11 April 2016

Sloppy Pasta

Y'all know me, I've got find some way to make the modest pantry seem new and exciting. Welp, I just did it again with my latest casserole and I'm rushing in here to share it with you while it's in the oven!

Ingredients
1 lb of ground beef (though chicken or turkey would be good too)
2 cans of Tomato Soup + 1 can of water
1 box of medium shell noodles
1 package of Sloppy Joe seasoning
1 package of shredded Mexican blend cheese (2 cups)
Minced onions
Worcestershire sauce
Minced garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste


Directions
1. Brown meat with spices and Worcestershire sauce. Drain.
2. Add in the two cans of tomato soup, one can of water, and the sloppy joe seasoning packet. Let this simmer on a medium low heat. I put in a handful of cheese but you don't have to, it's a taste thing.
3. Cook your noodles to the package instructions. You want them a little under because we'll be putting this in the over for a bit to melt the cheese.
4. Combine the noodles with the sauce and meat mixture. Pour this deliciousness into a 9x13 pan and sprinkle the cheese on top.
5. Bake in a 350 oven for about 18-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Look at this - it is absolutely wonderful and delicious. I wanted something new and different for the family to enjoy. This has a bit of spice so if you want to add a swirl of ranch dressing to the top when you serve it, I can tell you that it's out of this world fabulous.


I hope you enjoy it. I'm going to go dig in now!

11 March 2016

Logic doesn't matter

Here it is... that fire radiating from my chest out to my limbs. The tingling in my extremities. My mind going a million miles a minute. I know what to do and so I start my checklist.

1. I counted five things around me - my knitting, Tinkerbell, my phone, my work supplies, and my computer.
2. I acknowledged and touched four things around me - my hair, my chair, my glasses, my coffee.
3. I paid attention to three things I could hear - Tinkerbell eating, Hobbit eating, the washing machine.
4. I focused on two things I could smell - the detergent that spilled on my hands and the cat box (eww, must change that).
5. I acknowledged one thing I could taste - my coffee.
6. I know I am safe. I know I am healthy. I know this is irrational and illogical. I also know that logic doesn't matter... not when you're having a panic attack.

Deep breathe. Don't cry. Don't lash out at others because they can't see what is going on inside of you. Hug Hobbit and kiss her goodnight. Catch Pokey's eye and let him know - he understands and runs interference. Try the countdown again now that Hobbit is in bed... nope, not working tonight. Take a Benadryl and go to bed, things will be better in the morning.

That was my night last night and this morning is 90% better. I can still feel the slight burning of anxiety in my chest but it is not taking over my head - or at least I am doing better at not letting it. Panic attacks and anxiety are a new thing for me, meaning they've only begun in the past five years.

I remember my first one. I was sitting in the car loop at Hobbit's school. She was in first grade and I was overcome with this horrible feeling that something catastrophic was going to happen. I was literally going to die in my parked car and there was no logical reason for any of it. I had no idea why I felt that way and I had no idea on how to make it stop. I sat there and just cried. I'm working hard to not cry remembering it since I'm still fighting the residuals of an attack. Deep breathe - hear the spring birds outside - focus on the washing machine whirring - the dog is drinking his water - focus on your breathing in and out - deep breath. Stream of consciousness typing... got to get back to what I was telling you.

After that day, I lived in fear that it would happen again. That I was losing my mind. I told my husband about it a few days later and he smiled at me. Not condescending but more understanding. He used to suffer from anxiety - large crowds would trigger it for him - and he told me that I was perfectly normal. I made an appointment with my doctor and I explained what happened. She advised me that it was indeed a anxiety episode - or panic attack - and that it was normal, especially in woman my age. It was a symptom of premenopause... and it can last 15 to 20 years.

That was a rollercoaster moment - Yay, I'm normal... Holy wow, 20 years!! She laughed at me and said it would be fine. Now that I know what they are and how they feel, I can do a few exercises when they happen and it will lessen the effects. The one that works for me is the one I shared and when that doesn't work, I was advised to take a Benadryl. Most people only become relaxed with a Benadryl - I fall asleep within 30 minutes and I sleep for hours on end. It works most days. I'll take it night after Hobbit goes to sleep and I'm in bed well before 10, sleep all night long. It's rare that I need a Benadryl. Honestly, I hadn't had an episode in quite a few months so this one has taken me off guard. The fact that it's still here this morning is not surprising, as it usually takes me a good two or three days before it's fully gone. I also know that it's a hormonal thing and mine are apparently currently out of whack... joy.

One more inch to go - then, split for the cabled front section
Today, I am going to focus on my knitting of Pokey's sweater... at least at noon I will focus on it. I have things that need to be done prior to that and I must get them done first. Knitting and crocheting helps a great deal too - especially something that I have to focus on but isn't too terribly complicated. Charted lace wouldn't work but simple cables or just knitting in the round is great. I can get in rhythm and focus on that - count every stitch I make or focus on the feel of the yarn.

