Sunday, October 14, 2012

Adoption Day or "Gotcha Day"

Thirteen years ago my husband and I walked into the county courthouse for a joyous occasion.  We were about to become legal parents.  Little did we know it wouldn’t be the last time we’d be there, and most of them wouldn’t be good.

We entered the courthouse happy and smiling, our son in his little suit, surrounded by family and our son’s social worker.  It was a happy day, or so we thought.  We thought it made a difference.  We thought it made us a family.  We thought wrong.

From the day our son entered our home and the day he foramlly joined our family, all he ever wanted was to return to his birth family.  He wanted to be adopted in some sense.  He knew he couldn’t continue to live with his birth family, and he didn’t want to bounce through foster care anymore, so we were a means to an end.  Whether or not he consciously thought that at the time, I don’t know, but I do know he didn’t really want to be here.

We threw a huge party and had 70 people over to our house to celebrate.  He loved it because he got lots of presents.  At the time we didn’t realize how much harm we may have done by having this kind of party.  We were excited, and we just assumed he was too.  He never used his words to tell us differently.

Thirteen years later, it’s amazing to look back and see how many of those people are no longer a part of our lives; most of them family. 

On the very same day, I became an aunt.  I was already an aunt, but didn’t really know it at the time.  My brother had a six-year-old daughter that he had never met, therefore I never met her either.  So, on that day, I thought I was becoming an aunt for the first time.  I am not allowed to be a part of this niece’s life and I’m not even sure she knows who I am, even though we all live in the same town, just a few miles apart. 

It was about two months later that I met my first born niece for the first time and I have loved her since the moment I found out she was a part of our family, even though it would be a few weeks before we actually met her. 

Through the years I have been back to the same courthouse numerous times. Only once was it a good thing.  That was the day we adopted our daughter.  We appeared in court for our son’s various crimes so many times that the judges knew me by name.  Our county doesn’t have a juvenile justice judge.  It rotates every six weeks, so the fact that the judges knew me tells you how often we were there.

I can’t feel excited about this day.  It’s not one we acknowledge.  For the first few years we tried to make it a celebration, but it became apparent that he could not handle it, and it wasn’t a day we wanted to celebrate, so it was a day that has passed without notice, or at least anything formal, for the past ten years. 

It is a day that makes me sit back and wonder….Did I make a difference?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frugal Living - Slow Cooker & Batch Prep

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to bake, but I despise cooking.  The drudgery of deciding what to make every night is draining to me.  The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away so there isn't a "wing it" dinner.  Meals need to be planned to make sure we have all the ingredients.

Since I hate cooking, I love my slow cooker.  Throw some food in and let it go.  It's done when I get home.  How can it get any better?  Well, if I had a personal chef it would be better, but I don't, so I do this.

After work today, I did the drudgery of shopping.  I had my meals planned and my list in hand when I hit my Aldi store to get all my groceries.

When I got home, I prepped everything and put it in labeled bags with any additional instructions.  For my Tortellini Soup, I need to add the tortellini about an hour before serving, so that instruction is on the bag.

All my veggies were cut at one time and nothing needed to be cooked ahead, so there are no dishes.  Another benefit of slow cooker or crock pot cooking.  Usually the only thing you need to wash is your crock pot.  It took me an hour to get everything together and I have 12 meals prepped.  All I have to do is pop them in the crock pot before I leave in the morning.

I do have ingredients for spaghetti as a back up in case I forget to dump something in the slow cooker before I leave in the morning.

On our menu for the next couple of weeks.....

Swiss Steak
Tortellini soup
Chicken & Dumplings
Cheesy chicken & rice
Soup pork chops  (pork chops with a can of chicken & rice soup)
Beef stew
Chicken leg quarters (add a packet of onion soup mix and some water) and I am making extra so I have leftover chicken to make a stir fry.
Balsamic vinegar chicken (this is a regular oven recipe that I'm making in the slow cooker instead)
BBQ Pork Chops
BBQ Chicken breast

If you're on Pinterest, you can find most the recipes on there.  I make life as easy as I can.

The great thing is that most of these recipes are naturally gluten free for those that need to follow a special diet, and they are pretty healthy so I can keep on track with my weight loss program.

Now I can settle in for the night and get my other chores done, knowing that cooking won't be on my agenda for the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Product Review - Embellish Magnetic Scrapbooking

I love, love, love this new product.  I don't have time to do scrapbooking, but I love showing off pictures and I love to decorate for the holidays.

This product allows you to show off your pictures while decorating at the same time.  There are magnets available for so many occasions.  Weddings, babies, various holidays, sports, musical interests and so on.

And the colors can be done to coordinate with your decor, school colors or other interests.

I made these frames for my in-laws for Mother's Day and Father's Day.  My mother-in-law teaches music education and her school colors are red and black.  My father-in-law is much more "rustic" so his was the more metal look.

You can also make home decor with them.  Does your family have a favorite saying?  Words are available in different sayings.

Have I told you how much I love this product?

Check out the Magnetic Scrapbook Store to find great products.  If you have a particular interest that you don't find on the site, call 1-877-848-8300.  You can also check out the Facebook page to get more ideas.

