Monday, September 19, 2011

Learning to please MYSELF!

I have finally realized what the most difficult thing about being married is and that is pleasing my husbands family. For years I , not him, have worked at creating relationships between us and them. I work really hard and go an extra mile to keep all of us in touch so the girls can have relationships with them. Tom would just assume it just be us, he has been hurt so much that he doesn't care either way but we both have different ideas about what family means. Somewhere along the line I have stopped being who I am or I hide who I am because some people with their snide comments over the years have made me ashamed to be me. But I have decided that I am no longer going to walk on a tightrope with anyone. I love my husbands family because they are family but they have to take me as I am if they want to continue to have relationships with MY family. Life is too short to try to be what everyone else wants you to be. I know I am a good person, a good mother and a good wife. THAT is ALL that matters. It doesn't matter if they think those things of me. I know where I stand with God and the people in this house.

It took me years to train myself to not care what my own family thinks of me, they are no different than my own extended family. The second I moved off to college my own extended family started telling everyone I was stuck up just for escaping and becoming college educated. Tom's family on the other hand could care less about my education, they blow it off like it never happened when I try to talk about it. Like recently at the family reunion when I mentioned that I had a degree in Business, the person I mentioned it to blew me off like it was nothing, like the idea of my being educated was laughable. It hurt my feelings tremendously because I had a lot of respect for the person who did it. I thought it was just me but Tom said he saw it too and even he got mad about it.

From now on, this is me, like it or leave it because I am done hiding it!

1. I am HONEST, sometimes, TOO HONEST. I like to express my feelings with written word because sometimes to express them in person deflates me. I am bi-Polar and sometimes my emotions come out in not so positive ways when the words flow out of my mouth. I am good at expressing myself via the written word. I have even been well paid to write and express myself and several of my poems have been published. Writing is how I do things!

2. I CURSE, I LOVE to curse. I don't do it in front of my kids but I do it. God doesn't care that I curse so you shouldn't either. Fuck, fuck, fuck.....See? My favorite word!

3. I have a bit of a dirty mind when it comes to a sense of humor. Sometimes my humor can be dry, sometimes childish, sometimes it's the humor of a dirty old man!

4. I love music and dancing which is why sometimes out of nowhere I break out into song and dance just for the hell of it!

5. I am a broken person, I was abused very badly growing up, I lost my best friend to suicide and I was raped as a teenager. I have spent my life dealing with those problems. Sometimes that scarred person shows through. Things that might not effect you WILL effect me. My emotions are a product of my existence. I do not live in my past but in the form of my emotions being heightened my past lives with me.

6. I am VERY religious! While I may not go to church as often as I should have I pray a thousand times a day. Sometimes people take it as talking to myself but really I am just having a deep discussion with the only person in my life who has ALWAYS been there and never failed me. I pray more often than anyone I know and my prayers aren't like most people's. I talk to God like he was in the room with me. Don't assume I am nuts if you see me taking to myself.

7. I am STRONG but at the same time I am weak. Strength only goes so far, sometimes my weakness over powers my strength. I hide my weakness but the truth is so much I pretend to not be bothered by really does bother me. But because I am strong I pretend it doesn't and I move forward.

8. I don't have the slightest clue how to express myself! I spend so much time thinking about what to say as not to turn people off that I forget how to talk. This leads to my not talking at all. I am not stuck up, pompous or any of the sort. I am just shy to no end in person, I feel awkward all the time. Unless I have had a few drinks in me then you might not want to be in my path to hear what I have to say. lol

All of the above is part of who I am. Negative traits or not I am not going to ignore me anymore! You take me with all of those problems (because God knows you have plenty of your own and he/I accept you! I can tell you right here that YOU are NOT perfect) or you can go your own way. Either way, nice to meet you!

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Unschooling...The REAL thing?

So this year I have been doing a lot of research on unschooling and during my research I have realized that there are 2 types of unschoolers. One type being unschoolers who leave it all to their kids, lazy parents who hide behind the premise of unschooling so they can sleep until 8am and go about their day normally. And the second type that try to make their day as unschool like as possible but still manage to fit in learning activities using every day life & events such as cooking to learn math and logic skills, reading as a family, alphabet as games, crafts as fun, etc... I was absolutely amazed that I found more blogs with parents who fit into the first type than the second. Children still need to be educated but them waking up, eating, reading in bed, going for a walk, coming home and watching cartoons & movies while you clean, then taking them out to the thrift store once a week is NOT education. You are teaching your kids NOTHING but how to sit around on their asses and become lazy and ignorant. How can any parent feel good with that kind of choice? Leaving a childs education up to their child? When you are homeschooling or unschooling you are taking on the job of caring for your children, part of caring for them is educating them!

Without the help of those lazy example A. parents we have decided that unschooling is for us and this is how I predict our days are going to go. Each day, every day 365 days a week. It is going to take us a while to get into the routine of every day living and learning but I think if I personally start off with a "life schedule" it will help ME to ease into including the girls in EVERYTHING that I do. Including all 3 of our girls in my activities is how I plan on unschooling, that includes making our weekends a daily part of our lives. On the weekend we do so much as a family, play games, read, go out, bake. Instead of the weekend these will become daily activities!

Here is an example of how I intend on our unschool day going:

Wake up @ 7am and make/serve breakfast together
1 hour of TV time, educational TV while eating breakfast
Color, play with legos or play with play-dough together.
Choose what we are making for lunch/dinner and take out meat for dinner
Clean up the house, helping each other in each area of the house.
Go play outside or go for a walk, using this time to learn about nature, etc...
Come inside, make/eat lunch. Read bible stories while we have lunch.
Watch our learn to read DVD's then read a book.
Bake a cake or our bread for the day
Play a learning game together.
30 minute nap for girls while mommy has a few minutes. ;-)
Craft something from one of our craft books.
Play dress up with the girls.
Start dinner & let the girls set the table.
Eat dinner
Watch a family movie or have free play.
Read a book
Go to bed
Wake up and do it all again!

Of course some days we will fit in activities such as the Zoo, museums and other outings. But this is what I hope our typical day will be like. Just us spending time together and using that time to learn. I hope to use our everyday activities to fit in everything from logic skills to math skills. I know it is going to be a challenge at first. We normally do things together but never to the extent of doing EVERYTHING together. Of course they will have their time to play by themselves so I can have some peace of mind and alone time but you get the just of it. Wish us luck!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Miriam!

