Friday, August 29, 2014

Captain's Log, Week 227

What Ellie said this week:

Ellie fell over on the carpet.
Me: "Oh, are you okay?"
Ellie: "I'm okay." *kisses her own leg* "Aw, I love me." Stands up. "I'm okay, I promise!"

We made some popcorn this week in our air popcorn popper. Ellie loved it. Afterwards, she was sitting at the table with a big bowl of popcorn, picking them up one by one and telling me what animals she thought they looked like. She started off with: "Mom, this one looks like a little tiny yak."

Ellie, playing with her toys.
One toy: "If you do that again, you'll get a time out."
Other toy: "Lalalala!"
First toy: "Okay, time out!"

Similar to the last one: Zelda was grabbing something off the couch (I don't remember what). Ellie: "No, Zelda! If you do that again you'll get a time out!"

Ellie, at the kitchen table after dinner: "My leg cracks make me born and sick and that makes me sad. Now I'm sad." (What?)

I scooped some ice cream for Ellie and put it in a cone. Ellie: "Well done, Mommy! Well done!"

Last night Ellie and Zelda were in the bath and Zelda was playing with a little soft brush and put it under the bubbles. Ellie took it from her and said: "No Zelda, don't get it bubbled and watered. Then it will die."

What we did this week:

This has been a big developmental week for the girls. First off: Zelda's walking! Jason and I were with the girls in their room a couple days ago when Zelda stood up took a couple steps forwards, crouched down, stood up and took some more steps forward, several times. Since then she's been walking more and more. She can walk halfway across rooms now, and would probably go further if she wasn't walking into our arms. :) She took her first step months ago, but this is real, legitimate, solid walking. :)

Ellie's drawings have been getting really good this week. Here are two of them:

This one is a ladybug.
And this one is a spiderweb.

Zelda's been pointing a lot with her index finger this week. She's also been waving, and started clapping. She knows the word "wave," too; I was talking about her waving to Jason and she started waving, without us actually showing her the motion.

Ellie's been having us read the same books to her over and over again lately until she memorizes them, and then she'll read them back to us, pointing at the words as she goes.

Oh - and something really awesome - we think Zelda's over her milk allergies! The allergist, way back when Zelda first started having her problems, said that babies often grow out of milk allergies and to try again in 6 months or so to see if she'd outgrown it. So, this week we had her entirely on milk formula - and she was fine! No rashes or anything! Yaaaaay!!! We're switching her entirely to milk formula now, which is such a relief because it's less than half the price of the allergy formula she's been on.

As far as what we did outside our house this week: well, last Saturday we drove up to Raleigh. Zelda had slobbered on my phone, which broke the charging port, so we needed to go get it fixed. The place we went to - Triangle Cellular Repair - was great. They were really fast, and they replaced my charging port and fixed the phone for only $30. I was expecting it to cost a lot more, so that was a relief.

While I was at the repair shop, Jason and the girls were at this amazing park just a couple blocks away:

This incredible playground was at Laurel Hills park, and it was seriously awesome. It was this huge wooden fort, with tons of openings at the ground level for the kids to go in and out and through and under, and it had bridges and towers and slide, and it's hard to describe just how cool it was. I also liked that it had no openings high up - so many of the new, plastic playgrounds have high-up openings for older kids to go down fireman's poles or something, and that's good for older kids but really bad for little kids. This one was entirely enclosed and safe for someone Ellie's age.

We also went to Target that morning and stocked up on art supplies for the girls. We got all sorts of fun stuff - foam stickers, paint, poofballs, dry erase supplies - and it's been great having lots of new stuff for Ellie to do this week. 

Other than that, our week was pretty normal. Jason had school, and the girls and I did stuff at home.

And, for anyone who knows why this is awesome, here is Zelda playing with an ocarina:

You can't see it; it's in her hand. It's a little brown one my sister gave to me a long time ago. Zelda was playing with some of my old trinkets yesterday, and I looked over, and she was gnawing on the ocarina. She really liked it, too.

A project I've been working on this week is scanning all the random papers, tickets, notes, etc. I have from my first two years at college. I'm working on putting them all, along with the journal entries I wrote on the computer during that time, into a printed book.

Jason had two tests this week and did great!

Oh, and Jason and I have officially been given callings in our ward! We're the teachers of the 5-6 yr-old primary class. Also, we both gave talks last Sunday on the Plan of Salvation. If you want to see the blog post I wrote on that same topic (wow - almost a year ago), you can click here: What We Believe: God's Plan for Us.

And that was our week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Captain's Log, Week 226

What Ellie said this week

We were making an egg (because Ellie wanted to eat one). Ellie wanted to help crack the egg into the pan, so I had it down on the floor and was helping her. Zelda crawled over and reached toward the raw egg in the pan. "No, no!" I said, grabbing her hand before she touched it. Ellie then patted Zelda's back and said, "That will make you sick, honey."

