Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cody's Birthday Present

Cody isn't like me.  I'm a gift giver by nature; it's my love language.  I love seeing a present and knowing that someone loved me enough to go pick something out for me.  When I want someone to feel better or know I care, I immediately make them something or go buy them something.  It's about thinking through their personality, and finding something that really fits.

But Cody isn't like that.  He's a service guy.  He loves doing things for someone else, and he is pretty handy at it.  He will clean the house, repair my steam mop, or take care of the kids while I go out to make me happy.  So when it comes time for his birthday, it's hard to decide what to give him.  Even if it's an expensive, amazing gift, it won't be as meaningful for him.  Not to mention his birthday comes less than 3 weeks after Christmas, so there's not much opportunity to find a need.  This year, I just couldn't find anything I knew he'd really like.  So, instead, on his birthday (as I mentioned before) I took him to the hardware store and let him pick out what he wanted.  I was hoping he would pick electrical wiring and outlets, and he did.

I did some research before we left so that we would know what to get.  We bought 14/2 wire, a box of 10 outlets, 6 wall boxes, plate covers, and wire nuts, and 2 15 amp breakers.  The copper wire was by far the most expensive part, but the whole bit cost less than $100.  We came home and did more research and eventually called an electrician friend of ours to come over and teach us what to do.  Cody mounted the boxes first; that was the easy part.  For the ones that were going upstairs where there's sheetrock, we bought some special sheetrock boxes that have wings that tighten against the rock when you screw them in, so they don't have to be nailed to a stud.  So, it was a matter of choosing the location, leveling it, carefully cutting out a piece of sheetrock, and popping it in.  But before we popped it in, Cody went downstairs and drilled a hole through the base plate of the floor so we had a hole into the inside of the wall.  I stood up stairs while he fished the wire up through the floor.  He used a piece of tubing to help the wire stay tight.  I caught it when it got up to the hole in the sheetrock.  Then the box went in and the wire came through the hole in the back.  Cue electrician friend.  He showed us how to wire the outlet and how to make pigtails on the wire so that we could have a double outlet.  We wired it up.  Cody repeated on the other outlets, mainly in the basement (until now, we've had just one outlet in the whole basement.  Considering I craft down there, the kids watch movies, and Cody works, that's pretty annoying) and ran the wires to the breaker box, although they weren't hooked up to anything yet.  Cue electrician friend once more.  He helped us turn off the main to the house--we did this part during broad daylight and with a flashlight on hand, making sure the house was plenty warm before we turned off the electricity--and then we opened the box, installed the new breakers, and ran in the wires.  I learned that the hot wire goes to the breaker, and then there's a neutral port for all the white neutral wires, and then a ground port for the copper ground wires.  He said that when the electricity is on, you don't even want to mess with it.  Some crazies are willing to wire it live, but NOT US.  We left the breaker off, turned the main on, and then flipped the switch, and voila!  We had power!  It was super exciting.

Cody then built a small, "invisible" shelf behind where our new TV is mounted in the living room.  It's not big and is built at an angle.  The goal is to hold just the receiver and maybe the Wii, and to hide completely behind the TV.  Some screws, putty, caulk, primer, and paint, and it's done.

At last, we put up the electronics, plugged it all in, put the TV back on the mount, vacuumed up the small bit of sheetrock dust and saved the scrap copper, and...

Beautiful, clean, project!  Cody loved his birthday present.  He got to learn a whole new skill and he had so much fun figuring this all out.  I love that he's so handy and skilled.  We may need to call our electrician friend again some time, and we definitely owe him some free babysitting; but we think we can apply this knowledge to wiring the rest of the basement, when the time comes.  Pretty awesome.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My 32 year old man

Another year has passed and we celebrated Cody's birthday yesterday.  I've thought a lot about where we were last year, building the house, and how much has changed since then.  We are so much happier now than we have ever been.

