Monday, October 27, 2014

Grocery Shopping: Not for the Faint of Heart

I am often caught telling stories of my weekly grocery shopping experiences. Especially when Adeline comes with me, it is an hour(s) long ordeal. Partially because I get stopped in every aisle at WalMart so that someone can gawk over my daughter (and she loves it way too much), and partially because, oddly enough, people are very curious and confused as to why a young mom with a young daughter needs a cart stacked so full of food. When my first answer is, "I am also feeding three teenage boys and my husband," the looks only become more puzzled. Depending on the amount of interest each questioning passerby shows, I don't mind sharing the WSBR story. I once (or twice...or more) had to cut a conversation short because I was afraid the chicken in my cart would go bad before the 10 minute check-out process and the 30(ish) minute drive back to Chandler from Edmond.

One of my favorite stories from grocery shopping was a recent trip where Blake went with Adeline and me. I told him this would most likely be a perfect opportunity for him to see just how often I was stopped and why it takes me so long to get out of WalMart. After I was already stopped a few short times during the actual grocery shopping, Blake and I finally got into a checkout line. Between the two of us we managed to empty the cart pretty quickly, but the cashier noticed the name "Willow Springs Boys Ranch" on the tax exempt card and was immediately curious. After she had already spent five minutes trying to convince us to let her babysit Addie (flattering yet unsettling), she began to ask where the money for all of this food comes from--do we pay for it, and are compensated later? Do the boys actually live in our house and do we actually cook everything for them? Is this an alternative to foster care? How big is this whole operation? After a while, the cashiers in both checkout lanes next to us as well as their customers were in on this interview. How many boys do you have? What's the most boys you could have? How old can they be? Do you really trust them around your baby (how old is she? Oh, she is just so pretty!)? By the time we actually got all of our groceries back in the cart and everything paid for, we had spent close to half an hour in the line. It may have been shorter, but I'm pretty sure it was half an hour.

Now, to be fair, that wasn't a totally typical shopping day. What I want to help you all to picture is my weekly ritual, and what it takes to make it happen.

When I go grocery shopping each week, I am thoroughly prepared. I have my list of what is for dinner each night and what ingredients I need, plus exactly what snacks and how much I'm going to buy (as of now our snacks each week are apples, bananas, or clementines. When these are out, we have popcorn for special family nights, like a game night or movie night). I also buy those giant super-value bags of cereal and milk, which the boys have for breakfast every morning, and we do a special breakfast on Saturday mornings if we can budget for it that week. We have our family meals, and meals planned for Stephanie to cook when our relief parents are on call for us. Now, to give you an idea of how many people that is, on a typical weeknight dinner we are feeding two adults, three boys (which is really more than an adult appetite), and baby (who basically has an adult appetite). That's six people. When our relief parents are over, dinner feeds seven people. And, obviously, I include breakfast and lunch options for the whole week, which is usually sandwiches or ramen (guys, ramen is really awesome).

If you're a busy mom with a big family like me, you know how much work this is. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down for about an hour and a half and plan the meals, make the list, and also check the house for anything we're out of (trash bags, laundry detergent, dish detergent, paper towels, freezer bags, etc). After staff meeting on Monday, Blake, Adeline and I eat a quick lunch (usually whatever leftovers are left in the fridge, as Blake will typically clean them out of the fridge while I'm gone so we can have an empty fridge for when I get back), I get on a comfortable pair of shoes, and off I (or we) go.

Now, this was my shopping cart today. I had gotten most of what I needed, but it was actually a little more full by the time I got to the checkout. This is with three boys in the house. *taps the mic twice* Three. Our two houses have room for eight boys each to live here. I know what you're thinking--I'm going to have to move to two carts soon and Blake will HAVE to come with me. Wait, maybe that's what I'm thinking.

Maybe you are thinking any number or combination of these things:

  • That is a really full cart.
  • Doesn't that get really hard to push around WalMart? Answer: definitely. How do you think I've developed any resemblance of arm muscle for the first time in my life? 
  • My family's cart is usually fuller than this for just one week. 
  • The cart is a nice visual, but I'm also thinking of other expenses that go along with living life.
  • Who pays for all of this?
  • How can I help?

Willow Springs Boys Ranch is an organization run entirely on donor support. All of the things provided for our family--groceries, living expenses, school supplies, etc.--all comes from however much money is given to us. Also raised by donor support is the house parents' pay checks and health insurance. Now, before you think I'm holding out a beggar's cup here, I need you to know that I do not want anyone to feel obligated to donate money to the ranch. As I have said before and wholeheartedly believe, we need your prayers. We completely trust God to provide everything we need. I am merely responding to the one question that I hear from all who are invested in the WSBR ministry: "How can I help?" Make a commitment to pray for Willow Springs daily, weekly, monthly--whatever you can. If you feel like the Spirit is leading you to do something in addition to praying, please prayerfully consider giving a monthly donation. This can be small. For example, if ten families committed to give $25 a month, that would pay for a week of groceries for one of the houses.

If you're reading this, know that you are appreciated. Even just caring enough to read through this shows me that you care about what God is doing at Willow Springs, and I thank you.  

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