Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Florida Trip

I made a short solo trip to Orlando for the Loyalty Expo. The trip there on Monday was a little less than ideal in that I got sick on both flights. I can't say I've ever actually puked on a plane, but there's a first time for everything! The 20-minute taxi to the Dallas terminal did me in. Then, when we took off for Orlando, the air vents pushed hot air instead of cold for a good 10 minutes and we had a turbulent flight, landing in rain in Florida. Unfortunately, I had an aisle seat and had to borrow the bag from the poor guy next to me after filling mine. Embarrassing to say the VERY least. I couldn't get off that plane fast enough (and neither could my neighbors, most likely). By the time I got a shuttle to my hotel, it was 12:30am and I was exhausted.  Maybe that's why I didn't realize until the next morning that my room had this amazing view:

After a long day at the conference, I skipped the cocktail hour to walk around the grounds and enjoy the beautiful weather. This was the Hyatt Regency Cypress and I have to say I was really impressed with the grounds and wished I had packed more than business dress clothes.

I had a great dinner that night with some of my vendors and a marketing guy from another restaurant chain. One of them was from Britain/now Boston and was just fascinated by my life in a small town (being 2.5 hours from the airport was unfathomable to me) but we had interesting conversations and great food.  .

After more morning sessions, I started my journey back on Wednesday afternoon and was dreading the flights terribly. With a little help from some Zofran left from my last pregnancy, I made it through. I also discovered how terrible it is to be out of reading material for an 2+ hour flight. My phone battery was dying fast and I needed to save it for the drive home so I couldn't read off my Kindle app and I finished the entire Divergent book that I bought in the Dallas airport on the way. After arriving in Omaha, I still had a 2.5 hour drive home...alone...and drowsy from my was not the best combination.  

I stopped in Onawa for coffee and was horrified to notice a big dent/scrape in the driver's door of the company car I was driving. I speculated that someone had hit-and-run in the airport parking lot and that it was just too dark for me to notice when I returned to my car.  I got home late and dreaded going into work the next morning to deal with the car insurance/body shop arrangements. But, I dutifully snapped pics of the damage and headed in to work. 

I confided in one of my co-workers about the car damage and she asked, "Did you take the Edge?" "Yes," I said. "Oh, that's the vehicle that got hit a few weeks ago!" I am officially the most unobservant person on.the.planet. The dent had been there the ENTIRE time--from the time I picked up the car, stopped at Jimmy John's, parked at the airport, and got back in at the airport after my return. I just didn't notice the giant dent until the way home. 

So, I learned a few things on this trip.
1. Always inspect a borrowed car when you get into it. Saves a lot of worry.
2. Zofran is good for preventing puking but bad for driving alone at night after a long few days. Take with coffee.
3. After the winter we had been having, even a 1.5 day escape to warm temperatures and lush vegetation does a body and soul some good.
4. Pack more reading material than you think you'll need.
5. I am the worst traveler ever. Do not sit on a plane by me or ride in a car with me unless I am driving (the car, not the plane, do you want to die?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Experiments for 4-year-olds

Ryan often asks if we can do an "experiment" which usually involves something messy. But, it's nice to have a few ideas to pull out for kids this age, so I thought I'd share a few that we've done with our almost-4.5-year old.

Giant Frozen Marbles
I had pinned this idea from Pinterest and when we had a few days of way-below-freezing temps, decided to try it out.  My tips are to put a few drops of food coloring in the balloon first, then put it over the faucet and SECURELY hold it on the faucet while you fill it (um....we may have sprayed water all over each other and the kitchen the first time we filled a balloon. Thankfully, we hadn't thought of putting the food coloring in first yet). We just tied the balloons and put them in a box in the backyard for a few days to freeze. Once we cut the balloons off, we did things like poar warm water in the middle to make a dent or a hole and shone a flashlight setting right on them to make them glow. Then, despite it still being below-freezing, Ryan wanted to go outside and "bowl" with them, so we rolled/raced them down the driveway a few times. I wanted to set them out and watch them melt on the snow in the warmer days to come, but Ryan insisted on burying them. The snow melted faster than the ice balls, so we did see them a few days later.

Sink or Float
We gathered objects from around the house, then talked about "prediction" and sorted the objects into piles for what he thought would sink or float.

He only got 2 wrong! (the rubber band and swirly eraser sunk). Then I asked him for ideas on why some things sunk or float. He had some good observations that large-area things floated even if they were heavier than smaller things.

Next, we predicted how many marbles it would take to make an easter egg or a yogurt container sink to the bottom. Eventually, he just liked throwing the marbles in the water and retrieving them with a spoon.

The Crow and the Pebble
I told Ryan the Aesop's fable of the Crow and the Pebble as we did this one. First, we filled a baby food jar half-full of water and marked with a Sharpie the level of the water.
A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had
once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the
mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left
in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it.
He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair.
Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it
into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher.
I asked Ryan to put marbles into the jar one by one and see what happened to the water.  We put in 30 marbles and then marked how high the water was.
At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near
him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench
his thirst and save his life. 
Little by little does the trick.
We talked a little about why this worked, but I think water displacement theory is a little above him :).

