Friday, December 14, 2012

Technology Hand-Me-Down Fail

Extra iPhone
The home button on Dan's iPhone just doesn't work.  For months, he has been using the "accessibility feature" on the phone where there is a virtual home button on the screen.  So, when it was upgrade time, Dan got a new iPhone.  

What to do with the old, "broken" iPhone?  Both boys each have a 2nd generation iPod Touch, so they can play games, listen to music, and watch YouTube videos of Marble Runs.  However, they are slightly frustrated that newer games don't run on their iPods because of the graphics or iOS requirements.  They are always asking to use our iPhones or the iPad to run these games.  This defeats one of the purposes of having the iPod Touches in the first place!

We decided to let Alex have the hand-me-down iPhone.  Why not Will?  One of the trends in elementary education in this area of California is the addition of new technology in the classroom.  The students are learning how technology and life work together.  This means that one of the elementary schools near the kids' school has decided that all of their students must have iPads.  And our school, not to be left behind, is considering making this move too.  So, it is possible that Will is going to get an iPad soon.  And really, what 6-year-old needs both an iPad and iPhone?

The Fail
Dan and I both have iPhones and we had a pair of standard covers for them.  They were both black.  Mine has a small geometric pattern on the back and Dan's is solid.  This was not a problem to our adult discerning minds.  However, it seems the cases were not different enough for Alex to tell the difference.  He was peacefully using "his iPhone" one day.  When we asked what he was up to, he mentioned that he was moving his apps around and deleting the apps he doesn't need anymore.  

Let's just say... he now has this case for his iPhone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Plans

Trick or Treating Plan

Halloween is a holiday where I am a little bit torn about whether to celebrate it or not.  I mean, it's all eeeevil and stuff (channeling Dr. Doofenshmirtz here). When I was growing up, we went out and trick-or-treated when we were little. When we got bigger, we spent time at the "Halloween alternative" activities at church. When Will was born, Robin sent him a tiny ninja costume for Halloween and the boys have dressed up ever since.
2006 - Tiny Ninja

2007 - Rejected Ninja Hat
2008 - Tourists
2009 Blue's Clues - Blue and Periwinkle
2010 Ninja and Dinosaur
2011 - Dinosaur and Blue Angry Bird (before the over-commercialization of Angry Birds)

This year, I wanted to make it easy.  So I began my campaign to convince the boys to buy COTS Halloween costumes.  No sewing necesary, just put it on and go trick or treating.  We were so close.  Alex decided to be a shark and Will decided to be a criminal.  I am not sure how they came up with these ideas exactly, but they were decided.  Until....

One night we were going out to dinner.  It was a bit chilly.  I let the boys wear my hooded fleece.  They decided that they were both going to wear it together.  Hence was born the two-headed-monster-plan.

Will created a monster mask, Alex decided to wear his "red eyed tree frog" goggles, Will wanted his face painted blue, and they upgraded to Dan's larger black hooded fleece.   The result:

As you may imagine, it is very difficult to walk around with your brother while wearing the same coat, no matter how big it may be. This led to the shortest trick or treating trip ever. We didn't even finish our block! The boys were exhausted by the effort. Not even the promise of more candy could encourage them to go back out.  They did, however, enjoy handing out candy to other kids.

Earlier That Day - Pumpkin Patch Scam

We have had a busy couple of weeks, so hadn't gotten around to getting a pumpkin to carve.  So, we went today, October 31st and realized that Pumpkin Patches are such a scam.  You have to pay $17 for a medium to large pumpkin, $4 per child for 10 minutes of bouncy slide, and $7.50 to take any of our own pictures on-site.  Unfortunately the boys bonded with a lop-sided, $17 pumpkin.  Fortunately, the credit card reader on the check out guy's phone wasn't reading my credit card.  We left and were able to find a same-sized pumpkin at the grocery store for $6 and a bottle of merlot for $7.  The ad genius who came up with the idea of putting cheap wine next to the Halloween candy was... genius! 

Even Earlier that Day - Halloween Potluck

And for the Halloween Potluck at work today, I brought severed fingers, courtesy of the recipe provided by Jo who has a fabulous kid/self organization course.