7 years ago yesterday a dream that I never thought to dream because according to many professionals was never possible came true. 7 years ago my oldest daughter, my salvation was born and I became a mother. Many Dr’s before her had told me how near impossible it would be for me to carry a child to term without complications which would most likely lead to a miscarriage. My Miriam and each of my girls have proven all of those DR’s wrong and the words of DR. Wilkerson, the wonderful man who delivered my first and second beautiful angels “Sometimes, Dr’s don’t know everything” became the truest thing I had ever heard. He had no explanation as to why I was able to carry a child, even less of an explanation as to how I managed to carry two but I did and the blessings I have experienced have been immeasurable. Of course, none of my pregnancies have been ideal, with all 3 complications were evident from the start. Miriam being the absolute most difficult pregnancy of all. The first few months of her existence inside of me was a barrel of miscarriage scares, near miscarrying with her several times. The entire 9 months I spent my life in and out of the hospital, always ending up on an IV because I was so deathly ill I could not hold down one drop of real food. Some days, I couldn’t hold down water and she herself had a heart murmur that was monitored closely. The murmur affected her a great deal during labor and after 17 hours of horrific labor with no pain medication I was told there would be a change in my birthing plan because she was dying. I couldn’t imagine a world that didn’t include the baby who had been torturing me for almost 10 months so I did everything I could. I was rushed into an emergency C-section for complications that insured I would never give birth to a child any other way. My Miriam was born with severe jaundice, she was so orange she looked almost burnt. She in no way resembled a child that came from the body of one of the palest Irish women in the world! She wouldn’t eat, so they had to force feed her and she didn’t live outside of a box for 2 weeks. When she was finally allowed to go home it was not without a room of equipment because she was still severely jaundiced never eating more than 2 ounces a DAY. 2 days after she came home, she stopped eating again, her jaundice got worse and she had to be returned to the hospital where she stayed for another 2 weeks. It was a crazy time for Tom and I not knowing if our child was going to starve to death. Eventually though, she made it home and we began to have a chance to enjoy the cries of a baby around the house. Everyone had always told us how much a baby cries, Miriam however almost never cried. It was kind of nice having such a quiet child in the house, we got so used to the quiet that it would throw us out of whack when we would go out in public and she would go insane. Any loud noise would make her cry a cry so loud and so long that it was near unbearable. Eventually we just stopped taking her out and became homebodies, something we still are to this day. Of course 3 months later we would be told that she was blind, 6 months later that she had Septo Optic Dysphasia and Pan Hypopituitarism, years later we would be told her hearing was the most sensitive hearing ever recorded by DR’s at Dell Children’s hospital. It took 4 years to understand why she would go insane in public places. And 6 years into her little life we would have confirmation of another demon called Autism. Miriam’s diagnosis took longer than most children with severe Autism because Septo Optic Dysplasia demonstrates similar symptoms for the first 5 years or so of life. As odd as it is though, we were kind of relieved to finally have answers so that we could tackle it dead on. Through all of this craziness the birth of such a child changed us in ways we could never have imagined before. Where patience was low, it became high, where life was foggy, it became clear, where hope was lost, it became found and where Love was not understood, it became the most easily understood thing in the world. So many parents who have disabled children beat themselves up and often become fearful of ever having another child. Tom and I don’t feel that way. The birth of Miriam was the most amazing thing that ever happened to either of us and so was all that came with her. No parent dreams of such news about their child but we embraced it regardless. Miriam is so special, her smiles is brighter than any smile I have ever seen in my life and it was only logical that despite the 50/50 chance we would have another child like her we were not going to give up our God given right to give children to this world. If God wanted another child with the same issues Miriam had, so be it! When people use the term special needs, all I hear is special and that is what Miriam is. Who would we be to deny the world of one more person forever free of violence, hate, bigotry and physical judgment. Miriam is as God wants us all to be, she is innocent, she is his as he intends her to be, perfect! What a blessing it is to have her.



Happy 7th Birthday my beautiful Miriam Monkey, mommy and daddy wouldn't change one second of those 7 years!





Pictures of Miriam at only 1/2 a day old and a day after we brought her home the first time.



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Is there change on our horizon? Wisconsin bound?

So recently Tom has begin telephone interviews for an amazing job opportunity at one of the biggest industrial machine companies in the world. We never imagined an opportunity like this one would arise but it has and with it comes the possibility of some tough & crucial decisions. The biggest being leaving everything we know here in Texas , including out family, which ALL live in Texas and traveling cross country to Wisconsin. He has had 2 interviews with a recruiter for the company so far and is getting ready to have his third with the head of HR for the actual company. If she approves him as being qualified, which is probable or he wouldn’t have gotten this far in the interview process they will fly him out (at their FULL expense) for an actual weld test. The weld test will then be the deciding factor in whether or not we move. I have all the faith in my husband, especially since he is very experienced and they are giving him a full day to practice. A part of me thinks the concept of abandoning everything should scare me but the only thing that scares me is trying to figure out how we are going to manage to pack everything. Do we keep it all or get rid of some of it and replace it later? That is ALL that scares me and Tom pretty much feels the same way. It isn’t that we don’t love our family, it is just that when a chance of a lifetime comes knocking at your door, you don’t just turn away from it, you embrace it! This is not the first time either of us has grabbed hold of a chance and held on for dear life. It is just the first chance we did it with children but not even that scares me.

I have researched Wisconsin and from what I have read they have TONS of job opportunities for Tom should we get there and this job not work out, they have an excellent school system, an insane amount of services for the blind and my daughter would never again have a seizure because she got “too hot”. We would have rain, white Christmas’s and a chance to enjoy life outside. Here in Texas we never get out because Miriam will be seized after an hour of the blazing Texas heat. When it comes down to it, the only thing that is worth staying for is family but family is also the reason to leave. As parents it is our responsibility to make the best choices for our children. Something about the idea of living in Wisconsin excites me right down to the fact that I am a packers fan , my favorite sport is HOCKEY and I LOVE cold weather. LOVE IT! I sleep with a fan in my face in the winter time here in Texas because it isn’t cold enough for me. And Tom, well, he has always said he hates it here in Texas. He tried to leave it years ago but couldn’t manage to stay away. I have a feeling, if we left, we would be gone forever, only to return once a year. Once a year is about how often we see our family anyway so we really won’t be missing out much. And when it comes down to finances, well, the company is paying for us to relocate so we won’t spend a dime!



If there is anyone reading this who lives in Wisconsin, tell me why or why not we shouldn’t make this move? Sell me!




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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The hardest thing!

