Sunday, July 29, 2012

how are you celebrating the Olympics?

I'm a huge fan of the Summer Olympics and knew that getting my kids to watch a lot of it would be a little challenging. When I read an idea in Family Fun to draw countries and keep a poster board to tally the countries medals using quarters, dimes, and pennies I knew we should try it.

On Friday Julianna wrote down the top ten countries in medal standings from the 2008 Olympics.  We took out the United States and chose a country for every person in our family.

  • Julianna - Russia
  • Joshua - Australia
  • Courtney - Germany
  • Jonathan - Japan
  • Whitney - Italy
  • Seth - South Korea
  • Marilyn - France
  • Jack - China

We made flags for the countries and created a simple garland.

We wore our Olympics t-shirts to watch the opening ceremonies.

Julianna couldn't quite stay awake long enough to see the athletes from Russia walk in (but then again, neither could I), but she had fun pointing out some of the other countries we had chosen.

Then we wrote out a dry erase board to keep track of the medals.

Julianna filled it in this morning. We plan on updating this every morning during the Olympics.

She has already memorized quite a few of the flags and can watch the events and easily recognize some of the countries.  Just a minute ago she saw a girl on a bike and said, "There's Nanna's girl!"

At the end I plan on awarding (either Julianna or Joshua, or probably both) the number of quarters, dimes, and pennies that correspond with the number of gold, silver, and bronze medals that their country won.

I'm looking for other suggestions about what we could do to learn about our country.  My mom suggested taking them to World Market to look at some of the things they have there that represent each country.  What else can we do?

I hope that they'll learn a little bit about different countries, our history, the different sports, etc.  I hope that this will help make the Olympics a little more fun for a six year old and a two year old.  I know that doing this will increase their interest in the games.  It already has.  

Go Germany!  Go Team USA!

What are you doing to celebrate the Olympics?

Monday, July 23, 2012

thirty three months

Dear Joshua,

Oh boy!  You're thirty three months old as of yesterday.  Still keeping us busy and on our toes - always.

Some of your favorite things to do this month have included continuing to ask "Why?" about every single thing, drinking water from the slip-n-slide, learning to ride your bike with training wheels, mowing the grass with Daddy, and continuing to refuse nutrient rich food and beg for junk food.

Like the sugar crumbs leftover after eating a glazed doughnut:

You still willingly go take a nap.  Sometimes you'll even ask for one a few minutes before the usual time.  You almost always tell your sister kindly, "Goodnight, Julianna" without us even prompting and you eagerly give kisses before bedtime to anyone who asks.  I love that you don't fight us on this.

I also love that you're finally fully potty-trained.  We transitioned you to wearing underwear at night just as soon as school got out and you've only had two accidents in the last six weeks.  No more diapers in this house!

You like to be held and carried especially when we're standing around talking to other adults.  Or if there's another adult talking to you, you'll get behind our legs and act bashful or raise your arms up to us like a little bitty boy and ask to be picked up.  I'll continue to pick you up as long as you want me to, Buddy.

You've made some progress on swimming this month.  You'll jump in the pool all on your own now and there's no fear about whether or not there's an adult there ready to catch you.  You go under the water and come right back up kicking vigorously but you can't seem to make your body go forward in the water.  You don't even hesitate about going off the diving board.  It's certainly a great start.

With me being home all the time for summer you've gotten a little hesitant to go into your room at church or preschool classroom for camp without me.  Separation anxiety a bit I guess, but it's nothing we can't talk you into doing thank goodness.

On Saturday you fell off a slide at the playground.  Daddy was in line to sign your sister up for swim lessons and you were a few feet away playing with Jules.  Apparently you decided to go down the slide but then when you got to the top of the six foot ladder you changed your mind and tried to turn around and come back down the steps.  You slipped, rolled down and fell into the mulch, landing on your head.  You started crying immediately but calmed down after a few minutes.  You had an enormous knot on your head within minutes and even ice didn't help too much.  After talking with a nurse at the doctor's office we decided to take you to the ER.

