Wednesday, May 30, 2012

GrammaAmma's Garden

Here's a cute tidbit for you. Max calls my mother Amma (ah-ma). So when we went to visit his great grandmother for Mother's Day he was stumped what to call her. (BTW - he calls great-grandpa GrampaGrampa) He settled for GrammaAmma.

Back to the business at hand: Grandma's Garden, AKA GrammaAmma's Garden. As I've mentioned, my grandmother has a particular way she works her garden - and the name of the game is inexpensive or free - but not cheap. Check out the amazing branch sculpture in the foreground that she uses for her tomato cage. And her super simple raised bed. And in the midground you can see the expandable gate she has propped up for her runner beans. Back a little further and to the left is the garden proper, with old wooden planks in the pathways to keep your shoes clean and suppress weeds.

You can see my grandfather's part of the garden too - he's a bit more spendy in his gardening habits (at least in comparison to grandma). In the back center is the grape arbor that my grandfather built, complete with birdhouse that has a robin's nest in it every spring. He built the compost bin that's to the right of the arbor and behind the white chair (a little hard to see). To the left of the arbor are his irises - he's cut down his varieties to around 30, at one point he had over 100.

The massive amounts of perennials to the right were mostly pass along plants that she got by division.

I love their gardens. They're a constant inspiration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frugal Luxuries: Hammer Board Toy

My dad's a genius.

Max is obsessed with tools (and trucks, tractors, trains, dinosaurs, dirt, water, talking, roaring...). Such a boy. Nature/nurture? Honestly, I think it's nature on this one. He's like a miniature version of my dad. (if Max was chubbier he'd be the spitting image of my father as a child)

Being such, Papa has made Max the best toy ever: A hammer board. He took a piece of scrap 1"x4" about 10" long and pounded five large nails into the board, leaving about 1" exposed (and no sharp bits of course), and numbered the nails 1-5. Then the two of them spent the next 45 minutes sitting on the deck working on the hammer board. Papa had his big hammer, Max had his toy hammer (that looks like a real one and we pretend is a real one, it even gets stored in Papa's tool box) and they had just a wonderful time.

Cost: Free
Benefit: Enormous. Max can now count to five and he's not even two yet. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Max in the Garden

I absolutely love that my son is interested in the garden. I have a feeling he's more into the dirt than anything, but I'm ok with that. He's been coming into the garden with me, and I've been explaining to him that we don't rip up plants or step on them. Of course I know that plants will be destroyed, dirt will be thrown, etc - but I'm ok with that. It's part of the learning process, and for heaven's sake they're just plants. They'll grow back or they won't, and if they don't grow back I can plant another.

I was working on prepping the bed earlier this spring, and he was helping me. The best dirt work involves bulldozers, I hear.

Our garden time has paid off - when we went to visit his great-grandparent's he was very good about only walking on dirt, rocks, or planks when he was wandering through the garden with us. My grandmother was very impressed, she was sure he'd accidentally destroy at least one plant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Breathing Again

Man, it's been a busy couple of weeks. The kids haven't completely left for the summer yet, but at least my part of the insanity that is the end of the year is pretty much done. Now it's back to a more normal work load. Thank goodness.

Of course I haven't been completely stagnant on the home front. Oh, no, not me. Our contractor actually came yesterday and fixed up those odd jobs that I've been itching to have done. Yay! The curb appeal of my house has gone up dramatically with the siding fixed and the fence installed - photos to follow. We're still waiting on the landscaping... but I have a friend coming on Monday who is going to take a bunch of plants provided the landscaper doesn't get to it before then. And I've been doing some sewing for Max and some little friends... I have such a strong feeling that this might become something more than just clothes for Max that I signed up for an Etsy store. Just in case.

I've been working on my mad photography skillz too. Check out the pics - totally untouched.  Not bad, right? (notice the gangsta speak there? yeah, I've been hanging out with teenagers too much)

So, what have you all been up to while I've been away?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Be Back Soon...

So, I work at a school. And being that it's the end of the year, my schedule is insane at work.


I have a landscaper coming this weekend to excavate my yard.


I have my first independent writing project, due in a week and a half (which seems like it should be enough time, doesn't it?).


Everyone has birthdays at work in the next couple of weeks, and I'm the official-unofficial cake baker.


Well, I'm just a bit swamped with life right now, so I'll be back to the blog soon, I promise!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Atkins-in’ it Up

I’m not a stranger to extreme diets. Overall my diet has always been very healthy (thanks mom), I eat reasonable portions, but I’m fat. And I don’t like being fat. So, keeping in mind my health issues, I try different diets that look like they might work. So far, no luck.

But, I have a new secret weapon – my doctor, who is awesome, and very knowledgeable about my health issues and all of its complexities. She suggested either doing Atkins, or doing a super-low calorie diet (like, 600-800 a day) that she would closely supervise. I chose Atkins. And by Atkins, I mean doing it for real, not just eating meat all day every day.

Essentially it’s a very low carb diet where you can only eat certain vegetables, your dairy is limited to certain cheeses, sour cream, and cream, and meat. Lots of meat. I thought I’d be all about that, but not so much. Especially when you’re not allowed to eat relish because it has sugar in it. <sigh>

As much as the thought of eating more meat makes me want to gag – I can’t deny the results. A pound a day for the first 7 days, and after 15 days I’ve lost 10 pounds. Not bad! The most impressive part has been the physical changes. After I got over the hangover period (3-5 days) I started to feel pretty good. I have more energy at a resting state. The best part? I can see results in the mirror – I lost a belly roll, my face is slimmer, the wings under my arms are shrinking, and overall my body is visibly slimming down. It’s fantastic!