Besides the loud fits from frustration, self affliction of pain and the fact we can't go out in public without fear of a meltdown do you know what the hardest thing about having a blind autistic 6 year old is? BIRTHDAY AND CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! Not only do we have to contend with the fact that she is positively 100 percent blind to no end but we have to deal with the sensory issues of Autism as well. We can't buy her normal toys, they have to make noise or be textured in some way. But they can't be too loud and they can't be too much of a certain texture. We can't just buy something we "think" she might like, we have to buy something we KNOW she WILL like. Not liking something could end in said item being tossed across the room followed by a fall to the floor screaming fit if the texture upsets her sensitive touch or if the noise level was annoyingly loud to her. What is loud to her, is probably not loud at all to us and vice versa. With a child like Miriam there is no end to the chaos that ensues when out shopping. As her mother I literally go through moods. I start off with dread, followed by a renewed sense of assurance as I find a single item and end in tears because that single item is usually the only item I find. I feel like a bad mother, that I am not trying hard enough and at the same time I am angry for my child because I feel like she has gotten a totally bum deal. Most of the time I don't feel that way at all, just two times a year. I want her to be able to enjoy things like Barbie Dolls, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake and an easy bake oven. Before I became the mother of a blind child I always told my self that I would never raise commercialized children. I would never give into the branded toys and clothes but now I see the joy in those things. I see what something as simple as a Dora doll does for my other girls because I see how little it does for Miriam. I would give ANYTHING for her to say "I want a Sponge bob toy for my birthday!" because not only would she be easier to shop for but because I could see the pleasure on her face when she got it. Almost 7 birthdays and not once has my baby gotten excited about a present, not once has she even gotten excited to get one!

And before anyone tells me , I KNOW there are special stores out there to buy toys for blind children, places to buy toys for autistic children as well but we cannot afford to pay 100 bucks for a rag doll or 60 bucks for wooden blocks. And sometimes we don't have the finances in advance to hunt for hours on end online to have it here in time for her birthday. Christmas is a little bit easier because we do turn to online resources but it is still hard. Not only are most of the items we get expensive but she can't use many of the items for blind people, braille for instance is of no interest to her and as hard as it is for this mom to admit she will probably never know how to read it because the Autism will keep her from it. Autism was a very tough pill to swallow. I was the first person in the school yelling at her VI telling her my baby was going to grow out of her behavior just as many children with Septo Optic Dysplasia do . She looked at me like I was an idiot, undermining me the whole way but I stuck to my guns. I am not ashamed to admit that I was wrong so despite some of my families denial I shop for gifts to appease her autistic side as well as her blind side. Miriam is not a little bit autistic, she is severely autistic and that makes it even harder.

With all that said, this year I bought Miriam two sets of metal spoons in various sizes and a metal cake pan. Will she think I am insane, no, she will think it's the best gift on the face of the earth. She already sneaks spoons into her room and would walk around the house all day with one if I let her. Spoons and die cast meal cars are the two things Miriam loves best these days. The pan was something I went out on a limb on but I have no doubt that pan will be better than any old Barbie doll in her eyes. At the end of the day, after all is said and done, after I have cried my tears for my daughter she will end up showing me that in life it is the little things that truly matter. People have been saying it for years , the person who said it first must have had a disabled child because before I had Miriam, I NEVER understood exactly what that saying could mean.


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hawaiian Meat Balls

Hawaiian Meat Balls



MEATBALLS:

2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
zest of a small orange
1/2 small onion (grated with zester)
1 1/4 tsp seasoning salt
2 dashes black pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 dashes ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/3 cup flour
3 tbs BUTTER FLAVORED shortening

DIRECTIONS:
1. Melt butter shortening in a large skillet on medium heat...
2. While oil is coming to frying temperature mix all ingredients together well except for flour and shortening.
3. Shape into meatballs (will make about 40 medium size meatballs)
4. Evenly roll each meat ball in the flour then place in the pan to brown on each side.
5. Remove from the pan and place the meat balls into a large baking dish or casserole pan.
6. Top with sweet and sour sauce, giving the pan a little shake to cover the meatballs evenly and bake uncovered for about 30 - 40 minutes.

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Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 20 OZ can of pineapple chunks
5 tbs corn starch
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs juice of an orange (fresh from the orange you zested)
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 green pepper (cut into bite size chunks)
1 4z can Pimentos , drained
2 dashes ground ginger

DIRECTIONS:

1. Drain juice from the pineapple into a measuring cup. Set aside the pineapple.
2. Add water to juice to make exactly 1 cup of liquid.
3. In saute pan over medium heat blend cornstarch into the juice until the cornstarch has dissolved.
4. Add vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, brown sugar and soy cause.
5. Simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.
6. Add pineapple , green pepper & pimento. Simmer for another 3 minutes until the fruit/ veggies are well infused.
7. Use as according to directions above.


These are great served over rice as a main course or as an appetizer! They even taste great cold!

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The Love Dare Day 1

THE LOVE DARE
DAY 1
Patience



"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 NIV

10:28 am I think today's dare is going to prove to be one of my most difficult yet. I have a little issue with anger and can tend to lean on the side of VERY impatient. There are moments where even the little things drive me crazy. Like this morning when I woke up to find he had already eaten both slices of the left over pizza without a moments thought to save one for me as I would have done for him. I am not a selfish person and selfishness is a big part of husbands personality. In 8 years I have never heard him say to me "hey honey, do you want this?". But I guess that is where acceptance comes in. If I haven't heard it in 8 years then perhaps I should stop expecting to hear it. I managed to ignore it, but I am not yet sure if that was because he isn't here & I lost my phone or because I was actually successful at holding my tongue..lol

Must remember:

"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick tempered exalts folly" Proverbs 14:29



2:31 am
So it seems this day wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. There were moments throughout the day where I felt myself becoming quick to anger or annoyed but I managed to hold myself together and brush it off. At the end of the day I actually feel good having a day without the usual marital drama (or the unusual). It was nice just sitting together without any animosity, hopefully I can pull it off again tomorrow!


"Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" James 1:19



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Art credit: Patience by Carol Knudsen

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Earthquakes and Dares...

Over the past 8 years Tom and I have had our share of problems, many have been very serious, some trivial, all challenging in their own way. Through everything we have always managed to overcome. Considering the severity of some of the trials God has paved our path with that is saying a lot. I am not going to go into the trials we have survived together , that isn't the point of this post, the point is that it has shaken us regardless of our getting past them. Marriage is like an earthquake, an earthquake shows up out of nowhere, sometimes on a quiet night or a beautifully perfect day, it shakes the earth with all of it's might forever leaving a mark in one way or another. Be it destroyed buildings, stolen lives or just a few cracks that weren't there before. The damage is all up to the severity of the earthquake. However, it is possible, no matter how severe the damage to overcome the quake but in the worst cases it takes a lot of physical and mental work. I personally believe marriage is EXACTLY the same way. As with an earthquake you don't just run from the trials , in the rubble is your home and everyone deserves the comforts of home despite the damage. If you had a damaged home in an earthquake you would either rebuild with those you love or move on WITH those you love. You wouldn't assess the damage then leave your family on the roadside while you searched for greener pastures. You would gather them up and go through it all together, becoming stronger in the end having overcome the obstacle put in your path as a unit instead of alone. While Tom and I have gone through our trials together we HAVE grown stronger in many ways. But just like after an earthquake there is still damage, damage that will forever be present. You won't necessarily be able to fill ALL of the cracks in the earth but you can work as hard as you can to fill each and everyone. That is what you do in marriage each and every day , even when you aren't trying. Marriage is WORK but in the midst of all the work it also needs nurturing, something we tend to forget is necessary during the rebuilding process. Working on things does NOT always mean to nurture! And THAT is where Tom and I have gone wrong. We work so hard at "making it work" with "moving forward" and "forgiveness" that we have forgotten to nurture one another and in the end we aren't looking as great on the inside. We work so hard on rebuilding the exterior that we didn't leave any room for decorations!

