Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Birthday Party Games

Personalized Keepsake ScrollsWhen it comes to birthday parties, we go all out. For my children's parties, I usually have some sort of craft or activity planned that is age appropriate for most of the guests. For instance, my daughter had a "Blue's Clues" party at age two, and I provided blue play doh, Blue's pawprints to find, and a Blue's Clues puzzle for kids who wanted to do a puzzle. (We also asked everyone to wear blue!) My son had a pirate birthday party at age 4, and I hid some clues and sent the party guests on a hunt for the "treasure." For my daughter's third birthday, she had a princess party and everyone dressed up (except for the boys!) We had made some wooden princess wands that they painted and decorated with glitter and sequins. The boys made slingshots and we gave them some items to "sling!"
But let's face it: most parents don't have the time to plan elaborate events and want to get the birthday party done quick and easy. That is where birthday party printables come in handy! These printables are games and activities for all ages, even adults. They are perfect for winter time when it might be too cold to go outside to "wear off the sugar." The next time you have a party coming up and not enough time to plan, you might find one of these activities just right for your party!


Ron Paul 2012!

Red Ear Slider: Turtles are a LOT of Work!

About a year and a half ago, my son decided he wanted a turtle. To his dismay, it is illegal to purchase turtles in the state of Kansas. Darn it.

His dad told some friends of ours to be on the lookout for a baby turtle in their creek. To my dismay, they found one. It was a red-eared slider, maybe an inch and a half long. He was a cute little booger. But soon, I found out how much trouble turtles are, and how much they cost!
At first, we dug up worms and fed him that. Then it got too dry and worms were hard to find. But that was the least of my concerns. We kept him in a little plastic box with water. At least I knew it was an aquatic turtle, but that was all I knew. At the pet store, thankfully I ran into someone in the turtle aisle who knew all about red-eared sliders. I realized then how little I knew, and it was a miracle that the turtle had survived thus far! I did know enough to take the turtle outside everyday, but did not realize how much water they needed to be in. They have to be in enough water to turn 360 degrees, because if they end up on their back, they have to be able to turn over. If the water is too shallow, they can drown. Weird, huh? Here are some other things I learned...
1. An adult red-eared slider will need a tank AT LEAST 40 gallons in capacity.
2. It is necessary to have both a basking lamp (over a "turtle dock") where the turtle can bask, as well as a lamp providing UVB rays, necessary for keeping the turtle's shell healthy.
3. Young turtles should eat everyday, while adults can eat every other day. Commercial pellets are available, which are very convenient and not expensive at all.
4. The average life span is 20-40 years with proper care.
5. Cleaning a turtle tank is very important to keep the turtle healthy. A filter appropriate to the size of the tank must run constantly. The sides and bottom should be scrubbed when scum begins to accumulate. It is easier to have no rocks at the bottom of the tank, so that debris like turtle poop and leftover food can't hide. When debris accumulates, there is s simple siphoning vacuum that works well. The water should be changed frequently. The filter should be replaced about once a month.

As you can imagine, most of the responsibility of the turtle, aka "Snappy," has fallen on me. My son does help me, but I would prefer it not be my job at all. I mean, it's not like a puppy that can warm your lap or give you "those eyes." It's a turtle! A cold-blooded, hard-shelled, appreciate nothing turtle! But my son loves him, so I do what I need to do. He wants a parakeet for his birthday. That's NOT gonna happen! Here is Snappy now...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In-line Skates Review

Before I had kids, I enjoyed rollerblading, and did it often. But once pregnant, and then pushing a stroller, I gave up the hobby and got rid of my skates, thinking I would probably never skate again. Then my kids got older and loved going skating on weekends, and of course, I had to join them! When my son outgrew his roller skates, he wanted "rollerblades," or inline skates. I found a great pair at Sports Authority a couple of years ago. They adjusted from sizes 1-4, and he put them on and loved them from day one. My daughter continued to wear her "Barbie" roller skates until she outgrew them, and got her brother's hand-me-down rollerblades, which were still as good as new. He moved up to the next size, which fits sizes 5-8. Shortly before Christmas, I found a great deal on some for me, and then found the male version of my skates for my boyfriend. We were all set to go. Or maybe not.

My boyfriend had bought his three kids some inline skates from Target. Like my kids', they also were size adjustable. They were a little cheaper than what I paid for my kids' skates, but looked very similar. One of his daughters had worn my daughter's rollerblades, so she immediately complained that the wheels on her new skates did not "go" like they were supposed to. They did not sound the same either. They had a plastic sound, where ours have more of a rubber sound. They all felt rubbery, but obviously they are not all the way through. Then, my boyfriend's son put my boyfriend's on, and my boyfriend put his son's on, and that's why I am writing this. His son was unable to hold his feet quite right in his own skates, but when he put on his dad's skates, his feet were straight, and he immediately was able to skate better. My boyfriend said that he could actually feel the line of wheels under his foot in his son's skates, rather than feeling like his foot was on the platform that sits over the wheels. It was a HUGE difference! Why is this?

Well, first off, price has a lot to do with it. All of the skates for me, my boyfriend and my kids were Rollerblade brand inline skates. I did not realize it at the time, because my kids' were labeled "Bladerunner" which I found out later are made by Rollerblade. There are other brands out there, which I'm sure are just as good, but the only experience I can speak of is with Rollerblades. My boyfriend's skates are the Rollerblade Spiritblade Xt Men's Skate, my skates are the Rollerblade Spiritblade Xtw Women's Skate, and my kids' are the Rollerblade Bladerunner Phaser Kids 4 Size Expandable Skate. I looked at the construction of the skates, comparing the cheaper skate to the Rollerblades. Visually the construction is a bit different, but structurally, the cheaper skate is much more flimsy and doesn't seem to provide the stability necessary to keep the ankles straight. The brand to avoid is Schwinn. I'm not sure if Rollerblade was the first company to put out inline skates, but I know that they have been making them a lot longer than Schwinn, and I'm guessing that Rollerblade has worked out the kinks over time and Schwinn is putting out a product that most people won't know is inferior. But after seeing both brands next to each other, and with three of us able to try both kinds, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, the difference in price is insignificant when you look at the difference in quality. It is possible that a child in the Schwinn skates will never be able to skate well. They can literally turn a child excited about skating into a child who puts them away to never try again.
If you are shopping for inline skates any time soon, save up a little longer and get the better brand!

Tom Woods