Monday, September 18, 2017

9/18/17- Potty Training

Jack turned three, and it resulted in one major milestone for him. And for Bobby and me as parents. He learned to use the toilet (for per and poop)! Probably to some people, including some parents, that doesn't seem like a big deal. But it really is a big milestone in childhood development! Bobby and I couldn't be happier.  It means no more changing diapers!

It also means he is one more step towards childhood, stepping further away from the baby phase of life (so bittersweet). As proud of him as Bobby and I are, it took us over a year to potty train Jack. We started when he was two.  He seemed to show an interest in the toilet, pointing to it and trying to sit on it. What I didn't realize about potty training a year ago, it is like anything else a child learns-- it takes repetitive practice before the skill is mastered, just like walking and talking did.

We took a loose approach at the time, occasionally sitting Jack on the toilet. Sometimes we'd do it first thing in the morning. Sometimes at bath. And we'd always put him back in a diaper.  We were never consistent. I secretly hoped the few times he'd sit on the toilet, that it would just click. That he knew this place was where pee and poop goes. That he'd just start using the toilet on his own. That was a little foolish of me.

But one Saturday this August (about a month before Jack’s 3rd birthday), Bobby put Jack in underwear instead of a diaper. Then we consistently put Jack on the toilet every 1.5 hours, watching like a hawk him for any pee/poop signals (like a pee-pee dance that most kids have). He did well that day and had only one accident. The next morning, a Sunday, he asked for underwear. We were excited that he wanted to wear underwear—we were grooving now! But he peed in the grocery store later that day.  I thought that potty training was going to be put on pause again (boy, have we had a lot of starts and stops in potty training).

However, he surprised me the next day and refused to wear a diaper to daycare. So off he went to school, in underwear. Daycare/school was determined to help us train him that Monday, and the teachers sat him on the toilet every hour. He had just move up to the early preschool class, and maybe that class is set up better for sitting on the potty more frequently...aka repetitive practice.  Whatever it was, he did well that day at school-- no accidents!!!!

The preschool teachers even reported that the nap diaper (they were worried about leaving him in underwear at nap, so they put him in a diaper at nap time) was dry! They said, if he does that for 3 more day in a row, Jack could keep his underwear on for nap. If you haven't potty trained, dry after sleeping is a big deal. We knew Jack was headed towards mastery of the skill when he reached the day he didn't need the nap diaper (which did happen later that week).

Something Bobby and I learned during potty training is that our son is very reward driven. He will do any task for a fun size Snickers or roll of Smarties. He will also poop in the toilet for a small toy, like a Matchbox car. And like some kids, poop was a challenge for him (bet half the parents reading this post are nodding their head in understanding).  I don’t know what it is about poop, but the light bulb moment of poop (that poop goes in the toilet) just takes a little longer than the light bulb moment for pee with some kids.

Once Bobby and I committed to consistent training, Jack caught on to peeing in the potty within three days. But he refused to poop on the toilet. He would cry when we'd urge him to poop on the potty, and then he’d run away from us and the toilet, usually ending with him pooping in his underwear (sorry if that's too graphic for some readers, but it is the reality of potty training). We'd patiently explained to him that accidents happen, but the poop should go in the potty, not underwear.

The first time he pooped on the potty was about a week after our commitment to repetitive practice. We were so thrilled that we ran out to Target and bought him a Mack (from Cars) toy truck. He was of course pleased, as he is reward centered. He kept repeating to us that poop on the potty, I get Mack. Oops, we might have gone overboard with the reward thing because he kept asking for a brand-new toy after each poop and pee—Bobby and I envisioned a 21-year-old with a toy buying habit after using the restroom.  Lesson learned for me.

About a month after the initial learning phase of peeing and pooping on a potty, Jack went poop on the toilet all by himself. I was getting ready in my room (Bobby was already at work), and after a couple of minutes, I came to check on Jack in our family room. There he was, sitting on the training potty, pooping! No help from me. I don't care if you roll your eyes at this, but I couldn't be prouder! Jack has graduated from training to mastering! Bravo Jack! Now we must train Jack to read and write. No big deal.


