Mama Milk


(This is more of a personal post that I wrote a few days ago, and I know some of my friends tend to get (very) skeeved out about pumping and expressed breast milk, so if that applies to you, you may want to walk away right about now.)

I have one bag of pumped milk left in my freezer for little man, which he will get tomorrow morning at daycare.

I knew for a long time this day was going to come, but it is pretty emotional for me.  I am still nursing him, one time per day on my long workdays, and two times per day the rest of the week.  So, he has been getting one bag of frozen, pumped milk each day I work 10 hour shifts, which is two days a week.  I will continue to nurse two times per day on my shorter and off days, but now on my long work days as of next week, I'm going to start sending him with a cup of coconut milk to supplement, as we don't really do cow's milk in this house.  

When I first started to pump, as any new nursing mom will tell you, it was an odd miracle seeing what my body could produce and provide for my child.  It is a very, very strange experience at first, seeing these amazing and crazy things your body can now do.  Even that first half of an ounce is a complete success when you can give that to your child.  As I progressed with the pump when I went back to work, it honestly became a bit of solace for me.  In a long day, my two or three breaks to pump were just the calm I needed.  It gave me time to think, to process, to relax if even only for a few minutes.  I do have to say, I am very thankful that two out of the three of my jobs have spectacular pumping rooms, both including a comfy, private spot to relax enough to pump, one even having a couch and a television in the room!  Pumping is something that some women have a really hard time with, and I've not had all of those problems.  My supply has always been good, enough so that there was a point where I had a significant oversupply, and I was pumping 16 ounces at my first morning session before I left for work (DH does daycare drop off later in the morning on those days so little man can sleep in).  I do believe that the pump had a large part of why I had clogged ducts and mastitis, because I was causing my body to produce more than little man was using on my days off.  But in retrospect, that is what left me with such a significant freezer supply that I could continue to send him with milk to daycare even 6 months after I stopped pumping.  

My body has done and continues to do beautiful, amazing things for these children that I am growing and raising.  I do feel proud, that I have been able to provide for him for 17 months even when I am not with him, especially since I haven't pumped since just after he turned one year old.  I feel thankful that I've been able to do that much for him.  But at the same time - I feel sad, because - even though he probably couldn't care, I always felt that I was sending a little piece of me - a little bit of my love - off with him for the day when I couldn't be there.  

I know it is difficult for some people to understand, especially some of my non-mama friends or those who didn't enjoy nursing or pumping.  But, in my progression to becoming a mother, this has been one small but significant piece.  It was my first experience with trusting my body fully and providing for this baby who I no longer carried around in my belly.  Some women think that breast milk is 'gross' or nursing/feeding breast milk this long is 'wrong.'  But to us, it is comfort, it is security, it is trust, it is love.

Babies don't stay babies forever, and I obviously have a limited time in which I will be nursing him or that he would have had pumped milk.  I get that.  It is just one more little thing that makes me think my little man is not so little anymore.  

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Tapestries of Hope: Documentary Review by ChristineMM

Tapestries of Hope






Documentary Movie: Tapestries of Hope (2010)

This was an emotionally heavy documentary to watch. I had to split it up into two parts in order to be able to emotionally handle it. The film certainly taught me some things and made me think so I am glad I watched it.

An American white woman, Michealene Cristini Risley, travels to Zimbabwe Africa to meet with Betty Makoni, an activist, and to film her organization's work: The Girl Child Network. There, certain girls are taken in to live, to start a healing process for their emotional wounds, and to be schooled. Moving to live at The Girl Child Network releases the girls from their typical culture's plans so it's controversial for them (but the idea seems perfectly reasonable to Americans).

Who are the girls? They have all been raped by men in their community who were HIV positive because the men believe that the blood of a virgin girl obtained through raping her will cure them. These girls are emotionally scarred and some have also contracted HIV during the rape.

Now you can see why this was hard to handle.

The government of Zimbabew is hostile toward actions such as outsiders coming in to film, so the filmmaker was there filming in secret. She was arrested after filming and the tapes were confiscated although they were retrieved later, and used to make this film.

The film not only discusses HIV and AIDS but medical ignorance about the cause and treatment of HIV and AIDS. The film also discusses rape and sexual abuse of girls and begs for victims to be able to heal. They feel that what the victims need is to know they have a voice and to be able to speak openly and to participate actively in their healing process.

The film makes you think about the rights of children and women in Zimbabwe versus what we American women have experienced in our lives. It made me think about third world countries and their inferior medical care and the impact that a lack of education and living in ignorance. To think that anyone would think that HIV could be eradicated from a man's body by raping a girl virgin boggles my mind.

Delighting in Babies-Baby Shower Event



Over the past eight years, God has blessed me with three beautiful boys-with my latest one being born in April. My little one surprised us four weeks early, and while that is considered early he was still 6 pounds 3 ounces. Now I always thought that each labor and delivery typically got quicker and easier, but that was not the case for me. My labor for my first was two and a half hours, my middle child was four and a half, and this last one was nine hours-and for the first time I needed a c-section. My c-section was due to fetal distress, and while I was a little disappointed, I have come to realize it was a necessity. When he was born the doctor noticed that there was a true knot in his cord, which is uncommon and can sometimes cause fetal death. So when I look at my precious baby boy I think of him as my miracle baby sent by God early to protect him from complications.

In celebration of my little miracle baby, for the next two months I will be highlighting baby/mommy products. Here are the companies that are participating:

MAM
Hot Slings
Tommee Tippee
Mommy Milk Creations
Aurora
Lansinoh
mOmma
Kalencom
Picky Sticky
Bamboobies
Pourty

Uprooted: The Ralph Kand Story (Part XIII)

These Saturday blog entries are devoted to a serial novel titled Uprooted, a story about Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. As the Red Army approached Tallin, capitol of Estonia, Ralph secured a spot on the very last boat of exiles fleeing their Homeland. When the boat neared Gdansk in Poland, a Nazi patrol boat brought them to port where they were placed in a makeshift concentration camp.

Flight

As morning broke, Ralph lay prone, wide awake as he had been the entire night, his mind dizzy from too much thinking. With considerable effort he finally sat up. There was only one other man in the bunkhouse now, a squat man with very small ears and brown, greasy hair.

“What’s your name?”

“Kand. Ralph Kand. And you?”

“Hans. Did you just arrive? This is not a place you want to stay.”

“I don’t plan to,” Ralph said, his mouth bitter with a nostalgic taste.

“Good. I’m leaving, too,” Hans said. “I’ll go mad if I stay with this rabble.”

Ralph squinted, slats of sunlight now filling the room. “You can get us out of here?”

