In a homeschooling house full of 7 kids & 3 guniea pigs....there is never a dull moment! A lot of people show genuine concern for us and want to know how we are doing, as the road we've left behind was not a pleasant one. So, here I am, to tell some of our stories...share some of our days...and open up a part of our world to you! Come join us on our journey so you won't miss the moments that take our breath away!

Friday, April 4, 2014

K5 Learning

I was excited to receive an invitation to review K5 Learning Program.  I can not wait to get started!

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their  open invitation to write an online learning review of their program. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Extreme Couponing

Well, it was only a matter of time....and I finally took the plunge.  Before I had kids, I was known as "the coupon queen".  Basically, if I didn't have a coupon for something, then I didn't buy it.  I didn't stock pile things, but I just simply saved on the things I bought.  As time went on, coupons became a thing of the past.  Fast forward to now...My kids are 15, 14, 11, 8, 7, 6 and 18 months old and let me tell you....my family can put away the food!  We live on a tight grocery budget....$200 a week to be exact.  It seems recently we've been going about $100 over our budget each week, so about $1200 a month.  That's a LOT of money ;) 

Weeks ago, I gave this extreme couponing a try.  I failed.  I spent about 4 hours battling coupons and being lost in store ads.  I don't think I used a single coupon but to be honest, I was so frustrated, I really don't remember.  

It all started one Friday night.  We were having a "Family Movie Night" complete with popcorn.  I mean, what's a movie night with no popcorn?! So, I did what any mom would do.  We went and bought popcorn.  3 boxes or movie theater butter ;) (which is a total treat because usually we pop our own popcorn, it's cheaper but this was a special night.  We spend $6 and some change on our popcorn that night.  The next day I was telling a friend about our night.  She said I should have used a coupon for that popcorn and then I could have gotten it for $0.49 a box. :/  WOW...that was an eye opener.

and so...it all began!

To date, I have saved $105.67 in mfg coupons.  Add that to the store specials that I match coupons up with my total savings so far has been $259.08.  It may not seem like a big deal....but, today is March 5 and I have been couponing since March 2 ;)  

At first it was overwhelming.  I give credit to a dear friend who pushed me to take the plunge and then walked me through the overwhelming process.  I was easily confused by learning how to figure out which coupons to use when.  I printed coupons from www.coupons.com but even that was a bit confusing because you have to change the zip codes to get certain coupons.   www.krogerkrazy.com is an amazing source of information!  Once I was walked thru the process of how to figure everything out, I was good to go. 

My first trip was not as successful as it should have been because we got home only to realize that we didn't give them half of the coupons but it was a learning experience nonetheless.  

Here's a look at some of the deals we have gotten.

We paid $8

FREE

We paid $24.26

We paid $2.29

We paid $24.18

These aren't all my trips, but a good example of some of the money we've saved.  We've gotten a lot of things for free (all of the candy bars, soups, protein bars and milk were free).  We've even gotten paid to purchase some things like the pizza rolls (we got 25 cents per box).


It's nice to have our pantry shelves overflowing, the fridge packed full and trying to figure out where we'll store some things as we are beginning to get stock piles of goodies!  Even our normal weekly groceries seem to be stretching further this week.

It is time consuming, but as you get the hang of it, it does go faster.  It is a lot of work, but with all things, hard work pays off.

So, let me be the one to encourage you the way that I have been encouraged...

DO IT!!!

Take the plunge!

You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This Week's Menu

People are asking for our weekly menu's again...so, I will begin posting it again.  Currently, our grocery budget is about $200-300 a week.  We are feeding a family of 9.  We buy a lot of things in bulk usually shopping about twice a month, however, recently, I have not had the leisure of shopping this way and have been shopping once a week so our normal $200 budget has increased up to $100 a week by not being able to buy in bulk.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to eat as healthy as we used to...this is one of those things I try to improve constantly.  I have joined in some couponing groups and hope to learn from these ladies who get so many products free or very cheap as our grocery budget includes toiletries and non food necessities and I've gotten some helpful advice from a few friends on saving money on different things as well.  We frequent Sam's Club and we've fallen into the easy trap of processed foods simply because they are cheap, quick and easy.  With all but one or two days taken up by sports, it's been very hard recently to have quick and easy healthy foods so I will be trying to change this in the upcoming weeks.  We do hope to have a nice size garden this summer and hope that will help with our grocery budget as well!. 

