Friday, October 13, 2017

10/13/17- Halloween Science Activity

I like Halloween and I like science, so I thought how do I combine the 2 to have some scienc-ween fun with Jack?  Luckily Pinterest exist, and I found various Halloween Science activities.  Most were vinegar and baking soda reaction experiments, which with black dye or something can make for some scary fun Halloween experiments.  Kind of mad scientists.

However, Jack and I have done the vinegar and baking soda reaction experiment multiple times, and while he does enjoy the experiment, I wanted to introduce a new science concept to him.  So I chose one that involves static electricity: Dancing Ghosts.

For Dancing Ghosts, you'll need tissue paper, at least one balloon (inflated), and scissors.  Marker optional (for drawing a face on your ghost).

Cut a ghost out of the tissue paper.  Then rub the balloon back and forth on your carpet or hair, creating the static electricity (as I'm sure you know), and then hold the balloon over the tissue paper ghost.  The ghost should move.  While the balloon still has a static charge move it back and forth and the ghost should move back and forth too.  Here's my video of making the tissue paper ghost dancing:


Jack liked this science activity because he got to cut his own ghost.  He really likes cutting paper right now (they're teaching him in preschool how to cut straight lines and such), and he also likes ghosts, saying "oooooo" every time he sees one.  He also had his own balloon and got his ghost to dance once, but after that he just taped his ghost to the balloon and had the ghost ride around on the balloon.  Haha!  It was a fun and simple Halloween meets science activity.  Hope everyone has a Happy Hall-oooo-ween!

If your child is a little older and interested in what static electricity is, then consider watching this video while doing the activity.  It provides a great explanation to kids on static electricity.
How Static Electricity Works

Sunday, October 8, 2017

10/8/17- Kindness Rocks

Like many Americans, I was devastated by the mass shooting in Las Vegas a week ago.  Sad just doesn't quite capture my feeling, and I can only image what the victims and their families feel right now.  And this was on top of two really destructive hurricanes, Irma and Harvey.  

With the hurricanes, how to help is obvious to me, you donate to an organization that can provide supplies.  When a mass shooting occurs, I just never know how to help.  A wise friend pointed me to blood donation, but then I found out because of the medication I take, that I can't really give blood.  However, I came across this great website, and it made me feel a little bit less helpless:

I still felt like my small donation wasn't enough.  Reading about one more mass shooting in the US, it's the 1,500+ something mass shooting since Sandy Hook (check this yourself), well it was my breaking point.  I'm tired of seeing Americans die in this way.  And I don't care if this post is about to get too political for you, I just can't see the freedom of guns out weigh the freedom to live.  Enough is enough.  I don't know how any of us can watch one more mass shooting happen without taking some kind of political action. I firmly believe it's time as Americans that we implement some regulations on guns.

I'm not saying ban all guns, or that no Americans should get any; I'm saying we should implement specific regulations that the majority of us agree on, like no one with a mental illness can purchase a gun.  Or no one on the no-fly list can purchase a gun.  Or require background checks on private and gun show sales. Those are specific regulations that most Americans agree on, and it's time for our State and Federal lawmakers and politicians to take action to implement such regulations.

So for the first time of my voting life, I actually contacted my Senator, asking them to implement these regulations.  This is the first time that I've ever felt so strongly about something that I've contacted my Senators.  And I urge you, if you're so tired to the point of exhausted tears, not sure that crack in your heart will heal at the thought of hearing of one more mass shooting, then please reach out to your elected officials (find them and their contact info here) and let them know it's time for a change.  The Land of the Free should mean first and foremost, the right to live and not get sharking shot up while watching a concert.

And if that feels too drastic of an action for you to take, well, I think I understand. But there's other actions we can take to bring light into the a dark world. So I asked myself, "What more can I do when events like this happen?" And my was conclusion was simple yet profound: kindness.  Spreading kindness can be pretty easy to do.  Try paying-it-forward to the person behind you at Starbucks - everyone loves a free coffee.  Or you can share with the exhausted mother/father at the grocery store how great their kids are (even if they are acting up just a bit).  Or even try sending a friend a card on a non-holiday/non-birthday just to say how grateful you are for their friendship.  I remembered reading on a craft blog/Pinterest/Facebook post that a parent was going to do "Kindness Rocks" with their child.

The idea is simple.  You paint a rock, write something kind/nice on it (like a thank you, a peace sign, the actual word kind, hehe) and then leave it in a friend/neighbor/stranger's yard, hopefully brightening the person's day by the thoughtful message.  My kiddo really enjoyed painting the rocks, so it is a great activity to do with kids and a good way to talk about kindness.  It's also a great activity to just do as an adult.  Either way.

So in summary, let's do something and kindness rocks! Yes that was a terrible pun, but it is a good message after days like last Sunday.  I hope to live more by that message. Kindness rocks!  💓

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

9/26/17- My Second Writers' Conference

This past Saturday I attended my second writers' conference.  The first writers' conference I ever attended was the SCBWI LA 2016 conference, and I learned lots of useful information. And while the LA conference was cool, the Arizona conference (also hosted by SCBWI, which any aspiring children's book author should check out the org) was more intimate.  I really enjoyed being able to network with more authors, including the ones I consider friends, and the connections made at this conference feel like they are going to last longer (probably because most of us are local, unlike the LA conference, although I did make a friend or two at the LA conference).

There were also some great presentations from editors and agents.  Kat, from Feiwel and Friends, provided great tips on the business side of writing, including "Know Your Genre." That means read, read, read the books (especially current books) that are in the genre you write.  I'm hoping I can accomplish reading more Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Chapter Books, as Jack, Bobby and I read lots of Picture Books together.  It's hard to squeeze in reading time when you have like 4 different jobs.  But reading is fun for me, so I am very much on board with this tip.

Russell from Little Brown Books gave a really fun presentation about humor in picture books.  He gave us tips and suggestions for humor, but what I liked best, was that we had to implement these tips and suggestions through 2 writing exercises.  The engineer in me likes taking the subject learned and applying said subject.  I also want to thank Bobby for always sharing "Dad Jokes" with me (which I love by the way; most of them make me chuckle), as his jokes came in handy for the humor writing exercises.

Any budding writer/author should attend at least one writing conference early in their career; that's my advice to you all.  The connections you make with other authors and all the knowledge you learn about writing (the "craft") and about the publishing business are pretty invaluable.  Plus, you might win a door prize (I did, woo-hoo)! Happy writing to all (whether it's a blog, a book, or an office memo)!

Here are some tips from other sources if you are attending a writing conference for the first time:

Making the Most of Your Next Writers Conference

Do's and Don't's of Attending a Writers Conference

Specific Tips for a SCBWI Conference

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!


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!