and you don't get paid if you don't have a job that you are working. When you own your own business, you will go without if you need to pay your workers and money is tight.

And that was a rambly mess of ranting and raving (but I don't think it really matters because no one reads this anyway).  My point: learn to cook--it will save your life. Learn to budget and be thrifty.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Catching Up--This and That

When September began I determined to rededicate myself to my blog. I like to write and I frequently compose blog posts in my head. But the reality of sitting down and writing those posts just hasn't been happening for me. I wanted pictures to attach to my posts but that wasn't happening either. I have given up and since a post is better than no post, this will have to do. Plus, I'm not that great of a photographer anyway, so you're really not missing out.

Explore New York
For years I have wanted to visit some beautiful and historical sites in New York, but time and money, and well, all the million things busy moms have to do got in the way. Now that five of my children are at school leaving me at home alone with a 7-month old baby, I decided to act. I emailed a few friends with a proposal to meet once a month and explore something in New York. Several friends responded and I set up our first adventure.

On Friday, we visited Boscobel Gardens, a beautiful property on the banks of the Hudson River. The property has a historic reconstructed Manor home from 1810. We splurged on the guided tour of the house and it was well worth it. Learning about the manor's owner and family, along with details about the lifestyle of a wealthy family at the turn of the century was fascinating.

Following the tour we walked around the grounds. Boscobel has THE best view of the Hudson River I have ever seen. Whenever I see the Hudson River and spend time along its banks, I feel so blessed. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I am determined to enjoy it.

The best part of the whole adventure was spending time with friends. We talked and talked and it felt SO good. I am very grateful for good friends. I am so blessed that I could return to New York and pick up those friendships again.

My Cute Baby

My baby girl is seven months old now. She is cute and fun, chattering all day and on the go. Sometimes I feel rushed with my other responsibilities, but she reminds me to slow down and enjoy my time with her. My time with her feels especially poignant and sweet because she is most likely our last baby. My husband and I have spent a lot of time in prayer and discussion and feel that our family is complete. We aren't planning on doing anything permanent to achieve that end, but neither are we actively pursuing more children. Quite honestly, I feel enormously blessed that I have six children at all. Ten years ago, I was told that I might not be able to have more children. The fact that I went on to have three more babies is a miracle! And what miracles they are! The last three pregnancies each came with their own challenges. While I felt pretty good physically during two of them, I was very, very sick while pregnant with my fifth baby. I had bleeding for the first trimester with the last two babies. My fourth baby was very small and that was a constant worry during the entire pregnancy. I was unable to gain much weight during the last three pregnancies--about 12 pounds for each one, despite constant eating and consumption of fatty foods. And I suffered a pretty awful miscarriage at 13 weeks between my last two children. As I age, the complications will only continue. I want to be healthy and strong for the children I have. I know Heavenly Father has blessed me richly, giving me health and strength during my last three pregnancies, despite having lupus. I think the time has come for me to focus on new things.


I am the Education counselor in my ward's Relief Society Presidency which means that I coordinate lessons and teachers. Our first Sunday topics have focused on different facets of Self-reliance. A few months ago, I assigned a mother and daughter in our ward to teach about education. They taught their lesson two days ago and it was powerful. The mother recently completed the Pathway program, a program for online education provided through BYU-Idaho. It is an inspired program and one that I am so excited about! If you are someone who has longed to earn a degree, but hasn't had the time, means, or thought they lacked the ability to go to school, you need to check it out.

I personally have been blessed by the education and degree I received from BYU-Provo many years ago. Other than my husband and children, it is the thing I am most proud of. I know women bless their families when they receive education.

Sweet Scripture Study

Scripture study has been a challenge for our family. I had some inspiration recently about our family. We now study scriptures in the evening before bed and eat dessert. This is a big change for our family because we are now eating dessert every single night and studying the scriptures consistently. It is paying off though. My kids love it and we are seeing less bickering and chaos during scripture study.

Last night during FHE which we combined with scripture study, my baby was so cranky. When I passed out brownies to everyone, she lunged for her daddy's brownie and got a chunk of it. She immediately shoved the delicious bite into her mouth and instantly stopped crying. Yes, sweetheart, chocolate does make you feel better! And would you believe it, she was happy for the rest of the night? When we saw her with the brownie, we all burst out laughing. That was just as sweet as anything, laughing as a family and rejoicing in a cute moment.

