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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mother's Day is on its way!

I don't have much money these days, so I am trying my hand at making gifts for the Nana's and Nona in our lives. Gotta admit, I'm no good at crafting. If it weren't for the fact that these are done mostly by the kids, I'd have thrown them away instead of trying to wrap them up for the recipients... Well, that and I don't know what else to do.

I got out the left over modge podge from creating the galaxy jars. Then I got some glitter. These packs are actually meant for nail art, but hey, glitter is glitter right? And then boom! We have craft and messy time.

What are you doing for Mother's Day? What special plans do you have? What gift ideas did you plan on for this year?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Prosper and live long, you must!

See what I did there? If you didn't, that's okay. Not everyone speaks geek. 

Star Wars Day is on May 4th. Its May the Fourth (be with you), actually. My family had a little help from my dear friend Mary in preparing for this day! She brought over some Lego Star Wars Yoda ear hats. During a moment of bonding with my future nerdlings, we decided to take pictures and be our silly selves together. I also determined it was time for a new couple selfie with my fiance.
While doing so, I noticed that he was wearing his Star Trek shirt (one of them). While I'm wearing my Star Wars shirt (my only one). So when he went to take my picture with the kids, I went ahead and did the Vulcan hand sign we know so well from our beloved Spock. All the while, telling my Trekkie husband-to-be, "Prosper and live long, you must!"
His smile, combined with the laughter of my children, made my afternoon perfect.

Moments like these erase all the worry and fears of life. They are the mountain tops in the path of my life's walk. Tomorrow, I might find myself in a valley once again. And I will look back at this brief glimpse of beauty that will drive me to push harder towards the next wonderful memory. 
Chin up, Moms! This is what true happiness looks like. 
Happy Star Wars Day!

Living better, inside and out

We are still attending our pre-marital counseling. I'm really glad that we were required to do this. I can't tell you how much it has helped while going through the problems of life. You can love someone and respect them. You can be willing to share your life with that person. Then something happens and you are tested. And that's been me. So much has happened this year. I think January might be the only month that has gone well for us so far, with the exception of illness that seemed like it would not end. Every month after that has had some kind of heartache. Some kind of problem. And boy, do I not respond so well to some kinds of stress. I shut down. I clam up. And I wish to be left utterly alone in the darkness. All because I feel as though sharing would be a burden.
Through our sessions with the counselor, we have learned what each others' love languages are. We know how to respond to each other and to make listening our priority. Have you ever been told that you can listen and not hear what is truly being said? How many times do you find yourself doing just that? My fiancé is amazing. But he came to realize that though he knew what he was talking about in response to the stress in my life, he wasn't truly hearing what I was saying. He wasn't understanding the emotions behind the words. And now I'm also learning to understand his emotions.

This is how it works. I say something to him. Something about the things going on in my life. He watches my body language, hears the tone, and then the words. Then he asks if I'm feeling this or that emotion because of blah blah blah that I said.
Me: "I need to lose 30 pounds. I'm getting too fat."
Him: "You feel like you are overweight because you can't fit into your clothes still?"
Me: "Yes!"
He pieces together the other things I have said with what I just said. So now I know he is listening AND understanding. And now I'm learning to return such a behavior. He isn't giving me anymore of that, "You are beautiful no matter what," crap that I hate hearing. Its true for him. He will love me no matter what happens and what I look like. I, however, will not. I will dread looking into the mirror. And looking in my closet will be depressing.

