Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enrichment/Relaxation Challenge Winners

I haven't posted about the winners for week 5, so I will include them in this list below about the winners for all weeks:

Week One: Sewing/Hot bath with bath oil
Week Two: Hand-washing clothes/Ashiatsu massage
Week Three: Homemade yogurt/Nap
Week Four: Candle-making/Car ride
Week Five: Knitting/Music

Now I have to pick winners in each category for the whole challenge! It has been really hard to choose which ones I liked the most, because they were all wonderful in their own ways. I guess I will have to pick runners-up to make it easier on myself. :-) Here it goes!

Relaxation Winner: ASHIATSU MASSAGE (Grace wins! She is wonderful)
Enrichment Winner: CANDLE-MAKING (it really is so much fun)

First Runner-Up Relaxation: Car ride
First Runner-Up Enrichment: Hand-washing clothes

Second Runner-Up Relaxation: Nap
Second Runner-Up Enrichment: Sewing (although knitting could have tied with sewing)

I must confess that I have done the majority of these things before, with the exception of knitting. I learned how to knit with looms and it is something nice to do while sitting or waiting. It was also my first time making a garden box, but not my first time creating a garden bed or doing basic carpentry. The craft projects were new, but not the first time I have done projects in those categories. Some of the relaxation activities were new to me (HPT and Ashiatsu massage), and I really enjoyed them. I hope to start another challenge soon, because finishing this one made me feel very fulfilled and accomplished. :-)

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 5

I have been slacking and putting off writing the post for this week. I got all of these done in a reasonable amount of time, but then school started for Grace last week. I spent the whole week cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and getting Andy settled back in before preschool starts.

First I need to pick winners for week 4. I must confess that I really enjoy driving Bryan's car alone, with the music playing and the windows down. Car ride won for relaxation for week 4. As for enrichment, I have always loved making candles. Watching the wax melt, adding the scent, pouring it and watching it harden and set. Then, of course, lighting it afterwards and letting the aroma fill the room. Candle-making wins for enrichment for week 4. On to week 5, which is also the last week of my relaxation/enrichment challenge. :-)

Day Twenty-Seven:
Relaxation - Music
Enrichment - Knitting

Listening to music is a great way to shift your mood. I listened to some jazz, blues, and a little classical while I straightened up the house. Singing along always makes it more fun! Knitting turned out to be so much fun, and I got a little obsessive with it right away. But I didn't use knitting needles, I opted for looms. You can say that's not "real knitting", but I say if there is an easier way to be self-reliant, that is the smarter way! Besides, my fingers lock up when I use them too much, so needles would have been a painful and long experience. I knitted 3 hats... one for Andy, one for Grace, and one for me. Bryan doesn't want one and Andy doesn't want a picture of his until I put a car on it. :-)

Day Twenty-Eight:
Relaxation - Sunset
Enrichment - Garden Prep

Watching the sun set is always a peaceful way to end the day. It is a reminder that the planet on which we reside is a beautiful place, carefully crafted to keep all upon it alive.... and bless us with amazing sights along the way. We can see the sun setting nicely from our front porch, across the field of the elementary school. The rays usually shoot up right before the sun disappears behind the horizon, then the hues of rose and gold slowly turn to gray, then slowly darker until night sets in. Seeing the sun set tends to remind me of all that I can be thankful for, so I keep a song of praise in my heart as I watch the day turn to night. Garden prep..... it's HOT. Even in the morning. Thankfully my herb bed has a plastic weed-blocker that was put in by the previous owners. I managed to get all of the old dirt and grass-grown areas up with relative ease. But I have not bagged any of it yet, because it is HOT. I plan on doing that later this week. The ground is ready, all I have to do now is put down a new weed-blocker (I got a 10-year roll from Home Depot), lay down the fresh dirt and compost, and plant away.

Day Twenty-Nine:
Relaxation - Evening Walk
Enrichment - Garden Box

The evening walk was relaxing for all of 10 minutes. Then I was a hot, sweaty, sticky mess. The relaxing part of evening walks will have to wait until Fall sets in. Making the garden box was a fulfilling experience. Bryan recently bought a cordless drill, and I used it to make holes in lumber I purchased from the discount rack at Home Depot. Leftovers from previously cut wood can be bought for as little as $.50 each. I spent $2.00 on wood for my garden box! I lined up the wood with the holes and screwed long woods screws in to secure the pieces to make a square shape. Then I nailed weed-blocker to what is the bottom of the box, placed it in the backyard, and filled with dirt. This box will probably be used for lettuce and spinach for the Fall/Winter garden. *note to self - buy a staple gun!