“I have tin snips. I’ve been here three weeks. Tonight there will be no moon. I found a space in the outer fence where they have no guards and no lights. I will show you.”

It was well past midnight when Ralph and Hans slipped from their bed to the door. They could hear a woman crying in the dark as they eased their way out the door, keeping to the shadows. Hans had said he'd been told it was not intended to be a prison, just a means of confinement while they processed the mass of fugitives from the east. Nevertheless they both knew it would be disastrous to get caught making an escape.

When they reached the fence, Ralph knelt and lifted the bottom wire. It was loose. It didn't even need to be snipped for them to scrunch under it. Once on the other side they were soon in a clump of trees and brush across the unpaved outer road.

"Now what?" Ralph said.

Hans vigorously shook his loose trousers and jacket to knock the dirt off, threw the tin snips into the weeds, then patted himself down. Ralph followed, in an effort to make himself presentable.

"We walk. Need to put some distance between us and the camp."

For a short while they trudged through the countryside in silence, the only sound being the snapping of twigs or whooshing of bramble against their legs.

"We have to go west," Ralph said. "We can't stay in Poland."

They crossed a road and went into another batch of trees. "Let's find a place to rest," Hans said.

Ralph, too, was weary, exhausted, but determined to press on. Hans lifted his eyes to Ralph's to meet his gaze. Ralph turned and limped on as he reluctantly followed.

Ralph's thoughts went to his days at the brewery before the Russians came. How easily they joked then. How easy it all seemed, drinking vodka and laughing. What a chilling effect the loss of freedom had on everyone, a dark blanket that smothered men's souls.

"Shhh!" Ralph gestured with his hand for Hans to halt. All the first sounds of dawn were springing to life now, birds chirping, rejoicing, oblivious to danger. The rippling of a nearby stream formed a melodic undertone. In the distance a steam locomotive pounded the rails. A whistle blew. Ralph's eyebrows lifted.

"We can't catch a train. We have no money and no papers," the squat man said.

"It's the fastest way out of here. We have to do what we can."

Ralph waved his hand in the direction of the stream, found a small rocky place where he could kneel, splashed water in his face. He cupped his hands and began to drink. "This is good."

"Lucky." Hans said. "I was thirsty, too."

"We'll find the tracks and follow them to a town. Maybe we can find a way --"

And like that they both understood the mission. "We need to rest first. We have a long ways to go."

Hans was carrying a small pack which had extra clothes in it. He lay down and used it as a pillow. Ralph found a grassy patch under the trees lay on his side, head resting on his arm. They were both quickly sleeping.

The sun was straight overhead when they wrangled themselves up to get started again. Both were feeling their hunger now. After a modest hike they reached the tracks, gazed southwest and trundled along. After a short time they came upon a farmhouse. An old Polish man with round face and bushy eyebrows was seated on the porch whittling. 

CONTINUED

NEXT WEEK: TO WROCLAW, PRAGUE AND AUSTRIA  

People Say AP Classes Are Harder Than College Classes

I have heard this said for a few years and now my homeschool mom friends whose kids have just completed the AP US History class are saying it too: that AP classes are harder than the same content taught at college.



If you are one of the 99% who went to school yourself, take a second and think back to how your teachers communicated to you.

They know the topic and know the test while they are teaching you.

They would say in their lectures that this would be on the test so be sure to take careful notes.

If they didn't use the word test they would say "this is very important".

Sometimes they'd repeat it three times about the same tidbit (which annoyed me to no end- was not once enough?).

When doing review for tests they would say with intonations "You may want to take special note of this..." which was a key that it definitely was on the test.

I even had some teachers that would say, "I will not tell you what is on the test but you should know X, Y, and Z about this topic." Semantics!

Students would ask questions directly to inquire if X would be on the test.

Other students would see the teacher privately to ask if X would be on the test.

Sometimes when I was worried about not understanding something I'd ask for clarification and would be told, "Don't worry it won't be on the test" and they would not explain it to me. Conversation over.



The AP course scope and sequence is defined by the College Board. The AP test is designed by the College Board. There is a huge span of information on the test. The teachers whose courses are certified by the College Board to be designated as an AP course covers so much information. The teachers do not see the test. There is more than one version of the test and you don't know which your student will receive. To teach a complete course seems to me to be a huge task and to get through it in one full academic year seems a challenge. The homeschool courses say 12-15 hours a week or 20 hours of homework a week must be done to get through it all.



Some public schools have compressed their schedule to half-year. So, the AP course would go from August to January only. These classes attempt to cover all that material. That would mean 24-30-40 hours of homework a week for just one class. A friend who is on a Board of Education recently rallied against this schedule saying that the teacher's insistence that the teacher can get through the material in the class time is one thing but the student's ability to do double the amount of homework and do all that memorization of facts is questionable. I would concur that the brain can only handle so much learning in a 24 hour time span and to double the studying just may not work, especially given that most of the schooled kid's day is spent in school and going to and fro, and that they have other homework and still need some hours of sleep! Also let's not forget the issue that some kids are taking the AP course in the fall and not taking the AP test until June!



The challenge of an AP course, it seems to me, is both in the large amount of material that must be covered as well as studying. AP courses also involve analytical thinking and the ability to do analytical writing and to do that in a timed high pressure setting. The hard part is that to teach or learn a complete course to try to cover all the bases the student and teacher have to work extra hard, harder than the college courses. Why?



The college course professor knows what is on the test. They can focus the lectures and homework on what they feel is most important. There is an element of control over content and assessment that the college teacher has which AP course instructors do not have. College professors can and do give hints as to what is most important to learn to help the student realize what is most important to know and what is fluff or extraneous information. Some college professors practically dictate what will be on the test which makes the student realize their responsibility of what content to learn if finite which happens to also make studying easier.

If you have taken a college course you know what I'm talking about: they tell you to read the textbook chapter and then they lecture on what they feel is most important plus give tips on what is vital. Anyone with smarts can figure out how to streamline the studying and memorization. The untested material was good to know but not essential for memorization. It can always be looked up later if someone has a need to know.

Teachers of AP courses in school or in other settings (i.e. online classes that homeschoolers use or at homeschool co-ops) do not have the luxury of scaling back what is taught in the classroom and teaching to the test in a more targeted way because they don't know exactly what will be on the test, they know the course has a ton of information and they know that they have to deliver it all and the student has to study it all. They know that the information on the test is just a fraction of the large amount of material that they were exposed to and there is nothing that they can do about it. Those wishing to be the most prepared need a comprehensive course and they need to put in the time and effort to study and to master analytical essay writing too. Those taking history classes need to be able to read source documents and digest the content and to form opinions.

