Monday, November 7, 2016

Pokemon Costume: Bulbasaur


In June, my daughter had a Pokemon birthday party, (which was right BEFORE Pokemon Go came out - just FYI), and since I put so much work into Daddy's Ash shirt, I wanted to repeat some of the costumes for Halloween.

However, I didn't want to force my daughter to be Charmander again, so I asked her who she wanted to be. If she wanted to be a character from XY (she said Bonnie at first), then I would have coordinated our family costumes around that. Luckily she chose Bulbasaur, so we stuck with the Indigo League theme. (See Why Pokemon XY is Better Than Indigo League for more geeky info on that).

The good news was that I only had to make one Halloween costume this year!

The bad news was that it was Bulbasaur:
via http://pokemon.wikia.com/wiki/Bulbasaur

This entire project was me figuring it out as I went, so this isn't a tutorial.

I started with a garage sale backpack that the kids do not use or love and green fabric. 


Added some leafy stuff. 


The casing reminded me of a green jester hat halfway through. 


I used our Charmander hat as a rough estimate for the Bulbasaur hat. The one pictured below was too dark, so I ended up making another one from teal fabric. 


Finished product: 


I'll admit, I am proud of this costumed. I think his face looks more authentic than the Pikachu and Charmander hats we bought from a costume store. 


Here's our group costume for Halloween. 


And a shot of Bulbasaur from the back Trick-or-Treating. 


My favorite part of the night were the kids (all boys incidentally) who recognized Bulbasaur. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Home Reno Before and After: Interior

We bought a major fixer-upper back in March, and with the help of a renovation mortgage (which involves lots of red tape), we were able to renovate it and gain about $40K in equity!! Great investment for us, but LOTS of work too! The professional renovations were accomplished in two months, and the DIY stuff is mostly done now. :) 

This first installment of Home Reno Before and After photos is only our interior. The before shots were taken the day we closed on the house. As I walked through the wasteland, tears filled my eyes. I thought, "What have we gotten ourselves into?!" 

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After


Master Bath Alcove Before and After

Guest Bathroom Before and After 

There are many other beautiful transitions not pictured. The experience of renovating this house was stressful, but so worth it. With the right contractor (we LOVED ours!) and an abundance of patience, a renovation mortgage was wonderful. Each stage of completion revealed that beauty can come from ashes.

Next step: Exterior!






Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stop! Hammond Time


This summer my family had a family reunion at New Smyrna Beach, complete with talent show, and here's my entry. You may recognize the song with a very personal twist. :) 


YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27J80183S_c

And Happy Birthday today to my cousin, Kate!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

10 Things I Hate About Facebook That Led Me To Finally Quit

I was an early-adopter of Facebook, joining back in 2004 when it first launched for college students. I was a young, impressionable, open-to-experience freshman. After college, I started to have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I even wrote this post about breaking an addiction and cutting back.

May 2015 I shut it down all together and don't regret it at all. Here are my 10 Things I Hate About Facebook, in least-aggravating to most-aggravating order, and they don't end up being a cute poem revealing my love and devotion.

10 Things I Hate About Facebook

10. Facebook's ever-changing interface. 

I get that you have to keep with the times. And over my 11 years of life with Facebook, I was usually excited about the updates and new formats, but after a while I started to get frustrated with how complicated it was becoming to do and find simple things.

9. Privacy Settings. 

Every time Facebook changed the format, it seemed like I had to go back and update my privacy settings. I felt very out of control of who was seeing what I posted. I gave it many years of trying to filter and adjust, but ultimately, it seemed like a game of Russian Roulette with who may or may not see my posts.

8. Over-Stimulation. 

Three columns of information! News feed, hot trending topics, updates from my groups, the red notification number in the tab. I couldn't go on Facebook to do one thing. I would ALWAYS get distracted by something else.

7. Too Much Wasted Time. 

Because of these distractions, I often spent more time on Facebook in one sitting than I intended to, which led to too many hours a day on Facebook looking at "news."

6. Over-Sharing. 

When not on Facebook, I would think of status updates or things I could share on Facebook. Eventually, I started to wonder why I was posting things? For likes? For self-gratification?

5. The internet owning my stuff. 

Sometimes get freaked out by what we share on the internet being used against us someday. I read articles about people who never post their kids online to protect their kids' privacy, and I wondered if I was doing myself a disservice by sharing so much, even on this blog. Some things are sacred and meant to be shared with individuals, not the masses.

