Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Amanda Graduates

We are officially parents of a high school graduate.  Weird huh? Amanda graduated from her high school, Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, last Friday.  It was a little stressful building up to it.  Amanda had to pass all her classes this quarter to graduate.  Apparently, her slight tendencies towards dyslexia make it very difficult for her to fill in maps on tests.  Because of this she was floating around with a C- in Geography.  At her school, there are no D's.  You go straight from C- to F.  So I was sweating it through finals and I'm sure she was too.  It all worked out in the end and she graduated with her class.

I am so proud of her, whether she knows it or not.  Her school is pretty intense and I commend her for sticking with it.  At her previous high school or the local school, she would have floated through with straight A's.  Maeser was definitely a challenge.  I certainly would have had a difficult time. Their classes are all collage level and they do not accept late work or offer make up work for the most part.  She also graduated with 6 University credits through AP and concurrent enrollment classes, so she has completed her English requirements.  She was also accepted into the Honors Program at UVU, where she will be going in the fall.

It was bittersweet to watch her last choir performance, and see her sitting on the stand in cap and gown. At her age, I already had her, and it seems difficult to believe that she is a woman now.  Which she is.  And an amazing one at that.

Amanda also graduated from Seminary.  I admire her commitment to make this a priority in her education. She has learned so much from her Seminary teachers and was always able to find a sanctuary there.

During her graduation ceremony I looked down the bench we were sitting on.  Justin and I were at the end, and through my camera, I was able to take my favorite picture of the night.....
In this picture, are the people who have been Amanda's entourage since the day she was born.  At every event, birthday party, performance, everything.  Amanda is blessed to have such amazing people in her life.  Each and everyone of them has contributed to her life and helped her become who she is.  I know we could have never done it without their amazing love and support.  From left to right, (Uncle) Ben, (Aunt) Andrea, (Grandpa B.) Fred, (Brother) Andrew, (Sister) Meagan, (Grandma B) EiLeen, (Grandma H) Terri, (Great Grandma H) Pauline, and (Grandpa H) David.  Not pictured, Aunt Teresa (who was just outside the door), Uncle Mike, and Sienna of course. It is reassuring to know they will continue to be there for her through thick and thin.

A few pics from the day....

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Handmade Gift Exchange Part 2

So my partner received her gift so I can show you what I made.  My exchange partner, Emily, is a busy mom with 2 girls and a fiance.  I figured she could use some relaxation.  Through emails she said she likes bold prints, pinks and greens.  Low and behold, I had the fabric to fit the bill.  I had a short term gig sewing baby quilts and the lady I was doing it for said I could keep any scraps too small for the quilts.  So I have a bunch of black and white zebra print and dots as well as a few pieces of black fleece.  Here is what I made....
Sleeping Beauty Eye Pillows...
 I found the pattern here.. And then modified it a bit.
Start by enlarging the pattern.  It prints smaller than actual size.  This is when I realize the cheep printer I purchased doesn't enlarge.  Luckily, I have a friend who's printer does.

Next, cut out your two pieces....

Then pin them together wrong sides together...
And baste them together, leave about a 2 inch whole to fill the eye pillow....

Cut a piece of 1/4 in elastic.  I found that 15-16 inches usually does it. And attach it to the BACK of the eye pillow.  I can't even tell you how many times I put it on the front, grrr.

Then you will start the bias tape.  I used double fold bias tape.  You'll notice that it has a shorter side.  Start with this.  You will unfold it and line it up with your fabric, on the right, top side, then stitch along the first fold. Start with a small fold at the beginning.  This will be your finished edge in the end.

Once you've gone all the way around ( leave the space with the opening undone) you will fold the bias tape over to the back, and top stitch close to the edge on the front.  Stop a few inches before you get to the hole. Be careful not to catch your elastic in the bias tape...

Now your going to add the filling.  I used flax seed, lavender and chamomile, but you can get really creative with this part.  This book, Making Herbal Dream Pillows, can give you a lot of ideas.  I just spoon it in until the pillow is about 1/2 full.  You want it to have enough to spread out, but not so much that it is stiff and doesn't drape over the eyes.
Then baste the opening closed...

Then finish the bias tape, tucking the ends into the beginning...

And your all done. 

Now you can heat these pillows in the microwave for about 1 minute.  Be careful not to go any longer or you could scorch the flax seed.  You can also keep them in the freezer and use them cold when you have a headache.

I made little spritzer bottles with essential oils for when the herbs start losing their scent.  I put a pinch of epsom salt in the bottom of a spritzer and added a few drops of Serenity EO, then filled the bottle with distilled water. 

The second pillow, I filled with Jasmine and Orange and made the spritzer with Elevation EO.