Day Thirty:
Relaxation - HPT
Enrichment - Jelly

My friend Belin is a certified HPT Energy Healer. This is an alternative treatment method that involves applying pressure to points across your face and over your heart to align energy. The focus of the session was relaxation, and the outcome was just that. I tried to upload it as video and as a URL link, but both gave me an error that they could not be posted. It might be time to set my blog up elsewhere, this happens anytime I try to post video or URL links. Dah! Oh well. I will try to figure out later and see if I can repost it. Thank you to Belin for doing the session. You are a wonderful person with a heart of gold.
The enrichmnet was originally going to be jam, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I already have a large jar of blueberry jam that I haven't opened yet, so jelly was a better option. I opted to make grape jelly, and ended up with 4 pint-sized jars of delicious grape jelly. I have a water bath canner, and it really is easy to make jams and jellies that will stay preserved for a long time.

That is it! I finished another challenge! I will pick winners for the whole challenge later this week and post another blog about it. This challenge has helped me reconnect with myself in so many ways. I feel more relaxed, more creative, more assured of my strengths and talents, confident that I can learn more and do well with it, and thankful for all of the gifts Heavenly Father has given me to use to help my family and others.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 4

Week three winners have to be picked before I can blog about my most recent projects. For relaxation, nap wins! When would a nap ever lose???? NEVER. :-)
For enrichment, I had to choose between making yogurt and the "fishing for compliments" chart. The chart was a fantastic idea! It has given my kids wonderful incentive to be on their best behavior in public. But the yogurt was really, really YUMMY, and yummy wins! Enrichment winner for week three is delicious homemade yogurt!

On to week 4, woohoo!

Day Twenty-One:
Relaxation - Swim
Enrichment - Scarves

Swimming would normally not be a relaxing activity for me. Last summer it was stressful and a major chore, since Grace was still gaining water confidence and Andrew couldn't swim. But this year has been wonderful, especially after Andrew learned how to take breaths when he is swimming. It was nice to see friends a the pool and not have to feel like each child needed an eye on them at all times.
The scarves were a fun project! I saw some rosette scarves and looped scarves in Old Navy's Fall line that I liked, so I took the idea and updated some of my scarves from last year. Instead of rosettes I simply chose a layered petal look, and the loop scarf was as simple as taking a regular light-weight scarf and sewing the ends together to make a long loop, then doubling in over when I put it on. Voila!

Day Twenty-Two:
Relaxation - Car Ride
Enrichment - Baking

I changed the relaxation for this day from pilates to a car ride, because, well, I needed a little alone time..... in Bryan's Challenger.... with the windows down.... and the sun roof open..... and the acoustic station playing..... it was NICE! I love the area down Clay Road between Katy and Brookshire where it goes back down to one lane.... thee are trees and land to look at, not cookie-cutter suburban houses!! :-)
Baking was fun, and I got to share it with some children I was watching. Dark chocolate M&M cookies..... they were really GOOOOOOOOOD. The whole house smelled delish all day, and you can't beat that!

Day Twenty-Three:
Relaxation - Facial
Enrichment - Body Spray

I went to visit a friend for a free facial, and it was a nice experience. She sells Mary Kay, and I figured it would be a win-win to go see her, get a little pampering, and help her out. The TimeWise products are nice, and the powder foundation made my skin feel soft and smooth. If you are interested in getting with her to ask a question or take advantage of the free facial (it ends August 31st!) here is her website:

My enrichment was something I have been needing to do for a while. I love jasmine essentail oil, and I misplaced mine several months ago. So I drove down to Boutique Botanica in Old Town Katy and grabbed some more. To make it last a while, I just added it to some warm distilled water in a spray container. It smells so luxurious! :-)

Day Twenty-Four:
Relaxation - Aroma Shower
Enrichment - Home Improvement

I needed the aroma shower on this day, I was sweaty and stinky from working on my enrichment project! I sprayed the shower down with a pre-mixed cinnamon and clove spray, and it was the perfect blend to soothe and make it a relaxing experience.
My home improvement project was a lot of fun, and I felt really accomplished afterwards. The cabinets in our kitchen and bathrooms are these ugly dark oak veneer shells with white doors and drawers.... it's AWFUL. So I decided to paint the cabinets an espresso color for uniformity and a smooth final look. I decided to test it on the kids' bathroom vanity with a spray-paint form. The spray-paint form makes the job go quicker, but the cleanup afterwards is more laborious (spray-paint dust, anyone??). I like the final look. I may need to sand down the doors lightly and apply one more coat, but it looks really nice right now, too.

Day Twenty-Five:
Relaxation - Hair Brushing
Enrichment - Candle Making

I loved getting my hair brushed or getting my head rubbed when I was a little girl. I would go to my mom and ask her to do either, and she would lovingly oblige. I decided to add it to my list because Grace enjoys brushing my hair and giving me makeovers. It was a nice mother/daughter experience.
This enrichment activity was something I have been looking forward to doing since I started the challenge. I have always enjoyed making candles. There is something soothing about watching the wax melt and then pouring it into a container to watch it firm and take shape. The end result is a beautiful candle, dyed and scented to your preference. Mine is a cinnamon scented mulberry color jar candle.

