Friday, February 27, 2015

Big Boy is a Published Author!

At the ripe old age of 7, Big Boy has just had his first magazine article published!  It is in the March issue of Buzz magazine, a hyper-local Houston neighbourhood magazine with a circulation of over 58,000 (it is delivered to 58,000 homes and available at local stores and businesses as well).  Here is a link to their website but his article isn't on it:  http://thebuzzmagazines.com.

His article is about Chinese New Year and he worked very hard on it.  He took out a bunch of books from the library (he even learned how to put them on hold by himself), read them, and then condensed the information into an article.  He ran into a bit of frustration when the content of the books varied between books (sometimes the facts didn't match), and he also found it difficult to write to a specific word limit, but he worked through it.  His article is informative and interesting - he talks about the history of the holiday as well as many modern practices.

We are all so proud of him....I requested a bunch of extra copies and I think I will have his framed!  He is also very proud of himself.  He took our (only) copy of the magazine to school to show his teacher today.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Flatter:Me Belt

This year I received an amazing birthday gift.  It is a life-changing gift.  I'm not exaggerating.

I'm a pear-shaped lady, meaning my hips are fairly wide (as are my shoulders) and my waist is quite small.  This is an affliction when it comes to buying jeans and trousers.  Modern pants are not usually designed for a pear, they are typically designed for apple- or celery-shaped people.  When it comes to buying jeans and trousers, if they fit in the hips and backside, they usually gap at the waist in the back.   This cannot be corrected with a traditional belt because the belt causes bunching in the back and a belt-buckle lump in the front.

So basically I just buy jeans and trousers that don't fit well.  Then I try to wear a cardigan or something long to cover most of the waist area.  That sucks, because my waist area is one of the best parts of my figure (if I do say so myself!).

I have a  friend with a similar issue and she sent me a Flatter:Me belt for my birthday.  Here's a link to their website (http://www.flattermebelts.com).  The belt is unbelievable!  It smooths out my jeans and trousers in the front and closes the gap in the back.  My jeans look great with a t-shirt pulled down over the waist or tucked in.  There is no front bulge beneath my sweaters.    Wearing it makes a big difference in the overall fit of my outfits.  It's a huge confidence-boost.

The belt is attractive (it just looks like a normal belt) and washable.  It's really an amazing product.

One of the things that I love about this belt is that it was invented by someone from my hometown (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)!  It's sold in stores in Edmonton and other Canadian cities and it's available online with really cheap shipping ($3 for Canada and $5 worldwide).

Makes a great gift....

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HEB Tour

Yesterday I took Baby Boy on a tour of HEB.  HEB is a local grocery store and it's our family favourite.  They have a cute cartoon character that encourages kids to eat healthy foods.  His (I'm assuming it's a boy) name is "H-E-Buddy" and he is an enormous grocery bag with healthy foods peaking of out of the top.  My kids love H-E-Buddy and we have various swag with his picture on it - they all love to wear it.  Today for the tour, Baby Boy wore his H-E-Buddy shirt and toque.

Anyways, the tour was great.  They took us all around the store and told the kids about each department.  They also gave the kids a sample of healthy food (and chocolate milk....) in each department.  Baby Boy loved it....he was pushing to the front of the sample line constantly.

In the seafood department they got to pet a lobster!

At the end of the tour, H-E-Buddy came out and the kids got to meet him.  Baby Boy has recently learned to meet costumed characters by holding their hand....little kids find those characters terrifying but I think that's because everyone expects a hug or photo op.  Holding hands with a character (or even a high-5) is a lot less scary!  He held Buddy's hand for a while and we quickly determined that only one other child in our tour group was interested in meeting Buddy, the rest were too scared.

So Baby Boy went back to hold his hand again.  Then he went and gave Buddy a kiss.  Then a million high-5s.  Then he held Buddy's hand for an awkwardly long amount of time while Buddy was preparing to leave....it was kind of cute but I think that's just because I'm his mother.

Overall it was a great tour and Baby Boy really enjoyed it.  I hope he doesn't expect samples when we walk around the store from now on!


Field of Light - Discovery Green

On Sunday night we took the kids out to see the Field of Light art exhibit in Discovery Green (a park in the middle of downtown Houston).  It was the last night of the exhibit and I'm happy we saw it.  It only took about 10 minutes to walk through twice but then we got the kids' blood moving with a game of tag on the lawns.  Then the 2 smaller boys tried to roll down a hill and it was so funny - they bunch up and roll all over like a weeble (if you don't know what a "weeble" is, here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFzhjnjXc2o).

Here are some pictures.  As you can see it was an exhibit that consisted of 2 fields of tiny lights mounted on stems.  The lights changed colour periodically.  That was about it, but the effect was magical as we walked through.






Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trader Joe's

Last week Baby Boy and I went to Trader Joe's for the first time in Houston.  It was such a great experience!

Trader Joe's is a chain of tiny grocery stores that carries some specialty items and a wide selection of "own brand" products.  The prices are very good, particularly considering the quality of the products.  I went to the shop with a short list of things that I needed and a few things I wanted.

