Saturday, August 16, 2014

Meal Plan

S: cereal (B), hot dogs, corn (D)
M: crockpot breakfast casserole (B), chili or taco soup (D)
T: oatmeal and fruit (B), meatloaf, salt potatoes (D)
W: yogurt and granola (B), sweet n sour pork (D)
T: pancake sausage muffins, fruit (B), spaghetti, meat sauce (D)
F: eggs and toast (B), tuna sandwiches/melts (D)

I'm hoping to get a few more freezer meals put together this week. Lunches will hopefully be sandwiches or leftovers. Snacks will be assorted produce, popcorn, animal crackers. And we will make a pink lemonade cake at some point just because.

Vending Machine Theology

There is a new priest at one of our local parishes. A priest who is a breath of fresh air in terms of orthodoxy and reverence with regard to how he says the Mass. The first time the older boys served at a funeral with him, they came home so happy about the new priest because even they can see a difference. Because even they want to see things the way they should be rather than the way that just makes people feel happy.

The priest gave an amazing homily last night and used one of my favorite phrases: vending machine theology. I'm sure this is a trap many children fall into but it is also one I've seen many adults falling into in recent years. Vending machine theology. That idea that all you have to do is pray for what you want and God will automatically give it to you.  Needless to say, God just does not work that way. Prayer was never meant to change God. It is meant to change us. But so many people just don't seem to get that.

I'm going to admit that one of the most insulting, offensive conversations I had with someone after Isabel died was when someone called and insisted/demanded that I have the children pray for something. They used the phrase "I know when your kids pray for something, they get what they want" which led to a conversation on just this topic. Vending machine theology. I said God doesn't work that way. He's not a machine you put a quarter in and get what you want. This person actually argued with me and said it was how things worked. You just have to pray and you do get what you ask for. Do I need to state the obvious of if that were the way things worked, my life would be different. I know my boys were praying like crazy but it just was not God's will. God always answers our prayers but more often than not, that answer is no. And we need to accept that. Prayer is never intended to change God. It is meant to change us.

Vending machine theology might be fine for a 2-year-old but I challenge you to push beyond it because it was never how we were meant to look at our faith.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rights and Obligations of Parents to Direct the Religious Education of Their Children

The following is a guest post from Jeffrey Hite at Barely Controlled Chaos regarding a topic that I know many parents struggle with when it comes to preparing your children to receive the sacraments. You prep your kids at home, know they are ready, but then you approach your parish and are turned away. Your child is refused the sacraments unless you jump through hoops designed by that particular parish. Is a parish legally allowed to do this according to Canon law? Absolutely not. Read on to find out why not.


Recently my wife and I attended a home schooling conference.  To be honest, half the reason we went was because we had managed to talk my parents into staying with the kids so that we could get out of the house without the kids for the weekend.  I think we have managed that twice since we have been married.  Not that we don't like taking the kids with us you understand, but sometimes you just need some adult time.

Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by the conference.  I didn't spend a lot of time looking over the program before we went, and the first day we really just kind of wandered to whatever talk was going on at the moment, at random, still I learned a lot and was happy to be able to catch a talk by Patrick Madrid.  I have enough other experiences to fill probably two other blog posts, but I mostly want to talk about the last talk that we attended.  This talk was given by Mr. Phillip Gray a Canon Lawyer and member of the St. Joseph Foundation.

Much of this post is directly from the talk Mr. Gray gave on the last day of the conference.  I did a good deal of digging once I got home, but without him, this post would not have been possible.


I really want to talk about this, because I think it is something a lot of parents, home schooling or not, face when dealing with sacramental preparation for their kids.

There are a lot of important documents here, most of which I will link in the text and at the bottom, but also two that I want to mention up front because they have special significance here and are very helpful,  The Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican's website) and Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education (which you can get from Seton for about $2)

So here are the basics:


It is the obligation of parents to educate their children.  Not only in their faith, but also over all. You might remember saying so when your child was baptized. Something along the lines of:

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
It is the obligation of society (that includes but is not limited to The Church) to provide support, and not hinder in any way that education. (See the Charter of the rights of the family.)

