Sunday, February 7, 2016

Things, Lately

- Taking stress breaks by looking at pictures of fennec foxes and degus and hamsters and guinea pigs and mice and rats with clever paws and tiny whiskered faces. (I miss Zhiva and I think I'm ready for a new pet.)

- Also otters.

- Finally caving and buying a subscription to GoSwim and spending nearly every moment that the kids are sleeping watching Steve Haufler videos. I love Steve Haufler.

- Lesson plans. Writing so many lesson plans it's insane... Writing swim lesson plans for my Station 7's and my Station 9's and everyone in between - my two 7's who haven't swam in a year, my two 6's who are swimming with the 7's because I've run out of room for them in the regular program, my lone 8. wtiting lesson plans for the triplets - not just for next month, but also looking ahead to next year when we start homeschooling. And also trying to reconstruct the spring semester lesson plan for lit class. I'm losing my mind.

- Also: we hit a new enrollment high at swim. We saw it coming last month and it stressed me out to no end because I thought all the problems we've been having lately were growing pains and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Once I realized that very few issues were in fact related to our numbers, and I could solve (or at least tackle) the rest, I was much less stressed. And while I was off "tackling" we reached and passed our new goal and I didn't even notice til several days later.

- Making: pork chops in the crock pot; a frittata with zucchini, sausage, and orange pepper; portobello mushroom caps stuffed with leftover pork and parmesan cheese; steamed salmon with spinach and quinoa; fresh mango.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

January Craft Round-Up

This month was a little unusual for us; we didn't get to everything on our lesson plan in January because of a snow storm (I lost three days of work), and we also did more activities and "process art" than we normally do (so we didn't have a lot to show for all our efforts other than pictures and memories, lol). Still, it was worth it because some of these activities were just too much fun. :)

Some of our themes this month were ice, snow, cold (we talked about temperature in general) and winter. We worked on recognizing the colors blue and white (with limited success lol).

We started off the month remixing one of our favorite crafts from last month: sensory jars! This time we made them snow jars. The kids had a blast.



One day we did a slew of snowman activities.

First we practiced rolling the dice and counting out the same number of pompom "buttons" onto our snowmen...

... then we practiced building snowmen out of Styrofoam balls (cut in half so they'd lay flat) and construction paper arms, boots, and hats.


And finally we made "melted snowmen" with white glitter paint, googly eyes, and construction paper pieces. The kids did this one all by themselves and their mom and I got a kick out of seeing how each one turned out!


We painted on giant ice cubes (I used the freezer A LOT this month lol) with watercolors.  This was so much fun and I sort of wished I had made one for me, too. At first the paint went onto the cubes like regular paper, then as the water melted it changed until towards the end as soon as you put some paint on the cube, it changed the whole hue of the painting. Very cool.



We also tried painting on snow one day, inspired by this pin. It was a total no - go lol. Pinterest fail!

I also made ice cubes filled with glitter and confetti and let them go at them with paintbrushes and warm water. It was a good chance to talk about melting, freezing, hot and cold.




We did ice chalk! I've been too intimidated to try making my own sidewalk chalk for awhile, but somehow ice chalk seemed less scary. Since it turned out well (and the only significant difference between sidewalk chalk and ice chalk is drying vs. freezing), we'll probably be doing that sometime soon. This was a fun activity! Definitely part sensory activity, as it got rather messy, but fun. It went on like fingerpaint and dried like chalk. Lucy enjoyed "stamping" with the blocks.


We tried making silly putty with cornstarch and Dawn dishsoap, and it failed miserably. I ended up adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that and making it into "snow dough" instead.


I rigged up a makeshift clothesline between the front and basement doors and we worked on some fine motor skills and matching by pinning pair of mittens and gloves. It took everyone quite awhile to get the hang of it, but once they did they had a blast!


That was our month. Of course, there was also a lot of playing in the snow, outings, and play. :) I'm definitely looking forward to warmer temperatures and getting to do more outdoors activities again!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Randomizer

- I spent most of today resting or napping and I still feel completely exhausted. Granted, its been a week with a lot of stress and not a lot of sleep, but I've been around A LOT of sick people recently, and I'm pretty sure my body is fighting something off. :( Other than chanting "I'm not getting sick, I'm not getting sick" over and over again, I've been gargling with apple cider vinegar,  eating lots of greens and citrus fruits,  and mostly trying to sleep it off. Also Zicam (Zicam is my best friend). Hoping I'll be back to 100% by Monday!

