Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Jump

Remember a few weeks ago when I said that my family was trying to decide whether or not to take a leap for a job that would take us back home? Well, we jumped. We are moving next week and I won't be on the blog for a bit. I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers and I will write again soon!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Memories Giveaway!

Silly me, I forgot to post this as well! They are going to give me a code for the software package as well to giveaway to my readers!!! All you have to do post a comment below and I will draw the winner on December 5. Only comment once please!!!!

My Memories Review & Coupon Code!

I was lucky enough to be contacted by My Memories, a digital scrapbook software company, and they allowed me to try their software for free! And, I was blown away. Here was software that I had been searching for to create special memories for my family and friends. Downloading it was simple and quick, but of course it will depend on your Internet speed. The ease of loading pictures into projects was so easy! But, my favorite part, was being able to create a slide show WITH music. I love creating those for my family to watch. Here is what I created in about 15 minutes:

Isn't that great! You can also print what you have created or you can order photobooks of what you have created! Which is awesome for those who don't have a lot of time to create amazing scrapbooks. The software does come with templates for you to use, and there are some free ones you can download online from My Memories. There are also ones that you will have to pay for, but it is absolutely worth it.  This is an amazingly easy product to use!

Now for the best part! My Memories gave me a coupon code for all my readers to use! The code will give you $10 off your purchase of the My Memories software AND a $10 code to use in their store! I highly recommend you check it out! Here is the code for my readers: STMMMS23297

Happy Scrapbooking!

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Home Is So Far Away

A couple days ago, my mom informed me that she had an incident with my grandfather. My dad, on his way to pick her up from work, noticed that the police were at the house. On the way back, my mom stopped in to see what was wrong and an officer decided to berate my  mother about elder abuse. Luckily, my mother has a backbone and informed the officer that my grandfather repeatedly threatens her and my dad doesn't allow her to go over to my grandfather's house. The officer apologized but then upset my mother further by saying that he didn't think my grandfather wouldn't be around much longer anyway. They couldn't get my grandfather's attention for a long time. I think he may have had a small stroke. He wasn't taken to the hospital. He probably refused to go.

That same night, we got a phone call that my husband's grandmother had had a heart attack, albeit a small one. He was and is still very upset. Five months after we moved to Florida, his grandfather died. It had been one of his greatest fears when we left, that his grandfather would die. Now, again, he is in Florida, worrying that the same thing is about to happen. So far, she is doing well as can be expected.

The crux of the situation is that we are a two days drive from our family. If we push ourselves, we could be there in 24 hours. We feel a tremendous amount of guilt that we are not there to support our parents. They are getting older and having health issues of their own. My mother has crippling arthritis that may put her in a wheelchair if she doesn't have knee surgery. My dad has his own health issues. I can't expect him to take care of her all the time. My brother is still in college and has no way to get home every day. We are doing our best to get home, looking for teaching jobs in our home state. I told my husband I would sell everything just to get back home.

Do you live far from older relatives? Do you experience guilt over not being within driving distance?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Garage Sales

Who doesn't love a garage sale! Well, besides my mom. She has issues when people don't buy her stuff. She feels it's their way of telling her that her stuff is crap. I make sympathetic noises to appease her but in my mind I am shouting, "You didn't have what they needed!". People shop garage sales for what they need.

Right now, I am sitting outside at my own garage sale. I already sold our old double stroller. Yesterday I sold over 75 dollars worth of stuff. Today I am hoping to finally unload a table and chairs. With a possible move to Michigan in the works, the less stuff we have to haul, the better. Plus, I get to sit at a table, crochet my heart out while my husband watches my children. Mommy heaven!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Storm Readiness

Starting tomorrow, a tropical low will make its way over the state of Florida, dumping a lot of rain on an already soaked Central Florida, where I happen to live. Cities are giving away free sandbags. Luckily, the area in which I live was not severely affected by flooding from the storm a week ago. However, I still have my storm supplies ready to go. This storm has the potential to go severe, which always sucks. So here is what I have for supplies.

1. Water-always very important. We have several 5 gallon jugs of it.
2. Dry and canned food
3. Laterns-when the power is out, it is essential to have a source of light stronger than candles.
4. Candles-good for when you only need a little light and also for roasting marshmallows so the kids don't get      scared.
5. Charcoal-for the grill when you can't cook on the stove.
6. A charcoal starter-lighter fluid is gross. You also need newspaper to light the charcoal.
7. First aid supplies-Not only may you or your family be injured, your neighbors may be as well.
8. A working cell phone with a car charger-Your car may be your only source of electricity.
9. A NOAA Weather radio-with extra batteries!
10. Extra Batteries-utmost importance.

Hopefully, this will be nothing but a lot of rain. But, just in case, I am prepared.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do you ever feel....