Day Twenty-Six:
Relaxation - Power Nap
Enrichment - Butter

The power nap is often looked at as the scrawny cousin of the full-blown nap. But I beg to differ! A power nap (30 minutes or less) can really boost your energy levels, if done at the right time, in the right place. Mine was done at 3pm on the living room couch. The trick is to intentionally clear your mind of clutter, close your eyes, and relax your whole body. Set a timer, that way if your power nap turns into dozing you will not have a chance to transition to REM. Hitting REM and then waking shortly after is what gives the "groggy" feeling, as the body has to take longer to adjust from deep sleep to a waking state.
My enrichment was making butter. I have been doing it for a few months already, but I made more than usual this time, so I could skip a week or so. :-)

The left is butter, right is buttermilk

The next post will be the last (4 days left), and then I will choose a winner for each category. I thought it would be easy to choose a winner at first, but now I am conflicted. I have really enjoyed doing several of these activities, so I might need to do a runner-up category!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 3

Just like my last post, I have to pick my favorite activities from my last post before I can talk about the new things I have done. I will tell you right now that Grace's ashiatsu massage wins for week 2 in the relaxation category, hands down!! There were several enrichment activities that I enjoyed (the mint sachets were fun to make and smelled GREAT) but I really enjoyed washing clothes by hand and hang-drying them. What could have been a chore became something relaxing and fun for me. I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought a better clothesline system at Home Depot (less than $20.00 and worth it if you want to try it out). So hand-washing and hang-drying clothes wins for week 2 in the enrichment category. Now, on to the "new" activities!

Day Thirteen:
Relaxation - EFT Therapy (Emotional Freedom Technique)
Enrichment - Budgeting

I learned about EFT from a wonderful sister in my ward (who I will not name, as I have not received her permission to do so), last year when I was struggling with some emotional issues. I enjoyed using it during quiet time after a particularly hectic morning with the kids. I won't go into the details of it here, but you can find some decent information if you google "EFT Therapy". Budgeting was a BIG cheat, possibly bigger than the other enrichment "cheats", because I update the budget every week. I have a weekly budget, bi-weekly budget (based on paydays and bills), a longterm budget (for mortgage, student loans, medical bills, etc), and seperate budgets for non-cyclical (but estimated and annually expected) spending, such as birthday parties, Christmas, vacation, back-to-school.... anyway. Checking the outgoing versus incoming money, and watching debt totals decrease (no matter how slowly) is something that simply grounds me and makes all sense of calm return. No pics of the budget, for obvious reasons!

Day Fourteen:
Relaxation - Foot soak
Enrichment - Organizing

I used to soak my feet all the time when I waited tables. It felt wonderful then, and it feels wonderful now! Add a little almond oil and lavender to the hot water and soak away! *insert big sigh*
On to the enrichment activity I have been putting off....... I am HORRIBLE at organizing! I may be able to organize a rehearsal, a schedule of songs, a schedule for my family, even a silent auction.... but ask me to organize the drawers and closets in my house and my brain stops working. I even had a conversation on the phone with my husband about my attempt to avoid organizing for this day, but he guilted me into doing it (unintentionally). I am posting pictures of my closets for the first time in my LIFE. This is AFTER organizing.... you should have seen them before if you are not impressed by the pictures..... oh, also, it took over 6 hours of work and concentration to get the closets to this point..... 4 bags of donations and 6 bags of trash later, of course....

Day Fifteen:
Relaxation - Star gazing
Enrichment - Food drying

Star gazing in Katy, TX is a bust (obviously). I counted only 28 stars that I could see through all of the light pollution. But I spent time alone outside at night, and that was relaxint in and of itself. On to food drying! I haven't used my food dehydrator since last Fall, so it was nice to pull it out again and make use of it. The cinnamon apples slices were delish, and they will last through Winter!

Day Sixteen:
Relaxation - Yogic breathing
Enrichment - Yogurt making

Yogic breathing incorporates the concept of deep breathing with basic yoga position and technique. My favorite was "the cooler". You curl your tongue and breathe in slowly and deeply through your mouth, then exhale slowly through your nose. The effect is that only cool air fills your throat, lungs, and diaphragm, therefore creating a cooling effect for the body. Breathe in and out slowly 5-7 times. Nice!
Making yogurt in a crock pot is soooo easy, and the result is tasty yogurt that will last one person at least one week before you need to make more (with your own home-made yogurt as a starter, of course!). You need 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt with live cultures, and half a gallon of milk (whole is preferrable for consistency, but I used 2% organic and the yogurt turned out just fine). Put the milk in the crock pot on low for 2.5-3 hours, then turn off heat, wrap in towel, and let it sit for 3 hours. Remove 2 cups of milk into a bowl and add 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with live cultures, stir, and return to milk in crock pot. Cover with the large towel again and let it sit for 8 hours. Then remvoe the towel, and voila! Yogurt. Save 1/2 cup of the crock pot yogurt to make your next batch. :-) PS - it tastes wonderful with a tiny bit of honey and some granola or fresh fruit.

