Saturday, July 31, 2010

My boys!

I took some new photo's of all of the boys last week. It's a miracle when I'm able to get them to let me take photo's of them!

It's so sad to me how fast they are growing up. They are all so smart and such good kids. I'm a really lucky woman.

Alex - I can't believe he's almost 8!

Cameron - 5

Wyatt - 4

Zayne - almost 2!

Just a couple of Annabella too :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Budgeting Groceries

Here's another blog entry I was asked to write!

How do we budget our groceries? Now let me remind you before I go on, we are a family of 7, so the average family will obviously have a smaller grocery bill than us! I also have 4 boys who eat more than I do (really).

We budget in $250 - $300 a week for groceries. This includes paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning products. For a smaller family that may seam like a large amount, but between the number in our household and the fact that we have no choice but to be picky due to Cameron's allergies, it's what we've come up with. Sometimes we come in under budget on good weeks that we were able to find useful coupons, store deals etc. We do not use any boxed foods and we buy a lot of fruit and fresh vegetables. The kids lunches are usually some kind of sandwich or wrap with side of fruit, apple sauce, yogurt or fresh raw veggies like baby carrots. Most of our meals have fresh vegetables and if it's not fresh, it's frozen. What I'm getting at is, we are not buying the cheapest things we can, which we can't anyway because like I mentioned before, Cameron's food allergies limits us quite a bit with being able to buy anything packaged. I prefer not to use packaged foods anyway, so it's alright by me.

One thing I will say is SO IMPORTANT when trying to stay within a budget is to make a menu for the week and walk into the grocery store with a list! The menu enables you to write a full grocery list with everything you need to prepare each meal. The grocery list keeps you from just grabbing anything that looks good and not having complete meals, while spending too much. Really, it makes a big difference.

Another thing I do is look for coupons before I write the menu and grocery list. I am not one of those super coupon people who will buy everything according to available coupons, while I wish I could, a large majority of coupons are for boxed and packaged foods. I do however look for coupons that we will use and what coupons I find can effect what the menu for that week will be. I'm sure we could easily save money when it comes to toilet paper and paper towels, but I'm a snob when it comes to those products... I will only use Bounty paper towels and Scott's toilet paper lol. Laundry, Hygiene and Cleaning products are something else I do not buy according to what is on sale. I buy very specific products (because of skin allergies and environmental consciousness). I do seek out coupons or deals on the specific products we use though! When it comes to pasta (we only use whole wheat), apple sauce and other things like that, I buy according to which brand is cheaper.

And last, but not least... I arrange the menu so that the fresh produce that will spoil the quickest is used first. This I consider part of budgeting because if the food goes bad, you just wasted money.

I hope this is useful to someone out there!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Preparing for this coming school year

Here we are, already in the end of July! I'm preparing for the 2010/2011 school year. I do teach all year, but it's much more relaxed during the summer. My husband and I decided on buying a curriculum for Alex this year rather than me compiling it myself (Because well... I have 5 kids... and.... it's easier... lol). Now that Alex's curriculum is ordered, Cameron's Kindergarten curriculum is compiled for the most part and I'm preparing some preschool work for Wyatt, I decided to also make a little Homeschool area in the diningroom. Rather than having the kids computers/laptops crammed against mine or on the diningroom table (which drives me insane) I decided we would get small inexpensive desks and chairs just for them to use. We also have a new, small bookshelf and I made a little daily assignments system. I figured it was time to be a little more organized now that I'm officially homeschooling more than one of them.

For those who are curious, we ordered Alex's 2nd grade curriculum from Timberdoodle. This is my first time using them, so we'll see how it goes! I have high hopes though :). I've read and heard good things about them and after looking at what their curriculum includes it looks like a good choice for the cost. The only thing I'm not particularly thrilled about is there is a bit of religion included and we are not religious, but on the other hand I will never discourage my children from learning about religions if they choose. Alex has been curious about the Christian religion lately, so it works out well. I also have other things I intend to supplement with where I see fit.

This is what his curriculum will include.

Here are some photos of our current homeschool setup!

Diningroom/Homeschool area.

Homeschool area.
Our simple little daily assignment system.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Homemade Pizza Adventure!

Since we can't order pizza out anymore due to Cameron's food allergies, we now have to make our own! A BIG thank you to my mom and dad for getting us the bread machine. it was a HUGE help with making the dough! So I said it was from scratch, but to be fair, I mostly meant because we made our own crust. This time we did not make our own pizza sauce and I don't think I will ever make cheese.... ever.

Here is our 2 large Whole Wheat Pizzas! Ours in a Veggie and the kids is Pepperoni (if I had my way it would have been veggie too, but daddy trumped me on that one). I put cheese over a lot of our veggies, so there is actually a lot on there, you just can't see it well lol. We learned a couple of things to tweak it for next time. I do have to say though, for our first time making completely homemade pizza, including the dough, it was EXCELLENT! They aren't too bad looking either! ;)

We made a whole wheat crust which is soy, barley, buckwheat, rice and even gluten free. The pizza sauce is Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce. We used Sargento Shredded Mozzarella and Kraft grated Parmesan Cheese. Then of course there were fresh veggies and some pepperoni. We sprinkled Oregano and Basil on top of the pizza as well as lightly brushing the veggie pizza crust edge with olive oil.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A little more than a week into Cameron's soy, rice, barley and buckwheat free diet!

