Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home School Field Trip - Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Yeah for science!!! And bigger YEAH for hands-on science that's air conditioned! Back in the day, I won't say how long but it was awhile, MOSI had a bunch of stuff in an open air corridor. They've changed a lot since then but it's still a great place.

I took the kids again, during Swaptember so we got in free which is good because the prices are right up there with the aquarium at $20 or so bucks a head. Parking is free. Though one thing that irks me is they keep having these touring displays like "The Body" at an extra cost. A while back it was extra to go to the Sesame Street exhibit, hard thing to take the kids even with a membership and have to pay extra (quite a chunk extra talking about paying for 5-6 people) to see what they really wanted to in the first place.

There was a bunch of MOSI that wasn't finished or held no displays. I think for the money they could have come up with something though what they do have is very nice. It's clean and the hands on displays have all the pieces excluding maybe one or two exhibits.

The day we went we lucked out and the gift shop was having a store wide sale. I bought a lot of Astronaut ice cream. Damn, that stuff is good. And they were having 20% off membership. I went ahead and got us a standard (minus the IMAX) family pass for just under $80. Yes, if we want to go to the movies we'll have to pay but with a membership it's discounted to about $6 a ticket which is cheaper than the regular theater and a good option for date nights.

The kids loved the freedom of MOSI. The only thing that irked me was in the Kids In Charge zone they had inflatables, like a ginormous slide and a room full of bounce houses. Sounds great, but not when you have to pay to use them, they have a silly height limit by seven year old barely passed and you're a solitary parent chasing after 5 kids as they run in all the directions on a compass rose in varying quickness.

Overall, it's a really nice, clean place to get some hands on fun and I look forward to enjoying more visits with my curious kids.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Home School Field Trip - Florida Aquarium

So far this month we've gone on two home school field trips. We hadn't done much this year with the new baby and only me at the helm so it's a nice change to get out and explore. Plus it being Swaptember (where we can get in free to other local places with our Lowry Park Zoo membership) it added a little bonus to get out and do stuff.

Last week we ventured over to the Florida Aquarium. If you happen to take this trip be prepared to ante up $6 for parking. This is the only place I know of, besides the major theme parks, that requires pay for parking. Though it is set right on the water; pretty prime real estate. Regular admission is about $20 an adult, a little less per kid. We've been here a few times and each time we've been able to see the whole thing in about 2-3 hours. Watching fish is like waiting for the grass to grow for my energetic bunch. So they're usually bounding from one exhibit to the next. If you have more mellow kids, this might be a great place for you to go regularly.

One thing that was disappointing was the splash zone was closed for practically the entire month of September, seems quite a coincidence it's maintenance scheduled for the same month a lot of people get in free...

We did manage to catch the penguin show which is pretty cute. Though it's hard for the little ones to be sooo achingly close to those black and white flappers and cull their tiny hands from trying to sneak a pat. The large viewing room basically gets some red mats laid out and the kids are told not to touch the red which the penguins make a run for it. The handlers are really well mannered, probably realizing a long time ago they needed lots of patience for this kinda lousy set up, and they answered the kids questions with enthusiasm. 

After we ventured around for a few hours we grabbed some lunch, though if it were any more expensive I'd have had to take out a small personal loan. Two kids meals and a sandwich set me back over $20. Oh, and the lovely fountain coke is NOT refillable for free, so if you're thirsty be prepared to chock up $2 each time. They don't allow outside food or drink in either which is posted at numerous intervals on your way in.

Channelside might be a nice place to grab a bite but don't go looking for anything cheap. If you're making a day out of it you could hop a ride on the Tampa Streetcar or tour the SS American Victory, All are within walking distance of the Aquarium.

Overall, the Aquarium isn't quite our cuppa tea but it's a nice distraction once in a while. It's air conditioned and wet when the splash zone's up which are both welcome breaks in the Florida heat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Love and Hate of Long Hair

When I was a kid my mom never cut my hair. Ever. I didn't even have bangs to trim. Now whether this was due to some romantic notion of how little girls hair should be or she just never got around to cutting it for my first nine years, I don't know and it doesn't really matter.

I remember being young and getting plopped in front of the huge rabbit eared tube TV my grandparents had on a Sunday night (which was also bath night) and being painfully aware of just how long my hair was while my mom pulled a comb through it as they tried to distract me with the Sunday night Disney movie. Yes, I'm that old, that Disney put movies on cable-free TV once a week. The smell of Johnson & Johnson's detangler spray still throws me back. It was both a high and low light of my childhood. The low of course, being a ruthless untangling of knots.