Day Seventeen:
Relaxation - Nap
Enrichment - "Fishing for Compliments" chart

Can we ever say anything negative about napping? I LOVED my nap! I think this one is an easy relaxation winner for the week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. ;-)
The "fishing for compliments" chart was an idea I picked up from a teacher's blog. I modified mine according to the supplies I had on hand. I picked up a cheap dry erase board at Wal-Mart, painted it with green and blue acrylic paint, then added foam letters to create the chart. I made the fish out of stickers and small adhesive magnets. The concept is simple, but truly ingenious. Every time one of my kids get a compliment from someone outside of the house, they get a fish by their name. When they earn "x" amount of fish they get a prize (treat, small toy, outing). It is creative bribery to behave in public!

Day Eighteen:
Relaxation - Manicure
Enrichment - Chalkboard menu

I didn't go to the nail salon, I enjoy painting my own nails in the comfort of my own home, for free! I might go get a pedicure once a year with my mom and/or sister for relaxation, but the company is the main reason I do it, not the enviroment. I had fun painting my nails bright blue and adding white polkadots.
The chalkboard menu was a last-minute change to the 30 day challenge. Today's enrichment was supposed to be garden prep, but it's.... HOT. So I am putting it off for now. I got this idea from Anna Mansfield (Hi, Anna!) when I went to her house recently. I found a cute wooden plaque at Hobby Lobby, and I already had the chalkboard paint. I had to buy a gold paint pen for another project, so that was really all I needed. Prime, two layers of chalkboard paint, let it dry, then use the gold paint pen to make it "pretty". This should look better than the hurried menu I write on the dry erase calendar on the pantry door!

Day Nineteen:
Relaxation - Reflexology
Enrichment - FHE ornaments

I didn't put too much effort in to reflexology. I did a double workout on this day, and also felt like I was getting sick. So my reflexology turned in to an absent-minded foot massage. Haha! Oh well.
I have the cutest Family Home Evening board on the wall in my kitchen, and the ornaments I had hanging on there originally were pathetic little wooden stars hanging on black wire with names written in black permanent marker. So I bought new ornaments (wooden hearts), painted them black, used the gold paint pen to write names, and got some fancy ornament hooks at Hobby Lobby. Yes, they are already out, along with all of the other Christams items....

Day Twenty:
Relaxation - Head Massage
Enrichment - Jewelry box

I enjoy a good head massage, and this one was no different. My scalp felt so relaxed afterwards! *insert happy sigh*
Okay, so I have a confession. My necklaces have all been hanging on the inside doorknob of the master bathroom closet for quite some time. I decided to buy a plain box and paint it so I could finally have someplace to store my necklaces! I had to get fancy with the painting so that it would feel unique, and I am happy with the end result.

I did a lot of painting activities this week. Perhaps it is the Summer heat, the business of end-of-summer activities, or the mode switch to prepare for school to start again, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time outside or doing big things around the house.... and I certainly wanted to avoid using heat of any kind in the kitchen!

Until next time!

Friday, July 29, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 2

Before I start this week's blog I need to choose my favorite relaxation and enrichment activities from last week. It was a hard choice, because I enjoyed them all. For relaxation, it came down to yoga or a hot bath with bath oil. As much as I love to do yoga on a regular basis, the bath was a truly special treat, so the bath won. For enrichment, it came down to sewing or making bread. I enjoy making bread, but I don't sew very often, so I feel extra accomplished when I manage to sew something that stays together and looks presentable! So sewing won. Week one winners: hot bath with bath oil & sewing!

Day Six:
Relaxation - Time with Bryan
Enrichment - Crafts

I am not going to go into detail about it, but having a loving relationship with my spouse is crucial to my happiness, as well as his. We enjoyed spending some quiet time together. The crafts were fun, but simple. I bought wooden picture holders, painted them, and added magnets to them to put on the fridge. No, my kids' pictures are not in them yet, that will happen soon!