Creepy, but oddly tasty.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Neon "Glow" Paint

Many of the kids' toys have been in the garage since our carpet replacement in April.  One of the things that we have missed are our art supplies.  They boys' still have their sketchbooks and pencils, but glue, scissors, stickers, and paint brushes were all outside in the garage.  

Until today!

Some paints that I had ordered on amazon arrived today.  Washable neon poster paints.  They are quite bright.  
Bright Colors

This is the first time in a long time I have painted with the boys.  It went amazingly smoothly.  They didn't mix any of the paints together to make a mess, they washed their brushes dutifully in between colors, drying them on the dry tissue carefully.  They didn't spill any of the brush water.  Alex even volunteered to replace the dirty water and managed to do so without a problem. 

Deliberate Painting
When we started out, the boys immediately knew what they wanted to paint.  Will painted a train station.  Alex drew a giant iceberg, then painted it.  I, as the mildly uncreative adult, drew a picture of "Worm" a picture from one of Alex's reading practice books that happened to be sitting next to me.

Completed Pictures

For the final touch, we made the NEON GLOW using a black light.  

Worm is Glowing
Train Station

The boys were very excited to see the results of their paintings and love looking at different things under the back light. Fortunately there is wikipedia to explain about black light.

We are having a summer filled with art and science.  How about you?


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Chameleon Shirt - Too Much online Shopping!

This morning Will needed a green shirt to wear to science camp.  He and Alex are in the green group this week and Friday was wear your group color day.  Wearing green was not an issue for Alex as he has actually selected a favorite color and it is green.  He wore a cute green shirt with a bunny stealing a carrot.  Shown here earlier in Science Camp week as he plays with his Levitation Wand.

Not quite doing it correctly

Will, however, wears school uniforms during the school year and hasn't really expanded his selection of normal T-Shirts to include green yet.  I suggested that he wear Alex's chameleon T-Shirt since it is size 5/6 and should fit him pretty well despite his excessive height.  He then expressed the desire to possibly have his own chameleon T-Shirt in his own size. 

My thought:  "I can totally accomplish this!"  You see, Dan has been out of town for a while, so when a task comes up that I can accomplish without interruption, yelling, injury, tears, or all of the above, I am excited.  Normally these tasks are limited to quickly doing a load of laundry, getting the mail, or picking up some legos before I step on them with my bare feet. 

I quickly explained to Will, that yes, we can run over to Kohl's (less than a mile away from our house) and pick up a size 7/8 chameleon T-Shirt.  To which he replied, "Can't we just order one on-line?"

This led me to need to further explain that if we ordered it on-line, we would have to pay for them to mail it to us and it would be more expensive.  I told him that Kohl's was so close that we could walk over there, buy the shirt, then walk back before it would even get shipped to us. 

Yes, the boys are fully invested in the on-line shopping experience.  It's just so much easier to shop on-line.  You cuddle up on the couch with the laptop (since it is difficult for all three of us to look at the iPhone at the same time), browse items, select them, then the arrive in the very exciting packaging:  A BOX!

I tried shopping in an actual store for the boys.  I really tried.  I went to Kids' Gap.  I bought a cool shark shirt and some shorts for Alex.  I brought them home.  I showed them to him.  He rejected them with, "I already have a shark shirt."  So, I returned them, went to Kohl's.  Bought the chameleon shirt.  Then, I didn't make the same mistake twice... 

Instead of presenting Alex with a shirt, I took the above picture of the chameleon shirt, showed it to him on my phone, and said, "Look at this cool shirt I found."  He immediately replied, said, "I want that shirt!"  I told him, "Great, it's over in that bag by the door."  He looked at me suspiciously, but accepted the shirt even though it came in a bag and not in a BOX.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Time to Write

Alex has jumped into the fray of being a writer.  His first note to the world?  "Hello?" Of course not.  

My Room
Alex and Will
Mom no You
Not can
not come inn

The reason behind this?  Oh Alex is a super sleeper. He let us get sleep when he was a baby.  He would let us sleep in on weekends if he could. And when he is a teenager, I'm sure it will be the same.  We will be dragging him out of bed for many years.  