Did I love my long hair? Yes and no. Just like my Sunday nights. There were times I was praised by envious little girls for having those strawberry blond flowing locks that were more than not, braided in long ropes and there were times where pesky little boys liked to tug on them. Which at the time was highly annoying, actually it would probably be annoying now too.

One of my most favorite scenes in any movie is in "Anne of Green Gables", when Gilbert pulls Anne's braid in a show of playful attraction and she clocks him with the slate, I would envision myself having enough guts to do that myself. If, of course, I had access to a slate.

Now I've birthed three little girls. I have cut their hair when the screaming and fighting over me brushing it was too much. I've cut their hair in shops and at home. I've had to cut their hair when they've gotten curious with scissors and gave personal, mirrorless hair cutting a go. I'm not afraid to cut their hair. But, I have a child that doesn't want her hair cut.

As with all things karmatic, Olivia wants long sheets of silky locks. I'll admit when the sun glints off her chocolaty mane bringing to light her striking red highlights it's hard to want to cut it. So now I'm the parent having to wade cautiously through the knots with the heavy scent of conditioner hanging in the air. I try hard to avoid causing her pain but as with all things I think you get the good with the bad and pain is part of the process.

Olivia and her locks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kitchen Sink Cookie Recipe

I threw together a nice little recipe for you guys today. It starts with a chocolate chip cookie base and gets interesting from there. I call them Kitchen Sink Cookies, not because of the amount of dishes, but because they can have anything and everything in them...but the Kitchen Sink. Just raid your pantry for things that look good together and let's make some cookies!

-First make your base, this is a plain cookie dough.

3/4 cup brown sugar packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup of butter (melted, this is important)
2 large eggs
1 good splash of Vanilla or Almond extract (or whatever you'd like to add to the mix ins)
1tsp baking soda dissolved in 1tsp hot water (again important!!!)
2 1/4 cup white or wheat flour
1tsp salt

- Mix together the sugars and butter, then add each ingredient after in order, mixing thoroughly between. There's your base. Now, we get creative!

The one I made today has
3/4 cup mini semi sweet chips
1/2 cup slow cook oats
1/2 cup crushed up walnuts
1 jar of maraschino cherries, brutally chopped

And I call them Nutty Chocolate Cherry Cookies, you can divide the dough up into different batches and experiment with ingredients. Check out some suggestions at the bottom. Make sure to keep track of what you made in which batch so if you like them you can recreate them! The dough will loook runny, that's expected, just keep going.

-Preheat the oven to 375 and stick the cookie dough in the fridge to firm up while you wait for the oven to preheat. By the time that's done the dough should be firm enough to scoop. I love my pampered chef cookie scoop for this.

-Cook for 8-12 min. Depending on your ingredients the cooking times may change so be watchful. The Nutty Chocolate Cherry cookies took about 12 min on a dark pan and made approx 2 dozen cookies. They spread out too, so give them lots of room to grow. Remove and let cool and Enjoy!

Some other ideas could be:

-smushed up banana and peanut butter and chocolate chips
-strawberry jam and peanuts
-mint extract, chocolate chips and nuts
-dried fruit and nuts
-caramel chips, chocolate chips, oats, nuts
-coconut shreds, chocolate chips, nuts
-m&m's or other candy, coconut, chips, nuts

Please post if you used the recipe and what you made! I love getting new ideas!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

He's coming home

Well, it's happened! My hubby left his camp and is travelling back to the states as we speak. Well, actually, he's sitting waiting to travel but it's progress. He's already moved one space forward on the board. A couple more jumps in the game and he'll be back on U.S. soil, another jump, in Florida and the last, we get to take with him, as we bring him home.

This past year has been everything; difficult, depressing, scary, lonely, fun, crazy, loving and even sometimes easy. So much has happened too. Alex lost his first two teeth, Max was born, Emmy fell of the bunkbeds and had a minor concussion, Alex graduated from first grade and Livi just started. We celebrated birthdays and holidays.

Memories that are now bittersweet laced with the sadness of a missing spouse and father. How many times had I wished he was here, through the good and the bad? I'd have given my eyeteeth just to be able to grab his hand to hang on for some of this crazy ride.