"What did I get?" You ask.  My partner made me this darling clutch for my purse and a Christmas coaster for my winter's hot cocoa.  I love them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just a Little Hole

I've expected for a long time that I have a hole in my heart. I thought this because my sister, Andrea, did too. Years ago she had a mini stroke and through investigating that, they found that she had a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO). She had hers repaired shortly after. It pretty much resolved her migraine headaches. Apparently, they are common in a lot of people who have migraines with aura. The chances of it are also more common in family members and people born by cesarean. So 3 out of 3 of those apply to me.

A few weeks ago I was tested to see if I had a PFO. The first test was called a Trans-Cranial Doppler. (TCD) is a new test which measures brain artery blood flow by using safe ultrasound echo probes placed on the surface of both sides of the head. If microscopic bubbles injected through an IV shunt past the lungs to the left heart, TCD detects and counts each bubble as it appears in the brain arteries. This showed that a PFO was present.

Then they did TransThoracic Echocardiography ( or TTE). It is a noninvasive, ultrasound test which evaluates heart structures. Microscopic bubbles injected into a vein show a PFO when they cross to the left side. This determined the severity of the PFO.

After all this was confirmed the recommended an MRI on my brain which I did a few days later. They need to see if I have any neurological damage caused by the PFO. You see, it doesn't affect my heart as much as my brain. What happens is when the PFO comes open, unoxygenated blood and possibly small clots flow from one side of my heart into the oxygenated blood on the other side, which then flows to your brain, possibly causing a stroke.

The scariest risk is stroke. A large PFO can increase your stroke risk up to 20%. After evaluating your risk, a panel decides if you qualify for closure.

The closure procedure has its risks, but amazingly, can be done through a catheter put in a vein in your leg that is guided to your heart. They put a little double umbrella device in the heart which is then closed over in time by scar tissue.

So, in this case I found that ignorance is bliss. It has been in the back of my mind for years. But now that I know it is, and I need to do something about it, it is stressing me out. Now it is in the forefront of my mind all the time. ANXIETY! Even though I'm in no more risk than I ever was, the thought of medical procedures is freaking me out. I really dislike Dr.'s offices and everything involved with them. I don't like the idea of sedation. I've never even taken a Valium. Being restrained freaks me out. I guess I'm just a control freak. They idea that I may be a ticking time bomb for a stroke is uncomfortable as well.

The silver lining is, if I get it closed, it will more than likely fix my migraines. They have been plaguing my for years. They totally disable me during the aura period when I loose a good deal of my sight for about 45 minutes. I never know when the are coming on. THAT I will be glad to be rid of.

This week I will get the results of the MRI and get a better idea on what to expect next. I'm not sure what I want.

Anyway, enough babbling. If you want to learn more, here is a link to the medical office I am going to....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Handmade Gift Exchange

A few weeks ago I signed up to participate in the Handmade Gift Exchange hosted by . I've been racking my brain trying to decide what to make. I finally settled on an idea that reflects things I enjoy and I hope my exchange partner will too. I'm not giving hints because I'm mailing her gift off today. Don't want to spoil the surprise.
Meagan was very intrigued by the idea that a total stranger would send you a FREE present. I had to remind her that it isn't really free because you make and send something too. But I tend to agree with her. How cool, presents in the mail! How often do you actually get something good in the mail? For me, rarely, bills, yuk. So I'm super psyched to get my gift out and see what comes in the mail.
Here is a little sneak peak....

If you know me, you know how out of my league I am when it comes to wrapping presents and presentation. Hopefully, my gifts rarely suck, but you may sometimes get them in a grocery bag or nothing at all. I found this wrapping today and just had to get it because it totally matches my present. Hehe, fun. I think I see why people put so much effort into their presentation. I'll show you what I made after I confirm that she got it in the mail. Maybe a tutorial? We'll see.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Canning Craze

Every year I become increasingly obsessed with canning. This year, with our garden exploding and an introduction to a local fruit grower, I had tons to do. Justin worked with me in the majority of the canning. We spent quiet a few days harvesting and canning. Now how many husbands do that? He's awesome. We tried a lot of new things this year. Here is the low down.

Honey Spiced Peaches
Brandied Peaches
Peach Butter
Peach Salsa
Peach Jam

Salsa (a LOT of salsa)

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Apple Pie Filling
Red Hot Cinnamon Apples

Raspberry Jam
Raspberry Pie Filling

Elderberry Jelly (Me and Mom)

Dilly Beans
Armenian Cucumber Pickles

Watermelon Jelly and Pickled Watermelon Rind - I threw out both of these. Gross, Gross, Gross.

We also froze a lot of beans, corn, tomatoes, raspberries and peaches.
I'm already planning my garden and canning for next year. YUM! YUM! Now all I need is a pressure canner so I can do low acid foods like veggies and meats.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Andrew in Alaska

My parents took Andrew to Alaska this summer. Two of my brothers, Shane and Matt, live there with there families. They made sure Andrew had an amazing adventure.