Day Seven:
Relaxation - Prayer
Enrichment - Reading Scriptures

I pray every day, and our family prays every day as well. We do not read scriptures every day, but we have become so much better at reading them on a more regular basis. We read Alma 7, and the verses inspired me as never before. Not only was I thinking of the blessings for me, I was thinking of the blessings Grace will receive when she is baptised, and the honor she will have to take the name of Christ upon her. A new understanding of those verses brought joy to my heart, and I had a hard time reading it out loud without choking up with emotion.
Prayer is always a wonderful spiritual cleanser, and although I did not need prayer on this day more than other days, it felt nice to bow my head and give thanks and ask for inspiration and direction. :-)

Day Eight:
Relaxation - Massage
Enrichment - Painting

I was worried that the relaxation for this day would not happen, as we are being conservative with money and I did not want to pay for a massage (okay okay, I WANTED to, but I decided it was wise not to). However, Grace (loving daughter that she is) changed that for me and gave me an amazing ashiatsu massage. She has a natural talent!! Bryan made it even better by rubbing my back and shoulders later, so I got a double massage...... it was FANTASTIC! The painting was fun, but I kept it simple again. I got Grace and Andrew's advice for a small painting in the toy room. We agreed on an abstract flower painting, as long as there were not girl colors (a compromise for Andrew). Then I repainted a white wooden play crib in a basecoat of purple. I am going to make it into a special gift for a certain special niece's first birthday. ;-)

Day Nine:
Relaxation - Stretching
Enrichment - Cleaning car

So I cheated a little on this one and added a chore that I needed to do as an enrichment activity. I even cheated a little more and ran the car through the carwash instead of washing it by hand. In my defense, we had to do the grocery shopping that day, and shopping for 2 weeks worth of food takes a while.... especially with two wild kids. I did, however, clean out and vacuum the inside of the car, and it looked much nicer afterwards. The stretching was wonderful, but I stretch every day. I just stretched a little longer this time, and Bryan stretched with me. We needed it after a fairly lazy vacation! No pics needed, our car is used for carting kids around town, and I am NOT blasting an image of the inside of our well-worn car all over the blogosphere! :-)

Day Ten:
Relaxation - Deep Breathing
Enrichment - Placemat staining

The trick to deep breathing is to make sure you do it for at least 10 minutes to make it effective. I managed to do it for about 20 minutes after the kids went to bed, and it was a nice way to unwind and clear my head. I don't have a picture for staining the placemats, I accidentally deleted it from my camera! I bought 4 wooden placemats for $1.00 at Target a while back, and I decided they needed some protection from food that was dropped on them at mealtime. So I picked up a $4.00 can of stain and seal from Walmart and sealed the mats. They smell was awful and I ended up having to do it outside to avoid the fumes spreading through the house. But now it is easier to clean the placemats!

Day Eleven:
Relaxation - Deep conditioning
Enrichment - Handwashing and air-drying clothes

This was one relaxation that I had to pay for. The salon I go to only charges $10.00 for a deep conditioning, and I got my bangs trimmed while I was there. Melissa at The Hairitage did a wonderful job and I really enjoyed the deep conditioning. The heat from the dryer that infused the product into my hair was relaxing, and the salon was cozy, so that added to my peaceful state. She brushed my hair out (I love getting my hair brushed) gave me a quick bang trim, and sent me on my way. Thanks, Melissa! I haven't hand-washed clothes in a few years, so it was fun to fill the tub, add the soap, and slosh the clothes around. If you notice in the picture, I used a potato masher to stir and agitate the clothes. Don't knock it 'til you try it! I put some hempline on the fence to create a temporary line. Yes, it drooped some, but I can fix that with some screws, a pulley, and a cheap clothesline tightener. I think it would be a good investment, because knowing how to wash and dry clothes without the use of electronics is useful. Grace showed a lot of interest in it, so I am going to show her how to do it with her own clothes. Andrew thought the clothesline was "the most awesome thing in the backyard!!!". I love his enthusiasm! The best part of drying the clothes outside was the unexpected rainfall. I had to run outside, unpin all of the clothes, and run back in. It felt just like it does in the movies when the woman sees the rain falling and frantically runs outside to save the laundry from the lines. :-) The pictures are edited to make them look old-fashioned, because the whole feel of handwashing and hang-drying is old fashioned.

Relaxation - Girls Night Out
Enrichment - Mint sachets

Okay, the relaxation part hasn't happened yet, but I am really excited about it and I will update it tomorrow! The mint sachets were so much fun to make! The mint in the backyard had grown absolutely wild, so I pulled most of it out and hung it do dry. Then I crumbled it into a large bowl and made cotton sachet squares with the tops opened. I stuffed each one with dried mint leaves and sewed off the tops. I wrote "Sisters" on one side and "Friends" on the other. I won't ruin the surprise here, but it is part of something for Girls Night Out. Woohoo!

Have a relaxing and enriching weekend!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A new challenge

Last week I decided to start a new challenge. For 30 days I will complete one relaxing activity and one enriching activity every day. Then I will write about them at the end of each week and pick my favorites at the end of the challenge. It has been a lot of fun so far, and I am excited to share my experiences on my blog!