If my kids ever take an AP course as part of their homeschool you can bet I'll find the best courses out there which produce the highest scores on the tests so we are not wasting our money or my kid's time with a sub-par course. I don't feel I am in the position to custom create a course for my kids and I know at least one of them lacks the personality to teach himself rigorous content with self-discipline. For some kids and for some parents it really would be best to outsource the taking of an AP class.

If pondering all this leaves you to question quitting homeschooling and using public school so the AP courses can be accessed easier and for free there are a couple of issues.

First, schools have differing policies to decide which of the students are able to enroll for the class. (I heard in my former town that it's political and that certain families are favored by administration thus locking other kids out of other classes.) Enrollment is often limited and administration has to choose who gets to take what class.

In some schools the students are tracked (even if they never use that word). If they fail to take certain classes by grade 8 they are locked out of certain classes for grade 9. If they do not enter the honors track in grade 9 they will never be allowed to enroll into an AP class in grades 12, 11, or 10. That is school policy in some schools.

AP courses also sometimes are cut from public school budgets, something that tax-paying citizen parents have little control over and the manner in which that happens is sometimes sudden and makes any future change too late for your child to access. A parent can advocate to reinstate an AP class at the school next year but it's too late for their child to have taken the cut class this year. 

Lastly, look at the school's scores for the class and the test scores: you will see that nationally the kids are scoring well in the class but too many bomb the AP test. What does that say for the quality of the teaching and what the students actually learned?

In contrast when homeschoolers take AP classes they have more freedom of choice, parents pick the course to use. No one limits the students to taking a certain number per year either. Sometimes homseschoolers are allowed to take the classes earlier if the professor deems them truly ready.

Often the only challenge for homeschoolers accessing AP classes is having the money to pay the class tuition and to pay for the textbook and other learning materials. Well, that and staying on top of enrollment dates and rushing to get a spot in the class before it's full.


STILL WORKING SMALL

I can't get over how much fun I'm having working through the stack of resist dyed felted wool pieces I made in a Chad Hagan workshop....

 This one is a bit larger than the majority of pieces we dyed.....measuring 12' x 8" (rather than 6" x 7").  I forgot to take a BEFORE photo....cause I was so anxious to get started....but happily I remembered to pull the camera out before stitching was too far along.


Here's what it looked like at the end of the evening....click on the photo for a closer look.  Sure.....there's not much to see yet.....truly, the stitching didn't take that long, but the thread color and stitch style decisions did.  


All for now....MUST get my walking shoes on as 'the dog' and 'the husband' are both whining at the door.  It's unusually hot here in the Blue Ridge Mountains....so while the temperatures are still down from overnight.....the 90 minute daily 'forced march' must go on.

Easy Chocolate Cookies - and God are they GOOD!


Hi dolls! So it's clearly been a while since my last post, finding time to bake lately has been a struggle. I found this recipe on Food.com, and the chick who posted it said that it is a recipe from a Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking Cookbook.

They truly are very easy to make, and I actually had all of the ingredients in my kitchen already (not having to drag myself to the store after a long day of work was a huge plus!) I made them for my boss's birthday, and everyone raved about them! I must have sent out this recipe to 5 different people who asked me how to make them. They have the consistency of a cake inside, really moist and soft. Some of my powdered sugar melted off (as seen above) but it didn't make them taste any less awesome! OK so here it goes...



Easy Chocolate Cookies

Yields: 24 cookies
Prep time: 15min
Cook time: 10min
Total time: 25min


1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter (or spray).
3. Put the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.
4. In another medium bowl, stir together the four, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes (until creamy). Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl!
6. Add one egg to the bowl and beat until blended. Then, add the second egg.
7. Add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until blended.
8. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough.
9. Roll the dough into a ball using your hands.
10. Roll the ball in the confectioners' sugar until covered.
11. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet.
12. Space each ball of dough about 2 inches apart.
13. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until crackled and puffed.
14. Enjoy! (:.


Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!! xoxo


Eight Minutes with Artist Morgan Pease

Morgan Pease is a 25-year-old artist who grew up in Wisconsin, schooled here in the Twin Ports and now lives in the Twin Cities. When it was announced that Morgan Pease would be exhibiting at the Ochre Ghost this month there was a noticeable buzz. I'd seen one of his shows at the Duluth Art Institute a couple years back and looked forward to meeting him when he was back in town.

EN: What do you do for a living at this point in time? 
Morgan Pease: As of right now I am a bike mechanic (been doing that for a long time actually) for the Hub Bike Co-operative in Minneapolis. The job allows me to afford the fun stuff I like to do and gives me time when I need to really concentrate on my artwork.

EN: How did you first take an interest in the fine arts? 
MP: I grew up in a very creative family. My father is a children's singer and my mother is amazing at pretty much everything and they encouraged me to do whatever made me happy. Which to date has been a fair share of crazy adventures and the like. The community which helped is also full of a handful of very talented artists and crafts people which allowed me to see a lot of different processes from the time I was very little still to this day.

EN: What kind of training have you had? Schooling… mentors… etc. 
MP: Ahh... training. Never quite liked that word. But anyways I studied at the University of Minnesota Duluth under a bunch of wonderful professors. I definitely can attribute most of my technical skills (which I'm not sure there is much there anymore) to the professors there. Especially Ryuta Nakajima, Robert Repinski, Jen Dietrich, Cecilia Ramone, and all the friends I worked in the studio with.

EN: Can you describe your personal attitude/philosophy toward making art? (example, “Art for art’s sake” or “Art as conscience of the world” etc.) 
MP: This is a tough one for me because I feel like it changes almost every time I am creating something or thinking about creating something. For the most part though I believe as much I want to put my own thoughts and teachings into my work I feel that by the end of a series the work has taught me more then I could ever put into the work. This may be because most of the work I do is monotonous and time consuming which leaves me with plenty of time and space to bounce stuff around inside my head.

EN: What are your current projects? Are you still into triangles and movement? 
MP: My current projects right now are more based in functional creation although I have a new series entitled "16 Year Dream" which is still in the planning stages at the moment. I've been trying to figure out a couple new processes in which to work with and I'm definitely seeing some progress there. As for the triangles. I definitely will always be interested in triangles and the movement which such a simple shape can convey if used correctly. More then just triangles I have a fascination with most simple line/shape work which can convey subtle and intense motion.

EN: What does your personal art space look like? Do you have a studio in your home or elsewhere? 
MP: I do have a home studio, two actually. I've got an office for design and planning work and a wood/workshop in the basement to get my hands dirty. I've talked to a lot of artists about their decisions to have a studio at home or not and for me I just feel like it works for me. I'm a homebody so the less distance I have to go before starting something the better.

