Monday, July 30, 2012

School supply readiness...

While I am very excited for my boys to be heading back to school, I am still dreading it for myself. Once I get in the swing of things and just start organizing and planning, everything will be fine. But I am procrastinating on the starting of it all. Knocking it out in one day is my plan....we shall see!

The newness of school supplies makes me blissful though I must say. Thinking back to the first day of school as a kid myself, that was my favorite thing. Opening up a fresh box of crayons, and hating that the sharp crayon tips would soon be dull. Cracking the spine on a new composition notebook and sharpening a #2 was awesome.

Now I doubt that my kids are all that excited about their school supplies, but I love to see all the newness spread out, and then packed neatly into their backpacks. It's almost like Christmas :)

So the spread looks glorious....

Caleb's supplies....

Jansen's supplies....

Packed into Caleb's backpack....

Packed into Jansen's backpack....

T minus 28 days left of Summer Vacation!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Disney water bottles

Now that I am finally feeling better after my horrible myelogram, I am ready to get back to some creativity.

We want to have our own water bottles to fill up on the ship and to take with us at the ports so they have to be personalized, right? I can hear my kids now..."I can't find my water bottle! Jansen has my water bottle! Is this my bottle or Caleb's?" Vinyl to the rescue!!!!

So I went to Target and found some cute sport bottles in the clearance aisle. I bought two big 32 oz open-mouth bottles for my hubs and I, and because we have some clumsy drinker kids that spill EVERYTHING, two 16 oz straw cups for the boys.

Add some Disney inspired vinyl with our names on them and we are ready to go!!! 

I am so going to fill these up with water on the ship to take with us to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Remember...never drink the water!!!!!!!! (unless it is bottled or comes from the ship). :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Um...myelograms hurt...

Yesterday morning was the day of my dreaded myelogram. I had never even heard of this test until my neurologist ordered it. But once I looked up the procedure on youtube....I became incredible nervous.

Well, it turns out it wasn't too bad. My mother took me to the hospital early in the morning, I signed a ton of papers and was taken into a Day Surgery room. We sat there for about an hour until the radiology tech came to get me. They gave me a Valium on the way to help calm my nerves, and might I did nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. I was scared, shaky, and evidently, Valium has no effect on me.

Once I got into the room, they had be lie down on the x-ray table in order to get a few quick images. Once the radiologist came in, I was very, very nervous. I had to flip over onto my stomach, which I just can't do. I simply cannot lie on my stomach without significant pain anymore. They put a wedge under neath my right hip which did take some of the pressure off.

And then, I started crying. The nerves and the pain of being on my stomach for so long was really getting to me. The radiologist was patient and waited for me to stop sobbing because I had to be really still. He found the spot in my spine where he could insert the needle and inserted the Lidocain. Once that was done, the needle went in. Oh boy, I could feel that all the way down the back the back of my leg. Once he put the needle in, he had to take it out and put a longer one in. Then the contrast dye went in and I felt such pressure through my lower back and back of my right leg.

Then, I got stuck on my stomach. They needed me to move to another gurney, and I couldn't move. It took me forever to get onto the other gurney and I started crying again. After they got me onto my back, the pressure was less and I was more comfortable to go into the CT machine.

Then they took me back into my recovery room where I had to lie still for 4 hours! I did not anticipate that at all. They gave me some pain medicine and a snack and I drifted in and out until it was time to go home. My husband picked me up, and I was told to lie down with my head elevated for the rest of the day, and to take it easy for the next couple of days.

I felt ok yesterday, and today...ouch! I feel like I have been in a fight. My back, leg, hip...ugh. So SORE!!!!  It is really difficult for me to get comfortable. Lying on my back, sides, sitting in a recliner, standing for a while, walking around....really sore.

So, on August 3 I go back to my neurologist for the results. Fingers crossed that it is something repairable!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

What the heck is a fish extender?

Fish extenders...have you heard about these? I hadn't, until I started researching the Disney Cruise. Honestly, this is a super fun idea! Here is the lowdown.