- Everything is in flux right now. On all fronts. And I'm so not good at flux, you know? I'm not good at transitions and change and things being out of sorts. I'm a routine girl, a know-what-to-expect, have-a-plan girl. Granted, in the last few years I've recognized that change is inevitable, and gotten a (little) bit better at rolling with the punches, but rarely have so many different areas of my life been in flux at once and I'm struggling. Trying very hard to take joy and choose to be happy and take everything one day at a time, but it's not working particularly well. I'm really eager to get everything back to some sense of normalcy. Even if the new normal is different than what it was.

- I bought houseplants. Walmart had all succulents and houseplants 50% off, so for a few dollars I came home with three new ones. And while I (and everyone who knows me at all!) know that I will probably have killed (or at least severely maimed) them by summer, for now all the green is brightening my spirits considerably.  Also I'm looking forward to spring and starting seeds and tending plants. Even if they produce two green beans and then die. ;)

- I am making a conscious effort to speak softly to those who disagree with me. I'm practicing being kind, being quieter. Not because what I'm saying isn't important, but because important issues sometimes raise emotions, and I need to be better about offering others safety to disagree with me. Even if I think their opinions are horrific (maybe especially then, because in that case it's even more vital that I give my words their best chance at being heard).

- The triplets start swim on Monday, and I am SO EXCITED. Friday I brought them in for training, and they got to test out their new wetsuits and goggles. I'm looking forward to watching them grow and learn. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Wintering

This is my third winter in the trailer, and I get better at winterizing each time. Since I just survived a blizzard very comfortably, and the weather is unlikely to be worse this winter, I'm hereby declaring the worst of the winter weathered.

- I've gotten more efficient each winter at heating effectively. The first year I heated exclusively with the propane duct system, and it was a cold, long, less than pleasant (and expensive!) winter. Last year I switched to two electric radiant heaters (one in the kitchen, one in the living room) which did a much better job, but were a pain to trip over and were a bit on the expensive side to run. Also, they provided zero airflow so my sleeping compartment was still always frigid.
This year, Maggie and Cris bought me this amazing infrared heater which is AMAZING. It keeps the whole place warm, is thermostatically controlled, and the blower keeps the air circulating, helping keep the whole place peetty evenly warm (my sleeping compartment was still a few degrees cooler, but that's how I prefer it, so that's fine). Plus, the sensory experience of being able to sit by a stove is just amazing. ;) I think this is the final solution. (When I build my tiny house someday, I think I'll choose a hard - wired infrared or propane fireplace.)
- Still using my electric blanket. I won it at my family gift exchange the first Christmas I was in the trailer and it's still going strong. I would highly recommend it to anyone who's living in cold quarters.

- I didn't insulate the heated hose this time. I always end up ripping off sections of the insulation at least once to deal with frozen sections, and it never seems to make a difference. It hasn't this year, either - if anything I've had fewer issues than ever. I did have a section of the pipe freeze once, but without the insulation I was able to see immediately that the heat tape had loosened, and once I tightened it, it thawed within minutes. So far so good. It's been a huge blessing to have almost zero issues with running water this year!

- The problem spot continues to be the faucet. It seems there's just no good way to insulate it. I wrapped it pretty thoroughly with the heat tape, but it froze in the middle of the blizzard. I defrosted it with a couple pitchers of hot water from the big house, then (since I lacked any other good options and hey, it worked last year!) I wrapped it with a couple of kitchen towels and zip - tied them into place. I'll probably try to pick up a Styrofoam faucet cover as soon as the world thaws and see if that fixes the problem. If not, hey, kitchen towels for the win! ;)

- Also on my "to do someday" list is rugs. The place could be 80° inside but the floors are still icy cold. I could fix this at least a bit by putting up skirting, but I shudder to think about the wildlife that would attract. I think I'll just buy some cheap throw rugs to put down over the linoleum.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Zhiva

Rest in peace, my sweet girl. You were loved.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What I Wish The Parents Of My Swim Students Knew