We were lucky in some respects. Communication has advanced so much we were able to keep in contact through email, messenger, postal mail and phone calls. He could even text me. I think I owe a large chunk of my sanity to technology. If we were in WWI or WWII I don't know if I would have survived not hearing from him with that kind of frequency.

Then again, my friend from church, Helen, who lived through it said to me "You just get up everyday and do what needs to be done." Which I suppose, I have done over these last 400 days. It makes me wonder how much more we can endure than we give ourselves credit for.

There are things I think to myself "No way could I handle that!" but could I really if I had to? Probably. If I have to, but I'd rather not find out.

Now, we're just trying to get through these last long weeks bubbling with anticipation and excitement, practically to overflowing as we wait, as patiently as a kid in a candy store for him to come home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back on the cloth diaper band wagon

I've been using cloth diapers since pregnant with my third babe, Cordelia. I started because Alex and Olivia would get diaper rashes and terrible yeast infections (yes, boys can get yeast infections). I lived in the Orlando area at the time and a great gal Jan Z. introduced me to cloth. I can still remember the feeling I got when she told me about cloth; it was like a switch was flipped. Could it be that easy?

The funny part of this story is that Jan and I talked about this outside Chili's one mom's night out and I inadvertently stood in a red ant pile. If that wasn't enough of an attention grabber, as I drove home I started to feel funny. I ended up with the paramedics coming out to the house twice that night. One to give me benedryl and one to take me to the hospital. I had a terrible allergic reaction to the two dozen plus ant bites all over my legs and lost feeling in my mouth, arms and legs.

After I recovered, I talked to everyone that used cloth diapers and did a ton of research online. I ended up using the most expensive all-in-one diaper - Fuzzi Bunz. These come in great colors and were easy enough to use. They resist staining well and hold up over time. They also had a great resale value if in good condition. We used these exclusively and miracle of miracles, the rashes and infections went away. I'm not sure how they've changed over the years, it's been a good five years since I bought mine and they may have changed. For the better or worse, I don't know.

At the time we had a tight budget. Fitting in an order for cloth diapers and still maintaining 'sposies while I waited for the package, then get comfortable using them, was a little tricky. But we managed to get about 12 diapers, 6 for each child with washing every other day. I supplimented with disposables at night. This both cut down trips to the doc for meds and treatment of rashes and costs on buying disposables.

I had a love/hate relationship with cloth diapers since. Selling my stash when it was too difficult to maintain or we needed the money, buying it again when we found out we had a child with super sensitive skin and back and forth.

Max in his whisper wrap.

We're now on our fifth child, Max, and have two in diapers again; Emmy and him. While Rob's away money isn't as tight but he'll be returning soon and spending $50 or more dollars every couple of weeks on diapers just dosen't make much sense. So, I'm back to cloth but have changed things up a bit.

We're now using prefolds, which look like the Gerber baby diapers. I use unbleached indian prefolds. They're far superior to the Gerber ones, they fluff up very soft and are super absorbent. Folding can be tricky but there are lots of great informative sites and video's on YouTube.

To hold them togetherI use Snappi's. They're pricey but there's no way to poke a hole in you or the baby and you can reuse them after each change. I use one a day unless it gets gross and disinfect them in the dishwasher. You can find good deals on ebay for these too.

To hold it all in, I use a diaper cover. These aren't the same things you'll find at Babies R Us. These are polyurathaine laminated cotton or PUL matterial with velcro closures. They can come in a variety of colors and styles. We prefer the ones with leg gussets as it's easy to tuck in stray diaper pieces.

Emmy playing piano in her polka-dot Bummis.

I use some deliciously wonderful baby wipes from BatikBags on Etsy. She specializes in mama pads, cloth wipes and reusable breast pads. Excellent quality!

I also found another great Etsy seller Respire. She makes some wonderful pocket prefolds which take the work out of folding, great to leave with the sitter! She also sells handmade wool covers and patters for making your own cloth prefold fitteds.

I love the prices, service and selection over at Cotton Babies too and have bought almost exclusively from them this last run. They have some great diaper packages too.

So, now we're back in cloth diapers and I stay away from the ants.

My sites and contact stuff

Ok,so I promise to get a new tute up soon! I'm totally fighting some illness in me and my babes so, you know, that comes first :) I did want to share all the nifty ways you can link up to me online. I seem to be spread all over though I try and minimize the thinning of my attentions. Even if you don't follow, friend or link to me, there's some great information on these sites and some of it is just fun.