Splashing Parade
This was less of an experiment and more of a "let loose and just let him have fun!"  With the suddenly warm temperatures, all the snow melted at once and there was lots of standing/running water. So, we got out the rainboots purchased as part of his Jake and the Neverland Pirates Halloween costume, and let him go to town! Not only did stomping through the slush and water in the yard entertain him, but we also went for a walk with his boots on. He loved stomping off the snowy overhangs on the curbs and watching the chunks fall off into the stream of water all the way down to the storm sewer. Some places, he was wading through water almost as tall as his boots! Everything went straight into the wash when we got home, but we were so happy to finally get a hint of spring! It was a good reminder to me to not automatically say "no" to something that seemed messy/unnecessary. Boys just need to get dirty sometimes!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cohen: 1 Year, 3 Months

Cohen has improved his walking/running so much this month and has also mastered going up and down stairs (backwards down the stair). We can't leave the gate at the basement stairs open quite yet, but it's nice he can manage the 3 steps up to the stage in the theater room and getting on and off the deck. As you can see, he is also pretty good at climbing onto his little plastic table and standing up! One night he got up and down from this table about 25x in a row. Good workout!

The weather teased us with a few nice days and he loved getting outside for a stroller ride and to swing in the backyard. Pretty soon we'll be able to get rid of that winter hat for good!

Cohen is finally trying to add to his 8 teeth by showing some evidence that a few molars are just poking through, but that combined with the time change has made sleeping a little more of a challenge this month.

Cohen also continues to be pretty stubborn in the vocabulary department. He'll say "uh-oh" and sometimes "ba" for ball and "mana" for banana/food in general, but that's pretty much it. Not even a mama or dada!  He can wave bye-bye or night-night and blow a kiss, but won't say the words. He definitely knows what we're saying, though because he can follow instructions or go to the right room when we say it's time for lunch/bath/diaper change, etc.

I've noticed him getting a little pickier with food lately, but he usually eats enough of something we're serving to get by. He can feed himself yogurt with a spoon and poke bananas or pancakes with a fork, but often resorts to his fingers when he can get away with it.

Cohen loves throwing balls, playing with Jake's pirate ship, messing with crayons, putting the marbles down the marble run (supervised), putting Hot Wheels down the wall track, and playing the songs on his musical book. He will swing side-to-side, clap, and dance whenever music plays. He also likes climbing in and out of boxes and with balloons.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baby Gift Idea: Custom Keepsake File Storage

UPDATE: I created 3 boxes for my own kids did an updated (a little more efficient) post including free file labels you can download. See the updated post here.


My younger sister just had her second baby, and I knew I wanted to complete this project for her the minute I saw it on Pinterest.  The original idea of "Baby Boxes" came from here and I just modified it to my liking.

The idea is to create a file storage system with hanging files pre-labeled with their age/grades and other things you may "collect" as they grow up. This gives parents a perfect place to put special school projects, report cards, pictures, letters, medical info, etc. You can expand to a larger file box like this as you grow, but I figured my sister wouldn't want to store a huge box when the girls were still little. Plus, the smaller box limits you to only keeping what's really important so you don't end up with tons of  giant totes full of scrapbooks when you move out the house (not that I didn't just rearrange my basement this morning to fit mine and my husbands').

Here's how I completed the project:

  1. Supplies: First, I ordered jewel-toned hanging file folders ($13.20 on Amazon) and picked up some clear storage boxes from Walmart for around $6. They are also sold on Amazon but cost more and don't have free shipping. Whatever you get, make sure it has ledges for hanging file folders to...well...hang!
  2. Front Sign: Since I don't have a graphics program, I picked out a free blog header I liked from Cutest Blog on the Block.  I saved it to my computer and then put it into a Word document, resized it, and added my nieces' names with Word Art. I printed it on cardstock, cut it out, and used spray-mount to stick it to the front of the box.
    (No guarantee that is going to stick long-term.)
  3. File Labels: Also in Word, I created a table with each cell 2" wide and 0.6" tall. I made the borders light gray so I'd have a guide to cut them without it being too dark. I typed the long names right in the text box and decided to crop a piece of the blog header image and paste it into the left side of the cell. Then, I used a text box to put the number on top of the image. I also saved a few symbols from the internet to use for some of the labels. Once printed on cardstock, I used a Fiskars cutting tool (for scrapbooking) to cut them apart. You could use a scissors, though. You can click the picture of the labels to enlarge it, or here are the labels I chose and the image in parenthesis:
    • Baby Info (image of baby footprint)
    • Age 0-3 (0-3)
    • Age 4-5 (4-5)
    • Kindergarten (K)
    • 1st Grade (1) - 12th Grade (12)
    • Medical (medical cross)
    • Certificates (rectangle with medallion)
    • Church (cross)
    • Cards/Letters (envelope)
    • Pictures (camera)
    • Sports (running shoe)
    • All About Me (conversation bubble)
    • blank--so they can put whatever they want on it --there are 25 total files in a box.
  4. All About Me: I liked the idea of doing the same "birthday interview" every year, so I found a template I liked (here) and printed off 18 of them for each box. That way they're all ready in the All About Me folder to be completed!
  5. I decided on the order of the labels and the pattern of the file colors (take note of which color you want showing in front) and then inserted all the labels into the clear holders. I like being able to see the entire label so I put each 2 spaces apart. 
Done! Time to give your gift! I didn't even wrap mine and ended up putting the rest of my gift in one of the file folders!