When it is time to get up and get ready for school or summer camp or something else going on in the morning, Alex grumbles.  Or he wakes up and is dazed for a while.  So, I offered him the choice: he could either wake up early and eat breakfast at home with us OR he can sleep in until it is time to leave and eat his breakfast in the car.  The day he wrote this, he was opting for the sleeping-in option.  And it made him a happy morning guy.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Visiting The Cousins

During the brief break between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp, we took a trip to go on some adventures in Virginia and Washington, DC.  Originally we were going to attend Tim's college graduation in North Carolina and let our boys hang out with their three cousins at their Grandparents house.  However, we missed the good airplane ticket price window, so opted to make a trip to visit Caleb, Josh, and Andrew at their house.  

Of course, we attempted to take a picture of the five boys together.

That's not right!

Somebody is missing...


The best of the bunch!
The first day, we let the boys play at their cousins' house.  This worked out reasonably well.  Will even stayed to hang out while Alex went with me back to the hotel to take a nap until dinner time. After dinner with their cousins (I use dinner in the loosest terms since my boys wouldn't eat at properly defined "mealtimes"), we headed over to meet up with Joanne and swim in her pool.  The boys were cool about hanging out with a girl, Joanne's daughter Cara, but I think they were using her for her pool. 

The second day, all of the boys went swimming in the hotel pool, then we went to Chik-Fil-A for lunch.  After that, my boys were exhausted.  They couldn't quite come to grips with the time zone change, so we hung out at the hotel that afternoon.  As Dan seems to have shifted away from TiVo obsession and replaced it with AppleProducts obsession, he had the AppleTV setup in the hotel room.  We used this to pick a show off streaming NetFlix.  The boys picked Mario.  It seems that NetFlix has made available "The Super Mario Brothers Super Show!" from 1989.  Combining live action Mario and Luigi with cartoon versions, it is fascinating to watch for the 4-year old and 6-year old who want a break from being in a different timezone.  With rapping plumbers and references to 1980s technology, how can you go wrong?

Day three it was time to do something in DC.  We drove to the metro, then took the train to the National Zoo.  Will and Alex were sick of each other at this point, having spent most of the prior 72 hours together non-stop.  They insisted on not being separated, opting instead to bump into each other, then complain loudly about it.  We met up with their cousins at the zoo, had some lunch, then went to visit the small mammals.  

Will explains to the meerkat what he should be doing

Meerkat complies
Near the end of the small mammals, Alex insisted on having to use the restroom, so he and I set off on our own, leaving Will once again with his cousins.  

We weren't able to re-connect with them due to the poor cell phone coverage at the zoo, most likely.  So we texted them that we would be in the Reptile House and decided to try to call again later.  Amazingly, this was the best thing for Alex.  He calmed down and loved visiting the reptiles, playing "locate the reptile" in each of the displays.  Some of them were obvious, some camouflaged.  Then, at the end, TURTLES!  Alex had been hoping for turtles.  

Alex with turtle

He took some pictures (some turned out pretty good):

But we did end up with a couple of escaping, turtle tail pictures .  They are fast little buggers!

To get back from the zoo, we got a ride from Angela, or as I explained to the boys, Angela #2.  They got a bit confused between Angela #2 and Aunt Angela (who I explained was Angela #3), but fortunately, they didn't get me confused as I typically go by the title of Mom.  We went to Starbucks with Angela, then back to the hotel to hang out for Happy Hour and snacks in the atrium.  We finished off the day with tasty Indian Food before Angela #2 headed back to Philadelphia.  It was awesome that she came by!

Sunday was Father's Day
Sunday morning we headed over to The Smithsonian Air and Space Annex, the Udvar-Hazy Center.  

 The last time we visited, we saw the Shuttle Enterprise.  This time, they had swapped it out with the Shuttle Discovery.  Discovery was the one that put Hubble up in orbit, Will was interested to find out.

Shuttle Enterprise in 2008 (very clean-looking)
Another picture from the last visit (that's Will on Dan)  

Shuttle Discovery on Sunday
Sunday afternoon we went for another swim, or at least Alex and Dan did.  Will and I hung out poolside.  

