Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!


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Making Muffins

Corde has just started on the baking thing again.  Granted, part of that was lack of anything else easy for breakfast.  She was offered the chance to bake, so she took it.  Otherwise I was going to do it myself.  Corde wants to be a baker, so I’m not surprised that she wanted to bake this morning.

Granted, this wasn’t the big, fancy baking project so many other people do.  We didn’t bust out flour and everything to bake from scratch.  We used a box with instructions.  Corde melted the butter, cracked the eggs, mixed in the milk and the mix.  I helped Luca put the muffin mix into the cups with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, then into the oven they went.

img_20170219_102243_647Those muffins rose a surprising amount.  I didn’t expect them to puff up so much.  Had I known that I would have put less in each muffin cup to begin with.  We’re using some silicon muffin cups that we got at Ikea.  I love these things, but they’re a little toasty coming out of the oven.  I have to let them cool much longer before I can squeeze them out of the muffin cups.  I did that for the first batch because they were still far too toasty warm when I tried to pop them out.  Next time I go to Ikea I have to pick up some more of those things, that way we can do a whole dozen at once.

img_20170219_105308_066Of course, the best part of Corde making her own muffins was being able to sample them when all was said and done.  Even I got to have one.  They weren’t all that bad, and that was of no fault of Corde’s.  The muffins were plain with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, which gave them a pretty basic taste.  Plus they were gluten-free, which is something I’m not entirely used to yet.  There’s definitely a taste difference between gluten-free and regular foods.  If it wasn’t for the fact that gluten is death for me, we’d just keep the regular stuff in the house.  All in all, for gluten-free muffins, they were pretty darn good.  All compliments to the baker!

I can honestly say that was a successful morning.  Corde got to bake.  Everyone got yummy muffins.  All together it was a pretty good start to the day.  I’d call this a victory over breakfast, and hopefully Corde will get many chances to experiment with other flavors and maybe even making them from scratch!


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Baking Goodies

It’s been a while since we’ve done anything special. Not having an oven kind of ruined our ability to make much fun stuff. Most of our cooking was for the practical purpose of meals.

Thinking back to my own childhood, one of my own favorite memories is baking cookies with my mom. Our kitchen was the old-fashioned kind, with a pantry and no cabinets or counters. My sister, my mom, and I all gathered around the kitchen where we would mix, set out the cooling racks, and decorate when we had that task in mind. My mom had these old plastic mixing bowls that were always a clue something good was coming, whether it was homemade meatballs or cookies and cupcakes. A bowl would sit out all day with butter when we would bake cookies. Sometimes she would pull out this giant tome full of yummy recipes. Other times it was just off the back of the chocolate chip package. Whatever it was, baking days were always good, especially the part where we got to lick the beaters.

When I got out on my own and had my own kids, I found baking to be a chore. I didn’t have the money for a mixer, so I did it all by hand. If the butter wasn’t quite soft enough it would be hard to mix. Even with softened butter, my arm just got tired from all the mixing. It was so much worse after I broke my elbow. I gave it up because it just wasn’t worth it for anything but special occasions.

It’s amazing what we take for granted. Having had to hand wash clothes and diapers, then put them on the line really woke me up to that. Honestly, I kind of started to prefer it. I grew to appreciate the role women had in the home and why gender roles became so essential in early life. I could easily see how women would work all day in the house. Cooking, laundry, cleaning, and minding the children was a full time job. I almost wish we could go back to those times. My time would be so much more productive. Living like that leaves me feeling like I truly accomplished something.

Recently I’ve been missing home. It’s always hard for me in the fall. The leaves would be crunching on the ground. Scarves and hats start showing up everywhere. It’s rough to live in a place where fall just means the heat of the summer has broken.

Instead of getting all sad, I’ve decided to capture other aspects of fall. I got pumpkin coffee and pumpkin eggnog for Oz. We had apple cider. Now I’m starting to bake again. I forgot how much I missed it. It’s something I can share with my kids like my mom did with me.

Today wasn’t anything special. We planned to make Reese’s peanutbutter chocolate cookies. Corde read off the ingredients and the directions. She helped me gather the ingredients and measure everything. Sander had to pour in the sugar. They all helped with the mixing. Even Luca had a turn. It was fun!