And it is the right of the parents to determine what societal support (again including but not limited to The Church) is right for them an their family and their children.

So what does all of this mean? I am going to limit my discussion to sacramental prep because with general education there are country state / county / and other governmental laws and regulations that come into play. You can learn more about that on the HSLDA website, and that is a whole other can of worms that I don't want to get into.  Since Sacramental Preparation is only regulated by The Church we can talk about that here.

As the parent you have the obligation to train your children in preparation for the sacraments.  You, as the parent, have the right (not the obligation) to use whatever sacramental preparation program that your parish, diocese or even arch diocese offers.
The wording of that is important.  That means that it is not the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop who gets to determine what religious ed program, or sacramental preparation program you use for your child(ren).
They cannot make it a requirement that you use their program, no matter how great it is, how much work they have put into it, or how much they really want you too. More than that, they cannot have higher standards for your child, because your child didn't use the program they recommended, than they would for a child who did use their program.

It also means that the director of religious Ed, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop do not have the authority, again going back to the Charter of Rights of the Family, over how your child is to be catechized, and in no way may any of them usurp the primacy of the authority of the family.
 
I do want to make it clear. It is the job of the Priest or in the case of Confirmation the Bishop to make sure that your child is in fact, prepared for the sacrament, but that does not mean that they can make it mandatory that you use their program, or that they hold your child to a higher standard because you didn't use their program.
Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ.  This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.

See theCongregation for Catholic Education
where they talk about the parents as the primary educators and these programs the teachers in the schools the pastor or whoever else, are secondary to the parents. This is also backed up by Charter of the rights of the family and further backed up by Can. 793 §1 - §2Having said that I want to repeat that it is priest's responsibility to make sure that a candidate is prepared for the sacrament.  For example:
Can.  891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.

"or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise" Otherwise the candidate needs to meet the three other requirements.  But note that one of those requirements is not that the candidate used the parishes program.  Priests do need to be a filter to make sure that candidates are properly catechized, but they and as parents you also need to know what that means.  Remember that it is the Church's role is to assist parents in the education of their children.  That is by divine law.  Because the family is the primal unit in society, and it is The Church's role support the family.

Alright, so that argument might get you past Reconciliation and First Holy Communion, but what about Confirmation.  In the United states under the USCCB there is complimentary legislation that states that the bishop can determine and age for receiving confirmation.

USCCB: Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

It might surprise you to know, that the above arguments also apply to these age requirements.
The Congregation for Catholic Education

in the 1998 case said, "Such complimentary legislation must be interpreted with respect to the general laws of The Church, (Reference 889 §2.)  This making the Diocesan norm is subordinate to the general norms governing the reception of the sacraments."    In this case, and according to Mr. Gray, the majority others the Vatican sided with parents, and the Bishop was told he needed confer the Sacrament on the child.
The Congregation for Catholic Education also said in the same 1998 case,
"Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.

... Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it's reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time.

and in the Council of Trent:
[Page 58]


ON CONFIRMATION
CANON I.-If any one saith, that the confirmation of those who have been baptized is an idle ceremony, and not rather a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a kind of catechism, whereby they who were near adolescence gave an account of their faith in the face of the Church; let him be anathema.
It is clear by these two that if you present your child for confirmation and you have properly catechized them and they are above the age of reason then they should be able to receive the sacrament.  But what does Canon Law say about this?

Can.  843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.


Can.  889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

You can clearly see that Canon Law confirms both what the Congregation for Catholic Education and what the Council of Trent has said.

Did you know that Confirmation is supposed to come before Communion? If you have ever been to a Easter Vigil Mass when they bring in RCIA candidates and they do the confirmation before the holy communion.  Believe it or not, that is the way it is supposed to happen. The doctrine of The Church states that order of Sacraments should be Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Communion. That is because confirmation completes baptismal Grace.  Take a look at The Council of Trent.
ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL

CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.