Day One:
Relaxation - Reading
Enrichment - Sewing

Reading is nice, and setting aside time during the day to do it helps to interrupt the bustle of the day. I loved sewing the skirt and dress, because they were easy to make and turned out very cute. (PS - Grace's dress looks cute with a short-sleeved sweater over it or a shirt under it)

Day Two:
Relaxation - Bath
Enrichment - Bath Oil

This is one of the easier challenges, but it is sooooooo worth it! A hot bath can work miracles of sore or tense muscles, and adding a nice bath oil (mine was a lemongrass oil) can moisurize the skin and awaken your senses. My kids are wonderful, because they did not interrupt me while I took my bath, so I got 30+ minutes to really soak it in. Hehe.

Day Three:
Relaxation - Aromatherapy
Enrichment - Journaling

Here is what I wrote in my journal:
"We slept in, then grabbed sushi for lunch. I did aromatherapy and a core workout, and we had pizza for dinner. The aromatherapy is great for my sinuses and the steam is really good for my skin. I had dark chocolate with almonds for a snack."

I kept it short and sweet, but I figured writing down information for all of my other days and also writing letters earlier in the week balanced it out and made the short journal entry worthy of being my sole enrichment activity for this day. By the way, wintermint oil is a little strong for aromatherapy. I will have to use lavendar or jasmine next time!

Day Four:
Relaxation - Yoga
Enrichment - Bread

I adore yoga for many reasons, but the best reason is how much it relaxes my body and mind. Supreme 90 Day is making my muscles tense, so a long session of yoga was much needed. No matter what I am doing or where I am going, yoga can always make me feel better and more balanced. I can safely say this will be one of my top 5 choices for best relaxation. I made some delicious garlic and parmesan bread for my enrichment activity. I didn't mix or knead it by hand, but we could all make use of the tools we have, right? I love my bread machine. :-)

Day 5:
Relaxation - Mediation
Enrichment - Hair Styles

Beach day! We had a great time outside in the sand and surf. I did hairstyles without washing my hair afterwards (I know... tsk tsk.... whatever!). Mediation only works if your surroundings are CALM. Try explaining that to two kids on a "beach high".

Okay, I retried meditation after the kids went to bed. I let my mind wander and then wrote about it afterwards....

I was in a coral reef with fish, seaweed, sea turtles, seahorses, mermaids, and oysters. One oyster had a pearl, so I gave it to the mermaids and they made a toe-ring for me. The one who presented it to me gave me an embrace, then I flew to a cloud, where an angel greeted me. I made a dress out of cloud and the angel lead me to the edge of the cloud to see the world below. I asked to be placed on top of Enchanted Rock. As I sat on top I looked beside me and saw a butterfly flapping its wings. As the wings flapped clouds slowly blew away and trees rustled. I watched the clouds make shadows on the land below, then looked back at the butterfly, but it had turned into a jeweled clip. I put it in my hair and transported myself to a hammock on a beach between two coconut trees. There was a mountain and a stream behind me. The kids played quietly nearby while Bryan strummed his guitar.

Meditation is a nice way to reconnect with your body and your mind. You can sit or lay down, I preferred to lay down this time. Deep breathing and relaxed thinking can help you refresh yourself at the beginning or end of any day.

Okay, here are some pics of my messy wind-blown hair styles!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Medical Journey: The Story of Concern, Assumptions, Relief, and Realization

It's April 4th, and Bryan and I are attempting to celebrate our anniversary. I am incredibly irritated at little things and chalking it up to PMS. I try my best to shrug it off, but it just won't go away. I have that dull cramping pain in the lower left side of my abdomen again. "I must be ovulating from my left ovary again", I think. I have been feeling this pain in the same spot every month for the past several months, always within days of starting my menses. It hurts A LOT to be intimate, and I cry (everything was making me cry). The next day I have dull pain whenever I use the restroom. The day after that I have constant, dull pain. The day after that I start feeling significant pain in the afternoon that won't go away. The morning after that I am sitting in a gynecologist's office, waiting to discuss my problem with the doctor. She examines me and finds nothing, but sends me to the outpatient center across the road to get a pelvic sonogram. The sonogram shows evidence of a rupture ovarian cyst. The doctor suggests birth control and I refuse it. I ask for a full blood test, and she schedules me to get it done in July. I go home and research causes and alternative treatments. By my birthday (April 11th) I am considering several different options and making some diet changes.