In addition to this, we have made a pledge to each other, and have our counselor backing us up by keeping us accountable, in working out. He recommended the book, Body for Life. We each wrote down why we are working towards this goal. My reasons aren't superficial. I don't want to look like a supermodel. I have a Mom's bod. And that is okay. But I also carry genes for hereditary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure. I could go on. Women in my family have shown difficulty keeping their weight at a managed point. They struggle with weight loss. And death by heart failure is pretty common on my Mom's side of the family. So yes, getting fit and eating healthy has always been a goal. But lately, more so. Now I have the added stress of not being able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothing. Do you know how frustrating it is to have 1 pair of jeans, 2 skirts and a handful of black tee shirts that fit? I'm wearing them over and over again. I'm washing those same handful of things every few days. Because I can't fit anything else! And because I can't afford to buy new clothes. I want to be able to wear my skinny clothes again. I want to stay healthy. And I want to see my kids grow up. I'm nearly 30 years old. My body is slowing down. I don't burn that weight off like I did in my childhood or teens. I don't work off those extra calories as fast as I ingest them. So we made an agreement together. We are working out. 3 days a week, we do cardio. 3 days a week, we do weight training. And Sundays we rest. I'm also starting to look for healthier meal ideas.
But above all, we are also working out in the word of God. We want to be fit in our physical forms, but also in our spiritual walk. Our relationship is steadily growing in so many facets. I love it! Despite what life has been tossing at us, we are standing together, stronger than ever. Even with the most recent news that hit us like a brick wall, we are ready to stand together in the face of life and steel ourselves for the force it throws at us. We will endure. No matter what. And not just as a couple. We are also pouring in the effort of teaching our children God's word and Christian values. It is not easy, but it shows others when they are away from home that they are loved and respectful. That they have values. Little by little, our family is becoming stronger. Inside and out.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A failing system leads to devastation

We all know that the government and most of the current systems they have in place are no longer functional. There are guidelines meant to blanket everyone that do not have provisions for those in special circumstances. Take for instance, unemployment.

Unemployment is meant to help you get back on your feet after being let go from a job, usually through no fault of your own. A company will pay you a percentage of what they did before until you get another job. This is done through a government-run agency, however, so there are rules to get these benefits. These rules are created in the hopes that people won’t stay lazy and soak up those benefits indefinitely. Good in theory, bad in action. How so? Here is the break down.
You lose your job, you apply for unemployment. If granted, or awarded, those benefits – you will have to do several things to get money and keep getting money. You are required to be 100% available any time of day for any job you are offered. You are required to do a minimum of 5 job search activities per week. You are required to request your payments every two weeks. You are required to register for a Work in Texas (or your state) account and use it to supplement your normal job searches. You are required to attend an unemployment orientation class. You are required to meet with an unemployment agent at Work Force. They will make suggestions on changes to your resume, how to cheat the system on applying for jobs you might not have the skills for, and jobs they think you should look into.

If you don’t maintain your Work in Texas account by checking it at least twice a week, don’t do 5 work activities per week, and turn down a job based on availability… You lose your unemployment benefits. You have to have child care set up already. You have to have reliable transportation at all times. You have to accept any job offered. Don’t aim high. You’re a beggar. Beggars can’t be choosers.
This is the system! So I turned down a job. The job had 3 schedule options. All options would only work if I wasn’t sharing a vehicle with my fiancé. His car was totaled right before I lost my job in March. So my job searches are for the following:

1.       An administrative job. Due to my back issues, I can’t do manual labor jobs.

2.       A schedule ranging through – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 8AM-8PM and Tuesdays, Thursdays 8AM-2PM. My fiancé works overnight, so I have to consider his work schedule while we share my van. He’s also in school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I would have to be home by 3PM on those afternoons.

3.       I also don’t want to take a job that pays less than $11 an hour. That is how much I get on unemployment. $14 an hour is what I made while working. And that amount covered my bills. The job I was offered was for $8.60 an hour.
So why haven’t they changed things? I mean, look at how many people are unemployed. Can you not see there is something wrong with how it works? More so, how do you expect people to get out of debt and back on their feet?

Simple. The government is run by out of touch, rich people. Their only talents are to point their fingers and pass the blame. Then scratch their heads at why things aren’t getting better. Why the rate is rising and the economy is steadily dropping? How long ago has this department been created? And besides making the length of time longer than one qualifies for it, what other adjustments have been made?
So here is my current dilemma. I can file an appeal and have them go over my information again. But according to them, not having adequate childcare or access to a vehicle is a personal issue. Or I can tell them that my situation has changed and now I am able to have someone watch my kids, making me available at any given time. They will take my next payment that they determined I "owe" and pay me another couple hundred two weeks later. In the meantime, what am I to do? How do I get gas? How do I pay the electric bill? The water? I'm UNEMPLOYED! I have no income. No job. And 4 kids. Where is this working system we so desperately need??