4. Disliking Others' Posts. 

I got bored and irritated with what I saw on Facebook. In my early FB days, I loved all the sharing, but I eventually started to resent it. Too many baby pics, pregnancy pics, travel pics, complaining, boasting, politics, mommy-shaming, etc. That about covers EVERY post on Facebook, so I realized I didn't like ANY thing I was seeing. Why was I reviewing things I'm not really interested in?

3. Being Responsible for Others' FB Posts. 

Because everyone posts everything on FB, I felt the burden to know what's going on in everyone's lives. If something came up in conversation that I somehow didn't know, I felt dumb that I hadn't found out already on FB, despite checking it so often.

2. Judging People and Feeling Jealous. 

Internet interactions can create unnecessary tension between otherwise happy relationships. All of these posts that I disliked caused me to dislike the people posting them, feelings which I would never have felt if I had learned the information face-to-face. Something about seeing it on Facebook caused me to be judgmental or jealous, instead of happy or compassionate toward my friends.

1. Thinking about people when I wasn't on Facebook. 

My personal mind space was too-often occupied by people that I never see in real life, people that I don't necessarily need to have a relationship with at this point in my life. I let myself be bothered, insulted, or mull over judgmental thoughts toward people that I don't EVER hang out with. I was frustrated by my lack of control over my mind space. I have enough going on in my regular life without all that added information about people I never see.


Bonus Thing I Hate:


Facebook makes it difficult to deactivate. It's hard to find the button to deactivate, then FB asks you about 3-4 times if you "really want to" and they demand you give a reason.



Exit the Freeway

Facebook is like a jam-packed-with-traffic freeway at rush hour. I was always frustrated and felt like there was no other way. But when I exited, I saw that there's a bunch of people living happy, care-free lives on country roads. I didn't know there was another way, but there is, and it's less stressful. 

When I deactivated my account in May 2015, I worried that I would cave in, but I didn't. I have opened my account 2 times since then: once to retrieve a recipe that was in a FB message and once to try video chatting with a friend when Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime weren't working (FB didn't work either that time).

I also tried to make a "ghost account" in July 2015 to do a beach body challenge group one month, and when I became friends with one person, I showed up in everyone's suggested friends. So I quit again. 

Quitting freed my mind space and stopped me from thinking rude thoughts about people. When I see people I haven't seen for a while, I get to talk about lots of things in their lives, because we don't already know from FB. 

The only drawback is that I don't have EVERY single person's contact information, so I can't just FB message some random person from my past, but I can text or email everyone that's important to me, and if someone REALLY needs to find me, they can go through this blog or my husband's FB account. 


It Was A Process

It took me years to quit Facebook. I spent 11 years of my life on Facebook, ALL of my adult life. I didn't know how to live without it. I was afraid of being disconnected. 

In 2013, I tried to cut back by taking the app off my phone and closing the browser when I was done, but like any addiction, I had to quit altogether. Two years later, after talking to multiple people who had successfully and happily quit, proving it was possible, I finally deactivated my account. It's been 18 months, and I'm quite happy. 

I'm on Instagram, which is more simple and I only follow a few people to prevent the judgement/jealousy problem. So far, so good, but if I ever feel like it's creeping into any of those problem areas I listed above, then I'll cut it off too. 


Hope this is helpful to anyone who might be considering making the jump. 


Disclaimer: I don't think Facebook is bad for everyone. And I see many benefits if you live far away from your family or are moving to a new town and need to make new connections. I use iMessage and Google+ to share photos with my family members. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Pokemon XY is Better Than Indigo League

What? How can XY be better than Indigo League, the show that started all?!
via Amazon.com

Backstory

My four year-old is currently obsessed with Pokemon. My husband and I are old-school Pokemon fans, me from watching the original series and him from playing the first gameboy games.

The next generation fandom started with my husband and I impulse-buying coordinating Pokemon keychains (Squirtle and Bulbasaur). My daughter became obsessed with Squirtle, playing with the keychain whenever she could. We started with showing her some clips of Squirtle on YouTube, but eventually we just dove in with Indigo League, because naturally, you should start at the beginning, right?

We finished Indigo League on Netflix, but not having free access to Johto Journeys, we started Pokemon XY.