Yesterday she started hopping around, and then told me "I'm tending to be a rabbit!" And a minute later, "I'm tend for to be a frog!" It's the first time she's been trying out the word "pretending."

I have a couple more quotes, but they're saved on my phone, and I can't access them at the moment (explained below). I'll probably post them next week.

What we did this week 

The biggest thing that happened this week is Jason had his white coat ceremony! When you enter a medical grad program, like PA school or a DO program or MD program, you are presented with a short white coat. This shows that you are a medical student. When you graduate from your program, you are presented with a long white coat, which shows that you are now a medical professional.

They held the ceremony in a beautiful chapel in the middle of campus. Jason's mom Diana was still visiting with us, and I am so glad because she helped me keep the girls quiet during the program (which was an hour and a half long) and I don't know how I could have done it without her.

Several people, the heads of the program and the dean, spoke to us and to Jason's class. And then they were all presented with their white coats, one by one.

Jason getting his coat!
And shaking hands.
We took some pictures outside afterwards. :)

And that's all the pictures I have this week! I wish I had more; I took more on my phone, but I can't access it today because Zelda slobbered on it last night and now it's not charging and the battery's run out and it's been sitting in a thing of rice all day and we have to take it in to get it looked at tomorrow. And I know that's a run-on sentence, but I'm sad about it and I just can't stop typing.

But here are a couple pictures I took today, with a different camera:

The girls were so funny with that big furry hat this morning. It's Jason's from Russia, and I took it down from our bookshelf and was showing Zelda. And she was smiling, and liked it, but kept backing away from it and didn't want to touch it. And Ellie just really liked it.

That was pretty much our week. We also had dinner at another family in our ward's house last Sunday, and that was really fun. And the girls and I went to a ward playdate at the park on Wednesday, and stopped by the library. Oh, and last Saturday we went to a fish fry and open house held by the ward. It was really good food! And we got to meet some more people from our church. Other than that, the girls and I just stayed at home this week and Jason went to school!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dinner's in the Freezer

As we were getting ready this summer for Jason to start PA school, I really wanted to figure out some kind of meal plan for our family. In California, we were just kind of winging it on a daily basis. We'd look around our kitchen at dinnertime, pick something to cook, and make it. It meant that we had a lot of the same stuff over and over and over, because we just had to work with what we had and it was hard thinking up new stuff on the spot.

Now, we're having different, good food every night. Our current plan is based off two principles: theme nights, and freezer meals.

The theme idea comes from "The Food Nanny." Her blog is down right now, so I can't link to it, but basically she says that each night of the week should have a set theme. Some of her ideas are "Comfort Food Night," "Mexican Night," "Pizza Night," etc. Our theme nights are:

Sunday: Beef or Pork Night
Monday: Chicken Night
Tuesday: Pasta Night
Wednesday: Fish Night
Thursday: Mexican Night
Friday: Chicken Night
Saturday: Soup Night

(Also, you know have you say a word over and over and over it starts not to seem like a real word? Well, all the sudden "night" doesn't look like a real word to me. It's a real word, right?)

The freezer meal part of our plan comes from a conversation I had with my sister Alyse. A little while ago we were talking on the phone, and she mentioned that she'd tried out a cookbook called "Once a Month Cooking." The idea is that you buy all the groceries for a month's worth of dinners all at one time, cook up all the dinners at the same time, freeze them into daily-sized portions in your freezer, and then pull them out when needed. She'd tried it out with two week's worth of meals, and she liked it.

I really liked the sound of that, so I looked up the book on Amazon. The reviews were just okay, so I looked around on Amazon some more, and found "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer." It was based on the same idea, and had hundreds of great reviews. I really wanted to try it, so I bought it (and as much as I love books, I rarely buy them - I usually get them from the library, or as gifts. If I bought as many books as I read, I'd go broke!) and that's saying something! It came in just a couple days.

As soon as it arrived, I went through it with Jason and we marked all the recipes we thought sounded good. I read the first couple chapters that explain the benefits to freezing meals ahead of time, how to plan multiple meals at once, how to shop, what to do on the "cooking day," how to freeze everything, and what to do on the "serving day."

I've done three (I think?) cooking days since then, and made about two months of dinners in those three cooking sessions. They're all frozen and stored away, in one-dinner-sized portions. Our dinners are now written out and planned until the end of September, based on our theme nights, and all in our freezer ready to go. All we have to do is pull them out of the freezer the night before and put them in our fridge, and then put them in the oven or on the george foreman when it's time to eat!

