Friday, May 22, 2015

Silly Faces

This boy makes me smile.
With the overabundance of serious issues in my life over the past several months... I'm really glad that I get to see his awesome face every day.

He makes me laugh.
He makes me feel loved.
He makes me remember what life is about.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fun Times at the Polls

Tuesday was election day.
I woke up, got the kids off to school and then left for a day of work.
After work, I picked up the kids from school, we walked to our polling place to vote and then we stayed to work the polls for the next four hours.

When I had agreed to stand outside of my polling place to promote some friends for school board I had no idea what to expect. School board and the impending consolidation is such a hot topic around town. Would people yell at me? Would they think I was stupid? Would they agree and vote for the people I was supporting?

This was all new to me. And I was a little nervous.

It took me about twenty minutes to find my groove but once I did I actually started having a lot of fun! The other people that were outside promoting people they supported were really nice and after four hours of hanging out with them my abs were beginning to ache from laughter.

I found that I had a harder task than they did because they were each promoting one person and I was promoting five. I couldn't just say "this person for school board!" I had to actually get people to stop and listen for 30 seconds.

I always led in with "have you decided on school board candidates yet?"

I was amazed at how many people had not. Especially since the decisions being made with our schools affects EVERYONE. Parents with school-aged children. Grandparents who want their families to stay near. (If you don't have a good public school system people will move away.)  Home owners and property value. Taxes for the taxpayers. Businesses. (I met a woman who owns a daycare and because of the school changes and them taking away one of the buses that came to her daycare, she will lose 25% of her annual income.) The impact will be huge.

But people didn't know who they were going to vote for as they were on their way in to vote.
So I helped them out. :)

People were really receptive.
People really liked the idea of five people who actually have children in the school district filling the five empty seats on the board.
People are ready for new leadership.

At the end of the day, four of our five won a spot on both the Republican and Democratic ballot. Four of the five will be on our school board after the November election.

At the end of the day I realized that being a part of change, supporting this group of people and having them come out on top... that's the good life! Being involved. Being informed. Having the right to vote... this is the important stuff of life!

My kids were with me for most of the night. They handed out cards with me. They ate a lot of the candy that others were passing out. :) They are learning about the importance of being involved and informed with what is going on in local politics. They are learning to love voting. And with only 26% of registered voters showing up to vote in this primary election... I'm glad my kids are learning young.

We LOVED working the polls and promoting people we believe in! When the polls closed I came home and anxiously watched as the numbers came in. I couldn't sleep till it was over... and then I still couldn't sleep. :) When the kids woke up the next day I gave them the good news. They were happy and Liza said "That was fun! When do we get to do it again?"

In two years Liza. We will do it again in two years when our fifth person runs for school board again. :)

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Politics Schmolitics

Tomorrow is May 19th.
May 19th is the day of the Primary Election.

I'm not usually one to talk politics but politics found me this year.

This is the year I learned the importance of paying attention.
This is the year I realized how important it is to be an informed voter.

This is the year that nine people who have been elected to the school board are using their power to change my life. (Well, seven of those nine anyways.)

Our school board has voted to change our entire district....They are changing the configuration of our grades and therefore will be making changes to all 14 schools in our district.  5 of our 11 elementary schools will be closed for good. They will repurpose one of them and sell the others.

My school... the one right across the road from my house... the one whose property is a short 20 feet from my front door... will be closed and sold. The consolidation of our district is being rushed and doesn't make much sense. It was supposed to save money and get us back on budget but instead the district will be even deeper in debt.

Seven people used their power to make this happen.
Seven people that were elected by the public and are choosing not to listen to the public.

Seven people that maybe I voted for in the past.
Seven people that if I did vote for them I had no idea who they were, what they stood for or what their plans and goals were for the district.

I used to be an uninformed voter.
I have vowed to never let that be the case again.

I have spent the past few weeks researching candidates, googling what the responsibilities of different positions are, learning about politics. I have talked to friends whose opinions I trust... friends who have had personal interactions with some of the candidates and can talk about their personal character.

I've been making my list and I'll be prepared when I go to the polls tomorrow. I know it's hard to know everything and I know that some people will not follow through with their promises. But in the end I will at least be able to say that I was as informed as I could be and I made the best decisions I could.

Local elections are important. The people that get into office can change things with a simple vote. My neighborhood will be forever changed because of politicians.

And I am forever changed because of this experience.

If you live in Pennsylvania www.votespa.com is the place for all your voting information. If you aren't in PA then you will have to do your own research on where to start. But I hope you take some time to learn about what and who you are voting for... and I hope you will vote!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Project Use Up All My Yarn

I love yarn.
You could possibly say I have an addiction.
I buy it often.