And that leaves me to the bottom line of this post. Some of you might have heard of a little movie called Fireproof, some of you might have also heard of it's companion book called "The Love Dare". For the next 40 days, starting tomorrow I am going to be taking the challenge of The Love dare in an effort to nurture this marriage. I miss my husband so very much, I miss the long nights we would spend talking to one another & planning our lives. I miss the way he would smile at me out of the blue, I miss the way him simply walking across the room would make me pause. I still love him as I know he loves me, it is simply that we no longer love ourselves because nether one of us have put any effort into each other. It is amazing how when you are "together" you end up relying on each other to get through the day because you become one as a whole. But the past several years we have been too busy with the children, our home & mending fences that we together have become TOO separated in our togetherness. It as if we were two sides of a live oyster being pried open with a jagged knife. Anyone who knows how hard it is to open a seized oyster should know what I am talking about. We try with all of our might to keep our halves together but that knife just keeps trying to pull us apart. Unlike an oyster however we still have our will in the end.

Over the next 40 days I will be using this family journal to document the challenge of the Love dare. I don't know exactly what it is supposed to do but I have faith that whatever it is, it will work. It is time to start filling in the earth so we can find the together in our togetherness.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

To homeschool or not to homeschool?!!


Since we decided to home-school Miriam last year it had always been up in the air about whether or not we were going to home-school Georgia and Sophia as well. We knew that no matter what we DID NOT want our kids in your typical public school setting. Not because we feel we are too good for public school but because we feel EVERYONE is too good for public school as it stands today. Classrooms are always so full leaving children without the fulfilling educational experience they NEED to thrive, so many teachers have given up because their hand are tied so tightly. The public school system itself has become overrun with officials who have political aspirations more so than people who have a desire to educate. And schools are simply TOO dangerous, I don't trust the education system to take care of my kids! We looked in to private school options and then we started looking into charter schools. Eventually the search led to a particular charter school which incorporates the Arts into a very strict education plan. I spent much of my youth in the world of the arts and I KNOW all too well what being a part of it can do to your self esteem, confidence and self worth and my children being a part of that experience has my wheels turning with excitement. After discussing it with Tom we decided that next year for Georgia's first year of Kindergarten we are going to enroll her. She is such a spirited child and I know with all of my heart that this is the kind of educational experience she would LOVE. The thing we love about charter schools is that the enrollment is limited which means "if" our kids got in they would have the type of one on one kids need in school. I LOVE the idea of having a public education "experience" on paper. Friends, rewards, homework, school activities, PTA, dances, sports...all things I want our kids to be a part of. It's the politics of it all that I hate. There is NO ROOM for politics when it comes to educating our children and creating productive intelligent citizens. When you have politics and education, education gets lost in the greediness of the race. I know no matter what we will never make this choice for Miriam but with her the ball game is completely different. Schools, none of them, are equipped to deal with an Autistic blind child, something we learned the hard way. She NEEDS one on one education. Actually the thought of it being just she and I eventually kind of excites me. I have a feeling it will be like opening the door to an entirely new world for her.


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A FRESH new year and a FRESH new UNschool!

It’s that time again, time to wake up early and get back into the rhythm of education.

Last year, our first year at home schooling we decided a typical classroom environment would suit us. I wanted Georgia to truly feel like she was in “school” because I felt I was denying her something Miriam had a chance to experience. This year I decided, I don’t want to do that , a “classroom” is purely mental and since I don’t intend on my kids ever being a part of a public education system they don’t need anything resembling a classroom. I want us to focus more on hands on education, free of worksheets, free of the stress of an academic system that puts too much stress on our kids. Lets face it, Miriam will be never be a child who will sit down and fill out a math problem on paper, she won’t ever learn to color in the lines and she certainly isn’t going to be able to see a logic worksheet. Miriam is not only blind but she is very much autistic, she can and will learn as she has shown us she can do but she isn’t going to do it by the book. She CAN’T do it by the book. I don’t see any point in wasting printer ink when I can be teaching her with things in the home that she can actually touch, feel and relate to.

I want to do things like taking my children into the kitchen to bake and cook our meals together, we can use food to teach all kinds of things from logic to math. I want to take them outside the house and let them learn everything they need to know by experience not by just reading about it in a book. I want them to learn how to read because we do it together as a family not because I am shoving flashcards in their faces. I want them to learn logic and math using things in our home not by using a different worksheet. How often in real life will they be handed a lady bug and told to count the dots? Last year I spent a lot of my time printing out worksheets, building weekly curriculum, keeping track of tests and numbers. It interfered in valuable family time together and I honestly feel limiting things like worksheets will help bring us together. It will also help me to teach our kids even better social skills by interacting in a hands on setting.

We will only be doing partial UN-schooling however, which for us means 4 days a week of 99% UN-schooling. Each day we will still be working on our phonics reading program for about half an hour and one day a week we will “play school”. We no longer have a classroom, I got rid of it and turned it into a play room but I did bring some of their classroom equipment/supplies into the living room where they will be utilized on Friday each week. We will do everything you would do in real school including worksheets and flashcards. We will utilize it to pull everything we learned the previous 4 days together. It is a chance for our mainstream children to physically see what they have learned and be physically rewarded for their work with stars and stickers like any other home school or classroom.

Here are a few things we want to focus on each week this year,


Cooking / Baking together
Silly play
Alphabet
Phonics reading
Number & counting
Out door fun
Logic activity
Educational Toy learning
Arts & Crafts
Music appreciation
Reading together
Spiritual education
Meditation/Relaxation time
Hands on Science
Exercise - Physical play
Health education


And much much more! This of course doesn’t include the one on one education we will need to give Miriam by herself such as speech and tactile activities.

In all I think it will be fun coming up with new activities we can do together to really push the aspects of UN-schooling. I want our entire day to be educational from the second we wake-up to the moment we go to bed. Television is going to end up being VERY limited as we find things we can do together instead such as board games and puzzles. Tom and I are both going to be working this together instead of just me taking the reigns. He can really teach the girls what it means to work with their hands with building projects and such. Someday when they are much older he can teach him his own craft. Needless to say, I am so excited about this coming school year!!!


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Freebies Galore!

I just had the desire to share with our readers all of the amazing freebie offers that came my way today. ENJOY! If you have a freebie to share add it to the comments section and I will update this list with it later with thanks.
FREE MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS
"SAILING" magazine
"SPIN" Music Magazine (I love this one!)