Note: One resource that I found helpful, and certainly isn't the end all to potty training, is the book "Oh Crap! Potty Training" by Jamie Glowacki. Got your own favorite resource on potty training? Please mention it in the comments. Best of luck to all the parents who are potty training kids, congrats to the parents who have potty trained a child, and congrats to the rest of the adults who know how to use a toilet (did you ever think that potty training was a big milestone in your life?  I certainly didn’t!). We did something! High five!

via GIPHY

Friday, September 8, 2017

9/8/17- Three

Cliche alert, but where does time go?!  My baby turned three this week!  I am having a hard time believing that fact because it feels like we just brought Jack home from the hospital. Figuratively, he'll always be my baby (like the book "Love You Forever"), but rationally, I know he's not a baby anymore. I mean, look at his little kid face:



See, no more baby face.  Not like this:



Or this:



Or especially this:



Goodbye baby face.  Goodbye baby phase.  You are a kid now, Jack! And the things that kid Jack can do, that he couldn't do last year, include (surely there are things I'm forgetting): pee on the potty (that's a big milestone to us!), pedal a bike, cut paper with kid-safe scissors, speak in 5+ word sentences, count past 20 (it gets iffy around 23), sing the ABC song, write the letter "J" (at least I think it's the letter J), julienne a carrot (I'm kidding of course), and memory read "Goodnight Moon." 

My rationale side is very happy to see him growing up-- Aging is a wonderful gift from Time. Jack's birthdays are always just a little bittersweet for me, and so, here is my cheesy poem to my son, Jack, about turning 3:

You're turning three!
You'll get lots of treats!
However, for me,
it's bittersweet!

Happy birthday Jack, Jack!  I hope you enjoyed your 3rd birthday kiddo! For the record (and memory's sake), the day had donuts, a classroom party with your preschool mates, dinner and presents with your 'rents (you got a scooter, games, Legos, and such), a visit to your favorite bookstore, and ice cream. Your dad and I love you so much, and of course we're ridiculously proud of the things you can do.  You are smart, you are kind, you are beautiful, and most important, you are loved.  

Now please excuse me, I have to go ugly cry...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

8/22/17- Reading List 4: Picture Books about Love

As I watched the eclipse yesterday, I couldn't help but think of all the people watching the same eclipse (yes, yes, there are some differences with weather and location, but it's the same event).  I thought about how we all have the same sun. The same moon.  The same stars.  The same Earth.  And maybe I'm just riding high on the good feelings from a weekend full of love, but the solar eclipse filled me with love.  I think we could all use a little bit of love right now, so I'm going to put some out there via this post. Without further ado, here are some (but certainly not all) picture books about LOVE. "There's a lot of love out there, man." 💓

1) My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (obviously, I had to start with one that incorporated both the sun and love in some way!)

2) One Love adapted by Cedella Marley









3) Someday by Alison McGhee

4) Love Is by Diane Adams

5) All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon









6) Wherever You Are by Nancy Tillman

7) Because of You by B.G Hennessy (out print but you may be able to find it at a library or used bookstore)

8) Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

9) The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin









10) Always and Together (two books) both by Emma Dodd

11) I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

12) I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch









What's your favorite picture book about love?  Or have a recommendation?  Leave a comment here or on social media and spread the love, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/17- A Difference a Week Makes

Our air conditioner broke 10 days ago.  There was a crazy storm in Phoenix, and some parts on the A/C unit got damaged. It was in the evening, we had fans, and the temperature outside was in the 80's.  So we decided to wait until morning to call the A/C repair company.  We were going to be fine. Then 1:30 am rolled around, and the power went out.

Thirty minutes later, Jack woke up and was super sweaty.  We had to call an audible and go to a hotel. It was a good call, but it took Jack until 3 am to fall back asleep.  We were all a bunch of sleep zombies the next day.  Would have been fine if it was the weekend, but it was a week day.  Bobby and I had work and Jack had to go to preschool/daycare.  Jack didn't want to go to school because hotel's are fun, and he didn't want to leave the fun. The teachers were kind and paid extra attention to Jack that day, so he ended up having a good day.

The A/C got fixed. Thankfully, we only had to replaced a relay and capacitor; our A/C unit is from 1987, so there's always the chance that we'll have to replace it here in the near future.  And we had a good night's sleep that night. And things are going good. Oops did I just jinx us?  Hopefully not, but we had a great weekend with a pool party on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday.

💙 Poor Little Guy 💙

And last week was really nice.  Wednesday night, Bobby and I picked Jack up from daycare together and went to dinner at Chili's.  We've watched a lot of "The Office" lately, and I may have been influenced on where to eat for dinner by the fact that the show had the staff go to Chili's a couple of times.  Anyway, after dinner, we went for ice cream and then visited our favorite bookstore.  I think I've mentioned this before, but Jack loves going to "Changing Hands Bookstore" because they have a train set (you know, the wooden kind).