This week's menu/recipes can be found here. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

5th Grade Calvert has arrived

 Eagle's school year starts in January.  This is because I made him repeat the third grade...when he was in third grade.  With only two months to go to complete his third grade year, I just didn't feel he had learned or retained enough to progress at that time.  The beauty of homeschooling is, he has repeated a year...but so far, has never failed a grade.  I still do not regret my decision, as I feel it was by far one of the best homeschooling decisions I have ever made.  He has come so far since switching to Calvert!  We have worked very hard to try and recover from the half of the year we fell behind when repeating that third grade year and we've advanced a few months.  He has a complete 12 months to complete his curriculum but we do hope to finish "early" to get him more "caught up" to his peers.  

Nothing is more exciting than starting a new year and today Eagle's boxes arrived!  

We are seasoned Calvert users so unpacking and getting things organized is a very quick process for us!  Here's what was in his box.


Everybody has their own shelf to keep all of their curriculum.  This is our shelf.

This is Eagle's shelf

Basically, all of the worksheets and manuals are stored in a crate.  All of his textbooks and workbooks are to the right on the shelf.  All of his novels and other materials are kept up out of reach because of the little ones.

The older kids are able to do a lot of things independently so we are moving back to the workbox system.  Eagle will use his system independently and Macaw will be training for the second semester of this year so that next year she will be able to work more independently as well. This system always worked well for Eagle, but we have not always had the space to do it so we haven't used this system for a while. We got a nice rolling cart for Eagle's workstation.  All of his assignments will be loaded into his boxes.  Each box will contain the things he needs to complete each assignment.  Any work that needs to be completed with me will be marked with a * and he will know that is a teacher led assignment.  He will complete his independent work (I answer questions and help as needed when I am available).  Teacher led lessons will be taught at our scheduled times.  At the end of the day I will grade his work and fill his boxes for the next day.  Any work that needs to be corrected will be worked on the next day.  He is responsible for filing away any graded work and keeping his notebook neat and orderly.  

Here are his workboxes

I immediately set up his boxes and he quickly got to work! Here is his first day of boxes...

Math
Close up of Math box

Close up of Grammar Box

Close up of Spelling Box

 Close up of Science Box

 Close up of History Box
Close up of Reading Box

Close up of Art History Box

Hope this helps those who are always asking how we set things up.  Hopefully soon I can give a more detailed look at how our classroom is set up now since we have moved.  




Monday, January 6, 2014

In 2014 I will be a VOICE...Will you???

Happy 2014!  I'm making this year a turning point for me!!  It's time to find "me" again and time to somehow find a way to move forward!  It's time to start making my hopes and dreams reality.

I feel renewed and hopeful and a bit fearful for all the things this year has in store for me and my family but I will be optimistic!

Today, marks another "anniversary" for us, but it will also mark an anniversary now for a friend and right now, I have no words...

6 years ago today, I left my home with my kids safe in tow and I turned my husband into the police for the crimes he committed against at least one of my children.  No physical evidence...just the TRUTH...words from a strong and courageous child who should never have been put in her position, a man who testified on his own behalf , along with a jury and judge human enough to make the right decision!  We are beyond blessed that the judicial system did not fail my daughter.  My husband is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, which trust me is far less than what he deserves for his crimes.  However, the judicial system is still failing others.  

THIS is my friends precious, violated little girl who must not only live with what has been done to her and her family BUT she also has to live with knowing justice was NOT served for her and the fact that her abuser is now enabled to continue to victimize others (and this was not his first time getting away with it).  THIS should NEVER happen.  Today should have been a victory for them, not a third chance for her abuser!  

