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iExperience – iFail – iGrow

one. step. at. a. time.

Project Garden

Since I can remember, I grew up around family members that have a strong green thumb.  My Grandparents always planted a huge garden every year.  Although I’m sure they had a tough year here or there, I like to think they always produced an amazing garden consistently.  From their garden our entire family would make pasta sauce from the bushels of tomatoes they produced.   I can also remember always looking forward to the raw snap peas they would give us.  They were always so sweet and delicious!

The green thumb didn’t stop with them.  On a slightly smaller scale, my Father, my late uncle, and my father in law, have all produced successful gardens.  Now the question is, did that green thumb gene carry over to my wife and I?  We’ll soon find out!

For a few years now, my wife and I have gone back and forth on whether or not we should get a garden started.  This year we finally decided to take on the task.  Although we are probably late to the game this season in getting started, we’re not letting that diminish our excitement and the fun we’ll get to have with the kids!

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We started this past week by breaking out the seed packs we had and thankfully we had nine envelopes of seeds.  Why am I thankful?  It was put best by my daughter when she counted each packet and divided them up saying, “everyone has the same amount, we each get three packets!”  It’s imperative that everyone gets their fair share!  Lord help us if one more person got one more packet than the other!

Before we planted the little seedlings, I was busy expanding my skills using the software called Sketchup to draw up plans for our garden.  I’ve used the software before, for other projects, and it gives you spot on measurements to know you’ll get things exactly right.  I also like it for producing a bill of materials.  The initial garden layout I designed was more than we wanted to invest in a tiny garden.  The software made it easy to adjust the plans and recalculate the measurements easily.

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From the plans, you can see that there really isn’t a great deal to the garden.  What it helped conceptualize was the measurements we were after, buying the least amount of wood necessary for the project, and also figuring out how much dirt we needed to fill the unit.  I was able to take all those figures and do some pricing across three major stores: Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menard’s.  Pretty basic stuff, right?  You can see from the table below that Menard’s had the best prices.  The beauty of all this is that my calculated price was actually three dollars higher and it landed up costing me $85 instead of the projected $88!

Part Size Need Pcs. Qty Length HD Cost Lowes Cost Menard’s Cost
Posts 4×4 5 ft 4 1 4 x 4 x 8 ft 8.57 8.57 7.37
Trim 1 x 3 1/2 10 ft 8 1 1″ x 4″ x 12′ 5.97 5.97 4.57
Rails 2 x 4 25 ft 2 in 4 4 2 x 4 x 8 13.48 13.88 14.68
Planks 2 x 8 54′ 8 8 2 x 6 x 8 68.56 69.36 62.16
96.58 97.78 88.78

There is also another great benefit to having this all planned out, help from my daughter!  Her and I set out to Menard’s together to buy the materials.  She had never been to Menard’s before but really liked how big the store was and all the various items they had for a hardware store.  The only real complaint she had was in some areas they had staircases to climb to look at more merchandise.  However, all the staircases we walked by suggested that for the safety of children, they were not allowed to go up.  She really wanted to go up.

After giving the staff the list of boards I needed, we were headed to the yard to pick up all the wood.  It really reminded me of how my dad and I used to go to Carter Lumber and drive through the yard to pick up wood.  It brought back some fun memories!

The next day after purchasing the materials, we laid everything out in the garage and got to work.  I let my daughter do all the measuring.  It was fun to watch her take interest in it but she was constantly worried that she wouldn’t measure it right.  I kept reminding her to do her best and I would double check all her measurements.  She was comforted by the fact that I told her we could just flip the board over and measure again if we needed.  I also reminded her that she was using a pencil, so markings could easily be erased.  After she was done measuring and the fact that I can’t let her use the saw just yet, she wandered off to play while I ran through all the cuts.  She would later join me for assembly.

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Unlike the measuring task, she had no problem accepting the challenge to use the drill.  I helped her start the first several screws, but after that, she really got the hang of it and only needed me to help her find the middle of the board.  She’s a natural!

Low and behold, after all the sketching, planning, adjustments, shopping, and assembling, we landed up with a perfect result.  Maybe I’m speaking too soon!  So far, these are all the elements that we have control over.  The real test will be seeing our little seedlings begin to sprout in their pods and then be transplanted to their new grounds!  Now I know we won’t be producing enough tomato plants to make tomato sauce for the entire family, but we’ll produce enough to enjoy some salads and BLT’s!

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Could Hollywood Stop Shootings?

[Insert best Hollywood movie preview voice] Dark on a Monday morning the man lay there in his bed unprepared for the silent torture he was about to endure!  Like a ticking time bomb the alarm clock read 4:59a, with one more tick, and….

…and it’s 5:00a!  Time for me to get up and motivate myself to get some sort of physical activity!  Oh, you can stop reading this with a Hollywood movie preview voice!  Although there are no Hollywood cameras filming my morning wake-up routine and how my silent watch alarm gets me to move my butt out of bed, imagine what your scene would look like when you wake up?  Would it be a comedy?  A love story with your pillow?  Or a horror film?  Whatever the case, I want to share a thought I had while watching the news one day and how I think the Hollywood movie industry could maybe make a difference.

