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When feeding your hunger isn’t always a SNAP

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By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the SNAP challenge that many celebrities are joining in on. I saw it but didn’t give it too much attention because it’s nowhere near the same as living on a meager food budget day after day, week after week, sometimes year after year.  It’s not a challenge, it comes across like a game. It’s kind of fun to stretch your buck and see how many meals you can squeeze out of a set budget, but not if you have no other choice. I realized this. I also believed that if I were hungry I would eat whatever I could, so the challenge was stupid. $30 budget? 30 boxes of pasta, done. If you’re hungry, you’ll eat, right?

I understand that some enjoy the thrill of the hunt type of thing and avidly scour sale flyers and clip coupons. My mother in law was the coupon queen and she saved TONS of money over the years. She would plan her Saturday route 100% by which stores had the best prices, and she would sometimes hit 4-5 stores, including the local CVS if their price on bread beat the supermarkets. For the first few years of my marriage we survived on $50 a week for 2 adults, and we had to squeeze diapers and wipes out of that too. Because we were so broke, my mother in law would often take my $50 and shop for us, working her magic.

What I could get for $50 compared to what she could get for $50 amazed me. She was like a food fairy, appearing with bags and bags of stuff each week. If it had not been for her and her skills, I don’t know what we would have done. It was lean as it was, even with her help and family having us over for dinner a couple of meals each week.

To her, it was a sport and she was an all star. She enjoyed it. To me, it was an overwhelming chore that took years of practice to master. At 18 I wasn’t able to ‘play the game’ like I later learned to. I watched and learned, and with age came experience. I know more about nutrition now, and what foods keep the longest. I’ve learned recipes and crock pot dinners and how to make 3 meals and a soup from a whole turkey. I just didn’t have this knowledge at 18, when our budget was $50.

A certain celeb recently shared a photo of what $29 bought her. Even after all I’ve learned, I wouldn’t know what to do with the things she bought. Limes are for tequila, set up the shots.

So, coincidentally I had just done my grocery shopping for the week right before deciding to take this “challenge” (hate that word for it). I felt pretty good about what I’d gotten for my $159. Nothing frivolous, pretty basic, and I shopped the sale stuff. I decided that the first thing I would do would be to find out what 1 person in my state (Massachusetts) would qualify for on SNAP. My son is disabled, and at 19 if he were living on his own he would qualify for $197 per month in food assistance. This would be his primary food source, as he would be living 100% on SSI if he wasn’t living with us at home.

So, I pulled out my shopping receipt. I would say approximately $25 of that was stuff like soap, paper towels, so let’s call it $125. I spent $125 and got plenty; Deli ham, cheese, turkey and rolls; apples; bananas; strawberries; lettuce; tomatoes; potatoes; chicken breasts; almond milk; pasta; sauce; yogurts; bags of frozen vegetables that were on sale. We’re good- for a WEEK. A weeks worth of food and only $72 leftover, if I were surviving on the SNAP budget my son qualifies for. (This food I bought will also feed more than one person and the challenge was for a one-person budget, so not really accurate, but this is the ‘challenge’, right? We’re pretending, like when I was a little kid and wanted to be Annie. It’s a hard knock life, and when life knocks you hard, you buy cilantro. Cuz this is fun. Isn’t this fun?)

So, only $72 left for the month, then what? Tuna was 10 for $10 this week, I guess I could stock up on that. Buy more pasta and sauce maybe? Obviously I hadn’t shopped with a budget in mind, and I probably would have chosen different items, probably stretching the money a bit better, so I decided to try. Let’s get serious and stop all this fun.

I took that $197 in benefits he would qualify for and divided by 4, giving me $49.25 a week. Sounds like plenty, should be pretty easy. I know for a fact, chicken breasts are super cheap this week, add potatoes and a vegetable and I might even have money for dessert. Who doesn’t like chicken? So versatile and tasty. Why would anyone blow their budget on things like frozen pizzas and tater tots when you can get nutritious and filling chicken? You don’t need cilantro to be shopping healthy, you just need common sense. Duh, no brainer.

Well the problem is, chicken breasts were super cheap for me on my personal budget because I bought in bulk and divided them up into meals and put them in the freezer. It worked out to be cheap per meal, but I had to cough up $10 or $11 up front. Would I pay $10 on a set budget with no idea what may go on sale next week? What if nothing went on sale that I wanted to buy? Would I just stick to this weeks planning, spending just my weekly $49.25, making sure to keep my safety net of $49.25 in place for the weeks ahead? Those frozen pizzas? 9 slices to a box, 2 boxes for $4….which one was the no brainer again?