But I haven't bought any for a few months.

I realized that I have far too much yarn and decided to take this summer to use up all my yarn... or most of it. The stuff I use to make hats doesn't need to get used up but all this other random yarn does... because it's starting to take over my house!

I've been enjoying making new and different things, finding patterns and trying things out. Here are some things I've made...

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(This blanket measures 42x33 inches and it is for sale. $55)


I made a case for my kindle.

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These mason jars became part of a gift to our teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.

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I filled them with Hershey Kisses, markers, a gift card and some flowers.

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I made these butterflies for someone I buy patterns from. Her daughter passed away a few years ago and every year on her daughter's birthday she does a yarn bombing. This year she asked for help making butterflies and then hung them from trees at a park where her daughter had loved to play.

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And lastly for today... I love making home made gifts for friends who are having babies. I made these bibs to go with a gift for the last shower I went to. I think they turned out pretty cute!

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If you like seeing what I make you can follow along on my Wix-Works page. I don't post as often during the nice months but I've been sharing things as I make them. :)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Staying Cool

Sometimes all you need is a little plastic pool and a best friend. :)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Me Time

I love people. I really do.

But as much as I love people... I think I like being alone even more.

When Mike asked what I wanted for Mother's Day my answer was to be left alone. To not have to do any work or deal with the kids.

Leave. Me. Alone.

And that's what I got. It was a beautiful day and I had this view...

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And these items with me...

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It was so peaceful and relaxing to just lay in the sun and not have to worry about anything for a few hours.

I'm paying for it with a bit of sunburn but it was totally worth it!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dealing With Life

Last week was a tough one for me. Wednesday evening the school board voted on consolidation. Unless we can find a way to stop it in the next month my school will no longer be a school. Since the school is directly across the street from my house this will change my life in so many ways. My neighborhood will not be the same and depending on who purchases the building it could just destroy my neighborhood.

So to say I left the board meeting feeling defeated and depressed is an understatement. I cried for hours. My heart feels crushed... loss of what I love plus loss of a dream. (I moved here with purpose and that purpose could cease to exist real soon.)

I woke up on Thursday and cried some more. I couldn't stop. The tears still come from time to time. There is so much to grieve. Yet at the same time I have to stay strong for my kids. Life is unfair like that.

We all have our own ways of dealing with life when life hurts.

For me... it's alone time... outside... with my camera. I sent the kids off to school on Thursday and went to one of my favorite parks to see what nature was up to. The quietness of being in the woods, the surprise of nature's beauty as I rounded each bend, the click of the camera... it's a much better way to spend a depressing day than laying in bed. :)

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Mom

On this Mother's Day I would like to honor my mom.

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My mom...
She is quiet.
She is steady.
She is always there.
And I have learned many important things from her.

She has taught me...

1. How to be a servant.
My mom has the heart of a servant. She has a magic house. If, in conversation, I say, "Peanut butter no-bakes sound really good" they will magically appear by the end of the day. She is always thinking of others. She hears. She serves. She makes people feel like they matter.

2. How to make others feel welcome.
When I first took Mike home to meet my family she welcomed him and then showed him around the kitchen and told him to help himself to drinks and snacks anytime. This may seem small but I find it to be an important piece of making someone feel at home in a house that isn't theirs.

3. The importance of standing by your morals and beliefs.
Mom and dad had their standards. Most kids were allowed to watch shows and listen to music that was not allowed in our home. We often had to miss out on movies with friends because they were going to one that my parents didn't want us to go to. I'm sure I didn't make that easy for them. In fact, I'm sure I fought mom on that a time or two... or maybe every time. (And pretty sure I lied and went one time anyways.) But now I get it. Now I am thankful that she had her morals and beliefs. I'm glad that she didn't just give in because everyone else was doing it. Today... I apply those same standards in my home. (And for the record... I felt really guilty about going to a movie that my parents said I couldn't go to.)

4. The importance of letting your children leave.
Mom has six kids. Over the years we have all flown from the nest. First with college and after that to new towns to start our adult lives. We grew up in Pennsylvania but are spreading out. My two sisters were in Florida for a while. One is now in Maryland and the other in Wisconsin. I have a brother in Texas. My other two brothers found jobs that keep them closer to home. I'm 2 hours from my hometown. We are moving out and moving away. And my mom never once made us feel bad about it. We have always had her support. I know it is hard for her... the tears as we say goodbye after all being together for a few days are evidence of that... but she knows the importance of letting go.

