Large Family Grocery Shopping

the crew

We barely have a large family. We are like a small, large family. But most people cannot fathom having a few more kids than they have. And they are curious! Boy are people curious about my family. And that is really fine. We don’t mind curiosity. It is interesting. We know. I’d be curious. I’m sometimes curious about families larger than mine. One question we get a lot is about groceries. Most people see six kids all they can think is, “How on earth do you feed them all?” I feel like Costco was built for me! And when you are buying multiple Costco sized packages of things, well, you are aware that you are an anomaly. Most people see a Costco sized butter pack (4 lbs.) and think, how long will it take me to use that? It isn’t Christmas right now! I see it and think, I sure hope 2 packs lasts me through the month!

Here are our usual food purchases for a month. A couple notes before I list all this. (1) I have no teenagers yet! The six lovely children range from 8 months to 9 years. I imagine I will have to double this in a few years and then triple it a few years after that. (2) This isn’t everything. These are just our base staples. I meal plan and we buy what is needed for those meals. I usually go with whatever meat is on sale. And we eat vegetarian half the time, so I buy a lot of bulk beans and use my Bean by Bean Cookbook. This also doesn’t include any canned goods. (3) This is just an average month. Some months my kids will get on a yogurt kick and we’ll go through more yogurts and less bananas. It happens. This is just an average month when they are spreading their likes around. (4) These are per month totals. And some are a combination of bulk and regular grocery store purchasing. (5) I also buy household items each month like toilet paper and paper towels, those things aren’t included. This is just food.

Bananas  –  4 dozen

Apples  –  6 lbs.

Gogurt  –  72 pouches

String Cheese  –  96

Mozarella Snack Cheese  –  36

Granola Bars  –  96

Popcorn  –  2 lbs. unpopped kernels

Lemons  –  3 lbs.

Onions  –  10 lbs.

Garlic  –  2 lbs.

Sweet Tea  –  45 gallons

Bread  –  12 loaves

Tortillas  –  88

Applesauce  –  48 pouches

Oatmeal  –  2 lbs.

Peanut Butter  –  80 oz.

Raisins  –  24 snack size boxes

Milk  – 8 gallons

Almond Milk  –  8 gallons

Eggs  –  4 dozen

Butter  –  8 lbs.

Sour Cream  –  4 lbs.

Cottage Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Heavy Cream  –  3 quarts

Shredded Mexican Cheese  –  3 lbs.

Pretzels  –  3.5 lbs.

 

Ask LJ: Toddler Advice

Dear LJ,

My toddler keeps knocking things off the shelves in the store! How do I act?

Frustrated Mum

IMGP3001Frustrated Mum,

Is there any chance the toddler is not yours? Not your toddler, you just thank the Lord that today is not your day to deal with that. And smile! Bystanders of toddler tantrums should always smile at mom and dad!

The child is yours? Oh. Can you pretend they aren’t? Just kidding. Though, isn’t that where we all go?

Having raised 4 toddlers already, working on the fifth now, with one more to go, I’ll give you my not so expert advice since in all my toddler raising days I have never raised YOUR specific toddler. Unfortunately, there is likely no one size fits all approach, so you, as the presiding expert on raising YOUR toddler will just have to do what feels right for you.

Option 1: Tie that sucker down. I don’t mean it mean. Sure they want to walk. But the buggy can be your friend! Just make sure you don’t get the buggy (or cart or whatever they call it where you live) too close to the shelves. You know that annoying person that walks in the center of the aisle? Well now you know why.

Option 1a: If this is not a buggy kind of store, strap him to your back or plop him into the stroller. Again, take care to stay away from the shelves!

Bonus expert tip: Keep the snacks flowing! They sit happier when they are preoccupied with snacks. Icees are the only way Target ever happens.

Bonus expert tip: Singing ridiculous songs very loudly can keep a toddler quite for quite some time. In my experience, toddler happiness > personal embarrassment. Great Big Poop one more time, everybody!

Option 2: Leave. Seriously, some things are not worth fighting over. If it isn’t a necessity, hang up the gloves and let the kid win. Get out of there!

Option 3: This can be combined with Option 1. Make your necessary trips fast! If your particular brand of toddler has zero patience, a leisurely stroll around Target is ill advised. Get your junk and get out!

Option 4: Don’t attempt any store with your toddler. I know this sounds drastic, but there are some toddlers… Work out some arrangement by which the child does not have to darken a store until they are 4. Or 5. Or maybe 16.

Option 5: Online shopping. What can’t you buy online?

Now, whatever you do, don’t do the following things:

-Yell. They don’t listen. Eventually they’ll train you on this one.

-Act like a toddler. As tempting as it might be to join them in pitching a fit, refrain. Someone has to be the grown up around here and it sure isn’t them.

-Reason with them. They aren’t there yet. If you find yourself arguing with a toddler, you need to rethink some things in your life. And they don’t know WHY. Gravity. I mean, the answer is usually just gravity.

-Lecture them. Wah wah wah wah wah wah. Look! You turned into Charlie Brown’s teacher.

You’ve got this, Mum! Go get ’em!

**Ask LJ is a fictitious advice column based on search engine searches that send people to my site somehow. All advice given is by me, who is, again, not an expert on your kid.**

**If you really need help with a toddler, I have a couple book suggestions you can check out in all that free time between poop and jam and broken toys and more poop and baby powder in the carpet. Making The Terrible Twos Terrific. Your Two Year Old.**

How Else Will They Know?

no neutral

My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love

Christ Now

Christ now

John 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.