Every morning my wife and I typically have the local news channel playing on the television.  Usually having the news on allows us to focus primarily on what we really want to know about, the weather.  Aside from that, we really like when the CBS This Morning show does their “your world in 90 seconds” spot at 7:00a.  Between those two main portions, we also catch stories that spark our interest and catch our eye.

The news channels always try to seem up beat with their commercials about how you should start your day with them and how they’ll make sure you get the news you deserve.  In some ways, I consider it to be an upbeat pulse.  However, as the newscast plays out, it’s typically all the bad things that are going on in our world and doesn’t really seem to be all that uplifting at all until the weather man says, “today’s forecast, blue skies and 75°!”  Feel free to change that statement to your ideal temperature!

Since the news is filled with so many discouraging stories, I have a full basket of options to choose from.  I could pick from the lovely candidates running for office, the battles that continue overseas, or maybe how some lunatic opened fire in a movie theatre or school.  It is the last topic I mention that I want to put some thought around.  It is an issue that can affect us all and it is one that I can never quite wrap my head around because of all the innocent people that fall victim to it.  When you have a gunman shooting up a theatre or blasting children in a school, it really isn’t any different then a suicide bomber overseas.  In either of the situations, lives are lost and that’s something I’m sure we would all like to see less of.

I wish I had an easy solution for all of this and I wish I had some sort of a psychology or neuroscience degree to offer up maybe a more sound solution, but I don’t.  What I do have is an idea.  That’s it.  My idea may have a trillion reasons why it won’t work and I can fully accept that, but Thomas Edison had a ten thousand ways that didn’t work for him and rather than consider it failure, well, you know what happened.  So bear with me as I share my idea and I’d love to hear what you think, no matter your opinion, I’d just like to hear your thoughts on this.

As I listened to a news story about a shooting, I, like many people, begin asking, why did that person do that?  What was so bad in their life that they reached that point?  Sure I could easily chalk it up to the fact that they may be insane or they have a screw loose.  Usually they have some flavor of a vendetta and in their mind it is a logical reason to carry out their attack.  Others may just have a disgusting fantasy they want to play out and that’s where my wheels are turning.  Is it just living out a fantasy for some people?

We are continually entertained by movies and as you watch a thriller you are sucked in waiting for what happens next.  An although I’m entertained, after watching the movie I realize, what sick mind came up with this plot?  The amount of detail it takes to plan out each scene and think about how that all ties into the storyline, that’s a lot of planning!  Which in the mind of some real world shooter, don’t many of them go to great lengths taking time to plan their attack?  Ok, maybe some just snap and there really isn’t any rhyme or reason, but some do.

As my wheels turn about these two separate worlds of, Hollywood dreaming up the next blockbuster to knock us off our seats, or the person secretly planning an attack on innocent lives, it begged two questions.  1) Could Hollywood sometimes be the cause of why people do what they do based on what they see?  2) Could Hollywood also be the solution to this problem?

Let’s assume that the reason someone wants to carry out an attack is because it gives them some sort of high.  They’re willing to go through with it and know that they could die.  They may also anticipate seeing this destruction on television since the news will cover it.  You have to agree, we know there are people among us in this world that have that fantasy.  So what if Hollywood could let them have their moment?  What I mean is, what if Hollywood could let them act out their scene as if it were the real thing?  They would then have footage to watch that might satisfy their crave and on top of that, no one gets hurt!

Like anything else, I realize there are consequences to this as well.  Depending on how strong the urge is for a person, maybe watching their scene played back to them is a short term fix.  Maybe it satisfies them and maybe it doesn’t.  I’m guessing the latter part would be true.  But what if it did work?  Heck, what if Hollywood found some really good actors in the process?  There is probably a good chance that someone who is planning to shoot up a public venue is not working on their acting skills or looking for an acting career.  But imagine it did give them the relief and it put the thoughts in their head to rest.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?

All this is, is an idea.  A thought.  Nothing more than to get some discussion started on maybe an idea you might have of how to stop events like these.  I know many people would argue to just take away guns altogether, but I think we all know that this would only make guns more of a problem.  It’s like being under the age of 21 and wanting to drink.  Kids find ways to drink even though the law says they can’t.  If you take something away, people just want it more.

As I wrote this article, I thought that it was crazy for me to even share this idea.  However, relating back to the news, I saw this segment Baby Role Playing, and thought, if people are doing this [baby role playing], sharing my thoughts around an idea isn’t that bad, especially when it aims to solve a problem, not create one.  Once again, this baby role playing thing, just another saddening, disheartening way that the news is getting my day off to a great start!

If there is nothing else you take away from this random thought of a post, remember this.  Ideas are worth sharing, because some of the greatest inventions or movements started with just that, an idea.

 

Kefir Cure? Another Quest for relief!

When I was younger, I was definitely a kid who was not interested in what was healthy for me.  If I had the choice of a glazed donut or an apple, glazed donut, all the way!  If I wanted a snack at eight or nine o’clock at night, then a sugary bowl of cereal, or two, looked like the right choice!  Sure, many kids act just like I did because who wants to eat what is healthy and good for you when some other item satisfies the taste buds so much more!