5. The magic of letting go.
It is in the letting go that I have learned how children can grow up and become friends with their parents. It is the letting go that allows that relationship to evolve to a new place.

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Mom,

I know we are complete opposites and because of that we sometimes have a hard time understanding each other. I see our differences. I see your strengths and they are so different from mine. And I admire you because of them! It is because we are different that I have been able to learn so much from you.

I know I gave you some hard times through the years. I know that I will always be labeled your strong-willed child. I'm not sorry for being the strong-willed child because it is that same strong will that allows me to stand up today and fight for what I believe is right. But I do want to say thank you for putting up with me and loving me even in the times when my strong will was just too much.

Thanks for being you!

Love,
Your Favorite Daughter :)

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Bike Project

The Bike Project is an idea that became a reality and one that is greater than I ever imagined. Here is how The Bike Project came to be...



There are a TON of kids in my neighborhood. All ages. Lots of boys. Lots of girls. Some have bikes. Some do not.

One day last summer I woke up with an idea... what if I could get a bike and a helmet for every kid in my neighborhood? I asked on FB if anyone had any bikes in their garages that were no longer being used. I figured I would get maybe a few bikes and be able to help a handful of kids but the bike project exploded! Tons of people donated bikes, helmets and money.

Some of the neighborhood kids helped us clean the bikes up. Mike did a lot of the work to make sure that tires were good and brakes were working.

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We started matching kids to bikes and then taking them to the store to pick out a helmet.

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I posted photos of kids on their bikes to my Facebook page because I think it is fun to let people see the fullness of their good deeds. I know people enjoyed seeing a new kid on a bike they donated or wearing a helmet that they helped purchase. It was happiness all around!

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Some kids had their own bikes already but needed a new tube for a tire or a helmet. We helped them.

Some kids needed to learn how to ride the bike they had. We helped them.

Some kids needed a bigger bike. They traded.

Some kids got their very first bike ever! 

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We had been doing what came to be called The Bike Project for a few weeks when I received a call from the newspaper. Someone had called them to share what we were doing and they wanted to do a story. We agreed to it and rounded up some of the neighborhood kids who received bikes so that they could be a part of the story.

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My hope was that the story would encourage others to look around their own neighborhoods and find a need and a way to fill it.

But something I wasn't counting on was even more people showing up at my house with bikes. We started getting phone calls from people wanting to know when they could drop bikes off. We received checks in the mail from complete strangers to help buy parts and helmets. And some days we would go out for the day and come home to several bikes propped up against our fence waiting for us.

Bikes took over our small yard last summer. 

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We kept getting bikes and we kept finding people that needed them. And we were able to get some moms a bike too!

It was the summer of bikes. It seemed like everything we did revolved around bikes. We fixed bikes. We cleaned bikes. We gave bikes away. We took family rides. We took neighbor kids on bike rides.

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It was a really memorable summer. Connecting no-longer-used bikes to kids who needed one was so fulfilling. The smiles and joy were worth the hours we put into it and the fact that we weren't able to use our small yard for anything else.

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At the end of the summer we had several bikes left. My in-law's were generous with their space and gave us a place to store them for the winter. We recently picked up those bikes, made sure they were ready and we've been passing out bikes again! We do not plan to do it on the same scale as last summer... but if I meet a kid without a bike I'll see if I can find one.

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I tried keeping track of how many people we helped in some way but lost track somewhere after 40. I will forever remember the summer of bikes.

Who knows what this summer will bring. :)

I hope you all take a look around your own neighborhoods and find a need and a way to fill it. Even if it's simply helping an elderly neighbor get their garbage to the curb every week. When we all pitch in and work together we make the world a better place.

Be a part of the solution... it's fun!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adjusting...

Now that I have a few days of work in, I have come to a few realizations...

1. My first day back was a cold, rainy day. We spent a lot of the day outside getting training on the different lessons we would be teaching to students. My mind had to stay engaged and take it all in. I was at work for 6 1/2 hours that day.  When I left to drive home I. Was. Exhausted. I came home and did nothing. And then I thought oh my! This is what my kids do every day at school! My poor kids! Sitting and learning all day long. No wonder they don't love school! It's tiring to have to be mentally engaged for that long!

2. I now realize why my kids like to bring their backpacks and lunchboxes in and leave them on the living room floor after school. I do the same thing. The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is clean out my backpack and my lunchbox.

3. I don't know how full time working moms do it! I mean... who wants to cook and do dishes when they work all day?? Laundry? Forget it! Weekends? Leave me alone! And I don't even work that much! Just a few days each week and only for a few hours each day. Full time working moms have my full respect!

