Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HWYSD: Climbing Timer for Kids

If your kid is like mine, he has no concept of time...unless he's bored and wants something from you, then timeliness is incredibly important.  Our three-year-old can sit at dinner for an hour and a half.  Everyone else has finished eating, the kitchen is already clean, and he's still sitting there not eating those last three bites of beef.  (That was last night, in fact.)

Zazzle has this clock.  
That's probably how kids perceive time.

Kids just don't understand time, so our reminders to "hurry up," "move faster," "we have to leave in 10 minutes," or "if you help clean now, you get more time to play later" mean nothing to most of them.  Bill gets distracted, finds other things to do, or just ignores what is right in front of him.  I know, he sounds like a typical three-year-old, doesn't he?

Here's What You Should Do:

(Here's What You Should Manufacture might be a better title for this...)

Build a visual, climbing timer so kids can see time passing.

This timer incorporates visual aid to help a child understand the concept of time passing.  The timer starts at the bottom of a belt of some kind, and gradually climbs to the top.  Maybe 20 minutes from start to finish.  Privileges which are at risk of being lost are attached to the belt.  As the timer passes one, that privilege is lost.  For Little Bill at dinner time, it might look something like this:

 I imagine both teachers and parents would be able to utilize this.

As Spider-Man climbs, Bill loses the three things he cherishes most after dinner.  It could also be used on those days when he just refuses to help clean up his toys.  Say he has a small mess and you want to limit him to 10 minutes.  Start the timer at half-way to the top, with a 'TV' tag hanging at the top.  If the timer reaches the top, and the room isn't clean, no TV.  They see the timer moving, and can see indications of what they risk losing if they don't do things quickly.

Spider-Man would work for our kids, but all kinds of variations could be made using any number of characters, or just cartoon head-shots of a villainous face, appearing to eat those privileges as it climbs.

The main perk of this setup?  No constant nagging!  We tell them once, "I'm starting the timer.  Tell me when you finish."  Then, we go relax while they decide if the things they want are worth working for.

OK, now, somebody go make this.  I'd buy it!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Family Camping Trip to Lake Catherine 4/11-13/2014

We went to Lake Catherine State Park with the Mackey's last weekend and had a fantastic camping trip.  I hadn't been to the park in a while, so it was nice to revisit my old stomping grounds. 

The site was plenty big, and right on the lake.  The kids had tons of space to run around, get dirty, and throw things, and that's all they needed for a satisfying trip.  We also had frequent visits from the local wildlife, including two ducks who frequented our bread-throwing children, and a few really mean Canadian Geese, who, upon seeing the ducks feeding, would come honking and hissing toward our site.  We ran them off several times.

Charging the ducks with handfulls of bread was not well received.

Nate was even easier to amuse, as he was thrilled by all the leaves.
He tasted many, along with sticks, rocks, and who knows what else.

Friday evening we set up camp.  Jeremy had arrived early and set up a zipline for the kids to ride.  They had a blast.  He had also hung a great hammock that we all took turns in.  I'm pretty sure you could waste an entire day in that thing and not feel a pang of regret.

Yeah.  He's having a great time.

Sandra grilled some chicken and some chicken sausages.  They had Guy Fieri's picture on them, so we knew they would be good.  We were not disappointed.  She grilled some zucchini and pineapple, too.  All good stuff.  During the cooking, Bill found the spray can of Pam, and decided to use it as hair spray.  That was fun.

We all sat around the campfire for a while, enjoyed far too many s'mores, and had a great first night.  Jeremy and I played Farkle, several card games, while the ladies sat by the fire chatting, then we called it a night.  Sandra, the kids and I all shared a tent.  Bill slept in the double sleeping bag between us, with Nate in a playpen.  We warned the Mackeys before bed that Bill usually wakes around or before 6, and would likely come to their tent looking for his best buddy Jacob. 

Saturday, 6:12 am.
Bill gets away from me as I'm changing Nate's diaper.  The Mackeys are awakened by the floating head of our three-year-old sticking into their tent saying "Guys, it's time to get up."  
Jeremy asks, "Bill, why are you awake so early?"
Bill replies, "Because God is in my heart already."
There's just no arguing with a statement like that.  We spent quite a bit of our morning haze laughing about it, all the while watching two three-year-olds running in circles around us.  Ah, to have that kind of energy at 6am.

