Back to reality

daddy and max beach

I’m very pleased that we got to spend the past 12 days together as a family. We spent the 4th of July holiday with Rachel’s family, and then the three of us headed to the beach for a few days. Since we don’t have any beaches in close proximity, Max really looks forward to our trip each year. We’ve been going every year since he was 20 months old.

It was tough going back to work yesterday. Besides feeling very stress free because I wasn’t worrying about things at work, I had a great time spending so much time together with Rachel and Max. My stress level went up as soon as I started going through all the e-mails from the week I was out.

The drive home seemed to take forever because of the bad weather, lots of flooded roads and downed trees.  Plus I really missed seeing Max all day. When I went to pick up Max, his eyes lit up when he saw me pull up in front of Nana’s house. Next thing I knew, he threw the door open, and ran outside and gave me a hug. I was glad he was as happy to see me as I was to see him. His little arms wrapping around me melted all that stress from work away, and we had a great evening together.

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Father & Son Fishing Fun

There are times when I feel very close to Max, and times when I feel like work, and life get in the way. Lately, things at work have been completely nuts. Working 12 hour days, late night maintenances, calls in the middle of the night. It has not been fun. So between working so many hours, and being run down and tired, I probably haven’t been as fun, or nice as I usually am. I’ve been feeling very guilty about this.

With Max now on summer vacation, we are dependent on my mother-in-law to look after him during the day when Rachel and I are at work. She was up in Pennsylvania for a birthday party over the weekend, and wasn’t home on Monday. So I took the day off to look after Max. And boy was it a great day.

The day started off by Max crawling into bed with me and giving me a hug. I guess he was happy to see me. We chatted for a bit, and then I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to go fishing. We tried fishing a few times two summers ago, and at the time he was only 4, so he wasn’t exactly patient. He’s still not the most patient person, but he’s much better now than he was back then. I’m not much of an outdoorsman either. I never went fishing before, so most of what I knew I learned by watching fishing shows on TV and YouTube videos. So I wasn’t very confident we would catch anything. But I had nothing better planned, so I said sure we can go fishing.

So after breakfast, I got the fishing poles out of the garage, tied some new hooks onto the fishing line, and we headed down to a nearby lake to try fishing. I bought some night crawlers, bated the hooks, and for the first hour, absolutely nothing. No nibbles at the bate or anything. Then suddenly, I felt something tug at my line. I pulled, and sure enough, I had a fish. Not the mightiest of fish, but it was something. I told Max to grab our net, and I reeled the fish in. About a 4 inch sunfish. Max was way excited.

We got the hook out of the fish’s mouth, I filled our bucket with lake water and we dumped the fish inside. Max couldn’t stop looking at the fish. He was thrilled. I told him he should try to get a fish of his own. After a few minutes, he picked his pole up and dropped the line into the water. He was still a bit impatient, reeling the line in quickly and casting it back out over and over. Then a girl who was working at the marina walked over and started talking to Max. She was probably 16 or 17. She was asking him questions about fishing, and how old he was, and whether he was going to eat the fish we caught etc. It kept his mind occupied for a bit, so he kept his line in the water. Then I heard him yell “Daddy!” I looked over and his fishing pole was bent at the tip. He had a fish! I asked if he wanted help, and he said “No, I can do it”. I saw him cranking away and reeling the fish in. Before I knew it, he was lifting his pole and dropping the fish into bucket. Not only did he catch the fish all by himself, the fish he caught was way bigger than the one I caught hehe.

He had caught about a 6 inch sunfish. He was so proud and the girl at the marina congratulated him and said he did a great job. I snapped a photo of him holding his catch, and we sent the photo to Mommy. She was equally as thrilled.

When we got home, we cleaned up, ate some lunch and watched the World Cup. Max was still beaming and so proud. I was pretty proud too. It was one of those magical moments, that was so special. Maybe if I was an experienced fisherman myself, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the fact that he it was sort of a new experience for the both of us, and we both got to share the moment together was awesome. It’s a memory I won’t forget anytime soon. I hope this is the first of many special moments Max and I have over the summer.