SAMPLES
PRILOSEC
QUIT TEA (a smokers aid)
SPLENDA Essentials
STAPLES LABELS (must go to store)
NESTLE Frozen Cup
PAPA Johns Cheese Pizza w/ purchase
Jericho Skin care
JOHN FREDA
FIBER CHOICE
HUGGIES Snug and DRY
DOVE haircare
POISE
TENA Wipes
POST IT's
Purina Pro plan cat food
Natural Nibbles Dog treats
Shout Swipes

POTTY TRAINING:
Potty training DVD
Free potty training tools:

And last but not least, if you haven't signed up for swagbucks yet, this is the time to do it. I have been a member for only a few weeks and have already managed 8 Amazon gift cards by putting in a little work surfing the net, taking surveys, playing games and watching TV. You can trade your swagbucks in for a WIDE variety of items , including cash if you have a Paypal account. If you like free stuff, you will love swagbucks!


JOIN SWAGBUCKS TODAY!!!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life is worth living!

Since I was first diagnosed with having cancer cells on my cervix I found myself in a downward mental spiral and it has been really hard picking myself back up again. A part of me really wanted to take the reigns and live my life to the fullest and another part of me was so defeated it didn't know what to do. I think in the end I fell somewhere in between living and not knowing what to do which just caused me to be seriously depressed. And considering I have suffered from Manic depression (IE: Bi-Polar disorder) most of my life the depression hit REALLY hard. I found myself not having anything positive to say, thinking horrible thoughts and just wanting to give up at times. I felt like I didn't have much support, friends who I thought were my real friends failed me and my family at times seemed so neutral. For a while I wasn't sure what I expected out of anyone until I started thinking about it and realized that I wanted someone to be PISSED OFF with me. I didn't want anyone to treat me like a delicate flower out of water, I wanted someone to not only listen to me yell but to yell with me. I didn't really get that, I got just the opposite, sometimes i got people who didn't seem to care at all like my brother who just shook it off saying "Oh well, nothing I can do about it!". Even though, I had supportive people, people who genuinely cared about whether I lived or died I still felt so alone.

Today I am starting to get myself pulled back together even though finances have kept me from going back for my follow up which I REALLY need to do within the next 2 weeks. I am finding myself smiling more and saying/thinking more positively. I know without a doubt that I do have many great blessings from a husband who loves me to children who always smile to a steady income. God is with me, he provides me strength even when I don't feel like he is providing said strength. This trial has showed me that he does love me and no matter what he is always going to stand by my side.

He has even blessed my husband in the past week, prompting him to go to his first A.A. meeting. I am proud that he made that choice on his own without any prompting. I really think opening up about it to our family and our readers helped him to see how much it was hurting us. The pay off was not only stepping into the light of realization but it also brought him some pretty good business contacts as he has been trying to find a second job to help us get back on our feet and closer to family. Which is something we realized we really needed going through the trial of my being sick. I pray with all of my heart that he continues to move forward with his choice to attend A.A. as it will do wonders for our families well being in the future.

Sometimes it takes a trial or two to make you appreciate the life you have. I certainly appreciate the one I have even though it is a little bit chaotic and dysfunctional at times. But then again, whose life isn't? Living and being happy isn't about having a smile on your face 24 hours a day, it is what it comes down to at that last second of the day when you lay your head on your pillow. If your last thought is of something wonderful, like your husband , your children , God or even just the big beautiful sky above then you KNOW your life is worth living. If your last thought is of anything negative all it takes is to change the last thought to something positive. I am confident that we ALL have something beautiful to think about before we end our day.



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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our Growing girls!

We got the girls growth charts today and for the most part we are very happy with the results!

Miriam 6 years old


Average height for her age is 41 inches/ weight 46.2 pounds

Miriam is 45 1/4 inches & 43 pounds. Putting her in the 16th & 18th percentiles.

Not bad for a girl they said would stop growing by age 4 without growth hormone. We stopped giving her HGH because every strain made her deathly sick, which is actually quite common with HGH. She was sick 6 months out of the year, throwing up, white as a sheet which I believe caused her seizures to escalate! I am confident we made the right choice. I would rather her be short than not enjoy life.


Georgia 4 years old


Average height for her age is 37 inches/ weight 35.2 pounds

Georgia is 41 3/4 inches & 38 pounds. Putting her in the 80th & 37th percentiles.

As for Georgia, she might be considered chunky for her age BUT she is also taller than the average 6 year old which means her weight is just right. :-)


Sophia 2 years old



Average height for her age is 30 inches/ weight 28.4 pounds

Sophia is 34 1/2 inches & 43 pounds. Putting her in the 18th & 3rd percentiles.

My Sophia monkey might be a little twig but she eats like a horse and is tall like her daddy!


______________________________________________________


UPDATE on Miriam:
I am so happy with Miriam. Not only did she lose her first tooth today BUT she has been asking to go potty and actually doing so when she gets there. This is such a giant leap for our world. The thought of having a pull up free house is now realized!

She has also been communicating like crazy. Tom accidentally bumped her head on the wall after putting her down out of his lap where she was sitting. She rubbed her head and laughed. I said "geeze daddy, don't knock her brains out...Miriam tell him not to knock your brains out" (not expecting her to say it) and she said to him "daddy, don't knock my brains out!" I praised her for saying something new and she got so excited for that praise that she told him twice..lol

We have also been playing a musical "game" of sorts. She sits in my laugh and says something. Whatever she says I have to sing it in music form she then has to repeat it EXACTLY as I sang it with melody. She has been really doing great, not only cooperating but she stays very in tune with the things I sing back to her. She likes this game so much that she actually comes up to me to initiate it.

I am so proud and am so giddy to get back to school this year. I have lots of wonderful things planned for her, the other girls and our classroom.





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Monday, August 1, 2011

Living with alcoholism: What is the question?

My husband and I fell in love at first site, we saw each other across the room, our eyes met and eventually we floated together like twin clouds. It was magic and it was wonderful, a story dreams are made of…sort of. The fact is that no a matter what kind of fairy tale you are reading or how beautiful the story, NONE of the fairy tales you will ever read take place where we met. Typically they take place in a castle or some beautiful land not in a crowded, loud and smelly BAR. Meeting in a bar should have been my first clue that my husband enjoyed the drink, especially since he was drinking alone but I fell so hard it wasn't something I wanted to think about. But eventually my lack of thought and the evil veil called love got the best of me. He spent the greater part of my first pregnancy drinking, coming home at 6 & 7am , not being there for me when I needed him most. But I stuck it out because I loved him, it was a fairy tale and fairy tales always have a happy ending. But then I got pregnant again, during that pregnancy things were a bit crazy, his drinking once again got the best of him and it put a terrible rift between us that was near impossible to fix. But somehow, Georgia was born and we saw our way with love once again. When I got pregnant with Sophia he had stopped drinking but a few months into the pregnancy some old friends came into the picture and the booze started flying threw the house once again. Our relationship was put on the back burner and the baby and children became his second priority over alcohol. I was rather thankful when my church came back into our lives. He openly accepted the missionaries into our home, he began lessons and stopped drinking and smoking for a year. Our family was so happy, we were finally together, I could trust him again after numerous indiscretions, we were a family. I finally thought my fairy tale was starting to be read but I was wrong because soon the people who had helped destroy the last bit of sobriety marched back into our lives and he fell off the wagon once again. I eventually left the church , mostly because I was ashamed of his behavior and because I actually felt as if I was undeserving of God with a husband who was so adamantly Godless. I felt like his demons were my demons and someone possessed by demons had no place in the kingdom of heaven. He has spent the last year and a half drinking, thankfully he stopped drinking hard liquor which made him mean and forgetful but the hard beer he has been drinking is almost as bad.