EN: What inspires you or keeps you going as an artist? 
MP: Enjoyment is the number one thing which keeps me creative. As with pretty much everything I do if I don't or can't find enjoyment in it I will simply not do it.


To see more work by Morgan Pease visit www.morganpease.com

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

That Evening Sun: Movie Review

I absolutely loved this movie and wish there were more high quality movies like this for me to watch.



An elderly white man in a nursing home sneaks out and goes back to his lifelong home, the family farm, only to find it inhabited by a young family who he's known for years: a southern white trash family. The old man is shocked to find out that his lawyer son (who has left the country to go to the city to work his white collar job) has rented out his home and had seemingly on his own, decided that the man would spend the rest of his life in the nursing home. The old man rejects that notion and he is angry that he is not being allowed to have a voice or live his life as he feels he is physically able to.

The old man moves into the former slave quarters which he finds a personal insult, supposedly on a very temporary basis until he can get the renters out and move back into his own home. However the family will not budge and a power struggle and stand-off  between the old man and the young, alcoholic, abusive, disabled man begins. At times the conflict is comical and at other times it is heartbreaking.

This movie is a melancholy story.

The old man just wants to be allowed to live the rest of his life in his home and on his farm, to be allowed die there. The temporary setback from his now-healed fractured hip he feels is over and he thinks that he is now able to live back on the farm on his own, even if he can't do all the farming that he did when he was younger. He is lonely since his wife passed on. He must struggle and negotiate with his very busy attorney son about his future plans and he resents having to have to convince his son about what he wants for his own life. He wants to continue to be independent and he wants to live his life with dignity: two things that living in an elderly home do not provide.

The younger man who rented the farm and house is also struggling to fulfill his dream, of owning his own home and land and making a living off a farm rather than just squeaking by on disability payments. However it seems doubtful that he is able to do what is takes to live the life of his dreams.

This movie is fantastic and makes us think about the rights of the elderly, issues regarding the safety of the elderly who wish to live alone in their twilight years. It makes you think about your dreams and what it takes to make them happen.

I found the movie heart-wrenching and I was brought to tears multiple times.

The film was beautifully shot with wonderful artistic cinematography.

This movie is based on a short story by William Gay "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down".





Links Official movie website

For the Kids Friday #69

Welcome to the party!!!
Ack!  Sorry this is late!  We are in full swing of summer fun here.  I hope the same for all of you!

I'll will be adding my features soon... in the mean time, let's get this week's party started!

For the Kids Friday



1)  I would LOVE for you to first be a follower of my blog.  (And why wouldn't you want to be?!)

2)  Grab my For the Kids Fridays Button and place it somewhere on your blog.  Be sure to link back to me!

3)  Link up as many KID-RELATED activities, games, recipes, parties, gifts, clothing you've created, crafts, traditions, lessons, and so on... that you would like to share.  Please add a different link each week.  They can be old or new... this is just a place to share ideas for our kids to enjoy.  Bonus points to those that serve some educational purpose too!  Link must be to the specific post, and not your general blog page.  Please don't link to your store.

4)  Share the love and comment on at least one other link.  Everyone loves to get feedback.


That's it!  Have fun, and thanks so much for participating!

Our Grocery Crackdown.


I mentioned recently in a post that we have massively decreased our grocery budget and weekly spending at the grocery store, and there have been a few people who have commented on/asked about this.  A few people asked about specific meals that I plan and a few people asked about how we decreased our spending in general.  If there is more interest in my meal plans (which are VERY simple and easy- I'm not into cooking... at all), let me know, and I'll do actual meal plans in an upcoming post.  Otherwise, let's continue talking about how we reduced our spending at the grocery in general.

To self-disclose, while DH brings his lunch to work (which saves us roughly ~$50 a week), I still do buy my lunch the two days a week I work at the hospital.  I try to get cheaper items, but it does add anywhere from $6-10 a week, depending on how hungry I am.  I'm feeding three here right now with nursing while pregnant, okay?  I'm allowed! ;)

Some of these things you might know about already, and you may do already, but on the off-chance you don't, I'll list everything that helps us save.

1. Go to only one store.  So many people recommend comparison shopping at different stores, and trying to get the best price of one item at one store, and going to another store for other 'on sale' items.  Really, though, to be successful with that advice you have to have the will of an iron man.  Because no one walks into the grocery and only buys one item.  I know I sure as heck don't buy only one thing, even when I only need one thing!

2. Meal plan.  This has been almost the single biggest way to save money for us.  Especially since DH and I are parents of a toddler who needs to eat real, healthy food now, we needed to take this step.  It has been a little trial and error to start, but we now know how many meals we will get from each planned menu item, and then we figure out how many dinners/lunches that will cover.  We try to plan for the whole week, minus a day or so, because there is always something that comes up, and I HATE wasting food.  Like it is a huge pet peeve of mine.  

(Side story- I am a terrible cook.  I'll admit it.  One time, I was making lasagna roll ups, and I forgot to buy tomatoes to add in.  Being resourceful and crafty, I improvised and used a jar of salsa we had sitting around. I actually thought it didn't taste bad, until DH thought it was terrible, and I was eating salsa lasagna for the next week because DH refused to eat it and I refused to waste any of it...ugh.  Okay, back to the useful information.)

3. Make a list, and stick to it!  We not only plan out our meals, but also our snacks, drinks, little man's snacks, and any extras like the Clif Bars DH likes to eat after working out in the morning.  That way, when we get to the store, we don't have any wiggle room to impulse buy.  Well, no.  That's a lie.  We do typically give ourselves one item (of food or drink, $5 or so at max) each to 'splurge' on.  We budget that in as well, and it helps to feel like we're buying a fun treat even while we are sticking to a tight budget.  

4.  Stop buying crap.  You heard me!  Or at least stop buying a lot of crap.  Allow yourself that one item per week to splurge on.  But really, you don't need ho-ho's, pop-tarts, gummy worms, an apple pie, and ice cream every time you go to the store.  The crappy-for-you-food is ALWAYS more expensive, and just adds to your bill in bad ways.

5.  Make your meals stretch.  I have two primary ways to do this: by 'adding' to the meal and by freezing the meal.  A favorite around here is taco night.  I sometimes cut the cost on that by using black beans or other kinds of beans in place of meat.  This is much cheaper, especially in the organic variety.  However, after a day or two, it invariably always happens where we have no more taco shells and a ton of taco fillings left.  Well, we stretch our tacos another night or so by making sure we have a bag of nacho chips around.  Nacho chips on the bottom plus taco fillings on top?  Mmmazing.  And it gets our one taco dinner preparation to last us at the very least through two days of dinners and two days of lunches for our entire family.  The second way I make meals stretch is by freezing part of what I make.  This works really well for us to stretch a meal, because we're impulsive eaters.  If it is there, we'll eat probably far more than a healthy portion size.  If I put part of the meal away in the freezer before I even bring it to the table, there isn't that option to over eat, which makes our meals last longer and stretch further.  Bonus?  I have dinner ready to be defrosted on a night where I'm too tired to cook or have worked a really long day and don't have time.