Going back to work has been an adjustment for me... and I'm still adjusting. I absolutely LOVE my job. I mean... seriously... I get paid to take kids into the woods and look for insects or convince them that the creepy critters in the stream are totally cool and fun to catch and check out. I get to facilitate group building activities and challenges and watch a group of kids learn to work together to accomplish a common goal. My work is FUN. It's exciting. One day I might teach a lesson to a group of eighth graders and the next day I might get to teach that same lesson to a group of first graders. The job never gets boring.

But working is taking adjusting. And since it's seasonal work and I have the summer off I'm sure I'll adjust just in time to be done for a few months. And then in the fall I'll have to adjust again. If I didn't love the job it wouldn't be worth it... but this job is like playtime... and it's worth learning to adjust to new schedules and routine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Whole 30 - Dinner

Everyone knows by now that I started my year with a Whole30 and I've been figuring out my new relationship with food. It's not always easy. I am constantly surrounded by things I would love to be able to eat but I now know do not agree with me. I have to learn how to come up with meals that do not have pasta or cheese. Those used to be staples for me. It's been a journey and the journey is far from over. Most days I make great food choices. But there are still days where I make choices I shouldn't... but those choices always make it easier to say no the next time because when I can say "THIS FOOD makes me feel like THIS"... that's what it is all about. Learning what leaves me feeling good and what leaves me feeling gross... and then avoiding those foods that leave me feeling gross.

ANYWAYS! Let's talk about Whole30 and dinner, because dinner is always the hardest for me.

The first time I did Whole30 I'm pretty sure I ate the same five meals over and over. This time I had a lot more variety. Here are some things I had for dinner... and still do...


 SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH MEAT SAUCE or MEATBALLS
I find a lot of people don't know how to cook spaghetti squash but it's actually quite easy. I do mine in the microwave. You need to stab it a lot with a fork so that it doesn't explode and then microwave it. It usually takes around 15 minutes. The ends get soft first but you will want the middle to be getting soft as well. If you don't cook it long enough the "spaghetti" will be stringy and a bit crunchy. If you cook it too long it will be mush. Once it is cooked, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and then scrape out the "spaghetti".

We like to serve this with meat sauce and peppers. We make our own sauce by buying canned tomato sauce and adding our own Italian seasonings.We also like to chop up peppers and onions, cook them up and serve them on top of the spaghetti and sauce.

This meatball recipe is good. It makes a lot so you can always freeze some for another meal.

Another way to mix this up is to make zoodles... Use a spiralizer to turn zucchini into "noodles". 


FAJITAS
Minus the wrap of course. And cheese. And... well... it's basically chicken, peppers and onions with fajita seasoning. But it's still good. Click here for a recipe.


TACO SALAD
Make your own taco seasoning and add your taco meat to a salad with your favorite veggies.


SWEET POTATO CAULIFLOWER SOUP
I know soup season is kind of over but this soup is really good! Makes for a good side or a light meal.


AMISH ONE-PAN GROUND BEEF AND CABBAGE SKILLET
My kids even eat this! I didn't realize I liked cabbage until I tried this recipe. Just leave out the butter and make sure your canned tomatoes are Whole30 compliant.


HAMBURGER STEW
This is something Mike found in a magazine. It calls for rice but we just leave that out and use cauliflower rice instead. It also makes a TON so you get at least two full meals out of it. Freeze some for another time.

2 lbs ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cans (14 1/2 oz each) stewed tomatoes, undrained
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced
4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 to 2 tbsp salt
1 to 2 tbsp pepper

1. In dutch oven, cook beef and onions over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, water, rice, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Uncover; simmer 20-30 minutes longer or until thickened. Freeze in 3-cup portions for up to 3 months.

To use frozen stew: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Transfer to a saucepan; add 1 cup water. Cook until hot and bubbly.


CHICKEN
Grill it.
Bake it.
Put it on a kabob.
Add it to a salad.
Use different seasonings.
We eat a lot of chicken.


For sides we usually have potatoes. I was glad I made ghee this time because it was nice to have on potatoes.  And then we have another veggie. We always joke that we have a side of veggie and a side of veggie. Walmart does have sweet potato fries that are JUST sweet potatoes cut like fries. You can find them in the produce section near the snap peas.


We always keep frozen hamburger patties on hand. When I need an easy meal I just cook up a burger with some peppers and onions. I found that mustard isn't so bad and goes well with this meal.


That's all I have right now. If you have some Whole30 meals you love please share them! I know my Whole30 is over but I still like to eat this way.






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