They say when you are married it is for better or for worse but there has got to be a point where the worst calls for “enough”. Every-time I need him, when the kids get sick, the day before I have surgery for cancer, the day before we go on family trips and have lots to do, the days when Miriam’s temperature spikes to 104 degrees which is the first sign of seizures, the days we have family plans or simply the days I want to enjoy his company he shows up to the house wasted which makes him useless. I feel like all of the difficult times I am forced to go through alone and it is starting to suffocate me. I see my children growing up in the same home I had growing up, a father who puts drinking first above all else. He knows how I feel about alcohol but he has quit so much, lied so much about so much that I don’t so much think I am capable of loving him anymore. Mainly because , the man I love is hidden behind a giant beer can. His eyes change, he walks different, he speaks differently and he is simply unavailable to us all. I cannot talk to him anymore about anything because no matter what it is it will serve as an excuse for him to get drunk. I have tried in the past to discuss these matters with his family but all they ever say to me, especially his mother is “he doesn’t ever sound drunk when he calls me” even though I can guarantee them that he has been drunk more than HALF of the times he has called them in the 8 years we have been together.

I love my husband a great deal but I am getting tired. With all of the health issues I am having now I feel as if I don’t deserve this anymore. I don’t deserve to be alone even though my supposed partner is sitting with the neighbor putting them back or DRIVING with booze on his way home which he thinks is OK because he is on the “backroads”. It is not OK, not at all! A DWI nearly killed our family once before, what makes him think another one wouldn’t shatter us? But I guess that is the problem, not only does he NOT think but he doesn’t care to think.

What am I supposed to do? Can I continue to pretend I live in a happy home when I live with a husband who needs help but doesn’t care enough about the people that love him to get that help? He is the father of 3 beautiful girls if those girls are not enough to make him quit hurting us what is? All I know is that my days are filled with fear, anger, hurt, betrayal, distrust and just plain unknowing. I wish his family would help me, I wish they would talk to him, help him, reach out to him but they want to pretend it is not happening even though it runs deep within their family. Even though it was some of them that caused the hurt that got him here. How do you help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help? How do you help an alcoholic who is also a pathological liar? Answer is, you don’t! And if the answer is “you don’t” you have to ask yourself a different question which is “how do you help YOU.” The only answer I find when I ask myself that question is summed up by one word “Leave”. But "leave" isn't always the advice you "want" to take even though it is the advice you should take and the only advice that keeps your kids safe.

This post is my "coming out of the closet" of sorts. I am tired of pretending that it isn't a major problem. It is a HUGE problem and it is killing us in every way. So many people would like me to just shut up about it, keep my mouth shut but I am done keeping my mouth shut. I need help and speaking out is the first choice I am making to find my way to normalcy. I Jenna Bramlett am married to an alcoholic!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The swag and I...!

So today I gave in and signed up for swagbucks. My sister in law has been using it for sometime now, she is always redeeming her bucks for amazon gift cards and as I decided I want a Kindle those would come in handy. SO far I am finding the website really easy to use, I have earned 163 today alone and though I have a long time to go until my goal nothing beats free and easy. All I have to do is watch videos, play games & surf the net. I do those things anyway, why not get paid for it???!!!

If anyone would like to join and check it out, you can help me out by using the following link to join the site. You put me one step closer to my kindle which with all the health problems I have been having I cannot afford to buy and you get freebies for yourself. Just click the ad below and be on your way to easy earning, they have tons of different ways to spend your swag bucks!

Search & Win

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Feeling unworthy of love or care!

I don't normally use the family blog as a place to complain about my life or my husband but I feel almost as if the walls are closing in on me because I feel so uncared for by my husband. I have shared these feelings with him but all he does is scoff at me and vanish into the bedroom. One week ago today I had a pretty decent amount of surgery, I had part of my cervix removed, cancer lasered from my body, a D&C and 2 more things that I can't even remember at the moment. I have wanted to and tried to sit back and take it easy as I am bleeding quite a bit from the procedure and in a moderate amount of pain from my back, to my stomach, to my legs but I have failed miserably. After the surgery I came home and went to bed, the next day , even though my husband went to work and my kids were running crazy I laid about on the couch. Those first 2 days my husband did a few things to help, it was easy since neighbors and friends were bringing our meals. The first 2 days of any surgery I have ever had have been "my rest days" as it seems 2 days is the amount of time it takes me to get better in the eyes of my husband. 2 days is the amount of days that help STOPS, dead stops unless I ask him, sometimes not even asking helps and we get into an argument. This was the same behavior after all of my C-sections as well. 2 days, 2 days and no matter what the extent of the surgery I am perfect again. Of course this is nowhere near true, I should be with my feet on a pillow relaxing as we speak but no, I am doing no such thing. Right now, at midnight I am doing laundry, laundry he dropped "off" in the laundry room an hour ago. Laundry I thought he was going to wash himself until I asked "did you forget to turn on the washer" and he said "no, I just left it for you to do later.". At that moment, minutes after a scab fell out and blood started pouring out of my body my jaw dropped and I almost broke down into tears. It occurred to me that I have become NOTHING but the person who does his laundry, his dishes, cooks his meals an cleans his house. I am no longer a human being with feelings who is hurting and fighting, I am a paid employee with no benefits and we are no longer partners. Have we ever been real partners? I am so disturbed right now that I can't even remember when we were. I know some of you are thinking "I wouldn't have done it" but alas he is the bread winner and he has a job interview tomorrow so he needed clean clothes. I rather enjoy food in my kids bellies and having a roof over their heads (and mine!). So after he gave a childish "Oh fine, fine, I will just do it, I only have to be up at 4am, 3 hours of sleep is fine" (yeah, I have to be up early to care for our CHILDREN but that doesn't matter I guess) to avoid the argument, because I am hurting and don't have one in me, I did it. I honestly do not know what it would take to get my husband to be more of a partner than some sexist pig who seems to think I will live forever. We just recently went through a month of thinking I might be dying from cancer and that didn't even phase him, will anything? I love my husband, he has so many other redeeming qualities, I know he loves me but I am starting to wonder if he actually loves "me" or if he just loves the idea of having me around because he thinks I won't ever leave. All I can say is that this isn't the first marriage boat I have taken. I met the last straw once before and after all we have gone through the past few years (some insane stuff!) it seems to me the last straw might be coming around for another visit. I fight daily to forgive because that is what my father would want, but my father in heaven would also want my husband to take care of me when I needed him to....right?