They left a prosecutor's office today without the ability to seek justice for her daughter or the ability to stop him from striking another innocent child again.  The pain and "that" feeling in my stomach that I felt on those days 6 years ago...(Jan 4 when my daughter told me, Jan 6 when we left and I turned him in, Feb 22 the day of his indictment, that day trial was supposed to begin in August, the 3 days of trial in Oct, the day of his conviction, etc)...the way she feels right now, it NEVER goes away, EVER!!  Whether justice is served or not, no matter how happy she is in her life...I can say, 6 years later, the pain is just as RAW as it was this day 6 years ago.  So, this news hits me very HARD, especially today!  Words can not describe the way I feel for her right now.  Even though my husband got life, it still feels like it's not enough so I can only hope that the horror stories you hear about the life these pedophiles life in prison is true and that he fears every single day he wakes up for the rest of his undeserved life.  To have the system turn their back on my friends little girl and to enable the cycle to continue with this young man leaves me with one of the most sick feelings I have ever felt!!  

I will continue to raise awareness.  
I will keep sharing our story.  
I will keep advocating! 
I will fight...
for my own children, 
for your children 
and for their children's children...
today,
tomorrow
and ALWAYS...
for as long as I live!


In 2014, I will be a VOICE....will you?  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our 6th year anniversary!

It was this day 6 years ago that I learned exactly what it feels like to have one of the most trusted people in your life do the most unthinkable to your child! It's a pain, feeling and sickness one can never forget! No amount of time, happiness or healing could ever make that feeling go away. It's a day filled with such mixed emotions because there are no words to explain the pride or admiration I have for my amazingly strong and courageous daughter who was able to make the choice she did that day! In a way, this day is a day of victory and celebration, but it is overshadowed by such sadness as well, there is no day less bitter sweet! No matter how I progress in my life, I live in an unexplainable fear that very few people could ever understand! There is nothing more painful for me than the daily reminders of the "life sentence" that I was handed to me at the cost of protecting my children. I'd do it again in less than a heartbeat, but that doesn't make my life any easier to "deal" with. Some day, I hope that laws are different and that women don't have to live their life the way me and my family do. I am ever so grateful and blessed to have a man who loves me and is strong enough to walk this (often ugly) path with me, to put up with the effects this has on me emotionally and to tolerate the walls and obstacles that are in the way of our life and future together and for all of my friends and family who have loved, supported and encouraged me along the way, who have never left my side and those who never let me give up and still push me to keep going....for all of you who are on this journey with me...THANK YOU for being there for me and for everything you've done! This year will be the most difficult for me..I am fearful, but I am ready and I hope that on this day next year I can post something much different and celebrate it for the victory and celebration that it truly is!


Time Fly's...usually....but it's our 6 year anniversary and really, in a way it seems like it's been the LONGEST 6 years of my life.  

The past few years have been the most happiest years of my life and yes, that time has flown but this time of year is always very bittersweet for me.  I rejoice but yet, I relive the pain of that day over and over.  It's a feeling you just never forget.  The pit in your stomach...it's just always there the same as it was that day.  

There is so much left unsaid about our story.  So much, that people don't know.  You hear stories like this everyday, but people never think about the aftermath that follows or where people like me go from here.  Few people know what my life has been like since all of this or what I still have to do to protect my kids.  People just assume life goes on...but unfairly, it doesn't.  My life came to a screeching halt.  I've been stuck in a marriage with this man and for all these years have been unable to get help.  The laws don't work in my favor, legal aid refused to help me with my case every time I applied and I can't afford the legal costs to hire an attorney to handle my case as I was told by not one but two attorney's that my case could cost in upwards of $20,000.  It's not as simple as "just getting a divorce".  There is so much more to it than that.  It was always expected to get ugly...very, VERY ugly and I was always told to stay married to him as long as I possibly could.  Everyday is a constant reminder of this life sentence I got, unable to move on with my life...to remarry and have my kids adopted by the man who already claims them as his own.  

This is the year of courage...the year I try to find a way to move forward with my life!  It will take a lot of support & encouragement and reaching out to strangers for help but I feel ready to break free from the prison in which I live and as I pave this path for myself, I hope to find a way to help others so that no one else has to endure this same journey!  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Vaccine Journey (part 1)...