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I did all the actual baking. Things had degraded into chaos by then, and even just asking the kids to put the right sized lumps of dough on the sheet would have been a disaster, between trying to get them all the same size and letting everyone have a turn. I’m sure that was easier for my mom with only two kids and both so close in age. It will be easier when I can work in my own kitchen and let them each manage their own cookie sheet.

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The cookies turned out great. The first dozen disappeared almost as soon as they were off the cookie sheet. Surprisingly, for the first timeline my life I got about the right yield. Usually I’m short by nearly half. I guess I normally make some huge cookies!

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I still haven’t had any, but I packed up the rest of them for now. I bet we could make these last all week. It makes me wish I had an old-fashioned cookie jar to stock them all away in. That thing would never be empty. My mom always used cookie tins, which were better in a lot of ways, but I’ve always been more partial to jars.

I think from this point on I want to start baking cookies every week. I still need to do the math and see if making homemade cookies is actually cheaper, but the result is so much more enjoyable. I get time with my kids and get to see them enjoy a yummy treat, even though I’m finding I’m not much on sweets.

We may just bake again tomorrow. Oz wants white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. We have the stuff to make oatmeal scotchies. Then there’s Beekee’s Halloween chips for cookies…we really need a cookie recipe book, and a few more people to eat them all!


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Chicken Runner and Chocolate Milk

This morning was a mix of delightful and depressing. I’m a little beat by everything going on. I’m looking for answers, but it seems there are never any satisfactory ones. Life without child support has been a rough adjustment.

Today we made a tough decision. This will likely be our last week at co-op. We were on a payment plan, but we’re falling behind. We just can’t afford it right now. I hate it. I love my classes. The kids are making friends. They’ve been learning so much. Now I have to take it away from all of us. I hate to pull the plug on it, but we just can’t make it work anymore. If we can’t be granted more time, we’ll have to drop it. It’s better I drop it than get kicked out. If I voluntarily leave we may be able to come back next year, if I’m not too ashamed to return. I’ve always tried to let people see us for us, not our finances. Sadly, I can’t hold up the mask any longer.

In other sad news, we may not make the fairy festival either. It’s just over two weeks away, and that’s going to be a decent expense between gas and paying for Corde and Beekee to get in. I only get one extra free pass and Sander and Luca are free. The kids were so excited about it too. It hurts to have to take two opportunities away from them at once. I feel like I’m now the villain in one of their games.

On the other hand, the kids don’t seem to mind. Corde is happy to get back to unschooling. She wants to do her books because we already have them. Might as well, right? And she makes a good point, CPS is still involved so it would be good to be able to show improvements in their writing and math. They surprisingly enjoy it! Corde kind of wants me to go back to being her teacher. She’s surprisingly disappointed that I don’t teach any of her classes. Their social time can be filled with park days instead. It looks like I might be setting up a few and posting them on the homeschool list myself. No one else seems to be taking the initiative, so it may be good if I did. They love the co-op, but they would be just as happy to have normal social time.

Corde was too funny the other day. She moaned, “Why doesn’t Grumpy get internet? We could watch Netflix! Or even regulars TV channels? I miss my shows! I could be watching Clean House, Dirty Jobs, and Mythbusters right now. We didn’t even get to watch all the documentaries on our list. I miss my documentaries!” And she says she doesn’t like to learn…

Still, the kids are having fun. Beekee’s four-clawed creature and assassin obsession has been replaced with chicken-runners. Chicken-runners are dinosaurs about the size of a chicken, but they run really fast and eat meat. They also have feathers, because the kids decided dinosaurs look much more creepy with feathers. This new thing with dinosaurs being thought to have feathers is a bit weird to all of us, bit it makes for fun play time.

It’s funny to hear them play house too. Corde is always the mom. Luca is her baby. It’s funny hearing her complain about needing coffee in the morning to function because her kid is too crazy and she can’t keep up. I don’t drink coffee, so I have no idea where that comes from. Oz loves coffee, but rarely drinks it. She’s too funny. At least it gets her reading. Apparently her vision of being a mom involves reading a lot to her baby. Hmm…wonder where that idea came from…couldn’t possibly be me, could it?