So what's the deal, kid?  You're not even three and this is your second visit to the ER.  Your sister's halfway to seven and she hasn't been once.  I know I'm not supposed to compare my children, but come on kid! Can't you just be a little bit more like her in the accident area?!

Anyway, after a thorough inspection and examination in the ER by multiple doctors it was determined that you could have some ibuprofen and go home.  We were told to "keep an eye on you" and bring you back if there were changes such as vomiting, inability to wake up, etc.  [Good to know, Doc.  Thanks, but do you know Joshua?  Keeping an eye on him is about as effective as trying to wrestle an alligator with bare hands.  I'm just saying, he's all boy.]  I'm so glad you're okay, Josh.  I was really worried about you.

Joshua, you've learned a lot about God this month.  You talk about Him often.  I love hearing you sing "My God Is So Big, So Strong and So Mighty..."  I am so grateful to you teachers at church in the Peak and to the storytellers that tell you about the Bible.  You are always telling us that God made everything.  You love to ask us about something like a restaurant, car, whatever and say, "Who made that restaurant?" and no matter what we answer you'll reply, "No, God made it!"  On Saturday your Aunt Brittany said to you, "I love that blanket! Did somebody make that for you?" and you quickly answered, "Yes, God!"  

Perhaps the funniest thing that you've done this month that I want to make sure I remember happened today at lunch.  You spilled applesauce all down the front of your shirt and you SCREAMED out, "SHOOT FIRE!"  Made me grin from ear to ear.

Little Buddy, you're exhausting and charming at the same time.  You're tough and curious.  Sometimes I wish I was a little bit more like you.  I'm so proud to be your Mama.  Thanks for making life so much fun!


app happy

My post the other day about my new phone got me to thinking about the apps I've been using a lot lately and I thought I'd share a little about them.  I don't have time to write about them all today so I'll just start with these.

I've used this app for over a year now and it's got to be my most-used app.  It tracks my mileage on runs and walks since I don't have a Garmin.  I used to have a Garmin on my wishlist but now there's no way I'd spend the money on one.  I feel like my phone and the RunKeeper app are just as accurate if not more so than a Garmin.  I will say, however, that your phone does make a difference in the accuracy of the results but as I said before I run with a friend regularly who uses a Garmin and our results at the end of the run are virtually identical.

RunKeeper tells me my mileage, my pace, my splits, and my route mapped out.  I can change it from average pace overall to pace/most recent mile.  It tracks all of my activity and I can view it on their website as well as link it to which rewards you for activity points.  I don't have to wait for it to pick up a signal 95% of the time and I love the audible cues every five minutes.  Of course, you can turn those off if they bother you.  I also love that I can manually log activity done without the app like when I run on the treadmill for instance.

The android version is free.  I haven't checked out the "elite" version yet but I don't see the need for it as I'm very pleased with the free version.


I use Push-ups every other day.  The first time you use it the app asks you to do as many pus-ups as you can before reaching exhaustion.  From this number it determines your fitness level and then asks how many continuous push-ups you'd like to be able to do.  You specify girl-style or boy-style push-ups and then every time you run the app it asks you to do five sets of push-ups.  Each set is a different number or reps.  I have no upper body strength so I made it my goal to be able to do 50 continuous girl push-ups and figured I'd work my way up from there.  I believe the app started with me doing something like five sets (7, 7, 8, 8, 7) and you click "done" after each sets and it gives you a rest break (usually something like a minute).  At the end of each session it asks you to evaluate whether or not the session was easy, hard, or just right and that determines your starting place for the next workout.

I love it.  I can already tell I've made huge progress and I'm pretty close to being able to move on to the next goal.  I highly recommend this app and it's free for Android.