At first, I was against XY. Different voice actors! Different Ash outfit! Different Pokemon! Different companions!! What happened to Brock and Misty?! Who are these Clement and Bonnie people!?

via Amazon.com

For Pokemon purists, I say start from the beginning, but for young kids, XY is superior to Indigo League for these reasons: 

1. Ash (Main Character)


Indigo League

In Indigo League Ash is a whiney, arrogant, selfish boy. It is comical in the series that he thinks he's so great and keeps getting put in his place, but for a main character, his personality is kind of annoying and not what I'd hope for my kids. 


XY

Ash is older, more experienced, and more mature. He is kind and considerate to his friends. He still wants to become a better Pokemon trainer, but he's not obsessed with personal greatness and has a much more humble attitude toward the process. In one episode he is rejected from a gym because he doesn't have four badges yet. He accepts the rule and maturely says that he will return when he has four badges. He is a much better role model for little ones. 

2. Companions


Indigo League 

As much as I love Misty (I dressed like her last month), she is very rude. She verbally abuses Ash in every episode. Ash treats her pretty poorly in the beginning too. In the episode where they visit her home town, her three sisters call her ugly. Lots of negativity with her.

Similarly, I loved Brock when I first saw the series in high school. He was hilariously falling in love with every girl they met in each episode. When Brock (and sometimes 10 year-old Ash) drools over a girl, I wonder at his intentions (hooking up?) and am offended at the blatant objectification of women.

Not behaviors or philosophies I want my 4 year-old picking up. 


XY 

Clement and Bonnie are a brother and sister duo. They are kind and take care of each other. Bonnie fills the Brock role of pointing out beautiful women to her brother, but her motive is to find her brother a good wife. Instead of targeting physically attractive women, she says "you seem like a keeper" about nice, smart, and pretty women. It fulfills the comedic part of the show with Clement getting thoroughly embarrassed, but doesn't diminish a woman's worth to looks alone. 

Sarina is the other female companion of Ash (yay for equal numbers of boys and girls in the main group!) and fills the role of beginning trainer. She is like Ash in Indigo league, except sweet naive instead of bloated with amateur arrogance. For people new to Pokemon, you can learn through her eyes. 

They are always encouraging and helpful toward each other. I don't think I've seen an episode with name-calling or arguing yet. 

3. More Pokemon


This actually bothered me at first. I thought, "Come on! I just learned the first 150, now I have to learn more?!" 

[To people who have no clue what Pokemon is, I describe them as animals that people catch and battle with. It's not like dog fighting, because that's what Pokemon exist for and what they like to do. There are plenty of episodes about the evils of mistreating Pokemon. The show promotes environmental awareness and positive care of animals.]

Though it's fictional, if it were a real world, there would be more than 150 types of animals. It makes sense that there are regional types. Once I got over missing Charmander and Bulbasaur, I actually started to like Froakie and Fenneken. 

Now that Pokemon Go is so popular, the Geek in me is actually glad to know some more obscure ones, so I can out-geek the mainstreamers. That sounds extra geeky, but some of you can relate.

4. Hidden Lessons


Indigo League definitely had some hidden lessons, mostly about animal rights and taking care of the environment. XY has up-ed the ante. I recently watched on with a hidden lesson about eating well! That's a win in my household. 

One lesson both series often teach is don't trust strangers to take care of your Pokemon, because they'll probably turn out to be Team Rocket.

5. Fewer Weird Characters


There were a couple Indigo League episodes where I might have laughed as a high schooler, but as a parent, I cringed. The episode where a maniac woman tries to kill all the jelly fish, and her entourage are young guys in speedos? Or the one where a bunch of boy bullies are controlled by one beautiful girl bully? 

So far with XY, the day players are less PG-13 or even PG. It's been a very G-rated show. 

6. Better Battles


XY just has better battles. The trainers call out more attacks. The animation is better.  

I recently watched a battle where Pikachu was blinded by something, and Ash called out detailed moves for Pikachu. I'm 30 years old and was entertained by it, so that's saying something, right? (about the show, not me!) 


Drawbacks of XY


1. The opening song isn't the full Indigo League version (there's no "You teach me and I teach you. Pokemon!!"), which wasn't the full-full version anyways.

2. Different voices. Ash's new voice makes sense, because he's supposed to be older. But Team Rocket's voices are strange to me, especially Meowth. I LOVED James' voice in Indigo League. The new voice is okay, but I keep picturing a voice actor in a studio, whereas the old James was just James. 



I LOVE Indigo League, so don't get me wrong. These opinions are all in the light of my four year-old watching the show and me as a parent watching for subtle (or not-so-subtle) negative influences on her character and the way she views herself. 

Charmander, return!