I don't know why I felt compelled to write and share that tidbit with the world. I know I always that this is my online journal of my life and that I simply welcome others to read it but I write for me. Perhaps I thought that someone else could benefit from reading it today. Perhaps I thought writing it down might help me today. Who knows what I thought but the fact remains that I did and I have. I still feel anxious and it's the same level as when I started but hey... I'm safe, I'm healthy, and I know it's not logical but I also know that logic doesn't matter.

07 March 2016

All I Did Was Blink

I can't believe that my baby is going to be 23 years old this month. How did that happen? Wasn't she just born last week? I swear, all I did was blink and she went from cuddly baby to beautiful adult. This will be the first birthday where she has actually made plans that didn't involve the family... and I'm a little bummed over it. I mean, I raised her to be independent but my goodness, why does it sting so badly when she exercises it. I swear...

Peanut's birthday falls in the middle of her last official Spring Break, as she graduates in just under eight weeks. That's a whole other post of 'where has the time gone', only one gut-wrenching realization at a time. So since it is their last Spring Break of their college careers, a group of them are going to go to Walt Disney World and have a grand time. She paid for her adventure with the monies she made working at the library during the term. When we asked her if she had enough funds, the response we got was - and I quote - "I've got $30 and I'm packing my food". See, independence kicking in - she wants to do it and she figured out a way to get it done.

Naturally, we could not let that happen so we decided to celebrate her birthday this past weekend. Over last week, I busted out my beautiful sewing machine and went to work.

Peanut's favorite attraction is the Haunted Mansion... can you see where I'm going here?
Her favorite color is purple... and the wallpaper inside is purple with black eyes so it's an homage to both really.
This is actually the back of the bag but it's just as pretty. You can kind of see where love lies just from the back...
But you can really get the idea from the front! I did my best to make it look like one of the cast member's costumes.
Inside, we put 3 $50 Disney gift cards and a $100 MasterCard gift card for her to use during her trip, however she wants.
The wristlet is big enough to hold her cellphone, wallet, small camera that we got her for Christmas last year, keys, and a few more odds and ends. She seemed pleased with it so I hope she will take it with her on her break.

I was really pleased with myself on how it came out. The black stripes were cut from the material and then sewn on top of the outside portion. The pattern that I used did not have a lining so I had to do that on my own with just my wits and previous experience. The wrist loop was not part of the pattern either, I just winged it.

Overall, I think it came out lovely. It is a great representation of my baby and all of her 23 years on this earth. One more major milestone and then she's off to face the life of adulthood. I'm serious though... all I did was blink.

23 February 2016

Pass the blessings

Are you blessed with a friend that, no matter how much time passes, you can pick up the phone and just talk like no time has passed at all? If you are, then you know the kind of blessing I'm talking about here. I have a friend like that - she's a sister to me and an aunt to my children. There may not be any blood between us but that doesn't negate the fact that she's family to me.

There have been times in both our lives when we've dropped everything for one another - no matter the miles between us - and been at each other's side because we knew that we just had to be there for whatever the other may need. Happy and heartbreaking events have fueled these road trips. I truly believe that I would be a completely different sort of woman today if God had not seen fit to bless me with her friendship.

Today, I learned that her half sister is battling cancer. She wanted to know if she shipped me yarn if I would make her a few hats. I don't need her to ship me any yarn - I need to know colors, styles, likes, dislikes, sense of humor, and weights. I can handle the yarn and I will definitely make her a clutch of hats simply so that this beautiful soul feels beautiful again.

So if you know of anyone - and sadly, we all do in some fashion - going through such trials, I thought I would share the collection of patterns with you... and if you feel moved to donate to my collection to her, that would definitely pass the blessings on. Just shoot me a PM on Ravelry (PprmntMochaMama)  and I'll give you my address to send them to so we can make her smile again.

All images to follow belong to their original posters and they retain all rights.

Cannon Hat by Annina Päivärinta
Martine Hat by Lisa R. Myers
Spa Turban by Yarnstarved Creations
Captain Hat by Rosi Garmendia
Striped Chemotherapy Cap by Essie Woods Bruell
Hallowig by Megan Reardon
Wurm by Katharina Nopp
LuAnn Chemo Hat by Beverly Forester
These are just a few that I've found and added to my library on Ravelry. If you have a favorite pattern that you know is beloved by others, please share. I'd love to add it to my list of hats to make for her.

