Grocery Woes - Month 2

Well, Wasouf consumer spending this month was down in some areas, and up in others. Unlike last month, in April I kept track of all expenditures, instead of just groceries. Here's the breakdown:

Edible Groceries $460.23
Paper $2.49
HBA $163.53
Other $578.15
Restaurant $59.25
Gas $114.84

Okay, edible groceries are down 14.2% from last month, which was a personal goal of mine. I'd have liked it to be down a little more, but now we have more room for improvement next month. There is some solace that we took advantage of some great loss-leaders at Meijer and have some large, cheap cuts of meat stashed in the freezer.

Paper and HBA were also down as expected.

The "Other"catagory is a new one. This encompassed all of our miscellaneous purchases. The reason this is so high is that Yasar put quite a bit of money into getting the garden going. Between plants and peat moss, the garden this year has already put us behind around $100. Fingers crossed that it will produce at least that dollar amount of fresh tomatoes, cukes, radishes, carrots, and onions.

Also in the "Other" catagory was doctor's copays, some summer clothes, and gifts. And, hold on to your hats - we actually bought $140 worth of PAINT! Yes, everyone, we're finally getting rid of the boring white walls!

As for the "Gas" catagory, this was the one that made my eyes widen. I had no idea we spent so much on fuel, especially since we only live about 3 miles away from the business! Hopefully this will also remain steady for the month, with gas prices here currently at $3.69/gallon, and $4/gallon on the horizon, we are looking for ways to consolidate errands and conserve gas.

Goals for the month of May:

  • Seek out cheaper ways to "eat clean".
  • Grocery shop once per week, no more.
  • Take advantage of the beautiful summer season, picking berries and visiting the farmer's market.
  • Eat out no more than twice.

Oh, one more thing. As a bonus from a Living On A Dime purchase, I received an e-book from http://www.menuplanningcentral.com/. They have this novel idea to reduce grocery spending that we'll be trying this month. What this website advises is to write out a week's worth of meals your family enjoys (breakfast/lunch/dinner/2 snacks per day), detail the total ingredients needed, and go through your supplies to see what you already have. From there you make your shopping list. Yeah, I'm with you....DUHHHHH! But I've always been building meals off the grocery ads, and maybe this idea will make our trip cheaper, as well as reduce the overflowing pantry to which I'm genetically predisposed (chuckle here, you'd understand if you saw my parent's basement).

Wish me luck!


The Proverbs 31 Woman

It's been laid on my heart these last 2 weeks to be in the Word and studying Proverbs 31. I've been flustered of late with some recurring marital issues, and there is no better place to find help and encouragement than your Bible. So here's my thoughts on this passage.

First of all, this is a dialog from a mother to her son, King Lemuel, as is made evident in Proverbs 31:1. So it's a mom laying out for her son what would be desirable characteristics in her future daughter-in-law. What woman doesn't want the perfect wife for her little boy? For all the times I've read this passage, I never bothered to read the background, and I found that very interesting.

Verse 10 starts the actual description of the "Wife of Noble Character". Hmmm, noble character. What exactly does that mean? I think that it's Lemuel's mom's way of telling him to look beyond the superficial. Our culture today is so shallow, deifying appearances. It makes me wonder if this particular cultural flaw isn't something that has been a concern for many generations.

Verses 11 & 12 talk about how her husband has full confidence in her, that she will never bring him harm. How often do we see women today lift themselves up by pushng their husbands down? Have you watched a sitcom lately? We'll bent on portraying the men we married as buffoons, and we of course are far smarter than them and willingly use our superior intellect to degrade them.

Verses 13 to 19 expound on her industrious nature. She is wise in her business dealings, hard working, and ever on-the-move for her family. I think this is the place where the Word really tugs at me. I'm always pushing to live a cheaper life, and I always seem to fail.

Verse 20 highlights her compassion and charity. She sees the needs of others, empathizes, and assists.

Verses 21 to 24 discuss her clothing her family. I take "clothing" as a metaphor for caring. It's her job to care for her family, in the highest regard (scarlet and purple). And she does an amazing job with that.

The chapter goes on to talk about her speaking with wisdom (ladies, note that doesn't say anything about "nagging"). She isn't lazy. She's paying attention to everything that goes on in her home.

And I'd like to quote verses 28 and 29, because they really need no footnote. They need no clarification, and they're amazing just as they're written:

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

In my opinion, this is the best possible outcome any woman can experience. Your children appreciate you, and your husband is proud of you. Isn't that what we all truly crave? Positive attention? Well, God tells us right here how to get the feedback we all desire.

Not saying this is easy, the Wife of Noble Character certainly has some very large shoes, and it'll be a challenge to fill them, but I feel blessed to have received the Divine direction and answers to my prayers. I could very easily point my finger at my husband and say "you need to change this and that and this!", but in the words of Michael Jackson, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror." Woman, anyway.