A few weeks later I decide that I don't want to wait until July, so I schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist in my area. I go in and talk about my symptoms, and she tells me she is sure I have PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). My mother has it, and the likelihood that it passes on is 50%, so I consider her assumption to be reasonable. However, bloodwork done the next day shows that no hormone levels are abnormally high or low, and that rules out PCOS and other hormon-related problems. I notice that my red blood count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit are all high. Before I can call the endocrinologist, she has her lab on the phone with me telling me I need to come in and discuss my results with her. The lab mentions bone-marrow mutation and I try not to panic. I schedule an appointment, and then I end up missing it because the battery in my car died the day of the appointment. I reschedule and end up having to take both the kids with me to discuss the results. She comes into the office and tells me that she wants me to see my GP (general practitioner) to discuss the next step. I ask her what she thinks, and she tells me with great concern that she fears I may have blood cancer. It doesn't make sense to me, because my white cell counts are normal, but just hearing a specialist say the word "cancer" makes my heart drop into my stomach.

What would you do if a doctor told you they are concerned that you might have cancer? I can tell you what I did. I did my best to regain my composure in front of my children, paid for my visit, and then got in the car and sat there, lost. Then I called my mom, I needed to hear her voice and talk to her. She knew what I needed in that moment. Then I prayed a frenzied prayer and called my husband. When we got home I set the kids up with some games to play and went into the restroom where I cried and prayed, and cried some more. Have you ever wondered what kind of thoughts might go through your head if you got news that would drastically change your life? Here is some of what I remember:

What kind of treatment will I need?
Could we afford it?
What will we need to change in order to afford my treatments?
How is this possible? My husband and children are not ready to have a life without me there.
I am not ready to die and be away from my family.
What can I do to make this easier for them?
I need to update my living will.
Could my heart possibly feel any more broken right now?

I spent the next few days soaking up every minute with my family. Taking a drive in the car with the kids, Natalie Merchant's "These Are the Days" came on the radio. It gave me hope.

I decided to skip the GP and go straight to a hematologist. My sister was my support, and my wonderful neighbor watched the kids. He told me that he wanted to test for bone marrow mutations, blood mutations, and secondary causes of my high CBC levels. He also wanted me to get an ultrasound of my organs to check for enlargment (a sign of hemachromatosis). The ultrasound was amazing. I got to see my liver, kidneys, spleen, and heart. They were all very healthy, according to the ultrasound tech, and NOTHING was wrong with them. I really appreciated that good news, so I proceeded to do my now-famous booty dance in the ultrasound room. The tech did it with me!

Did I mention that the hematologist was surprised that the endocrinologist mentioned cancer to me? He said he did not consider it to be a possiblity by any means. I considered making a complaint against her, but "forget it and leave it alone" was all I could hear whispering through my mind.

My bloodwork results came back and the hematologist wanted to see me again. He sat me down and told me that I did not have a bone marrow mutation. Hooray! He then told me that I had a gene mutation that contributed to my high CBC. However, he also delivered the good news that I needed more than one gene mutation to have hereditary hemachromatosis. Therefore, I was not at significant risk for blood clotting, iron overload, or.... cancer. This is where the big smile and huge sigh of relief came into play. His suggested treatment was baby aspirin and possible phlebotomy, but the phlebotomy would only be if my levels went higher. Donating blood can apparently ease the symptoms of fatigue and headache, so I tried that. However, the center I went to was horribly unorganized and I sat in the lobby for almost an hour after signing in without so much as a word or a form to fill out. I will have to try somewhere else, and that is fine with me. If I can relieve my symptoms and help someone else at the same time, it will be truly wonderful!

It is July 5th, and I am feeling peaceful. My views of my life have taken on a deeper hue, but I am also thoroughly enjoying all of the light-hearted moments. I went from hormonal, to scared, to superhuman. My body's ability to create more blood also carries more oxygen to my muscles, so I have more stamina and shorter muscle recovery time.

That, my friends, is a problem I can certainly handle.

By the way, thanks to Natalie Merchant for her song of hope. These are the days to remember, and I have felt the blessings of my life in new, heightened ways:

These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

These are days that you’ll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you

These are days
These are the days you might fill
With laughter until you break
These days you might feel
A shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It's true
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking
To you, to you

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A shout-out to dental professionals... yes, I am writing a POSTIVE blog about dentists! Commence with shock and awe.

I have had a long string of really bad dental experiences, and it has made me avoid seeing the dentist for the past 5 years. So when a filling came out recently (I had no idea it came out, I just noticed a big hole in my back molar) I freaked at the thought of having to go to the dentist. I called around and remembered that a woman had recommended a place nearby to me last year when I was talking about teeth whitening as a present for someone. They happened to be running a special so I made an appointment. The initial visit was nothing to be concerned about. X-rays, exam, and explanation of procedures that needed to be done. I have periodontal disease (genetically predisposed) and apparently it had progressed to a point where I needed scaling and planing. Since I already hate basic dental work (based on my many past experiences) I had a ridiculous amount of anxiety over having to get this done. I expressed this concern to the dentist, and he happily said that he and his staff would take care of me. I blew it off. I had heard that in the past with my previous "dentist", aka The Soulless Dark One.