Even though I’m having dreams about eating freshly baked Costco rolls and salivate when I smell “forbidden” foods, the results are worth it.

I was concerned that it would be an expensive diet to maintain since meat and veg are so pricy compared to flour and rice, but my appetite has gone down significantly. I assume that’s because I’m getting more bang for my buck – as in I’m sated by the higher fat diet. So our finances are safe, and perhaps weight loss isn’t out of my reach.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stressing Out Your Hormones (A PCOS Story)

Let’s talk about hormones. FYI, this gets personal, so if you didn’t want to know this about me stop reading. If you have PCOS, perhaps my story might help you.

Courtesy of my Aunt when she was 12 – “How do you make a hormone? Don’t pay her!”

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll probably mention it again – I have PCOS. I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And (had) insulin resistance. And (had) adrenal fatigue. All related? Yeah, probably, especially since they’re all hormonally based. Oh, and let’s not forget gaining 80 pounds in three months while on a diet…

According to my naturopath, it all started with stress (and most likely some genetic predisposition which doesn’t help). Without knowing more than a few years of medical history, she told me that I was a really stressed out teenager with heart palpitations, major acne (and backne), and a major perfectionist streak. She said I developed ulcers in College. She said I developed IBS from stress.

I hadn’t told her any of that – but she was dead on right.

At that point I had been trying to fix/manage my diagnosed PCOS with several Rx’s for about 3 years, but I wasn’t getting better. So, next stop was the naturopath to see what she could offer. For some perspective, this was back in 2005.

What she offered was an explanation, insight, and a plan. You see, it all started with stress. Stress releases cortisol from the adrenal glands, which can be good. Too much stress releases too much cortisol and after prolonged exposure your body gets resistant to cortisol and the other glands that interacts with the cortisol can be affected – like the thyroid and ovaries. “excess levels of cortisol cause resistance in adrenal receptors and contribute to insulin resistance as well as general unresponsiveness to other hormones.

DING, DING, DING, we have an explanation! Finally! It all makes sense – my hormones are all effed up, and it was because I was stressed out. (and because of genetic factors making me oh so much more susceptible) Connecting those dots and realizing that I wasn’t crazy, and that it was a relatively simple explanation made me so happy.

The insight part – well, that kinda sucked. Because so many parts of my endocrine system were affected, it was going to take a long time and a lot of effort to correct them. The part I was most concerned about, eventually having a child, was at the top of my list. Luckily, she said we should work in reverse order and my ovaries were first on the list. My thyroid was never likely to get better, it’d been so heavily attacked by my own body (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder) that they can’t detect any thyroid tissue left, it’s all scar tissue. That’s just a little pill every day, no big deal.

So, the plan? (BTW – all of these are long term, as in years)

#1 (ongoing) – De-stress my life. Easier said than done, I know. But honestly? It was life-changing for me to not be constantly tweaking out about everything. It opened up doors to places I didn’t know about, but that felt so perfectly right, like Reiki and energy healing. You don’t have to believe in it, but I do and it has helped me immensely. And I want to point out that yes, I might be all zen-ish and meditate regularly, and my blood pressure is beautiful, but I still have a temper and I still throw the occasional tantrum. But I let things go now (Hubby, stop laughing), and recognize that I can still accomplish exactly the same things without being stressed about it. That to do list can be done with you stressing or with you just doing it. Just be, just do, and stop stressing. You’ll like your life better.

#2 (DONE) – Get those ovaries working again. I worked with my naturopath on a regimen of hCG injections and diet (which also helped with the insulin resistance, but I’ll address that separately) to jumpstart my ovaries. I went off the pill around a year before doing the injections, and had irregular cycles. After the injections my cycles were like clockwork. I worked with an acupuncturist a few months before trying to conceive – and first try we got Max!

#3 (ongoing) – Diet… and I don’t necessarily mean lose weight. Losing weight would be awesome, but is really difficult when you’re actively dealing with insulin resistance brought on by PCOS. Metformin pills didn’t do crap, except give me unfortunate intestinal side effects. Diet has done the most with regulating my insulin levels. Cut out sugar and grains when at all possible. I actually did a 3-week no grains or sugars detox diet under the naturopath’s guidance and broke the sugar/bread habit. It was hard, it sucked, but it was worth it. The cravings go away. They don’t stay away if you fall off the wagon too much, but then you can do it again. (as a side note, my eating habits were never extreme or unhealthy, so it was never a matter of cutting out junk food or portion control) My insulin levels have been right on spot for a few years now just by regulating my diet.

#4 (ongoing) – Keep taking my thyroid pill. Unless they come up with something innovative and awesome, there isn’t much that de-stressing will do to fix that.

So how do I manage my PCOS now? Low-carb diet and low stress lifestyle choices. It may not work for you, but maybe it will. If nothing else, I hope that my story might help at least one person realize she’s not alone. BTW – I’m still 75 pounds overweight. But I’ve got my fingers crossed.