6.  Buy items that take a little bit of leg work.  There are TONS of items that I recently realized I was completely overpaying for.  As soon as I started actually looking at the prices on items I buy, I saw that there were better options.  For example, cheese is crazy expensive, in my opinion, but if you look closely, blocks of cheese tend to be less expensive (*where I shop) than shredded cheese by weight, and there are actually less preservatives/additives in the block cheese than in the shredded.  It takes a little bit more work getting out my shredder and shredding the cheese myself, but I think it's worth it, if you look at the cost over a year's time.  We do the same thing with beans (by buying dry/unprepared) and oatmeal (by buying a whole carton of rolled oats instead of the individual packages).  You have to do a little more work preparing the item or measuring it out, but it is SO much cheaper for just a little bit of work.

7.  Find coupons that work for you and your family.  So many coupon sites offer coupons that I find to be worthless, because I never buy any of the products discounted.  However, there are a few sites I like.  The first is grocerycouponcart.com.  The reason I like this site is because it is easy.  They send me an email every few days/week with new coupons, so I don't have to go anywhere to look.  Also, we've talked about my love of Meijer's Mperks program, which can be found here.  Check with your local grocery store, they may also offer discounts or programs like Meijer's.  The reason I love it so much is that they also discount organic foods, fresh foods, or eco friendly products periodically, which really helps our family.  Also, you can use Mperks on your smart phone, so I can actually clip coupons on the way to the store as DH drives, or check if I really did have an online coupon for that in the aisle.  As mentioned in another post as well, I also shop CVS for personal care products once every few months.  Just tonight, I was able to walk out with a liquid crystal deodorant for free because I had a $5 coupon for beauty products and that applied to the deodorant.  

8. Drink more water and less of everything else.  I can't even tell you how much we've saved by eliminating pop (or soda, as DH calls it!) out of our weekly grocery budget.  Since I'm a speech pathologist, I am frequently recommending to almost all of my clients to watch/increase their water intake, as I work heavily in voice therapy.  I practice what I preach at home.  I drink probably 95% water, buying a container of lemonade or juice about once every few months.  DH still has a propensity for drinking Crystal Light (don't get me started about all the bad ingredients in there, I know...) but even that costs less than buying pop or juice.

9.  Find a store big enough to offer a store brand.  I've mentioned before my love of Meijer's organic line of almost everything imaginable.  Yes, the organic items are more expensive than Meijer's non-organic branded items, but they are often typically significantly less expensive than regular organic brands, and sometimes quite a bit less than non-organic name brands.  We buy almost everything we can in Meijer's organic brand currently, and still stick to our low weekly food cost.

10.  One last (and very random thing) that helps us save money and stick to a budget is when we go to the grocery store on a really busy day, like on a Sunday afternoon.  I hate wading through tons of people, carts, restocking clerks, and chaos in the aisles.  I've found that it drives me nuts to even wait at the deli counter with DH as he buys meat for his lunch sandwiches for work, so I speed around with little man in his sling, picking up one item here, one item there while DH waits.  It really helps us to get out a lot faster, because we aren't spending time browsing each aisle, finding things we didn't need.  I just want to get in, get out, and get done as quickly as we possibly can.

These are the main tips that have helped us to start saving quite a bit of money at the grocery, so I hope they help your family as well.  What are some things you do to save money at the grocery?  I'm always looking for new ideas/tips!

Also, one more thing tonight!  I really appreciate all the positive feedback I've received on the blog recently, and just want to tell you all how much it means to me that you not only came and checked out the blog, but that you keep coming back.  If you like it, please do me a favor and share the blog in your social media, on your facebook, on your twitter, or pin your favorite post to your pinterest boards.  Word of mouth is the best way to grow, and I LOVE hearing all your comments that are helping me make the blog better every day!


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"Jerry" Miller


     Maxine Geraldine
“Jerry” Miller of  Monroe, OK passed away
Thursday, June 28, 2012 in Poteau, OK. 
Jerry was born December 30, 1919 in Roswell, NM to  Tom & Leona (Anderson) Fortner.   She was preceded in death by her parents;
husband, Paul X. Miller; sister, Clara Murphee; brothers, V.I. Fortner, Ed
Fortner


     Survivors include
her daughter, Bettie Grissom of Houston, TX; son, Paulx Jr. & wife, Laura
(Sandy) Miller of Monroe, OK; granddaughters, Tina Whiteford & husband Jim
of Houston, TX, Jerri Coker of Monroe, OK, Larissa Miller of Pocola, OK; great
granddaughters, Jordan Wilburn and Lari Coker of Monroe, OK, Emily Whiteford, Nicole
Whiteford of Houston, TX; sister, Wanda Phillips of Howe, OK; brother, T.C.
Fortner & wife, Doris of Monroe, OK; sister in law & husband, Ruth
& Hugh Gardenhire of Monroe, OK; numerous nieces & nephews; great
nieces & great nephews; other relatives & loved ones; many beloved
friends.


      Services will be 10
am Saturday, June 30, 2012 at Monroe Baptist Church,
Monroe, OK 
with Rev. Garry Haskins officiating.  Interment will be at Monroe
Cemetery, Monroe, OK.    Pallbearers will be Billy Phillips, Cory
Phillips, Rick Wilson, Larry Gardenhire, M.L. Reed, & Danny Wann.  Honorary pallbearers will be the Men of Monroe First
Baptist Church.


            The family will be
at the funeral home on Friday evening from 6-8 pm to visit with relatives &
friends.



Two Options for Homeschool High School Online Classes

In summer 2011 I attended a homeschooling high school all day seminar given by the Pennslyvania Homeschoolers. They offer a slate of AP online courses for homeschoolers. At that time I did not know anyone who had completed a course with them.

The courses and the organization's mission appealed to me because they believe in rigorous academics.

One session that I attended was a meet the teacher panel talk of sorts. The teachers sat at the front and described who they were, what classes they teach, why they teach the way they do and other good stuff. I was not planning on enrolling my rising freshman in any AP classes so I was not there to check out certain teachers per se. I was impressed to say the least, with these teachers who all had a true passion for their subject (most teach just one subject, their favorite topics or their area of specialty).