I hope that you hug your loved ones tight and if they are too far to physically reach, please call them and let them know they are loved. Younger kids will hug you back, older ones will roll their eyes, parents will have hearts bursting with joy, and anyone in between will smile and feel the warmth of your love - and that should be something we strive to do for others every day. Always let those you love know they are in your heart because some days, just knowing that one person loves you is all you need to find the strength to keep going.

Secretly, I hope to have a box full of hats - for her and any of the other people in the room where she has her treatments who needs a bit of love - but if I can only fill a small padded envelope with a handful, that is still a handful of blessings be passed on to someone who needs a little extra strength to fight her battle.

22 February 2016

Brand new day

Today, Hobbit started her new school. We are all very excited about this and hope that today is fabulous for her. Getting her out of that one school is the best thing we could have done. There are only 3 more months of school but there was no way we could have left her in that environment - the amount of damage that that particular group of educators was inflicting on her required immediate attention.

This past weekend, we decided that Hobbit needed a fun day. After all the mess of the past few weeks, she just needed a place to recapture her joy and get ready for the adventure ahead. So we took her to Epcot. It was a wonderful day spent wandering around the park and enjoying one another. It's rare that we have such a luxury of family time on the weekend so it felt great reconnecting.

We loved it so much, we even scheduled another adventure for this coming weekend - we're going to the Spirit of Aloha Luau for supper! It's something we've always wanted to do and figured that it would be a nice bookend to her first week at her new school.

While we were wandering around the park, I managed to get a large portion of her hat completed. I started with this...

I hadn't gotten much further than the ribbing when we went to the park - maybe an inch or so more than this photo shows.
I pulled my knitting out for our stroll around the countries because I could pretty much just keep it out at all times... even while waiting for supper...

I have to say, it was one of the tastiest Chinese dining experiences I have ever encountered. I had Shrimp and Steak - so good!
And by the time we got home that evening, I had managed to almost complete the body of the hat! I love the fact that I don't have to look at what I'm doing while I wander around the park. It's become such a relaxing thing for me to walk and knit that my hands just know what to do. Look at my progress...

I ended our day with a total of 6" of completed work! I only needed 8.25" before I had to bind off - very productive day.
It was easy for me to finish it last night so that Hobbit could have it today. We weren't sure of the hat policy associated with the new school so I didn't give it to her yet but it will be sitting in the car when she gets out this afternoon.

It looks like a plain old square...


But when she puts it on, it will do this...

Please, for the love of Mickey, ignore my medicine flushed and puffy face. One day, I will be healthy again, I swear.

I think that qualifies under the whole "Mama, will you make a hat with ears" label, don't you? My next adventure in travel hat knitting is going to be Nell by Lisa Gutierrez. Just enough lace to keep it interesting. Not sure I will be able to work on it around the parks but who knows. It looks to be a simple enough repeat. If not, I can always cast on something else. You never know, I just might try socks in the parks! I doubt it but never say never, right.

I hope everyone had a beautiful weekend and is enjoying a magnificent Monday.

14 February 2016

Sunday Snaps

This is my plan for today - sitting in my chair and knitting. Sounds like the perfect plan to me.

10 February 2016

Allow me a moment...

Y'all remember when we were elated to have Hobbit's third grade teacher recognize her as a candidate for Gifted testing? Y'all remember how she blew it out of the water and did an amazing job on the assessment? Y'all remember how much she loved school and couldn't wait to be in classroom full of kids "just like her"? Yeah, those days are long gone.

In the past two years, our county school system has managed to completely skip teaching her fourth grade math so that she has a huge deficit now in fifth grade after she was placed in a combined classroom of mostly fifth graders and only three fourth grades who were simply treated as fifth graders the year prior.

The two teachers we have had to deal with over the past two years have been a disorganized, chaotic mess. The first being one who would send home scathing letters but the minute you sat down for a conference everything was sunshine and roses. The second being one who doesn't send anything, claims she does in emails where she has copied the principal and assistant principal, and request conference after conference only to have nothing come from the meetings. So much talking, very little doing... and it has left my little family very frustrated.

Hobbit reads - and comprehends - books on a high school reading level and yet they won't allow her to read anything in that bracket, forcing her to read things that she calls "baby books" and devours in a day. She has been doing extra math work to fill the holes created by the fourth grade gifted experience and will then have to play catch up with the fifth grade level math halfway through the year. She excels at science, public speaking, creative writing, engineering, art, music, and physical education and yet she isn't being challenged in those areas either. She created a solar powered car out of a soda can for the mandatory STEM fair this year and she loved it. She has extraordinary powers of deduction and reasoning and yet they are not being utilized or encouraged.

This year, the teacher has decided to allow the kids to work at whatever pace they wish on whatever subject they wish but gets upset that they aren't spending equal time on all subjects, and yet she doesn't take control of the classroom and actually teach them. Granted, it is another combined classroom from third through fifth grade but it only has 15 students... and she still can't keep it organized and functioning efficiently.