And again quoting the Congregation for Catholic Education
said in the 1998 case,
"Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them are properly disposed and not prohibited from receiving them.

... Indeed, the longer the conferral of the sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for it's reception but deprived of its Grace for a considerable period of time."

In conclusion, If you have instructed your child in the sacraments and they are properly prepared, then they can receive the sacraments.  But what do you do if the religious Ed director, the deacon, the priest, the pastor, the bishop or even the Arch Bishop say no?  It is laid out in cannon law and is based on Mathew 18.  If you have a problem with your brother, go to him.  If he does not listen take witnesses, if he still does not listen take him to The Church.  That last step is where the St. Joseph Foundation comes in and can help you appeal your case.

You can learn more about the St. Joseph Foundation and how to contact them threw their website

Lest you think that I am just reading into this what I want, here are most of the references to the original documents I have referenced above. I have linked to most of them in the text but in case you missed them or just want to get to them faster, here they are again:

The Code of Canon Law
The USCCB
Congregation for Catholic Education
Council of Trent
Council of Trent - The 7th session (where I pulled most of my information
Charter of the rights of the family (which is right on the Vatican's website)
Responsibilities and rights of parents in religious education
St. Joseph Foundation
and the HSLDA website



Can. 793 §1. Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.


§2. Parents also have the right to that assistance, to be furnished by civil society, which they need to secure the Catholic education of their children.

Can. 794 §1. The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life.


§2. Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education.

Can. 795 Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.


And
Pope Saint Pius X said that in order for a child to be prepared for Holy Communion they must ONLY be above the age of reason, and be able to tell the difference between regular bread and the Body of Christ.  This right to salvation, supersedes the knowledge we like to impart.


And
 
Can.  843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Can.  889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Can.  891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.


USCCB:

Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 891, hereby decrees that the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Latin Rite shall be conferred between the age of discretion and about sixteen years of age, within the limits determined by the diocesan bishop and with regard for the legitimate exceptions given in canon 891.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaching Contentment

This is my question. In a society that teaches anything but, how do we teach our children contentment. So many people struggle with this on a daily basis and so much of what society now thinks of as must have items, are truly splurges when we get right down to it. So how do we teach contentment with what you have? Wish I knew. But I did stumble upon this post today which I think provides a bit of food for thought.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meal Plan

S: mini bagels, fruit (B), pulled pork (D)
M: oatmeal (B), sloppy joes (D)
T: eggs and biscuits (B), cheesy beef and pasta casserole (D)
W: pumpkin bread (B), leftovers/baked potato bar (D)
T: crockpot breakfast casserole (B), creamy salsa enchilada casserole (D)
F: muffins and fruit (B), mac and cheese with broccoli (D)
S: pancakes and sausage (B), movie night (D)

Lunches will be sandwiches, leftovers, tuna salad, sloppy cornbread muffins, taco cheddar biscuits. Snacks will be assorted produce (tomatoes, carrots, celery), graham crackers, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

18 Things I Love About My Husband



1. Getting married young means we were able  to grow up together, learn together, and get fairly decent  at picking each other up early.

2. His kid in a candy store impulsivity that often leaves me wondering what the heck he was thinking.

3. The way he'll stay up late watching over a sick kid.

4. He cooks a wonderful steak.

5. He refused to give up on the dream of becoming a "real" writer until it happened.

6. He's mastered the art of helping elderly relatives without becoming overbearing and intrusive.

7. At almost 40, he can still run like he did in high school.

8. He's always excited to hear the news of a new baby, no matter what.

9. The obnoxiously silly names he comes up with for each of the kids.

10. He willingly takes the time to teach the kids how to swing a hatchet, light a fire, paint a wall, use a drill, and just in general build things.

