Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Friday" Family Update

It's getting harder and harder to actually do these ON Fridays! Not sure why that is, but... oh well.


Michael had a great week in Nicaragua. He's really settling in there and doing well. Here's his most recent Video Blog. you can see any of the vlogs, he's done since he's been over there. He has a blog too, Nica Time, if you want to keep up.




Katie's show, Pillow Talk, opened at the Player's Club in NYC. Ron was able to go up there (for a whirlwind 36 hour trip. More about that below). Katie had the lead in her One Act play, and Ron reported back that the audience LOVED her!  He heard many glowing compliments of how well she is doing, what a hard worker she is, how great she is in class.  Yes!!!

One of Katie's friends at school found someone that Katie could room with in L.A. They met and chatted and it looks like it might work out.  She's having so much fun with her friends there - I'm glad several of them are going to go to LA for the Second Year of film acting with Katie.

Alyssa has moved to her final phase of her program. Students in "Avenue Four" are taking clients on the salon floor all week long. She's really good at cutting, and especially good at color - so if you need something done... :) Notice in the pic how all my gray is gone. Thanks to my own personal stylist, Alyssa!
Alyssa and Josh are getting excited with their wedding plans. We've firmed up the cake person: Krissy's Cakes. And they're trying to decide on different flavors for Groom's Cake. They're also furniture and apartment shopping this week. It's fun to watch them figure out what to choose!
Alyssa turns 18 this weekend. She'll be spending the day before with Josh (he works on the 26th), then his family is having a little party for her. She'll be with us for the actual day, and luckily, she doesn't have to go to school that day!

Ron is adapting to his new diabetic diet. He's not happy about how much time he has to dedicate to staying on top of his blood sugars, but he's doing fine with it. He added the laminate flooring to the new "Guest Room" this week. The new (old) bed moved in there. You can't really see the flooring in this pic, but at least the stained carpet is gone. We splurged and got a new bed. Just when the kids start moving out and we should be downsizing...we go the completely opposite direction! This is our queen sized one we've had since Michael was a baby, now in the Guest room.
Since we missed last week, you should know that Ron took his first trip to New York City! He actually had a great time - adored seeing Katie in her show, and had a great time with her as she showed him around NYC. They skated at Rockefeller Center, toured the Empire State Building, visited her dorm, wandered through Times Square, rode the subway, ate a little cafes.  Katie took more pictures and they have an adorable one at the Empire State building. I'll write a blog post next week about it and link it here. I'm so glad they got to spend that time together - just the two of them.


Sue: My birthday was this week! 51! We went to Mandola's for Italian food. It was delicious. Alyssa and I indulged in some yummy dessert.  This is the way (for me) to go! Often, I'm the only one who continues to munch on cake for the rest of the week. So just getting one really fabulous dessert (Zuccoto Cake!), I'm spared the bazillions of calories of HAVING to finish off an entire cake over the course of the week! Alyssa is a new gelato fan. She brought me a very sweet card (from Josh too) and some lovely purple tulips. Beautful! Michael and Katie both called, and we had long talks. That's really all I need for a perfect birthday. Still, Mom took me shopping for clothes. And many lovely comments on Facebook  and texting greeted me all day long.  

My friend Lillian shared this with me today:

Friday, February 24, 2012

House Update: A New Bed!

After 23 years, we got a new bed. It's not that we had been sleeping on the same mattress for that long. We had a house fire and replaced our mattress in 2005. So, technically, we're still a little early for "recommended mattress replacement."  But, we did it anyway!

Ron and I stayed at a couple of places where we were able to sleep on king-sized beds, and really liked them.  Add to it that we really like memory foam pillows. So what does that combination give you? A Memory Foam King Sized Mattress from Simmons!

This way, when I come in late to bed, the bed won't move at all. You've seen the commercials where the couple is jumping on the bed and the wine glass doesn't spill? That's what we have now. 

It's very comfy!
Now I have to figure out what to do with the wall, since the headboard is gone. Replace it? Put up artwork? Decisions! Decisions!


So what to do with the old bed? It's going to go to the guest bedroom.  We split the bedroom set up.  I still kept my dresser in my room along with both bedside tables, but this other dresser (to the right of the bed) and the headboard will move with the bed.  The room is too small to put the footboard on, so it will stay in storage.