Alex the Turtle

Then, it was back to the cousins' house for one more avoidance of dinner, and back to the airport for the return flight home.  

It seems that I am now an expert at flying with kids.  The biggest challenge is getting them to not inadvertently kick the seat in front of them since they are getting so tall.  I attribute my success to their addiction to games on their iPods as well as their use of activity books and cool games such as Perplexus and this Maze Game (very quiet while Perplexus has a little noise related to the ball rolling around inside).  Originally they had the Perplexus Rookie game, but it got broken during this trip, so we upgraded to Perplexus Original which they are enjoying quite a bit.  We had purchased Perplexus Rookie for their cousin, Josh's, birthday which he enjoyed.  However, it seems that the cousins needed even more of a challenge, so they upgraded to Perplexus Epic.  Perplexus is a self-contained 3 dimensional maze inside a plastic ball.  

Good when you are stuck for an hour on the runway after you land
We survived our trip, even had a bit of fun, and met our primary goal of seeing the kids' cousins and going swimming. 

Another trip?  None are planned for this year, but we hope that people may come visit us here.  The weather is nice all of the time.  You know you want to visit!  See you in our guest room soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ready for Summer Water Fun!

Summer is here and with it many plans for fun and learning!  Fortunately for me, the boys enjoy learning and discovering even the most academic things.  Of course, they also enjoy playing, especially if it involves water. 

This summer, the boys get to return to Beach Camp for a couple of weeks, perhaps Alex may even go in the ocean this year.  During school summer camp weeks, Will gets to swim in the pool every day while Alex can't wait until Friday, his class' day in the pool.  Earlier this week, Alex requested shark swim goggles since he is fascinated by sharks.

Alex in Shark Coat watching Sharks

His great idea was that we should buy some goggles that come in a box (referencing delivery of Amazon packages to our porch in brown boxes).  So, we went on-line to try to find shark goggles.  None seemed satisfactory until he saw these.

Wearing Swim Goggles from Amazon

They are supposed to be manta ray goggles, but Alex has dubbed them, "Red-Eyed Tree Frog Goggles!"  I think it makes them look like mad scientists.

We also plan on putting our small pool up this weekend.  It's about 3 feet deep and the boys are very excited to get it up.  Will is especially interested as one of our summer goals is to learn more about movie filming, editing, and posting.  Given that I have two boys who are usually in or near water most of the summer, we opted to get a waterproof camera.  We have talked about the unusual aspect of this particular "electronic' that it, and only it, can go in water.  Will wants to have friends over for playdates so he can take pictures underwater with them. 

We plan to post our water pictures and videos on Will's blog and also on mine and Will's youtube channels.

Have a great, wet summer!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The First Actual "Lost Tooth"

Will has caught up to and surpassed Alex in the realm of lost teeth. Just a few weeks ago, on February 3rd, Will was eating an apple at school and jostled one of his bottom teeth loose. When he showed it to us that Friday evening, it was quite loose. It bothered him a little, so we told him to leave it alone until morning and get some sleep.

Loose Tooth

The next morning, we were having a spirited debate about how long it takes to lose a tooth. We were in the process of making Hillary ask Siri when Will announced that his tooth had come out! So, it took less than 24 hours from loose to out.Lost Tooth

We asked Will if he wanted to keep the tooth or trade it to the Tooth Fairy for money. Unlike Alex, who is still holding on to his tooth that he had extracted last December, Will is all about the exchange for cold-hard-cash. Unfortunately, the exchange was a bit difficult. Will had just been to a sleepover the weekend before and still had his sleeping bag out and up in his bed. I had not actually witnessed him putting the envelope under his pillow. I think he put it under his head, tucked into the head part of the sleeping bag. Plus, he sleeps on the top bunk of the kids' bed. So after he fell asleep, I'm in there standing on Alex's slightly creaky bed, reaching up to Will's bed, looking everywhere among the pillows and animals and blankets and sleeping bags for the green envelope. I did not find it. Fortunately Dan was available to save the day! He boldly went up there, physically moved Will around, found the envelope and completed the exchange. Will was very excited to find the $2 bill in his envelope the next morning. However, during the time where the boys get their 'job commissions' for the week, he traded it and three other dollars for a five dollar bill. He's just too young to understand that a $2 bill is unique.

