Being Suzy Homemaker…again

Okay, remember that one time when I said that I cook the same exact things every single day of the week? Well that grew really old, really fast. Sure, it worked for a time. But now, just thinking of tacos and fried rice makes me want to throw up.

In fact, I knew it was time to start cooking again when last night Aaron and I didn’t even have a real dinner. The thought of homemade pizza was so repulsive, we just ate crackers with Nutella and salt and vinegar chips and went to bed. That is not a lie, guys. It really happened.

So, I sat down to make up our meal plan this morning and for once, I am not repeating one single meal. See, when you live on a budget, and you go grocery shopping, it’s like your meals have to correspond, they have to relate, even if they are just distant cousins. If I buy 5 pounds of potatoes, I will not waste a single potato. If I buy tomatoes, we are eating tomatoes, and you had better like it because that is my paycheck and it is not headed to the landfill!

Here is what I am making for the next two weeks:

Oven Fish ‘n’ Chips
Moroccan Stew with rice
Fried egg sandwich (for when Aaron is at drill)
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan with noodles.  

Aaron is making soup, hobos, and omelets.

As you can see, I went off the deep end, here. This menu couldn’t be further in taste and texture than my go-to meals. I just want to taste again! My normal budget for groceries is $140, so I’m praying that it all works out…I’ll let you know. (I realize that the “hope it all works out” mentality + strict budget are two opposite concepts, so I’ll let you know how that works out, too 😉

to this day

I am frequently overwhelmed by my power in the classroom. Sometimes, I feel the weight of being the only chance a kid has.

Yesterday at school, I was on cafeteria duty. I paced up and down the lunch tables, opening ranch packets, picking up snippets of conversation here and there. When something caught my eye. I slowly walked over to a table, trying not to disrupt the conversation taking place. The power of observation, the power of waiting before acting, is often my greatest ally. It was a boy, not in my class, talking to my newest student. She was staring at him intently, fingering her pepperoni pizza. I have learned, through the last few months, that the slightest gestures often mean something is wrong. Those small fingers, nervously picking at the crust, was what grabbed my attention. Slowly, I walked up behind him, and heard him discussing a dog. Something about a dog and pizza. I was so close to walking away, to letting it go, but something about all the kids just staring at him, listening to him, told me that I only knew a fraction of the conversation. My little girl looked up at me and nervously smiled, and that was it. I drew her aside and said, “What was he saying?” She looked embarrassed, and said, “He was calling me fat.”

“How did he say it?” I asked her.

“He told me that I eat more pizza than a dog. That I take two whole boxes of pizza and take them to my bedroom and eat all of it. That’s why I’m so fat.”

It’s like a beast welled up inside me. And it was angry. I was angry at all the boys and girls who ever said that, and other cruel things, to all the other boys and girls. It was heartbreaking. She didn’t even cry or seem upset. It was like she had accepted his words, swallowed them, digested them.

I told her that it was an absolute lie. He is lying to you, don’t you believe it for a second. I don’t even know what else I said. I just remember the desperation in my voice, trying to convince her to spit his words back up. Don’t let yourself be poisoned.

I brought the boy to the behavioral support staff and she told me, “He is so low, he has no clue that what he said was mean or hurtful.” Maybe. Maybe he has been called names, and the person who called him names was called names, and that person was called names, and that person. I don’t know.

I saw this video today, and it saddened me beyond belief. It saddens me that for some kids, school is not a safe place. It saddens me that teachers can be perpetuators of bullying; ignoring, pretending like we didn’t hear, like it was a joke, like the kid is too low to understand what he is saying, or just move the bullied student to the back of the room and act like that fixes everything.

It doesn’t.

Check out To This Day Project if you’re interested in learning more.

paying The Man sucks

Exactly a year ago, Aaron and I started on an incredible journey. We were broke and arguing over money. In desperation, I headed over to the public library and rented the first book I saw on money: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I had heard of him before, so I grabbed it and Aaron and I began reading it that night.

It really changed our lives, friends. We drank his Kool-Aid and never looked back. We went from being $48,635 in debt from school loans (mine) and a “Career Starter loan” (his) and today, we stand at  $21,447. One more year, folks, and we will be free from the awful burden of that debt (I fondly refer to it as The Man)! I think about how a year ago, we would get so stressed when our monthly bill of $489 towards some loan would come around and we would argue and feel so stressed about how we were going to pay it. And now, only a year later, we pay more than twice that amount and don’t sweat it a bit.

I admit that it hasn’t been easy. We basically stopped going out to eat. We stopped assuming that we had enough money in the bank. We stopped eating meat every night. We did everything we could to not spend money and pay off the debt, and it really sucked at times. We moved to Arizona and payed for the entire move in cash, about $5,000. Our couches are starting to sag, and our cars are starting to sound a little funky, but we press on and live on little so that later we can live on and give God much.

In fact, every month I am amazed at how much God provides for us. We pay 36% of our monthly income towards debt and we tithe more than 10%. And God continues to give us extra money here and there every single month. It’s been amazing and humbling! God has blessed us beyond belief! I sleep peacefully, knowing where every penny is going and how every bill is getting paid. And Aaron and I love talking about money and our budget.

I know it’s considered taboo to talk about personal finances in a public setting, but I really get so excited when I think about the freedom of being debt free. Call us crazy, but we are sold out to this new freedom and it makes all those little sacrifices worth it. I really hope that this post has been encouraging to you to start thinking about your own finances. Whenever you are faithful with what God gives you, be it small or great, God will bless you more and more!

“…the borrow is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

Miss Janel

I taught Sunday School for the first time today. I was really looking forward to it, ’cause, you know, kids are my jam. Well, there are only four kids in our church, so I figured it would be fun and relaxing. One of the kids came up to me first thing this morning and said, “What do you want us to call you?” and I said, “Just call me Janel.” “Miss Janel?” In which I replied, “Nooo, don’t call me Miss Janel!”

I don’t know what it is about the name “Miss Janel”…..wait, I do. There was a person way back in the day in my youth group that we all called Miss________ and it bothered me on so many different levels. So, I decided that I did not want that certain title for me. I would just go by Janel. No big deal, right?
Wrong. The mother of this child comes up to me and says, “I want the kids to call you Miss Janel, okay?” I told her I would think about it. And now, I feel very conflicted and a little annoyed. I completely understand why parents want their children to call adults by their title. In fact, I think that all parents should teach their children to do it.  However, I truly feel like if that adult says, “Just call me by my first name,” then the child should respect that. It is, after all, my name. Don’t I get a say in what I am called?
When I was a kid, we had this family friend named Geoff. My parents kept telling me and my siblings that we had to call him Mr. Rayment, or Mr. Geoff, or something like that. But he insisted that we call him Geoff. I remember as a kid feeling like I was betraying my parents if I gave in to his insistence. I looked hesitantly at my dad, wondering who I should obey. It felt really uncomfortable from then on out what I called him, so my decision was pretty much to avoid calling him anything after that. 
I would hate to put these kids in that position. Who should we obey: parents or the person to whom we are addressing? Personally, I plan on teaching my kids to always address someone by the most respectful title/name first, unless they give you permission to call them something else. 
I don’t know…am I wrong? I ended up telling the kids that I strongly prefer to be called Janel, but if their parents insist that they call me Miss Janel, they should respect their parents. But even with that, it feels like I am selling out. I have always been the person who never wanted a nickname. I just love my name and don’t care for any deviations from it. To be honest, Miss Janel feels like a deviation.
*sigh* Help me out, folks…