Now when Katie comes home for Spring Break, or when she's back for a few months in the summer, she'll have this nice room off the bathroom.  And when we have company, they won't be relegated to a sleeping bag on the couch!

And with all the sheets and comforters we have in this house, there's nothing king sized.  
Off to Bed Bath and Beyond!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Cyber Time Capsule - Five-Ohh!

A year ago, I wanted to create a time capsule. I'm all too aware that my memory is fading a little. And I knew this was going to be a BIG Year.  I knew that Michael would graduate and hopefully get selected by the Peace Corps for...something. I knew that Katie was ready to move on with her acting.  Alyssa had had about all she was going to stand from Pflugerville High School.  I was turning 50 and Ron was turning 60. Those things alone, would be plenty to record!  I had no idea how much more the year would hold. (which is really ridiculous, because after 50 years, you'd think I'd learn that this is just How We Do It.)

So I started a Photo Blog last February on my birthday, and I called it Five - Ohh!  I had hoped to take a picture each day, but it didn't work out like that. Some days I took more than one, other days I took none. I found the concept difficult to stick to, because sometimes something exciting happened in the morning, and something else exciting would happen in the evening. How would I choose which event would "represent" that day? Anyway, I think I ended up with close to 200 photos there.

My final entry in my Cyber Time Capsule
By summertime, I realized that I couldn't keep my thoughts to myself. Yes, the pictures were great. But I wanted to say more. Thus began the blogging. I had blogged sporadically before, but now I had a reason. I wanted to keep a running journal (be it photo or written) of what was happening in our lives.

So I made my final entry in my PhotoBlog, Five-Ohh! last Monday, on my birthday.  And I really did create a great Time Capsule for my family. But what do I do with it? Just leave it to sit there in cyberspace? They'd probably never go to it. It's a little cumbersome to scroll page through page. The Five Ohh! archive allows you to just look at the collection of photos, and that's cool. I guess.

Please help me figure out what my options are. I could make it into a slide show, like we did for Ron's Father's Day video. Or make a collage at Photobucket. But 200 pictures?  I've been wanting to try out Blurb, for book building. Since these photos are already digital and on my computers, that would be easy enough to do.

Any other suggestions?

A screen shot of what a piece of the archive looks like


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Wild Parrots of East Austin


Who knew? I sure didn't!

Alyssa and I were driving around East Austin on Saturday, looking for East Austin Succulents and Tillery Street Plant Company. I read about them on Michele's blog, Wabi-Sabi Home & Garden. Of course, we were getting there at at 5 o'clock and they were closing. Still, we'll be back!

We decided to cut through the Mueller Shopping Center and we noticed the grackles gathering as they do each evening at dusk. Alyssa asked me, "Since when are grackles green?" I immediately thought how sometimes really black feathers can look blue or green and I started to mention that.  But no, that is NOT what she saw.  We looked over in the grass and saw a flock of what seemed like really large parakeets. Or maybe lovebirds.  What??? It was kind of chilly for February in Austin, so we looked at each other in disbelief.


Alyssa immediately called Ron, who was at home. "Dad, can you get on the computer and google green birds in Austin?"  She didn't need me to solve the problem for her. And she only needed her dad because he could do it quicker from the computer at home. In seconds, he pulled up our answer: The Wild Parrots of East Austin.  Once again, the same question: What???

We laughed at the idea that maybe someone left the pet store door open, and they all got out. But that was clearly not the case. Ron told us that these birds have been roaming Austin for some time now.  When we asked if it was too cold for tropical birds to still be here for the winter, he said that the website he pulled up said they don't migrate out of Austin.

We drove through the shopping center to the other side and found even more of these lime green birds. They were on the grass, on the telephone wires, in the trees. They had all the same behaviors of grackles at this time of day. We tried to get closer to them to take pictures, but they fluttered away. Another car pulled over beside us and they got out of the car to look. They were dressed up for the evening, but couldn't resist checking out this very intriguing "wildlife" phenomenon.

We decided we needed to know a little more.