Have fun with it.  There are so many possibilities.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cleaning Make Up Brushes

Yes, this post is labeled under health.  After what I just witnessed, you'll agree with me when you get done reading.

Your face is clean when you put your make up on, right?  Therefor, your make up brushes shouldn't get gunked up, right?  So very wrong.

Like most women I've read about cleaning my make up brushes, but I didn't put much thought into it.  I haven't dropped them in the toilet or anything, so they should be pretty clean.  Yeah, no.

Today I was avoiding other chores had some spare time, so I decided to give it a shot.

1) Run your brushes under lukewarm water.

2) Put a little bit of gentle soap into your hand (baby soap or other similar soap) and swirl your brush in your hand.

3) Don't gross out by what you see.  OK, that's not in the formal directions, but when you see what comes out, you will be grossed out.

4) Rinse under running water until water runs clear.

5) Lightly brush your now clean brushes on some paper towel.

6) Lay your brushes on a clean towel to air dry.

It doesn't take much time and I really recommend doing this.  My blush brush was the worse.  Clumps of things came out.  No matter how clean your face is, you still have natural oils and things on your face, and they get into your brush.

You're supposed to do this weekly, but well, you probably aren't going to.  Do it as often as you can.  It really is healthier for your body.  You wouldn't put a dirty toothbrush in your mouth. Don't use dirty brushes on your face either.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Do you want a healthy version of an oatmeal cookie that you can serve your kids for breakfast?  Or need a breakfast that you can eat on the run?  This is what happens in my house.  I'm lucky if I roll out of bed and am awake, much less eating a healthy breakfast.  I developed this recipe.

These are a little bit denser than a regular muffin.  Kind of a cross between a muffin and oatmeal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/3 C butter - melted
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C quick cooking oatmeal (not the instant packets)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (or more if you like cinnamon)
1 C raisins (or other dried fruit)

Mix together the butter, sugar, and egg.  Slowly add in dry ingredients, adding milk to keep the mixture moist.  Still until just combined.  Stir in raisins.

Scoop into muffin liners with an ice cream scoop.  This should make 12 nice sized muffins. They're not going to rise a bunch, so you can fill them almost to the top.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

If you like, you can sprinkle the muffins with a cinnamon and sugar mix before baking.  The oatmeal adds bulk and fiber to help keep your child full longer.  They also make a great after school snack when they want something sweet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage and Parenting

I read a book recently, called The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell.  A marriage is put to the test when a teen girl is dropped on the family's doorstep claiming to be the biological daughter of the husband.

This is a Christian based book so it is about the journey of faith of this family, in addition to how the family is shaped by the change.

There were several paragraphs that struck me.  If you are married or have children, you will be able to relate to them, especially if there are challenges in your marriage, such as children with special needs.

"Marriage isn't easy.  You both have to work at it, and I'm sure you know that.  Love is a choice, not a feeling.  We choose to love our mate even when the feelings aren't there, because it's what we promised to do.  The feelings follow the commitment.

Being a parent is much the same.  There are times we almost wish we could run away and not have to deal with the problems our children bring us.  But God placed them in our lives for a reason.  Sometime it's for their growth, sometimes for ours."

Any marriage goes through good and bad times.  There are things that happen in some marriages that can destroy it.  I've seen it happen.

When one person is working at the marriage, and the other is not, resentment can grow like you can't believe.  Marriage is between two people, not one.  The partner being taken advantage of must speak up in order for the marriage to survive.

Being a parent is hard work too.  Yes, there are times I have wanted to walk away from it, especially when we were going through the worst stuff with our son.  Often times I have wondered if he gained anything by being in our family.  I think he's gained a few things, but all he ever wanted was to be with his birth family.  I do know that I have grown and changed, drastically, because of what we have been through.

One thing I want people reading this to take away is the statement, "Love is a choice, not a feeling."

In the book it refers to the marriage.  I challenge you to think about those of us who are parenting children who have been abused and/or neglected.  Our children have a choice to love us.  Some do and some don't.  Our daughter loves us.  Our son....I'm not so sure.  I think he loves us to the level he is capable of loving anyone, but it's not anywhere near a "normal" relationship.

When you look at a family that is struggling, remember that the child was placed in that family.  The child doesn't receive a "love transplant" upon placement.  As hard as we try, we can't make a child love us, anymore than we can make a spouse or significant other love us.  Think of a time when you had a crush or were "in love" with someone who didn't return those feelings.  Were you able to "make" that person feel something for you that you didn't feel?  That's how it is with our kids.  Trust me.  If there was a way to make our children feel true love, we would do it!!!

I know there are people reading this that will be able to relate, and to you I say, You are Not Alone!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frugal Living - Batch Cooking

I have an 11 year old girl with a fabulous metabolism.  A bowl of cereal will not keep this kiddo full for any length of time.  She eats big breakfasts.  Once a month or so, I will spend a couple of hours making up breakfasts for her.  Good, healthy, filling breakfasts.

I'm also a mean mom.  I don't buy Pop Tarts or Toaster Strudel or any of the other things that kids WANT to eat.  It's just not healthy.  As a general rule, I use as little processed food as possible.  That's not to say it's 100% processed free, but I cook from scratch as much as possible.  I'm trying to teach her better eating habits that I have developed.

