Friday, April 18, 2014

Orbeez

A year or two ago, Anna June was introduced to Orbeez.

Orbeez are small plastic pearls that grow in water. They start out as tiny beads the size of pinheads. Then, in water, they grow. They don't get as big as marbles, but they are still substantial. They shrink back down if they dry out.

Here is what some of the knockoffs look like.

There's a whole line of toys to play with these fascinating things.

Last year for Christmas, AJ got the light-up globe, which is sort of like a crystal ball. We hoped she'd use it like a night light. So far, no dice.

There has been an Orbeez keychain around here somewhere - filled with water and "grown" Orbeez.

This year for Christmas, she got the ladybug scooper. By remote control, the ladybug can scoop up (eat) the Orbeez and release them (poop them out). Now that we do not have carpet in the hallway, this is a pretty good toy for AJ. She's used it about once, but that's probably because it's a multi-step process, which includes foresight to grow the things and sweep the floor, so the ladybug ingests a minimum of dirt.

There's still a plastic bowl of these by the sink - I'm hoping someone will want to do something with them soon.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Not a Great Gift

At some point, in some gift bag, Anna June was given Noise Putty.

I apologize if my handwriting in my previous post made it appear as "Nose Putty".

Neither Noise nor Nose really makes sense.

Now, it could have been because I stored it near the sink and the window in the kitchen. It could have been that we had it a long time. It could have been that it is cheap junk to fill a goody bag. But Ben and AJ played with it on one of those sick days, and they tell me that the stuff just didn't work.

It was supposed to make a noise, like a fart.

Instead, it was just very sticky and got all over their hands and the table.

They cleaned it up and tossed it.

One fewer thing I have in my house. Now, on to the glow-in-the-dark slime. 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bike!

Anna June likes her new bike. I like that there is now a shed to put it in, so it does not have to live in my car or, more accurately, my parents' basement.

Here they are on the maiden voyage.


Not pictured but definitely present - the helmet.


Here's more on the bike:

It is a Huffy 20" for girls, named "Miss Behavin" The storage pouch on the front is big enough for her to fit the headband in that she forgot to take off before she put on her helmet. 

Just transporting the bike home in my car was an adventure. Who knew that the difference between a little bike and a big one (as in like 4", tops) made such a big difference? Needless to say, we now need a bike rack or a bigger car. We were able to transport it to the park in Ben's vehicle the following weekend, where this picture was made. They decided to try the grass instead of the pavement at first, to ease some of her anxiety about falling. 



She did well, but they both got exhausted after a while. We hope to make several more trips to the park so learn before it gets too hot.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Splainin to Do

Sometimes, Anna June has to back up and explain herself. As do I.

As I mentioned yesterday, I posted my first #100daysofhappy blog post from the doctor's office.

When I posted these pictures on Instagram, I had a caption and hashtags to go along with them. These I did not carry over. So there were some confused comments. I will add the descriptions and post explanations here. Also, for the sake of variety, I will try to post the non-filtered pictures.

Day 1 - Radar
We adopted Radar in October 2006 from our local animal control. It hasn't been easy to be dog owners, but it makes me happy that this puppy who once ran the streets now hangs out on a comfy bed with people who love him. #100daysofhappy #bjcanimalcontrol #dogsofinstagram #Radar #luckydog #luckyhumans

Don't forget about this little guy. He's still a force to be reckoned with. He got out in the rain the other day, causing major delays in work (but not school). He actually bit Ben because he was mad he was leaving (and came back and left again). He does OK when we all three leave at once but if one leaves the pack, Radar gets mad. Crotchety old dog. 

Day 2 - Hot tea, hold the caffeine

I don't do coffee or caffeine (weird, I know), but I sure do love starting my day with a hot tea. #100daysofhappy #twinings #chai #workdayritual #amazingsmell

Day 3 - Turkey

My daughter spotted a wild turkey that has been roaming the neighborhood. I circled back to make sure it wasn't an April Fool's joke. #100daysofhappy #wildturkey #crestwood #ilovebirds #nature

The turkey is still with us. In fact, I was looking at old pictures and realize I last saw turkeys in the neighborhood in 2007. I have no idea if this is the same turkey or just from the same family. She must be doing OK, though. I stopped on my morning commute last week to politely ask her to get out of the middle of the street. 