I left there thinking that this was the best thing I'd ever seen being offered to high school homeschoolers to date, because it was a truly customized education. The ability to hire different teachers to teach our homeschooled kids high level courses seemed impressive and almost elitist. I always homeschooled for a customized education but this was so fantastic that it almost felt wrong -- I am a product of public schooling and with my own education had to settle for mediocre and to just "make do". The ability to hire such fantastic teachers for my kids seemed too good to be true. Hand picking each teacher and selecting the best of the best way to teach the various subjects, wow.

Another thing that I walked away thinking was that sometimes learning in isolation at home is just not as good as having a great teacher to discuss things with and having a class of similar minded kids who are really doing the work and actually learning stuff. Every memory of me in public school involves being with kids who didn't want to be there, most weren't really learning, many were not doing the homework, and many were cheating on a regular basis. Even in college many of the students were focused on cutting corners and getting by. It is hard for teachers to engage the class when most of the kids hate the content and don't want to be there or can't even discuss it as they didn't do the work. I knew this as a student and I saw it from the teacher's perspective when I was a corporate trainer who was getting new employees ready for a job they supposedly wanted. I saw it again as a homeschool co-op teacher when parents made a kid take the class and they didn't want to be there. It is hard for an interested student to enjoy learning and discussing if they are around kids who they can't engage with or who make fun of them for either doing well with learning or for actually having read the book. When you worry about being put down just for having read To Kill a Mockingbird it hinders the reading of the book and discussing it freely in class. So imagine a class where the kids are actually doing the work and able to discuss it, that's what was being offered by Pennsylvania Homeschoolers.

I liked that the courses had a common goal: the intention to prepare kids to pass an AP test or CLEP test or score high on a SAT subject test was more than most online classes or local homeschool co-ops offer. Some courses offered elsewhere teach what they say is good material but how that would connect to the expectations of the different tests was an unknown that left the student hanging. I as the parent have no way of knowing if homeschool co-op class X would truly prepare the student to fare well on the SAT subject test.

However more important than the idea that high test scores would result from taking the class was the obvious fact that these students were challenged and pushed and were given a serious and rigorous courseload: more than the public schools offer. Kids who take these classes and actually do the work cannot help but actually learn this stuff. Working in small settings the kids can't get away with not reading the book and by reading just the Cliff Notes (like I did in high school and even did a bit in college). The test scores are not the goal, the goal is real learning. The high test scores that students obtain are just what happens naturally by doing the work and studying. Amazing, that's what the tests are supposed to do but instead it seems that most school students care only about getting the course done and on the transcript and getting a decent grade so they look good on paper and make everyone around them happy or impressed (parents, teachers, or college admissions officers).

I left the seminar thinking that I honestly am not trained or knowledgable enough to teach all the high school level courses to my kids. In fact I doubt I'm competent enough to teach anything on the high school level. I always said I wanted rigorous academics and a high quality education but I was facing the fact that I was no longer able to deliver such a thing or that what I could deliver put my high schooler in jeopardy of getting a mediocre education. Our family's reliance on homeschool curriculum, reading books and using primary source documents is more now than in the elementary and middle school grades. I was happy to know that something exists out there when the time comes that we need it. Due to the upheaval of the long distance move our family was not in a position to figure out which online classes, if any, were right for my son, outside of one math online class offered by another company that he was already signed up to do in the fall of 2011.

It was said in the sessions as well as in private conversation with me that most 9th graders should not be taking AP classes. A handful of 9th graders who were friends with my son planned to take a US History AP course through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers in the fall and I was feeling a bit of peer pressure or that my son was not measuring up to their kids. I thought that if I enrolled my son in that class with his friends it would monopolize his time and wind up robbing him of the ability to do basic academic work in the other subject areas. I decided that doing well on all the high school subjects was our priority, not acing one AP class and neglecting to even teach multiple other core subjects due to not having enough time in the day to get it all done.

I was told that perhaps a student who has time and some internal motivation to take one class should select just one AP class to take in grade nine. It was said that pushing too hard and having 12-15-20 hours a week of homework for just one class may backfire and cause the student to fail and to hate learning or hate that subject or get turned off to rigorous academics. Most classes were said to require 15-20 hours of homework per week. Instead it was said to MAYBE try one AP class in grade 10, again, something they really love.

Over and over it was said that grades 11 and 12 are the right time to take AP courses. Grade 11 is the most important because those class and test scores will be available to colleges at college application time. This shows colleges that homeschoolers actually are learning things are not padding their transcript or exaggerating. Taking AP courses in the senior year shows the colleges that the student is continuing a rigorous courseload but the test scores won't be back in time to help the college see how they can perform.

I wished there were other courses online that were rigorous and would help a student prepare for college level work and prepare them for future AP classes. One vendor there was Debra Bell, someone I thought maybe I'd heard the name, but knew nothing about her. I purchased her book about homeschooling high school and read it. That book: Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens focused on two things: a rigorous education to prepare students for admission to selective colleges and about raising Christian kids and doing Christian homeschooling.





The topic of rigorous academics in homeschooling is one that is not written about enough and the closest that comes to it is The Well Trained Mind by Wise and Bauer, although TWTM focuses on custom creating a program that the homeschool parent-teacher or the student will teach themselves. Bell's book is open to online classes, community college and other outsourced teaching (which some of us need as our teens are doing a push-back for independence thing which is typical and a normal developmental stage).



If you yearn for a book on the challenges of homeschooling high school and about rigorous academics read her book even if you are not Christian, because you can read and take what works and leave the rest behind.

Another thing I learned was that Debra Bell has some online classes for regular high school content (not AP) and also some pre-AP classes. She said something about expanding her course offerings in the future and using other instructors. I filed that information away for exploration later. As I write this I have enrolled both of my kids in some of the classes offered on Debra Bell's site (but the classes have not started yet). I plan to blog more about that specifically in another post.

Note: I was not paid to mention these online course companies.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever (With An Accidental Secret Ingredient)





It has been quite a while since we've had a babysitter come over during the day so that I could get some work done. Well, it's been over three weeks since I have been to bed before 3 AM (and most days lately it's been right around 4) so last week we had a sweet girl named Sarah came over two afternoons. We had met Sarah before, but got to really know her at Quinn and Lindsey's wedding where she was a junior bridesmaid. She attempted to help Lillie get over her pre-game jitters over walking down the isle although I have to say that was not much of a success, seeing how Lillie ended up being carried down the isle on another bridesmaid's hip! I don't think Lillie will be getting any more invitations to be a flower girl any time soon - haha! Anyway, as soon as Sarah arrived last week she and Lillie quickly bonded over their love of baking (or maybe more their love of "sneaking" licks from the bowl, which Lillie inherited from me, of course).