Dare I write about such a controversial topic?  Ahhh....yes, I MUST.  I have felt very drawn to write about this topic for such a long time and this past week it has been screaming at me!!  I have commented about this topic more times than I can count recently on different group pages on Facebook and people have even tried to have me banned simply for stating facts (they didn't like their opinions challenged) but this has been such a popular question lately... 

"Should I vaccinate (my 2 month old)?"

I responded to those posts with FACTS.  I didn't give my opinion, nor did I tell MY story, but for those who are genuinely intrigued...here is our story.

Now, I've been a mother for 15 years.  I never asked this question, well, not for a long time anyway!  This was a no brainer, right?  I mean, this is what our society does.  We vaccinate our children.  We vaccinate against all these horrible and life threatening diseases and who wouldn't want to protect their child against these horrific preventable diseases?  I mean, have you seen the pictures of kids with polio?  Have you seen the pictures of kids dying with whooping cough?  Measles, Mumps, Rubella...oh my!!   Who questions THAT?  Who would NOT protect their child from that!!!  Now, I do remember when it came to the chicken pox vaccine our pediatrician admittedly didn't know much about it, it had only been available for a few years at the time.  I remember her saying, it "may" need a booster or it "may not", we just don't know yet, she told me.  Hmm...this was the very first time I questioned a vaccine.  Wow, you want me to inject my kid with something but your telling me you (as a medical society) don't know much about it yet?   I opted not to get until they knew more about it and there were no questions asked about my decision.  We continued with all the other vaccines, right on schedule!   Our pediatrician said these vaccines were necessary and she informed me of the benefits...I always agreed.  Sure, it always made sense and there was no question about whether I should or shouldn't vaccinate my kids.  To be honest, I think I was so naive that I don't think I realized there were people that didn't vaccinate.  This continued on as I continued to have more children. Years down the road, a friend who had a child the same age as one of my children (by this time, I had just had my fourth child) mentioned that she didn't get the hep B vaccine for her girls because research showed that it causes infertility in girls.  CRAP!  Really??? Oh my, I had my girls vaccinated with it! What have I done?  I had NO clue!  Really?  My pediatrician didn't tell me that!!!  She went on to say that really, there was no reason to vaccinate against Hep B anyway, since it's only transmitted through sex and sharing needles with an infected partner.  Ohh...well, uh, yea...I never thought of it that way but, yeah, that makes sense Hmm.. why didn't anyone remind me of this fact, gah...wish I would have thought about it that way.  but wait, really infertile? do I need to worry about my girls, ugh, what have I done?  I admit, I have never done the research about any link between the Hep B vaccine and infertility in girls.  Now, this person was no anti-vax freak or anything...she just didn't have her girls vaxed with this one vaccine.  Her children are all vaccinated against everything else, except chicken pox, she went to a chicken pox party for that....CRAZY I tell you, who in their right mind would purposefully infect their kids with chicken pox.  Anyways...

Still, I went on to fully confidently vaccinate all of my children, including now Emu and Duckling.  Now....when it came to that Hep B shot, I opted out of that ONE.  I mean, I have no idea if it "can" cause infertility and that didn't sway my decision, but lets be honest, I don't envision my children having sex or sharing needles...at least until they are old enough to make the decision themselves if they will be at risk of this disease and if they want to get vaccinated against it, they can make that choice, right after I give them a talkin to for putting themselves in that risk category ;)

Most may know, but Duckling, my precious baby girl was born deaf.  She had her fair share of problems, that's for sure...but despite all of this she was a healthy, chunky baby at 4 months.