We had a really hard time pulling Jack away from the train set.  And when we finally got to the car, Jack saw the ice cream place again and started, well, screaming for ice cream. I honestly think he just had such a fun time that he didn't want to go home.  And I don't blame him.  I had a fun time too; it's nice to break up the monotony of the work week. Such a let down to have to go to work the next day after such a fun night (Jack was fine going to daycare the next day, well I was not, haha).

What a difference in weeks.  Dealing with a broken A/C to ice cream and trains.  And really dealing with a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal when you live in a city with lots of A/C repair companies and lots hotels and friends (although I appreciate all the offers from friends, I still don't know if I'd want to wake you up at 2 am, so we that could crash with you. Thanks for offering!  Makes us feel loved). I can easily say that now, reflecting back, but a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal.  Especially when it's followed up by such a good weekend and then week.

Personally, it was a good week last week.  Ice cream, trains, Chili's fajitas (shark, they're still so good!) and I didn't even mention the baking of cookies and making of dough volcanoes; so much good times.   Hopefully this week will also be a good week for my little family.  But more so, I hope we all have a good week. So much shark seems to be going on right now that hopefully the difference of a week will be good for all of us. Take care and have a good week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8/1/17- The Book Festival

About a week ago I attended the Payson Book Festival.  This public and free event is a way for adults and kids to meet and greet dozen's of book creators from all over Arizona (and a few other states). Like other book festivals, authors sit at tables and spend the day chatting with readers and signing books. The Payson Book Festival was my first book festival as an author, and I want to share some of the things I learned as an author attending a book festival.

First, if you are indie/self-published, then you will have to register yourself for the festival you want to attend.  The registration process for the Payson Book Festival was relatively simple: I filled out their form, emailed it to the organizer, and then paid the fee through PayPal (most festivals have a registration fee for authors to have booths at their festival).  If you are a traditionally published author, your publisher may be setting everything up, including registering and paying fees.  However, if you're a traditionally published author attending a festival outside of what your publisher has scheduled for you (aka, you're going on your own), then you're going to have to register yourself and pay any fees yourself.

Second, you'll want to find out all the details about the event.  Like, are you getting a full booth, partial booth (sharing with an other author), do you get the whole day or just a time slot (2 hours, 3 hours, etc), is table and chairs provided or do you bring your own equipment, are you responsible for sales or will there be a bookstore or other 3rd party that will sell books for you, do you need to have a state and city vendor's license (in most cases, yes), are you responsible for tax remittance, is any food or beverages provided, how many people attended the event in the past and so on.

If your publisher is setting everything up, that's great.  If not, then it's really important to know how you'll be selling your books and what the set up is like and what you'll need to bring.  Tables and chairs were provided for the authors, and there was an independent bookstore that was willing to sell authors' books at the Payson Book Festival, so technically all I had to bring was copies of my book, many Sharpies (so important to have multiple writing tools), and myself (and Bobby; it is always nice to have a person helping you who is familiar with the book).

Third, sales expectations.  This information is probably some of the hardest information to find on the Internet (Bobby and I spent a couple of hours looking for what should I expect in sales). My guess as to why this information is hard to find is because sales are not high at book festivals.  Most people (readers) are there because it's a free event, and they have specific authors or books they're looking for, or they already have the book and are going to the event just to get the book signed.

From what I've read from other authors who have willingly shared this information (and from my own experience) is that you're doing really well if you are selling 1 (that's ONE) book per hour.  I sold 10 books over the 6 hours of the Payson Book Festival and that was considered really good (the Payson Book Festival has a couple hundred attendees).   I read another blog post from an author who attended the Brooklyn Book Festival, which has 10,000 people attend, and he sold only 4 novels.  Managing your own expectations regarding book sales is key to determining if the event was successful by your own measures.

And that sentence brings me to my final thought/lesson learned.  To me, the point of the book festival is to get your name out there and to connect with your readers.  People may not buy your book, but if you have a card or sticker with your name and book on it, when they go to the library or bookstore next, then they may want to ask the librarian or bookstore owner for your book.  Or they may want to look you up and find out that you do classroom visits/other speaker engagement events and ask you to come speak to their class. That is why it is a good idea to have free swag.