While they are known as the Wild Parrots of East Austin, they're actually Monk Parakeets. And they have been living here in the Austin area for over 20 years!  One site says they've been here since the 1970's! After a brief web search, we didn't find much; but we found several possibilities for why the birds are here. Some might be considered Urban Myths, but they're all interesting and amusing.

From  the Austin Chronicle:
According to an urban myth, the birds came from a pair kept as pets. Perhaps it is due to an account on one Monk Parakeet site, which quotes a July 1995 story by the Austin American-Statesman writer Ricardo Gandara:
In a city known from producing fake rain (remember the sprinklers on MoPac near 35th Street?) and celebrating Spamarama, it should be no surprise that Janet Gilles can stand under a light pole on Town Lake and chirp without causing much of a fuss. She calls out for monk parakeets seen grooming just before they leave their nests to eat. They chirp back. Gilles release 19 monk parakeets, natives to Argentina, in March of 1991 when they wore out their welcome as house pets.

Another story is that the first Monk Parakeets arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Supposedly the crates broke and several of the birds escaped. Argentina gets cold, but I'm not sure it gets as cold as NYC! So evidently they migrated here. 

Erik Hueber, a University of Texas student from the 1990's, wrote a paper that is quoted in several places on the internet. While his paper appears to be gone from the UT website, his link to maps where he spotted nests is still available.  These nests were there in the late 90's, and we haven't checked them out if they're still there - YET!

Wikipedia offers this information about their nests:
The Monk Parakeet is the only parrot that builds a stick nest, in a tree or on a man-made structure, rather than using a hole in a tree. This gregarious species often breeds colonially, building a single large nest with separate entrances for each pair. In the wild, the colonies can become quite large, with pairs occupying separate "apartments" in nests that can reach the size of a small automobile. These nests can attract many other tenants including birds of prey such as the Spot-winged Falconet, ducks such as the Yellow-billed Teal, and even mammals. Their 5-12 white eggs hatch in about 24 days.
Yelp.com has a page devoted to the Wild Parrots of East Austin.  You can look there to see where some of the latest sitings are. The most recent says there's a large nest behind the Frisco Restaurant on Burnet Rd.

So keep your eyes peeled! Look up at the tall light poles near Town Lake. Or at Butler Fields near the Zach Scott Theatre. Or drive around the outskirts of Mueller shopping center like Alyssa and I did. They can't be too far away; maybe you'll get a chance to glimpse these curious birds. And if you do, comment here and let me know where you found them.

Hmmm, it's getting late... maybe we should go to the Frisco tonight and see if we can catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds coming home to roost.

(Be sure to open the Comment section below. The Travis County Audubon Society sent a list of where some of these nests are. They're not just in East Austin. One could be in your neighborhood!! How cool would that be?)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Family Update

even though I'm not getting around to it until the weekend!


Alyssa
Tonight was a Fashion Show at Avenue Five. Alyssa did one when she first started as an "Avenue 1", and now as she's finishing up "Avenue 3", she's did another. Ron, Josh, Grandma and I all went. It was loud and fun and the stylists did great work. At the end, the stylists walked the runway with their models.  Fun evening!
Another biggie for Alyssa this week is that her school held a Mock State Board Test.  They all had to go through various procedures with no assistance from teachers or communicating with each other. They worked on a mannequin for most of it, but had to use each other to be checked off on "Nails". They did a manicure, a facial, a chemical, a color, a cut. She was really nervous because they tried to make it as similar to the real State Boards as possible. All serious. No talking. She doesn't really like the First Run of anything. She prefers to sit back, take it all in, THEN take her turn. She didn't get to do it like that this week though.  But...she passed with a 90!! I'm impressed! And by the end of the week, she received a card in the mail saying she's eligible to go take her State Boards.


Katie
Katie's been super busy with classes this week. And she added in rehearsals for her show next week (Feb. 17th).  It sounds like it's going to be wonderful.
She learned how to make her first Pork Chops in the Crock Pot recipe! Success! I think she's going to try Spaghetti next.
We've decided that she can come home for Spring Break. All of her friends are going to be gone, so it will be better. She wants Alyssa to trim her hair, so that will work out too. We're going to postpone taking the trip to LA over spring break. We'll just wait to do it in May. Pam's friends have been checking out various places that Katie finds online. Then they give the Thumbs Up or Thumbs down signal.