Tabata Pro:
This is a H.I.I.T. app that I use at least once a week.  It's basically a timer that buzzes for 8 sets of exercises (usually 4 exercises that you then repeat).  It counts down to start and then times 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.  I typically use this app incorrectly and mostly use it to time 60, 90, or 120 second planks but I also use it for lunges, burpees, jump-squats, mountain climbers, etc.

This is a pretty good timer and you can adjust it to fit your needs.  I've used it a lot since I downloaded it and I'd recommend it if you're into H.I.I.T. As usual, it's free for Android.

I've been using this app for a couple of months now and it's been the best nutrition tracking app I've ever used (and unfortunately, I've use plenty).  You enter your foods each day and it tracks your calorie consumption.  You can also log entries on their website if your phone isn't handy.

I like that it saves frequently entered items and I like that you can copy previous meals over and over again either in part or in whole (like my coffee for breakfast, but today I had scrambled eggs instead of yogurt/berries/granola).  I like that it charts my weight loss progress in a graph format.  I especially like that it tells me what date I'll reach my weight goal (adjusting daily) and also that I can change the rate at which I'd like to lose (for example, losing 1 pound a week or losing 1.5 pounds a week changes the date I should reach goal).  Another great plus for me is that it keeps a weekly over/under tally for you so that you can see the big picture for the week instead of just daily.  This is helpful for those Saturday long runs when I want to eat a horse afterward.

This app also has a whole section for nutrient tracking, but I don't use that area since I don't think it's free.  I am pretty confident anyway that I eat a well-rounded diet and try to follow the food pyramid every day so I don't feel like it's necessary for me this go-round (although I'll readily admit that in the past I would have really needed that part).  I also don't use the friend section, but it's good to know that there's online support and accountability available.

Do I need to even say it again?  It's free for Android.


Workout Trainer:
This is the newest fitness app I've added.  First, you're prompted to put in your gender, birth date, and preferred workout intensity.  Then you're asked to check a few check boxes regarding your goals (i.e. weight loss, core strength, tone muscle, increase flexibility, etc) and then you specify a workout duration.  After that your given a list of suggested workouts.  It gives you a pretty good picture and description of what you're supposed to do for each move which is helpful in that you don't have to look up all those moves on YouTube (like I always have to for some of those Pinterest workouts).

The part I don't like about this app is that while the app itself is free, some of the workouts are not.  Some are more detailed plans with a 12 week schedule built in and all that and they appear to usually cost around $9.99.  Some are just a single workout with ten or twelve exercises in them and you can preview the moves before you start.  I've done a couple of the free ones and I liked the variety.  I especially like that you can view the intensity level before you begin and then get a really good workout.  I was burnin' after the last 20 minute one I did.

Free for Android.


So those are the health and fitness apps that I use on my smartphone.  What others am I missing?  Do you have any to recommend?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

singing the praises of my Samsung smartphone

Since my dad started working for Verizon a couple of years ago I've had a slew of phones.  Seriously, I think I've had like six or seven in a little over 2 years.  This is mostly because he wants us to try out the newest and greatest to give him feedback, but also because we've had upgrades available and we can sell our used ones for a good price.  Anyway, the one I got a couple of weeks ago is by far my favorite.  I will not be giving it back, nor will I be selling it or trading it anytime soon.  As much as it embarrasses me to admit it, I think I'm in love with a phone.

I got the Samsung Galaxy SIII.  It looks like this:

You may not care and feel free to skip this post if you're not interested, but I often hear discussions of iPhone vs. Android and I want to tell you why I love my new Android phone.