I really really like how it's working. We've been eating our frozen dinners for weeks now, and they're really yummy and so easy to prepare on the day of. This is a great system, and I'd highly recommend the book "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer" to anyone who'd want to try the same idea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Books I've read Lately

Books. I miss books. I feel like I haven't been reading as many as I used to, and I miss having the feeling that I'm on top of all the new books coming out. I haven't felt like that in a while; I feel like I'm behind in all the books that have come out in the last couple years. And when I say "all the books," I pretty much mean children's books. Because those are the ones I like the most.

I have read a couple lately, though. We went to our new library a couple weeks ago, and it's great. It's a lot smaller than the one we had in California, but it has a really nice children's section with puzzles, hand puppets, a big storytelling area, and of course, tons of books. The adult section's not bad, either.

Here are a couple books that I've read lately:

First off - Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan. I already talked about this book in this Captain's Log post, so I won't say too much more about it, other than that it was good. In a nutshell: True story, written by the woman who it happened to. Her body attacked her brain, and she went crazy. Her family took her to the hospital and none of the doctors (some of the best in the nation) could figure out what was happening to her. Then one did. It's really gripping; once I started it I couldn't put it down.

Second - David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell. This is my fifth Malcolm Gladwell book I've read. I did like it, but I like his others better. I felt like as this book went on, he was kind of stretching to fit his examples in his main point. But, it was still really interesting and I particularly enjoyed the chapter on David and Goliath themselves, the chapter on basketball, and the chapter on universities.

Third, and this is probably my favorite of the lot - Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. This book was so cool! It's not a diet book, so don't start with that impression of it (although if you apply the principles you learn from it, it can definitely help you eat less). This book is all about the pyschology of eating, written by the guy who's done probably more studies on it than anybody else. It's so cool! He talks about all the different studies they've done, from putting secretaries' candy in a clear bowl vs an opaque bowl, or calling the same food items different names at their fake restaurant, or serving food in bigger containers or smaller containers or more bowls or fewer bowls or with fast music or slow music or all sorts of stuff. It's just really cool, really interesting, and I love the way the book is written. It's written in a totally down-to-earth, funny style. And I love that the person writing it actually knows what he's talking about; he's the one who's done all the studies, for years and years and years! Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It was a really enjoyable and interesting read to me.

So those are the new books I've read this month. I've also started re-reading the Harry Potter series; I just finished the third one last night, so I'm on one of my favorites - the fourth book. I also had an idea today, that I'm going to make a big list of all the kids books that have come out the last couple years that I want to catch up on, and then try to read them all this year. I doubt our little library will have all of them, so it might require some creativity, but I really want to feel on top of my book reading again. If you have any recommendations for recent-ish (like last five years) kids' books, please tell me!

And, because I can't resist, here are some pictures of Zelda.

She likes to read too.
Hmm...maybe not this book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Captain's Log, Week 225

This is so Zelda. :)

What Ellie said this week

One of her nightly prayers: "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for (some gibberish words) and abcd, and efg, hijk, and lmnop, qrs, tuv, wx. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

I wish I could play you the recording of this one, because it's all about the tone she used. One day she wanted to play with the ipad (which she calls the "doodoo"), and she said in the exact same tone I always use when I'm trying to get her excited about doing something. Ellie: "Mom, you know what we can do? Play with our doodoo, and sit on the couch. That sounds fun." She went over and sat on the couch. "Sit with me. It's okay, it's okay."

This is a Zelda one - this week she started saying "Mamamama"! She's been saying "Dadadadada" for a long time (she even said "Daddy" last week. Daddy!), but she just finally started saying Mamamama. And I love it. :)

What we did this week
Jason started school!

Monday was his first day, and the last couple days have been mostly orientation. The university president spoke to them, and other people, and they learned all about how the program is going to work. Wednesday and Thursday they started their real classes, and today is his white coat ceremony!

When I asked Ellie what Daddy was doing at school, she said "Playing with all the kids."

Other stuff from this week: last Saturday we went to a "Welcome BBQ" thrown by some of the other students Jason's PA class, and it was great. We got to meet lots of the other students and a lot of their spouses/families. One family even has two little girls almost exactly Ellie and Zelda's ages! It was really fun and it was really nice of those couple other students to throw it for everyone.

On Sunday we went to church, and I taught the 5 and 6 year olds for the second week in a row (I'm subbing for my visiting teachee, who was just called as primary president). Jason came in and helped me this week, for which I was grateful. They're an energetic group.

And then Monday Jason started school, and we've been adjusting to that all week. I made a basic daily schedule for me and the girls to follow, and we've been following it okay-ish. Tuesday we kind of got thrown for a loop, because Ellie got stung by a bee during our "outside time," and then it took like an hour to comfort her (with acetaminophen and hydrocortisone and cookies and a tv show). And a couple hours after that we talked to Grandpa on the phone (with Facetime!), and now for the rest of the week whenever she talks about how she got stung by a bee, she always also mentions that she told Grandpa about it. 