Not good enough? I have been doing a lot of craft stuff and trying to sell on Etsy, to no avail. I know times are tough but I try not to price my items too high. I was getting stuff ready for a craft show and I just felt the weight of failure drop on my shoulders. Am I throwing a pity party? Maybe.

I am just sick of making effort and it not  paying off. I guess the lesson to be learned is that I have to keep making effort. It is kind of hard to keep that in perspective when you have no capital to keep funding your business.

And now with the upheaval that we might be facing with a move, I wouldn't dream of attempting a small business loan or anything like that. This is so frustrating. It is hard to get out of muck of self pity and loathing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Container Garden

In Florida, we have two growing seasons, September to December and January to April. After that, it is too hot for most plants to survive. Since I live in a community where backyard gardens are not allowed, I have to utilize container gardening. Here are some pictures of what I have:

My cucumber plants that I started from seeds.

A pepper plant for my son, who loves spicy things.

Roma Tomatoes. Lots of meat, little juice.

Beefstake Tomatoes, great for hamburgers!

Another pepper plant.

Container gardening is really easy. Each of the buckets has rocks at the bottom to allow for better drainage. It is much easier to weed as well. I am hoping for a big crop of tomatoes and cucumbers to can. I am also growing herbs in little pots. The only worry I have right now is having to move suddenly. I will probably give the plants to a friend of ours with little kids. Try your own container garden, if you can right now. If you are in a colder climate, start planning for next year!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Small Taste of Fall

Saturday was the first day of October and by some miracle, a cold front pushed into Florida, giving us the tiniest taste of fall weather. We headed out that morning to the Home Depot to take part in their kid's workshop. I opened the door and the wind blew cool air in. It was glorious. When we got to the car, I looked at the temperature. 74 blessed degrees. We rolled the windows down and head off to the store.

When we arrived, there was a whole host of police cars outside the lumber doors. And extremely loud music. The area was roped off so we headed through the store to the workshop area. It was crazy but we managed to get the last 4 Fire and Rescue helicopters they had. We settled in to build the helicopters. My daughter had a fit because I wouldn't let her paint them at the store. I wasn't about to carry a helicopter with wet paint on it around the store. So we went outside to see what all the police cars were for. Turns out that it is National Safety Week. Being a fire chief's daughter, I should have remembered but I have 4 kids. Our kids got to sit on a sheriff's motorbike, they loved it. There were free sno-cones and we got to watch the store manager get dunked in a dunk tank by her employees. My kids thought it was hysterical. We left the store sticky but happy.

I am very grateful to stores that have free events. They have no idea how much it means to parents who don't have a lot of money to spend on outings. So three cheers to them! My children learn some new skills, I get them out of the house.

And many thanks to the Goddess for the weather this weekend. It felt like a taste of home.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So, Baby Steps

My last post was about how we were thinking about moving for another teacher job. We have taken the first few baby steps toward this venture. My husband has been in contact with the principal of the school and has sent in his application and resume to the district. I have been looking at rentals in the area and freaking out a lot. I so want this to happen. I want to go home.

On a side note, my father mentioned using PODS instead of trucks. This was a stroke of brilliance. Not only do they cost a lot less, they can store the pods until we are ready to have them brought to us. This is imperative because I am sure we will be staying with my parents until we could find a rental. The city where my husband will be teaching is about two hours away from my parents. So this will result in long days searching for houses to rent. And dealing with landlords, ugh. On the bright side of this equation, we don't plan to rent for long. We hope to buy  a home with some acreage. I plan on getting chickens and one day , a milking cow. And gardening and canning a lot. So keep us in your thoughts and send good vibes our way, we could really use them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Do We Jump?

An opportunity dropped in our lap. We have an opportunity to move home. My husband would have a job, provided he got past the interview, which I have no doubt he will. But, at the latest, we would move at the half point of the year. My husband does not like leaving people in a lurch and whole heartedly believes in professional integrity. I encouraged him to talk to his Principal and he said he would. Here are the reasons why we need to move home:

1. My parents are getting older and are suffering from a lot of health issues. My mom, in particular, has extremely bad arthritis. She should be using a wheelchair but refuses, trying to prolong the inevitable. My brother lives there but he is busy with college. My dad, as tough as he always seemed, is getting weaker and can't do all he was capable of. And it bothers him. The fact that my mom is getting so frail and my dad can't help her all the time is a huge issue for me to deal with. I need to be there for them.

2. Our children would get to see their grandparents, including the only great grandmother they have left who is getting on in years. I grew up without my grandparents being around. My children only see their's once or twice a year. Being home would be very beneficial.

3. Health reasons. My husband and son are allergic to most of the bugs that sting or bite down here. Fire ants are a huge problem. I never in my life will complain about sugar ants again! The heat is also a factor in their asthma. Humid heat is not good for them. While it can get humid where we used to live, it isn't nearly as bad as Florida.