I started planning my list. Breakfast: I could get 1 dozen eggs $1.49, a gallon of milk $3.49, a loaf of bread $.99, 5 bananas $1.95 and a whole pound of strawberries $2.00 for a total of $10.22.  I could eat 2 eggs all but one day, have some toast, some fruit, or maybe even make french toast and put the fruit on top. That is assuming I already have maple syrup, butter, and maybe PB&J for my toast. If I had to add peanut butter and jelly, that would add $1.79 and $1.49, bringing the total to $13.50.

Sounds pretty healthy by my dietary standards overall. I have no restrictions, its all food I like. But then I started looking at some of these foods and their ingredients.

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Buying the cheapest peanut butter would keep stretching my dollar at only $1.79 for 18 oz, but look at the ingredients. Oil…syrup… which adds to its shelf life and makes it smoother. For another $3.20 you get just peanuts and salt. Healthier choice- far more expensive.

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For jelly, you can save a ton of your budget if you want to slop high fructose corn syrup on your toast. Decisions, decisions.

For lunch I came up with some pretty good stuff. As always, a good standby is the Hydrogenated Rapeseed Oil and High Fructose Corn Syrup sandwich, aka HRO&HFCS sandwich. Kinda catchy.

Another lunch choice would be deli ham- $2.99 for a pound, deli cheese- $3.49 for a pound, lettuce for .99, bag of chips for $2.00, and 8 yogurts for $1.99. I would also need another loaf of bread for .99. This would be white bread, not wheat or whole grain bread- that stuff is $2.49. So my lunch budget was $12.45 for the week. Hopefully the deli meat would produce 7 sandwiches, but if not there’s grilled cheese, and I decided to toss in 3 cans of tuna for $3.00 as a lunch safety net. That brought me to $15.45….assuming I had mayo already.

The only nutritional issue I could find with my lunch was the yogurt. If you want a healthier choice, organic with no artificial ingredients, it’s gonna cost ya.

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So, that brings us to a total of $28.95, and although we’ve ingested a fair amount of artificial colors, flavors, oils and syrups, we are still doing okay budget-wise.

Dinner.. In my house, dinner tends to be the biggest meal I get all day. By this time if I were living on this budget, I would have eaten 2 decent sized meals, so hopefully I wouldn’t be ravenous by dinnertime, but nobody likes going to bed hungry, so let’s see what we can get for the final $20 in the budget.

Chicken breasts- $4.77 and I could make that go 3 small meals. Add potatoes- $2.50 and frozen vegetables each night for another $3.00. The other 4 nights I could do egg noodles $2.60 for 4 woohoo! A jar of sauce for each night for $4.00.

I had about $3.00 leftover, so figured I’d grab 3 cans of ravioli to have on standby. Check out the nutritional differences on ravioli.

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Guess we are going with the xantam gum, carotenal recipe.

So, yes I could survive on a SNAP budget for myself. That’s one person, shopping for things they will eat. If you are a parent shopping on a budget for 4 people with different tastes and dietary restrictions, I could see it being far more challenging.

If I had limited resources and were dependent on this program to help my family survive, it would take some strategic planning to find the healthiest foods for the best prices. SNAP program or not, we’ve all had to choose the crap at one time or another because the healthy stuff was too much money, I think I have some in my fridge right now. I’m not saying that people surviving on SNAP deserve to buy organic, when the person busting their butt to make a paycheck and buy their food has to eat the junk because it’s all they can afford. My point is, its hard for everyone to find the healthy, cost effective foods if your wallet is tight. That sucks.

I’m not a nutrition expert, and I’m not a budget expert. I am just a person who grocery shops, sometimes mindlessly, with a kid who could potentially depend on this program someday if circumstances changed. I am a working woman who has bitched about people abusing this system, out of frustration at the taxes I pay and the weeks when I can’t afford to buy every single thing on my food wish list. I am a parent who thinks it sucks that we are making a choice to feed our kids the less healthy option, because we can’t afford better. I am a mom who is heartbroken at the thought of some moms and dads putting their kids to bed hungry.