 

I got one!
I got one!

 

Rain Rain Go Away

For the past few weeks, Max has been playing t-ball and soccer. Between school, practices and games, I feel like we have been running around non-stop. With rain forecasted most of the week, most of Max’s games and practices have been cancelled. It was kind of nice last night, to just be able to stay at home and not have to be anywhere. Max has been very interested in science lately, so we did a couple of small experiments and projects last night.

The first was making a beer bottle volcano. The beer bottle part isn’t really important, any container will do. A long neck beer bottle just works nicely, because the shape of the bottle really spews the liquid around really well. So we filled an empty beer bottle about 3/4 of the way with white vinegar. Then we added some food coloring (I used 5 drops), and then I had Max drop in some baking power using a funnel. Lift the funnel out and in a few seconds, the contents erupts like a volcano. Kept adding little amounts of baking soda to get the reaction started again. We were able to do this 5 or 6 times before the vinegar acidity was totally neutralized by the baking soda. Then we just rinsed the bottle, filled it with more vinegar and food coloring and started over again.

 

The second experiment, we poured seltzer water into a clear glass, then dropped in a raising. At first the raising sank to the bottom, but then after a few seconds, the bubbles from the seltzer lifted the raising to the top of the glass. It continued to drop and raise up about a dozen times before the fix ran out. Dancing raisins!

 

The last project we did was making a terrarium. Last week on Facebook I saw a post about a man who had created a terrarium some 40 years ago, and only watering it once, it has sustained itself for all these years. Basically it created it’s own ecosystem. Essentially the water in the soil turns into condensation, collects at the top of the glass jar, and once it’s becomes super saturated, it falls back down just like rain and the way the water cycle here on earth works. The plants inside, flourish because the leaves go through their lifecycle, drop off, produce carbon dioxide as they decay, which is used by the plants to create oxygen. The decaying leaves fertilize the soil, and nourish the plants.

The glass container they used in the 40 year experiment was very large. I wanted to create something smaller. So I bought some widemouth mason jars, and using instructions I found on the internet, we created our own terrariums. We created 4 different ones. The first is an open design, with several small succulents inside. If I closed up the mason jar, the environment would be too moist, and the succulents would probably rot. So I left the lid off.

The other three are all closed designs, where we tightened the lid after we were done. We started each jar the same way. We poured in a 2 inch later of small pebbles. This helps with drainage. We then sprinkled a thin layer of activated charcoal on top top of the pebbles. We found the charcoal at Petco. The charcoal helps keep the water and soil clean and prevents odors. Then we added a layer of sphagnum moss, which I found at Lowes. Then we added a few inches of soil.

In the first jar, I added some small asparagus ferns that I purchased at Lowes along with some small ground cover plants that I also found at Lowes in their garden section. The opening of the mason jar is quite small. I guess that’s why a fish bowl or a brandy snifter would work better. Easier to fit your hands inside. But we managed to get the ferns and ground cover planted. We then watered the soil till we saw some water down in the pebble layer, and then sealed the jar with the mason jar lid.

The 2nd, we started the same way, but instead of adding plants, we added wild flower seeds. The 3rd, we just added regular grass seed.

For the first two (succulent and fern) we moved them into a shady spot in our kitchen. It gets some window light, but not direct. Apparently the sun can get magnified by the glass jar, so the leaves could scorch. They recommended leaving it away from direct light for a few weeks. The ones with the grass and wild flower seed, we just put directly on a window sill. I think the sun will help the seeds sprout.

We also did a mini terrarium, using yogurt cups. I used some cactus soil, and planted some small succulents. It will be interesting to see how each of them does as the weather changes from spring to summer, then to fall. I’ll try to snap some photos to track the progress.

One last thing we tried propagating a jade tree. I believe a jade tree/plant is a sort of succulent. I ordered a small plant off of ebay 7 or 8 years ago when we first moved into our house. It’s grown quite a bit. I wondered how it originated, whether it was from seeds, or some other process. And I discovered that you can grow a whole other plant, from either a small branch section or even from a single leaf. So we’ve been experimenting with trying to get new growth from two leaves off the main plant. It’s fun checking the progress each day to see how it changes.