I’ll share with you a perfect example with my three year old son this morning.  As we were walking out the door this morning, I realized I hadn’t given him his last dose of an antibiotic he was taking for an ear infection.  I’m well aware that he does not like the taste of the medicine, so I have a swig of milk at his side ready to go.  After he takes his medicine, he says, “daddy, I’m still coughing”, as he fakes a cough.  I also notice that he is still tasting the medicine, the milk didn’t wash it all away.  I offer an Easter egg hard shelled piece of chocolate candy and I say, “try this.”  Immediately after eating that up, he says, “daddy, I’m not coughing any more.”  So case and point, he’s just like me, well, like most of us!

Between multiple glazed donuts, sugary pop (or soda as my New Jersey cousins like to say), and who knows what other sugar I ingested on a daily basis, I didn’t think twice.  During those years I also encountered many migraine headaches.  I don’t have anything charted, but I probably had on average six to eight within a year and maybe it was more; I just know I had a lot.  To this very day, I have no idea what caused them.  My guess would be that I was slightly over weight, probably ingested to much sugar, and when drinking soda, it was primarily Pepsi or Coca-cola, so I was throwing caffeine in there too.  As I grew into my later teens, I noticed less and less migraines.  Was I growing out of them or was I eating differently?  What I do know is that when I turned eighteen and graduated high school, I started working for a home builder that summer.  I was losing weight working the physical job and began drinking way more water.  So I believe that had something to do with it and it’s also about the same time I believe I started caring about what I ate… to some degree.

Although I don’t battle migraines anymore, it’s been replaced by something even more constant.  Sinus issues.  In my early twenties to current day, I continue to get a stuffy nose and I have a constant cough.  Typically my doctor will put me on an antibiotic, most people refer to it as the Z-pak.  When I was first introduced to this, it seemed to take care of things and I definitely felt better.  What I’ve noticed over time though, is that when my sinus infections started, I got the clogged head, followed by the stuffed nose, and then everything fell into my chest.  Now a days, I don’t notice the head congestion anymore but mostly just a stuffed nose, followed by chest congestion.  I know many people that deal with sinus issues, so I don’t worry much about the actual sinus issues.  What I started to become concerned with is how the Z-pak was always thrown at the problem.

Using the past to help me again, I started noticing that along with sinus issues, I repeatedly experienced more bowel issues.  So of course, my wheels started turning more.  You always hear about how antibiotics can destroy the bad bacteria and it’s essentially a quick fix to make us feel better.  That’s great, but in the process of killing off that bad bacteria, I’ve also heard how good bacteria in the gut also gets destroyed.  Although it took me some time to put two and two together, I started thinking, what if over all those years of taking a Z-pak, was it slowly destroying the good flora in my gut?

After doctor visits and educating myself more, the obvious choice was to introduce more probiotics, so welcome in the yogurt!  I started introducing more yogurt into my daily diet.  It started with a bowl in the morning with breakfast.  At other times, I’d use it as a treat or something sweet after lunch or dinner, if I hadn’t had any for breakfast that day.  For the most part, I felt like things were improving.  Even though I felt they could be better, I kept reading.  I began to learn that even though yogurt is good for you and even though it has active cultures, most reports find that when it’s processed, some of that goodness is diminished.  Although it’s better than a glazed donut, I want the full benefit of yogurt not just a little bit!

Here in lies my introduction to milk kefir.  One Thursday afternoon I was attending a Toastmaster’s meeting and one of the members of the group spoke about how to make your own milk kefir.  As I heard him speak and the process was explained, I couldn’t believe how dead simple this was.  The hardest part about it is finding milk that is not ultra high pasteurized.  Let me share how simple the process is:

  1. Start by ordering kefir grains (online or get some from a friend who already makes milk kefir)
  2. Next, find milk that is not ultra high pasteurized (I use Snowville Creamery Whole Milk)
  3. Depending on your kefir grain, you may need to hydrate a few times before use.  Since my friend at Toastmaster’s gave me some of his, I didn’t have to do this step.
  4. Once hydrated, put about a tablespoon of kefir grain in a jar.
  5. Fill the jar with about 8oz of the milk and put a loose lid on so the gases that form during the fermentation process can escape.  You could also use a paper coffee filter with a rubber band around it.
  6. Put the jar in a cupboard or someplace the temperature stays in the range of 70°-85° for a 24 hour period.
    • I’ve modified this step by putting my jar in what’s called a ‘culture box’.  Basically, I have a small cooler that I place the jar of kefir in along with a jar of boiling hot water, and then I close the lid to the cooler.
    • If I can, I try to reheat the water over the 24 hour period.
  7. After 24 hours, I tighten the lid and place the kefir in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.  I only drink my kefir or mix it in with bowl of cereal, every other day.
  8. When it’s time to ingest the kefir, get a plastic strainer (metal is not recommended because it can weaken the kefir grain) and strain the kefir into a clean glass.
  9. You will need to use a wooden or rubber spatula to help the kefir through.  Lightly move the mixture back and forth and you’ll slowly see the kefir grains appear as the milky yogurt passes through the strainer.
  10. Once it’s through, put the kefir grain back in a glass jar and start with step 4 above and start the process all over.

Alright, so I might have spelled it out in greater detail than is necessary, but as you can see, it’s not that difficult to get better, more effective probiotics.

I’ve been drinking it or mixing it in with my morning cereal every other day for about two months now.  I’ve also tried blending it with honey or combining it with strawberries.  There are really a ton of options for what you can do with it.  Just search online!