This is what I made today.  Starting in the center and going left... Stone Fruit Pancakes (peaches, nectarines, and plums), peanut butter and banana oatmeal squares, pumpkin scones, ham/egg/cheese biscuits, blueberry muffins and oatmeal raisin muffins.  This will last about six weeks.

Peanut butter oatmeal bars

My daughter has taken an interest in cooking, so she has started helping in the preparations.  The only processed food is the biscuits.

Press some canned biscuits into the bottom of a muffin tin, top with scrambled eggs, ham and cheese and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

All of  these things will be frozen and she will just microwave them in the coming weeks.  These are all things she likes, and they're easy to make.  They are certainly healthier than many other options, and gives her servings of fruit she might not eat otherwise.  They are much higher in protein than cold cereal and have nutrients that aren't high in other foods.

Pumpkin Scones

And because I cook with the seasonal ingredients, I can save money.  The cost per serving is significantly lower than pre-made things, especially when you have a child who eats larger quantities.

The best thing is, you cook once and clean up once.  I'm not the June Cleaver type who is going to get up every morning and cook a hot breakfast and I certainly don't run a short order kitchen!!  My daughter can choose what she wants, and she gets some input into what I make. She also takes great pride when she eats something she helped prepare.  If she wants to help cook, I'm not going to turn down help.  What do you think I am?  Crazy?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What I Did this Summer

Many kids start school with the "What I Did this Summer" assignment, so I'll share mine.

This was a crazy summer for me.  I did A LOT of traveling.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day I was on five different trips.  Let me say, this is highly unusual for me.  I don't travel this much in two years, much less in one summer.

I started with a trip to Houston to see my best friend and to watch her daughter graduate high school.

The graduate isn't in the picture because she was off getting ready for graduation, and she'd probably kill me anyway.

I was home until mid-July, which began my insanity.  My friend, Katrina, and I went to visit my friend, Nancy.  She had lost her mother a few weeks prior and we went to spend some time with our friend.  Nancy is the founder of the Attachment & Trauma Network.  I met her in 2004 when we first got a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder.

It is because of Nancy that our daughter is in our home, but it's a bit of a long story.  I will forever be grateful for the gift that she gave us, and the gifts she has given to so many families.

After a week at home, it was time to leave again.  I set off to Pennsylvania with four other adults and seven youth from our church.  We went to do a week long service trip with Week of Hope.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  It was my first time doing prolonged mission work.  I'd never done anything more than a day or a weekend, so it was a new experience.  We spent a long time traveling (14 hours each way) and with each other, but it was worth it.

The friends we made and the lessons we learned were amazing.

We returned home for, literally, two days before we set off again.  This time we left as a family.  We went to Colorado with my in-laws for a trip that my husband took often as a child and teen.  It was the first time our whole family was together in over ten years.  The chance to be together again and for us to experience things that my husband did was extraordinary.

For a girl who doesn't like heights, I did OK with being up at 13,000 feet on the top of a mountain.  A little hint - don't look down!!

After that it was home for a couple weeks, ending my summer with a quick trip to Atlanta.  This was the most "work" oriented trip.  ATN was proud to host the Southern premier of a movie called "The Boarder", about a child with attachment disorder and how it affects the family.  It was a very worthwhile weekend.  I love the chance to connect with my fellow ATN staff and Board Members, as well as meeting the families that we work with.

In this picture are Executive Director, Julie Beem along with Board Members and staff, Tanya Bowers-Dean, Stephanie Garde and myself.  Along with the movie, we hosted a resource expo for families to find services and to meet other families.  After the evening showing, we hosted a small appetizer and cocktail reception.  After 12 hours on our feet, we were ready to sit down, but spent a couple of hours staying up and talking.

And now I am home and will be for the next several months.  Every one of these trips was worth it!  I am paying for it now in weight gain and fatigue, but I will get back on my feet.  The memories are ones I will carry with me for years to come and will certain bring light on dark days.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of these memories.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's Hard to Care

Back in January I blogged about my need to lose weight.  Yeah, well, that didn't happen.

Today I had to shop for a size larger jeans.  I hate the way I feel.  I hate the way I look.  I hate how much effort it takes to keep weight off.  I hate exercise.  I hate cooking.

I've lost the weight before and I know how hard it is to do.  It's so much easier to put it on. We all want the magic pill that will take the weight off with no effort.  Unfortunately, that's not an option.

I'm in a bad spot right now where I hate how I look, but getting up the energy to care and do something about it.  I'm physically and emotionally exhausted.  This summer was crazy with five trips over the summer.  I don't travel that much in two years, much less in one summer.  It threw everything off with my body.

I'm also dealing with the hormonal changes of aging, and the fact that the meds that I take to help with my allergies and migraines also cause weight gain.