Day 4 - Blues Traveler


Listened to this on my way in. Lyrics including "Hope is like a house with the porch light on," and "All things are possible," got me going this morning. #100daysofhappy #day4 #bluestraveler #stillusecds #fan

It does not bother me that no one liked this post on instagram, or that no one has ever heard of it. Although Blues Traveler hit their popularity peak in the mid-1990s, they have still been putting out quality work ever since. Also, it bears noting that when my family saw them open for The Allman Brothers Band in 1990, my dad came away predicting their stardom - I have been a fan ever since. Ben gave me this CD for my birthday. "All things are possible" is my theme for 2014.

Day 5 - AJ sleeping

I love my child so much, but I can't think of anything that makes me happier than when she goes to sleep. #everybodysleeps #100daysofhappy #day5 #parentproblems #annajune

A true blessing from The Lord. Amen.

Day 6 -  Wisteria
Probably my favorite part of Spring - random wisteria everywhere. #100daysofhappy #day6 #purple #prettyparasite #nature

This is wisteria. Its color is close to lilacs, but is more lavender. Lilacs don't really grow here - it must be too hot. Wisteria is a invasive and is draped all over everything. It is also seen in white. While they both smell nice, lilacs actually are real trees, and wisteria is just a vine.

Day 7 - Bike Buddy

My husband is teaching my daughter how to ride a bike. #100daysofhappy #day7 #crestwood #crestwoodpark #bikes

We bought AJ a real bike for her birthday, even though it was well after the big day. In a rash moment of planning ahead, I gave away her smaller bike that she had clearly outgrown (and had issues keeping air in the tires, but that could have been my fault). I kept the training wheels on the old one as I donated it - they likely wouldn't have fit the new one. 

Academy Sports is great, and they had a good deal on a name-brand bike that AJ liked. But they do not sell or install training wheels - if they come on the smaller bikes, that's great, but they do not perform this service. They do, however, sell this neat little gadget called the Balance Buddy. This thing is designed to be used instead of training wheels, to allow kids to get the hang of balancing on their own. It has the added advantage of saving the backs of parents.  So don't be too impressed that she's not using training wheels - she's using a substitute. It seems to work well. Hopefully she will not need it for long.


 

 
 
 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pinteresting

Anna June and I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. I love it and she hates it. Ha!

No, really. I get some of my very best ideas there. It's like looking through all the magazines all at once, with someone else having spent time to pick out the best stuff.

So back around Christmas, I saw an idea I liked: take pictures with your mobile phone of your photo Christmas cards and use them as profile pictures for your respective contacts in your phone. It really makes sense. Here's the article.

I was also using another idea I liked - making books out of greeting cards with book rings. I don't have a label maker, but what I did was pretty close to this.

Why am I talking about this?

Well, our recent set of sick days and bad weather (oh, did I not mention? School was delayed last week because of flooding. Our street was fine, but basically, the street where we used to live was closed. People had to be evacuated by boat from some apartments nearby.) have left us at home. I'm trying to clean up a little. These 2 projects would take more than 5 minutes, so I have been putting them off - for months. AJ was happy to help me. She's actually much more enthusiastic and better at crafts than I am, but usually doesn't want to hear my ideas at first.

Anyway, we got done with those 2 things. And that's why there was a random photo of The Becks on my post the other day. I was taking pics with my phone to add to my contacts and I had not yet deleted them. But yes, Sipsey looks the same. Wheeler is adorable. And Lauren is about to have another boy any day now. We are very excited for them! So they got added to my 100 Happy Days unintentionally. Even though they do, as a matter of fact, make me happy!

What does not make me happy is the 3 separate blogger apps on my new phone, which are all terrible in different ways. I posted that 100 Days of Happy post in the eye doctor's office. That particular app does not show previews of images, so you see it when you add it but you don't see what it actually imported (and if you make mistakes as often as I do, this is a problem). I dream of a world where Google decides to support Blogger correctly. Sigh.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tennis

Anna June is taking tennis lessons at Crestwood Park.

Here's a picture from her first lesson.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

CONGRATULATIONS, DADDY!

It has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle of Anna June's illness, but we have a big announcement to make to the world.

On Tuesday, Ben completed his Master's of Science in Information Security and Assurance, or MSISA, from Western Governors University.


