Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Month in Meals

People often ask me how I manage to go grocery shopping only once a month. To me it really isn't hard, since I'm already keeping track of schedules anyway, and now that I'm closing out my third full year of monthly meal planning, I thought I'd share my process. I actually really enjoy it, but I will share a few things: some months are easier than others, my family is on the road a lot so I often go for convenience, I don't cook a ton of food from scratch, and we eat a lot of the same meals over and over from month to month.

I start by pulling out my magnetic calendar. This stays on the fridge all month long. I plan my meals around pay day, not the beginning of the month, because that's when I do my grocery shopping.

1. Starting with a blank calendar, I fill in the dates, as well as going through my Google calendar and marking any known conflicts - nights I know we won't be home for dinner or we might need something fast (my family's favorites include Ramen noodles, Mac & Cheese, frozen pizza, pot pies, and Lean Pockets). I also mark off most Sundays because for lunch we eat with my in-laws for Sunday dinner, and at night we usually do some sort of "fend for yourself" (but not really, my kids are little, after all!) type of popcorn or sandwiches.

2. For the remaining dates I fill in as many meals as I can think of. This usually consists of the basics like spaghetti, soup, pancakes, tacos, etc.

3. Next I make a running grocery list of all the ingredients we will need for the meals I listed, and then start adding in the regular items: bread, milk, cheese, lunch meat, applesauce, cereal, etc. and check with husband on less regular items like dog food, dish washer soap, laundry detergent, and so on.

4. Because I'm super anal, I write down the approximate cost of each item on my list so that I have an idea of where I'm at with my budget and how much I'll be spending before I even walk in the door.

5. Some months I just go to Wal-Mart, some months I go to Hy-Vee, and once in a very great while, I will hit Hy-Vee, Fareway, AND Wal-Mart.

1. I do one MAJOR grocery trip, but I do sometimes have to make a run for things like milk or fresh produce.

2. When I do buy a lot of fresh produce (like if there is a sale) I try to put those meals toward the beginning of our meal plan so I can use them up before they go bad.

3. You spend more money when you take your kids or your husband with you!

Some Changes for February:
1. This month was the first month I tried doing my grocery list online/on my phone - I wasn't a fan. I'll probably go back to my notebook paper.

2. This month I wanted to do some frozen meals because our "making" experience for February is going to be cooking, and also to try to get some better quality/variety meals than frozen pizza. I found some great pins on Pinterest with meals that sounded good. I'll follow up on that one later!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Our CSI and MOA Experience

This weekend was our "field trip" experience for January, where I planned for us to kill two birds with one stone. I met up with an amazing group of Minnesota educators and we took the kids on a great family trip (minus the baby this time).

We started at The Melting Pot in Minneapolis where the kids enjoyed their (and my) first fondue experience. They sat with @keehner87 while I sat with my Minnesota EduVoxer group. Since my word for 2015 was experiences, this was a great way to kick off the year. The Melting Pot actually had a fairy themed event going on for kids with crowns, a parade, and special certificates for the kids to enjoy during the day. It was great!

While I was busy networking and stayed behind, @keehner87 took the kids on the train from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America - this is a GREAT, CHEAP way to travel! It was about $5 for all three of them, total, and since the kids had never been on a real train (other than the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad ride), it was another fun "first" - A asked if we can please go back to take me on the train.

At the mall @keehner87 and the kids visited the life size Barbie car, the Lego store, and then Marbles: The Brain Store. They literally spent over an hour in the store playing with and looking at all the different toys and gifts they had in the store. They tried the catapult, the Osmo games, the Spheros, some math games, a marble run, magnets, and so many more I can't even list them all. We found great items at all prices, and even @keehner87 walked away saying he could have easily spent hundreds of dollars in there for not just our kids, but for his classroom. If you haven't been, or haven't checked out their site, I highly recommend it. What an awesome store with FUN learning experiences for kids AND adults. We will for sure be doing some upcoming birthday shopping there.

Once I joined them, we headed over to the CSI Experience. A few years ago @keehner87 and I had done this at the MGM in Las Vegas, and I decided it would be a great first field trip - something you can't do just anywhere, with an opportunity to learn a little about forensic science. We studied the crime scene, analyzed DNA, compared tire treads, and solved the crime (a drug overdose). For a younger audience this might be a little graphic, but we had a conversation with the kids ahead of time about how it was all just props and make believe so that people could learn about being a CSI. We also chose one of the less graphic of the three scenarios they offered.