I know I'm not the only person that feels this way.  If there was an exercise that I liked, it would be much easier.  Earlier this week I went to a Zumba class with my friend and co-worker, Carol.  She has been doing Zumba regularly, and she looks fabulous!! She really loves it.  I did enjoy the class, but my knee did not.  It locked up several times and caused some pretty severe pain.  Because of my knee issues, anything high impact is out.  I wish I could swim, but there are no pools easily available where I live.  The only pools are in schools, so the schedules are very difficult to manage.

I did "enjoy" an aerobic yoga when I did my big weight loss.  I was ready to start that back up again, but couldn't find the DVD.  I bought a new one today and I will force myself to get up early and get back at it.

I know that weight loss and emotional issues go hand in hand.  Losing weight will help my emotional health.

I need motivation.  Does anyone have any extra laying around??  Does anyone want to "buddy up" and hold each other accountable?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Frugal Living - Back to school sale

The kiddos are back in school.  Anyone else doing the happy dance?

So why would I recommend a back to school sale after the kids are in school?  I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know how to find a bargain.

Yep, that big word - SALE!  Now is the time to pick up office supplies, sheets, towels, lamps, rugs and many other things.

The things that didn't sell for the college kids are all priced down now.  Some of the things may not be the colors you want, such as sheets and towels, but you may be able to find what you're looking for, or something you can compromise on.  It's also a great time to pick up things for the kids or snag deals for next year.

I had to go to Walmart yesterday to pick up some standard things and the back to school supplies are right at the front of the store.  You have to walk past them to get to virtually anything else.  I saw many things already marked down.  Stock up on notebooks, pens, pencils, and whatever office or school supplies you may use throughout the year.

I saw sheets for $7 - $15 a set and comforters for around $20, some even less.  Stores would rather sell it than store it, so you might as well get the bargain while you can!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is adoption "unnatural"?

This evening my daughter and I participated in a walk for Special Olympics to support some friends of ours. When we crossed the finish line I saw a familiar face that I hadn't expected to see.... My son's social worker from while he was in residential care.

We chatted for a bit about how my son is doing, or not doing as the case may be.  We were in the community where my son now resides and where his birth family lives.  I was never fond of this worker, and the following statement shows just one of the many reasons why.

"So, he's living here where his natural family is?"

Well, if his birth family is his natural family, we are not his birth family so that make us, what?  Unnatural?  I looked up the definition of unnatural.

1. In violation of a natural law.
2. Inconsistent with an individual pattern or custom.
3. Deviating from a behavioral or social norm: an unnatural attachment.
4. Contrived or constrained; artificial: smiled in an unnatural manner.
5. In violation of natural feelings; inhuman.

Hmmm.  This does not make me feel very good.  This means for the last 13 1/2 years I have been in violation of the law?   Or I'm a social deviant?  Or am I artificial?  Maybe I am inhuman?

Do people not realize what they are saying when they say these things?  I never proclaim to be a child's birth mother, but I do not think there is anything unnatural about me or my family.  Adoption dates back thousands of years.

if you don't believe me, pick up a Bible and open it to the Book of Ruth.  This is one of the earliest adoption stories.  Ruth's husband dies and she remarries Boaz.  They have a son who she gives to her mother-in-law Naomi because Naomi's children have all died.  Hello adoption.  Thousands of years ago.

So why do people say these stupid things when referring to an adoptive family?  Another "favorite" of mine is that he's now living with his "real" mother.  Last time I checked I'm pretty real.  And what is real?  Does a "real" mother drink and use drugs while pregnant, beat her child. allow others to use that child for completely unnatural purposes?  Does a real mother leave a child go without food so that she can get her drug fix?  

I was really there through every bit of his behavioral issues, through every school event, at his graduation, took him to college, financially supported him, tried to guide him along the right path, gave him a stable home, bandaged injuries, cleaned up after him when he was sick, gave up things for myself to provide for him, and the list goes on.  How does that make me not real?

The worst part of all this is that this man is in a position to know better!! He works in social services for goodness sakes!  He was my son's social worker for about 3 years.  Apparently he learned nothing in those 3 years, or the many others he worked in social services.  I think it's time for some training for these workers!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Frugal Living - Sewing

I haven't sewn in awhile, but a recent visit with my friends Nancy and Katrina renewed my love of sewing.

I sewed for several years and then kids came along and my sewing slowed down.  I haven sewn for all the kids that were in my house at one time or another.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  While visiting Nancy we hit a fabric story.  Nancy and Katrina are masters at sewing and I can manage most stitches.  We were lost in a world of beautiful fabrics and tons of patterns.  I have a tween daughter is a little fashionista....with very expensive taste.

However, she has taken to sewing like a duck to water.

This was her first outfit.  Does she look a little proud?  That dress cost a whopping $5.  That includes the fabric and the pattern.  The fabric was on clearance for $3.50 a yard and we only needed a yard and the pattern was $1.

Patterns are where you need to watch your cost.  They can run $12 or more, get them on sale.  If you have a fabric store near you, get on their preferred mailing list.  They will often send you coupons that you can use, but you will also get sale flyers regularly.  Usually one brand or another is on sale.  At the time I bought this pattern, Butterick was on sale.  This past week, Simplicity was on sale.  Some Wal-Mart stores carry fabric and patterns, but you have to look carefully.

Some things you don't even need a pattern for.