I don't know about you all, but we really use Pinterest! We have tried quite a few of the recipes we've discovered on there. In fact, I hope to do a post at some point with links to my favorite ones. Anyway, although I love trying new things, Lillie's favorite is just regular ol' chocolate chip cookies. Last week she and Sarah experimented with some brownies with oreos in them, but this week they decided to just make some basic cookies. Well, I got the stuff out for Sarah and then told her that we generally just use the ingredients on the back of the Toll House package and add a little more brown sugar, and vanilla and then at the end we add in some oatmeal and a big scoop of peanut butter. My computer is set up on our kitchen island so I got to work editing some photos while they started baking. When it came time for the peanut butter we realized that both of our jars were empty - ahhh! I was looking through the cupboards hunting for a full jar that I could have sworn we had (although it still hasn't turned up so maybe I am going crazy) and came across a jar of nutella. Well, we figured it couldn't hurt to try that, right? So we scooped a big hunk in and gave it a try. OH MY GOODNESS! It was divine! In fact I think we ate more than half the batter before we even got to making the cookies. And I am embarrassed to say that we ate all but one cookie before dinner time! Ugh! (In our defense we made a half batch and Jon contributed to some of the nibbling before dinner too). 

Now, I know that everyone has a different opinion on food, so some people may not think it's that great, or some may not think it tastes all that different from a regular cookie but I have to say everyone in our house has officially claimed it our FAVORITE cookie! By Far! They were so good that we made them again the next day and I took photos and noted exactly how much we used of everything so we could write the recipe up. I will say they were a little fluffier the first day versus the day that we took pictures, but I think that may have had to do with the heat.

My little piglet Lillie eating one...

So here's the recipe. We always start with the basic Toll House recipe but add a little more brown sugar and vanilla. And then the ingredients we added that are not on the package are oatmeal, nutella, chocolate chunks, and milk chocolate shavings (that's optional). Seeing how there is nothing new under the sun, I am sure someone out there has tried nutella in a chocolate chip cookie before, but seeing how it is new to us and I haven't seen it on Pinterest or anywhere else yet, thought we would share it all with you!


If you click on the picture is should open larger and you can save it to your desktop and print it out!
(And if you don't have or like nutella just substitute it with peanut butter - that's how we normally make them and they are delicious!)

And here some pictures of our cute little bakers:
Here they are enjoying a warm cookie fresh out of the oven:

And enjoying another one a few hours later...


If you like to bake here are a few other recipes here on our blog:


I hope you all have a fabulous Thursday!


Are Blacks And Whites Treated Differently In This Country?

In the summer of '73 Pluckemin Presbyterian Church participated in a program in which inner city black youth were brought out to live with suburban families to get experiences you don't always enjoy in Newark or the Bronx. My parents signed on and "adopted" one such child for a week or two. I was away at college so my recollection of the details is sketchy. All my brothers can probably tell you his name, but for me he was the eight-year-old kid from Newark who stayed in my room, enjoyed our pool and became part of our family for a small space of time.

At the end of his stay my dad bought the boy a new bicycle. Evidently the kid liked riding our bikes and didn't have one of his own. I imagine that it must have been a thrill to bring that bike home with him.

To my parents' shock and surprise, two days later the police confiscated that bike from this boy on the assumption that he had stolen it. Little black kid in the ghetto + shiny new bike = suspicion of crime. That must have been the math the police used to draw this conclusion, as if everything is black and white. Unfortunately, they did not see the full picture because they did not have the facts.

I think of my own youth, riding my bike to the park and to the school and to the drug store for candy. And I wonder how many times the cops were thinking, "Better check this kid out. Might be a stolen bike." As we know, that never happened. I was a white boy with that innocent Leave it to Beaver look.

All this to say that Duluth's controversial Un-Fair Campaign this past winter caused quite the uproar here for a couple months. The Mayor was threatened. Editors received scathing hate mail. Protestors came in from out of town to make a statement. In short, it got ugly around here.

There are few issues more controversial than race in this country -- you probably know what they are – and one way to learn exactly how controversial a topic has become is to talk about it openly.

The Un-Fair Campaign began as a billboard campaign featuring white folk with messages on their faces, and the theme, “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white.” Was the campaign aiming to say whites are racist? I don't think so. Were they saying other races are not racist? No, I don't believe so. I think their point was that our personal experiences lead us to take it for granted that everyone else's experience is like our own. Unfortunately, like the boy from Newark, normal for him has been a very different experience than what was normal for me.

Afterward I was able to discuss the campaign with a couple members of Swim Creative, the agency that helped develop the campaign pro bono. The campaign objective was to start a dialogue about white privilege and raise awareness of the sensitive issue. Though successful in getting attention, there were many in the community who took offense and failed to get the point.

I myself even became the object of a vicious email for having interviewed Naomi Sundog-Yaeger Bischoff on a totally unrelated topic (writing) the year before. Bischoff, as editor of one of our local papers, wrote a favorable review of the concept of the campaign, and some hate-filled person who was out to get her slathered me as well. (I did not post the comment because it was wholly unrelated to the topic in the interview and too vile for public reproduction.)

For what it's worth, I work with someone who likes to throw a smiley face at the end of any email that might be perceived as having something of an edge on it. So I decided to do the same here by sharing a Saturday Night Live skit with Eddie Murphy that addresses this same issue. Are blacks and whites treated differently in America? Eddie Murphy goes undercover to find out.

For more information visit unfaircampaign.org/

Hollywood Complex: Documentary Movie Review

Documentary Movie: Hollywood Complex

Here we have a documentary movie that feels like watching a train wreck, a tragedy unfolding before our eyes. The movie is not the problem, the problem is the real people who are in it. Yet I found the movie so interesting, to get inside the heads of these parents and to see this Hollywood machine in action. I felt guilty for watching the movie as I was rivoted and couldn't help but talk to the TV set trying to talk some common sense into these starry eyed parents.

Hollywood Complex is about an apartment complex that caters to usually temporary short term rents for families from around the USA to come and live during the several months of pilot season. Usually one parent comes with the child who is going to auditions to try to be cast in a pilot to become a Hollywood star. It is not just an apartment complex though, it is a business where the parents are lectured to about the ins and outs of the system and where people try to boost them up to think this is actually a possiblity for their child. Many businesses cater to these wanna-be stars including acting coaches and head shot photographers.

By immersing in a micro-culture these families actually feed off each other, boosting each other up and thinking they really have a shot at breaking into the business. It is like an unhealthy co-dependent relationship in action.