Bill's always up for some stick-throwing.

We had a nice breakfast - eggs, toast, potatoes and plenty of bacon...everything you need to start a day in the wilderness.  (Look, just try to stay on a diet and camp.  I dare you.  All bets were off this weekend.)  Not long after we ate, we hiked out to the waterfall. 

Nate's just taking it all in.

We opted to take the Falls Branch Trail from the end, rather than starting at the trail head.  The whole trail is about a mile and a half.  Starting from the head, it's a mile to the falls.  We figured it would be easier on the three-year-olds just to walk a half mile there and back.  The weather was perfect, and the area was gorgeous.  They had a blast.

 The water was running pretty nicely.

Bill and Nate enjoying the view from the top of the falls.
Afterward, we hit the playground for a while, then headed back to camp.  A few more trips on the zipline, more running and throwing, more feeding the animals, and the kids went down for a nap.  Nate slept longer than he's slept at naptime in days.  

 Good grief, they're getting big.  Both had a great time playing around.

 Afterward: Out like a light.

Bill refused to sleep.  After a while, Sandra took him out of the tent and stuck him in the hammock.  She told him he could hang there if he stayed quiet.  A couple of minutes later, he was out cold.
 Hard to beat a hammock for a nap.
 Sandra got to take some time to feed the ducks.  I'm sure they enjoyed her methods a lot more, since she didn't jump up and run after them every time the came up to her.  Nor did she pelt them with bread.
While the kids were down, Jeremy and I went out on the lake on his trimaran.  Pretty cool little boat. The crazy gusts of wind that were coming in that day made it interesting.  I don't think we got any pics, but here is what it looks like:

After we got back, I decided to get a jump on things and go ahead and prep the campfire for the night.  I built a nice, huge log pile, filled it with fuel and coals from the morning, then the wind came in strong and lit it a few hours before we planned.  That's ok.  I just started my s'more binge early.  We did lots of experimenting with s'mores this weekend.  Here are a few things we learned:

1. My previous post about using the coconut marshmallows was completely accurate.  They work great in s'mores, and are even better from a fire than a microwave.
2. Using chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers is awesome...naturally, with coconut marshmallows.
3. The coconut marshmallows are even better if you roast them and let them cool.  The coconut becomes a crunchy shell around a nice gooey marshmallow center.
4. Did I mention the coconut marshmallows?

The kids got to fly kites for a while, and we left our mark on the neighboring campsite by getting a Jake and the Neverland Pirates kite stuck in a tree, right over the tent pad.  It was still hanging there when we left the next day.  Jeremy grilled burgers and hot dogs, and made some home-made french fries for dinner.  Another fantastic meal.  Kids in bed, we played more cards, then off to bed.
The next day, we all got up, had another bacon-laden breakfast, and started getting ready to pack.  We were pros.  Sandra felt the first few drops of rain on its way in, which kicked us all into gear.  Even with three kids running around, we had camp packed up by 9:30. 

 Bill tried a new approach and waited patiently for Jacob Sunday morning.  
He just stood there, at the edge of their tent pad, staring at the tent and waiting.

We tried out a new trail at the park, one nearer to the entrance.  It's a nice concrete wildflower trail.  I recommend it for a nice walk when the weather is nice.  Afterward, we headed back to the playground.  It had started sprinkling on us on the way, so we floated the idea of heading into town for lunch and paying someone to feed us.  Our trip closed over apple pie and ice cream at Purple Cow.

All in all, we decided we definitely need to do this more.  You know its been a good trip when you really can't believe it's already over.  It's hard to beat having this much fun spending a weekend 20 minutes from your house.

Don't let having small kids keep you from camping once in a while!  It's totally worth the extra work.

Thanks for taking such great pictures, Jeremy Mackey!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

20 Down, 40 to Go!

Well, guess where we are at on our diets:

That's right, we've both crossed the 20 pound line.  We are very happy.  Considering we are less than a month and a half into it, it's going faster than expected.  I think we should celebrate with mountains of pizza and gallons of milk shakes!  Kidding...although I wouldn't turn away a slice.