What did we do after that? Oh yeah, we spent another half an hour in The Brain Store so they could show me all of their favorite discoveries. Fun day overall, but this store was by far the highlight for them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My hands smell like play-doh...

There are some things you can count on as a parent: stepping on legos (and trying not to curse in front of your children when you do so), getting covered in someone else's bodily fluids at one point or another (I've been peed on, puked on, spit up on...), sweet kisses, and that weird salty smell of play-doh on your hands.

That was me today as my older two kids and I made our own dough - conductive dough and insulating dough so we could play with a Squishy Circuits kit I ordered over a year ago. As part of my attempt to be a more hands on mommy, balancing my kids' sports lives with play, learning, and family time, we finally pulled the kit out of the cupboard in our maker space and got to work!

First we raided my mom's house for cream of tartar. I *definitely* do not cook enough to have this on hand - weird ingredient that makes me think of fish, but apparently you use it in biscuits? When we realized that we had everything we needed, and with a sweet smile from my oldest, we just ended up doing our whole experiment at her house.

After we got our dough made, it was time to get out the kit. The conductive dough was cooked on the stove, that was easy enough, but the insulating dough took two attempts. In his blog, A called me out on not reading the directions before I threw the ingredients together! Let me tell you, the amount I know about circuits is not even enough to write a blog post about. LUCKILY, I only needed to know enough to explain the basics to my kids. The University of St. Thomas gives some excellent project ideas and lesson plans. And of course, there's always Pinterest! Thank you Pinterest gods for having tons of pictures of projects that I could show my kids to inspire their creativity!

 I thought both R and A did a great job in their blogs of explaining what we did and how some of the parts worked. Of course we'll keep learning more with time, but it was a great first time out, and a fun way to spend the 2nd half of the Cowboys/Packers game while we waited for the Colts to play! My hands still smell, even after several washings, but the actual circuitry combined with the recap and one-on-one time while we blogged about it later were well worth it! I started to wonder how long it would be before we got the kit back out again, but now that the dough is made the kids don't really need me again until it dries out. They are perfectly capable of experimenting and building with the dough and LEDs. Can't wait to see what they'll create next!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Handling a Mini Meltdown

I sort of mentioned that Bug had a rough night at his meet a week ago. This week he still seemed to be having anxiety about it. He didn't want to wrestle anymore. He didn't want to practice. He didn't want to go to tournaments. When we talked about it Thursday he was on the verge of tears.

I hate to see my children upset, and I definitely do not want to add stress to their lives, but I do believe in a healthy level of pushing your child, so here's how we handled it.

1. I gave him time to walk away from our conversation and calm down. There was no reason he needed to be worked up into a panic about it. Giving him 15 minutes to walk away and calm down did wonders.

2. We let him know that he did NOT have to do anymore tournaments, but quitting the team was not an option - he would still go to practice. We explained that once you make a commitment to a team you cannot just walk away and leave them hanging. Now obviously, youth wrestling is a fairly individual sport. Our club doesn't require you to go to any of the tournaments and it's pretty low stress (I'm sure others are structured differently). However, we didn't want to set the precedent that he could quit a team, and beyond that, we *really* didn't want to set a precedent that when you have a rough night the answer is to walk away.

3. After he accepted that he would still be going to practice and didn't have to do any tournaments, we offered to find him some meets where the groupings were done more by skill level than age. By the time kids are in A's age and weight group, many have been wrestling for 3-4 years, and he's on the low end of many age groups. As a beginner AND a perfectionist, it can be a lot to handle. He thought he would like to try a tournament where he was in a group with kids who were closer to his level.

The first meet we found is next weekend, so we'll see if the new plan works!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Gym Mom in January: Squishy Circuits, CSI, and Doggie Designs

Here's what we've got in store this month!

Our field trip will be to the Mall of America where we will visit the CSI Experience, along with dinner with a GREAT group of Minnesota educators that I connect with on Voxer at The Melting Pot in Minneapolis.

We'll be learning about circuits using Squishy Circuits and conductive dough.

Our making and service project will be combined, as the kids learn how to sew in order to make items to donate to animal shelters.

We'll also have a full month of gymnastics practice and wrestling meets!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Parents

So Buggy had his second wrestling meet (my first) last night.

I'm going to preface the rest of this by saying that I am far from a perfect parent. In fact, I yelled at my daughter yesterday for eating cookies when she had an upset stomach and had to apologize to her for my poor behavior. So I am by no means passing judgment on the following scenario, just sharing my own realization.

