Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes

This week marks the beginning of so many changes for our family.

I start training for my new medical receptionist job.
The kids start school for the first time ever.
We become a two-income family with both parents full time and kids in school.

I know this is normal life for most people in this country, but for us it's completely different from our homeschooling lifestyle. I'm excited and nervous. I know school will be a good experience for my kids. I'm happy to finally snag this job I've been chasing since June. I'm feeling like this is the beginning of the tide turning in our favor. For good.

I'm hopeful. That says a lot.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

DIY Percy Jackson Birthday Party

My daughter turned 11 yesterday. I love this girl so much. She is a bookworm, artist, athlete, and budding writer. She is currently immersed in the second Percy Jackson series. I can usually find her curled up with the laptop on her bed writing PJO fan fiction. (How does she know about fan fiction?!) An obsession has taken hold. Naturally, the theme for her birthday party was...Percy Jackson!

It is not easy to find party items for Percy Jackson. There is a party pack of ideas and printables on the Percy Jackson website. I didn't use much of this. My daughter was the only one who really knew the stories well so I just used it for ideas without using the games themselves. I searched for Percy Jackson themed plates and tableware, but no luck. I was on my own.

Thankfully, PJ is well-known for his favorite color: blue. No problem! I purchased blue table covers, plates, and napkins from Dollar Tree and Target. I cut blue flowers and put them in a blue vase next to the blue cupcakes. Perfect!


I searched for other PJ themed parties and found this blog and this blog. Tons of great inspiration! We wanted to have shield painting and a quest so these blogs got us off to a great start. I wrote scrolls of clues for each task, mostly my original rhymes or based on the other blog's ideas. At the completion of each task, the Questers received Ambrosia, in the form of a Pixie Stick, to give them energy for the next.

My daughter made up demi-god characters for everyone. We put all the names and descriptions into a bag, which we called the Oracle, and everyone got a new name for the party. It was fun and she loved seeing everyone's reactions to her characters.

We kicked off the party activities with shield painting. I purchased the cake rounds as another mom suggested. My DH attached tight elastic straps through each one for ease of carrying throughout the quest. The kids loved it! The painted symbols related to their characters. They carried these with them throughout the Quest. We also made swords out of foam core by cutting out the shape and then covering the blade with foil and the handle with brown floral tape. All the supplies were purchased at Dollar Tree keeping it very cheap.

Cake rounds purchased from the craft store and spray painted black or bronze.

The elastic straps were great for the kids to carry the shields for the whole party.

Foam core swords covered with foil and floral tape 

While the shields dried, we played a TP toga game. I didn't want a heavy competitive feel to the party so we used the Oracle to determine the teams. I was very pleased. There was no arguing or debating about who was whose team. Perfect!


The winning TP toga design!

Our main party activity was a Quest. We set up 5 different games. At the end of each game, I handed a scroll to the birthday girl to read aloud. The scrolls contained clues about where to find the next task and what it might be. Each Quester had to complete every task before everyone moved on. This worked out great since we had 7 kids of ranging ages 8-14. I loved seeing them cheer each other on and stay focused on what was happening instead of wandering off once they finished the task.


Birthday Girl reading the scroll leading to the next task

The first task was to find Zeus' lost lightning bolts. DH and the Birthday Girl made posterboard lightning bolts and covered them with foil. I hid them around the yard before the party. The kids really liked this game. Although, one lightning bolt was so well hidden no one found it until hours later. Ha ha! I called time after 10 minutes and we moved on.

The pile of found lightning bolts. Each one was about 3 feet long.
The next scroll led them to play ball with Cerebrus. This was a game made by DH. He used foam core board and a picture printed from online. Then he cut holes over the dogs' mouths and glued cups behind them. The kids took turns tossing one whiffle ball at a time into the dogs' mouths. They had to get all three balls into the cups before they got the next scroll. It was harder than it looked! I was happy that the younger party-goers were the champs at this game.


Play ball with Cerebrus! 

