Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scrapbook Sunday

It's been several weeks since I did a Scrapbook Sunday.  I picked a page from Mackenzie's book.  I wanted to use black and white pictures and I thought the blues would be an interesting combination.

Sorry for the blurriness, but I had a hard time taking these.  The mats are doubled (cream on navy blue).  I really like that technique for framing pictures.

The sayings are ripped vellum sayings with blue chalk brushed on the edges.  I liked them because they describe all the possibilities for my baby.  I then used buttons with adhesives and a ribbon across the corner with printed letters.

She's 8 now and she is different and so much more.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Critters I See

When we moved to Arizona, the only critter I was concerned about was a rattle snake.  That was 16 years ago.  We live in a suburban area a bit removed from the immediate Phoenix metropolitan area, so we do tend to see more wildlife.  To date, the only rattlesnake I have seen was about 1/2 mile from my home at my church.  I watched a fireman pick it up by the neck and hold it up.  It was 6 feet long.  Since then, the only Diamondbacks I have seen are at the baseball game or in a tank.

I didn’t imagine then what other critters I would frequently see.  Here is the one I see most frequently:

This is a bark scorpion which we find in our home on a semi-regular basis.  They are venomous, and when they sting it hurts – a lot.  It can also make your extremity swell or feel warm and tingly.  I have never been stung, but my daughter was about a year ago and it was a very long night for my husband and I.  We also find these on occasion.  It’s a black widow spider:

Another critter we see every so often are javalinas.  These are pretty unique to Arizona, and they look like wild pigs.  Funny thing is, they aren’t related to pigs at all.  I don’t have my own picture because they tend to herd around at night.  This picture was taken about 3 miles from my home, but he’s pretty typical.  I think they have a schedule of when our trash is picked up because they routinely turn it over the night before pickup.

We do see coyotes sometimes, but mostly we hear them – every night.  Sometimes they make the sound of a woman or child screaming and packs of them love to call out to each other.  It is really something eerie to hear them barking and wailing.

Finally, the most interesting animal we see at least a couple times of year is this one:


This is a bobcat.  The one we see likes to come up from the wash on the side of our house and wander around in our front yard.  A couple weeks ago I parked my car in the driveway in front of our house.  As I walked to my car and came around the corner to get in, I encountered my furry friend about 3 feet away.  They are beautiful animals, and when you see them you immediately think of a big housecat – think 40 pound kitty.  Luckily, they don’t usually want to see us any more than we want to see them (except the time one stood next to our house and looked in the window).    

While many people would think it’s scary to live out here in the desert, I’ve learned to enjoy the unique critters we see just like I love the unique plants and scenery.  How many people can say they see this sight 2 blocks from their home?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Fit Friday - The Clothes Connection

This week I finished my first week (second round) of HcG shots and 500 calories a day.  Just like in the first round, I experienced a precipitous drop in weight (which I know won’t be sustainable over the next 2 weeks).  I’m getting closer to a weight I haven’t seen in over 16 years.  Other than the obvious health benefits, the most exciting part of this has been the clothes.

I haven’t purchased any new clothes yet, but I am rediscovering clothes I have been storing (waiting for “some day”), as well as a few items I purchased a while back that never did fit or were too tight to wear in public.  This has been so much fun, especially because there are some items I don’t remember.  It’s like shopping in your own closet.  There are some things that are out of date, like that bright raspberry colored suit with long pleats, so those are going.  I’m also fortunate that my sister has also been doing HcG and has passed on a lot of her clothes, especially the casual clothes I will need on our upcoming trip to Hawaii. 

Now comes the confusing (but happy) problem:  when do you buy new clothes?  I’m pretty much at a point that my work clothes are starting to look silly because they are so big.  However, I still want to lose about 20 pounds more, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on things that will be too big in a month or two.  For now, I’m going to try to stick it out with what I have as long as I possibly can.

Clothes can be such a great motivator, both to lose weight and to see where you've been.  I don't want to be someone who has clothes in 5 sizes, but I may keep a couple of things just to see where I've been (and hopefully to take that picture where you hold out your "fat jeans" out in front of you :)  I'm keeping in mind that they're not the only reason to lose weight, but it is the immediate gratification.

On the exercise front, there’s not much going on and that needs to change before I’m on stabilization in two weeks.  Maybe I need to visit that gym place . . .