This beautiful piece of fabric came with the smocking already done and the bottom was hemmed. I simply had to measure around my daughter's body to see how much I needed.  These types of fabrics do run a bit more, but there is little work and great for a beginning sewer.  It was $20 a yard and I needed less than a yard, plus it was on sale for 40% off.  Not bad for a cute little dress.  All the sewing that it required was sewing a seam up the length of the material.

The last several weeks we have made hats, purses, tops, dresses, skirts, pants and more.  Many of my daughter's back to school clothes are homemade.  This is also good if you have a hard to fit person in the house.  My daughter is tall and thin.  She has a much longer torso than she does legs.  We can adjust the sizes much easier when we make things ourselves.

We also discussed the fact that all of her clothes are unique.  She has things that other kids won't have.  She got very excited when I told her that when dances come she can make her own dress rather than having to choose from what is in the store.  She is so excited.

This last creation might just be my favorite.  It is so indicative of her style.  She loves the 70s and 80s fashions and lots of color and pattern.

This little vest used less than a yard of fabric.  Again, costing us less than $5.  The pattern also included patterns for pants, a jumper, a dress and a hat.  Our dollar was well spent on this pattern.

If you don't know how to sew, check with your local community college or technical college and see if they offer classes. Many sewing stores offer classes as well.  Everyone should learn to sew to do basic repairs on their clothing and things like hemming pants.  It's quick and easy and saves you money in tailoring charges.

Just look at the pride in my daughter's face over her creations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sexual abuse at Penn State

I usually don't delve into political topics, but this one is really sticking in my craw in several ways.

By now I think everyone has heard about Penn State, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky.  I am beyond appalled at what transpired there and the "higher ups" that covered it up and allowed it to happen.  

As a sexual abuse survivor, I have a different insight on this.  There are several things about this that bother me and quite frankly, just piss me off. (Pardon my French.)

1) Football was placed above the welfare of children. Yes, these were legally adults that were victimized, but the people who committed the offenses were in charge of protecting the welfare of these young men.  Age 18 may make you a legal adult, but you still trust those in leadership roles in programs, and these men violated that trust in the worst way possible.

2) Several people knew what was going on and chose to ignore it and allow it to CONTINUE!  No one valued these young men enough to put a stop to it.  See point 1.

3) This is where I'm going to get arguments, I'm sure.  The fines handed down are ludicrous.  Why?  They do nothing for the victims.  Stripping Joe Paterno of his wins?  What exactly does that accomplish?  He's dead.  How does this hurt him at all?  And what about the members of the teams over all those years that legitimately earned those wins and were not part of the cover up?  Their hard work and effort has been negated.  Don't get me wrong.  I think athletics are overly inflated and more focus should be on education, but....the athletes that participated earned those wins and should not be negated when they did nothing wrong.  

I fully agree that Penn State needs to be punished.  They allowed this to happen, covered it up, and put their football program above the welfare of the young men that they should have protected.  Plain and simple.  There is a quote that I agree whole heartedly with.  "Punishing past, present and future students of the University because of Sandusky’s crimes does not serve justice. This is not a fair or thoughtful action; it is a panicked response to the public’s understandable revulsion at what Sandusky did.

4) The reaction of the Paterno family.  "The NCAA never contacted our family or our legal counsel."  WHAT?  You don't get a say!  Your family member committed a heinous crime, and yes, covering up sexual abuse is a crime, and you think you should have a say in the punishments handed down?  NO!  The families of the VICTIMS get a say, not you!  What in the world makes you think you have any rights here?  

5) Lastly, Jerry Sandusky abused his own child.  I understand why it took his son so long to come forward and my heart breaks for him.  And to have his abuse so publicly played makes it so much harder to deal with.

I'm sure this will remain in the news for a long time and there will be plenty that will disagree with me.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Frugal Living - Kindle or Nook

OK, so for a frugal living post I'm telling you to buy something expensive?  Yep.

I bought a Kindle a little over a year ago when we moved our son to Nebraska.  I am an avid reader. I go through at least a book a week.  I have to read in order to shut my brain down at night and if I am a passenger in the car, I can't stand not having something to do.  If I'm not knitting, I'm reading.

I am also come from a family that owns a printing company, and has for the last 94 years.  Switching to an electronic media rather than a printed book was something I did begrudgingly, but now I'm thrilled I did.

I started with a basic Kindle.  My final break-down point was that when I travel I typically don't take enough books and I end up having to buy at least one book, and usually at full price.  I don't like doing that, especially since I don't re-read books.  And books are bulky and take up valuable real estate in a suitcase!

I had it for nearly a year and I loved it.  I always had enough books with me, and could simply pop it into my purse.

Here's the best part, I have never paid for a book on my Kindle.  You may not know this, but there are THOUSANDS of FREE books available to download.  Every genre is available.  If you like mysteries, romance, historical, non-fiction, cookbooks, auto biographies, the classics, you name it.

For Christmas my husband and I each got some cash and my husband decided to buy the Kindle Fire.  The Kindle pictured above simply does books and is not lighted.

