Nothing said has been dumb. As you gain experience, you start learning tricks that just sorta "click." That little bit of math that makes the size smoothly transition? Learned that in high school. The "additive value rotation" I learned from Clickteam software (don't know why I didn't mention this method when we had that "change button color" thread). The use of layers to create a composite sprite is brand new, and something I learned offhand from one of Ashley's tutorials.
When trying to do something outside the bounds of current objects and functions, it's not a 100% creative process. You don't dive in with a box of Wheaties and hope the answers just come to you. Most of your problem solving will likely be in a reverse order, starting with the idea of what you want something to do or look like in the end. Like this: I want a circle object with these features. How can I make the circle? How can I then give it a border? Maintaining that border, how can I animate it using only the math I understand? How can I make it as expandable as possible?
Once you have your plan, then it's a matter of steps. From the bottom of your list on upward, you build your program until it resembles the thesis at the top of your list.
This has been a longer reply than I intended. I think I've made my point, so I'll leave you to decide whether or not I'm full of myself.