So, I did this “challenge” to increase awareness, but what I ended up challenging was my own heart and opening it up just a  little bit more. I challenge you to do the same..

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Paper Clouds for Donna and St. Baldrick’s

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Paper Clouds for Donna and St. Baldrick’s

For the next 2 weeks, Logan’s horse and angel drawings will be featured artwork on Paper Clouds Apparel​, with 50% of the profits going to St. Baldrick’s Foundation​ via Donna’s Good Things​.

This campaign pulls on many of our heart strings.

Firstly, the cause. My lovely friend Sheila aka Mary Tyler Mom​ is the mother of Donna, the namesake of Donna’s Good Things.

This is Donna

This is Donna

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Donna loved to dance

Donna and Sheila are the reasons I came to know about St Baldrick’s, and they were actually the first charity Logan and I ever sewed for. They are also the reason I made my first trip to Chicago, to attend Listen To Your Mother​ to hear Sheila share Donna’s story.

Many of us watch our children struggle, with all types of things. It might be struggling to speak, to tie shoes, to walk, or maybe its to read or figure out algebra. When its your child, any struggle is a big deal.

Imagine if the struggle your child faced was cancer……

More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined.

Donna was diagnosed with papillary meningioma, an aggressive brain tumor on March 23, 2007. She was 20 months old. On October 19, 2009, Donna died. She was four years, two months, four weeks and one day old. You can read her whole story here. Each post covers one month of Donna’s 31 months of treatment. You can also watch it here

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For a glimpse into what cancer robbed this family of, this WORLD of, click here———> to watch Donna Sings Blue Suede Shoes. I click on this link often..

I have met Donna’s mother Sheila. I consider her a friend.  I have hugged her, I have looked into her eyes and I have heard the story of Donna in Sheila’s own words. Although I never got the chance to meet Donna, I know her through the memories her mother shares, and I care deeply for her and her family.

You may be stunned to learn the facts about childhood cancer, I know I was. Please read About Childhood Cancer and Filling the Funding Gap. Imagine hearing the words from your child’s doctor “Your child has cancer” and then learning that there has been minimal funding toward researching a cure.

KIDS ARE DYING at an alarming rate. Parents are losing their little girls and boys.

We can’t turn our backs on these families and push it out of our minds hoping it will never come crashing into our own lives.

Secondly, the horse. I explain why this horse means so much to me on iReport CNN HERE

Thirdly, Paper Clouds. We have been working with this incredible company for several years and have been part of many generous donations through these campaigns. Last spring for Logan’s graduation, they gifted Logan with a part ownership of the company- UNREAL.

Every part of this campaign is just overflowing with love.

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Too many lives lost, too many parents grieving. We are choosing hope. Please join us by doing what we can. Please consider making a donation and please share with family and friends.

Win a Slombie!

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2 ways to enter each day! Each one of these counts as a single entry. If you email, its 1 entry. If you email AND tweet, that’s 2 entries. Do one a day or both every day. Have family and friends do the same to increase your chances of winning.

Email thecrumbdiaries@yahoo.com or click HERE with CONTEST in the subject line or body of the message.

Tweet #SlombieContest @thecrumbdiaries.

Winner to be chosen at random on Sunday Dec. 7.

5 winners to be chosen.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to The Crumb Diaries and not to Facebook. Winner will be notified via email.

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An Intro to Logan and The Crumb Diaries

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With so many new people joining us, I thought this was a good time for an introduction to our cast of characters and give some background as to what this page is about.

Logan is a video I made about how we have emerged from our cocoon.

I’m Ally, aka Al aka Mom aka HoneyNugget. I am Logan’s biological mother, and my husband Seth is his dad. Grampy is a huge part of Logan’s life, and is with us daily. Abby aka Abbygirl is Logan’s older sister, who he loves to the moon and back and Kevin aka Schlipps is Abby’s husband who is Logan’s idol.

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Abby and Kevin moved to FL 2 yrs ago to live on an Airforce base as Kevin serves our country and Abby goes to nursing school. She returned to live with us last fall while Kevin was deployed to Afghanistan, and then again in Spring to escort Logan to his Junior Prom- where the kids crowned him Prom Prince!