They flew him out to Minto Flats...
Looks like they got a bit of rain.

My brothers Shane and Matt

Andrew with his pike.

Shane's hand.  When a pike bites.

Cabin they stayed in.

Then Shane took Andrew out on the Tanana River...

to Clear Water to catch grayling...

Then Matt, Mom, Dad, and Andrew took a drive to see some landscape....

He also visited Alaskaland and the Museum at UAF.

He had the time of his life.

Andrew in Moab

Andrew's adventurous trip to Moab with the scouts....

Pics I found on Andrew's camera...

The Big Crash

At the end of May I recieved the dreaded phone call from a Scout Leader.  "Uhm, were bringing Andrew home.  He's been in an accident and crashed his bike.  Were not sure if he is going to need medical attention."  Oh boy.  First off, let me say, I would never want to have the responsibility of being a scout leader.  No matter how hard you try, boys with almost grown bodies and half grown brains are inherently dangerous.

For months the scouts had been preparing for a biking trip to Moab.  Their leaders had been taking them out biking to help build up their endurance.  They were coming fast down a steep hill when Andrew lost control of his bike.  He swerved to miss crashing into his friend in front of him and tipped over his bike and proceeded to slide down the road with every surface of his body.  Luckily, everyone was required to wear helmets  Otherwise this story would have been MUCH worse.

I have no idea how he did it, but Andrew played the tough guy.  He kept telling them, "I'm fine, I'm fine."  He was NOT fine.  They loaded him and his mangled bike up and brought him home.  Let me tell you, I have never seen one of my children this damaged and bloody before.  It was a bit shoking.  And he kept telling us, "I'm fine" too.  That is until the scout leader left.  I said, "Andrew, you're not fine," and the flood gates opened.  The thing is, he was more worried about the nice bike his grandma had bought him than himself.  We assured him that grandma would not be mad at him and would only be concerned that he was OK.  Then we started dealing with the carnage.

After assessing that nothing was broken, or needed stitching, we decided we could torture him just as well as the ER.  We watched him for signs of a concussion or shock.  I made Justin watch him in the shower, which is very embarrassing when you are 14.  After showering we spent a few hours picking out gravel and dirt, dousing him with hydrogen peroxide, spraying him with every germ and infection fighting essential oil I have (meleluca, oregano, Purify, OnGuard, lavender, and clove for the pain), smearing him with neosporin, and bandaging him up.  The poor child looked like a mummy when we were done with him. Both his arms we road rashed from the shoulders to his fingertips.  His elbows were skinned down to the white fleshy stuff, eww.  He had scraped off parts of flesh from the palms of his hands and some of his fingertips.  His knees were skinned up like his elbows.  Both the front and back of his shoulders were scraped up.  He must have rolled to get both sides like that. Luckily he had on his camel pack, which took the brunt of the back injuries.

He was in a lot of pain for a few days and missed some school.  It took a few weeks for everything to heal up.  It is now six months later and he has scars all up and down his arms.  Hopefully they will fade with time.  The good news is 1. Helmets save lives.  He had a big dent and crack in his helmet.  That could have easily been his head.  2. He healed enough in time to go to Moab with the scouts.  3.  His bike is OK, after 3 trips to the cycle shop to get it all repaired.  The bike mechanics were sure he would be in the hospital when they saw the condition of his bike.  Here are a few pics for the unsqueamish.  This is just one arm, before and after mother torture.

We asked Meagan to take care of Sienna while we dealt with this.  Apparently, they were a bit tired. Too sweet.  What a good big sister.

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Day at the Sand Dunes

We spend a day at the Little Sahara Recreation Area, aka, the sand dunes, this summer. My little brother, Matt, and his wife Jolie were visiting, so the whole Billings clan headed out for a day. The sand dunes are only about an hour away from our house.

My baby, wandering alone in the desert...

Brave Aunt Victoria with Meagan, Quinn, Sienna, Zane and Andrew

OK, so notice in this picture below and the pictures above. Nice, sunny, calm, hot day. Notice behind Meagan you can see our van and Andrea's suburban and the family at the picnic table. You can also see way off into the distance. Right????

Look the other way.... dark skies... withing a matter of seconds, literally seconds, it went from nice a clear and calm to a raging sandstorm. All the grownups except me were down by the picnic table when the wind came roaring in. Andrew, Amanda, Meagan and I grabbed toddlers and ran. In a matter of seconds, we couldn't even open our eyes to find the vehicles. It was really scary with all those kids. Everyone came rushing to help. We lost a bunch of sand toys but got all the kids safely, and some in tears, to the parking lot. I was shocked how fast it all happened. When I go back, I will never let my kids too far from my reach.

Other than its abrupt ending, the day was really fun.