At work, I had to go into the gym and lift one of these, just to really process how much weight I've actually lost.  It's substantial, but doesn't feel like that much when I'm walking around.
The diet has become much easier, and I'm not having to constantly remind myself not to eat things I don't need, which is wonderful.  I've even been able to flex a bit on my rules, because I'm actually able to control how much I eat, and even compensate for it in a later meal if I eat something unexpected.

Exercise still has not become a routine.  In fact, the only actual deliberate exercise I've had is a 3-mile hike I went on a few weeks ago.  It's amazing how much I've lost just from changing how I eat.  I did get to spend 3 and a half hours using a chainsaw last Friday, which I could still feel some pain from last night, so I have been more active than usual.  It just seems to be next to impossible to fit exercise into my schedule, so it's a good thing the diet is working so well for now.  Hopefully, once I've lost a bit more, I'll find it easier to get up early and get in some exercise before getting ready.  

As it is now, everything is easier.  I'm not tired all the time.  I don't start yawning until around 3 or 4pm, as opposed to 10am.  I've got more energy.  Sitting around for too long makes me want to get up, instead of melt into a comfy chair.

All in all, things are going great.  I'm not sure how many years its been since I was under 210, and it sure feels good.  I'm almost on the last hole in my belt, and I need new pants.  I realized that I can only tighten my belt for so long before they start to look like parachute pants.

Let me give another plug to MyFitnessPal.  Their app has been a huge help to both of us.

Start Date: 3/2/14
Days in: 38
Current weight:  209
Pounds lost: 21
Waist: Needs new pants!
Attitude: Thrilled
Desire for sugar: Intermittent, sated occasionally with various healthy-ish snacks (cinnamon toast, raisins, fruit)
Craving: both quantity and variety
Activity level: low-moderate
Cheats: I snuck a Teddy Graham last night.  Shame on me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

HWYSD: Cooperative Poetry 1: The Tale of Benny O'Reilly

So, this morning, I decided it would be fun to spontaneously come up with a four line poem as I drove to work.  It was fun.  It was creative.  It was energetic.  Here is the result:

There once was a man from Westchester named Benny O'Reilly,
But Benny's parents never loved him, which made him sad, you see.
Untouched by love or kindness, Benny turned to a life of crime,
But that hasn't worked out for Benny; he's never made a dime.

Ok, so, Shakespeare, it isn't.  But, it was fun.  It was a creativity boost for the morning.  So, in the interest of helping the rest of you get a creative boost:

Here's What You Should Do:

Participate!  Be a poet!

Write four more lines in the comments below.  Let's see where Benny's story goes from here.

This could become a weekly thing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Great Saunders Health Quest - Week 4.5

I heard the sound of someone opening a Dr. Pepper the other day.  It did not have a positive effect on me.  I've been wanting one ever since.  There's another box of donuts in the breakroom, today.  They smell amazing.  In short, temptation is everywhere, and I'm noticing it more and more.

Fear not, we're staying strong.  The diet is still on track.  We are still learning to control ourselves during cheat meals, but, aside from that, it's gotten pretty easy.  Most days I tend to spread my meals out into 5 smaller meals.  I'm still lacking exercise, though.  I have so much trouble fitting it into my routine.  I just have to find a way.

We did decide to flex one of the rules we set for the diet: no buffets on cheat night.  We decided that, as long as we still eat a reasonably small quantity, it's ok to hit the Chinese buffets on those nights.  We love Chinese food.  We'd rather eat a variety of small portions than have a heaping pile of food brought to us from the menu.

Nothing dramatic to report, this week.  No anesthesia, brag-worthy cheat meals, or anything.  I guess it's a slow news week all around.  (Isn't it time to move on from that missing airplane?)
Days in: 31
Current weight:  214
Pounds lost: 16
Waist: 38
Attitude: Restless
Desire for sugar: Strong
Craving: Burger and Fries
Activity level: low
Cheats: NONE