Future Picaso?

Sweet Summerberry Pie

3 cups berries of choice (strawberries are $1.25/lb here)
1 reduced fat graham cracker crust (Walmart brand $1.49)
1 14-oz can nonfat sweetened condensed milk ($0.89)
3 tbsp lemon juice (pennies)

Clean and dry berries, slice if needed into the graham cracker crust. Mix condensed milk and lemon juice until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Pour onto berries, top with a few berries for garnish. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Slice and enjoy.

8 servings at $0.47 each, or 6 servings at $0.62. Would be a smashing finale to the Fancy Pasta Carbonara, or a wonderful treat to take to a barbecue.


A Generation's Cry for God

Another example of our disturbed youth today. A teenager in South Carolina was discovered plotting to detonate his school, after his parents intercepted a postal delivery of 10 lbs of ammonium nitrate, the same substance that was used in the Oklahoma City bombing. Ryan Schallenberger, 18, is described as "handsome, friendly, a straight-A student". And not-so-apparently a seething cauldron of hate and anger. He had extensive plans for bombing his high school, as well as an audiotape to be played after his demise.

Thank God he has alert and responsible parents.

As most of you know, I have a 4-year-old son. And I'm just scared of the day when I have to turn him over to the public school district. Especially when danger comes in such an unsuspect package. I think this is the first incident where people are genuinely surprised that this young man was so normal on the outside, with such a disturbed soul. How do I teach Andrew to be wary of this?

What influences do our children face today, that would possibly put these thoughts into their heads?

First and foremost, Satan is hard at work in our country, and we are making his job pretty cushy. We are reaping the rewards of dismissing God from our lives and families. Instead of the Almightly, we deify so many other false idols - money, fame, looks, career, intelligence, the list is almost infinite. And Satan just loves this, every generation he has to work less to pull us away from God, we're just so interested in doing it all by ourselves.

Even good Christian parents fall into this trap. Pointing the finger at my family, we often make the choice of putting our business before church. And we're paying the price for that, with an unstable marriage and a child prone to temper issues and lack of control. We vow to do better, but you know how that goes. So please understand that the finger I'm pointing is at myself as well.

Let's look at today's acceptable media. Video games are an easy target. Why do video games need to carry warning labels? And why should parents find this acceptable? Or the TV, remember the days when you never heard cussing on prime time TV? Now it's acceptable after a certain time of the evening. And there's not much of moral value on the tube anymore, either. I have to shake my head sadly when watching something like the "Real Housewives", how they promote greed, sloth, and adultery. They make it positively attractive.

How about peer pressure? You hear about the things kids are doing these days. Lots of drugs, alcohol, orgies, strangling each other until they pass out? Huffing paint thinner?? It seems that the methods of obtaining a high has gotten much more risky than the last generation. And now there's also gang activity in places you would never suspect. I was shocked to hear my mother talking about the gang activity on the island where she has her summer home. This island is 15 miles off the main drag, and has a year-round population of 4500!

We're also seeing more mental instability in adolescents these days. Is that a cause or effect? I'm not sure, the jury's still out. But I'm a little trepid when I talk to my fellow preschool mommies and see how many of our kids have speech issues, attention issues, social issues. These are my son's classmates, and likely will be until graduation. And Andrew's part of this, he's one of the attention-deficit kids, so again, I'm pointing the finger at ourselves, too. Some will argue that the amount of instability in kids is increasing due to better, more refined diagnosis, and that may be true. But it seems we're giving our kids a license to be different, a reason to be outside the norm, when we tell them they have ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, etc. And we don't really need to give them a reason to be alienated, do we? Doesn't that just propagate the issue?

Bottom line is, we need to get God back into our lives. We need to be teaching our kids by the Bible, not the acceptable norm in this country. How can we use the acceptable norm if this country is morally bankrupt? We need to be actively involved in a church. And we need to be more proactive and forward-looking when it comes to our children and the influences they encounter. As parents, it's our God-given job to protect them and raise them up in a Biblical fashion. And, at this job, the end product strongly states that we're failing miserably.


Fancy Pasta Carbonara

1/4 pound of bacon, well done and diced (more is better, and thicker is better)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of parmesan (bags at store)
4 large eggs
1 lb spaghetti
2 tbsp salt

Beat eggs softly, and add Parmesan, and set aside. Cook spaghetti in 6 quarts of water, with 2 Tbsp of salt to al dente, or a little beyond. Drain water in strainer, and return spaghetti to pot. Add egg mixture and bacon, mixing thoroughly. Serve immediately, with a strong green vegetable (or salad) and some crusty bread.