Participating a fish extender exchange is a fun way to add a little magic to your cruise. It's a Secret Santa of sorts. Outside each stateroom is a metal fish hanger....
People then hang fish extenders to these hangers in hopes of receiving fun little gifts. Most people "meet" up on the Disney boards, find a group of people that want to participate in the exchange, and then when they all jump aboard, they find everyone's staterooms and put some goodies in the pockets of the extenders. It's exactly like a stocking at Christmas!

So what does a fish extender look like? Well, it could be anything. It could be baskets, fabric pockets, tote bags, actual stockings...just whatever you fancy. You can make your own, or buy some off of ebay or etsy. Click HERE for a link to an etsy seller...and HERE.....and HERE

Well, to buy or not to buy. Remember, we are having to be really careful so that we can have this cruise paid off in while I would love to buy one of these awesome, embroidered extenders....I have to make ours. PS. I don't sew. So I started thinking about what would be an easy, no-sew option for me to make.

Enter....The Powell Family Fish Extender!

For this, I used black mini canvas tote bags, ribbon, and felt. I wanted to keep it in the classic Disney red, yellow, and black theme. I cut the handles off the tote bags, cut red squares of felt, and used some fabric glue to attach the felt to the totes. I then glued these super cute yellow glitter buttons to the corners of the felt, cut out Mickey heads, and glued them on as well. 

Next came the ribbon. I layered a thinner black polka dot ribbon on top of a wide yellow ribbon with glue. Measured out the right length to hang the totes, and used heavy duty fabric glue to attach the ribbon to the totes. I made a conscious decision not to add names to it, because it looked too cluttered. Then I added a dowel rod with ribbon, added some extra polka dot streamers, and this is done! The width of the wall where this will hang is only 8 inches. Anything more than that and it will get caught in your stateroom door. These totes are 5 inches by 6 inches. Perfect for the wall and perfect for all the little trinkets we can put in them. I spent less than $10 for the totes and ribbon :) Love it!

Instead of joining a huge FE group, we are going to use this extender as our family gift exchange. Each morning we will put goodies in it for our boys as a fun little surprise. They have no idea...and I am going to do my best to keep it a surprise. Maybe Mickey or Donald will come by and drop some goodies in as well!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

School shopping madness

It's that time again. The time when parents start frantically looking for new items to add to their childrens' closets.

This year was completely different for us. Normally, we purchase more things for Caleb (since he is older) and Jansen gets the hand-me-downs. This year, Jansen has had a huge growth spurt and is now bigger than our oldest! And to top that off, each child has their own opinions as to what they want to wear to school. Caleb only wants to wear jeans (he wears footy pajamas year round and never seems to get hot) and Jansen only wants to wear shorts.

Here is what they will be starting to school in:

Jansen gets mostly shorts and t-shirts (plus a hoodie that is being delivered)....

Caleb gets mostly jeans and a few shorts (he needs 2 more pair of jeans though)....

The awesome thing is that their backpacks are still in tip top shape, as are their lunchboxes :)

School supplies are almost complete, as the store has run out of yellow poly folders that both boys need.

Oh school...I love when my boys go, but I sort of dread beginning my next term as PTO President. With a new principal, new counselor, tons of new teachers, new speech therapist, and some new PTO board's a totally brand new experience. It's Caleb's last year in elementary school and my baby is in 2nd grade!!!! Where does the time go????

DIY Disney headband

While there will be many a craft project for my kiddos, I wanted to do a little craft for myself. 

PS, I love a good headband! 

The other day, on my trip to Walmart for the other craft supplies, I saw a remnant square of this black and white polka dot fabric for 50 cents. I quickly threw it in my cart knowing that I wanted to make a headband out of it. 

So today, I put together this rosette headband and I MEGA-HEART it! 

If you want to make one too, here is how it is done. 

1. Get your fabric of choice. I was making a Minnie Mouse head, so I wanted a polka dot fabric.

2. Cut two smaller strips of equal size (about 1 inch wide) for the ear rosettes. Cut a longer piece the same width for the face part. 