I don't know what to do but I do know that I wish everyone would quit telling me to let others do for me or to just let it all be. 1. There is NOBODY to do for me. 2. When you have a disabled child with a HORRIBLE immune system who is blind and will trip over crap in the floor filth is NOT an option.


PS. This is what my house looks like right now. Dishes/food still on the table, piles of dishes and filthy counters in the kitchen, piles of laundry in the laundry room (including more in our room) and crap thrown all over the living room floor/furniture. It isn't HORRIBLE but after breakfast, it will be! By the way, I even made his lunch, couldn't even get him to put his own meal into Tupperware!








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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love and Relaxation; My life with food!


"Sit back , relax and let someone else cook for you"

Those words have never quite sit right in my stomach. Possibly due to the fact that I am a little bit anal about the food that I eat but mostly due to the fact that I absolutely LOVE to cook. And I mean anything, I love to bake, fry, grill, boil, broil, saute and just about anything else that gets my food creativity flowing. Cooking is one of the only things in life short of sleep that actually RELAXES me and it always surprises me to hear that anyone could think this thing I love so much was stressful enough that in the event of a life crisis I should let someone else do it to take stress off. If I weren't cooking or baking something chances are you will find me twiddling my thumbs in a corner somewhere bored to tears. Sure I do other stuff but most of the stuff I do is enveloped by cooking. If I am on the computer or watching TV, I probably have something cooking in the crock pot, coming to a boil, simmering in a pot or baking in the oven. If I leave the house at the very least it is either to BUY food to cook or to EAT at a restaurant where I know they would give food as much love as I like to give it. Food is my $100.00 per hour therapy only for that $100.00 I get a whole WEEKS worth of therapy. In fact when I look back on the choices in my life the one and only choice I would ever change has to do with food and that is my education. Instead of going to business and fashion school in Los Angeles I would have gone to culinary school in San Francisco to share my love of food with the world and I KNOW I would have been damn good at it. One day I hope to open my own restaurant or bakery, a dream I have had my entire life. My husband Tom said to me once that he has never seen anyone associate their life with food as I do. Every experience I have had in my life is immortalized with food. I can tell you what something tasted like that I ate 10 , 20 years ago. I can tell you the most delicious French food I ever ate was at Eurochow in Westwood, Ca , the best thing on the menu was the Filet Mignon in which it's peppery goodness melted in your mouth like butter and the Walnut Shrimp that were the size of my hand had a crunch like nothing I ever experienced before. The best Cajun meal I ever had was at Killer Shrimp in Los Angeles and the best burger I have ever eaten I made myself. I can tell you what is in just about any food without anyone giving me an ingredient list. Killer Shrimp has long come and gone but in a matter of minutes I managed to replicate their original shrimp dish for those nights where the memory of that meal overwhelms me to the point that I MUST have it. Food makes me happy, it is my talent, my nourishment, food is my best friend, someone who has never in my life let me down. Cooking doesn't stress me out, people stress me out but when you put raw food in front of me and say "cook for the people" , people suddenly become less stressful. I love my food and my food loves me, I will never part with it and nobody can ever convince me that making food better is anything but my solace!

Now, time to go throw those cinnamon rolls that have been rising for the last hour into the oven. :)


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Monday, July 25, 2011

PLEASE VOTE for my 9 year old niece??!!!

My 9 year old niece who is a super reader and an excellent hard working honor roll student has entered a contest to win a book and a small scholarship. We would all LOVE it if you would help her in an effort to win a contest which ENDS TODAY. If all of my readers vote, she might have a chance. And if you feel the need to help her out even more, please post the link in your blog, twitter or facebook and ask your friends to vote for her as well. THANK YOU!!!




PLEASE VOTE & share if you can!!!!

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Mission Disaster Play Room!

I have had it! When we decided to let the girls cohabitate in a single bedroom for Miriam's safety from toys we cleared all the toys that were broken, that weren't played with or were just old away. Since then not only has the toy supply been replenished (even though we made them trade toys for Christmas to give to kids who needed them) but the room has turned into an even bigger disaster than the bedroom ever was. When we created the playroom we naturally thought it would be nice to have a few of those neat plastic toy boxes with lids. We never expected that these expensive "kid proof" boxes were utterly useless as the lids don't stay on and are bulky as heck. We could have achieved the same effect, though not nearly as "kid cute" with a few $4.00 plastic bins. Which is just what I did when I reached my breaking point today.

The Disaster Zone



After going through the toys and ridding the room of 2 garbage bags full I decided each girl got a box of toys, not including sporting goods & dress up clothes. I labeled each box & it's matching lid with pictures of either the girl the box belonged to or the contents of the box and created new play room rules, or shall I say additions to our rules.

Playroom Rules

1. ONE book off the shelf per girl at one time.
2. NO TOYS from the pay room in ANY other part of the house.
3. Only the box that belongs to the person actually IN the playroom can be opened. You can ONLY open your own box.
4. If you leave the playroom pick up yours toys and put your lid back on.
6. REGARDLESS of whose box a toy came from ALL toys are community property as long as the person whose box is opened remains in the room. YOU MUST SHARE!
7. If someone leaves the room but you are playing with a toy from the other persons box either A. Give them one of your toys to make room in your box for the toy. or B. Give it to them to put in their box and play with something else.
8. Sporting goods & play clothes may be opened by anyone.

Playroom transformation...







So far the girls are following the rules. We still had the "ONE book" & "no toys in the play room leave the play room" rules. They have a play area in the living room with a few toys & books so they aren't exactly going to suffer at the hand of "toylessness" because of it. We will see how long this lasts but I plan to stick to my guns and force these new rules which once learned should be a cake walk. I am by no means a stickler for super clean but I want to be and this is a start!

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The Simple Life & Tortilla's

Lately I have been on a real kick to simplify our lives by making everything we eat from scratch. Some people might say that would make life more difficult but I maintain than saving over $100.00 per week on groceries, producing only 1/4 of the trash we did previously and having less food to GRAB and Go enabling us to have non diet weight loss HAS simplified things. We make our own breads, cookies, cakes (not using mix), dish soap, laundry soap, butter and much more. We even shop late night for meat section bargains (grocery stores mark down meat by nearly half after 10pm!). Living like this took our grocery bill from $200.00 a week to about $80.00 a week with one week at $150.00 (stock up week, we buy much in bulk) bringing our grocery bill to only $340.00 a month for a savings of 460.00 a month. We do not eat anything processed but breakfast cereal and the occasional "treat" on treat day which is Friday. Sunday is my baking day in which I bake our goods for the week which I freeze. Our bodies feel better, my stress is down from all of the baking and it seems our family is a little happier.