and, like I always had for everyone else, she got those 4 month shots although she was a bit late getting them. Not long (days) after getting her 4 month shots, things drastically changed with her health.  She went from a chunky, healthy baby girl to projectile vomiting, losing weight, she began suffering from numerous ALTE's .  Let me tell you, there is NOTHING more fearful than thinking you've just watched or found your child dead.  I wasn't the only one to witness these accounts and they didn't only happen at night!  You'd be holding her, sleeping...then all of a sudden, she'd stop breathing.  You'd wait...wait....uhhh...is she breathing?? Give her a gentle shake...she's not breathing!  She'd go limp & lifeless.  OMG...she's not breathing.  You'd stimulate her, not as gentle.  Your heart skips a beat, inside your screaming, OMG, she is NOT breathing....then.....a big breath.  Oh MY GOD, what the hell was THAT!  We co-slept.  There were times I would just instinctively wake up to "check" her.  We all do it, you know you do.  You wake up and just make sure they are breathing.  I'd usually just give her a little nudge, you know and just make sure she startled.  Once, I nudged...nothing.  I nudged a bit harder...nothing.  I put my hand on her chest.  It's not moving.  I give her a gentle shake.  Nothing.  I shake her a bit harder...nothing.  Lifeless and limp.  completely unresponsive.  OMG, she's dead.  I roll her over...not sure why.  I scream out....it's like a dream, a bad horrible dream.  and then finally, she takes that famous deep breath and then she's fine.  Another time...she's in my parents bed.  I hear my dad (a former EMT/Firefighter).  She's not breathing.  She's purple.  OMG, is she dead?  I run into the room...this isn't happening AGAIN!!  Ahhh...the famous BREATH!!!  But...no one could find anything "wrong" with her, we must be crazy because she always checks out fine.  After this third episode I had  a snuza baby monitor.   over nighted to us and yes, these frequent episodes continued for a few more nights (not every night)  but the alarm did go off and they were not as severe.  She was more easily stimulated.  After the initial "surge" of these episodes those first few weeks, they faded...sometime soon before her first birthday they became a thing of the past (although, now at age 5 she still doesn't sleep thru the night and it makes me wonder if apnea wakes her up).  Never once did I, nor a doctor associate these episodes with her vaccines she had gotten a few days before they started to occur.  She went on to continue to lose weight and was just a "sickly" baby girl.  She diagnosed with severe food allergies so I still never connected her new found problems to her getting those 4 month vaccines.  I mean, she was so deathly allergic to eggs (thank you blood test)  that a bite of one would kill her and this explains everything right (even though she was only 4-5 months old at the time and she had never eaten egg that would have triggered these things to happen, seriously, this NEVER occured to me at this time...what was I stupid??)  We had to carry epinephrine (and not a epi pen, she was far too small for one of those).  I never had to eliminate anything in my diet even though I was breastfeeding (all the more reason I should have never bought that this egg allergy is what triggered all of the ALTE's she was having), but just had to make sure and egg never got to her mouth.  I never got her next set of vaccines.   I never got any of the other kids next dose of vaccines either because at the same time Eagle was in the midst of his Autism diagnosis and  the pediatrician highly suggested, it was time to start Autism diagnosis on Emu as well.  I know, I know...he was only 2, but trust me the signs were there and we already had Eagle's unofficial diagnosis, which put him at more of a risk of having Autism as well (and let's be honest here...sometimes you don't need a test, kwim?)  It was just better to get his diagnosis as well.  All this was happening in the wake of Jenny McCarthy and her beliefs with the link between Autism and Vaccines.  I began to question that maybe my boys had Autism from the vaccines.  But, until I felt better about the whole Autism thing, I was not getting another vaccine because this has me a bit freaked out. 

Now it's 2009, I still have not vaccinated another child.
In the past year Duckling has undergone extensive physical, occupational and speech (for feeding problems) therapies.  She stopped growing and she was so small she had to have her high chair specially adapted so that she would fit in it.  She did not roll over or sit up until she was 10 months old.  She celebrated her first birthday weighing in at 14lbs 11oz and 25 in long.  She was still wearing 0-3 mo clothes with room to grow.

Sleep Study at 10 months

1st Bday with a pair of 6 month pants that came up to her underarms


She underwent extensive testing for the first two years of her life at two different hospitals with two different sets of specialists and yet despite her size, no one could find anything wrong with her.  At this point, I'm  still not questioning those vaccines to be the cause of Duckling's problems, no one is.  I believe it was around this time that Emu's stunted growth was also discovered so we just had a lot going on. 

....to be continued