Overall, I feel like it has improved things in my system compared to the store bought yogurt.  Has it helped relieve any sinus issues?  Well, no or at least not that I know of.  Even though I’m keeping up with the kefir more regularly than the honey and lemon concoction I wrote about in my other Quest for Relief article, I do feel like the kefir is benefiting me.

It’s amazing how my perspective has changed over the years and how I am more conscious about what I’m ingesting to help cure my ailments.  I believe more and more that the saying, “you are what you eat” does directly affect your body.  I’m also pretty sure that as much as I enjoy a glazed donut, it’s probably not a solution for anything but a sugar craving!

Baby Doll Bunk Bed – Part 2

We moved on to the next phase of the project, the remaining assembly!  If you read part 1, we were just getting the assembly started.  Although we had to wait a few days to continue on, we finally found a night that worked!

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With the bed assembled, my wife got to join in the fun and help my daughter with making the actual bedding.  To do that, they hopped in the car and headed to Jo-Ann Fabrics to let my daughter pick out her own fabric.

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It was a toss up between some rainbow powered dog bone pattern, or what I referred to as the bambi print.  So as I sat eating lunch with my older son, a text came in asking us which we preferred.  My son immediately voted for the rainbow explosion, while I thought the bambi print was more suitable.  There was no response to let us know which one she choose, but when she arrived home, we learned she agreed with her dad’s choice!

I thought she was going to be super excited to get started on the sewing right away, I was mistaken.  It wasn’t until the next day that my wife pulled out the sewing machine and the two of them began the process.

My daughter jumped in and wasn’t afraid to give it a go!  Since she likes doing a lot of art projects, she is no stranger to scissors.  However, I thought she might be a little intimidated by the sewing machine, I know I am!  My wife got everything setup and in place, and my daughter looked as if she had done this before!  She’s a natural!

I was very impressed by my wife, not because she knows how to sew and I don’t, but because she took the idea further than I expected.  My initial thought was that they would just construct some pillows that would act as a mattress for the dolls to lay on.  That’s where I was wrong!  Once they had the mattresses sewn, my wife suggested that they also make small pillows, along with some sheets!  I believe my daughter was also surprised because she seemed excited at the suggestion!

Now what my wife and I didn’t know, is that the joke was on us!  As fast as my daughter was excited at the thought of the sheets and pillows, she was also quick to be done with this portion of the project.  A friend rang the doorbell and invited her to come out and play, so she immediately dropped the project and bolted out the door.  I’m not sure if she just wasn’t interested anymore or she was just itching to get some fresh air!  Needless to say, my wife was a good sport and finished up the remaining sewing.

You may be asking at this point, where is the info or measurements used to create the mattresses, pillows, and sheets?  I wish I could answer that too!  I would have to ask my wife how I translate sewing to text, because like I said before, I don’t sew!  Other than the obvious, she measured the inside of the bed frame and worked from that.  I can’t tell you what type of stitch they used or what settings to configure on the sewing machine.  It’s just not a skill I possess! Maybe my wife can teach me one day!  Or even my daughter at this point!  She knows more about sewing than me!

For the last couple nights the baby dolls have had a much better rest!  I haven’t heard as much crying coming from my daughters room, unless it’s my daughter doing the crying!  Even though the bedding portion of the project is complete, we’re still not finished.  The final step will be to paint the bed frame.  What color you may ask?  Pink of course.  Plain and simple.  This was probably by far the easiest decision that was made on this project!

Once again, stay tuned and I’ll share the final phase of the project so you can see the end result!  Hopefully it will inspire you do want to build, sew, and paint your very own as well!

 

Baby Doll Bunk Bed – Part 1

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were out shopping.  She was on a mission to exchange all $32 she had on a gift card, with some kind of toy(s)!  If there is one thing she is determined to do, it is to spend money and every last penny at that!  Unfortunately, I can remember being just like her!

As we walked through the store and perused the toy isles, we undoubtedly landed at the baby doll section.  Even though she has plenty of baby dolls to run her very own baby doll daycare, she always needs just one more!  As she looked, she began to settle on one item that included two tiny baby dolls that were accompanied by a miniature bunk bed and I believe two miniature rocking horses as well.  If memory serves me correctly, the package deal was going to cost around $26.

As I looked at the item more and more and realizing that regardless of all these toys being over priced for the quality you get, I felt she could make her money go further.  I also believed that she would quickly shove the new toys into a corner once we got past day three with the toys at home.  I convinced her to look at two items she could buy for essentially the same price and would probably play with more.  I also used the opportunity to promise her that we could build a much better bunk bed and she wouldn’t have to pay a dime for it!  With that, she was sold, and now daddy and her had a project!  Oh, and we did leave with the other two items I suggested!

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Since we celebrated Easter a day earlier and the actual Easter day was a glorious one weather wise, we busted out the table saw and the free pallet wood I had and got to work.  I asked my daughter to start by drawing out her idea.  I wanted her to see how the project needed to start, it needed a plan.  Although she likes to draw, this task was quickly turning into frustration, so we turned to the good ol’ Internet to find something that worked.  We settled on the following project from ana-white.com.

With the plan in place and after I got some initial pallet pieces squared and cut down to size, we measured out the various pieces we needed.  She would measure and I would cut.