Because money has little value to Logan, when people started asking what they can give Logan for his birthday in October, we decided to ask people to consider making a donation to our gofundme account which will go to our local police dog program. At the end of the gofundme campaign Logan will go present the program with a check in honor of his birthday. All he really wants is to see his AbbyGirl and Schlipps, so I have just booked them a flight home to surprise Logan on his birthday – I can’t wait. I hear every single day “I miss her Abby. I miss him Schlipps.”

Another thing about our page is something our “Logan Army” has dubbed “Loganese” which is Logan’s unique way of speaking. I type it how he says it, so I hope you can catch on quickly!

We also sew little zombie ragdolls that have become “Slombies” (even made it to Urban Dictionary!) and any money we EARN goes into a trust for Logan.

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Logan has had a long journey to where he is today. Born at a normal weight, Logan failed to thrive. He had surgery to correct Pyloric Stenosis at 8 wks, but more problems were to follow. He has been tested extensively and followed closely by some of the best doctors in the US at Boston Children’s Hospital but remains undiagnosed. I won’t go into his whole medical/developmental history besides saying we searched HARD for a long, long time and Logan endured many hours of uncomfortable, sometimes painful testing. I just wished for peace and happiness for my child, and it was so hard to watch him struggle, with test after test coming back with no answers. I was worrying, we were wasting so much time.

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When we backed off of the aggressive testing, Logan relaxed and developed the happy attitude he has now. It was the best thing we could have done for him, and although we still don’t have answers, he is living a happy, well adjusted life. Genetics has progressed since our last round of testing, and it’s likely we will try again at some point, but for now Logan is healthy and thriving, adding skills every day. We still visit Children’s Hospital for things, like a recent MRI, but we limit testing now.

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He’s a typical teen in many ways, and we never know what he might say. The thing about having a language delay is we aren’t sure where his development is at because there is no way to accurately test him for this. Some days he says things that totally floor me, and they are usually funny. He is extremely sweet and loving, and a joy to have around.

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We’ve been very lucky to be able to share our story and hear from many other parents who are encouraged and feel supported by it. I feel we are giving hope to many families with unsure futures, which can be scary.

When you can’t see the road ahead of you, or it veers off to the left suddenly, it can be terrifying. All you can do is hold onto your child and keep trudging along. Some days are awesome, some days suck, its just like any other life on the planet, just exaggerated sometimes.

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The hand you are dealt is the hand you are dealt. How you play your hand is 100% your choice. If you play your cards to the best of your ability, and find the ray of sunshine in each day, it can be a wonderful life. Don’t dwell on everything you or your child are not doing, focus on the things you are doing and finding joy in and do a lot of those things!

ImageLogan is proof that if you try hard, have lots of love and believe in yourself, you can do anything you set your mind to. That may be heading to Hollywood to be an actress, or it may be taking 2 steps unsupported. Your hopes, dreams and goals are there- you just have to reach for them and never stop moving forward, no matter how slowly.

I like to refer to life with a special needs child as living on ‘the goat path’. We are side by side with that freeway, watching the other kids progressing at what seems like lightening speed while we watch our kids move along at their own pace. I have learned that I like this pace, and I might even get some goats.

Last summer guest post – by Logan’s AbbyGirl

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Growing up with a special needs brother was one of the best experiences I could have ever wished for. It’s not something that’s for everyone, definitely not for the weak willed or timid. But then again, maybe it is.

As an adult I am patient, determined, independent, accepting, observant, hard working, thankful, loving, understanding, compassionate, and strong willed. I was not always these things, I was shy and on the sensitive side, but Logan taught me time and time again through experience.

When Logan needs extra time going down three flights of stairs in a busy hospital. Taking one step at a time, while everyone is whizzing and whipping around him just rushing to rush some more. You learn patience.

When you have to entertain yourself during therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments in the city, and trips to see specialists, you learn independence.

When Logan stops you mid-stride on your walk so he can show you twin lady bugs next to each other that are, ” friends” you learn to be observant.

When your brother Is cleared at the doctor’s as healthy and nothing new as arisen to be treated, or you see children worse off than you at the hospital that don’t get to go home today or didn’t get good news, you learn to be thankful.

When Logan’s speech isn’t perfect and he needs to repeat himself a couple of times and you still aren’t quite sure of what he is trying to say to you, he will get frustrated with you. This is when you learn understanding.

When you take Logan out to IHOP with your guy friends for breakfast and he orders the crepes all by himself, even though you’re all there for $5.00 infinite pancakes, this is when you learn to be so proud of the little things. And that same day, when the teens at the table next to you are making fun of the way your brother is eating, that is when you learn to be strong willed. ( Kevin and the guys got them kicked out by the way. He was not pleased.)