I went in for all of my work at once, and I had mixed feelings about it (getting it over with as opposed to doing too much at once and hurting from it). We discussed pain options and communication options, which no other dentist has EVER done with me. They doubled up on local anesthesia with me, and I used hand signs with the dentist to signal discomfort. I asked him to explain what he was doing while he was doing it so I didn't feel completely powerless and out of the loop, and he gladly obliged. The mixture of enough anesthesia, proper non-verbal communication, and step-by-step information during the procedure made me so relaxed that I could have dozed off! I have never felt that way sitting in a dental chair before! The same went for the perio-hygienist who performed the scaling and planing. We laughted about my completely numb face, my drooling, and my suggestion to add my picture to the patient appreciation wall of fame. The anesthesia even started wearing off a bit during the scaling and planing, but she was so careful and involved with me as a human being (not some lump of flesh sitting in a chair) that I was completely comfortable with it.

All other dentists should take bedside manner lessons from Dr. Wallace and his staff at Eagle Ranch Dental!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oh say, the silly games we play

I have found that as I grow older I require more silliness to distract me from the drudgery of being a "grown-up". We have some games that we play on a regular basis in our family that aptly make up for the tediousness of pretending to be responsible citizens.

Funny Face Time - It is what it says. We each take turns making silly faces to make everyone else laugh. When it's just me and Bryan it gets interesting!

Funny Noises - We each take turns making funny noises. This is Grace's favorite, even though she makes the same noise over and over and OVER again. :-)

Funny Words - We make up our own words. Some have made it to the wall of fame, such as shmergendorfmerfer and ploppledanglemuff.

Monster Time/Zombie Time - Bryan and I are monsters or zombies, and the kids have to escape our evil grip. This usually happens right before bed. Andrew usually decides to save the day by "crashing the bad guys". He is just the right height to hit Bryan in a sensitive spot......

Make Sam Mad - Our dog, Sam, is a great source of entertainment for all of us. He chews on his leg and chases his tail for what seems like an eternity when he is bored. He also barks and growls at the weirdest inanimate objects (paintings, booster seats, new plants, holes in the ground, a shoe.....). So we will get as bored as he does every once in a while and do goofy harmless things to him to make him go a little crazy for us. Andrew LOVES this, because he gets to steal Sam's bone from him and run around the house screaming and laughing while Sam follows behind.

Board Games - This is mainly for me and the kids, Bryan usually does not get involved. We play Mystery Date, Candy Land, Pretty Pretty Princess, and Ants in the Pants. Pretty Pretty Princess becomes a source of amusement when Grace and Andrew decide to put the jewelry in silly places (their noses, eyelids, eyebrows, chins, lips, belly buttons) and then try to chase me down to put the jewelry on me.

Swapping Talents - This is for me and Bryan but the kids sometimes play it on their own, and it gets pretty hilarious. The most recent one for me and Bryan (months ago, sadly) was when I showed Bryan some ballet moves and he showed me some kickboxing moves. We had to try our best to repeat what we had been shown, and the following display was clumsy and laugh-inducing.

Monster Pictures - This is Grace's territory, but Andrew tries it and they ocassionaly talk me into doing it. Grace will randomly draw pictures of the family members on post-its and put them on our bedroom doors, but the pictures are monster representations of each of us. Sharp teeth, crazy hair, funky bodies, and forked tongues. Andrew's end up looking like blobs with faces and stick legs/arms, it's great!

Ministry of Silly Walks Interview - We each do our best silly walk to see who will win. Bryan usually wins, his goofy walks are hard to beat!

Airing of Grievances - Thanks to Seinfeld's Festivus in "The Strike" episode, we take time once in a blue moon to jokingly poke at each other's quirks as a reminder that our weirdness makes us individuals that are loved for everything we are. This usually happens at the meal table or in the car, and it could be just me and Bryan, the kids could be included, or it could happen at a family gathering. The Airing of Grievances has to be light-heartedly approached and no intentionally hurtful revelations or accusations are allowed. It usually includes my absurdly musical morning gas, Bryan's forgetfulness of the English language, Grace's dramatic fits, and Andrew's weird made-up songs. When other close family members are around, socks are mentioned, as well as the names Bitter Betty and Debbie Downer, and more jokes about gas powering an entire state or country (the women in my family have musical bums).

Car Riding Song Time - This came in very handy on our road trip to Ohio. We pick a tune and sing the song using only words we read on road signs and other cars. While driving through Kentucky I started the song to the tune of Jingle Bells, and the only sign for miles was "Speed Limit", so I started it and had nothing else to go on. Bryan and the kids still make fun of it by randomly singing "SPEED LIMIT..." with long periods of silence. Thanks.

I am thrilled to have a spouse who happily goes along with all of this, and kids who still think we, as parents, are witty enough for us and our games to be considered cool.