As the title says, it's just a little over a week into our diet/lifestyle change. It's obviously more than just a change for Cameron since I don't want him to have to eat completely separate meals from everyone for every meal. Dinners are now completely soy/barley/buckwheat/rice free for everyone. I'm now making all of our bread, so all of the bread in the house is soy/barley/buckwheat/rice free. We make sure he has cereal for breakfast that is safe for him to have and sides with lunch that he can have. Some things he has separate from his brothers, but now most of our food in the house he can have. It has been a very big adjustment. You have no idea how many things have just soy alone, until you have to eliminate it from your diet. With the other allergies on top of the soy allergy, it makes many things a VERY big challenge. When we find things that don't have soy, they often have barley or rice in some form.

I was already big on preparing healthy food, but now even a lazy day of picking up fast food or ordering a pizza isn't an option. He can't have those things anymore. (this is a good thing in 1 way. This is stuff we DON'T really need to ever eat) If we want pizza, we have to make homemade dough and make the pizza ourselves. We have yet to find a place that makes dough that is free of all of his allergens or a pre-made dough, even at Whole Foods or Earth Fare that is safe for him to have. Of course, a LOT of the healthy food we ate, also had these things in it.

In just a week, Cameron's skin has improved probably 70%, the circles under his eyes are lighter and he's not as irritable. It's just crazy how much of a difference the diet change has made already! I am still really frustrated that it took this long to get the Drs. to test him for food allergies. But, now we know he has these allergies and we're able to help him. I am really excited to see him fully clear up! I have not seen his skin completely clear in 5 years, I just can't wait!

My mom and dad bought us a Bread Maker, bread slicer and a bread keeper (to cover Tony's birthday, our anniversary and my birthday at once lol). I am VERY grateful they did! I have to make bread pretty much daily, so it makes that quite a bit easier.

So, this was my little update of our new adventure so far!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Never underestimate the power of mothers intuition

I've come to a couple of glaring realizations in the past week. One is that if you want things done with military drs. you HAVE to be persistent and even fight with them. The other is that no one should ever underestimate a mothers intuition. While I type this I'm half relieved and half pissed off. I just really feel like there is NO reason it has taken 5 years to find out why my son has had severe skin issues that has never been able to be cleared up, low weight (in the 3% until he was almost 2 regardless of how well he ate), very dark circles under his eyes, irritability and random stomach upset. Last week, a blood allergy test done for 2 allergy groups came up that Cameron has a high allergy to Soy, Rice, Barley and Buckwheat. These are in foods he eats every single day, especially soy. This was a simple blood test that took a whole whopping 10 minutes from start to finish to get his blood and then 2 days for the results.

Cameron's skin issues started at 4 months old, looking back, that was when he was switched to soy formula because of his bad reflux. Over the past 5 years I've been repeatedly told it's just severe eczema, despite the fact that creams, lotions, steroids, allergy medications, all natural skin products, all natural/chemical free detergents etc. were not clearing him up. Now and then it would improve, but it has never fully cleared up no matter what we did. He's been to the dr. for his skin issues alone at least a dozen times and it was always brought up at every check-up as well. On several occasions I've suggested a possible food allergy and was told I was wrong every time. In the past 6 months I finally put my foot down and refused to let the drs. dismiss it anymore. He's progressively gotten worst, to the point now where he is broken out in an itchy, dry, painful rash from head to toe and his eyes are so dark he looks like he doesn't sleep. We finally got them to give us a referral to a dermatologist and allergist. This Tricare provider allergist obviously isn't top notch, since they only diagnosed his grass allergy. After several visits to both the dermatologist and allergist and us doing every single thing they told us from antibiotics and steroids to olive oil in his bath and allergy medication and him showing no improvement whatsoever, I made another appointment with the pedi, went in there and insisted on a blood test for food allergies. A few friends suggested I specifically mention a gluten allergy, so I did. She reluctantly sent him for the blood work, but said she didn't think that was it. She just sent him to appease me and that's perfectly fine. Why wasn't this done before to at least rule food allergies out??? Because they are lazy drs. who don't really care about their patients. Instead they wanted to pump him full of steroids that didn't do anything and completely dismissed my feeling he had food allergies. I just hope this is all of his allergies. They did only test for 2 groups.

So here we are, we FINALLY know he has these food allergies. Let me tell you, Soy is one allergy that is a challenge. It's is a SO MUCH food. Don't fool yourself and think it's only in junky packaged foods, it's in a lot of perfectly healthy food as well. Looking at labels of what we all eat here, we had to make a drastic change in what we're buying. Simple things like tuna, we had to find some without soy and that meant we got the solid white albacore select fillet (we always bought albacore, just not the select fillet type), which is more expensive. BREAD, lets talk about bread. Go look in your kitchen, I bet your bread has soy in it... and possibly buckwheat or even barley too. We had to go to Earth Fare to find bread and even there, we only found 2 different types that did not have soy or the other things he can't have. One was $5 a loaf and the other $7 a loaf. We bought the more inexpensive one for just him, we can't afford for everyone to eat that bread. I am going to have to start making my own bread. We have had to change probably 85% of what he eats because of his allergies. Some things he can't have at all and others we have to
read labels and search for alternatives.

I'm hopeful that he will finally start feeling better. I'm frustrated that it took this long to diagnose him. I've lost the last bit of faith I had in these drs. with this. I've had a lot of problems with the drs. dismissing my health issues... now my son. It is sad to me.

I am going to make myself an expert at this food allergy thing. I have to.

Let me just add a little disclaimer here... This is just MY feelings based on MY experiences with military drs. and facilities.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Annabella Photo Session

I'm obviously no professional photographer, but I can do a decent enough job. I do LOVE taking photo's though. This afternoon I did a little photo shoot with Annabella in the matching tutu and headband set I made for her :). I wish my boys would let me take photo's of them more often. People are going to start thinking I don't like them or something!

Here are some of the photo's I took :)