The Kindle Fire is essentially a tablet, but not quite.  In addition to books, it is also full color (the one above is only black and white), has wi-fi, e-mail, can stream video, has a touch screen, it's lighted (for reading in bed with the light out - YAY) and much more.  The only thing I have found that it doesn't do is create documents, but it does allow you to open documents.

The regular Kindle retails for about $100, or less.  The Kindle Fire is about $200.

Before I left on my Mommy Time trip to Houston, I also upgraded to the Fire.  I didn't have to take my laptop along, and I still had access to everything I needed while I away from my home office.  My "old" Kindle is now going to our daughter for her birthday in September.  Just like the regular Kindle, I can throw it in my purse and have my books at my finger tips.  I currently have several hundred books loaded.  The Kindle for our daughter has about 200 books on it right now.  It will have many more by the time she gets it.  She devours books the same way I do.

So, where do you find out about free books?  If you have a Kindle you can search on Amazon.  Just type in "free Kindle books" in the search bar.  I believe you can do the same thing with a Nook.

I have also found groups that I "like" on Facebook and they post free book links several times a day.  Sometimes they are only free for a day or two, other times the links are good for a month.  The ones I use are EReader News TodayInspired Reads (Christian based books) and Free Kindle Books and Tips.  These have allowed me to load hundreds of books on both the regular Kindle and the Kindle Fire.  They also post links for Nook books as well.

Yes, the initial investment was "high", but the money I have saved, and will save long term, by not purchasing books, has paid for the price of the device many times over.  The convenience factor is an extreme bonus.  I am never without a book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Frugal Living - Thrift Stores and Rummage Sales

I absolutely love thrift stores.  For some things they are must shop stores.

If you have infants or smaller children, absolutely check out thrift stores for clothing!  You know how fast children grow and sometimes they only get to wear things a few times.  The clothes are new or in like new condition.

Thrift stores are also a must shop if you're going through weight loss.  Who wants to pay full price for clothing they're not going to be in that long?

There are a couple of secrets to thrift store shopping.

* Look for a store close to major stores. One of the stores I shop it is just down the road from Target.  When Target has clothes they can't sell, they donate them to the thrift store.  I often find clothes that still have the tags on.

* If you're children/teens are into name brand clothing, but you don't want to pay the price, check out Plato's Closet.  They stock name brand clothing for a fraction of the cost.  College kids will often clean out their closets before packing up at the end of the school year.  This makes it a great time to the back to school shopping for your kids!

* Look for stores that benefit smaller non-profit groups.  We've heard of Goodwill and Salvation Army, but locally we have a store that benefits a Lutheran High School as well as one that benefits a humane society.  They tend to be less expensive than the "chain stores."

* Be creative when you shop.  Look at furniture and see if it's structurally sound.  If you don't like the fabric, see if it would be easy to change it, or throw a slip cover on it.  Dressers and tables can be painted, especially when you're talking about a child's room.  It makes the furniture easier to clean!

Look at this setting of table and chairs.  Things don't have to match.  You can go funky with color and style.

I'm looking for chairs to do something like this in my kitchen.  My chairs are not in good condition, and getting close to being beyond repair.

* You can also look at consignment stores where you get a percentage of the sales.  This is what I am doing with some of my daughter's clothes.  They are higher end clothing that I got at good deals, and she grows so fast that they are in like new condition.  Some stores may be picky about what they take, so be sure to check out the criteria before you take things in.

I love rummage sales for these same reasons.  You may call them yard sales, tag sales, garage sales, or some other variation, but it's the same thing.

My daughter is entering middle school in the fall.  She is at the point where the peer pressure for name brand is really starting to kick in.  I hate this part of parenting.  I hate the peer pressure, but I remember it all too well.  I didn't have the name brands and I was picked on mercilessly.

We hit a rummage sale the other day and picked up all of her tops for school for $31. We got nearly 20 tops.  These are all Gap, American Eagle, Polo, you name it.  No one will know that we didn't pay full price, and she is thrilled.  She's also a bit funky in her style (sometimes mixing patterns that make my eyes hurt) so we talked about how she could add a belt or boots or something to make a style that's all her own.  

The other day I got a shirt for myself for 90% off.  The shirt was brand new with the tags still on.  It was from a higher end store and the price was $35. I paid $3.

If you are a book lover, these are great places to pick up books.  If you go through books like I do, you don't want to pay full price.

You can also repurpose things into completely new items.  Check out this dessert stand made from old china.

Mirrors can have the frame painted.  If you love a frame but not the print in it, see if you can take the print out.

There is one thing to be cautious of, and that is baby and children's toys.  The toys may be older and not have been tested for lead paint.  I also recommend sanitizing any toys purchased, especially stuffed animals.  A quick spin through the washing machine or dishwasher, as the case may be, is certainly worth your child's safety and health.

Check out your local thrift stores, and do it with an open mind.  You never know what you might find, and the money you save is so worth it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baking with Yeast Dough

I have a love/hate relationship with yeast dough.  I love items like bread, cinnamon rolls, and the such, but yeast dough can be so temperamental.

Don't those look heavenly?!?!?

Yesterday I discovered this fabulous recipe that is pretty much fool proof! This one is for cinnamon rolls.