  • First, the camera is awesome.  It snaps pictures really quickly.  Much more quickly than the other phones I've had.  Faster even, than my Sony Digital camera.  I remember being frustrated at Julianna's gymnastics exhibition because I would snap one picture and if I missed the shot the first time then I'd have to wait until her next turn to try again because the camera just wasn't quite ready to take another picture yet.  This is nice.
  • The video camera even shoots decent quality videos.  With the Google+ app (comes preloaded) I'm able to use the instant upload feature to always have my pictures backed up in my Google account (for free!) and should I ever need to clear them off my phone I can do it easily without worrying about making sure I have a copy saved.  No need to remove a memory card or use a cable to transfer pictures which makes life especially easy.  
  • One of the first few days I had the new phone my mom started messaging me while I was in the camp carpool line.  I picked up the phone to text her back and accidentally touched the phone to my face and heard ringing immediately.  I realized it as calling her without me having to push any buttons and as soon as it dawned on me what a cool safety feature this was for texting and driving I was smitten.  My friend just got a ticket for texting and driving the other day so that's even more reason for me to love that my phone does this.
  • Along the same lines, I can use Google Talk to video call anyone which is pretty cool.  The forward facing camera makes it easy for my kids to talk to Nanna from the backseat (also noticed in the car pickup line) and that will be purely incredible to use with our kids and see their faces when we take our anniversary trip this fall.  
  • Perhaps my most favorite thing about this phone is the accuracy of the GPS. I regularly use RunKeeper and navigation on my phone so having an accurate GPS is vital to me.  I'll write more about RunKeeper later, but the point is that this phone is a powerful GPS device and I haven't had any problems with it whatsoever.  It's as accurate as my friend's Garmin.
  • It's thin and it's light.  This is the thinnest and lightest phone I've ever owned.  
  • I love the Accuweather widget on the home screen.  My other Android phones have had a Weather Bug app or some other weather app that worked pretty well but the Accuweather one is my favorite.  Those windshield wipers and sound effects were cool the first time you saw them but they got kinda old by the third thunderstorm.  Besides, I personally think that Accuweather is the most reliable weather source around the web these days anyway.

accuweather app
standard HTC weather app
  • The keyboard: this phone allows graffiti typing where you can drag your finger from letter to letter along the keyboard and it will type the word for you and then put a space afterward.  It's easier than tapping for each letter and once you get used to it you can type so much faster. Of course, you can do the old way of tapping each letter as well, but the drag across way is faster.  (Sorry if I'm not explaining this well.)  I'll be honest. At first, I hated this feature. I kept at it and within a few days I got the hang of it and won't go back. It's a lot easier.
  • It's a 4G phone which makes a slightly noticeable difference in your connection speed.  
  • Ice cream sandwich operating system which, after Jelly Bean, is the most recent OS for Android phones.
  • Also, with the FoxFi app I can use the phone as a mobile hotspot to have a wifi connection wherever I need it.  Awesome!
  • There's some pretty cool tricks I can do with voice commands.  I can start typing a message to someone and tap the microphone icon next to my keyboard and then just talk.  The phone will type whatever I say.  I can also use voice commands to have the phone call someone from my contact list Siri-style. So no, you don't have to have an iPhone to do that.
  • The Galaxy SIII has a great battery life.  I have plugged it in in the middle of the day a time or two but that was only when I'd been using the phone all morning long in doctor's offices or whatever.
  • There are a ton of sweet shortcuts that I didn't have on my other phones like being able to double-tap to go to the top of my contact list or being on a contact and having the ability to just swipe left to message them or right to call them.  Shortcuts like this are invaluable when you're in the car a lot of the day shuttling kids to and fro.
  • As usual with Android, 100% of the apps I use are free.


  • I've read that the screen gets too dim, but I haven't had a problem with this at all.  It does time out after a bit and go dim to conserve battery life but it's not irritating and definitely still usable.  Even if it wasn't, you can easily tap the screen to make it become brighter again.
  • The phone gets really hot.  After I've been using it for a while the back of the phone gets hot in my hand.  Nothing unsafe, but certainly something to be noted.

Do you love your phone?  Can you imagine what we ever did without smartphones?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

on a birthday walk with Pap yesterday


One of my goals this year was to read 40 books.  I thought this would be easy and I didn't really keep track of it last year because I assumed I already read 40 books a year, but I didn't so I put it as a firm goal for 2012. That's less than one a week so certainly doable, right?