In all of this, I could really go for a chocolate milk. It’s my drug of choice. Some people want a beer. Others crave cigarettes. I crave chocolate milk. I think it’s because, unlike those other vices, I can share chocolate milk with my kids. There’s nothing like kicking back with chocolate milk and cookies with the kids. The weather is slowly getting cooler, which means chocolate milk, lemonade, and iced tea are soon to be replaced with hot chocolate, hot tea, mulled cider, and eggnog. I forgot just how much those things meant until we couldn’t afford to splurge. Hopefully it won’t be long before we can splurge on all of us again.

So, in the wake of some saddening news, light seems to fall on us. I know if we were still in the trailer park this news would have hit them hard. Now it just means more time to run wild on the land. They can get back to those wild, unschooling ways. We can keep a little of the new stuff from co-op and if the kids want to keep going with the writing and math, we will, but we’ll have more freedom to stray from the path.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. I might just get news on Friday that they’ll work with us. Things could yet turn around. Until then, we’ll focus on what to do if the co-op will be over for us this year.


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No School Today…

So much for all my worries of getting everything done in time for co-op… Last night Corde was up until 2am. Beekee was coughing all night from allergies. That meant I got no sleep.

In a way it’s probably best that we didn’t go to co-op today. I had a chance to get all the cleaning done I needed to while we’re staying with Oz’s dad. We went to our trailer so we can start packing things up. Everything we’re keeping goes into storage this weekend. It’s hard to go through it all, but we need to. Some of the toys will be let go. Some of the clothes will go. We’re mostly looking to keep books and toys. I feel bad losing some of my stuff, but it’s better that than have the kids give up a lot.

After we determined it was too hot to work in a house with no AC any longer we moved on to survival needs. We’ve been waiting on our food stamps to come in. We were told it should be this week, but maybe next week will bring more luck. In the meant time we’re being humbled by going to food pantries. I hate it, but Sander seems to think it’s fun. At least the kids don’t hate it. They love sorting through the food when we get home. It’s like Christmas, only it’s food.

I hate admitting stuff like this, but it’s important to know homeschoolers come from all walks of life. Maybe our struggles can give another family strength. I’m not afraid of admitting hard times in our lives, especially as they make the bright spots all that better.

Sleepy kids turned out to be a good thing. Now we’re going to be back on schedule again. We have a whole bunch of food. Life is good, maybe not great, but good.

It’s funny. Heidi has this huge religious message. Trust in God and everything will be okay. It will all work out when it needs to. I’m not sure how I feel about all that, but in a way it was a message we all needed to hear. Everything’s gonna be alright.


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We May Sound Crazy, But…

I’ve been writing all my posts on my phone lately, and since it doesn’t always list all my most recent posts. I have no idea how long it’s been. I can only guess it’s been a while.

In the time we’ve been away, we inhereted two chickens only to find out we can’t keep them. My garden has gone from looking pretty pathetic to looking like it’s pretty healthy. The basil and morning glories are looking especially good. The only ones of Beekee’s plants that survived were a few carrots, one bean plant that’s barely holding on, and a very happy cucumber plant. The bugs killed the rest when we brought them inside in a hail storm. I can’t wait until we have victory over these bugs. We’ve also been very tight on money, so it’s made us consider a lot in our lives. Oz has taken a second job at Taco Bell to help balance out the finances. He’s getting run down, but he feels it’s worth it in the end.

So where does the crazy come in? I’m thinking about starting a small farm. I’ve been thinking about having a farm and an intentional community for years. I’d had the idea to do everything from a CSA to something historic and done the old fashioned way.

Of course, I’m not crazy enough to start out with a full scale farm business. I have no idea what that entails. However we do want to buy enough land that we can raise a few chickens for eggs and have our own home grown fruits, veggies, berries, and nuts. We’ll see if I like it enough to turn it into a full scale operation and not just a personal hobby and way to be sustainable.