Now, they've added a new student with severe behavioral problems - throws chairs, spits on students, throws chewed up food at students, has temper tantrums, and is generally disruptive all day long. The reason he is in that classroom is because he apparently tested Gifted but they are not addressing his mental/emotional deficiencies so the other kids in the class have to suffer.

When did school get this way? When we went, we all sat in our chairs and the teacher led the day. She scheduled what time we did what activity. She instructed us at the front of the room and we did our work accordingly. We had homework nightly. We had reading and spelling tests and timed math tests because repetition and rote memory were the key to learning. There was no temper tantrums in the class and goodness knows, no one ever got physically violent. If you did get out of line, you were reprimanded by the teacher or even the principal. Heaven help you if they had to call your parents! Mostly because you knew your parents would punish you for your actions - and it was well deserved. There was no mollycoddling. You were expected to straighten up and fly right or else you would not be welcome in the classroom.

Somewhere over the years, we've lost focus on how to properly raise up and educate children. We've entered and created a society where everyone gets a trophy and that has created a feeling of entitlement and lack of respect for others - be it peer or elder. The idea that hard work, dedication, and effort will earn you that which you seek is a thing of the past. The notion that a teacher actually teach, discipline, and hold the child accountable is apparently laughable... not to me but to them. Don't reprimand the child, you'll hurt their self esteem. Don't schedule the child, you'll stifle their creativity.

Codswallop.

What happens when you go out in the real world and get a job? What happens when you go on to college to earn your degree? Do you really think either of these will not reprimand you for not doing your work? Do you honestly believe that if you don't adhere to the work or school schedule that you won't be fired or expelled? How will these kids ever learn the value of hard work and putting their all into something, anything - that feeling of pride for completing a job well done - if we don't reward the good and punish the bad? If the teachers aren't teaching the kids, and then simply blame the kids for not doing what was expected of them when they weren't given instruction on what was expected of them - what are we teaching them? That's okay to pass the buck and not own your actions and errors?

The National Association for Gifted Children describes self-contained Gifted classrooms as "full-time homogeneous classrooms, usually one homogeneous classroom distinct from several general classrooms at each grade level in the school in which all curriculum areas are appropriately challenging and complex ". It involves a"systematic, comprehensive, and articulated differentiation in all academic domains full-time and on a daily basis". This is to be outlined, delivered, and maintained by an educational professional who has specialized in Gifted learning.

The reality is a far cry from the described model. It doesn't have to be, but it is. The curriculum areas are not appropriately challenging or complex - they are whatever is the least amount of effort to carry over to all three grade levels. There is no outline for what is expected of the student, or even the teacher. The instruction is not delivered or maintained by the educational professional - they stand at the front of the classroom and say "You have blocks of time - 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 50 minutes, and one hour - to complete whatever work you wish to work on" and then go sit at their desk. It is left up to the kids to decide the whats and the hows of their day. What elementary school child is not going to have difficulty staying on task for an entire school day without direction or leadership? Shoot, I know very few adults that have that level of time management skills so I certainly can't expect my 10-year-old to have mastered it.

Sick as a dog, dedicated to doing better... too bad her teacher
doesn't have the same drive and desires as her student.
So here I sit, frustrated and disappointed - in the school system who recommended placing her in a program that is so obviously flawed and in myself for allowing this to continue for the last two years of her educational career, believing that it will get better. I sit here frustrated for my daughter, who is currently very sick with an ear infection in both ears and a severe sinus infection but is working on her math on the computer because she's trying to fill those holes that have been created by a previous "educator".

I don't know how we got here but I do know we aren't going to stay. If something doesn't work, it is up to those responsible to fix it. If those responsible do nothing, then nothing will improve. I have given ample opportunity for the teacher, the principal, and the school system to fix it. They have done absolutely nothing. Now it's up to her father and I to fix it - and we have every intention of doing so because unlike the teacher, the principal, and the school system, we actually care about our daughter's education.

I miss my carefree, exuberant, vivacious, silly little girl who loved going to school and learning things. It is my responsibility to find her, bring her back from the abyss, and set her back on the proper path. To encourage her to challenge herself, to hold her accountable for her quality of work, and to complete the tasks at hand. I can and will do these things. She can and will do these things. The school system should and could have done it but chose to give excuses and refuse to do anything more. Fine. I have always championed for my kids and I have no intention of stopping now.

She will always be Gifted - and we are going to make sure she doesn't lose sight of her gifts. What does that mean, it's easy. We simply remove ourselves from the toxic environment of this particular Gifted program and settling back in the calm, steady, guided waters of the mainstream. We find ourselves where we last lost ourselves and we move forward from there.

G.I.F.T.E.D - Girl, I Found The Exit Door... let's go.
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