Just in case your wondering, the hot spaghetti cooks the eggs completely, and the eggs absorb the oils coming out of the cheese. Viola!

So, total cost:
4 eggs - $.50
1 lb spaghetti - $1
Bacon - $3.50/lb, save some for BLT, so $2
Parmesan Cheese - $3.50
Salt - Are you kidding me?
Total - $7, and plenty of leftovers

Pasta -- the great, cheap stretcher

letter from editor - Okay, this recipe comes directly from my brother, David (aka. The Foodie). You gotta love a cheap meal you can make for company. Thanks David!


Sacrificing our Children...

Today on CNN.com, there’s a very disturbing story out of California. Nine day care facilities have shown up matching home addresses for individuals from the sex offender registry. The offenders' crimes are varied, from sexual battery to oral copulation with a minor. The State of California is moving the shut these businesses down.

The State of California is MOVING to shut these businesses down. Moving?!?!? Hello? Does anyone else see this as disturbing? Shut them down NOW! Bar the doors! Why does it have to become a legal matter??? And why would any mom continue to take their child to this place? Certainly the moms would accomplish what the government won’t – they’ll put them out of business the old fashioned way!

Unfortunately, this is another result of the feminist movement. Here again, we as women have been economically forced into the workplace. And someone has to care for our children while we’re doing our 9 to 5. We put our faith in someone with stellar references, a day care license, and a busy population of tots every day. Do we ever think about who else is in that home? When you interview a day care provider, do you think to ask about the other adults in the direct vicinity of your babies? No, most likely our focus is just on the primary caregiver. What about their visitors that day? We're much too busy worrying about the other minutiae about our workday world – What will our commute be like? Do I have enough change for the vending machine? Blah-blah-blah, ad nauseum. Meanwhile, we may not even see that we’re leaving our child in the presence of the predator. Every day.

Pedophilia is growing at an alarming rate in this country. It’s like school shootings – we’re almost becoming used to it, it’s so often in the news. It's not just someone else's problem anymore, either. It's happening in big cities and small towns. Heck, Dr. Robert Reinhold’s office is less than a mile down the road from me, standing vacant awaiting the next tenant (for those unfamiliar, Google Robert Reinhold Ohio and you can get the scoop). There's all kinds of websites, publications, and fan clubs geared towards pedophiles. There is even an organization, NAMBLA, that sponsor vacations to Thailand to have sex parties with children, among other evils. They have people brainwashed into thinking pedophilia is a brand of "sexual orientation", just like homosexuality. Obviously neglecting to admit that at least one party in this scenario isn't old enough to understand what's happening, let alone make a choice in the matter. I wonder if it’s not become more acceptable to garden-variety pedophiles to express themselves, with this mental illness being so publicized in the religious leaders of the Catholic Church. Whichever came first, the chicken or the egg, there’s no question that we need to be paying much closer attention to this issue.

It’s interesting that we as Americans are so quick to degrade the Middle East on their stringent laws and harsh punishments, yet the Middle East has little incidence of violent crimes, such as molestation. Why? Well, their punishments FIT the crimes. What guy wants to risk having his hand chopped off for stealing? Or his "manhood" removed for having sexual relations with a little girl? If those methods aren't your style, how about public decapitation? Stonings? What would be the result of these types of punishments enacted in America? Do you think we’d have clogged prisons? People cooling their heels on Death Row for 15 years? Would anyone be willing to kill another person? Rape someone? Risk their lives to commit the crimes? Maybe we need to reflect on that before we continue to look at American society as “enlightened”, and the Middle East as barbarians. Their mothers don’t often face the tragedy of having a child molested and murdered. Their fathers aren’t left burning for retribution, because their government isn’t squirmy about enacting punishment. Their families aren’t afraid to let children roam the neighborhood unsupervised, because there is no Stranger Danger on the loose, and they really adhere to the "it takes a village to raise a child" philosophy. Maybe America would do some good to model them, instead of demeaning them and their culture.

Whatever protection (or lack of) the US government provides our children, we as parents need to be informed, alert, and ready for action. Forewarned is forearmed. Keep a close eye on your neighborhood. Form a neighborhood watch. Bookmark http://www.familywatchdog.us/ and check it often. Also, train your kids. It’s alarming how many don’t understand how to deal with potential adult threats (and why should they? Don’t we spend all our time teaching them to respect and obey adults?). Check out this website for guidance on how to train your kids to keep them safe - http://www.self-defense-advisor.com/child-security.html. If you’re in the Dayton, Ohio area, sign your kid up for one of the ASSERT seminars, and maybe take one of the classes yourself. I’ve done the Women’s ASSERT a few years ago, and I loved it. Andrew just did the ASSERT Tiny Tikes yesterday, and it was a real wake-up call for me to observe that. Be assured he will be attending a few more of these classes until the material is drilled into his head. Also, don't be afraid to be vocal and impassioned about these situations. Our government needs to know how their constituents feel about our kids, and they need to be aware that we will vote accordingly.