One interesting tid-bit about my daughter, you may think the project took two days because she is wearing two different outfits in them.  Not the case.  My daughter has a tendency to increase the laundry chore a bit in our household.  During the time I was cutting the measured pieces, she decided some new clothing was in order!

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Next, she loved using the wood glue.  Mostly it was because of the fact that when it dried on her finger she could peel it off.  As she began putting glue on, I explained to her that I would let her use the air nailer next.  She was intimidated by the thought of using the tool, but after she shot in the first few nails, she enjoyed it!

I requested that she avoid shooting me with a nail but I don’t think she made any guarantees!  Thankfully I didn’t feel any metal enter my fingers.  She enjoyed the air nailer so much that when she started sanding the first section of the frame while I started to arrange the second end piece, she asked me not to do the nailing so that she could.  I can’t say that I didn’t have a smile on my face watching her enjoy the process!

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It was fun listening to her try another new aspect to the project.  She was being introduced to a lot of new tools and sanding was becoming a quick favorite as well.  After she sanded for just a few seconds, she would rub her hand along the wood and say, “it’s so smooth!”

I am really hoping that she is really enjoying the benefit to building things and seeing the result of her hard work.  Ok, really I just want her to have fun and be proud of what she built!

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She started to see how the bed was coming together as we connected both bed frame ends.  We were only able to connect a few more pieces before it was time to call it quits for the day, but I could tell she was loving what she had learned.

At this point the bunk bed is only half way done. But in the few hours that we spent on this project, I’ve truly enjoyed watching my daughter get excited about using new tools, seeing her work become a reality, and anticipating working on it again. So stay tuned fort part 2 of the project where I’ll share the finished project!

In the mean time, please share any projects you may have worked on with your kids, I’d love to hear about them! It might inspire our next project!

Tetherball Project

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It all started when my oldest son entered first grade.  Before first grade the playground at school was just a bunch of swings, monkey bars, and the occasional game of tag.  First grade would change all that.

In first grade, a mysterious pole appeared protruding from the ground.  This pole towered over him casting a tall slender shadow.  To further his attention on this skinny towering object, a thin rope with a ball at the end appeared as well.  Like a cat being curious about a ball of yarn, this boy was entering a whole new world of entertainment.

My son quickly became a fan of tetherball by learning and playing the game with friends at school.  I began noticing him talking about it more and telling me about how he won some rounds against kids older than him.  His interest in the game became even more evident when he would ask me to take him up to school to play tetherball with me on the weekend.  One of his classroom teachers also expressed how he swings his arms in the classroom pretending to play tetherball.  As a parent I should probably have been worried, but his teacher said that even though this was occurring he was paying attention.  The teacher only knew this because she would as a question, and even though he appeared to be in a deep game of “air” tetherball, he could answer her questions.

As his seventh birthday approached, my wife and I began to wonder what we could get him.  Aside from the typical toys we knew he would like, we knew we couldn’t go wrong with a tetherball set.

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Tire Tetherball Set

We began searching the Internet and pricing different sets.  Most sets were of the type that involved a tire, a pole, and some cement.  Essentially, you fill the tire with cement, stick a pole in the middle, add a ball and rope and wa-la, you have a tetherball set.  However, we didn’t want this setup.  Although this version of the tetherball set could be moved to various locations around the yard, we felt it could potentially fall over easily.  Let’s be honest, between his bother and him, you know someone is eventually going to try and climb the thing!  They’re boys!

Expecting that cementing a pole in the ground would be cheaper and safer, we choose the more permanent setup.  A few Google searches turned up a few possibilities, but some of the poles appeared to fragile, while others were just to expensive for our taste.  One in ground set cost around $200, and that was before shipping.

I did some shopping around and called a few custom shops that deal with long steel poles.  I quickly found out that a 21′ pole would run me about $140.  One of the two shops I called mentioned that their pipe wasn’t galvanized, so it would be an additional cost to get it dipped.  I decided to stop in at our local Home Depot and Lowes hardware stores and landed up settling on Home Depot’s product.

Here are the list of materials we purchased:

Item Quantity Cost
1 1/2″ RIGID COUPLING 1 $5
10′ 1 1/2″(Outside Diameter) Galvanized Conduit Pipe 2 $36 per pipe
Quickcrete Cememt Bag 3 $5 per bag
10′ 1 1/4″ (Outside Diameter) EMT Galvanized Conduit Pipe 1 $9.50
Stainless Steel Spring Link 1 $5
Eyebolt w/Nut 1 $2
1′ Rebar 2 $1 each
Tetherball Kit 1 $15

If you are questioning why we bought two 10′ poles for $36, that wasn’t by design.  Home Depot requires you to buy the entire 10′ pole and then they’ll cut it to size.  Unfortunately, in my case I wanted a 38″ section to be cemented in the ground, so I had to buy two sections and just eat the cost.  However, buying two poles at $36 was still cheaper than buying one 21′ section for $140!

So with about $125 invested and after he opened the actual packaged tetherball on his birthday, we waited for the rain to let up so we could start the project!

The first phase of the project involved drilling two holes through the 38″ piece of pipe that would be cemented in the ground.  This allowed for two pieces of 1′ rebar to be inserted through the pole.  The holes were drilled in a manner so that they created an X like pattern and would offer stability to the pole.