Leviticus 19:18 You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Christ came for us. Not because it was deserved. Not because it was in his best interest. He came because He loved us. It was not for self when He laid down His life for His sheep. He gave us this deep grace. He offers it to us freely. Grace so surprising, so amazing, so abounding- that is leaves me speechless. Words fail when we try to express this ridiculously extravagant love that God shows us.

without exception

To quote Brennan Manning in The Furious Longing of God, “Are we responding to the love of Jesus living within us concretely and consistently in our love for one another?” This is really the heart of common courtesy- showing the love and grace that we have received.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We first come to this amazing realization that God loves us. For some, that takes a lot of faith. And for some, we accept what is around it, and don’t really bury that truth in our soul. God loves me. God love ME. GOD LOVES ME!!! Some may need to tattoo that truth on their forehead to embed it into their heart. God loves me. He does. He died so that I can be with Him in eternity and not separated by death. He loves me. We accept that truth, we accept the grace He offers, then what? Then we share this grace with others! That truth that God loves me, then we start to see the truth that God love you. And you. And you. So we start treating one another, not as miserable, faulty little creatures, but as God’s loves. We accept that we were created in His image, then look around us and find others created in His image.

We see it in the lives of the apostles, the lives of the saints, the lives of missionaries- this denying of ourselves and living for others. And we think, “I can’t do that!” But we can! We can! God is in the small things. God is in us. We can show those that haven’t felt the love of God deep in their souls the love of God! We can be mirrors reflecting His grace!

outwardness

We like to bottle up and act like this grace we’ve been given is about us. It is all internal works. Outwardness doesn’t matter. After all, we can’t all be saints. But here is the thing, we will all be saints. “But my life doesn’t look like a saint’s!” God is making us all into new creatures. Who I was five years ago is not who I am now? Was I not a Christian then? Of course I was! But as I press onward, I find myself more and more conformed to this cross I press against.

I’m going to share with you a small excerpt from Dennis Kinlaw’s book, The Mind of Christ. In discussing Helen Roseveare’s call the Africa and her frustration in doing things she felt she wasn’t called to do, “At that moment, she realized God had not sent her to Africa to be a surgeon; He had sent her there to show the love of Christ. What did she deserve? Merely an opportunity to show the love of Christ. And she could not do that if she got what she thought she deserved.”

Maybe you don’t have some big calling, like going to Africa to be a surgeon. Maybe you do. Maybe you will. But however big or small you think your calling might be, you are called to be Christ in this world. You are called to be a servant to your fellow man. You are called to embrace those Christ would embrace. To take this grace and love deep into the darkness and light little fires in people’s souls.

How can common courtesy do such a thing? How can simply saying, “Hello. How are you?” really do anything? It is a simple act of love. One we don’t see often anymore. The extending to someone that you see them and they have value. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Oh, wait. That is Spiderman. Well, same thing applies. You are the recipient of this great overwhelming love and grace from Christ. What will you do with it?

 

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

IMGP2160

Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.

O Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is lovely. Yes, I did buy it out of the back of a truck at Costco. His name is Bob, according to my kids. He might have started as some ordinary tree, but not he’s special. Super special.

christmas tree 1I know what you are thinking. That tree looks nothing like a magazine picture. It has needles falling all over my floor. The lights are haphazardly tossed on. The garland isn’t evenly spaced. The ornaments don’t match. It has no theme. I hear you. And I will still tell you that my tree is absolutely beautiful and I would take it over any other tree.

christmas tree 2I took so many pictures of this tree. I know years from now, my tree will evolve. It always evolves. It is always a little snapshot of my family. A peek into that particular time. It has some heart warming memories of Christmas past, but each year, each tree is different. It is a picture of where we are as a family. A picture of where we have been. A snapshot of the journey so far.

christmas tree 3One day we may forego the whimsical colored lights and replace them with more sophisticated and somber white lights. The old ornaments may not make it. The kids may decide that they are too old for the handmade ornaments. We may replace the live tree with a more sensible and less messy fake version. Our tree will reflect our changing family. It’ll reflect the journey. And where we’ll be isn’t where we are. And I know I will miss this. I know I will. Despite my complaints about paint on the table all the time and never ending diaper changes, I know all of this is temporary. The family we’re building, that is eternal. But these stages, these don’t last. They come and they go. The kids grow.

jesus and some fishes at ChristmasOne day the kids will realize that Jesus feeding the five thousand isn’t a Christmas miracle. They’ll decide to skip putting him on the tree. One day, the little bells won’t be as much fun to untangle (and retangle). One day they may not want to sit and make little button Christmas tree ornaments to hang on my tree.

ornament ornamentIn fact, one day all too soon, they’ll have trees of their own. And I’ll wrap up what is left of their handmade ornaments, if I can bear to part with them, and pass them on. And they may or may not put them on their own tree. That part doesn’t concern me much. But the journey will go on.

you're a star charlie brown.jpgThe journey will not only go on, it will go in six different directions! My one tree will grow into six different trees. It’ll change. And I’ll miss these little days. star ornamentAnd I know that I will love my tree then. It’ll tell the story of where we’ve been. A story that isn’t without twists and turns, but a story of our family. But right now, this is the absolute best tree I could hope for. You can see my children in the ornaments. Colored lights picked for their enjoyment. A real tree because it makes them happy, and makes The Pastor happy. Beaded garland because that is the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. Handmade ornaments proudly hung by little hands (mostly along the bottom of the tree).

home alone faces

Instead of hoping for the day when I get a “good” tree, I choose to embrace the beauty of this one. I choose to find happiness and beauty in these little years. It will be gone before I am ready.

ransom does the star

One day they won’t need Dad’s help to put the star on the tree. One day being the one chosen to put the star on the tree won’t make their entire Christmas. (And one day the others won’t cry about NOT being chosen.)

bird ornament.jpgBut this year, right now, I have the most beautiful tree.

tree star victory.jpg