When is the US Government going to start working for the US population? Probably not in our lifetime. So be vigilant. Be aware of your surroundings. Stand up for your children. And, above all, stay safe.

God bless….


Amazingly Simple Home Remedies

An email from Beth - thanks for the chuckles!

1. If you're choking on an ice cube simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat. Presto! The blockage will instantly remove itself.
2. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold while you chop.
3. Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.
4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.
5. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you'll be afraid to cough.
7. You only need two tools in life; WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
8. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.



Did You Feel It?

It was about 5:40 this morning. I was awake, watching ANTM on the DVR (hey, I have a 4-year-old, 5am is the ONLY time I can catch up on TV). It's pretty nice here, so some of the windows in the house are open. I heard this almost-quiet roar, and the house started rolling. Like a boat. Tiger was hanging out on the floor, half-asleep. His eyeballs went wide open.

I was completely in denial, until I checked out the USGS website and saw southern Illinois had a 5.4 magnatude earthquake. So I've felt a tremor. It was a first for me.

Did anyone else feel it?


My Little Temper-Tornado

Oh-My-God! Did you ever look at your child and see yourself in them? It's sad and telling that, in Andrew, it's in his worst moments....

He actively disobeyed me today. He was riding his Hot Wheels in the street, laughing at me while I told him to stop, and riding just as quick as he could. And, yes you know what's next, here comes a minivan around the corner. Thank God she stopped, and Andrew avoided a trip to the hospital. Would you believe this is when the drama began?

Okay. Andrew has 3 hot-sauce rules - potty-mouth, lying, and disobedience. So he got a little Tabasco cocktail tonight. And he's SCREAMING at me, in utter rage, to GET HIM MILK (the antidote to Tabasco). And, in that rage, there was me. My temper, my facial expressions, my vocal tones. Just what I needed tonight, another cathartic moment....

So, this tale ends with a 38-lb child going all Chucky on me and trying to bust down the bathroom door, where I'm safely caged and calling Yasar. It's disconcerting to admit this, but Andrew was actually scaring me.

He's now in bed, and I'm taking a moment to reflect on myself. Who would have thought that having a child would teach you so much about yourself? Now I see how scary I can be when I go nuclear. It doesn't happen often, but I am guilty of that. And maybe I need to work on my temper. After all, I'm an example to this little boy, this adult-in-the-making, and I don't really want to visit the sins of the parent on him for the rest of his life. It's like that old Susan Powter line, "Stop the Insanity!".

Literally and figuratively.


Clash of the Titans: Meijer vs. Walmart

I've always been a very dedicated Walmart shopper. It's convenient, relatively cheap, and I don't have to worry about competitive pricing - they've almost always got the best deal. But lately, there's been a little competition. Meijer had a great sale on Fiber One cereal (a Clean Food, might I add?), and I just had to take advantage of it. I took Andrew along, we loaded up on cereal and cans of pop for the store, and proceeded through the checkout. And that's when everything changed.

Meijer has those great penny rides at checkout - the ones that cost fifty cents at Walmart.They're close enough for you to be watching the scanner while watching your kid ride. And Andrew is now big enough to reach the coin-drop from the back of the horse (or dinosaur, if you're at lane 12). So I can hand my kid ten pennies and keep him occupied? Sold!!!

Isn't it funny, how it's always the little things that make your day?

Oh, and Meijer has shopping carts that have little TV's in them, that show cartoons. Those cost $1, which is then donated to Children's Hospital. I haven't done that with Andrew, but I think my mom did when she was visiting in January. As I recall, it was a flop...Andrew's a little too scattered to focus on a cartoon for very long, and there's just too many fun and interesting things to destroy/beg for in a grocery store.

So I guess I'm wondering how long it's going to take for Walmart to get on board with the kiddie entertainment. Is it worth slightly cheaper prices to give up these little mommy-perks? In most cases, I'm the frugalista that would give you a resounding "NO!" to that question, but now? Well, let's just say that, as Andrew gets older, these things get more and more attractive. And I'm tired of being penny wise and pound foolish. If it takes a smidge of stress off my day, and it's something worthy of bribing Andrew with for good behavior, well, it's off to lane 12 with a fistful of pennies for us.