Parent 1:
Bug had a rough night, and was stressed out before he even stepped onto the mat. That in itself was enough to deal with. However, as his first match went on, I noticed from the bleachers that just kept crying. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was wrong. He seemed to sob through the whole match, even though he was winning. I went over after the match (which he won), and hugged him and told him how proud I was. After the tournament I had a chance to talk to my husband, who had been on the sidelines, and I asked what was wrong. Bug was crying because his opponent's father was screaming at his own son, and Buggy thought it was my husband yelling at him. He could not understand why he was being yelled at in such a way. It wasn't until later that my husband was able to explain to him that it had nothing to do with him.

Parent 2:
After his second match, in which he was (fairly quickly) pinned, his opponent came over and shook both Bug's hand and my husband's hand before returning to his own family. I was beyond impressed with the child's maturity and demonstration of sportsmanship. That is an incredible value to be instilling in a 2nd grader!

Again, I'm not trying to place any sort of judgment in the first scenario. For one, I'm not perfect, and two, the child of the father who was doing the yelling was not nearly as affected as Bug, so it is entirely possible that Bug was upset purely based on his perception of the yelling. It's loud in those gyms, maybe the father was just trying to be heard and coach his son.

However, it really made me think about the type of sports parent I want to be. I want my kids to work hard, to do their best, and of course, to win. But those values that transcend the sport are so incredibly important, and I want to make sure I am modeling and coaching those just as much as, if not more than, the athletic skills themselves.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Year of the Mom

The Dilemma:

It seems as though, throughout history, we go through this cycle; a battle, as women. You stay at home with your kids and you're "just a stay-at-home-mom." You work hard on your career? You must be neglecting your kids. You don't put your children in organized activities? They are missing out on valuable opportunities and life skills. You put your kids in too many activities? You're a "crazy soccer mom."

The Realization:

It's tough, as a woman, to balance these roles. It's tough as a parent period - if you are one, you know what I mean. It's hard enough to raise your children and hope you're not going to screw them up without everyone else judging the choices you make. So this year, I'm going to share my choices with you. Right? Wrong? We'll find out. I'd like to think that I make the choices that are right for my family, though they may not be right for yours.

The Declaration:

Here we go: I am officially declaring 2015 the year of the mom!

I love being a gym mom. I love seeing them set and accomplish goals, supporting them through good times AND bad, and I even love driving all over the state! But this year, I want to share the journey of goal setting, support, and growth beyond the gym, in addition to continuing to share my in-the-gym experiences. I spent a lot of time this fall trying to figure out what was most important to me in raising my children, and besides the obvious answer of "values," it really came down to experiences. Chances for them to learn new things, try new things, and grow as individuals.

I'm going to be up front about the fact that I have a full-time job, and am working really hard to balance time between work, kids, husband, and myself - I get that this won't be an easy journey, but that's what makes it fun, right? Or at least a place for me to grow, along with my kiddos.

The Plan:

Each month I want to make a conscious effort to embrace my kids' interests, passions, and expose them to some new things along the way. The categories I chose were:

  • Field Trip - We'll take a trip as a family to a location that we don't normally visit - new places or old favorites. 
  • Learning - We'll take some time to learn about that interests them academically. 
  • Making - Time for hands-on activities!
  • Service - Here I wanted to focus on doing something good for others. 

Stay tuned for what we have planned for January!

A Gym Mom's 2014: By the Numbers

2014 was a year of many firsts for our family in the world of competitive sports.

In January, R joined the competitive gymnastics team at her gym.

  • Starting a new practice schedule of 3 days/week means we did over 15,000 miles for practice this year!  
  • Over 500 hours of practice

In June, we attended our first out of state (gymnastics) camp.

  • 6 days in Oklahoma with 10 gymnasts!
  • Another 1200+ miles!

In July, A competed at the Iowa Games in Ames, Iowa.

  • 3 family practices (in addition to other practices with his dad) at the Northeast Hamilton school track
  • 4 total races
  • 1 gold medal (and a bronze)
  • 800 total meters

In September, R kicked off her competitive season.

  • 9 meets
  • 11 amazing girls on the Level 3 team
  • 6+ points between her first meet all-around score and her last meet all-around score

In December, A joined a youth wrestling club and had his first tournament.

  • 100+ boys
  • 3 rounds, 4 minutes per match, 3 matches
  • 12 minutes to a 2nd place trophy in his very first meet!

We can't wait to see what 2015 has in store!