9 c. flour2/3 c. sugar1 1/2 c. water - warm4 eggs, beaten1 1/2 c. milk, scalded2 tsp. salt2 pkg. yeast

By scaled milk, it means heat it until it's about 115 - 120 degrees.  This is VERY important, because that's what helps it react with the yeast.  Get a thermometer for food if you don't have one.  It will help quite a bit. 

Put flour into large Tupperware bowl. Mix other ingredients in another bowl. Make well in flour; pour in ingredients and seal lid - "burp." Let rise until lid pops off. Add 2 sticks butter (melted); mix well and seal lid - "burp." Let rise until lid pops off.

On floured board, knead lightly. Roll out. Spread butter, sugar and cinnamon. Slice into rolls. Place in greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Let rise. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Really.  That's it.  No "punching down" or greasing bowls or anything like that.  The lid really does pop off.  I didn't use a Tupperware brand bowl, but my lid still popped off.

This does make a gooier dough than a traditional kneaded dough.  It will stick to your fingers and the bowl, but it really does bake up beautifully.

If you like raisins, them in.  If you want to make raisin bread, just divide it into smaller sections and still roll it up like it does for the cinnamon roll, then place it in a loaf pan and bake.  

It is so easy.  For the first time I had no problems with baking with yeast.  

Bake on friends.  Bake on!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Tribute to a Special Young Man

I am proud to know a special young man named Dan.  I met him when I began working with his mother.  Through the years I have gotten to know Dan and what a special young man he is.

A few weeks ago he graduated high school.  This video was created by his classmates, who gave him a standing ovation when he graduated.  Unfortunately, I was in Houston attending another graduation and I missed it, but this video is wonderful.

May we all learn to love and accept these special people in our lives.

Dan is one of the many reasons that I despise the "R" word.  If you don't know it is, trust me, you hear it in every day conversation, from many age groups.  It is the word "retarded" or its variations.

The definition:  "A slowing down or hindering of progress."

That is not what I see when I see this young man.  I see a young man with a beautiful heart.  You did it Dan!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Rediscovered Gem

For the past couple of months, I have been cleaning and purging preparing for a rummage sale.  Or yard sale, or tag sale, or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.

It was an attempt to get my daughter to learn about earning money for the mission trip we are going on in a few weeks, rather than Mom and Dad just paying for everything.

While I was cleaning I re-found (is that a word?) a box of linens given to me when my husband's grandmother passed away.  This is one of the pieces.

It's  a large tablecloth, and it will actually fit our kitchen table.  When I was showing these old linens to my daughter, I discovered that this was not meant to be embroidered.

Years ago, I cross stitched tons of things, but carpal tunnel has gotten the best of me and I can no longer do it.  I knew I had these linens, but I thought I had to embroider them and that my hands couldn't handle it.  Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered these were meant to be painted!!

The linens are stamped with a pattern.  It even includes paint-by-number instructions. I can't paint anything, but I can handle this.  There is no date on the instructions, so I have no idea what vintage this is.

By the time I met Grandma Dorothy, she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  The memories I do have of her are fond, and my husband speaks of his grandparents often.

Back when I first received a few of the pieces I was still able to cross stitch.  I worked on a small table cloth and finished it in early December.  The day I finished just happened to be the day Grandma Dorothy died.  I gave it to my husband's parents for Christmas with an explanation of when I started it and when I finished it.  Fortunately, she had the embroidery floss that she originally purchased for the project, so they are the same vintage as the cloths.

I feel like I have discovered this gift all over again.  The days here are quite hot, and our old home does not have air conditioning.  We don't normally have days this warm for any extended period of time.  This is a great project for these warm days, and I get joy my heart as I do it.  We will enjoy this tablecloth for years to come and my husband will tell our daughter about Grandma Dorothy as we enjoy dinners with this beneath our food.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Where is God?

Today I had six hours to not do much of anything.  We are having a rummage sale to raise money for a mission trip my daughter and I are going on in a month.  As I looked out over the field of growing corn, I got to think about "seeing God."

For years, I have been drawn to water, specifically the ocean.  This is my ideal vacation.  Anything near the ocean is good with me.  It is very calming to me.

A few weeks ago I was in Houston visiting my best friend, and we spent time near the Gulf of Mexico, with the water at our side.  In addition to the companionship, the water soothed me greatly.  I don't know why I am so drawn to the water.  The waves, the sand, the sounds of the birds.. it is all amazing.

Equally, and completely opposite, I find great comfort in the mountains.  The beauty of the natural creation.  These high piles of "dirt" that house so much wildlife, change the landscape and change climate in a few thousand feet are simply majestic.

In a few weeks we will be heading to Colorado to spend time with my in-laws.  I have been to Colorado before, Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain area specifically, but this will be a different part of the state.  We are praying that the wildfires subside soon and that this beautiful countryside can be saved.

One more place I find God is in babies.  When I hold this tiny little creation in my arms, I can't help but be amazed by the little human that is created.  My heart becomes so full when I have a baby in my arms, or smiling up at me.