Its like a crack in the windshield. Starts off small and centralized, but slowly spreads to the entire windshield. So starts a faulty system within the whole.
What are your thoughts?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Working as a freelancer

These days, everyone wishes they could have the freedom to work from home. And there are several companies that are hiring remote employees. You go through training, set up your computer and phone, and for the most part, deal with clients in the comfort of your home office. There are some requirements to meet in order for this to work. After all, you are working. You are being paid for your services. You can’t slack off. You can’t have background noises distracting you and those you are on the phone with. You have to be professional. But it comes with a level of flexibility. And freedoms. You save money on gas since you don’t have to drive to work. You save money on meals since you have your own kitchen to use. These are great reasons to want to work from home.  
Since I lost my job, I have been trying to get into working freelance. Editing, proofreading, offering suggestions and even writing. I've done this as a side job here and there for friends as well as for free for even closer friends and family. I take great pride in what I do. The author I have done the most work for lately, turned my eye to fiverr.com. You create a profile, list a gig, and make bids to work for others. This sounds great. In theory. In reality, it can be difficult. For starters, their website works with Firefox best. So don't try to use other platforms (learned the hard way). Secondly, most job requests I have seen are sellers asking for work rather than buyers asking for editors. So the system is clogged with that. Out of 90+ requests, only 3 are actual buyers. And the list of available editors is huge! Far more supply than demand. The next problem you face is the fees. Say I sell something for $5, I get $4. A job I do for $25, I get $20. So discouraging for the ones just starting out. Upwork, bought out from Elance, charges a 20% fee for everything you make.

Not worth it when your starting price is $5. Plus, in order to transfer your earnings to your bank account, PayPal, or a card they provide you have to pay another $1 fee. My wallet feels raped. Then for Upwork, you can go with the free version and have to use a credit system to "buy" jobs. Or you can purchase the upgraded account that allows you more credits so you can "buy" more bids.
There are benefits to websites like these. Even if you consider sacrificing the money you made on a couple transactions. You can build rapport with buyers. Then take your clients outside the website. I had my author friend "purchase" and complete an order for some things I edited for him through the website. This way, he could leave me reviews. Then I can use those reviews as references for other clients. Especially since this friend is International Best Seller, Mark Villareal. It gives me a boost towards what I want to do long term.  
Working from home is noble. And something to strive for. But it isn't as easy as people think. A lot more effort is required to make a living and truly make a name for yourself. You have to truly want it. Which is why I have decided to put more effort into creating a website that is user friendly. That other prospective clients will want to check out. And hopefully, I can start doing more of what I enjoy. At home.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Free Comic Book Day is almost here!

Every year, on the first Saturday of May, is Free Comic Book Day!
This year has some great titles in the mix. Star Trek, Wonder Woman, Zelda, Attack on Titan... Yes, I plan to dress up, dress my kids up, and go comic hopping! This also follows May the Fourth! Star Wars day!!! Guess where I want to go and maybe score some cool Star Wars stuff?! Yep, Heroes and Fantasies!
So check out your local area and what they have to offer. Then let me know what your favorite comic book is!

Only 45 days left?!

Time is speeding by. My list of things to prepare for the wedding dwindles down, but I feel the need to pick up the pace and start the remaining projects with haste. While visiting my future in laws this past weekend, we were able to see how well my fiancés jacket will fit and add his com badge with rank pips to it.
He is now ready to captain the Enterprise. Okay, not entirely... His pants are all that is left. My sister and sister-in-law both have beautiful dresses ready to go. As does my mother-in-law who had a dress made and altered to fit the theme a little more. It is quite exciting!
This week, I will have my hands full. I have my second child needing at least 3 appointments, some bubble wands to turn into light sabers, job applications to put in, counseling on Wednesday.... so much fun, right?!
The bubble wands will be for our send off. Our guests will be able to hold them up or blow bubbles at us as we walk away. Plus, it will be great fun for the kids after the wedding.
Oh yeah. I also have a wonderful playlist started. I decided to share it with you all. So once I have it complete on YouTube, I'll post it on the blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Strengthening Relationship Foundations