11. He makes sure the kids know a bunch of  Bill Cosby jokes.

12. He can braid the girls' hair, probably better than I can.

13. Breakfast in bed on the weekends.

14. He's not afraid to let you see him cry.

15. Bonfire nights and camping in the yard with the kids. All of them.

16. He is proud to have his very own baby sling because only Dad can put the babies to sleep at night.

17. He's not afraid  to work for what his family needs, even when that means he goes without something himself.

18. He always finds a way to maintain a sense of hope. And a sense of wonder. And is just too stubborn to give up.

Happy anniversary, Alan. I love you and am looking forward to many more crazy, insane, lovely, chaotic years together.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stocking the Pantry on a Shoestring Budget

Maintaing a well stocked pantry is one of the biggest secrets to living on a tight budget. But how do you fill the pantry when your food budget just keep shrinking and shrinking? This is something we've had some experience with over the years and although I don't have the perfect system or all the answers, I do have a few tricks we've picked up along the way that help.

What is a shoestring budget? Honestly that will vary based on what you are used to having at your disposal.  In the most recent months with all of our home repairs, car repairs, appliances needing replacing, medical expenses, and such things, I've often had something around $500 a month to work with for a family of 11. Some weeks a lot less than others. When you are getting down to less than $50 per person per month, things get a bit tight. Keep in mind, that I typically think you should try for about $100 per person per month and work up or down based on your own situation. But with food prices going up lately, even that budget gets tight lately.

The first and most important step that many of us forget is to pray about your situation. Yes, work like everything depends on you but don't forget to pray and ask God to step in and help.  I remember one particular time when we were living in Florida. We had some sort of unexpected bill pop up leaving us with about $10 for grocery money for the pay period. Even though our pantry was starting to get a bit bare, I still knew I could make it work if I planned properly. So I started doing our pantry inventory and discovered the pantry had been infested with bugs. The kind of bugs that often hitch a ride home from the grocery store in bags of flour and then hop around your kitchen infesting all of your food that is not canned. They were having a party in the pantry and I had to toss about 90% of the food in the house that was not in the fridge. The buggers managed to get inside sealed bags and boxes and everywhere. I took a gamble and kept our canned good even though they often liked to feast on the glue holding the labels on cans but decided since the pantry was so bare, it was a risk worth taking. The pantry was completely scrubbed down and cleaned out. Then I sat back and realized I had enough food for about 3 days and had to make it 2 weeks. And that $10 I was going to spend on milk simply would not be enough. So I just might have done a little crying or swearing and packed the kids up to go put some groceries on the credit card. A few hours after getting home, one of our elderly neighbors came by with several bags of food from their kitchen for us. It seems they were getting ready to head up north for the summer and didn't want any food to go to waste. And they brought over pretty much everything I bought at the grocery store that day.  If that wasn't a big old sign from God telling me to trust Him more, I'm not sure what it was but I learned a lesson that day. One that I have had to relearn a few times. We need to step back and remember to pray and them remember to give God time to work in our lives to make things better. In His time, not ours. So pray first. Then tackle the next steps.

Second, you need to inventory everything you have in your house food wise. Or if you are concerned with the entire house, inventory all household supplies as well. This step helps you figure out exactly what you have on hand so you don't waste precious resources stocking up on something you already have hidden in the back of your cupboards. It's also important at this point to double check best if used by dates and make plans to use up the older stuff. Just keep in mind that for most products, the best if used by dates do not mean the food is not longer safe, it simply means it might not be at it's peak freshness. It baffles me how often people toss perfectly good food because of these stupid dates so do some research so you know which ones you truly have to pay attention to and which ones can be ignored.

Third, look for and be open to chance to glean. Last year we were able to get a ton of free apples, pears, and walnuts from an older couple who owned a large overgrown orchard that they no longer truly were able to use. The kids loved being able to climb the old trees and pick the fruit and I was able to can applesauce, make pie filling and apple crisp, can pears, and the kids ate apples and pears for a week. We were also able to give away quite a few apples and pears to a few friends. Were the fruit as nice and pretty as the ones in the store? Nope. Were they treated with chemicals and pesticides like the ones in the store? Nope. Were they delicious and free? Yup. We've also picked up slightly soft produce that one of our neighbors sets out on a free table on our street. Perfect for making pear butter and several of the kids just ate them.