The Payson Book Festival was my first time as an author at a festival, but it was not my first festival. I've been doing science festivals and other such events for an non-profit engineering professional organization since 2004.  From those science festivals and outreach events, I've learned that people love free stuff.  I personally have too much shwag from conferences that I've stopped collecting it from booths, but people want free pencils, stickers, bookmarks, chapstick, pens, etc. for whatever reason.  I had some bookmarks (with my name and book on them) that I offered to people.  I didn't try to sell people on my book; I just said, hi, please have a free bookmark.  About 50% of the time, they'd ask me questions about the book and 5% of the time, they'd buy a book.  Another author at the event was handing out bags of dried basil and bay leaves, as her book was about holistic health. She got a lot of traffic at her booth.

Offering something for free draws people to your booth (of course so does a good looking book cover, but you'll have to Google to find posts on how to design a good looking cover). Kids especially love picking up stickers and bookmarks each booth, so it was a success to me that I only had 25 out of 100 bookmarks left. Potentially 75 kids now know who Annie Aardvark is!

If you're an illustrator, you can also consider selling some of your art or giving out small postcards with your art.  If you're the author, you can consider selling some other product that is associated with your book.  For example, the author I shared a booth with, she sold stuff animals that related to the animal characters in her books.  Just be aware that children (and their parents) might not understand the product or art is for sell, so it's a good idea to have a sign clearly stating a price.  If you're an author/illustration, you can consider selling both art and products. Make sure to check with the festival about selling things other than books (and also if you'll need a vendor's license).

Another idea that may sell books, is to offer a special festival only price.  Aka, a discount.  I offered a 25% discount on my book just for the festival (it could only be done at the festival, not online; although an all day online discount that correlates to the festival could also be considered).  I think the free stuff had a bigger impact on sales than the discount, but it's worth exploring if you're selling the book yourself (or can price it at a discount with the third party who's going to sell your book that day).

Finally, if you are handling sales at your booth/table, be prepared to accept as many forms of payment as possible. Square is one of many providers that makes it incredibly convenient to accept credit/debit cards.  All you need is a smartphone and the app, but if you plan ahead, you can get swipe readers for free from Square or you can pay for readers that can even accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other contactless forms (know your customer).  But don't forget cash is still the preferred payment method for many customers as well.

In summary, I had a good time at the Payson Book Festival.  I always enjoy interacting with children and their parents at events, and the Payson Book Festival was the same. It's important to remember that the goal of the festival is the interaction with readers.  You are there to connect with your readers. It's also a good opportunity to network with other authors and illustrators.  I now have another author friend that I can ask questions and seek guidance from.  I highly recommend that any author (or illustrator), whether self-published or traditionally published, attend at least one book festival (or fair) in their writing career. The experiences and connections will at least make for some good writing fodder, but will also hopefully get your name out to the public.  Plus, it's fun!

If you have any further questions for me about book festivals (like what is this vendor's license thing I keep mentioning), please leave me a comment or reach out to me on social media (Twitter or Facebook).  Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/25/17- Monsoon and RA

Every July monsoon season blows into Phoenix.  The weather is mostly high winds, dark clouds, thunder, and lightning. A haboob might form because it is the desert (desert=dirt) after all.  The city usually just gets a threat of rain, but occasionally it will down pour.  The rain is great.  If you are a dry desert, going through a drought, then you really need the water.  However, the rain is not so great if you are a RA patient.

Thanks to all the monsoon rain Phoenix has received, I've had inflamed joints.  And really poofy, wavy hair. The hair is easy to deal with; just wrap it into a bun or ponytail.  The inflamed joints are a little more of a pain to deal with. Okay, it is pain.  I have re-acquainted myself with the Ibuprofen bottle. I've seen it more often than I've seen my own mom (she does live in the same city) this summer. Although the Ibuprofen helps with the pain and the inflammation, I also feel so worn down.


Mornings are so hard-- I just want to lay in bed the whole morning.  Eventually, I do get out of bed (before noon!), but I move so slooooow.  I'm achy and fatigued.  And the days I have to do daycare drop off... ugh. I really don't like doing daycare drop off right now.  Since I move like an 85 year old granny in the mornings, I can't get Jack to daycare before 9 am.  Even if we're up really early-- I'll just use that extra time to be more sloth-y (picture the sloth, Flash, from Zootopia; that's me in the mornings). Jack always misses morning snack on the days I have drop off.



Because I take so long getting us ready, Jack thinks he's staying home with me.  It's really hard to convince him to go to daycare.  Getting him to daycare and then saying good-bye at daycare involves a bunch of tears (insert joke about how Jack cries too). I feel riddled with guilt during this drop off ritual, and say to myself, "why didn't I just keep him home?"  Oh yeah, it's because I would need the whole bottle of Ibuprofen to take care of Jack if he stayed home with me (not a whole bottle, but you get the point).  In fact, Jack offered me medicine the other morning when I finally stumbled out of bed.  It was very considerate and compassionate of him (yay for toddlers learning empathy), but also a little heart-breaking for me.  I don't want to be the broken mommy.