Happy days!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monday Morning Quarterback

In recent days as part of my job as an attorney, I endured three days of hearings on a very specialized and technical matter.  An independent third party conducted a study and the subject of the hearing was second guessing the third party and disputing whether the determinations made by the party were precise enough.  There were numerous parties on either side of the issue, and a courtroom full of attorneys and expert witnesses.  It was mind boggling.

It reminded me a bit about raising my children.  There are many individual decisions and environmental factors that go into how my children are shaped and formed.  Long after those decisions and factors shape and form them I may look at my adult child and second guess why I did this or that, or whether I made mistakes along the way.  Why is my child an angry/impatient/apathetic/timid person?  What made him that way?  Did I do enough to address the issue, or did I create it?  Sometimes I’m not even waiting until my child is an adult.  Why does my child have ADHD/obesity/lack of respect?

“Monday-morning quarterbacking” is a waste of time and energy.  We all do the best we can, given the circumstances we are in and the child we are working with.  To reexamine every decision and event that occurs is counter-productive (and it doesn’t help our own self confidence going forward).  Wouldn’t it be better to deal with where we are today?  If an issue needs to be corrected, let’s correct it, instead of trying to pinpoint how it occurred.  The fact is, how something influenced or shaped our child may have nothing to do with things we did, but instead related more to the circumstances and time and place the child was in at the time they were influenced or shaped.  Maybe there is no explanation.

I’m trying to take the pressure off myself, do the best I can, and let the chips fall where they may.  I need to keep the focus on today and let my children understand that I am human too, capable of making wise decisions and capable of making monumental mistakes.

Whew!  I’m relieved, how about you?

P.S. As a footnote, at the end of the hearing, the Court directed the third party not to be guided by the opinions of the various sides, but to use its best professional judgment.  I guess I'm not the only one to reject Monday Morning quarterbacks!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Disorganized Child

At the beginning of the school year I wrote about my ADHD child that was lacking executive functioning; that is, he can’t organize himself or remember what he needs to do.  It has been a real struggle in school, especially as he approaches junior high school age.  We went into this school year with an elaborate system how to get him organized and help him get past this lack of executive function.  Well, that didn’t work so well.  At the end of the first semester, he is struggling academically, not because he can’t grasp the subject matter, but because he doesn’t do or turn in homework.  The good news is I have learned to accept the temporary academic shortcomings because I know he is a smart and capable kid.

We recently initiated the 504 process with our school.  The 504 plan is a guarantee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that a child with a disability receives accommodations to “level the playing field” with children who don’t have that disability.  Disability is defined as anything that affects essential life functions, including learning.  A 504 is different from an IDEA that addresses children with learning disabilities so they can have equal access to education.  It’s a subtle difference, but basically a child with an IDEA needs special education or learning resources, where a child with a 504 needs circumstantial accommodations within the classroom.  

The school has been very helpful in working with us to choose accommodations, but we did have to be firm, advocating for the help we need.  It has been especially helpful to have the school psychologist assist us.  She understands that the problem isn’t that my son is lazy, but rather that he can’t follow a series of directions.  We are trying very hard to keep it simple – a translucent folder for “turn in” work and a manila folder that stays in the backpack for “bring home” items.  The teacher and parents are responsible for getting things in and out of the folder.  In addition, the school has agreed to publish homework assignments on the web and accept assignments that are late for full credit.  The hope is to enhance my son’s self confidence and generally improve his academic reports.

It’s still very scary, especially as we approach the grade level when he will have multiple teachers.  However, it is vital for us to have a 504 plan so there is no confusion about what the accommodations will be.  Whether it is ultimately as successful as we hope it will be, remains to be seen.  We intend to keep trying.  I would highly recommend that anyone in a similar situation seek out a 504 plan with the school.  This website has some great FAQ and more information about a 504 plan.


Monday, January 23, 2012

DIY -Crepe Paper Roses

This is a great craft for a Valentine's Day decoration.  I was able to recycle materials I already had in the house.  I like the idea of using what I already have.  It's one of the ways I'm trying to be frugal, which is my New Year's Resolution.  I used some old styrofoam ornaments that I used for a holiday candle craft.

Because these balls are small, I had to put them together to make the larger ball.  I used toothpicks and then reinforced them with glue.

I then used some pink crepe paper I had leftover from this candle project.

Cut (or tear) a strip about 24" long and take one end in your hand, pinching it between your fingers.

Begin winding the crepe paper, continuing to pinch one side.  Wind the entire strip, forming a rose.