Michael
Michael is learning why Nicaragua needs Peace Corps volunteers to help them teach English - the teachers there have a lot of resistance to it. They just don't think anything will work. The Peace Corps is starting to lean toward the concept of focusing on the Learner instead of the Teacher...so that's a good start. He is really enjoying his new living arrangements though. They stay up late asking questions about the program, his life, etc. All in Spanish - so he's going to get really good. The other house had several English speakers, so the others would often defer to them, and Michael wouldn't get much Spanish practice. Not here though! The only pitfall is that there is no meat in this house, they simply don't have the money for it. Nor is there much in the way of fruits and veggies - just rice and beans. So Michael is going to use his weekly money to help subsidize the food there.  He also told me that he and Kathya are getting very serious about each other. They are going to work on getting her Visa so she can come with him for Alyssa's wedding in April 2013.

Ron
The Sonogram showed no mass, no real structural problem to note. But why he's at 40% on his kidney function...? He has an appt. with the nephrologist on Monday. He's having no pain now. He's also thinking it could be from that really hard fall he had in a hockey game a month or so ago. Possible.

Sue
Nothing new this week for me other than the big Police Operation in our neighborhood on Friday night. Helicopters overhead shaking the walls. Police cars everywhere, talking over their loudspeakers - not that I could understand them. And then as quickly as they arrived, they left for the next neighborhood over. And within the hour, it was all silent again. A weird night in Suburbia!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TED: Happiness




This TED Video is The Happy Secret to Better Work,  Shawn Achor. He talks really fast, especially for a fellow Texan. But he's entertaining and makes some interesting points.

This video was geared toward happiness in the workplace and in the schools, but I think we can take some of the point and apply it everywhere.



I really liked his point about how we look at the world through various "lenses." And then that's what tells us what reality is.  It's not necessarily reality that shapes us, but the lens through which our brain views the world that shapes our reality. So it's a matter of changing the lens.

We think, "if I work hard, I'll be successful. And then I'll be happy." But he gives the idea that the formula needs to change.
"If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain has the 'happiness advantage.' Which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does in negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise."
And
"When dopamine floods into your system, not only does it make you happier, it turns on all the learning centers in your brain. Allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way. "
He gives some suggestions for ways to retrain your brain to move toward happiness. Just a couple of minutes per day, you can actually rewire your brain.  Do these things for 21 days and see if it works!

  • 3 Gratitudes every day - what are you grateful for? This helps the brain develop a pattern of scanning the world looking for the positive, not the negative. 
  • Journaling about 2 positive experience you've had over the last 24 hours, allowing your brain to relive it.
  • Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
  • Meditation teaches your brain to stop multi-tasking and truly focus on the task at hand
  • Random Acts of Kindness - open your email and send one email to someone praising or thanking them





Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Family Update 2/3/12

What's up with everybody? Some of it's good, some not so good...so I'll just lay it out here.

Selva Negra Coffee Plantation
Michael packed it in this week. He completed his first youth group class on his own last week. He was supposed to have help, but his answer to why didn't you? "Well, it's Nicaragua." His class size was supposed to be about 15. He started with 36 and grew to 62 students! Since he teaches English, he had to figure out a way to do oral exams for all those kids! 51 passed, so he felt really good about that.

He just got back from a Peace Corps training at the famous and gorgeous Selva Negra coffee plantation and resort. It's located in the Matagalpa Highlands. Michael said it was really cold up in the mountains. After the training, he went to La Paz afterward and stayed with his Nicaraguan girlfriend, Kathya's, family. They are really nice to him (as is everyone in La Paz! It was his first town to live in and his host family was wonderful.)
Michael did get a new place to live. He hasn't spent much time there yet, but I'd imagine we'll hear more soon.
Oh! Michael has a blog with posts, pictures and videos called Nica Time. You might want to check it out!