3. At one end of a strip, tie a knot. Add a drop of hot glue and begin twisting and wrapping it around itself...adding a drop of hot glue as you go. 

4. Make 2 small rosettes and 1 large rosette. Attach the "ears" to the "face" using hot glue. I also added a quick red felt bow so that it looked like Minnie Mouse.

5. Cut 2 pieces of felt about the same size as the Minnie head. Hot glue 1 of the pieces of felt to the back of the Minnie head. 

6. Sandwich the headband between the Minnie head with felt, and the other piece of felt using hot glue for stability. You are done. 

Right before I wrote this, I found my camera card reader (after I took a couple of pictures of the finished product) so I didn't take step by step pictures of the progress. 

I am super excited to wear this on the cruise. Mark 3 crafts off my Disney Cruise Craft List...only like 100 to go!! :)

Keeping It Simple


Saturday, July 21, 2012

DIY Disney lanyards

Pinterest to the rescue!

I saw some cute lanyards on Pinterest and knew that my boys could really use them on the cruise. Not only are they going to need to keep up with their room keys, but we will be purchasing game cards in $10 increments for them to use in the arcade. It would be efficient and easy for the boys to have both attached to them, so hopefully it will be more difficult to lose, right?!

The store had a million rolls of Disney themed ribbon for girls: Minnie Mouse, princesses, polka dots and ruffles...and one that would be appropriate for boys. It's a good thing that it is cute!

This is another easy thing to do. 

Measure out how much ribbon you would like to use. I had some old rope lanyards that I based my length off of.

Attach the two cut ends together with a little hot glue.

Attach the ribbon to the clasp. Basically, I cut the rope off of the old lanyard and was left with this...

So I just threaded the ribbon through and then glued it again. If you don't have one of these, your local craft store has clasps pretty cheap.

I attached one of my old Sail and Sign cards to it just to see how it would attach.

Done! Total cost for 2 lanyards: $1.97 for a spool of Disney ribbon at Walmart. I almost want to make one of the princess ones for myself...maybe :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

DIY bleach Mickey Mouse shirt

I know this cruise is a little over 7 months away, but if you know next to nothing about me, you know that I am a planner. Things can get super hectic over night and I like to have all my ducks in a row. 

My list of fun Disney crafts is practically a mile long, and there are just too many great ideas out there to try. The first thing I wanted to try was a personalized bleach shirt for the kiddos to wear on the day we board the ship. Enter Amber's DIY bleach Mickey Mouse shirt!

So if I could find my card reader, you would have had pictures of the whole process, but true to form, it is lost. You get to see the picture of the finished product taken with my cell phone. It's not the best quality, but you get the idea, right?!

This was simple!!! I mean, super easy. I went to Hobby Lobby because they were having a sale on their t-shirts and grabbed a blue shirt to try this totally easy technique. This blue shirt was a whopping $2 and I got it a size bigger than what he is wearing now to account for a growth spurt between now and then. 

If you want to make one of these, here is how you do it:

Lay your shirt on a flat surface, free of anything you don't want the bleach to discolor. Line the inside of it with plastic trash bags, aluminum foil, or just something that will stop the bleach from seeping to the back of the shirt. 

I googled an outline of Mickey Mouse, printed it, and transferred it to contact paper. It really needs to adhere to the shirt so the bleach doesn't bleed underneath the outline. Then I rummaged for some lettering in my craft cabinet, and found some cute adhesive letters that were just the right size. Then arrange them on the shirt whatever way you wish. I played with a couple of lettering positions and settled on placing the Mickey just under the collar, and then placing the letters slightly curving underneath that.

Then mix up a spray bottle of bleach and water. I started out with about 1/4 bleach and the rest water, and it didn't give me the dramatic color difference I was looking for so I added more bleach. It ended up being about half and half....but it is really up to you. 

Lightly mist over the letters and contact paper. This is where you get to be creative. You can make it very dramatic or very subtle....just spray away. Be careful not to spray yourself or anything other than the shirt you are making. Let the shirt dry and then peel away all the stickers. You are done!