The next scroll took them to the basement doorway. I hung a blue table cover over the doorway and set up a black bucket with some giant plastic coins. This represented the River Styx and to enter the Underworld, aka the basement, each Quester had to flip two coins into the bucket. The coins were huge and floated more then they flew so it took some skill to get them into the bucket from across the room. Once everyone accomplished this task, they entered the Underworld.

In the basement, we turned out the lights and turned on thunderstorm naturescapes. The floor was covered with balloons. Inside seven of the balloons were plastic snakes. Each Quester had to pop balloons any way they wanted until they found a snake inside. This game was incredibly loud! And a lot of fun. The Quester's got to keep their snakes, too.

The snakes were part of the next clue, which of course, led to Medusa. We again used foam core and attached a hideous picture of her found online. I poked sparkly green pipe cleaners through the board as an added touch. We purchased a plastic archery set from Dollar Tree and each Quester had to hit Medusa in the face with an arrow. Not as easy as it seemed! There is certain timing to releasing the arrow just right and each Quester struggled at first. We gave six arrows per turn and by the last arrow almost everyone hit the target.

Medusa!

The final scroll led the Quester's to search for Athena's weapon, a white owl, hidden in the yard, containing their prize, a plastic gold medal. Once this was found, I presented the medals to each Quester, proclaiming them all Olympian heroes. Then Birthday Girl presented them with a carved bead on a leather cord, representing their achievement from Camp Half-Blood. They loved it!

We ended the party with cupcakes and presents. Birthday Girl received PJ themed gifts in the form of the new book in the series and a necklace of all the book covers in the first series. She was so excited.

This party was a great success!

Monday, July 14, 2014

In Limbo

I'm a certified barista
Sometimes I look at the circumstances I'm in and I wonder if I've hit the lowest point. Or is there still further to sink? My job is not generating the income we need. I have a line on a new job, but no control over getting an interview. My DH is job searching still. We believe moving was the right choice for our family. We are still waiting to start our new lives. We are in limbo.

Waiting is difficult. Being patient does not come naturally. Where is the open door or window? It's impossible to see. Sometimes you are just standing in front of the door or window waiting for the person on the other side to get their act together and open up. DH had an interview scheduled for today. The interviewer called in sick. He has no idea the turmoil into which this threw DH. Waiting for other people is the worst. You have no control.

We are taking advantage of this time with each other. This is the most time DH has ever been able to spend with the kids. He's outside practicing baseball, football, and soccer with them. He's watching TV and playing video games with them. He is redeeming the time.

I am working and making the best of my barista job. Starbucks is a fun place to work. I really enjoy most of the customers. Most of them. Not all. Definitely not all. Some people are simply rude. Some people are condescending and rude. Some people are idiots. Really it's a mixed bag when it comes to the customers I can't stand. The fact that I'm a 30-something, mother of three, working because I have to, is not public knowledge. These terrible customers treat me so poorly that it makes me laugh. If they knew my life, would it be different? Maybe not. But this experience have absolutely changed the way I view minimum wage workers and anyone in food service.

The view is amazing here. The trees and water, the fresh air and changing clouds, all point to the Big Move as a right decision. My sister and her family, coffee and Cokes, marshmallows at the fire pit and crabs on the beach, all point to the Big Move as the right move. I don't doubt it.

We are waiting for our new life to begin.
Enjoying the evening


Monday, June 30, 2014

Settling In

The view from the deck
Well, we made it to Washington. The road trip was horribly long. We've made the drive many times, but doing it with a 96 Toyota Corolla was an added stress I could have done without. The car made it though, against all the odds and advice! I think we are Toyota customers for life now. He drove the Corolla, I drove the van, and the kids were sleeping. We made it to our final destination after a total of 21 hours on the road. We stopped overnight, 10 hours of driving after waking at 4am, and I still felt like I was moving.  It's tough not getting a break from driving. We drove for another 10 hours the second day, through the Oregon mountains and forest, very isolated and very stressful. I kept praying, Please God don't let the car break down here! When we reached our destination, I won't lie, there were giddy tears and laughing for a few minutes as we hugged and said, "We made it!" I will always count that road trip as one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.