What does this have to do with unschooling? It sounds like it’s more about me than the kids, right? The truth is it’s just as much for them as it is for me. Just in the short time my garden has existed we’ve seen pill bugs, caterpillars, fire ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, and spiders crawling around in there. We even woke up this morning to see a garden spider had made her home on the porch and stairs over the morning glories. There was an egg sac on the basil too, which has been relocated to a safer spot. When we used to have a garden in Troy we would attract sparrows, doves, humming birds, and rabbits. As a kid we had a garden and always saw squirrels investigating it as well as all kinds of birds. We even had some foxes get curious, which was rather unexpected in suburbia. Having a large garden will not only teach the kids how their food gets on the table, but gives Beekee the chance to pick his own foods for his budding interest in cooking. It teaches the kids to be a little more self-sustaining. It could drastically cut back or almost eliminate our grocery bill. If I had the guts to butcher our own animals we could possibly live without a grocery bill at all, but I think that’s a bit extreme for.out family. At most I could see us bartering for meat.

All of that can be seen as logical and practical. Growing a sustainable garden is practical. Raising chickens provides fresh eggs and they’re much more practical for kids than cats, dogs, and rodents. Sander wants to have “chicken friends” as pets. These are all life skills, maybe not for someone with no interest in gardening or farming, but it never hurts to know.

However, I’m thinking of going a little extreme with being prepared, at least as far as your average family goes. No, I won’t be featured on an upcoming episode of Doomsday Preppers or anything, but we want to be ready for emergency situations. I mean, sure, I would love to be prepared for the colapse of the US economy or war on our home soil. It could happen, and by taking the time to set up contingencies now, the plans and stores just have to be updated. However, that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m more concerned with things that are a little more proven. If they happen now or have happened before in our lives, they could easily happen again. For example, we live in territory that gets hit by tornadoes. We also face our own personal financial problems. If Oz keeps up at this pace we won’t qualify for food stamps anymore, so money troubles not only mean juggling bills, but could mean having no money for food. It never hurts to be prepared.

Realistically, there are two ways we can handle this problem. Either we can plan financially, or we can load up with supplies and alternatives. We’re chosing to do a bit of both. If we end up riding out another Great Depression, trusting the banks to be reliable seems a bit iffy. All the bank bailouts that helped spawn the Occupy Together campaigns on Wall Street and everywhere else make me a bit leery. At the same time, storing my money in my matress or in some secret cashe seems equally as risky. A break in or someone finding my cashe would just as easily make me broke as a “too big to fail” banking institution. We can only pay our rent and bills with money. They don’t accept barter at this point. I know Oz isn’t the best with money. If he has access to it, he’ll spend it, so it might be wise to accept that strictly financially preparing ourselves is going to be challenging at best. We need to be prepared for the things we can handle without money too.

So, this is where food storage comes into play. If we had a bit of a reserve we wouldn’t have to worry about whether we pay for rent or get groceries. Better yet, if we plan well we should never have to rely on junk food like Ramen or plain pasta and sauce again. Planning well should mean we can have real meals where all the necessary food groups are adequately represented. It would help my kids be ready for their own financially hard times too. Even the best financially off people could lose everything. It happened to my grandfather. It never hurts to know food won’t be on that list of worries, at least for a while.

Now, this could be as simple as stocking up on non-perishable items. Canned veggies and soup are cheap. Pasta and dried beans can be gotten for just as little. However it would be far more satisfying to can our own stuff, especially if it was stuff we grew ourselves. Canning could be a fun life skill or even hobby too if they enjoyed it.

So that’s where we’re thinking if heading these days.


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A Word About Respect

I’ve been hearing a lot about respect lately. A lot of parents I know have been on that subject with their kids. The whole personal boundaries thing seems to the big issue in our house. No one seems to get that it’s not always appreciated to burst someone’s bubble of personal space. Then there’s respecting other people’s needs.

In this house there’s a good deal of disrespect. Corde is sadly the worst offender. Several times a day I hear, “Mom! The boys won’t stay out of my room!” At first I figured it was just that she suddenly was hitting the point where she wanted a little privacy. I went with it until it started happening all day long. I know the boys wouldn’t be that hard to keep away from her, so I started paying closer attention. Corde would go in the boys’ room, pick on them, then run back into her room. No doubt they’d follow and be told to get out and leave her alone, which they didn’t want to do because she was just in their room bugging them!