Piggy Bank Project

With last Friday being Earth Day, Max’s class learned about recycling. Maxs’ homework assignment was to make something out of a recycled product. So we painted a gallon bottle of Deer Park water pink, put a small slot on top, added some googly eyes, a button on the bottle cap for a nose, and used some toilet paper rolls to make ears and feet, and voila, we have ourselves a piggy bank!

 

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Six Year Check Up

Even though Max’s 6th birthday was back in November, we finally got around to getting him into the pediatrician for his 6 year checkup. Between his birthday falling right around Thanksgiving, then running around for Christmas, and the crazy winter we’ve had, it was hard to find the time. Luckily he is healthy and there was nothing urgent that we had to get checked.

Up to this point, Max has always seen female doctors. Lately Max has gotten shy about taking his shirt off in front of strangers, especially women, so we switched him over to a male doctor. The new doctor seemed very nice.

After all the usual stuff, like checking his BP, height, weight, lungs and heart, we asked the doctor about the dry spots around Max’s eyes. He tends to get this scaly white patches around his eyelids and under his eyes. The dryness comes around during the winter months, and seems to go away once summer rolls around. We had asked his old doctor about it, and she said not to worry unless the spots became red and inflamed. She said it was just a mild case of eczema. I suffer from that and so does my oldest sister, so not a surprise. Seemed to be a little worse than usual this year. Never got to the point where it was red and inflamed, but I think because it was so cold and we spent a lot more time indoors in the dry heated air, we noticed it more. Dr looked and said not to worry. Recommended using a baby toothbrush to brush the scaliness away before Max went in the shower, then apply cream (we use Eucerin) right after he gets out. Did that last night and holy crap, it worked. He woke up this morning and his eyes looked pretty good. Not completely scale free, but much better than it’s been all winter. Will continue to do that before his showers and Im sure it will clear up.

We were surprised to hear that based on his growth pattern, they estimate Max will be between 5 foot 9 and 5 foot 10 by the time he is 16. With Rachel and I both being so short, it came as a pleasant surprise. Rachel’s Dad and oldest brother are around 5 foot 10, and her youngest brother is about 6 feet tall; and Max’s grandfather on Rachel’s Mom’s side of the family was quite tall at around 6 foot 4. So luckily he seemed to have gotten some of that height from Rachel’s side of the family. While being short isn’t the worst thing in the world, being average height sure makes things easier. Lets hope Max’a also inherited the hair gene from Rachel’s side of the family. Rachel’s dad is in his 60’s and has a beautiful thick head of hair, and Rachel’s brothers both have nice heads of hair. Anyway, the height is just an estimate based on the percentile he has fallen in since he was born. It could skew either way by a couple of inches. Either way, he should be taller than his Mom and Dad.

Max weighed in at 50 pounds, and was 47 inches tall. 64th percentile for weight and 46th percentile for height. Luckily he was up to date on all his vaccinations, so no shots were needed; and no blood needed to be drawn like last year when he went in for his Kindergarten physical.

Max had an ear infection back in January, and it cleared up, but he complained from time to time that his one ear hurt. He’s getting his 6 year molars, so I kind of thought it could be related to that. So we asked the doctor to take a look, and turns out he had a wax impaction in both ears. Doctor sent the nurse in, and they used a spray bottle with a special nozzle on it to loosen up the wax. And sure enough, after a few sprays, the little ball of wax came rolling out. Doctor told us to occasionally use a mixture of peroxide and water and to place a few drops in his ears before he takes a shower, and that combined with the warm steam of the shower should loosen the wax up and prevent another impaction.