I got a job! The second week we were here, I applied for 16 jobs. 16 jobs! Out of those, I got 4 interview requests. I was on the verge of accepting a job at Macy's, a place I dreaded working, when I made a final, all-out effort to get the job I really wanted, barista. I applied online, went in and talked to the working baristas, called the store manager. I was persistent! And it paid off.

The local grocery store has a Starbucks kiosk inside that my sister and I get drinks from when my family is here on vacation. We joked that it would be a good place to work: close to the house, coffee, and a discount on groceries. Lo and behold, there was a job opening and long story short, I got it. The interview was barely a minute long, I was hired based on my resume. Imagine that! The next day, I was training. The day after that, I was behind the counter wearing my green apron and black Starbucks hat.

I have been working a few weeks now and I love my job. I enjoy greeting customers and chatting with them. I enjoy the challenge of being on bar and making the drinks. I clean and even take out trash, no problem. The other baristas are all younger than me and female, love that, too. We have a good time working in the kiosk. Isn't that what you want to be able to say about your job? It all seems unreal to me. I'm so thankful to have this job at a place a I love.

Cooling off after our first walk in WA
My fitness goals have been on hold since April. The Surgery and The Big Move were my priorities. But, we are right down the street from a brand new Y with a track, pool, gym, the works. I'm so happy our membership transferred. Pretty soon I'll have a new goal and hit it hard. For now, while my DH still searches for a job, we do what we can together. Mostly he takes the kids to swim while I'm at work.

This is a gorgeous area. I wake up to the tide in the bay and Mt. Rainier in the distance. I watch the clouds racing past. By 10pm it is barely dark, plenty of daylight to soak in after work. The pace of life is slower, a big adjustment. Life is good.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

On the Verge

So, here I am, late thirties, facing major life changes, heading into the vast unknown. We are moving in about 50 days. We have no jobs, a couple promises of help to find jobs, a fabulous place to stay, and a whole summer to get the kids ready for public school.

That's right. I am hanging up my homeschooling hat. The kids want to go to school. They haven't made many new friends since our previous move 2 years ago. We don't want them to be lonely and relying only on their cousins, so we are letting them go to school. Yikes. I'm nervous. I want to know they are ready. The ONLY way to know they are ready is to let them go. At least they will have the whole summer to make friends at church and other places before heading into the classroom.

Usually at this time of year, with standardized testing behind us, we are skating through the end of the year with unit studies and book reports. Not so this year. I am determined to finish every page of the math curriculum and give them heavy doses of grammar as a final preparation for the classroom. Some work may be done through the summer as well, something I abhorred but now see as helpful. We'll see.

On the job front, sigh, well, here I go again. I do have a job right now, one that I love, coaching homeschool PE classes. If we weren't moving, I'm sure I would be promoted next year and still be happy. But, we are moving. I am once again on the job market and it looks a little better. I have two people poised to help me get in somewhere. If I've learned anything about getting hired it's this: you have to know someone. So I know two someones and I'm feeling optimistic.

Healthwise, I am doing great. I have fibroids removed last week and feel like a deflated balloon. Could those fibroids have been the cause of most of my woes for the past few years? Yes. I was told, 8 years ago, that the polyps would come out with the baby I was pregnant with was born. Not so. These polyps have been growing and multiplying for that long. I couldn't be happier and more excited to get back to my exercise routine! Finally I feel like I have a fighting chance to make this body look like I really do workout. Finally!

Big changes all around. But we're excited!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Countdown

Here we are 60 days from The Big Move. We are partially packed. The movers are booked. We are slowly cutting ties here. I keep thinking how wonderful it will be to live near my family for the first time in years.

In the meantime, this small home is feeling incredibly small. It's a daily reminder of how much we've outgrown this place. We are ready to go.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Gluten Free Adventure Begins



I keep reading that a Gluten-Free diet is especially good for people with Hashimoto's disease. I've never been one to follow a fad diet. Well, except for that 1-month Atkins no carb craze that everybody tried. I mean, seriously, bacon every day? Oh, yeah! Anyway, I'm not into organics. I eat at McDonald's a few times a month. I love coffee. I'm just not down with any special kind of eating. Until now.