Clean Crockpot Chicken Chili

1 Lb ground chicken breast ($3.99)
1 large onion, chopped ($0.50)
3 cloves garlic, minced ($0.25)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed ($2.00)
2 cans chili beans in hot gravy ($2.00)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained ($0.79)
1 cup TVP, reconstituted in 7/8 cup boiling water ($1.00)
2 packets chili seasoning, or chili powder/cumin/garlic salt to taste ($0.66)
1 Tbsp cornstarch, slurried in 1/4 cup water (pennies)

Brown ground chicken and onions in a saute pan. Add garlic and cook until garlic aroma gets strong. Throw into a crockpot with the next 5 ingredients. Cook for 2-3 hours on low setting. Turn heat to high. Add cornstarch slurry, cook and stir until thickened. Serve over baked potatoes or pasta, or eat as taco meat. Like all chilis, this is even better the next day.

Not sure on the servings, there always seems to be lots of leftovers. For price-per-serving's sake, I'll estimate it at 8 1-cup servings, and $1.87/serving. And you can always pad it with more tomatoes and beans.


Do I Heart Dyson? A Review of the Dyson DC07 Animal Vacuum Cleaner

It all started last summer. My husband's heart was stolen by this lonely, charming, fluffy, oh-so-furry bundle of kitty-happiness that snuck into our store and made himself right at home. As hard as it was to part from him, Tiger had to spend a few weeks at the animal shelter to give his rightful owners a fair shot at redemption….and also to give us a little room to plan.

After a week of avidly watching Petfinder to make sure Tiger (they dubbed him “Stewie”, isn’t that the stupidest name?!?) was still cooling his heels, it became obvious that he would be making a place in our home, and I needed to make some accommodations. I am horribly allergic to almost every known allergen on the planet…but most especially to cats. So, after refilling my prescription, I started doing some research on different Hepa Vacuums – with my intended target being the Dyson. The reviews online and in Consumer Reports are mixed for the Dyson Company. Many people seemed put-off by the high price tag, which was absolute gobblety-gook. At $550, it is a major purchase for most. But any other “reputable” vacuum cleaner plays in the same ballpark. And I desperately needed some help with the up-and-coming cat hair & dander disaster. So I bit the bullet and traded in my Kohl’s cash for a Dyson DC07.

What I adore about my Dyson:

  • I really dig the look. It’s very “now”, funky-jazzy-purple and bristling with attachments. My husband was so thrilled with the look and gadgetry that he couldn’t wait to take it for a spin (my husband….vacuuming? That alone was worth the $550!)
  • The clear canister offers you a deep sense of accomplishment. There’s something so darn satisfying, seeing that container fill with all the detritus from your carpets.
  • Ohhh, baby, the suction. No lie, we built this home 2 ½ years ago. I’ve been sweeping with my Kenmore canister since then. After the Dyson’s maiden voyage, you could have stuffed a decent-sized throw pillow with the carpet fibers in the canister. My husband commented that, after a few rounds with Dyson, we may not have to pay to install hardwood floors.
  • The unbelievable amount of reach you get with the hose/wand thingy. It goes all the way from ground floor to the top of the stairs – and you’re not dragging the whole vacuum behind you.
  • My kid pushed it down a flight of stairs, and it still works!

What I’d change about it:

  • I’m not fond of the hose/wand thingy. I know, I know, it’s what others (and myself, see above) raved about, but I feel like you almost have to have been hooked on Transformers as a child to truly “get” this.
  • I agree with the naysayers on the excessive number of attachments. There are three of them that do not connect to the vacuum itself, along with a spray and a powder-substance, all of which I have to store in the pantry. Is there a way to reduce the number of attachments, or to make them contained on the vacuum itself?
  • This isn’t a very friendly machine when it comes to flat surfaces. Vacuuming the kitchen linoleum isn’t as easy as the Kenmore canister, 1) because the wand is awkward and 2) because the bare floor attachment doesn’t pick up debris well.

All in all, I’m hooked on my vacuum. Vacuuming the house has gone from a ho-hum chore to an anticipated event! Even my 4-year old can’t wait to empty the canister for me, and is even trying his hand at pushing it around. Despite some minor complaints, I still think they should make a national holiday, complete with hot dogs and fireworks and toddlers smeared with cotton candy, for the day that Dyson crossed the pond.

4.5 stars, guys. You swept me off my feet!


Mr. Horton, You Put the "Cuss" in Customer Service

Okay, raise your hand…how many of you make the AM java-run every day? This is a practice foreign to me. It kills me to hand over hard-earned money in the name of convenience. But my friend Kim called yesterday, and she was having a mental meltdown. It was a no-brainer – she needed an Iced Cappuccino in the worst way.

I pull up to the drive-thru speaker. “Tim Horton’s” (long pause) “Place your order when you’re ready.” I order my drinks, asking for one lowfat. “We don’t have skim milk, is 2% okay?” Well, guess it’ll have to be. “$5.32, pull around”. No pleasantries. No polite banter. Just all-too-typical teenage surliness. And by now I’m a little miffed. While in some parts of the country, this would be considered a cordial exchange. Not so in Smalltown Ohio.