Cody's birthday was lots of fun.  I overslept by 45 minutes, but after I exercised and raced back home, we sang Happy Birthday to Cody while he was working and then I made him waffles.  The kids helped me clean the house and make "Decorations" (Lee's favorite part of birthdays), and when Cody got off of work at 2:30 we were all ready for our party.  I had my mom watch the kids while Cody and I wandered around Lowe's, shopping for Birthday presents.  This year it's fun to use birthdays as an excuse to splurge on something fun for the house.  I wonder if it will always be like that?  Cody decided to get the materials to add another couple of outlets to the house.  We're going to have to have some help installing it, but it is going to be fun!  Then we came home, had Japanese Curry for dinner and chocolate cupcakes filled with peanut butter cream and topped with ganache.  What a great day!  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures.  Maybe I'll get the camera out this weekend when we put in the outlets?  :)

Happy Birthday, Cody!  We love you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little Miss Independent

Katie is now 22 months old.  I can't believe how much she has grown in these last few months, and how rapidly she's continuing to develop.  She is picking up a couple of words a day now, and understands far more than she can speak.  Her dexterity is particularly amazing, and she surprises me every day with the things she can do: like put on her socks, take off her shoes, put her dishes in the sink, and comb her hair.  Of course, along with all these new skills comes the testing of boundaries and independence.  She's at that wonderful stage where if she doesn't want to do something, it's easy for her to pretend like she doesn't understand.  Or, she throws a tantrum because she doesn't know how to communicate her dislike (or we still make her go through with things she doesn't like...). 

Having Katie grow and get better at communicating is amazing, and so different from my first two kids.  I think the difference is that her older siblings are so much more responsible and capable than they were before she was born.  It is odd, slipping into this new phase of parenthood with older children.  I'm finding I really like having kids old enough to take on more responsibilities, like cleaning their bedrooms, bathing themselves, getting dressed, reading books, walking to school, playing outside or at a friend's house, etc.  Having these bigger kids puts Katie in a unique position, though, and consequently puts me in a unique position as her mother.  She's still a toddler, and I often overestimate (or underestimate!) how much she can do.  She certainly keeps me on my toes!  It is incredible to see my sweet children growing and changing every day, and how our family evolves to fit their needs.  But it's also tricky, because just as we find a routine that works, someone grows up a little more and things need to be adjusted for them.  It's certainly an interesting ride!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A science experiment

Please pardon my messy hair.  :)

The kids have been going a bit stir crazy, having to stay indoors all the time because of the cold weather we are experiencing.  Here in Northern Utah, when a high pressure system settles over us in the winter, it traps cold air at the bottom of the mountain valleys and becomes very stagnant.  It's know as an "inversion," because the higher in altitude you go, the warmer it will become.  This trapped air gets quickly filled with pollution from all the cars and cows and wood burning stoves etc, and we have bad smog, making it even worse for being outdoors.  But today, we thought we'd try a little science experiment with the cold air.  I was skeptical, as I thought it had to be even colder or windier to work, but lo and behold, we got a pretty good cloud of white snow when we tossed our cups of boiling water!  The kids enjoyed sitting in front of the window and watching me make clouds of snow outside.  Good times.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

We had such a fun New Year's Eve party last night!  We invited over a bunch of friends from the neighborhood, served delicious food, and played games.  We turned it into a PJ party, so everyone was comfortable and ready to be silly.

Since we all have children, they were the first priority, of course.  We had toys and movies in the basement, but they didn't really like being alone down there, so it was kind of a juggling act keeping them entertained.  About 10 PM, the babies were really tired and so we used the bedrooms or any quiet space we could find to get the kids in bed.  It worked out pretty well, I think!

As far as food goes, we had everyone bring something, but everyone brought a lot, so we had tons of food.  We had a vegetable tray, ham, crackers, cheeseball, pesto pinwheels, pizza dip, bean dip, and spinach artichoke dip, little smokies, meatballs, baked beans, cookies and candy, popcorn, and to drink--Italian cream sodas and virgin strawberry pina coladas.  Being a bunch of LDS moms and dads who don't drink alcohol, the fancy drinks were super fun!

The games were a hoot.  Since I had a hard time looking up good group games online, I'll write most of them down here for future reference:

The Paper bag game:
Start with a brown paper grocery bag on the floor.  Without touching the ground (except for the soles of your feet), everyone takes turns bending over and picking up the bag with their mouth.  If you get the bag, you rip off where your mouth touched the bag (you can rip off as much as you want).  If you touch the floor, you're eliminated. Last person to pick up the bag wins!