Logan has shaped me into the adult I am, and I am beyond thankful. For anyone with a special needs child who is nervous of how it will affect their other children, I personally know that it improved my life. I also had a wonderful mother, father, family and friends.

XOXO Abby.

Logan’s birthday trip

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Sooo many people are contacting me asking me to share all of our info so they can contribute to Logan getting to take a trip to see his sister Abby. I just don’t feel comfortable in adding a ‘donate’ button to my Facebook page, or creating a donation page- but if you’d like to send him cards for his birthday in October (19) to be put toward his trip,  our mailing address is : The Crumb Diaries. 100 Macy St. Suite F. #271. Amesbury MA 01913.

We are so appreciative of the love and generosity that has been shown to us. I’m not sure what Logan think of it exactly, but he definitely knows he has LOTS of friends and I love that.

Summer Guest Post #5 by Heather of Wearing Some1 Else’s Shoes

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Summer Guest Post #5 by Heather of Wearing Some1 Else’s Shoes
 
 
 
“Sometimes you just want to cry.” my 13 year old Mikayla said this to me this morning when I was doing my morning chores. I can’t imagine how she must feel. Hormones are surfacing for her. Plus Mikayla was diagnosed with the last year with bipolar and mild Asperger’s. Being a teenage girl is hard enough especially with body changes and your period starting and now she has to understand her moods aren’t the cause, but her bipolar and her awkwardness is her Asperger’s. We don’t use the word normal in this house since no one on this planet is. But most of all since my beautiful child is struggling to find normal I will not put a bar up for her to not be able to reach it. I couldn’t reach normalcy if I wanted, after all I am a mother of three kids. 13, 3, 7 months. Mikayla, My 13 year old is the brightest star in my sky. That is what I tell her and that is the truth. She lights my world up. After she was diagnosed it was as if someone turned a light switch on and I wasn’t in the dark anymore I now understood why she was the way she was as a child. She wouldn’t talk to anyone without me going up to them and making them her friend.

She had no imaginative play. She would not try to learn how to do things like ride a bike or roller-skate. She just learned how to ride a bike last year. She smiles at awkward moments and laughs inappropriately. She doesn’t understand jokes. She has hygiene issues. She would have outbursts that were extreme over something so small. I never really focused on all of these things till I had my middle child. They are very much different as children are but this is different.
 
My middle child, Emerald, has an extremely active imagination which makes me giggle when she is playing. Emerald is 3 and is fearless. Whereas Mikayla is afraid of everything and has to be forced to try new things. I am not comparing children only giving a reference so you can see how I started to notice a difference in her. I knew throughout her childhood that there was something going but could never put my finger on it. Until last year in October when she told me she had a plan to kill herself, this was after she had a screaming fit for hours. I immediately took this serious and called hospitals to get her accessed. I had to wait a few days and then she was accessed and put in inpatient. I did not like that hospital but I had no choice since other hospitals were full to capacity.

She was then evaluated and had testing to confirm their diagnosis of Bipolar and then she was put on medication. For a while it was good and things were back to the way they were before. (She has a counselor who comes to the house twice a week and does intensive therapy with her to make sure she doesn’t have suicidal tendencies, self-harm or homicidal thoughts).( I know I probably scared you with homicidal thoughts, but she was planning my death last year and had been extremely aggressive with me on a number of occasions.) Then June during counseling she  tells her counselor and myself that she attempted suicide and trying choking herself. I was terrified. It was during the day when I was home doing my chores. We took that seriously and she was put into inpatient again. This time to a better hospital and they upped her medication, re-evaluated her and diagnosed her with Bipolar again plus mild Asperger’s. They helped her out so much in the two weeks she was there plus they did two weeks of outpatient to teach her skills like how to stop negative thoughts. I loved how much she was learning and how excited she was about it. It has been a hard time for her and our family but it is getting easier. And we have a great team working with us.

I am very happy that we found the light in the dark tunnel so that we could communicate better and understand her more. I am so grateful for her. She is a great artist and a loving child. It makes me sad that she is having a day where she wants to cry. But I know that is her bipolar and sometimes she just feels that way. After talking with her she feels better.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Heather has a Blog and a Facebook Page