It’s clear that Timmy doesn’t pay enough for charm school.

Off to the window. The girl hands me one leaking, overfull, very sloppy drink. While I’m trying to clean it up enough to put it in the cup holder, she’s all but throwing the second one at me. Does she apologize? Offer a napkin, when she sees me using an article of clothing to wipe the cup off? A drink carrier? Noooo. Oh, and then she forgets the straws.

So, after pulling away from the window a little and getting the mess into a slightly more manageable position, I drive off to the playground where I’m meeting Kim and her kids. And then the ill-fitted lid pops off her drink. All over my floormat. ARGH!

Gotta love this…Andrew’s in the back seat, watching me turning red and sputtery and trying to wipe that slushy sugar-caffeine concoction off my floor. And he throws me a pearl. “Mommy, next time we need coffee, we can just make it at home. That would be a good idea.” At four, he’s already light years ahead of his mom…

Tim and I clearly don’t get along. We have a “history”. The last time I patronized, I ordered a sandwich to take to my husband at work. The counter girl took my order, and my money, with plastic gloves on - and then turned around and made Yasar's food with the same gloves on. Yuck. Yuckyuckyuck.

And I never wanted to bring out the big guns, but Timmy, you leave me no choice. Your doughnuts aren’t even that good. Walmart’s feel fresher, taste better, and cost less.

Mr. Horton, we are sooooo over.


The Bitter Fruit of Feminism

Recently there was a news story out of Georgia, about a group of nine 3rd graders with a very sophisticated plan to attack their teacher. 3rd graders...those are 8 to 10 year olds! They had handcuffs, duct tape, a steak knife, and other sinister items, and had assigned their fellow classmates duties such as covering the windows and post-attack cleanup. Thankfully, this plot came to light before it ended in tragedy. But this just highlights a very distrubing trend affecting our nation's most precious resource, our children.

The hallmark of the feminist movement is equality between men and women. While the movement in general is Biblically bankrupt, not all feminist views are without merit. There is something to be said for protection against sexual harrassment, the addition of maternity leave, and the confirmation of women as people, not property. But how has female equality affected our families, our children? Since women fought so ferociously for these rights, we've been compelled to utilitze them and establish ourselves as assets to the workforce. Our children have been shuttled to daycare, passed off to after school programs, and sent home to veg in front of the TV until mom gets home from work. We've basically turned up our collective noses to our role as the glue that holds the family together, in hot pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

And then, right around the time that feminism was in full swing, our government realized its potential and began to capitalize on it. And why not? They can increase taxes, reduce welfare services, and slack on their job mitigating inflation, without quite the impact on the Joneses as back in the 1950’s. After all, with a dual-income household, we can afford it now, right? Need some proof of this? From 1932 to 1974 (42 years), a first class stamp increased just 7 cents. From 1975 to present? 32-cent increase in 33 years (www.akdart.com/postrate.html). This is one of many examples of how the US government, who we vote into office, and trust to do a specific job, has sold us out to their own best interests.

So a few decades go by, and we become inured to cost-of-living increases, income taxes, and credit card debt. To what end? We now have a nation of families without the option of having a stay-at-home parent. We cannot afford the basic necessities without multiple incomes. Our children are not being emotionally and spiritually nourished. They are not being imparted with the morals, ethics, and values that our society was founded upon. And the breakdown is showing itself in increasingly violent acts and tendencies. Childhood depression, obesity, behavior disorders, they’re the “norm” now. How long will this go on before someone addresses the heart of the matter?

I could ride this soapbox all day, but what is the solution? Just my opinion, and I know many wouldn’t agree, but we women have to embrace our God-ordained role as mother and caregiver for our families. Proverbs 31 very clearly spells out what should be every wife and mother’s goal. She is first and foremost a helpmate to her husband, someone in whom he can have complete confidence. She has a sense of purpose, providing for her family from inside the home. She is industrious, frugal, charitable, wise, God-fearing. And she purposefully raises her children to have these same qualities.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Does anyone else live in terror of the next generation? There’s no one at home training our children! Our kids are growing up in a society that applauds violence, and no one is at home with them, guiding them into responsible adulthood. SpongeBob isn’t imparting wisdom, Bart Simpson doesn’t care about their feelings, Cartman can’t offer them a sense of security. Yet we’re counting on our children to instinctively know the difference between right and wrong and cultivate a conscience, without the benefit of and their right to our loving guidance. AND to teach these qualities to their children. And so on goes the cycle, each generation worse than the last.

How long will we women continue to sacrifice our children to the great god feminism? When will we take a stand against these alternative, unbiblical roles that society has burdened us with? When will we start pressuring our government to do its job, so we can get out of the workplace and do ours?