Of course now I'm too lazy to make such cute ones for my own boys, but I did get some files put in a box with hand-written labels. It makes it easy to decide what to keep (once the file is full!) and I'm sure we'll modify it when they are older, but for now, it's nice to have a place for everything!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ryan: 4 Years, 5 Months

This seems like a valid picture to describe how Ryan feels about having to stay indoors for so long! With frigid temps and not even much snow to play in, we've passed the time playing inside with marbles, Hotwheels, legos, traintracks, building blocks, puzzles, balloons, books, forts, flashlights and coloring.

A new thing we started this month was the Financial Peach Junior Kit. We picked a few chores that he could get paid for to help him learn the connection between work and money. Here's his current list:

  • Dust (helps with 1-2 rooms): $0.25
  • Fold his own laundry (he can fold most of his own clothes with guidance): $0.25
  • Set the table: $0.05 each time
  • Put away the silverware from the dishwasher: $0.10
  • Put away dirty clothes (in hamper in his closet downstairs instead of leaving them upstairs or in the bathroom): $0.05 a day
  • Pick up all the toys at night, including helping with Cohen's: $0.05
He still has several things he's expected to do without getting "paid":
  • Get dressed in clothes/pajamas/shoes/outerwear by himself
  • Clear his place at the table, wash up
  • Brush teeth 
  • Pick up after bath time and clean up his room
  • Help pick up/move things to vacuum
  • Bring things out to the recyling bin
Following the age guidelines, we give him his coin right after he earns it and he puts it into a jar that counts the value as you put it in. At the end of the week, we trade it all in for dimes and then divide it into his Give, Spend, and Save envelope. We do one dime in Give, then split the rest evenly. He's only earned $0.80-$1.10/week so far and doesn't actually understand the value of money/how much things cost, but we're just getting started learning a few basic concepts. He LOVES his "Junior" books and can tell you all about why you should save, give, and not own anyone anything. He will also remind me that we can't get things like chocolate milk or fruit snacks or Oreos unless they are on sale.

Favorites Lately:
Food: broccoli with shredded cheese, green beans (he has been known to finish his meal, have dessert, and then ask for more green beans), pb&j, fudge pops, tacos, chili, and chicken & bean soup
TV Show: Curious George, Jake and Sheriff Callie's Wild West (on Disney Jr.)
Books: Marley, the dog books from the library and the "Junior" books from his Financial Peace for Kid's set. He loves reading new books from the library or from preschool book orders and loves the Hi Five Highlights magazine that comes every month.
Clothes: hooded sweatshirts and "comfy pants". He can do zippers on coats/hoodies and buttons on shirts but struggles with buttons on jeans. He's also in an awkward size where 4T is getting too short but I keep buying size 5 jeans that are way too long. We need shorts weather!
CD: Jesus Storybook Bible CD2 (He can act out The Young Hero and the Horrible Giant" including Goliath's threat "I'll rip your heads off and eat you on toast!", Farmyard Tales, Go Fish

We had his preschool conferences and although they don't do a formal eval, they just mark if the child is "Good" on a concept (like draws recognizable objects, understands sorting and patterns, can spot similarities and differences, predicts storylines, rhymes, etc.) or is "Working on it". They marked him "G" on everything and said he's a pretty sharp kid! (He's also probably the oldest in the class, so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it.)  I wondered if there was a letter "T" for "Too much" like the section on "asks questions for further understanding."

They love his questions and all the "stories" and "information he provides." If they talk about an animal, for example, he will tell them where the animal lives, what it eats, and who its predators are. He was SO bummed to miss the county conservationist who comes each month because he was home with Croup last week, and they said they missed him too because he always has great questions and is so excited to see whatever animals she brings.  His teachers said his class gets along really well and plays nicely together, including others and sharing well. So...I'll be anxious to start seeing that behavior at home one of these days too!! :)  We have some work to do on listening, obeying the first time, talking back, and keeping emotions under control, especially during transitions (leaving church, turning off cartoons, stopping playtime to eat or get ready for bed, etc.)  But, we have a lot to be thankful for and it seems he is growing up faster and faster (too fast!)