Then there’s poor Luca. Today is a perect example of how well they respect his needs. They weren’t trying to be mean, so I will give them that much. It just worked out that Corde and Beekee started fighting just after Luca went down for his 11am nap. He woke up after 15 minutes or so because of it. He tried again for a nap around 3pm, generally when he makes it up if he decides on an afternoon nap instead. This time he got about 20 minutes before Sander woke him up by making a whole loud to-do about pretending to eat the chips on a granola bar package. Then Corde and Beekee started getting into it again, which was all the already stirring Luca could take. He was awake for good.

I know the kids don’t mean to wake Luca up, but a part of me wants to come in some time over the night with blaring music just so they can see how it feels in reverse, but I know that won’t do any good. They’ll just be miserable for me the next day because they’re tired. It’ll just make things even worse.

As for Corde, I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She’s still been getting up at night. She’s trained her body to br hungry at night so breaking her of that habit won’t be easy. We had a long talk about that the other day and the answer she gave made me twitchy. She said there’s an angel in the front of her head and a devil in the back giving her ideas. She doesn’t know why she listens to the devil.

Of course, for some of you that may not seem like a big deal, but I follow science and logic, not religion. A lot of religion doesn’t work with logic. Noah’s ark is a good example, as is God being male yet women are the ones who “create” and nurture. It just doesn’t make sense to me. This whole faith thing is starting to male me feel like my.family is being divided. Beekee’s like me right now, logic, not religion. Corde has always been the one to jump on board with religion. This has been the hardest part of unschooling for me. I have to accept that this is right for Corde and Oz.

And that brings me to another point of respect that’s going to be difficult for me. I was listening to someone talk in the mother’s room with Luca. I hate being whisked off to seclusion to nurse him, but the chairs were comfortable and I was hoping Luca would finally take a much needed nap. They were encouraging people to spread the word about the faith. I find that to be disrespectful. I don’t want people trying to push their faith on me. Honestly, before one of the missionaries that came over was moved on in his journey, I could handle it. The guy who replaced him drives me nuts. He’s so pushy about wanting Oz to get baptized. He was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be there last week when they were here because I was heading out to pick up a convection oven we scored on Freecycle. Origionally I was supposed to have a play date scheduled and wouldn’t be home. He wants a time where he can sit down with me too, and I don’t know how to tell him I’m not interested in express enough terms, but not be rude. I’ve given Christianity a try for about six months now and I find it’s the idea of community that appealed to me, but that was all. How can I expect my family to respect my choices when the guests in our own home are trying to convert me? It just doesn’t logically work.

I think I’m not making much sense. It’s gray. I’m tired. I just got a bunch of 64 oz Odwala Original Superfood smoothies since they were almost half off. So far I’ve had one of them a day. In comparison to my horrible diet this past year and being drained from nursing, I needed a kick in the butt. I don’t know if I can describe how it feels, aside from being very much like the year I tried to go vegan. I’m still eating normally, so no worries there. I can just tell my body is wondering what to do with all the nutrients I’m taking in. Already I’ve been feeling worlds better. At least I can be an example if one thing to my kids. I can show them what a difference healthy decisions can make…once I’m done catchinh up.from all the missed sleep due to Luca’s allergies. I think it’s time for a nap…


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Trailer Park Thanksgiving 2012

It’s Thanksgiving here at the trailer park, as it is for all of the country.  People everywhere are celebrating with turkey, family, and football.  It’s one of those days where people kick back, blow their diet, and get stuffed.  They even get to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which always used to be a tradition in my house.  I haven’t watched it the past few years because we don’t have a television and I can’t find a place to watch it online.  I’m determined that will change next year.

Things at our house have been a little different.  Our neighbor dropped by to play a few video games.  We cleaned the house for no one in particular.  I attempted to finish getting all the laundry our former neighbors left out of my living room.  It feels like we’re getting a home back again, slow as it may be.