Why does time speed up when your to-do list feels so long?! We are currently taking premarital counseling as a requirement before getting married. I went into it begrudgingly. No offense to anyone who believes in it, but I hadn't seen success in others that utilized such services. That, and it was draining our reserve money as well. Plus, it takes time away from other things we have going on. We are required to have 5 sessions of 1.5 hours long and it costs $90 a session. You do the math. But I considered it something I would approach open-mindedly. After all, I want this marriage to be strong in its foundations. To truly last. One failed marriage and rocky divorce is more than enough for me. I don't want any more. And I know we both come together with our personal issues.
The first two sessions have been great. I was steeled against the bombardment of questions and provocation that I believed counselors were all about. Turns out... I was wrong. As a matter of fact, even with just these 2 sessions, my fiancé and I have begun to talk more and be a little more open about things. Okay, more so me. I don't like to "complain" about things. Or tell him when I'm bothered by something. Don't know why, but I prefer to keep everything bottled up. Especially when I know there is nothing he or I can do about it. That's what my journal is for, right? Yeah... no. I clam up. I shut down. Emotions go out the window. I become... robotic? Bugs the daylights out of him. No matter how hard I try, that's my defense. Its the wall I put up. I am getting better about it.

Counseling has helped. It was a requirement that I now feel should be given to all. It should be embraced. Especially when you are planning to unlock the Lifetime Partner achievement. (We totally plan to have the minister hold one of these up at the end of the ceremony!)
We still have a long way to go. Both of us, however, have faith that no matter what the future holds, we will go through the remainder of our lives together. We will weather the storms and make the best of everything. Together.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Only 52 days left!

Wedding preparations may have slowed, but certainly not stopped. And now that we are less than two months from the day, things are starting to pick up. Last minute details are taking form.
I'm so glad that I had started purchasing some of the things we were going to need while I still had my job. Otherwise, I may have scrapped more of the smaller details I had wanted. But I also have had both sides of the family pitching in to help. My mother has given us money towards the wedding as a wedding present. Being that we both came from homes stocked with most of what we needed, there aren't a whole lot of gifts we can ask for on the registry that people want to get. So money towards the wedding itself is perfect! His family has contributed to items needed as well. My dress is in the process of being made, his jacket and pants are being completed, the cake is being worked on by his mom (only wish I was able to taste test the ones she is practicing on!). Overall, I'm really excited about how things are lining up!

So what other things have I added to the finished details? Well, I've finally created the galaxy jars.
And let me just say here... I won't try that again. I'm not so crafty, for sure. No matter how well I try to follow the video. I found said video on Pinterest. Do you know how dangerous that site can be?! So many great ideas! But of course, then you want to try everything...
It took me hours, not 20 minutes like in the video, but several hours to finish my 12 jars and 1 test jar.
And they still didn't come out exactly as the video. I still like them. And when I get those tealight candles, they will be complete. As an added bonus, I even had the idea to add the canning stickers that came with the jars to the front. Each sticker has my fiancés name and mine, divided by the year. Below that is a space for our guests at each table to write a single word that describes one or both of us.
Just a little something to keep people busy for a bit while adding to our story later on.
There will be more projects I'll share with everyone soon. This week is a busy one, but I have some light saber bubble wands to create! Some bouquets to share (Michaels had flowers 60% off!)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Desperate times calls for creative recipes!

Flashbacks of living in a hotel with 3 kids for 4 months, while eating ramen and peanut better sandwiches every day have begun to hit me. Its been about 4 weeks since I lost my job. I only just received my final check from my last employer. Received one weeks payment from Unemployment. And Food Stamps won't reload with money until the 11th of this month. So I've had to get very creative with what we get from WIC and a few dollars well spent. From these hard times, I've created quite the magnificent dinner. My fiancé has dubbed it, Emily's Frankenstein. My kids ate it up. I'll share it with you, and I want to know what your family thinks about it. Enjoy!
Emily's Frankenstein

Double batch of 6 serving boxed mashed potatoes or the equivalent of what your family would eat
Pepperoni (however many your family would deem enough)
Canned corn (just half was enough)
onion, bell pepper, green onion to your taste
Half a package of cream cheese
Salt, pepper, garlic (or whatever seasonings your family likes)
2 cups of shredded cheese
Make your pot of mashed potatoes. Sauté the pepperoni (and/or sausage works), onion, bell pepper, garlic. Mix that, the cream cheese, and canned corn (I only used half a can as some of my kids don't like too much of it) with the mashed potatoes. Add your seasonings. Spread into your greased baking dish, sprinkle the top with cheese, and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. You really just want the cheese melted and everything warmed up.