My Supersized Passion, My Supersized Dilemma

Hopefully, you've seen the movie. Supersize Me had a huge impact on the way my family eats. Andrew is just like any other kid on the planet...he LOVES McD's. He'd set up camp in the Playland, given the opportunity. But he does me proud, when he says, "We can go to McD's, and we won't eat any chicken nuggets. We'll just drink milk and play, okay mommy?" It's sad, though, that McD's has such an enormous pull on our children. Recently one of Andrew's classmates had a birthday party at McD's. It was very disturbing, the goodie bags had some little toys, games, and stickers, and every one of those trinkets had that stupid clown on it. Even the birthday cake sported his creepy white visage. It reminded me of being in DisneyWorld when I was 18...Mickey was everywhere - it was amusing to find him even on the manhole covers. But, while Mickey stands for family fun, Ronald just stands for negligible nutrition and irresponsible marketing towards our children. And by "marketing", I mean "preying".

I've had some dark nights of the soul, being part of the "problem". We own a pizza franchise. It's aggressively marketed on TV, we have goodies to hand out to the kids, we try to get involved in the community. I've even done birthday parties at the store! Much like McD's...too much like McD's. There are differences, though. I can personally vouch that our food is biodegradable, unlike McD's fries. Most of our products are no different than what you'd buy at the grocery store. We don't have special preservatives, bioengenered vegetables, or an overabundance of partially hydrogenated fats in our foods. But we are part of the obesity epidemic. Our food can be cheap, is easily accessible (heck, we bring it to your door!), and darn it, it tastes good! Portion control is the problem. People always overeat on pizza, it's pretty easy to do when there's so much in the box, "I'll have one more slice". People don't realize that a serving is one slice, maybe two if you're a guy.

So yeah, we're part of the greater evil that is fast food. There's no justifying that in my mind. And, thankfully, Morgan Spurlock hasn't started seriously campaigning against us. Knowledge may be power, but sometimes ignorance is bliss. There are some things I'd rather not know. Our exact impact on the obesity epidemic? Mr. Spurlock, please keep that information to yourself.


Another Mommy Moment

I think I'm ready for my high-paying UN position. I have all the necessary negotiating skills now. Okay, let's drop the sarcasm. Andrew has pinkeye, and convincing him to let me put drops in his eyes every 3 hours is turning into a real challenge. Yeah, he's not too happy right now. But we can fix that...with $5 in his pocket and a trip to the grocery store candy isle. Kids today, they just don't realize how lucky they are, do they? He chose cotton candy, something we as kids had to wait all year to get at Community Days. And Swedish fish. I have to feel bad for him here, he'll never understand that the only real way to eat these little red chewy bits of summer is to follow it with a chlorinated pool-water chaser. Oh, and he got gummi frogs. These are a new face on the market...well, maybe not new, per se, but they sure didn't have those noxious little boogers back in the day. No doubt we would have loved them, but since donning the mommy hat? They represent all the evil that is the Trolli Candy Company.

And then Yasar comes home to pass judgement - or am I getting too sensitive about a little eye-rolling? After all my championing, am I reduced to this? All this time, I've been the mommy who is doing everything possible to inhibit Andrew's first trip to Fat Camp or the Husky section at Sears (horrors from childhood). It's a wonder he went to bed, he's just so hepped up on sugar right now.

(shaking head) I feel like such a failure....


Spam Stirfry

1 can Spam, julienned ($2.99)
2 Tbsp olive oil (pennies)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias ($1.00)
3 stalks celery, sliced on the bias ($0.50)
1 large onion, halved and sliced ($0.50)
1/2 large head of cabbage, thickly shredded ($0.50)
garlic salt, soy sauce, red pepper flake to taste (pennies)
4 cups cooked rice (estimate at $1.00)

Heat oil in large skillet or wok over high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion; stir fry for 5 minutes. Add Spam, cook and stir until meat browns slightly. Season to taste. Add 1/4 cup water to skillet, stir until water evaporates.

Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 large servings, but you can stretch it out more by upping the veggie content. Or you could double the Spam (this is the Rodriguez household's s.o.p.)

Feed your whole family for $7. Or get even cheaper, and use hot dogs or bologna for the Spam. Enjoy!


What's Real about Reality TV?

America's Next Top Model- Okay, I'm guilty. I love this show. But my only real fascination is watching the photoshoots, and comparing them to the finished photos. They have (I mean had, this IS cycle 9!) some really original ideas for pictures. I loved Tyra's black & white scary face shoot, the one in Thailand where the girls were hanging above the floating market, and whenever they do something really dramatic with their makeup. Not so fond of the dramadramadrama. But it's part and parcel, when you have a bunch of girls living together, it's to be expected. Tyra, you are a little stuck on yourself, though. Please stop "dropping it like it's hot" on national TV. You're not as fly as you once were....