I was especially confused and perplexed by the people who chose to stay long term, running up credit card debt in the many tens of thousands of dollars and those who are there year after year with no real progress to show for it. The family who has been there multiple years with no job found was the worst of them all. The mother said she felt that if the girl had a dream it was hear job to try to fulfill that dream even if it put the family in deep financial debt and split the family up across states for years.

Statistics are given in the movie to show how slim the odds are to actually be cast in a role and to become a Hollywood child star. I felt that some of these businesses were the least ethical I'd ever seen, preying on the dreams and hopes of little kids. If the parents were wealthy and had the money to burn it wouldn't bother me so much but to hear the stories of the debt they incurred was sickening and seemed nonsensical to me.

Not everyone can or will be a Hollwood star. Period.

I need a real camera.


I finally hit my limit.  

I need a real camera.

Like, now.  

(But not really, because I'm going to have to save for months to get a nice one.)

So, DH's parents bought little man the cutest new outfit, and he wore it the other day to meet up with his friends (also known as mama's friends' daughters).  When we got home, I tried to snap a few pictures of him before we changed or he got the outfit dirty.  Well, here were my results.  And let me tell you, these were the BEST of what I took, as I deleted probably 20 pictures before landing on these two.

Please ignore the messy room- see friends?  I have messes too :)  This is going to be little man's bigger little man room, but for now it is just a mattress on the floor for bedsharing when we have a tough night.

See how excited I am about my octopus O?  Oh, no?  Yeah, I can't see it either, or his sweet little face.
These, of course, were taken on my phone camera.  Because, to be really honest, my point and shoot (a Canon PowerShot that is quite a few years old) doesn't take any better or more clear pictures.  And then I'm just lugging around a camera everywhere when the picture quality is just as bad as if I use my phone.  

Then I started to think about it a little more deeply.  When we went to my friend's house earlier this day, one of my girlfriends had her really nice DLSR (or is it DSLR?  hmmm...) camera and was snapping pictures.  When we went to the mama and baby GTG in Chicago, I took two pictures, one of little man watching cartoons from my phone, and one of the amazing pizza, because, well, pizzas don't move, so they don't end up blurry in a picture.  All of the other fantastic pictures were from all the other mamas there.  I also looked through my phone even and realized that most of the pictures from the last year of little man are either from a professional photographer (Hey there @ Kasey Walker Photography!) or pictures my day care provider sends me on my phone (Thank you Lois!).  

And it made me pretty sad.  

All of the opportunities I'd have loved to have pictures of little man of for the future, all the little things, I've missed.  Like him playing in the yard or drawing with chalk at my parent's home this weekend, or how his sweet little face lights up when I pull his yogurt out of the fridge, or how he hugs his stuffed ducky before getting out of bed after a nap.  So many things I'd love to have a photo of to remember later on, when this stage is a distant memory.  And then my pregnancy hormones kicked in and I pretty much ugly cried for about 20 minutes.  (Insert gif of Dawson from Dawson's Creek or Farrah from Teen Mom here, please!)

So, I'm going to get a camera.  I don't know when, because I'm going to have to save up for one, but I am going to make it a priority.  Because I don't want to be that bad mom who doesn't take any pictures of their child, and then the child grows up and thinks no one loves them because there isn't evidence of all the amazing times when they were a tot.  I talked to my friend Kasey (link above) who takes amazing family pictures, and she recommended a camera that she thought to be a good entry level camera for what I needed and how terrible I am at technology, the Canon EOS Rebel T3 camera.  Hopefully, I can get enough saved up to buy it within the next few months, and then not only will I not be a failure parent, I will actually have better quality pictures to post for you all to see.  That way, you'll know my child isn't a fuzzy blob, that he is really a cute child :)

So, here comes the advice and question time.  Do any of you have this camera?  Is it user friendly?  And by user friendly, I mean, would it be easy enough that my grandma could use it?  (Because that's how bad I am at technology)  Do you have any other cameras you love or would recommend?


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PRICE, Utah – A fire that sparked Tuesday morning on Seeley Mountain in Emery County is forcing evacuations in Carbon County on Wednesday.
The Seeley Fire, located on Seeley Mountain between the left fork of Huntington Canyon and Horse Canyon in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, is believed to have been started by lightning. It has grown to an estimated 8,000 acres since being reported early Tuesday morning and is currently at zero containment.
Fire officials say that a Type 2 designation has been ordered for the fire Wednesday morning, the third fire in Utah to have that designation.
In Carbon County, Clear Creek, Hiawatha, Scofield and Wattis are under mandatory evacuation. SR-96 is also closed leading into Scofield at the junction of US-6.
The Wellington Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (950 East Main Street in Wellington) has been designated as the evacuation center for Carbon County evacuees.
Large animals (cattle and horses) can be taken to the Carbon County Fairgrounds. Dogs and cats can be temporarily housed at the new animal shelter on Airport Road.
Huntington Canyon, Gentry Mountain, North Skyline Drive and the north Miller’s Flat areas are currently under evacuation. SR-31 was shut down Tuesday and used as an evacuation route; it remains closed on Wednesday.
The Skyline Coal Mine in Carbon County evacuated after voluntary evacuation orders were given.
Crews say high winds and steep terrain are hampering their firefighting efforts.

PERSONALIZING A WEDDING

The family wedding we attended over the weekend was so special...we adore our niece and have a great kinship with her (now) husband already.

The wedding/reception followed most of the typical traditions.....however their special personal touches were so inventive.

For instance....look at this table marker......why on earth would anyone number a table like that?  NO.....there weren't 356 tables.  I was going to explain the significance but just now as I'm typing....I decided to ask if anyone knows before I reveal it.  Do you??


We loved that each table had their own cake....of course the bride and groom had their special one too AND the groom had a nice big chocolate cake with chocolate frosting that was offered to guests as well.


Now...here's the really amazing treat......  click here for a very short video taken by 'the husband' (mine...not the groom).  In case you aren't inclined or don't have time to click over to youtube....let me explain.  They hired the University of Wisconsin's Badger Marching Band to appear at the reception.  And did they make an appearance......only a few people knew this was happening.....so imagine the commotion when we heard them playing (loudly, very loudly) as they marched down the hall and into the ballroom.....amazing!!


Who'd have thunk you could hire a small contingent of band members for such an appearance?  My clever SIL, that's who!


UPDATE.....Wendy asked about the table numbers.....(surprisingly was the only one)....guess that means personalizing is just that personal to those close by others...not so much.  Anyway....the numbers all referred to model numbers of Porsche's.  Our niece's guy shares our passion for autos that begin with a "P" and unfortunately end in dollar signs!  We got a big kick out of that!