4. Cost of living. Florida is outrageous. And Rick Scott is really screwing teachers on their pay. Which makes it harder to live down here.

The reasons to stay aren't as convincing as the reasons to leave but I have to list them out of fairness:

1. My husband has guaranteed job security for three more years. Yes, it is nice but his pay does not go up much at all.

2. Number 1 was pretty much it.

So do we stay or do we go? I have been doing the prepper thing, looking for rentals, thinking about how many uhauls we would need. I have informed my mom about this but asked her not to share it because nothing is certain yet. I am trying to contain my excitement and hopefulness, but it is truly very hard to do so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Burt's Bees Sensitive Line

I get to try out Burt's Bees Sensitive Skincare line through BzzAgent! I will soon be letting you know how it was!

Parents and Kids' Sports

Parents need to shut up at their children's sports games. Seriously. They have a coach, they don't need you telling them what to do. The coach doesn't need  you interfering with his or hers coaching. I was at a soccer game last night, where my husband was coaching his school's boys team. I happened to be standing behind their bench and there was a father standing at one of the corners of the field. His son was on the other team. He kept shouting instructions at them, over their coach. I could only ignore it so long. I finally got fed up. I looked at him over my sunglasses with my Mom Glare. He shut up real quick.

Kids do not need you screaming at them from the sidelines. They need encouragment. Especially when they attempt something and it doesn't go their way, they need a big, "GOOD TRY!". That was what our side was yelling at all our kids on the field. They lost 5-1. But they knew we were proud of them for trying their hardest. My husband would never berate a player for trying and failing. Ever. Even though his team was losing, he was calm and collected as he shouted instructions to his players. His players respect him highly for it. He treats them fairly and a lot of these kids come from homes where that doesn't happen. He talks to parents about yelling on the field, but in a diplomatic way. He fully expects his team to clean up their side of the bench, especially when they are at an away game.

It's about respect. Don't shout over the coach, don't yell out instructions. Show your child encouragment, even when they fail. And if you can't do either of those things, do us a favor and tape your mouth shut.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Music beats TV

Every morning, the kids ask me to watch TV. I always say no, unless I am really sick and can barely move. Instead, I put on the radio. Instantly, I have a bunch of dancing, bopping kids in my living room. They love music. All kinds of music. Classic rock, folk, top 40, rap, blues, country, you name it, we listen to it, with the exceptions of Christian and Hate music. My sons, who are usually working on their home school work, bob along in their chairs as they work. My girls dance with each other. Their moves are downright hysterical. Of course, their father declares that neither of them is going to college.

Music has been proven to beneficial to brain development. But it is more than that. While TV can touch our hearts, it can rarely  move our soul like a song can. I have a playlist on my Zune(yes, a Zune, I do not like Ipod or Apple)that is full of songs that touch my soul. When I get away from where I want to be mentally, I put the headphones on and block out all other stimuli. I let myself cry, let my heart swell, renew my being. And I hope that is what I am passing onto my kids. I dance with them, I sing with them. I teach them the words. Nobody memorizes a television show, but everyone has at least one song they know all the words to. I don't censor songs either. That doesn't mean I let them listen to songs full of expletives but a few swear words don't really hurt. Because I make sure to tell them that right now, using those words is inappropriate. I really dislike radio stations that declare themselves safe for little ears. Well rounded kids are exposed to all kinds of expression.

TV will never hold a candle to music. So turn off the TV and turn on the radio. You will be glad you did.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Explaining 9/11

This year, I decided it was time to tell my kids about 9/11. My oldest is 7 and his brother and sister are 6 and 5. In previous years, my husband and I mourned in private, as much as we could. But, they were growing up, and I need to explain the basics so that if they heard someone talking about it, they would understand.

My main dilemma was in how to portray the hijackers. I do not like to say that people are bad, I say they do bad things. I do this with my kids. I have never called them bad kids. I only say what they have done wrong is bad. Because they aren't bad kids. They are very good kids who make mistakes. So, from this philosophy, I explained that the hijackers were people who did not like our way of life and decided that they wanted to hurt us. So they stole four airplanes, and decided to fly them into buildings so they could hurt us. I didn't bring up that they were Muslim, and why should I? These people were not Muslim. They were extremists. It didn't matter what their religion was anymore. They had abandoned it to give over to hate. After explaining this part to them, we turned on the memorial.