If you know the budget cuts will be more permanent, start looking for ways to produce your own food. This can be as simple as a few plants in pots or as complicated as raising your own animals. Everyone can do something to produce some of their own food at home and it can make a difference.

This time of year, I would also look into the farmers markets and produce stands. Developing a relationship with some of the venders at farmers markets can be a great way to get produce cheaper than normal. Especially if you let them know that you are willing to take seconds or bruised produce. Especially if you are willing to haul away large loads of it to get it off their hands. We've developed a bit of a relationship with what is typically an over priced produce vender near us but the deals they will give us on the seconds/bruised produce are more than worth it. I've been able to keep our freezer stocked with peppers year round by waiting until they are 7 or 8 for a buck. Last year I bought out their seconds table a few times (and they were willing to negotiate the cost down if I took everything on it) and can a ton of food. It does require committing to doing nothing but processing the food for 48 hours or so but when you can fill the back of your car to the brim with produce for $20, it is more than worth it.

Another way I fill the shelves on a slim budget is to use coupons properly. This does not mean using every coupon out there or, for me, buying multiple copies of newspapers or anything. For me it means taking advantage of the items you can get for free or super cheap each week. Almost every week there are at least 2 or 3 items that I can buy for free and often others that I pay less than 20% of the normal price for. Last week it was free tuna and scotch tape and 29 cents for a pound of carrots. Often it is free toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. Ask for coupons from friends or family members who may not use them or start a coupon exchange with friends who do. Our local library now has a coupon swap box that anyone can use to take coupons they may use or leave behind coupons they won't need. Don't forget to use the special coupon programs and price matching programs available when you are able. That store loyalty card can save you some money as can programs like Target's Cartwheel program. I also follow several local coupon blogs and frequently watch on-line to request free samples. I am also able to use teacher discount programs as a homeschooler. Once a year we get a box full of toothpaste samples, 25 toothbrushes, and 25 coupons for toothpaste. I've found the right store to use the coupons at each year to get tubes of toothpaste for 8 cents each. I'm not sure why that store charges tax on the coupon total since most other stores do not but it still ends up much cheaper than buying toothpaste full price. Yes, one sample or freebie seems like it won't make a difference but in the end they all add up to help fill in the gaps.

When deciding what to put on your pantry shelves, start with the inexpensive foods. In our area, that means things like rice, dried beans, pasta, sauce, and oatmeal.  If you know how to cook from scratch, these items can give you a creative base to work from. Just be realistic and admit to yourself that when you only have $30 for a weeks worth of groceries, this is NOT the time to buy cookies, expensive produce (stick with the cheaper stuff), most meat, or anything other than the plain simple basics. It's not a bad thing to admit that you will be eating spaghetti, beans and rice, and oatmeal for a week.

Sell stuff. This may seem silly but seriously, if you realize your budget will be tiny for a while, start looking for things to sell and donate. The more you can look around find extras in the house, the more you realize you are truly blessed. Plus less stuff means less to organize and keep track of. I'll admit the past few weeks, I've been selling extra homeschool materials for our grocery money. The stuff has been laying around for far too long and clearing it out has given us several weeks of food without wondering where the money was coming from. I've also cleared out several van loads of other stuff from the house and taken them to the thrift store to donate. The upside of this (other than extra space in the house) is that this thrift store gives you coupons and discounts every time you donate so I've also been able to buy things we needed at a significant discount (like the sandals the kids needed).

Seek out alternative sources for food. When I say this I mean abandon your brand loyalty and look around for the discount outlets, the cheaper grocery stores, the ethnic markets in your area and see if you can cut the amount you spend. I've started shopping at Aldi's and the bread store first before heading anywhere else. It saves us a decent amount of money and has made a difference lately. Not every location will be the same quality wise and I would not sacrifice quality for price but if your local store has quality foods, you can save a ton this way.