Max also received his report card on Tuesday. Hard to believe the school year is 3/4 of the way through. Max did pretty well. He continues to be really strong in math, and his teacher said he has made nice improvements with his reading and writing. We’ve noticed it at home as well. Used to take him 10 minutes to make it through a 10 page book. Now he reads each page in about 10-15 seconds. It’s becoming much more fluid. Same with his writing. Occasionally he still mixes up his lower case b’s and d’s, but the size of his letters is much more consistent now, and he is able to write his letters much more neatly and quickly.

I was concerned about his reading and writing back in January. A few of the kids in his class were already reading at a 2nd grade level, so we felt like Max was way behind. When we were waiting outside the classroom for our parent teacher conference, one of the kids in Max’s class was reading a book while we all waited and he breezed through it like it was nothing. He just happens to be a very skilled reader. But at the time, we were freaked out that Max was way behind, because at that point he only knew maybe 2 dozen sight words. But since January, things have really started to “click” and his reading and writing have improved a lot. Conversely we noticed that some kids are still not familiar with all the letters of alphabet, some had trouble counting, and others were still having trouble with some of the fine motor skills exercises.

There were 6 things listed on the report card that they were required to master by the end of the school year. Max mastered all 6, so we were very pleased. Now he just has his state standards test to take in May, and the school year will start to wind down.

Max’s school was chosen as a school of excellence in the state, and one of the 1st grade teachers was teacher of the year in the county. We are posturing to get Max in her class next year, but I’m sure all the other parents are trying to do the same. There is another young teacher who uses a lot of technology in her teachings, so she would be a good match for Max as well. Max loves when they get to go to the computer lab, so I think either teacher would be a good fit.

Epic Fail!

Typically Rachel puts together Max’s lunch for school. With yet another snow day on Monday, she forgot to make a sunbutter and jelly sandwich for Max for school on Tuesday. So on Tuesday morning, I put one together and packed it in Max’s lunchbox. Apparently I didn’t do a very good job. When he got home, Max gave me an ear full. “Daddy it was disgusting. There was too much jelly and it was dripping down my arm”. I guess I’ll have to pay closer attention next time Rachel is making him a sandwich for school. Epic fail for Daddy. 

Turn that Frown Upside Down!

kidsyoga

Max has mentioned several times about how in PE class, they do yoga. He calls them animal poses. Max showed me a few of the poses, and it was cute to see him so excited about it, but it didn’t really leave any sort of impression. That all changed today.

I didn’t sleep well last night, so I was pretty grumpy when Max came in and woke me at 7AM. Being his usual energetic self, he wanted to do 100 things when we first got up. I was tired, so I snapped and said no to all his suggestions. I guess Max sensed my bad mood, and he said “Daddy, Mr. Watt says when we feel grumpy or sad, we should do the mouse pose. I was ready to dismiss what he said, but something about what he said intrigued me. So I asked him to show me how to do it. He got down on the floor and demonstrated. I got down next to him and did it along with him. I didn’t get this wave of euphoria, but I did feel less stressed and a little more awake. So I asked Max what other poses he knew and he mentioned the monkey, the snake and the dog. Then I looked on my phone and found several kids yoga videos on YouTube. Max and I did 2 routines. And I have to say, I felt great all day. I was outside with Max most of the day, and had lots of energy. Maybe it was the warm weather that did it, and the yoga was just part of it, but I did feel noticeably happier. Max was also very well behaved, and very appreciative of the time we had together.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to do yoga on a daily basis, but I will definitely keep the snake, dog and mouse poses in my metal rolodex. I found the mouse to be very relaxing and peaceful and it was very easy to do. Max told me that sometimes when he lays in bed at night, if he has trouble falling asleep, he does the mouse pose in his bed and it makes him fall asleep. Who knew a six year old could be so self sufficient. I was very impressed with Max’s interest in the subject and how much he knew about it. And impressed the school he goes to makes this part of the curriculum. Very forward thinking and very smart. A lot of young kids have problems with focus and “too much” energy. The common treatment seems to be to medicate the kids with things like Ritalin. I would much rather see Max learn to control his mood in a natural way. Sure handing someone a pill to control their mood is probably an easier approach, but yoga and meditation are much healthier overall and there are no bad side effects.