The worst part, was that they were replaying the attacks. I felt the unbelievable dread that I felt when I was 22. It felt like a hole was punched into my heart. Looking at my kids, their eyes wide, I was worried it was too much. Then they asked me if this is why they stole the planes. With a heavy heart, I said yes. They said okay and went back to watching the memorial. That's what I love about kids, you wait for them to ask. You don't need to explain anything beyond that. As the times came up for the moments of silence, I had everyone hold hands. The kids seemed to realize that this was very important. I cried a little during the plane hits. When they got to the first tower collapse, I lost my composure. I sobbed while my daughter stroked my arm with her tiny hand. They didn't ask me why. They knew there were people in those towers. That young, and they knew what had happened. Finally, the last moment of silence occurred. After that, I told them they could go play. No more questions, no worry on their faces. No nightmares during that night's slumber. I had told my kids about 9/11, and they took it in stride.

It is weird to think that my children have not lived in a world where 9/11 had never occurred. Terrorism has been a regular word in conversations and on television. That there has always been war in the middle east for them. Mommy has friends whose husbands are overseas and it makes mommy worry. Daddy goes through drills at school for gunmen on campus. I know that most generations will go through something like that. But, it is my fervent wish that will come to an end for the rest of time. In loving memory of all victims of 9/11 and the wars in the middle east and the families, I will never forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Half Day Homeschool

I hereby declare Friday to be Half Day Homeschool Day! It is official. Why? Because on Friday, I am completely worn out and run down. Because the kids just aren't listening to me anymore. Because my printer is begging me to leave it alone. Because I need a huge bar of chocolate. Seriously, could you bring me one?

I think one thing about homeschooling that is different  than schools is that when the kids or mom(dad) get frustrated or worn out, everyone can take a break. I usually send my kids to read a book which gets in their reading time. I sit on the couch and let my mind empty. After the break, we usually get right back on track. I think this is essential to the learning environment. Sure schools have lunch and recess but they are at scheduled times. They have to keep plodding along, no matter how they feel.

So, what's the point, right? Take a break! Even if you don't homeschool. At night when your child and you are frustrated by homework, take a walk! Read a book! Listen to music! Just don't turn on the TV!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It Was Jelly Time But Now....

Sadly no, it is not peanut butter time. I am allergic to peanuts so they are not allowed in my home. Of course this presents a conundrum with kids who want peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I turned to my grocery store for a solution and found $6 Sunbutter. Six dollars. I about fell over. So I turned to the Internet and of course, it was there for me. I found it was extremely simple to make your own sunflower seed butter. All I needed was sunflower seeds and vegetable oil.

So I bought a bag of sunflower seed kernels from David's Seeds. The recipe(if you can call it that) said I needed two cups. One bag equaled two cups! I used my Cuisinart food processor to chop up the seeds. While the seeds were spinning, I added 2 tablespoons of oil. What I got was like really chunky peanut butter. So I added a third tablespoon. Big mistake, I got runny butter. Still usable but impossible to get on a knife. So I tried again and added the oil more slowly. I achieved the perfect consistency this time. Some recipes called for adding sugar but that is a no go for me. There is plenty of that in the jelly. The salt in the seeds was the perfect counterpoint to the sugar.

So as I brought up in my jelly post, the cost difference is awesome. I spent $2.50 on the bag of seeds. I got a jar of sunflower seed butter. That is definitely a whole lot better than spending $6. So go out there and make your own seed butter!

Making Jelly from Frozen Concentrate

While watching TLC's Extreme Couponing, a woman mentioned that she made jelly from frozen juice concentrate. Well color me intrigued! I immediately took to facebook to ask my friends if they had ever heard of this and indeed, they had. So, I went searching for a recipe. And I found it! Here is the link:

I was so excited to get started! First, I bought quilted jelly jars which are so much prettier than regular pint jars! I also bought some pectin which is essential to making a jelly. Unless you want to add a ton of sugar. So, following the recipe, I got to work. Sterilized my jars and lids. Cooked my concentrate and sugar. And this is what I ended up with:

Eight wonderful jars of grape jelly that I water bathed to seal. There is nothing better than the popping sound a jar makes when it seals. It was so easy. I bought the juice for 2 dollars, which is the normal cost of a store bought jar of jelly, and I got 8 jars out of it! Now tell me that doesn't rock!!!!! So give it a go! You don't have to make just grape! You can make apple, mango, whatever. So jump into canning your own food, you will save lots of dough!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hello and Welcome

I am The Learning Mama. My blog is about many things, most of which has to do with raising my family on the salary of a teacher. That teacher is my husband. He is a wonderful Math, Social Studies, and Technology teacher. I will share my failures and my triumphs. And my kid's. And my husband's. I cook from scratch(mostly). I can my own food. I grow some of my own food. I homeschool. I recycle. I sew. I knit. I crochet. I comment on politics. I comment on social issues. I am a left leaning, make up my own mind, use my voice kind of person. If I don't like something, I will tell you that and why. I do not subscribe to hate, in any form. I am a proud Pagan. I respect all other religions. I do not respect religious nut jobs. So there you have it. I hope you enjoy my blog.