Thankfully, I do live in a desert, and it will be dry again before I can figure out how to tame my frizzy hair.  Dryness is good for people with joint problems.  I'll be up and at 'em, like an old pug, before too long (that's better than a sloth, right?).  I won't be so broken.  Jack and I can spend all day playing together, and whatever else non-arthritic parents do. If only the dry season could happen a little sooner (thanks nature! I'd appreciate it!)...

I can't image living in a coastal city.  I'd probably never leave my bed. How do RA patients in coastal places handle humidity and moisture that is all the time?  They probably own stock in Ibuprofen companies (and maybe this is why places like Seattle are legalizing marijuana? So there's alternatives to Ibuprofen when rain cause joint inflammation?).  So in summary, rain great for the desert, but bad for my joints.  I want to wish everyone fair health and long-life this monsoon season! May you not have to take Ibuprofen for the next couple of month!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3: Non-Fiction Books for Adults

As a child, I read a lot during summer break.  A lot.  I'd go to the public library and check out a stack of 12 books at a time, and a couple of weeks later, turn those 12 in for a new stack. Call me a nerd if you must, that word is a compliment to me (as an adult), but I wasn't a bored child during the summer.  That's for sure.

So to me, summer time equals the perfect time for reading. Really, any time you can squeeze in a book as a busy adult is a good time, but summer for me means it's the perfect time to squeeze in lots of reading.  And that's why this reading list is dedicated to us adults (past reading lists for preschoolers to 2nd graders and teens).  Let's squeeze in sometime to read, follow adults!

1) "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
First, it's funny and pretty quick to read.  I read it a few years ago, and then suggested it to a book club last summer-- I was re-reading it for the summer and started sharing excerpts with Bobby, and he thought those excerpts were so funny, that he asked if we could read Mindy's book together.  Second, this book has some good career advice in it.  Also, if you're in an industry where there's an over representation of a certain demographic, this book may provide comfort (it did for me).

2) "It's Not Rocket Science" by Mary Spio
Mary is a satellite engineer turned entrepreneur, so of course I wanted to read this book (a female engineer whose crushing it, shark yes!).  This book is really about how to become entrepreneur, but Mary does share some of her own personal story. She was an immigrant from Ghana and she became on engineer with patents, which lead to her starting her own company.  Hearing her story was the part I liked best and very inspiring.  Her entrepreneurial and changing-the-game career advice is on the optimistic side, so I think this a good read to give yourself a boost if you're down in the dumps about your career.  Sometimes we just need the positive message. 



3) "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
This book made me laugh and cry so hard.  Amy talks about everything from her childhood, to just starting out in the comedy business, to marriage, kids, and divorce, to working in a male dominated field, and to moon hunting (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is).  And she wrote it all in a way that made me relate and empathize with everything, even though I've never done stand-up, worked for SNL, or been married to Will Arnett.  I have enjoyed all the books on this list, but if you forced me to pick just one for you to read, "Yes, Please" is the one I'd recommend.

4) "Lean In" by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
There's a lot commentary on this book- a lot of its bad, but a lot of its good.  While I didn't agree with everything the authors wrote in this book, it is still a good book for both men and women to read to start to understand the issues working women have.   

5) "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly
I've already written a review of Hidden Figures, which you can read here, but its a great book to read during the summer and to read in intervals.  If you've seen the movie and found the movie inspiring, you will also find this book uplifting.  I also enjoyed reading about the Civil Rights movement and wars that were happening in parallel to Katherine, Dorothy and Mary.

6) Bossypants by Tina Fey
Again, a really funny book.  And again, Bobby and I read it together and laughed much at Tina's words.  In Tina's book, the career advice isn't so straight forward as Mindy's or Amy's.  If I remember correctly, Tina writes somewhere in the book that she doesn't want to give straight out career advice (because each of us have unique situations or something along those lines), so it's kind of more just work stories. Those work stories are very entertaining though, and you might even find yourself going, yep I've had one of those moments.  

That's it for this list-- I'll have more adult, teen, and kid reading list soon enough.  And since you're smart, you recognized the pattern here for this list: autobiography/biography or person sharing career journey/career advice and all written by women.  If you have fiction book recommendations or other career and biography book recommendations (written by both women and men), then please share these recommendations in the comments!  I'm always looking for a new book to read.  Happy summer reading everyone!