In these pictures, at AJ's request, he's holding a magnet WGU sent that says "I did it!" 

We are so proud of all his hard work. Ben accomplished this in the span of one year, which was economical, but extremely difficult. WGU features online competency-based learning, where the students can demonstrate competency in the areas of learning and earn credit. In other words, they take one class at a time, and when they are ready and demonstrate competency in that class - whether it is by taking a test or turning in a project - they are done and they go on to the next class.

This program was not always easy. Ben aced the information security courses and appreciated that some of the classes used national (or international) certification exams as the basis for passing some classes - so he became certified in areas that he had not yet been, like "ethical hacking". The assurance course work was more like business school, and it was harder for him since it wasn't much in his experience. But he learned it quickly. I already knew this, but he's one of the best test takers I have ever met.

Through this process, I have blogged very little about Ben's graduate school experience. Mostly, because it is not my story to tell, but partially, I didn't want to add any pressure to him. I have a few readers who are not related to us and, even though I personally think that they could be a cheering section, I didn't want him to feel that they were a jeering section if he wasn't making progress at a certain level. Also, back in about 2010, he started graduate school for history, and it just wasn't a good fit at the time. We learned a lot of lessons back then.

Here is what I learned through watching the process this time around -
1. Graduate school is tough, no matter where you go, and no matter what area of study.
2. Going to graduate school while working a full time job is even tougher.
3. Going to graduate school while working a full time job and having a child is even tougher. I have to give Ben a lot of credit in this area. He has always been there when I needed him to be, even when he had studying to do (which was always, when you do a multi-year program in one year). He took AJ to doctor visits, he came to school programs, he came on vacations and outings with us, he fed AJ, bathed her, read with her, and played with her.
4. Staying up late enough to get anything done in graduate school is really, really hard. See above. Sometimes my job in the supporting role was to sit beside him at the table to let him know he was not alone. Sometimes I fell asleep doing my job, such as when he was rehearsing his final presentation for the second time and my eyes just would not stay open. Imagine how he felt, since he had to research and write a 70-page paper and then present it.
5. When you are financing your education on your own, you may have more of a stake in the outcome. That is, you don't want to "waste" your tuition, so you may want to follow through.
6. Master's degrees usually have career trajectories attached to them. We will see what the future brings in this area for us.
7. Online learning is convenient, but it requires a lot of discipline.
8. Online learning is widely varied in quality. Do your homework if you are interested. WGU, although you may have never heard of it, is a real university with a non-profit status, even though it doesn't really have a brick-and-mortar campus. I can't say that for many for-profit institutions who are ahead of the curve in technology related to, say, state universities, but lack the quality and repuatation.
9. Ben has a lot of people in his corner. On the day he completed his final presentation, he walked out of the private conference room he reserved at work and raised his hands in victory, saying "I'm done!" Later that afternoon, many of his co-workers gathered to celebrate - a bottle of bubbly and some Twinkies/Little Debbie cakes and ice cream. A good time was had by all. Meanwhile, AJ took my suggestion of a banner and ran with it, saying "congratulations" had too many letters, but "Yay Dad!" was do-able. She made it herself. Afterwards, I posted a photo on my facebook page - it got over 100 "likes".
10. Sometimes, done is better than perfect. You can revise and revise and revise, but after a certain point, there are diminishing returns. There was a deadline, in the end. If it hadn't been met, we would have had to pay for another half semester, so the financial incentive to finish was strong.

When you look at it through the lens of setting an example, I will say that this also taught AJ several lessons. She learned that it is good to do hard things. She learned that it is important to get an education, even at a higher level. She learned that her dad is very smart, a good test-taker, and a really good writer. She got so excited every time he finished a class or met another milestone, especially at the end. While she was home with me on a sick day, I got the call that he was finished - I told her he had completed and passed his presentation, and she was grinning from ear to ear. Partly, I think it was because she knew she'd be able to spend more time with her dad, but I also think it was because she actually got it - the goal was achieved and the work was done. A year is a long time to a kid.

Most of all, she learned not to give up. 

It has slowly sunk in this week, as we've gotten the wrap-up emails, including the one that said "The diploma is in the mail." Holy cow. It's really done.

We are so very proud. Sometime in the near future, we will all celebrate appropriately. Until then, I present Shenandoah R. Gallitz, MSISA.