Garden Bounty

I have been so neglectful of our garden. On Saturday, the family and I went out to salvage what we could. We ended with a far more generous yield than I had anticipated. We weeded quite a bit because it is still warm enough for the plants to grow. I anticipate picking more things soon.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Good Stuff

Sitting outside on our back lawn, around a little fire pit we built ourselves, roasting hotdogs and talking? That's the good stuff. Making s'mores and laughing-that's good stuff. Taking my teenage son to Barnes and Noble to get a couple of books-definitely good stuff. Listening to my oldest son tell me the thoughts in his head-taking me back to his toddler days of chattering all day long-the best stuff.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

The First Day of School 2014--in bits and pieces

- My oldest son was so anxious to get to his first day of high school that he had his dad drive him 20 minutes early. When they arrived at the school, he was confronted with a horde of Seniors welcoming the teachers to school. Unsure of what to do, he held back, but then pushed forward and went inside.

- The next two boys refused my offer to drive them to school and opted to take the bus. The youngest two also rejected my offer. The bus driver was a little shocked my youngest son climbed on the bus. He is so short that his little legs almost couldn't make that first step.

-The oldest boy came home after school charged and excited to run for an office in student government. My boy--my shyest and least likely to get engaged boy--running for student government. So excited for him-even if he doesn't get elected. Seems like he has found his place in our new town.

-My second son stayed at school for a meeting about soccer. Frankly, I am a little nervous for his coach. My boy is great--but there is that frightening energy that I have never seen anyone successfully channel.

-My third son beamed with happiness after his first day of middle school. Found some friends from last year and hopefully made some new ones. He managed to figure out moving between classes. I think it is gonna be a good year.

-My kindergartener popped off the bus sporting a homemade crown that said, "I ROCKED my first day of kindergarten." He face was split in a grin so wide he could have fit a whole slice of watermelon in it.

-My daughter was thrilled to reconnect with her BFF. She had a weird homework assignment that tested both of our creativity. I hate finding groups of things.

-I was gifted with a stack of forms to sign and fill out. The best part of it was when I had to figure out which child I had to sign the paper for. This is what happens when you have five children in school.

-My third son wanted to change instruments this year. On his own, he spoke to his band teacher about it. She said that she really needed him on his original instrument because he is a leader in his section. He was so proud telling me that "he is a leader". And he is--he truly has a gift for music.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Looking back-and how the past, present, and future always seem to intersect

Summer has gone by far too quickly. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was welcoming my kids home off the bus for summer shenanigans? How did we get here to stuffing back packs with brand-new pencils, unblemished notebooks, and a pantry full of lunch goodies? Tomorrow, it will be just the baby and I, hanging out. The last time it was just me and a baby was almost fifteen years ago when my husband was still in school. I found my days hard to manage then, so filled with diapers and nursing. I don't think I could have imagined my life as it is now with five kids in school and a baby at home.

So this last day before school has been filled with complete laziness for my kids. They lounged in front of the TV watching shows and playing Wii. I made sure all those backpacks were filled and caught up on neglected housework.

Seems like that is life--always changing but somehow staying the same. I repeat the same patterns over and over again. I must be getting old because I find myself transported to similar points in my past--when my oldest was getting that backpack ready for kindergarten in Sweden. It also pushes me towards the future when in five short years, my baby will step on the bus and my time with kids at home full-time comes to an end.

It goes by so fast. Not every moment is enjoyable. There seem to be a lot of painful moments, in fact. Thankfully, the sting fades and I don't have to cringe as I look back.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day 2014

Our last hurrah for the summer- Labor Day. We went to a beach near our home and spent a few hours there.

Water and the beach make me happy. There is just something about sitting on a blanket by the water and enjoying the sun. It takes me to a zen state as I watch my kids splashing in the water and digging in the sand. 

When I was a kid, my family owned a boat that we would take for rides around our local reservoir. I loved the rocking motion of the boat and the sensation of riding on water. Some of my happiest memories center around family outings on our boat.

I also loved to swim. We lived about 90 minutes from a natural mineral springs pool. At least a few times of the year, we would travel to the pool and spend the day there. I spent hours floating and living in a dream world of my own making.

I grew up in the mountains of Wyoming. The ocean and beaches were far away. I had only been to a beach a couple of times before I got married. When my family moved to Sweden, I used to take my boys to the beach as often as possible in the summer. The boys would dig in the sand for hours, splash in the water, and exhaust themselves. It was tough and exhausting to have three small boys at the same time, but those trips to the beach helped me relax and enjoy my work. 

It doesn't matter where I live in the world, I will always seek out water, sand, and sun for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. 


A month of posts

My September Goals

1) 10 Egypt scrapbook layouts
2) Finish June and July Project Life
3) Study women in the scriptures
    A) week 1: Old Testament women
    B) week 2: New Testament women
    C) week 3: Book of Mormon women
     D) week 4: Church History women
4) blog daily
5) Read A Town Like Alice
6) Organize study
7) Plan meals/budget
8) Start teaching piano to Brooke and Josef