This shirt cost me about $2.50 total and Jansen loves it. We might use this same technique to make some personalized pillowcases for the trip. If you take a pillowcase up to Guest Services at the beginning of your trip, they will return it on the final night, autographed by all of the characters. How fun is that???

  Keeping It Simple 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Disney Cruise!!!

Yes, my friends. We have officially booked our Disney Cruise for Spring Break 2013!!!!!

The cruise line is going to be sailing out of Galveston on a limited engagement from September of 2012 to May 2013, and Galveston is a 45 minute drive from our house! It just doesn't get any better than that. Otherwise, we would have to fly over 1000 miles to Florida, get transportation to the port, and cruise from there.

We were able to find a cruise leaving the Saturday that our kids' Spring Break starts and comes back two days before school begins again. This is a 6 day cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel on the Disney Magic. We are super excited.

There are so many great ideas from past cruisers on how to make the trip more special, less expensive, more magical, more organized, etc. So in the next 8 months, we will be working hard to pay the trip off, and to make some really cool DIY projects to enhance the trip. I just want to do everything possible to help my kids have a totally awesome, memorable time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Medical diagnosis....

This morning, I had my follow up appointment with my neurologist to find out what the MRI and spinal Xrays showed. I was so hoping that it could just be fixed with a shot. Not so much.

The doctor sat down, pulled out the radiologist's report and then told me that he agreed with the radiologist's findings. Good news and bad news....

Good news: There IS a problem. Actually, there ARE problems. Two of them. The first one is something called Arachnoiditis. Basically, the nerves around my spine and the covering around them are damaged, swollen, inflamed, and they are clustering and adhering together. This is something I had never heard of, but when he showed me on the spinal model and explained the issue, it totally makes sense. This explains the lower back pain, the pain in my hips, the backs of my legs, the prickly feeling I get in my legs, the numbness and tingling in my foot and toes. How can we help this? Well, I am not really sure right now, because we mainly addressed the other issue the doctor wanted to discuss.

He thinks I also have a condition called Tethered Spinal Cord. This is a congenital defect where, much like a stretched rubber band, my spinal cord is attached instead of being loose and being able to bend and move with my body. As a baby and child, it wasn't stretched, but as I grew, it tried to stretch with me. This explains why I started having pain in my teenage years. I had the hardware removed when I was 20 because of pain...and it helped....but I continued to have pain. Now it is progressively getting worse. It makes sense why it wasn't caught as a wasn't an issue.

It also explains why I have so many urologic issues that my urologist has never been able to accurately identify. So many times I have gone into see him, with pain and pressure only for him to tell me that I do not have a UTI. All these nerves are responsible for my bladder as well. My doctor requested all the paperwork from my urologist to further study this.

So the doctor wants me to have a myelogram to confirm this, and see the severity of the Arachnoiditis and TCS. He explained that he can surgically go in, snip my spinal cord loose, and the issues shouldn't progress. They may even improve. But if nothing is done, it will only get worse. Um, this is bad enough. He told me this is a major quality of life issue.

I told him all the little details. I have always had pain, but in the last year it is getting worse. I can't sit for very long, stand for very long, lie down for very long. I can no longer sit on the floor with my kids. When I try to stand it takes me a while to be able to stretch back out to be fully upright. I have had to stop going to Body Pump and can no longer lift weights. I can still do zumba, but there are days when it hurts more than others. There are times when I cannot feel the ground under my feel. There are times when my entire leg tingles. There are times when I feel like jolts of electricity run down my back and legs. The top of my right foot and the first two toes are tingly and numb. Some days I wake up with pain, other days it begins later in the day, but by every evening, I am in pain. Some days are better than others.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance and don't like to complain, but this is no joke. Tuesday, after I did zumba, I was driving my boys for a playdate and my right hip felt like it was on fire for a good hour. It went away after I rested, but returned later that night. I can tolerate some moderate daily pain....I just make sure that I rest when we are out places. When we are shopping, I sit for a while, then get up again. When we were on vacation, I came back to our camper to lie down frequently. At Schlitterbahn, we swam for a while, and then I came back to lounge, then we swam, then I sat and so on and so forth.