Once those were set and ready to go, the tedious job of digging the 36″ deep hole with approximately a 6″ radius, began.  The 36″ hole depth will prevent any ice from forming under the pole and pushing it up.  Digging this deep is what’s known as being below the frost line.

If you plan to create your own tetherball in-ground setup, I highly recommend a post hole digger.  Although I got the job done with my shovel, maybe spending the $25 on a post hole digger would have been worth it.  I only talked myself out of the purchase because I felt I wouldn’t get my use out of one past this project.

Once the hole was at it’s desired depth, I added some gravel to the base of the hole.  This will allow for water to drain more easily and act as another safe guard and allow water to drain more easily.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up having some fun before filling the hole.  My daughter stuck one leg in the hole just to get an idea how deep 36″ really is.  Let’s just say she needed my help to get back out!

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With my daughter out of the hole, we set the 38″ section of pipe in place.  Checking that the pipe was level on several sides, we began to pour the Quickcrete concrete mix in the hole.  It was amazing how much stability the dry concrete powder offered when it filled in around the pipe.  I was afraid the pipe would still move, but it didn’t.  From there we added the necessary gallon of water per 5o pound (1 bag) of Quickcrete.

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Even though the concrete is supposed to set within 20 minutes, we gave it about 48 hours before attaching the 10′ section of pole that would act as the actual tetherball pole.  We then attached the coupling, inserted the 1 1/4″ 10′ pole to provide further stability (in case they decide to climb the pole one day), and then put the 10′ section over top of the 1 1/4″, acting like a sleeve.

spring linkWe put the finishing touches on by attaching the tetherball rope to the stainless steel spring link and then attached that to the eyebolt at the top of the pole.  Before I could even step back and even begin to admire the work we had done, the kids were already playing their first game of tetherball!

It’s amazing to see that in the first few days of having the set, my son hasn’t thought twice about his video game system!  I don’t expect this trend to last forever, but one thing I do know is that it was worth the investment to have him do something he loves and be active, rather than hearing him say, “I have nothing to do, can I play XBox?”  In addition, although my daughter doesn’t talk about playing at school like he does, I’ve caught her enjoying the set as well!

Leave some comments below!  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Living in Ohio, I get to enjoy the glorious changes of the seasons!  Even though that may seem like I’m being sarcastic, I’m not.  I really do like the change of season.  Don’t get me wrong, living in a nice warm climate all the time would be nice, but in my opinion, it could be boring too.  I always tell people that living in Ohio makes me appreciate those other places so much more.  If I had the warmth all the time, I wouldn’t know what I was missing.  Aside from that, being surrounded by boring, flat land, it makes me appreciate the gorgeous mountain ranges out west when I get to visit them.  See, there’s an upside!

 

During my early years as a child growing up in Ohio, I suffered a lot from migraine headaches.  I never did find the root cause and mysteriously enough, as I reached my late teens, they seemed to just vanish.  So not real sure if living in Ohio is connected to them or not.  However, with the resolution of one problem, something else inevitably needs to take its place.  This is where my body decided to now bless me with sinus issues.  Now, having suffered through many migraine headaches as an adolescent, I felt like moving to sinus issues was an upgrade of sorts.  With migraines, I typically wanted a dark room, minimal sounds, a pillow, and a bed.  Sleeping them off was the best way I knew how to cope.  The down side to this is that it prevented me from going places and I was usually confined to my bedroom until the migraine wore off.  With sinus issues, although I might feel miserable, I could still function and go places.

As a kid, I never really had any interest in figuring out what caused my migraine’s.  As an adult, I’ve had more interest in knowing what causes my sinus issues.  I did the allergy tests, taken my fair share of z-packs, and came to a determination with my doctor that my sinus issues are related to barometric pressure changes in the atmosphere.  Initially, when the doctor came to this conclusion and there didn’t seem to really be any solution, I threw my hands up and figured I’d just have to live with it.  Over the years as I have read more and more articles, I’m starting to think I might be able to find a balance between my sinus cavities and mother nature.

One thing I’m starting to realize is that my sinuses may not be the only issue.  Over the last six months or so I’ve come across something known as silent reflux.  It’s basically acid reflux without the heartburn but the one characteristic that has me interested is the chronic cough symptom.  I always assumed it was post nasal drip from my sinuses but now I think both could be at play here.  The problem is figuring out if they’re in play at the same time or not.

The quest to figure this out has introduced me to some new food items or concoctions.  For instance, I had never heard of apple cider vinegar before but as I read more and more about silent reflux I kept coming across this item.  It seems to work all kind of wonders and seems to be a magic food, but where it relates to silent reflux is balancing pH levels.  Odd that vinegar, which is an acid, would balance pH levels.  The best way I can explain it is similar to ingesting a lemon.  Again, being a citrus fruit, acid is present, but when it metabolizes with the body, it becomes alkaline.  You might also think that oranges would be good too.  This is not the case.  Because oranges contain more sugar, the sugar causes a different reaction causing it not to have the same alkaline properties. This knowledge led me on the quest to find more alkaline foods and how could I start introducing them into my diet.