Use a little glue to attach the end of the strip to the rest of the flower.  Hot glue guns are the best.  Use the hot glue gun to attach the flower to the balls

Continue gluing the flowers onto the ball, covering all of it.  You can also glue the ends of some ribbon onto the ball, making a loop for hanging.

I'm embarrassed to say I ran out of crepe paper before finishing.  (You will need several packages for this project.)  Because I didn't want this to end up as an other incomplete craft, I'm showing it here.  These could have a number of uses, including hanging or placing it in a bowl.  It could also be used as a flower ball in a wedding for your flower girl or even as a bouquet if you cover the base.  They are so pretty!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Fit Friday - Crossing the Gorge

It's been a very busy week and I'm sad to say there has been no exercising going on here.  I started round two of the HcG diet on Monday.  The protocol requires that the first two days of the diet you take the HcG shot but you have to GORGE yourself.  That's right, eat as much as you can for two days.  Sounds like a dream, but is a bit gross and exhausting.  So here's lunch on Tuesday:

Boy, that was good, but I hope to never consume that much food in one sitting ever again!  As a contrast, starting Wednesday through the next three weeks I will be eating 500 calories a day.  On Wednesday for lunch, I ate raw spinach with a little bit of balsamic dressing, 100 grams of skinless chicken and an apple.  I wanted a picture, but probably consumed it so fast I couldn't.  I've lost 5 pounds in 2 days.  The results are great, but this is a down and dirty diet not for the faint-hearted.

I plan on doing some limited exercise during the next 3 weeks and finish the 500 calorie thing on my birthday in three weeks.

Wish me luck!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie Review - The Adventures of Tintin

We saw The Adventures of Tintin today with the kids.  First of all, Tintin is not the dog :)

 It one of those rare movies that appeals to both adults and kids.  Like every movie out today, it was in 3D.  They didn't use it for cheap tricks, but it did enhance the animation.  The animation was just beautiful.  It was reminicent of The Polar Express in that the characters looked almost life like.

It was a great adventure for both kids and adults.  Kids will enjoy the comedy and fast action, while adults will enjoy the mystery.  It reminded me a lot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, so the action is a bit fantastic.  Both my husband and I commented on that, but didn't think of the connection between the two movies in that they were both directed by Steven Spielberg.  

I also didn't know when I went to the movie was that it is based on a comic book series from the Belgian artist Herge.  Tintin first appeared in 1929 and had popular exciting adventures.

This movie was only one of the adventures, and based on the ending, there will be more.  Don't get me wrong, the movie did not leave you hanging at the end, but you could definitely believe where more adventures could be in the future.  Let's hope Mr. Spielberg believes too.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Scenic Saturday

The desert has so many unusual and beautiful plants.

This is a Teddy Bear Cholla (choi-yah).  

It is also called a Jumping Cholla because those furry looking balls seem to pop out if you get too close.  

I would rather stand back and see it as soft and cuddly. 


Friday, January 13, 2012

Fit Fridays - Tracking

This is my first Fit Friday, which is my way of offering an update of where I'm at in my efforts to have a healthier life, as well as some little advice I can offer from my previous experiences.  Today I'm offering the best advice I can give as a start.  You have to keep track.  You have to track what you eat, how much you drink, how much you exercise and how much you weigh.  It sounds easy, but I've found it to be one of the hardest things I have learned to do.  Kim from The Fit Club has already written a post on a phone application she uses to help her.  You can read about it here.  I use a website and mobile app called Sparkpeople.  Back in November, I wrote a post about Sparkpeople.  Please check it out here - there are 10 good reasons why you should try Sparkpeople.

Good luck - be well!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's a Fit Life

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I have been in a weight loss journey since October.  I am just finishing the stabilization phase after my first round of HcG shots.  I'm a little over where I should be, but I have been maintaining a fixed weight.  Next week I start round two.  I wasn't sure I was going to do another round, but knowing I could lose up to 20 pounds in less than a month (if I'm strict) is too enticing, especially because I would see a weight I haven't seen in more than 10 years.
In the meantime, Kim from "It's a Crafty Life" has started Fit Club so bloggers can offer support and suggestions for each other to get healthier in 2012.  I'm excited to be part of her effort.  There's still plenty of room on this bandwagon for anyone else who wants to join.  I'm going to be doing "Fit Fridays" to show my progress (even if it's only to myself) every week.  If you want to see more suggestions and maybe inspirations, come on over!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

DIY - Girly Nightgown

Here's a little something I made in a day (or two evenings).  I've used this Simplicity pattern (8480) before, but I was happy with the little changes I made.