By the end of the year last year I hadn't quite completed that many so this year I've been periodically checking my count.  So far I'm up to 29 books read and we're just halfway through the year so I think I'm doing pretty well.

Here's my thoughts on what I've been reading lately:

  • I read the The Fifty Shades trilogy in early May and here's my thoughts - Pure smut (albeit entertaining smut), this series made me feel mighty dirty as I carried it into the middle school where I work so that I could read it at lunch.  I finished up the 3rd one while proctoring the EOGs and I felt like I needed to cover it up every time I went into the testing session.  I can most definitely see why people compared it to the Twilight series so if you didn't like Twilight, then don't waste your time.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy - read this in about two days at the urging of my husband and couldn't put it down.  I'm interested in seeing the movie although I don't have high hopes mainly because most movies based on a book disappoint, but also for other spoiler reasons.
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan - I finally got around to reading this one that was recommended by so many people a while back.  I struggle with reading Christian non-fiction but I make myself plow through them because I usually do learn a lot and it encourages my walk with God.  That being said, I skimmed the last fifty pages or so and I still don't really see what all the fuss was about concerning this book.  I will probably give it another go eventually though.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry - Loved this one too; anxious to get my hands on the second one.
  • Riven by Jerry Jenkins - This one's another Christian book but it's a fictional story.  My mom borrowed this book from my aunt several years ago after my aunt told her it was one of the best books, if not THE best book she'd ever read.  I asked my mom if I could read it when she was done and I've put it off ever since.  When I finally got around to finishing it last week, I sobbed like a baby and set it aside for my husband to read next.
  • Listened to Still Missing by Chevy Stevens on audiobook mostly while I was running.  If I had been smart I wouldn't have done that since it scared the jeebies out of me during some of my runs, but it was a pretty good story in the end.  I'd recommend it.
  • Finally, I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I've read several of his books over the last year or so and this one I had been on the waiting list at the library for some time.  I finally got it and read it in 24 hours.  I rated it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads (that rarely happens) and I'd encourage you to go get on the waiting list for it now.
  • Just started some dumb chic lit. The jury's still out on it, but I'll let you know what I think when I finish.
  • source
Any book you'd recommend I read next?  There's still four weeks of summer left for me!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

can I have the EXACT same birthday party when I turn 75?

We had the pleasure of attending Krispiy Kreme's 75th birthday party this weekend.  I was so impressed with all they provided for such a community celebration and we had a great time.  Here are some of the things we got to do.

First, eat the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts known to man. Behold:

Second, we got to cross something off my bucket list. We went up in a hot air balloon.  It was really exciting! The kids did great and weren't too scared despite the loud noise, heat, and unstable floor.

This picture cracks me up because if you look closely you can see both kids with their ears covered.

setting up the balloon and filling it with hot air...

Third, the kids got to play in the bounce houses. Always a win when you get the jumpies out.

Fourth, we played some good 'ole carnival games like ring toss and try to knock the stack of cans down.  It can surprise you how much enjoyment simple things like this can bring.

Fifth, we chose balloon animals and got faces painted.  Josh chose a sword balloon and pirate face.  Jules chose a cat balloon and a rainbow with clouds painted on her face.

Sixth, we let Julianna and Joshua ride the swings and skipped the merry-go-round because the lines were getting pretty terrible.

Like I said, KK really went all out for their birthday celebration.  The town erected a plaque in the location of the original store that opened 75 years ago.  There were people giving away swag all over the place.  We got free drinks, KK prints to frame, t-shirts, temporary tattoos, ice cream sandwiches, and of course free doughnuts.

I have a lot of pride for my hometown and it only helps when they throw parties like this.  Thank you, Krispy Kreme! Now the question is, would you mind hosting my 75th birthday party in a few years?

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