We had nowhere special to go this year.  My family is all out of state.  Oz’s mom isn’t allowed to be a part of our lives.  Maybe some day we’ll talk about that, but not today.  His dad was spending the holiday with his girlfriend’s family and Oz’s sister went with him.  That left us alone for the holiday, something that was especially hard for me as we’ve always had big Thanksgivings my whole life.  It felt lacking and lonely, but it could have been worse.  Oz was supposed to work but ended up home instead.  At least we had each other.

Corde spent the day wondering what we were going to do for dinner.  That’s the kind of kid she is.  She pointed out several times that we didn’t get a turkey and we can’t roast one.  This was a very big concern to her, I guess.  She loves roast turkey.  We had discussed it the day before when we went to the grocery store to buy everything, but I guess she forgot.  One would think you’d remember a five mile round trip with a stroller packed to the brim with groceries on the way back!

Having only a microwave and hotplate made planning Thanksgiving dinner really interesting.  We were really limited.  We all were looking forward to turkey with all the fixings, but that just wasn’t meant to be.  As it was, we forgot half of it.  We didn’t have corn.  I forgot to make the green beans.  There was no squash (one of my favorites).  I didn’t remember to open the cranberry sauce.  I know, I know, where’s the feast?  We seemed to have forgotten everything!

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner we decided we were just going to make it up as we go along.  We picked up some sandwich turkey.  I tossed that into a frying pan just long enough to warm it up.  That got thrown into a dinner roll like a mini-sandwich.  We got some mashed potatoes and some au-gratin potatoes that just needed to be tossed in the microwave.  Whatever anyone wanted slathered with gravy was slathered with gravy, especially those sandwiches.  Turkey and gravy sandwiches on a dinner roll are delicious!  Everything was topped off with mini pickles that Beekee just HAD to have, and crescent rolls he picked out as an appetizer.  The boys sat at their own table while Corde, Oz, and I shared the big table.  It wasn’t what we’re used to, but it was delicious and everyone was completely stuffed.

As we sat to eat dinner, we all talked about what we’re thankful for.  Corde went first, as she does almost every year because she’s so excited to do it.  I think she wanted us to say grace too, but I’m not so comfortable with that after a background in the Catholic church. It felt a little awkward as the moment really called for grace, but Oz would have been the one to say it, but I didn’t want to put him on the spot, so we just dove right into what we’re thankful for.

Corde said:

I’m thankful for food!  We’ve definitely got a lot here.  I don’t think anyone will be hungry after this!

Oz was next:

I’m thankful for my family.

Then it was my turn:

I’m thankful for my home, and that we’re going to keep living here.

Beekee, silly, of course, said:

I’m thankful for turkey!  Oh, and pickles!

We asked Sander what he was thankful for.  He got a silly big grin and said:

Cereal!

Next was Lucabear’s turn, but he’s too little of course, so I said I know what he’s thankful for.  When Corde asked, this is what Oz said:

Boob juice, of course!  Mama milk is his favorite thing in the whole world!

Then there was Sabrina, who obviously can’t talk for herself, so this is what Corde thought she’d say when I asked her later:

She got some turkey on Thanksgiving, and she got her cat tree back so she has something to scratch on.  She seems really happy about that.

At the end of it all it was a pretty good Thanksgiving.  Corde felt the need to point out that though it wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving, she kind of liked that we had a Thanksgiving just like in one of their Thanksgiving stories, Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’.  That’s a really cute story where it seems like everything just goes wrong and they end up with no Thanksgiving feast.  Instead they end up making sandwiches, but it’s okay because they’re doing it as a family.

Now the part I love and hate the most begins.  It all starts with the tear-down of Thanksgiving decorations.  Then we’ve got to clean the house so the Christmas decorations can be put up.  We’ve only got a tiny little three-and-a-half foot tree that Corde picked out last year.  It’s white, so it certainly stands out.  We’ve got a pretty good idea of where that’s going to go.  We don’t have very many other Christmas decorations, and we only seem to have a few books, though I thought we had more.  I hope in future years that changes as we expand our range of decorations.  Until then, we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.