Learn to cook from scratch (and teach your kids). This may sound silly but it truly makes a huge, huge difference. If you know how to make bread yourself, you can make several loaves for the price of one. If you know how to cook dried beans, you'll save a ton of money vs canned. If you have the basic skills, you can get creative when the budget is tight. If you know how to throw together a pot of soup from scratch, you can feed your family for pennies. It does seem to me as if cooking from scratch is truly a lost art and one that needs to be resurrected.

This is a big one that I know some people will take issue with. But you cannot stock your pantry or manage your food budget if you are dealing with picky eaters. So unless someone in your family is dealing with allergies or sensory issues, it is time to kick picky eating to the curb. I'm not really talking about the kid who won't eat one or two foods. I'm talking about the kid who wants to live on just pasta and eggs or something. I'm talking about the kid who comes to your house and insults the food you've made for dinner or fills their plate, takes one bite, and throws the food away. I'm talking about the kids who have been taught that if they don't like what is being served, they can go into the kitchen and dig in the cupboards for something else no matter where they are, your house or theirs.  Yes, I've had all of these things happen with guests and I don't understand any of them. I've been yelled at by other parents for insisting that my kids finish the food they took. I've been told it is mean and the kids have to eat. Well, no normal kid will starve if they decide to miss a meal because they've been rude but they may find themselves getting fewer invites over to our house if they are constantly filling their plates and then throwing their food away. So banish the picky eating, not just for the kids but for the adults as well. I've had several people tell me they can't cut their grocery budget because their husband won't eat certain foods. I just have to say that then you need to sit your husband down and explain that you can't cook the foods if the money isn't there and he's old enough to understand that. But I'm mean like that. Picky eating should not be what prevents you from slashing your grocery budget.

If needed, you also need to sit down with your family and discuss things like proper portion sizes, greed, and gluttony. I know we don't like to think about those things but we need to. If one child takes 3rds of the main dish so another child then leaves the table hungry and it happens on a regular basis, there is a problem. If you buy a treat for the entire family and one or two kids eat the entire thing, there is a problem. If you buy a treat specifically for a certain person, but someone else eats it, there is a problem. If you are finding food trash around the house because the kids are snatching any and all treats that come into the house, there is a problem. Yes, we are battling a few of these issues right now and they frustrate me because the kids involved are pretty much all old enough to know better and understand how what they are doing is wrong. But they are playing the there are too many of us for them to pin point who did it game. So for the most part, I am no longer buying the treats or juice or anything extra that kids have been taking without permission. I figure if they are taking carrots and celery, they are really hungry. If they are taking cookies and candy, they are just bored and greedy. So I'm also saying no to making cookies and treats lately because the same thing happens. One or two kids eat most of them leaving almost nothing for the rest of the family. So have those discussions. Repeatedly until the message is received because no one needs the habit of gluttony with regard to food to follow them into adulthood.

I've also started looking into alternative sources for bringing in small amounts of money. Nothing major or that takes me away from my primary job of being home with the kids but enough to make a difference when we need it. I use Checkout51, SavingStar, Pinecone Research, and Swagbucks to earn gift cards, gifts, and checks. If you have a smartphone, there are many other coupon based apps you can use to earn money for what you buy at the store as well. You can also use programs like Paperback Swap to trade books, cds, and DVDs that you are  no longer using for ones that you would use. We also keep track of free programs for the kids. Free movies and programs from the library, free coupons from the summer reading program (this year we have coupons for free food from Taco Bell, Wendys, and Brueggers) as well as programs like the Pizza Hut Book-It program give us free treats for the younger ones.

I'm sure none of these ideas are new or amazing. They are just what work for us. If I had $30 to spend on groceries, I would try to spend $25 on food to eat that week and $5 for stocking the pantry. Even spending a couple dollars a week can eventually help. Small steps, remember to be thankful for you do have, and get creative to find what you need will make a difference.