Four on a Couch:
You're going to need at least 4 couples for this one, and a couch or bench that seats 4 people.  You're also going to need a place to sit for everyone playing the game (the 4 couch spots are 4 of your places to sit), plus 1 extra empty chair.  Begin the game with everyone seated boy-girl-boy-girl, and make sure all the spots on the couch are full.  Now, write everyone's name on a piece of paper.  Everyone draws a name but keeps it secret to themselves.  The person seated to the right (or left, you choose, but be consistent) of the empty chair calls out a name of another player.  Whoever drew that name moves to the empty chair.  The goal is to get 4 boys or 4 girls on the couch.  As the game progresses, you'll try to learn everyone's new name, boot off the opposite gender from the couch, and replace them with people of your same gender.  For us, the first round went relatively quickly, but the second round was super hard and even more fun, as we mixed up the names from the first round.  Way fun!

Drawing game: 
Everyone begins with a small booklet of paper, like a notepad, with about 10-15 pages in it, or 1 page per player.  On the first page write your own name, and something you're going to draw.  It can be anything.  We kept ours G-rated.  Then, turn over that page so you can't see the words you're writing, then draw your picture.  Pass the picture to your neighbor, and they will look at the picture and write down what it is on the next page, then pass it to their neighbor.  They draw what is written, and pass it along down the line.  You keep alternating drawing a picture and writing down what you see.  The game is over when the notepads have gone all the way around the picture, or when you run out of pages.  Then you open them back up and see how things have changed.  Some can be pretty silly! 

"What if?" game:
 Everyone gets 2 small pieces of paper.  On the first paper, write a question that begins with "What if?"  Put all the questions in a basket.  Everyone draw a new question (don't take your own), and answer that on the second piece of paper.  Put the responses back in the basket, but hold on to the question, and then draw a new response.  Read your question with your new response and see how well they work!  Our favorite new pairing that a man read: "What if I were a woman?" with the original answer to the question "What if there were no moms and dads?": all the kids would run around naked and nothing would be cleaned up and nobody would know where babies come from.  AHAHA!  Some worked really well.  We found that the more ambiguous questions worked better, and the more specific answers were funnier.  But you'll find your own rhythm.

He said/She said:
Everyone begins with a printed paper that has written on it:
His name was
Her name was
They met at
He was wearing
She was wearing
He thought
She thought
He said
She said
And then they

Make sure there's space between each line to write.  Then you start by writing the first line, and folding down the paper so nobody can see what you wrote.  Pass it to your neighbor and write the next line, fold it down, and away you go until everything is filled in.  At the end, read your little stories.  We found funniest are when you use names of people in the room or people that everyone knows, and the more detailed answers are the funnier ones.

Act like a character game:
Everyone writes down the name of a famous person that everyone in the room will know.  It can be alive, dead, fictitious or real, doesn't matter.  The best choices are ones with iconic behaviors, but you can pick anyone.  Then everyone stands in a line facing the same direction.  The person at the back of the line draws a character from the bowl, and then taps shoulder of the person in front of them.  Silently (except for choking back the inevitable laughter), they act out the person on the paper.  Once they think they've got it, they tap the next person in line and mimic the actions, and so on down the line until the person at the front has to try and figure out who the original character was.  I think the only one we got right was Michael Jackson, because of the famed crotch grab. :)

One person steps out of the room into a location where they can't hear what is going on.  Everyone else in the room selects an "ailment" to befall the whole crowd.  It could be that you can't answer without touching your face, or you must answer every question in the form of another question, or that you answer the previous person's question, etc.  The "Psychiatrist" returns to the room and begins asking the patients questions to try to determine what the ailment is.   You can set a time limit or question limit, if you want, but this gets pretty crazy on its own merits.

Everyone begins by sitting in a circle and choosing a distinct, but nonchalant "sign."  It could be pulling an earlobe, kissing the air, anything.  The signs are then passed around the room by first making your own sign (that's when you accept the sign and effectively "have it") and then making the sign of someone else in the room.  Once that person accepts the sign, you no longer "have it."  This is all done silently, and can go very quickly, or very slowly.  The person who is "it" sits or stands in the middle of the circle and tries to determine who has the sign.  They can ask or point to the person who has the sign.  If you get caught with the sign, you are then "it." 

Last night when we finally went to bed, we were still giggling at some of the craziness.  It was certainly a great way to ring in 2013.  We definitely want to have a game night more often, but maybe not stay up until midnight next time. :)  Happy New Year, one and all!