Real Housewives of NYC- OMG, this one takes the cake. Can we say "spoiled"? Helloooooooo.

Biggest Loser- You gotta love a reality show that really changes lives. One of my personal favorites, but I always have to wonder if anyone watched this show who is a normal, healthy weight. Of course, you can always just watch the show to watch Bob (yummy!).

Survivor - the original, but getting a little "ho. hum, seen that challenge before". Maybe if they film it in a place where survival is more difficult? Antarctica? Nah, they wouldn't be able to show off their boobies. Oh, and what happened to the "survivors" being hungry? Has anyone else noticed that the producers are constantly providing food rewards? Wasn't that part of the charm, watching the "survivors" scramble over a grain of rice or a rotten, fouled fish carcass? Remember when rats were haute cuisine?

American Idol-You know, last season was the first and last time I got emotionally involved with Idol, and I pretty much lost that envolvement when the train-wreck that was Sanjaya left the building. Though watching Blake was something to see. Did anyone else notice the way his face went blank when he performed? Phenomenal performer, if he would have just had some emotion in his face!

Hell's Kitchen- Ohhh, Gordon, you are a bad, bad boy. One of those bad boys that we just want to love and feed ice cream to and do backflips to make you giggle. This is a fun show, as long as you're not much of a foodie...they spend more time emphasizing how HARD restaurant life (and Ramsey, since they always show him with his shirt off) is.

Top Chef- Now this is the foodie show. So much fun, watching the chefs buy 5 items out of a gas station and make a 12-course gourmet meal with it! Who comes up with these challenges? They're using black chicken, guiduck, razor clams, and Krispy Kreme! Endlessly fascinating...

Iron Chef- Ahhh, this one will teach you something about real cooking. But more process than recipes. And you can't beat Alton Brown's ascerbic sense of humor, sprinkled over the show like the finishing fleur de sel.

Wife Swap- Oh, my. I try to never miss this show. It's a sick fantasy of mine, that they would call my house, and swap me with some selfish, career-minded, overly-strict, lazy, rule-driven mom, and in the end Yasar would swear, over a dozen roses, that he never wants to live his life without me (but don't we all watch this show with that same fantasy?). Not that I'm not appreciated here, but, well....you know. Oh, whatever happened to Trading Spouses? It was so much more entertaining when the new moms had to allocate the $50k, wasn't it?

Ice Road Truckers/Deadliest Catch/America's Port (new this week)-Kudos to NatGeo and Discovery Channel for exposing REAL reality TV. They just highlight that we don't need to watch size-zero girls fight over lipstick or 300+ pound people shirtlessly jiggle their way to the scale, to be captivated.


Addressing the Waistline

My friend, Melissa, is one of the bravest people I know. I don't get to talk to her often, we live a few time zones apart, combined with me being an early bird and her an insomniac. But we burned some serious rollover minutes yesterday!

We were talking about how frustrating weight loss can be. And, after I got off the phone with her (and played with my attention-deprived son for an hour), I started rereading her blog (http://www.themacmommy.com/). Melissa, I am in awe that you're willing to put your weight, and struggles with it, out there for all to see! YGG!

So, in a show of sisterly solidarity, here goes....

This morning I weighed in at 210.4.

That's such a hard number to look at. This time last year, I had lost 30lbs and was hanging around 202ish. While I'm proud of myself for not regaining that much (I've been doing this Oprah yo-yo thing my whole life), I can't seem to make the weight drop.

Since the start of the new year, I've been more-or-less following the Eat Clean diet (http://www.eatcleandiet.com/). This diet is always expensive and often boring. Lean meats are the key, along with unrefined carbs and lots of veggies, salt-free, of course. Mmmm, spelt pasta. All the things this 3rd-generation-removed Amish girl ISN'T used to! Also, you eat around 300 calories worth of clean food every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, which worked really well controlling my unstable blood sugar.

Then, about 6 weeks ago, I started working out with a friend of mine, a certified personal trainer. And he started to debunk the Eating Clean "myth". Not the types of foods, but the amounts. According to Ryan, I should be eating 2500 cals/day, not the 1800ish I've been doing according to my fitday software (http://www.fitday.com/). Unfortunately, when I do it his way, I GAIN WEIGHT! (Don't take this personally, Ryan. You know I luv ya!)

And lo, here I be, hanging out in limbo. But with your help, gentle reader, the scale will start to reflect something more promising than the last few months. Please give me some words if inspiration, that I may use them to season my plain little chicken breast instead of the salt, pepper, butter, cheese, bacon fat, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, etc. that I'm missing!