God is all around us, if we take the time to look.  If these photos made your smile or brought some light to your day...Thank God.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Son

Tomorrow (June 22) our son will turn 19.  A year ago we moved him to Nebraska to start his Freshman year of college.  My, how much has happened in that year.

At the age of 18 he left the residential treatment center that he had called home for a year.  He had graduated high school from the private school at the treatment center five days prior.  He moved into an apartment that we paid for and we furnished. We stocked his fridge and pantry. All his bills were paid.  The only thing he had to pay for was spending money.  That meant getting a job.

To him he had hit the jackpot.  He had hit the magic age of consent and that meant going off his medication. It was the beginning of a very fast downward spiral.  4 months later he had dropped out of college.  Looking back, we did him a great disservice by paying his bills and setting him up as we did.  He had no responsibility, but we can't change the past.

A year ago we pulled into Nebraska with our vehicle loaded with his things.  We went to Applebee's to celebrate his birthday, then went to our hotel for the night.  The next day we went shopping to buy the rest of his furnishings for his apartment and moved him into his new apartment. He seemed happy.

This year I am not sure what he will be doing.  I'm not even positive where he's living. I know what town he's in and that he's living with his birth mother, but other than that, I wouldn't be able to find him.

For the past several months we have not been part of his life, except when he called for bail money.  He has changed his name on his Facebook page back to his birth name, and has basically written us off, except.... yes, now we are supposed to jump up and be excited and spend his birthday with him.  Why?  Because he wants a gift or money or whatever from us.

For the past week or so, he has called us every day, multiple times a day, inquiring as to what we are doing for his birthday.  We have told him that you don't turn relationships on and off.  We either have a relationship or we don't.  This was not what he expected us to say.  In the past we have always done something with him for his birthday, we have gone to wherever he was living, I even made his birthday cakes for him.

There MAY be some sense of longing for "family" in him, but I doubt it.  On the 28th he has court for six felonies and three misdemeanors.  I believe he has taken pleas on all the charges so it should be a sentencing hearing, so his thoughts may be on going to jail....again.  I have not attended court for him since he's turned 18.  Again, a big change.  I was at every court hearing when he was a minor.  But, he has made it clear that he wants his birth family, so I am letting his decisions stand.

So, I wish him a Happy Birthday.  I don't know what that will entail for him, but I truly hope he is happy for that day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Support System

One of the most important things when you are parenting a child with any kind of special needs is to have a great support system behind you.  I am so incredibly blessed to have that.

As I blogged about here I spent several days in Houston visiting my best friend.  I attended the graduation of her daughter while I was there, and it was the reason for the timing of the trip.

Sonya has been a staunch supporter of our parenting as long as we've had children.  There were times where she saw behaviors in my kids that I didn't see.  Having her support me has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.  While I was in Houston we talked about my kids, but it wasn't the constant theme of the vacation.  In fact, the time spent discussing kids was minimal.  We both needed the time to just relax and that's what we did.  Kids were still involved since I was staying at their house, but I love her children and we have a great time together, but we did not linger on the problems I am facing.

I am blessed with three additional amazing supporters.  We have all been friends for nearly 30 years.  I'm trying to figure out how that can be since we're all only 29 ourselves.

Deb, Mel and Shel have been my friends since high school.  Actually, Mel has been in my life far longer.  Our mothers were friends in high school and we met for the first time when we were in elementary school.

These amazing friends have seen every part of my life.  They saw the abuse I suffered and the "relationship" with my mother.  They know that what I lived is real.  They watched as things progressed with our son, and supported us when the decision was made that he had to enter residential treatment.  They may not have always agreed with our choices, but they have supported us, held us up, prayed for us, loved us and have been the best friends we could ever ask for.  Having a support system that has known you most of your life is beyond amazing.

There is a saying that I've heard for years and I believe very strongly.  "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold."  I believe this with all my heart and these ladies are pure gold.

Our final big support system is my in-laws.  Notice I didn't say my family.  My parents have not been a support system at all and have doubted us every step of the way.  My in-laws are a completely different story.

We may be over 1000 miles apart, but we are as close as can be.  We have had a great relationship, even prior to children entering the picture.  My mother-in-law and I used to have season tickets to theater events together when we both lived in the Dallas area.

My in-laws saw things with our son when he went to stay with them for a week when he was about eight.  Things did not go smoothly and he let some of his behaviors show.  That was a first for him.  He was usually sweet and charming to everyone he met.

They began to see what we dealt with and really got it when we explained things.  When the violence began, they were worried about my safety.  They understood the need for out of home placement and didn't doubt what we were doing and what the court decided.

They completely adore our daughter, but we are blessed that my mother-in-law has been a teacher in various grades and understands child development.  She knows what is "normal" and what behaviors come out at what ages.  We are now dealing with puberty and I can vent about the hormones and other issues are experiencing.  Yes, it's age appropriate behavior, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating.

I have other support systems.  I have met other moms through the Attachment & Trauma Network, our church is amazing, and other friends I have made along the way all are people I can lean on when I need to.  I wish every family dealing with special needs had the support I have.  Sadly, I know that's not the case for everyone.

Thank you to all the wonderful people in my life, and thank you for your support! - That almost sounded like a campaign speech. :)