What Jamie can say at 16 months old:

November 30, 2007 by  
Filed under Kid Conversations

img_0785_edited-1.jpgHere is what the babycenter says about 16 month olds language development and here is the info on 17 months (Jamie is almost 17 months and changing so fast lately).

I love that our daughter talks a lot more than her brothers did as babies. I’m not sure if she is an early talker but, compared to her brothers at her age, she says a lot of words. I’m not good at keeping baby books now that I have 3 kids so I’m going to try to list all the words she has said as of today:

Daddy (most popular word), ma-ma/mommy, dog, up, down, bottle, Casey, mouth, eyes, nose, no, nice, pretty, feet, shoes, ouch, boo-boo, juice, please, yum, ball, uh-oh, baby, doll, bye, hi, belly, duck (& quack), Maggie, book, hello, wheee (going down slide), squeak, and back. Then there are some of the ones she has only said once or twice, like Grandma!

DIY build a ‘secret room’ for the kids

November 29, 2007 by  
Filed under DIY Projects

When we decided to gut our basement after the flood one brainstorm we had was over what to do with the space under the bottom of the stairs. Previously it had been accessible from the other side of the basement and used as a dumping ground for various items. We thought that was a poor use of space and decided to come up with an idea that would bring that area to the finished side of the basement. What we decided to do was make a ‘secret room’ for the kids.

To build the secret room I gutted it to the studs. There is a radiator along the wall so I decided to build a knee high wall behind the couch. I framed a new wall to block off the other side of the basement and ran electrical for a new switch and light inside the little room. When the framing was coming together Ethan added the great idea of putting in a small door so the dogs could get in and out. Once the framing was done the sheetrock was pretty easy although I took my time getting the measurements right.

In the end we have a neat little kid space behind our couch. We’re still debating how to finish the floor of the room. I used a sheet of mdf on the floor, but in the future I either want to add our leftover Flor tiles or add some kind of foam.


Print Making With Gourds

November 28, 2007 by  
Filed under Art Projects

img_0797.jpgimg_0808.jpgimg_0830.jpgI grew a lot of little gourds in our garden this year and they were on display in the kitchen through Thanksgiving. We started on Christmas decorations now so they had to go. I cut them in half and saved the seeds to plant in the spring and I saved the tops with stems so the kids could dip them in paint and make prints with them. They worked really well for stamping and made great circle shapes in various sizes. I think they worked better than other vegetables I have used to print with because they were pretty dry and held the paint well. I set the kids up with 2 trays, one with cool colors (blues and greens) and one with warm (yellow, red & orange) so that when mixing took place we wouldn’t get muddy colors.

To my surprise the boys were done with their paintings really quickly and didn’t want to make a second. When they were done I set up Jamie (16 months old) with a fresh piece of paper and she loved it. After I showed her twice how to dip in the paint and then print she got it and filled the entire paper with prints. She was very into it and very smiley. I had expected she’d just try to eat the paint and the gourds but it was Ethan who was silly and pretended to do that!img_0804.jpg

Free Alice in Wonderland podcast

November 26, 2007 by  
Filed under Tips and Websites

Storynory started reading one chapter of Alice in Wonderland each month last year and just recently decided to give the book its own podcast feed.  We signed up and downloaded all the chapters.  If you have any holiday traveling planned this season, I highly recommend subscribing to both the Alice and regular Storynory feeds.  Ethan and Ben love listening to a story in the car.

TIP – Most of the time I like listening to the stories myself, but if Heather and I want to talk while the kids are listening we will adjust the volume setting to all rear speakers.

DIY Simple backyard ice rink plans and photos

November 25, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Family Activities

Thanksgiving weekend has become ice rink building weekend at our house. We’re getting good at it and can now have the boards assembled and liner in place in about an hour. This year I took photos of the whole process to share with everyone.


dscf5656.jpgI keep the rink simple and relatively small since my boys are only 5 and 3. I use 10 2 x 8s to make a rink 16′ x 24′. This is my third year with these boards. Notice I left the bracing attached to all the boards. This saves time. My braces are 2 x 8s cut to 1 foot lengths. I used 10 braces total (6 on sides, 4 on corners). I have a closeup of the bracing below.

I used 3″ primeguard screws to put everything together. The primeguard screws are more expensive, but they won’t corrode with the new ACQ treated lumber. I cannibalized the screws from last year in another project so I needed new ones for this years assembly.

dscf5661.jpgMy liner is a 20′ x 30′ tarp. Very heavy duty and also very dirty because I used it to cover post holes most of the summer as I started our new deck. The entire rink was made of last years parts or leftovers of other projects. Gotta love FREE.

Make sure you get the right length screws. A 2×8 is NOT 2 inches thick (it’s 1 1/2). I used 3 inch screws and made sure not to countersink them much. Last thing you want to do is put holes in your liner because your screws are sticking out the other side.


dscf5658.jpgOnce I have my pieces all together I lay them out and get the rink squared and ready to screw. Notice my pile of leaves. I raked out the area a bit to get rid of any branches that might put a hole in my liner. This happened my first year as I was filling the liner. Bit of a scare, but nothing duct tape can’t fix.

I leave a pile in the middle to use as filler for any small gaps under the boards.

dscf5662.jpg Here is a picture of my bracing. I overlap each board with my 12 inch brace and use 4 screws on each side. The ice will push out on the boards as it freezes so I wanted to make sure my braces holds up.
dscf5665.jpg For the corners I use a brace to overlap and strengthen the joint.