One of the nights this week, we had a crazy thunder storm. It was after the girls were asleep, and Jason and I were sitting on the couches in our family room. We heard distant thunder, and then it got louder and louder and we started seeing lightning flashes out of our windows. We turned out all of our lights so we could see the lightning better, and watched it from our windows and listened to the rain. And the rain itself was interesting; at times it was falling steadily, and then other times we could hear it rolling over the top of our roof, really really loud and just coming in waves. So that was a cool night.

Finally, Jason's mom is here right now! We're so happy. :) We told Ellie on Wednesday that she was coming and that she would come when Ellie went to sleep (Nana got in on a late flight), and Ellie was so excited all day. And Nana got in that night, and the girls got to see her Thursday morning. And Ellie and Zelda have been so happy with Nana here. Zelda's even actually been saying "Nanananana" the whole time she's been here, which is interesting because Zelda never really says the "N" sound. Just now, with Nana!

Now, pictures from this week.
I don't know what's going on in this picture, but I love it.
Beautiful girl.
These next pictures are all from the morning before we went to the Welcome BBQ. It was kind of rainy outside, so Jason bundled Zelda up, and she was so cute I couldn't resist taking some pictures. And it was really hard to narrow them down. Because look at her.

On the way to church on Sunday, Ellie wanted to bring her panda hat, which she turned backwards on her head (don't worry, she didn't wear it into church), and her little fisher price piano, which she played and sang songs on for a long ways on the ride to church. Have I mentioned that our church building is thirty minutes away? It is.

Here's the girls playing with bubbles on the deck. It was breezy and perfect when we were outside, and just so pretty in our backyard. Ellie was blowing bubbles with the bubble gun over the side of the deck, and they were swirling up into the trees.

And here's us yesterday night, eating ice cream with Nana. Ellie kept eating Daddy's ice cream, too, and then ran around playing with some of the other kids on the lawn of the ice cream place. She was funny in talking to them; we heard her telling them that  "I'm littler, but when I get bigger I can drive the lawnmower." (She's been talking about driving the lawnmower since I mowed the lawn on Wednesday.)

And that was our week! Yay for the white coat ceremony today!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Finished Bookshelf

Do you remember the pictures last week of Jason building a bookshelf? Here's a reminder:

Well, it's all done and painted and filled with books. Here's the finished product!

I loooove it! If you follow me on Pinterest, you've probably seen on my "Playroom" board where I've pinned a million pictures of rain-gutter bookshelves or flat display bookshelves. I really like how they make it so the kids can see the front of the books. It makes it way easier for the books to catch their interest and for them to choose one to read.

Jason did such a good job building this bookshelf and I love the way it fits into our playroom. We used these free plans from Ana White, slightly modifying them for our space. In addition to the natural lean built into the bookshelf, we secured it to a stud in the wall.

I plan to change out the books almost every day, with books from the bookshelf in their room and the bookshelves in the office. Also, we decided that this is a really good place to keep the girls' library books, because it keeps them all in one place and they'll be able to access and read them easily.

And that's our new, home-built bookshelf!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

York Photo Photobook Review

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I did a review of a photo book company, but I've got a couple lined up that I want to do - MyPublisher, York Photo, Blurb - so let's just get started!

Last autumn I saw a deal for the company York Photo. I'd never used them before, but Christmas was coming up and they had some cute themes for their photo books, including an Instagram theme. My stepsister MaCall posts lots of cute pictures on Instagram, and when I saw the Instagram theme I instantly thought of her and knew that's what I wanted to do for her and her husband Aaron for Christmas.

I picked a time frame for the book so that I could choose the right amount of pictures (I chose "Fall 2012"), saved all the pictures on my computer, and then uploaded them into York Photo's software (which is all online through their site), and put the book together over a couple days.

Here are a couple pictures of the cover, some of the inside pages, and the binding:

I was really pleased with how it turned out. Having never used York Photo before, I didn't know what to expect. Also, it was a softcover, and I usually only do hardcovers, so I was wondering how that would turn out too. But it was really good! Good quality paper, cover, binding, and printing.

The one downside of York Photo was that I found the software somewhat hard to work with. Sometimes it would run very, very slow. Additionally, the backgrounds were sorted into kind of weird categories and you couldn't search for one type of backgrounds - all the blue ones, for example, or stripes, or whatever. You just kind of had to browse through everything to find what you wanted. But, I did make the book almost a year ago now, and they might have improved their software since then.

So that was my experience with York Photo in a nutshell. The software was somewhat hard to work with, but the book turned out nicely.

To see my other photo book reviews, check out the posts below:

Shutterfly Photo Book Review
Shutterfly Premium Leather Layflat Photo Book Review
Shutterfly Calendar Review
MyPublisher Photo Book Review
AdoramaPix Photo Book Review Photo Book Review
Photo Book Comparisons