Katie with NYFA students
Katie had a roller coaster of a week. She auditioned for a 4 man show (2 girls/2 guys), that the teachers were producing. It's going to run at The Players Club, which isn't a school location; so it seems like a big deal. She did her audition, and felt like it went well. They asked her to sing something (she always has something prepared for these things), and then she left. Callbacks were the next day. Well, that day came and went - no call back. I think *I* was more disappointed than she was. She reminded me that that's just how this goes and I was  struck by the idea that that is why SHE is doing this and I am not! But 3 days later, the director called her, offering her a part! It turns out he didn't need to see her a second time to make the decision - he knew on the 1st audition! So the show is going to play on February 17th, and Ron has decided he's going to go to brave New York and see it! We just made the flight reservations tonight!
Another rough part for Katie's week, she and her boyfriend (who lives here) broke up. When the phone rang at 11:30 p.m., all she could say is "Mom?" then sobbing and near hysterics. I had no idea what was wrong. My disaster mind took off and every possible scenario of what COULD have happened to Katie in NYC, flashed through my mind in those 3-4 seconds!! Not Fun. Finally, she was able to say what happened, we talked a for a while, and she decided to go to bed. The next morning, her friends at NYFA comforted her, took her to lunch and out shopping after class. When I talked to her around 3 p.m. the next day, she was all better.  And then, today, she was invited to audition for the part of Maureen in RENT! I'm not sure where this production will be, if it's a NYFA version or off- off- off- Broadway. We shall see!

Alyssa is snipping away her hours at Avenue Five Institute. She took the 900 hour test this week and passed. It's required to pass before you can move on to the last phase, Avenue 4. She worked on a friend of mine's hair this week, cutting off 10 inches for Locks of Love. My friend was very pleased with the results and her husband even sent Alyssa a text saying how fabulous the color was! Alyssa loves to do color, so she'll probably add that as a testimonial on her website she's building.
We spent more time planning the wedding, booking people for the date. We are going with an Italian food catering company, Mr. Tomato, which will go perfectly with the Tuscan Villa theme. What they lack in their name choice, they make up for it in taste. We tried a variety of really delicious options, and they were so great to work with!  We also spent an INORDINATE amount of time with a photographer, Lisa Shepard who owns AIMAGE Photography. She was wonderful and we hired her on the spot. Tomorrow we go to secure the venue, so I'll write more about that next week.

Ron is running into some health issues. He ignored his pre-diabetic diagnosis from the doctor, eschewed the Metformin, and opted to try to keep his sugars in check with diet. That didn't work. This week, his sugars climbed higher and landed him with a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis.  Add to that, his lower back pain he's had for maybe a year now - something he attributed to playing hockey or hiking - turns out to be a some kind of kidney problem. His numbers look bad, so they are scheduling him for a sonogram next week.  He is not happy about the dietary change I have in store for him, but I will wait until we hear from the doctor next week. He's actually excited about going up to NYC to see Katie perform, and I think I'm going to find some cool sightseeing things for him to do while she's in class!

Sue met with a new women's group at Toci over the weekend. This group is going to meet a couple times per month and really help each other stick to our goals and plans. One of those plans is to increase the creativity in my life. This week, my friend Cydney and I resurrected the Unschooling Blog Carnival.  Here's a little more about Behind the Scenes.  Another project is that we're going to start moving toward meat and dairy-free diets. It's going to take a lot of effort - I have such a steep learning curve with this. But I'm going to make this work!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ground Hog Day!

I know it's a funny little obscure holiday. But we have always loved Ground Hog Day.  We are a family that has traditions; and as I think about it now, they often center around the television! We have to watch Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve, and we have to watch Bill Murray's Ground Hog Day on February 2nd. As the kids got older, we got a little lax and we simply had to watch it somewhere AROUND Ground Hog's Day.

I was looking around to find a YouTube clip for those of you who might need it, I stumbled across some things. There's a Wikipedia page for Ground Hog Day.  It has explanations for thing I never even thought of ! I didn't wonder why Phil was trapped in this repetitive loop. Nor did I think about how long that was supposed to take place. I just went with the story, because...I guess that's just how I am.!

We loved the show and we're always a little startled when someone thanks it's too ridiculous to be funny. But true to form, we press on with our list of Great Traditional Patterson Movies!




But here's a clip from the ACTUAL Pennsylvania Ground Hog emerging in  2012. And if you though the Movie version was odd, you will definitely think that about the real thing!!  I don't really remember looking at an actual video of this event. I'd see men in top hats on Yahoo News, predicting 6 more weeks of winter. But to watch this on video, well, you simply must.

It's a tradition!