Serve with green beans on the side if you like. Especially if you have several cans in .the pantry... Its simple, its quick, its fairly cheap. And our whole family loved it!

I would love to hear from you all. What crazy mash up have you used when money or ingredients were limited? How well did it go with the family?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Gardening is good for the soul

Gardening is good for the body too. You grow healthier foods, maybe beautiful flowers, or trees for some summer time shade. Whatever it is, it has purpose in the long run.
For my family, we are growing vegetables. One - to save money. Two - to eat healthier. I'm also having my daughter help in growing flowers. She loves to pick wildflowers everywhere we go. Do you have one of those kids in your life? The one you hear, "This is for you, Mommy!", as she hands you a wilted flower that has tiny black insects in the middle? You reach down and say, "Aw, thank you, sweetie." Then when she isn't looking, the flower finds a new home in the grass...
But the excitement we have while working together as a family, is what is truly important to me. We spend so much time as moms, or dads, that we miss moments with our kids. How often do you find yourself saying, "Oh? That sounds cool." Or, "Really? Well, just be careful." Were you really listening to them? Can you repeat their story back to them? Or did you get the gist and mumble your reply while focusing on your current task. Watching TV, washing dishes, folding laundry... Yes, these are important and must be completed. Yes, time is limited. But they won't be little forever. Before you know it, your baby is 8 years old. He has an attitude and doesn't want to stand next to you when his friends are there. Your little girl is 4 years old and wants to pick out her own clothing for school. And your 6 year old can do his homework without your help, but let's you "help" by reading the instructions just to spend that time with you. 
So, this is what we are doing. What about you? What will you do to have meaningful time with your loved ones.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Avery review via Shoplet.com

Shoplet is hosting another review through me for Avery products. I'm a huge fan of Avery. They are innovative in design and usefulness. Today I have their UltraTabs. These are quite nifty for the color-coded and organized mind. They are durable and 2-sided. But best of all, you can write on them and they are smudge-free. Index or flag notes so you know exactly where to look later. Each pack comes with 80 re-positional tabs. The only downside I can see would possibly be price. They are $11.19 a pack. A little more than I might like to pay, but you are are getting better quality.
They also sent a 5 tab moveable tab divider set. These are great for a 3 ring binder. They have the features of the other tabs included and ready to go. It is also made of a durable, heavyweight card stock with reinforced holes to make them last longer. They have printable divider sheets to make it easier for you to add designs to them. Sorta doll up or create a more appealing outward look. These are only $2.98 a pack. Avery is also wonderful about having free templates online. You just enter the product number, find the one you want, create the design, and it prints perfectly in line with your page.

What better way to keep things organized at home or at the office? So check them out and let me know what you think in the comments below! Also, keep in mind, that Shoplet.com offers more than just office supplies. They also have cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and office furniture.

***I was not paid to write this review. My opinions are my own. I am compensated only by being sent the products to test and write about.***

Label Daddy discount via US Family Guide

It has come to that time of year again. Summer camps and trips are fast approaching! Time to label your child's (or your own) gear so that there is no doubt what belongs to who. Label Daddy is teaming up with US Family Guide again to share information and discounts to help you prepare for those upcoming events. 

I absolutely love their labels! Easy to use, machine washable, and they make putting my kids' names on things look wonderful! I can't tell you how much I dislike writing their names and it comes out lopsided or funky looking. My handwriting doesn't reflect my skills with writing... Anyhow... 
I have been using Label Daddy for all my labeling needs. I especially recommend them to other moms out there. My son recently came home with another kids jacket, all because they had the same jacket. Which would have been avoided had they been labeled! 

Even if your kids won't be going to summer camps, there are other things to consider using them for. Camping trips, next school year preparation (can't start too early!), days at the pool, vacations or even labeling your own things if you live with someone else. They are also great for marking your personal lunch items that you take to work. Should make someone think twice about dipping into your things!