 

Having listened to a podcast by Lewis Howes, called The School of Greatness,  I referred back to episode #250.  Lewis interviewed the ladies who started simplegreensmoothies.com and I was curious about whether or not their smoothie recipes tasted as good as they claimed.  I also figured this would be a good way to introduce alkaline foods more easily.  Looking at their recipes, I narrowed the list by filtering the results by ones kids would like using their “KID-FRIENDLY” option so my kids could try them as well.  Having a reduced list, I started with one titled “Strawberry, Banana, Blueberry, Spinach Smoothie“.  strawberry-banana-blueberry-4The recipe is very simple and my wife, kids, and I have been drinking one every morning for roughly the last two weeks.  Depending on the ripeness of the fruit, the kids really like the mixture on some days versus others.  We also substituted real oranges with orange juice.

Aside from the orange juice it has some very good alkaline foods in it.  Strawberries, blueberries, and banana’s all seem to be on most alkaline lists.  But the super alkaline food in this recipe smoothie is the spinach.  It seems that most green foods have a decent alkaline content.  The extra bonus here is that even though I like spinach in its raw form, my kids don’t.  The beauty of the smoothie is that they can’t even taste the spinach and they know it’s in there!  They help me make the smoothie!

Having success with the first smoothie, I decided it was time to venture on to the next one.  I went back to the site, selected the “KID-FRIENDLY” filter, and choose the “Berry Protein Bash“.  This one involved the use of unsweetened almond milk, as well as real almonds.  In theory, this one sounded great to me but my wife had her doubts.  I should have listened to her.  I hyped the kids up by asking them, “who wants a smoothie?”  Typically, from the success of the first smoothie recipe, this gets a great reaction!  Anticipating another great tasting treat, I blending the ingredients, poured it into cups, plopped in some straws and waited for the results.  Unfortunately for me, the feedback came quicker than I anticipated.  Everyone’s face showed an expression of disgust!  It wasn’t that it tasted bad but most people don’t expect to chew anything in their drink!  Maybe it’s that our blender can’t shred almonds like the one the ladies from simplegreensmoothies.com have, but I know now, not to make that one again!

Navigating through all the various recipes, I came across one that I thought had potential to help both my sinuses and silent reflux.  So this next recipe I felt might provide comfort for both problems.  They call it the “Lemon, Ginger and Honey : All-natural Remedy“.

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Their’s
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Mine

Although it’s not a smoothie, I’ve only been trying this recipe for the last few days and I’m not sure my mixture is right.  The recipe indicates that after putting it into the refrigerator, it should begin to form a jelly like texture.  Mine is not.  I’m not giving up yet!  With fresh lemons, I hope it will balance my pH levels, with the honey, it satisfies my sugar craving, and the ginger is good for the digestive track, which by improving digestion, I’m hoping it improves my sinuses and my overall health.

I plan to continue introducing more natural and fresh options to my diet like these.  Although it’s to early to tell if any of these options have a positive effect, I feel like my body is probably benefiting from them regardless.  More and more, I feel like you are your own best doctor.  I’m not saying to disregard doctors all together, but when the doctor tells you there isn’t anything you can really do to combat something, then why not explore yourself.  Watch for the patterns, listen to your body, and watch how your body reacts to what you try.

So although I may be still on my quest to combat the barometric seasonal sinus problem and the silent reflux that could be hiding in my belly, I do believe what’s in my gut could change things.  I’m learning new healthy options to introduce into my diet that are not only benefiting me, their benefiting my family!  Raise your (smoothie) glasses to that!

Have you been on a quest to change your diet to resolve some ailments?  If so, let me know, I’d love to hear about them and what you’ve found!

 

 

 

Speaking at CodeMash 2016

10 Year Anniversary

For those of you that do not know what CodeMash is, it is a tech conference put on at the Kalahari water park in Sandusky, OH.  The conference just celebrated its 10th year anniversary!  It is by far THE best tech conference in the great state of Ohio!  I haven’t attended all 10 years, but pretty close, probably 7 or 8 of them.  I remember attending the very first one when there was only a little over 200 people that attended.  I don’t know what the final tally was for the 2016 event, but I’m guessing it was somewhere around 2,000+ attendees.

My First Time Speaking At A Tech Conference

I’m no stranger to speaking in public.  It began as early as elementary school when I had some parts in school plays where I recited some lines and even some dance steps.  Then in my teens, I became a disc jockey where I used my speaking abilities to encourage people to come out to the dance floor.  Later in my professional career I came across Toastmasters, a communication and leadership program, where I joined a local chapter.

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Up to this point, I had never prepared a speech for any sort of conference.  It wasn’t that I was afraid to speak, but it was more about the topic or content I was providing people.  My concern was more around making sure people would get something useful from my talk.  My goal would be for them to walk away from my talk being intrigued to learn more on their own or hopefully build upon the knowledge they already have.

I didn’t let any of that worrying stop me.  When the CodeMash conference staff opened the doors for speaker submissions, I got started on writing my abstract.  With the help from some of my colleagues, they reviewed my draft write-ups and gave me valuable feedback.  I made the suggested edits to the abstract and two days before the deadline, I submitted my talk.

Over 1,100 talks were submitted to the CodeMash conference staff this year, so I had to wait a full month before knowing whether or not my talk would get selected.  On September 30, 2015, I received an email that happily stated my talk on “A/B Testing Mobile Apps and Tools That Help!” had been accepted!  It was truly a great feeling but this only meant that the hard work was just beginning!