I am going to continue to exercise as much as I can without doing the weight lifting and body pump. The walking and zumba are less impacting :) Let's hope next week we can get some more answers and ways to help take care of some of these issues.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Salt dough fossils...

It has been raining here for about 3 days now, and we are trying to keep busy while at home. We got out yesterday to find some school shoes and have a playdate with a friend, but today is an at home day. It's just too messy out. I tried to get my kids to go out and play in the rain, but they both said no. My kids must be the only kids in the world who do don't want to get dirty or play in the rain!

So as an extension of our trip to the museum over the weekend, we made some salt dough fossils.

These were a huge hit for my boys!

They went around the house looking for little toys that they could make impressions of. They made up the salt dough...which is incredible fine motor work for Jansen and great tactile/sensory work for Caleb, and got to work.

After a few hours baking in the oven, these fossils are ready to go!

Here is what you need to make your own:

Make the salt dough using a cup of salt, a cup of flour, and a little more than a half cup of water. Add all to a bowl and mix using your hands until the mixture is smooth like play-do.

It's ready to go.

Roll out sections as you wish and start pressing.

Bake at 200 degrees for about 3 hours until they are solid. Make sure you bake them on wax paper, or they will stick to the pan.

You now have salt dough fossils.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Over the weekend, while my husband was off, we took a trip with the boys to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I haven't been there since I was a kid on some sort of elementary school field trip. Not much has changed although the exhibits were much more expansive and expensive.

Upon arrival, we noted that the parking garage fee was $20 to park!!!!!!!!!! Holy cow! So when we went inside to purchase our tickets, we were a little shell shocked by those prices as well. It was $27 for adults and $20 for children for each special exhibit (Titanic and the Warrior's Exhibits). There were three 3D IMAX movies to choose from (Flying Monsters, The Last Reef, and Tornado Alley) for $11 per adult and $9 per child. There were several planetarium movies to choose from (Mayan Prophecies, Cosmic Collision, Experience the Aurora, Led Zepplin Concert, Secret of the Cardboard Rocket, We Choose Space, Black Holes, Dark Side of the Moon, Night of the Titanic, Passport to the Universe, Starry Night Express, and Earth's Wild Ride) for $8 per adult and $7 per child. PLUS tickets just to get in the museum to see the regular exhibits were $15 for adults and $10 for children.

We had hoped to take the kids to do something that was not too expensive but would still be fun and educational. This was not looking like something we could do here.

So when we got to the box office and talked to the employee, she encouraged us to buy a year-long Family Members Pass, which would get all of our family members into the museum for free each time we came in.

Here is the low down on how much it would cost this family of 4 to participate in their events:

  • $50 just to walk in the door and see the regular exhibits
  • $94 to see the Titanic Exhibit and $94 for the Chinese Warriors
  • $40 to see one of the 3D IMAX movies
  • $30 for one planetarium show
  • $20 to park
This doesn't include extras like making your own geode, buying souveniers, or eating at their restaurant. 

The 4 of us becoming members cost us $95 for a one time, year-long, unlimited use pass for the Houston and Sugar Land locations. It gives you free entrance for the regular exhibits (saving us $50 each time), instead of $94 for the special exhibits we would pay $42 each time we came, $20 for each IMAX movie, roughly $15 for each planetarium show, and $5 for parking. It also gives us a 10% discount in the gift shop. 

We parked, saw all the regular exhibits, and saw one planetarium show this trip for a total of $130. This member pass will pay for itself with our next trip...for just the entrance being free! If we go twice in one year and don't even see any of the shows, it pays for itself. There are so many other shows we want to see so we can't wait to go back. 

The boys were the most excited about the Hall of Paleontology. The museum has such an extensive collection of fossils, skeletons, and recreations that my boys were going crazy! They were fascinated by all the names, the set ups, and the sheer size of everything. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.