I like twitter though it can get confusing as a "chat" format. I'm following some of my favorite authors like @LKHamilton and @lara_adrian as well as Rachel from Signing Time @ST_Rachel it's a lot of fun to get a peek into their lives and sometimes they even respond to me!

I'm still learning though I'm adept at getting around on FB now. Again, I am a fan of Rachel and a few others. This is more a public chat forum. If you have a friend they can see what others post on your "Wall" unless you do a private message through your inbox. I love it! I was able to reconnect with a lot of old friends and most of my New Hampshire family.

This is a wonderful site! You can keep track of books you're reading, have read and want to read. You can see friends reviews of books and become fans and follow authors. Some authors are on GR and you can see what they're reading and what they thought. It's a nice way to keep track of books too. I have so many series that aren't complete, I can review them on there and even see upcoming releases.

This is my online shop for my sewing crafts. There's some jewlery up there too. I try and make everythign affordable, heirloom quality and original. It's getting cold again and I'll be listing some scoodies soon, check those out.

We have a few blogs up besides this one that can be fun to follow:

This is my personal writing blog. I'm exploring my creative words. I've been posting a Blog-A-Day with some older poetry I wrote as a teen and updates on my current writing process and progress.

This is a joint blog for Rob and I as we share our progress and ideas as we build out house on a five acre lot in Lake Butler, FL. We'll be using recycled materials and building debt free...which might be a long process. We're also converting a school bus to an RV. Exploring alternative water and energy sources as we build a self sufficient homestead.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life's Crossroads

So, I think I'm finally old enough to recognize an impass in my life and not freak out (too heavily) about it. Maybe. I can think back and pinpoint other times in my life that were like this but those fleeting moments seemed much more overly dramatic and instant, this has been a slow pull. Almost like change grabbed me by the ankles and is dragging me into the next phase in my life ever so slowly. I'm trying not to kick and scream as I go. I think this is a bit scarier than the times where change had all but reared up and coldcocked me.

I was faced with change then that wasn't negotiable. Most of those times were when I got pregnant or gave birth. Yes, yes, we all know how that happens but the impact of the reality was what hit me hard. That first double lined stick and my life had made a sharp right turn. I wouldn't give up those moments for anything but now I can see them. Look back on them and recall that so much more was happening than getting knocked up or giving birth. My life changed irrevocably.

Before kids, I had a job outside the house. Before that I was a bit of a wild child. My tastes have always run to the unique, though others have called it odd and other not as nice descriptions, freak comes to mind. I like what I like, but after getting married, getting that professional job, and having that first baby, I changed. Though now I see that the change wasn't me. It was what I thought I was supposed to become.

That part of me that I never had issue with before, that unique part, didn't fit into what I became. You can't be a professional and have tattoos or dreadlocks. You can't be a mom without looking modern day Donna Reed. I tried to conform my outward appearance, my likes and my attitude towards a picture of what I felt I should be. Some model of perfection planted in my brain. Where this came from I'm not totally sure. Just that for over a decade I have warped myself into feeling "less than".

Less than a good mom because my house isn't spotless all the time. Because sometimes we have cereal for dinner and sometimes the kids have dirty faces when we go out. Less than a good wife because I'm not the perfect weight and some days I don't even get out of my jammies. Because dinner isn't always waiting piping hot on the linen draped table. Less than a woman because I don't like fake nails and highlights. Because I'd rather be in jeans and sneakers than flouncy blouses and strappy sandals.

Now, here comes my crossroads. Change is pulling me hard and I can see it up ahead. A time has come when I need to either make a change or continue my less than happy course. It's scary. I'm rethinking the entire basis of my existence more or less. Even though I haven't been very content with myself this past decade, change is a scary thing. I'm comfortable in my discontent, as odd as that might seem. I feel like these changes would make me really happy if I can get over the fear of making them. Many aren't even changes I have to exert physical energies to do. They're phobias, misconceptions and irrationalities I've collected. I have to look at the positives I have and remake the negatives into more positives.

I have five gorgeous, brilliant, lovable and funny little people that I helped make with a wonderful, loving, handsome, smart husband. My twenty-nineth birthday season has begun and we're all happy and healthy. Rob's coming back from Iraq soon and we have lots of really fabulous things planned for this next phase of life. So maybe I should stop letting change drag me and stand up and take it by the hand.