Going GF (gluten-free will now be referred to as GF) was a lot easier than I thought. GF food has come a long way since the first diagnoses. Many major brands, like Frito Lay, have an extensive product line of GF food. Yay! I love Fritos. I see GF hot dog buns and hamburger buns. There's tons of cereal and granola bars that are GF. I can Google GF recipes and hundreds of pages and blogs pop up. It's not hard! And the food is pretty good.

One thing you should know about me is that I love pancakes. LOVE. I eat them with syrup, with just butter, with strips of bacon cooked in them, any which way. I love pancakes! I also love waffles, pancake's quicker to make cousin. My kids love waffles, too. Imagine my disappointment upon going GF that I could no longer eat waffles for breakfast. Tragedy! After a few days of feeling so deprived I headed to Sprouts, sure that I could find a mix for them, if not a box of frozen waffles GF. Success!

This morning I was ridiculously excited to be eating Van's GF Apple Cinnamon waffles. So good! Toasted nice and crunchy with a pat of butter, heaven! I should mention, though, they are a tad expensive. For a box of six waffles, I paid about $4, yikes. But it's an investment in my happiness and well-being so it's worth it. I noticed, too, that one serving of these waffles was over 200 calories, which is not something I would normally eat for breakfast. I like to have a lot more calories from protein for breakfast, but to eat these waffles, I might only eat some fruit with them.

Going GF as another side benefit that I'm enjoying for now: I don't have to make dinner. My DH is cooking dinner for himself and the kids, bonus! At least while I get my own recipes and food figured out. Shouldn't we all be eating GF if it's healthy and delicious? That would be easier for me. I don't want to cook two dinners. Even more than that, I don't want to cook food that I can't eat it! He made Italian sausage subs last night that smelled so good my mouth was watering! I don't eat processed meat or mushrooms, though, and didn't have any GF buns, so whatever. I had cereal. It sucked. That just shows I need to do my homework and get some GF dinner recipes!

So what's on your menu today? GF or not I would love to hear about it! I'm hungry.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, Whoop-De-Doo

Happy New Year!  A little late, but nonetheless. I hope you had a great start to 2014.

We are back to homeschooling today. Yay for the routine! I'm happy to get started again. Our vacation was very busy, but we were all sick for the last half of it and that was no fun. Life goes on. Here are some highlights.

(This is more of a lowlight) My hypothyroidism is in full swing and I checked in with my doctor for higher meds last month. My thyroid disease is Hashimoto's thyroiditis and there are so many issues involved. It's an auto-immune disease which means my body is attacking itself. Nice.  I found out I am headed toward high cholesterol and prediabetes. Ugh!

Jigga what? That cannot be right! I eat right! I exercise! My thyroid has other plans. Dang it! I am becoming that which I swore to never become: organic. Yes. My first step is going Gluten Free.  I am doing what I always do and reading everything I can to help myself. I am Gluten Free as of last week. I am taking six different vitamins a day. I have upped my exercise time to 60 minutes instead of 30. I'm doing a walk/run interval instead of just running so I can go longer. Changes all around.

Honestly, it has been a week Gluten-Free and I do feel better. It's worth the effort. I am starting out with some cereal, bread, granola bars, and tortillas all GF. I am eating a major salad with chicken breast for lunch. I am chugging smoothies after I walk instead of just milk. I haven't prepared any big dinners for myself, mostly chicken breast and veggies like sweet potatoes and salad. I am making a stir-fry tonight. I don't feel deprived and my body is losing that bloated look. Success!

Here are some other interesting things.

For homeschooling, we just started a unit study on Island of the Blue Dolphins. Please tell me you've read this amazing book! I read it many times when I was younger and absolutely love it. I'm hoping my kids will enjoy our time with it.