I am constantly looking for areas where we can simplify things and that includes new EASY recipes. One recipe I have found is multi-use and can be used daily if wanted. The recipe is for easy tortillas but I have found that you can either roll it out paper thin for the best tortilla you will ever eat or you can roll it out thicker for an excellent flat bread. It bakes well too! Tonight I will be whipping this little recipe up for some yummy garlic/parsley bread cooked in butter on the stove top. Here is the recipe, following the recipe you will find some of my use ideas for this dough! The recipe makes about 8 8-6 inch tortillas, I usually double up. Enjoy!

EASY Tortilla's/flat bread



2 Cups Flour
1 - 1 1/2 TSP baking powder (more powder , more rise when cooking)
1 TSP Salt
2 TSP oil
3/4 cup luke warm milk

* Sift your flour and milk into a large mixing bowl.
* In separate bowl (or measure cup) milk, salt & oil to your milk.
* With mixer on low speed slowly add milk mixture to flour, mix until smooth.
* Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
* Divide dough and roll into balls (or use a press).
* Let the bread balls rest for another 15 minutes.
* Meanwhile, warm your pan on low-Med. heat coated with cooking spray, oil or butter.
* While pan is warming on a lightly floured surface roll or pat out a ball to the desired size then place in the pan and cook until browned on each side.

You should have plenty of time in between bread to roll out another ball. You will need to add a bit more oil, butter or spray to your pan between each piece.








NOTE: Flavor ideas:

Cinnamon sugar tortillas (when each is finished roll in a mixture of cinnamon/sugar)
Cinnamon raisin flat bread (add raisins to your dough, then do the same as above)
Garlic/Parmesan (add a touch of garlic to the dough, then brush with either a mixture of garlic, parm, butter or olive oil.)
Cheddar/ Jalapeno flat bread (add chopped/drained jalapenos and a cup of cheddar to your batter.)

These are just a few of my ideas, I am sure you can come of with some amazing ideas of your own. Feel free to share the ones you come up with in the comments section so we can all try them! :-)


PS. Make your own and you will NEVER turn back to those packaged brands!


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Worlds BEST Oatmeal cookies...

My whole life Oatmeal cookies have been a cookie I either liked or I hated. Every Oatmeal cookie is so different, often too dry & flavorless or too cakey. It is so hard to find the perfect Oatmeal cookie. But here I am to tell you that I have indeed found the perfect oatmeal cookie. A cookie that stands on it's own with no additives such as raisins or chocolate chips. It is buttery, sweet but not too sweet, fluffy in the middle but lacy around the edges. This is possibly the most dainty but tasty oatmeal cookie in the world! Enjoy!



Ingredients

* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 cup margarine, softened
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 3 cups quick cooking oats

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. In a mixing bowl with mixer on Medium speed, cream together butter/margarine, white sugar, and brown sugar.
3. Add eggs one at a time.
4. Add vanilla.
5. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
6. Mix in oats.
7. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray.
8. Shape the dough into balls (about the size of walnuts) & place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
9. Flatten each cookie with a large fork dipped in sugar (lightly wet fork to hold sugar).
10. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
11. Let cool for about 1 minute on cookie sheet then move to rack to cool.

NOTE: Using margarine AND butter makes the difference in these cookies. Do not skip this step! Feel free to add nuts, raisins or chocolate chips but these cookies are DELICIOUS alone.





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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recovering...

The last few days have been a real eye opening experience as I recover from having cancer removed from my body. For about a month I was a nervous wreck fearing I might not live long enough to see my daughters grow up after my DR. found cancer sitting on my cervix waiting to attack. Tuesday I went into the hospital, had the cancer lesions removed, part of my cervix removed, video shot of my insides to see if anything was affected, had polyps removed and had a D&C which was a must thanks to a recent miscarriage. It was a "fun" few hours (of deep rest under sedation...lol) but in the end I kind of have a new appreciation for my life. My daughters smiles seem so much brighter and the air I breath feels so much cleaner going into my lungs. I hate that it took such a life scare to get me to appreciate everything as much as I should have already but at the same time, how many of us fully appreciate life as we are living it? I am glad to be here, with my family and I am so thankful the last few months are over. For the most part....

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Butter / buttermilk making 101

I have always wanted to attempt to make my own butter but always thought I needed a churn. Little did I know that I could easily accomplish this task using nothing but a lidded jar and a little elbow grease. Today I decided to share this adventure with my 4 year old Georgia and it certainly made for a wonderful memory!

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE BUTTER & BUTTERMILK:





What you will need:

*Heavy Cream (or heavy whipping cream, at least a pint)
*Jar with lid
*paper towels
*Covered butter container
*Measuring cup (easy pour)



Steps:

1. Pour Cream into Jar and place lid on tight.





2. Start shaking container. (will take about 12-15 minutes)



video


Time lapse:
After 4 minutes...turns into whipped cream.


After 7 minutes...turns into STIFF cream or consistency of whipped butter.

After 9 minutes... Starts to curdle (IE: clump, beginning stage of separation)

After 11 minutes....Separation occurs (IE: Butter separates from milk creating butter and buttermilk.)

After 12 minutes...75% separated.


3. At 75% separation carefully pour buttermilk into the measuring cup. (I have found straining at this point to make the final stage go faster. I use a measuring cup because I like to know how much milk I have.)

4. Place lid back on and shake another 1-2 minutes.

When done it will look like this,


5. Careful drain remaining buttermilk into the measuring cup.

6. Place a few paper towels down and dump out the butter on top of them. LIGHTLY pat top of butter to remove extra moisture.


7. Place butter in storage dish.

8. OPTIONAL: add a pinch of salt & stir.


9. STRAIN buttermilk into a serving dish or storage container of choice. (the milk makes an excellent creamer but is also delicious to drink or use in recipes. I plan on using mine for cornbread and fried chicken...YUM!)

10. Taste your efforts! Mmmmmm.... ;-)


This butter is a delicious and cheaper alternative to butter plus you get buttermilk which is also pretty costly. The butter is creamier and tastier than anything bought i a store and the homemade buttermilk lacks the sour quality of any store brand as it is thinner (but still thick) and sweeter , it is considered "traditional farm" buttermilk. Each pint gives you "about" a pound of butter and about a cup of milk.

Price breakdown: (I would normally buy cream by the quart but they were out, saving me an extra 1.00)

A pint of cream cost me 1.78
Cost of butter per pound is an average of 2.98 + Pint of buttermilk 1.98 (*2 cups)
Savings $ 2.19

NOTE: For an easier method you can use a food processor or blender but it seems to me nothing is more fun than shaking your way to butter with your children! I should also note that you may find whole cream even cheaper if you contact your local dairy farm and buy it straight from the source. You will probably have to buy a bit more than normal but butter freezes well and this buttermilk can be used as regular milk. :-)


ENJOY!

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