Before I go on any further, let me explain what A/B testing is in general for those that may not know.  A/B testing is a practice where companies or individuals writing software applications, whether it be a web or mobile application, can test various visual components of a deployed application while the user interacts with it.  Basically, in the case of a mobile application, two screens are being compared against each other, unbeknownst to the users.  One version is considered a baseline or control and the other a variation.  The baseline and variation are distributed evenly meaning, 50% of the time the baseline is shown and the variation is shown the other 50% (the distribution can be adjusted).  The way the users interact with each version provides feedback and then offers suggestions to which screen yields better results.  From there, a software team will decide what updates to make to the app and make those available to users as an update.

In order to build my presentation, the presentation needed to revolve around an iOS mobile application that I had already built, well, sort of.  What I mean is, I had been working on the app for an internal project at work that introduced me to A/B testing.  The first version of the app was clunky and not at a point to where I felt it was ready for presenting.  So I decided to rewrite the application and apply the fixes it needed.  In addition, I felt that I could also get a taste of Apple’s new programming language called Swift.  The Swift programming language seemed to make things a bit more simple but I ran into one complication that made the app unpresentable.  So I went back to the Objective-C programming language and rewrote the app for the third time.  Like the first two versions, I managed the code with a GIT code repository but the only difference this time, I managed it by marking it at different checkpoints.  This gave me the assurance that if something didn’t go right, I had a good fallback to work from.  Needless to say, I got the app to a point that I liked and I could add it to the presentation.

The Day of the Presentation

Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t nervous and all my worrying about people liking and finding the content useful, well, it was as good as it was going to get at this point!  I arrived at the room I was to speak in a bit early and I was glad I did.  It’s something I’ve always known, arrive early to test the equipment and make sure you have everything you need.  I hooked up my laptop, connected the projector cable, and everything looked good.  The one thing I didn’t expect was no power from the outlet I plugged into.  Luckily, CodeMash provides each speaker with a room proctor.  Their job is to make sure you have everything you need and my room proctor did just that!  In no time, I had a live outlet!  All systems go!

I watched the clock as it approached 3:30p, the start time for my session.  As the time rolled into view, I kicked things off!  I gave my intro, gave the background on A/B testing, provided an example of a case where a company could have benefited from A/B testing, began my introduction to an A/B testing tool called Taplytics, and finished with some demos.  After 45 minutes of presenting I was done!  The audience offered up a few questions and provided one person with some additional visuals to further answer his question.  Overall I got some good feedback but I would have preferred a little larger turnout.  I joked with a few developer friends by saying, “well, it is a developer conference, no one likes testing!”

Looking Forward

Learning something new, like A/B testing, rewriting a demo app three times, preparing slides, and rehearsing, was it worth it?  You bet it was!  It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to submitting this talk to other conferences, as well as finding my next topic for CodeMash 2017!  Let the speaking portion of my career begin!

Being More Direct?

In my life, I’m noticing a constant theme: I want relationships in my world to change but I’m not always communicating the way I feel to help improve those relationships.

Typically, I am the type of person that I hold in a lot of what I’m feeling in the moment.  I coach myself into thinking I need time to investigate the various thoughts and feelings in the moment and then address things once I’ve had time to review.  Now having collected my thoughts and composure, maybe days or weeks later, I can go back and address the situation.

There are two problems with this approach:

  1. Waiting days, weeks, or months later, the event has passed and details of the situation are forgotten.
  2. Sometimes I don’t readdress the situation at all which leads to more pent up feelings and emotions the next time the situation or similar event occurs.

What I am beginning to notice is that the people who are more direct about how they feel in the moment are considered harsh, rude, or disrespectful.  Depending on the context, this could be true.  However, in most cases where I have witnessed these situations, the person is just standing up and defending their opinion.  I’ve also noticed that although this person may not be well received the first time they’ve irritated someone, over time they seem to gain a certain level of respect.  The benefit is that you know exactly where they stand and there is no pondering what they could be thinking.  You already know!  Not only does this benefit you, I believe it also benefits them.  They are not walking away from the conversation saying, “I wish I would have said…”

From articles I’ve read and experiences I have had, I worry too much about how others are going to perceive me, so I hold back.  What I have come to realize is that those people who I hold back from are the very same people that have no problem saying what they feel in the heat of the moment.  I’d like to think everyone follows the golden rule of “treating others the way you would like to be treated”, but I know that’s not the case.  I also believe it’s true that “you hurt the ones you love.”  Sometimes it’s not about being hurtful, but it’s more about being truthful and honest.  I think I can respect someone more for being truthful and honest even if I don’t like what they have to say.

I do not want to change the person I am.  I do however want to improve my interactions with people.  I want them to know where I stand and not leave them having to assume I meant one thing versus another.  I can be more direct and forward about what is on my mind, knowing I can do it in a respectful way.  I can’t expect things to always go the way I plan, others can still be offended, but I have to feel better about walking away from a situation or conversation by not leaving them guessing what “I meant” to say.

Relationships are probably one of the toughest aspects of life.  I’m definitely not an expert on them, I haven’t always made the changes I’d like to in order to help benefit my relationships, but through my life experiences, I’m becoming more aware.  I won’t make any promises at this point to being more direct in hopes of improving my relationships until I have had more time to experience its affects.  As situations and conversations present themselves, I have to be mindful of how I’d like that conversation to end and what it means for the relationship moving forward.

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