I watched an intense documentary on Netflix and I encourage you to check it out. "Blackfish" is about the killer whales at Sea World and it will blow your mind. No, it's not a behind-the-scenes documentary. It details the incidents of killer whales attacking trainers and why OSHA forbids Sea World to now have any trainers in the water with the whales. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole thing! Big thumbs up!



Maybe a suspenseful documentary isn't for you. How about one of my favorite genre, independent films. "Girl Most Likely" is a must-see. I am a big fan of Kristen Wiig and she really shines in this movie. I laughed so much during this one! You have to see it.



Have you seen anything good lately?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bright Side

Today was a better day. Homeschooling flowed and I even made dinner, bonus! We had Turkey burgers, delicious!

I have my mini road trip planned for Friday. I'm picturing myself enjoying a big, fat coffee and croissant from Starbucks while driving and listening to my favorite 80s music. Now that's something to look forward to!

I'm up Kate tonight knitting on the Massive Project, giggling with Seinfeld while everyone is sleeping. Good times!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, Why Do You Hate Me?

Oh, it was definitely Monday. I can't remember my last good Monday, much less great Monday. Add to that it was the first day of homeschool and that's a recipe for a disastrous Monday. Ok, well, it wasn't that bad, but close. A rocky homeschool start, a dreaded event weighing on me, and a very unsatisfying workout. Blah.



My child who was the most excited for school to start ended up being the one who gave me the most trouble. Huh? He's my youngest and now I see that he expects me, and his siblings, to do things as soon as he thinks he can't do it. I told him to cut paper. "I can't," and then he looked at me so expectantly a little red flag immediately went up. I told him to add single-digits. "I can't," and puts his pencil down and looks at me. Hmm. This kid was doing double-digit addition at the end of last year. I told him to cover the piano when he was done practicing. He wrestled with the cover for about a minute and then said, all together now, "I can't," and looked at his sister as he put it down. I gave the order for no one to help him and after struggling alone for a few minutes, he did it.

So, obviously, I am realizing he needs to be pushed to do things on his own. And maybe I need to read a book about youngest children and how to not coddle or baby them. I had a conversation with my daughter about this since she is usually the one on the spot to help him. She just stared at me.

"But, Mom, it's easier for me to do it for him. Sometimes I watch him and it gets so frustrating that I have to do it myself."

My response, "I know. That's when you just have to walk away. Go in the other room until he's done. That's what I did with all of you." True story. And the older two are very capable. We'll see how it goes. I definitely do not want to enable Mr. M or create a monster whose wife will have to mother him. No way.

Today was a tough day. I didn't enjoy my run because I have too much on my mind. I am struggling with an upcoming family event with my in-laws. It's two weeks away and already the back of neck burns when I think about it. Siiiiiigh. If I could get out of it, I would. I'm dreading it, big time. An event like this really drags me down. I am struggling with depression, feeling just the tips of my toes dipping in, and I hate it. I need something to look forward to, something for myself.

I do have one personal appointment this week and that is my Coaches Training on Friday. It's a bit of a drive so I'm looking forward to that. Not many things are better than cold A/C, loud 80's music, and a big fat coffee by my side for a mini road trip on a Friday morning! Plus, my time will be spent with other people who enjoy fitness and being active. That sounds good! I also get my CPR training certificate and I think that will help me get another job in the future.

Tonight I am staying up late to finish a few projects for my shop. It's been too long since I've listed something new. I am working on an afghan for a wedding and that has been my main focus. I have some mini buntings to finish and list. I love the night time hours when everyone is sleeping and I am busy cutting felt and weaving in ends of yarn. I guess that's something to look forward to as well!

How do you pull yourself out of a funk? Or not dwell on negativity churned up by people around you? Counting my blessings is one thing I like to do. I might make an effort to use every one of my senses, too. Like, smell something good, look at beautiful pictures, pet my chihuahua, eat some chocolate, and listen to my favorite music (sky.fm 80s, anyone?) Changing my mental state is not easy, but it is worth the effort. Coffee helps, too. Lots of coffee.