I easily found the booze and was happy to see that some of our favourite beers were in stock and about 20% cheaper than the grocery store.  I also bought some "2 buck chuck" to give it a try.

I was confused about coffee and a helpful employee found me and started our great customer service experience.  She arranged for me to sample a few of the coffees I was looking at while Baby Boy was served a large plate of French toast (made from challah) with grade B Canadian maple syrup.  He was in heaven....and coated with syrup.  We were the only customers in the store and the sample sizes were closer to meal sized.  Once I picked a coffee, she ground it for me and recommended that I change the coarseness of my grind - this suggestion was brilliant, my coffee is much smoother without any debris now.

After our snack, the helpful clerk took me to gather the items on my list, but for one that they don't carry (and she had never heard of).  We also managed to find a few other treats along the way.

Here in the U.S.A., Baby Boy always gets freebies at the store.  Usually a balloon, a sticker, or a cookie.  At Trader Joe's (maybe because the store was virtually empty) he was given treats all over the store....and he enthusiastically enjoyed them all!

The store was clean, organized, and the staff helpful.  The prices were good.  The atmosphere was calm and the queue was short.  Can't ask for more from a grocery store!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Texas Children's Hospital

Today I had my first experience at Texas Children's Hospital.  We were there for a scheduled appointment.  For the purposes of this blog post, it's not important what we were there for, but if you are close to me personally you will know why we were there, and I can assure you that everything is fine.

Anyways....

Texas Children's Hospital ("TCH") is in the Medical Center.  The setup reminds me so much of Dubai!  It's basically a district in the city where a bunch of hospitals and other medical services are located.  Curiously the zoo is there as well.  In Dubai there were many such districts with different purposes (Internet City, Media City, Sports Village, and more).  I think it's a messy setup.  You have bunch of people driving into a specific area for the same reason and parking and other services become very hectic.  It was the same in Dubai and here in the Houston Medical Center.  But that's just me....I bet the urban planners have a lot of positive feedback on the arrangement because it seems organized (it's not organized in real life).

It was a 20 minute drive to TCH but of course I caught the end of rush hour and it took closer to 40 minutes.  I accidentally missed the entrance to the parkade for TCH (the sign is set in on a side road) and had to circle back through a bunch of one-way streets to find parking.  There is valet parking for people who just want to ditch their car and run (I certainly did by that point), but the valet parking was full so I was directed into self park.  After negotiating my mammoth truck through rows of small car spots I finally found a good spot and we headed into the building.

At the elevators there are helpful cards that you can take indicating where you are parked.  I grabbed one and it proved to be very valuable!

We got into the elevator and immediately met an extremely helpful staff member who directed us right to the next elevator that we needed.  As we were walking between the 2 elevators we met someone else who was also very helpful.  We started to board the second elevator and a harried woman ran into the elevator, stopping the door with her brave wrist.  She jumped in, handed each of my boys (I only had 2 of them along) a toy in a box and then she ran out of the elevator.  I was very puzzled and I asked the other people in the elevator why she did that.  They explained that children always get a new toy when they visit the TCH for the first time.  Very nice!

We went to our waiting room and the kids put their new toys (still in the boxes) in the stroller while I checked in and filled in some forms.  They spent time playing video games and checking out new toys.  We also ate our snack.

When it was our turn, 2 very lovely ladies took us to our exam room and one insisted on taking the toys out of the boxes and putting batteries in them....they even had a screwdriver and the right batteries!  They explained that the new toys provide a lot of comfort to the children during their health exams and it's important to make sure they can cuddle them during the appointment.

Our appointment was about an hour and the service was great.  The doctors we saw explained everything clearly and gave me a written summary of our appointment. 

On our way out I used the helpful parking card and had an easy time finding my truck.  Then we met my husband for lunch.

Our appointment went very well.  It took a while - basically the whole morning - but the kids were entertained and happy throughout.  The service was patient and understanding.  There will be a bill for us to pay for the visit, but we have good insurance so it will be manageable.  I do find the medical centre set-up to be a pain!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.  Thanks everyone who sent cards, gifts, and messages.

I had a pleasant birthday.  We started with breakfast as a family and then my husband took a bike ride.  After that I went for a run.  Yes, you read that right.  I've recently taken up running and I'm actually enjoying it!  When I was in Las Vegas my friend inspired me to give it a try.  I've tried running before and hated it, but I've been using my elliptical trainer for a year now and I think it's helped me transition into some jogging.  I've still got some things to work out - like how to hold my water bottle (I'm a constant water drinker) and where to put my phone if I need to bring it.  Oh, and how to look like a cool runner.  But overall I'm enjoying it.

After showers we went out for a quick bit of shopping and I had some birthday luck at the shop.  The jeans I wanted were on clearance for a great deal!

After lunch and naps some friends came over for supper and we had a really nice evening.  My husband has been ill for a few days and it really caught up to him last night so he had to cut his evening short.

Overall a very pleasant day.