My yard is far from flat so I ended up with gaps like the one below. For the smaller ones I just use leaves from my pile to fill it up. This helps prevent your liner from pushing under your boards and tearing as the ice expands.

dscf5664.jpg dscf5671.jpg

Last summer I added topsoil to level the area some more. Unfortunately some areas settled more than others and I had a very large gap under one corner. The ideal fix would be adding more topsoil and making the ground level. I’m on a budget this year so instead I screwed some scrap lumber onto my boards to close the gap.

dscf5669.jpg dscf5670.jpg


dscf5672.jpgWith the assembly done I add my liner. I simply tuck the sides of the tarp under the boards. Make sure you leave enough loose liner inside the rink because the water will really pull on it and stretch it out once you fill the rink. At the same time, don’t leave so much liner that get folds of liner floating in the water.

Also don’t let the liner ‘tent’ along the sides and corners. Push it all the way down. The weight of the water could cause the liner to tear if you don’t leave enough material.

Update 11/27Darn…my tarp did not survive the summer very well.  It wasn’t holding water so I grabbed the duct tape and went hunting for the leak.  Turns out the whole thing is pretty porous from the plastic material wearing off.  Going to look for a cheap replacement. Probably going to go with a 1 season plastic liner.


That’s it! Pretty simple and cheap. This year was free since I reused everything, but my first year startup costs were under $100. Ten 2x8s, a box of screws, and a large tarp.

I was hoping to get one more picture of the rink filling, but I made a rookie mistake and left our hose outside and it froze. Never leave the hose outside because it is a pain to thaw. Instead I use an old rubbermaid to store the hose and bring it inside. I’ll cart it in and out all winter to do my ice surfacing.

Feel free to send me any questions or suggestions. I’ve only been doing this a few years and am always looking for ways to improve the rink. Next year I’m considering an upgrade to taller boards (2×10 or 2×12) and making the rink itself larger as well (24 x 30 if it will fit).

Check back this winter to see how our rink is progressing. I’m hoping to have it frozen filled and frozen by the weekend if mother nature cooperates. I’m also considering adding corner seats and building a rebounder (a piece of elastic to bounce the puck back to you).

Entertainment coupon book coupon

November 24, 2007 by  
Filed under Past Contests

Every year we like to get one of the local coupon books. They go by different names, but the one we bought last year is called Entertainment Book. I’ve also seen them called Dine-A-Mate books. These are simply a book of coupons for local businesses. These are popular fundraiser item and the value of coupons more than pays for the cost of the book.

I learned last year that if you wait a little while they start selling the coupon books cheaper on their websites. Sure enough, yesterday we received our first discount letter from Entertainment Publications. By using this link you can get $5.00 off the 2008 Entertainment book and free shipping. Offer expires December 31st, 2007. If your looking for gift ideas, there is still plenty of time to order a few books before Christmas.

TIP – Keep your coupon book in the glove compartment of your car. If you put it in that junk drawer alongside all your old chinese restaurant menus you will never use it. Our most commonly used coupon was at family restaurants like IHOP and also the finer restaurants when we get a night out without the kids.

Full archives loaded

November 23, 2007 by  
Filed under Misc

I finally got around to loading all the old entries from my previous site, The Family Blog.  That site will redirect to here and all the old entries, going back to 2002, are now in the archives.  Still have a little organization to work on, but it is nice to finally have everything in one place.

Netflix free 2 week trial

November 22, 2007 by  
Filed under Past Contests

I received another coupon code with our latest Netflix rental.  This time it is only for 2 free weeks and the code is good through December 31st, 2007.

Go to  www.netflix.com and use code Friend22

Banning Spongebob increases creativity

November 21, 2007 by  
Filed under Kid Art, Parenting

dscf5601.jpgI was very pleased that our boys had made it to 3 & almost 5 yrs old without having any clue what Sponge Bob was. However my 13yr old brother went and messed everything up by showing them it on the computer in August (still mad). Since then Ethan has been asking about it and wanting to watch it but we have never given in. He has seen commercials for it after one of the shows he watches and of course the character can be spotted on any type of product. Since we aren’t letting him watch it and don’t buy it he has gotten creative and is making his own Sponge Bob decorations. He started with rectangular construction paper and grocery bags and made them into Sponge Bob and then he made the other characters (he doesn’t know their names) by drawing and cutting them out. He was so cute doing this and felt like he was getting away with something big I’m sure. He decorated the stairs up to his room with the colored grocery bags and then hung the construction paper characters above the railing (he has added several more since I took these pictures). I was very impressed with all the time and effort he put into this project and I’m glad he did it BUT I don’t plan to let him watch the show any time soon and I hope this gets it out of his system for a while!dscf5612.jpg

Another great kids podcast

November 20, 2007 by  
Filed under Tips and Websites

Ethan and Ben love listening to Storynory, but we’re caught up with the latest episodes (I’m downloading the archives).  I went in search of another kids podcast for them to listen to and found Crazy Dave’s Kid Show.  This is a radio call in show for kids.  The boys really like it, I like it, but Heather is on the fence.  The show is very silly and fun and I get a real kick out of the kids calling in and talking to the hosts.  After the second episode Ethan asked ‘Is this real’?  I explain that it was and those were real boys and girls calling in.  He followed up with ‘can I call in’?  I think we’ll have to give it a try.  Parents can email the show and they call kids from all over the world during the show.  If Ethan makes it on the show I’ll let you know so you can listen.

Let me know if you have any other good kid podcasts.  If you haven’t tried a podcast, get yourself a cheap mp3 player, download iTunes, and search for podcasts to subscribe to.  The ones I listen to are all FREE and I’ve found some great entertainment to listen to in the car.

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