We started with this funky snuggle flannel that my daughter chose.

I thought I bought enough for the entire nightgown, but I always forget that a certain national fabric store that shall remain nameless sells fabrics that are not fully 45" wide {grumble}.  As a result, I needed to use a solid fuchsia fabric for the yolk and sleeves.  I found a little lace and made some coordinating hearts that I appliqu├ęd onto the yolk.

The back is only two pieces, so I used the funky fabric.  My girl is short for the size she wears, but she wanted the nightgown very long.  I thought a 2" hem would bring it well off the floor, but just barely.

I also hate hemming, so I used a decorative lattice machine stitch on the hem (sorry I didn't take a picture).  I'm pretty happy about the whole project - quick with a few little twists.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Roses in Winter

I love Arizona.  When we moved into our house, I noticed the previous owner planted about 25 rose bushes.  I'm not as good at maintaining them as I should be, but they are very forgiving.  It's the time of year when the roses come out again and I couldn't resist.  This is Peace:

I wish I could remember the name of all of them:

I do remember this one - it's a Tiffany rose:

God is good!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Muddy Buddy Snack

I took these pictures with Christmas decorations, but this snack is great anytime and may be the sweet compliment to all the salty snacks for the Super Bowl.  The dry ingredients are somewhat approximate, just make a big bowl of crunchy stuff and then mix it with the other ingredients.  You need:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
4-5 c. Chex (any flavor(s) you like)
2 c. Mini pretzels
1 c. Powdered sugar

Place first three ingedients and heat in microwave for 1 minute. Mix well and heat more if needed to melt everything. Add vanilla extract and mix well.  Mix dry ingredients (you can also add nuts, M&Ms or anything else).  Pour chocolate mixture over dry ingredients and mix well.  Transfer the mixture into plastic ziplock bags with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in each, close and shake to coat.  Coat all of mix (adding more powdered sugar as needed). Serve or chill to store.

 (I just noticed my pictures look like it's a container full of powdered sugar, but it's my flash adding to much light.  It is coated, but not drowning in powdered sugar!)

Dive in!!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Dreaming of a Craft Room

In 2011, my craft/sewing/crochet/scrapbooking activities blossomed.  I think my husband would say they exploded.  Right now I have a large armoire in my bedroom filled with yarn and scrapbook paper.  I have two scrapbook carriers full of scrapbook supplies.  I have a closet full of fabric that has spilled over on the floor of the den.  I wasn't trying to use this clutter for this purpose, but Kentster has agreed to let me convert the den into a craft room.

I've been thinking about how to make the transition, but first it requires moving furniture and items in several rooms.  It's a little like one of those little puzzles you had as a kid where you slide the plastic pieces around in an effort to get the picture straight.

Here's where we start:

The couch is going and the weights too.  Notice my husband's beer can collection on shelves high above the window.  We're still negotiating those.

Everything in this picture is going.

That large (and very heavy) computer armoire is going and that will be the biggest task.  The TV and Wii has to stay in the room.

There's the closet with my fabric stash.  Not all of that is fabric, so it has to go.  The other side of the closet has clothes - those have to go too.  That big pile in front of the closet is overflow of my sewing stuff.

Yep, there is lots of work to do.  Hopefully the transformation will be complete before the end of 2012, but I will post it here when it's done.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 The Year of Frugality

I've been blogging a little over 6 months now and I'm starting to understand that if I write it down here, I'm making myself publicly accountable to do what I say.  With that in mind, I'm committing as my New Year's resolution to jump on the bandwagon (although I'm a little late) in cutting our costs and living more frugally.  This isn't just a nice idea.  Our home is now 15 years of and it's going through that first wave of replacement needs.  Moreover, we're going to have some fairly substantial costs this year for home maintenance.  We want to stay out of debt (and may have to dig out after the holiday excess).

Each month I'm going to focus on areas where we can save money.  This month we are going to go back through the last year and get a baseline of our expenditures.  (Notice I didn't say "expenses" but "expenditures.")  We'll use that baseline to track our spending each month compared to last year.  By the end of January, we should be able to pinpoint some areas where we might be able to save money this year. I'll report here the area we're focusing on and the progress in reducing costs.  I'm sure I will be reading more blogs on this topic to get some ideas.  I'm also happy to take some suggestions.

Wish us luck!