All we heard about for the next two weeks was how awesome it was that he could trade teeth for money. He was very excited last Friday when he realized that another tooth was loose.

This one was a little slower to come out.
Tonight, I examined the tooth, finding it not very well connected, but not loose enough that I could get a good grip and pull it by hand. So, I asked Will if I could tie a string to it. He agreed. I tied some floss to the tooth and left it, hoping that he would tug on it and pull it out.

String Attached to Tooth

He did pull a little on the string, just enough to disconnect the root and cause a little blood to get on the string. I told him not to freak out, but there was a little blood on the string. He kind of freaked out just a little. He strongly suggested that I take the string out. Given that I had tied a slip knot on the tooth, it really wasn't coming out any other way, so I pulled to remove both string and tooth very easily. This caused Will to freak out just a little more so we placated him with a popsicle. All is well and the tooth is safely in an envelope. I'll send Dan up for the exchange from the beginning tonight.

Bottom tooth Gap

I have realized a few things through this experience.
  1. Having two parents comes in handy for many things, this included.
  2. If your child hasn't lost any teeth yet, I recommend the construction of a "tooth pillow" that will making the tooth easier to find for the Tooth Fairy.
  3. When you get special money for the Tooth Fairy to deliver, remember to get more than one. It seems the tooth losing process really takes off after the first one, especially if your child is getting super close to age six like Will. I had Dan get three $2 bills back on that first Friday when tooth number one was loose. One for the first tooth, one for a second future tooth, and one if Alex changed his mind about his tooth and the Tooth Fairy monetary exchange.
  4. The reason my parents wanted to pull my teeth out using strings and doorknobs and other crazy methods...
It stops the whining.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Secret to Kids and Writing Thank You Notes

Learning to express gratitude is something that kids will eventually learn after much observation on their part of others expressing gratitude. Practicing the act of expressing gratitude can also help them to learn. A part of the learning process can be writing thank you notes when they receive a gift or card.

Of course, this is easier said than done sometimes. Kids would much rather tear through opening a stack of presents. Sitting around writing Thank You notes while the newly opened gifts sit there, not being played with, is no contest if you let the kids decide what to do.

Fortunately, we have discovered the secret to getting kids to write thank you notes. We haven't quite figured out how to apply it to the Christmas frenzy of gifts, for those of you wondering when the Christmas thank you notes will come to you. Don't worry, we are working on it. But, in the case of birthday presents, we have it down.

The secret? One present at a time. Fortunately, the custom of opening presents during the birthday party is not very common right now. So, we wait until after the party to start on the stack of presents. Of course, I include in all party invitations, that I would prefer that guests simply bring a card and no present, that presents are optional since the boys really don't need more stuff. But, we still end up with some presents. The procedure worked this way for Alex's recent birthday:

  • Alex picks a present, tells me who it is from.
  • I start writing on the card, Dear... and address the envelope
  • Alex opens the present
  • I ask Alex for his thoughts or feedback on said present and add them to the note
  • Alex signs the thank you note
  • Signing of Thank you note is rewarded with ability to open an additional present
  • Repeat

Of course, he has figured out that the last card has no incentive. So, we get to talk about why we are actually writing the cards, gratitude, being thankful for what we have, what we actually need, etc.

Thank you cards written, in the mail the same day of the party, social mission accomplished, grattitude lesson, check.

One other exercise that I want to try with the boys is, perhaps on my birthday, I'll overtly go through the process of writing them a Thank You note and post it in the mail (or just do pretend mail where it ends up in the mail box the next day) to let them know how much I appreciate their gift. This would also work with perhaps writing them a note out of the blue to let them know how much I enjoy having them as my boys, one for each of them talking about their specific individual traits that I appreciate. I hope that would get them thinking about what they appreciate about others. Who knows, maybe we will write some notes to Dan. Alex is all about how awesome Dan is right now. :)