1. Please buy a swimsuit that fits your child correctly (and is made for swimming, not looking cute). This means a snug-fitting, one-piece suit (a suit with raceback straps like this one is awesome!). Two-piece suits are adorable but the absolute worst. One-piece suits with flouncy skirts (like this one) are also cute, but they make it hard for the child to see what their legs are doing. It's the most frustrating thing in the world to try to teach a child to swim who must constantly adjust the straps, waist, etc (we often ask each other, "Can't the parents, who are watching from the stands, see what a hassle it is?!"). I know it's tempting to get the next size up to try to save a little money (kids grow fast!), but it's not worth the wasted time.
Also, if you intend to have your child in swim lessons (or any other water-sport) for awhile, you need more than one suit, I promise. What happens when it's January, there are no suits in the stores, and your child's swimsuit suddenly falls apart (it happens) or is misplaced? A water aerobics teacher told me once that the rule of thumb for swimsuits is that if you're in the water more than twice a week, you'll probably need a new suit every 12 weeks or so.
If your child frequently complains about being cold, consider getting them a rashguard (Lands End sells lovely ones for both boys and girls, but even the cheapest neoprene rashguards will help immensely).

2. If your child's hair is long enough to reach their eyes when wet, tie it back before sending them to class. (Little girls AND little boys.) Better yet, get them a swim cap (and learn how to put it on: have the child hold the "front edge" of the cap with both hands very near their forehead; count "one, two, three!" and stretch the "back edge" of the cap back toward the nape of their neck. Tuck any loose hairs into place. If you have a little girl, put her hair back in a bun at the back of her head before putting on the cap).
I taught a little girl over the summer whose thick hair - no kidding - reached below her waist. The parents never pulled it back, so after trying for several lessons to get her to blow bubbles, and having her panic every time her hair covered her nose and mouth, I got into the habit of braiding her hair before taking her into the pool. (I did often wonder why her parents, who could clearly see her lessons, never bothered with this step themselves lol.)

3. Don't buy cheap goggles. The best goggles don't have Disney or Marvel characters on them. ;) Make sure they're sized for your child's age (child, youth, etc) and pick ones with a solid nosepiece (like these) and not an adjustable one (like these). (By the way, that first pair is my absolute favorite kind to put on little swimmers, and they're the ones I snap up on clearance to stock the swim bag with!) A pair with divided straps (like the first) is better than one without. If you have a very young child, invest in a pair of Frogglez. You can also try a hybrid swim mask if they have trouble getting a good fit - these cover a little more surface area so sometimes they work better for small faces - but DON'T buy a snorkeling mask that covers the nose. The first and most important skill when learning to swim is learning to control your breath, which is impossible to do if your nose is covered.
Teach your child to hold the goggles over their eyes while you (or their coach, etc) adjust the straps. There's less chance of injury this way, and you'll get a better fit. After they're done swimming, gently rub a little lotion, hair conditioner, etc over the inside of the lens, and swish it off in the water (don't rub!) before the next swim to maintain an anti-fog coating.

4. Don't send your child to class wearing jewelry, a watch, or, heaven forbid, toting a toy.
It's hard to get small children to focus in the best conditions. At best, your child will be distracted, at worst the coach will spend precious class time fishing a lost charm out of the filter amid tears. If the coach wants to use toys to help your child learn to swim, they will provide some. Otherwise, send your child to lessons without accessories!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Weekending

- A short weekend for me, since I worked yesterday (albeit a short shift) and again tomorrow. I was going to work on cleaning off my couch, but I didn't get anything accomplished on that front today after all.

- Maggie and I went to get coffee (#flatwhitesforlife!) and to put the kitties at Petco (Saturdays are adoption days). I wanted to take all the kitties home with me. Maggie reminded me that the landlords said no cats. Maggie met a cat who adored her. She wanted to take it home. I reminded her we have the same landlord.

- They had guinea pigs for adoption. I held one, it purred, I wanted to take it home (since guinea piggies fall under "acceptable pets"). I'm seriously considering getting one for my next pet when the Z-girls pass.

- I went out for a jog (I'm using C25K again) and, again, forgot how much I hate running. Barely finished, did some yoga afterwards because I hate running.

- Cooked zucchini alfredo and packed breakfasts for this week. Printed out the new rosters. Packed my swim bag and generally geared up for the week ahead.