Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is wrong with people?

I have two annoying stories this week (so far). One might have been computer error but it ended with an individual providing misinformation. The other is all people....

Government Office

I needed to get a document from a government office to get my Texas driving licence. Last week my husband and I went with our consultant to apply for the document.  His was automatically approved but mine was not. Mine required an authentication from another government agency.

We were told that the process for my application was that the authentication would be sought and I would get a letter stating that my document had been authenticated.  Then later I would get the document I needed.  My husband would get his directly in one step. 

Our consultant told me I should try to call into the office one week after our initial application to make sure my application was moving thru the system. I tried to call on the appropriate day and the wait time on hold was estimated to be 1.5 hours!  As if I can wait that long.  I called a few more times with no luck. 

Last Friday my husband's document came in the mail.  I was jealous of how easy it was for him!  

I called in again on Monday morning and I miraculously got through straightaway!  I spoke with a clerk and no matter how it was searched he could not find my application.  

I was advise to go into the office and that the wait would be a few hours. We moved Monday so I could not go in. I planned to head over on Wednesday when I was next free. 

On Monday evening when I checked the mail, my document was in it!  I'm so glad I worried all day about why it wasn't in the system. 

WiFi

On Monday when we got back to our serviced apartment after a day of moving (with my document in hand), we got notice that our cable and WiFi were out.  The notice told us that we would be getting a delivery of MiFi the next morning.  We soon thereafter got notice that the schools were going to be closed due to inclement weather on Tuesday. 

So we dealt with no TV or internet on Monday night....not really a big deal as we didn't need either.  On Tuesday morning I knew that I had a long day ahead of me indoors with all three boys.  Also, the two younger boys had been stuck in the house moving all day on Monday. I had to keep the activities moving quickly. 

We started the day with cleaning, packing, and homework.  Big Boy completed all of his homework for the whole week and wrote some letters.   Little Boy did some activities to help develop small motor skills (modelling clay) and Baby Boy ate a banana. 

Late in the morning a man came and delivered the MiFi. He handed me a box with the MiFi machine and an instruction sheet. I tried to set it up and it didn't work. The password was incorrect.  I tried a few more times and I kept getting the same error message. 

I decided not to worry about it. I couldn't see what good WiFi would do me anyways with regards to entertaining the kids. We sorted our cardboard for recycling and did a few more chores and then headed downstairs.  We recycled and then I got the mail.  When I had to take mail to the front desk because it was for a previous tenant I decided to also ask for the proper password. 

There was someone talking to the lady at the front desk so we queued behind them.  When she had finished with the people in front of us I stepped forward.  I gave her the mail and then asked about the MiFi. She looked at the MiFi box and said "that came from corporate, I don't know anything about it". I asked her if I could get a different one because mine had the wrong password and she looked at me as though I was stupid and said "no, it's from corporate, I don't have another. They shipped it to you so you'd have WiFi."

I asked her if I could call corporate to get he right password and she sighed loudly and said "I'll call.  But not now.  I'm busy I have a tour.  Or maybe I'll get someone else to call."  I started asking a follow up question about when this might happen and she answered a phone call while I was talking.  So I interrupted her call to ask if she needed our room number which annoyed her greatly. 

I took the kids to the apartment common room for a hot chocolate next.  They had been good all morning and this was their promised reward. I would have let them watch telly if it worked. In the common room the kids were running about while I made the hot chocolates. I wasn't thrilled that they were but they were not being really bad. 

Just then the front desk lady walked in with the couple who were in front of us in line at the front desk.  They were on their tour.  She looked at the kids and gave the couple a knowing look and said "oh my".

I let the kids watch Thomas on the communal telly for a while and then we headed back toward our apartment for lunch. On our way up I decided to check if she'd called (it had been 40 minutes at least).  She wasn't there but the doorman assured me she hadn't called. 

I fed the kids and put them down for a nap and then my phone rang. She had called corporate and they gave her a new password. She repeated to me the password I had and gave me a lengthy explanation on the importance of using the correct case for case sensitive passwords. I tried again and it didn't work.  She said she'd call again. 

I fell asleep and while I was asleep she called.  Corporate had assured her that it was the right password and I was doing it wrong. 

At the same time my husband emailed our housing contact.  She contacted her contact and sent a cheat sheet over for logging in.  I opened it up and her password was identical....except for the case of one of the letters. I tried it and I could log in. 

Fancy that...a letter in the case sensitive password was written with the wrong case. And they thought I didn't understand the importance of case in a password!

Now I have MiFi and it doesn't fix anything.  The kids are making a blanket fort. 



Friday, January 24, 2014

Our EC Journey So Far

******Be warned, this is a very descriptive post about potty training.  If that bothers you, don't read on.******

At some point either near the end of my pregnancy with Big Boy or when he was a few months old (I can't remember which) I was visiting my parents and chatting with my grandma.  She mentioned that she had seen on the news a story about people who don't use diapers for their babies at all, they just trained them to use the toilet.  I thought this was strange but I remembered it and a few months later I looked up what she was talking about.  I found the book "The Diaper Free Baby" and checked it out from the library.  This was the start of our EC journey.

The practice of Elimination Communication or "EC" involves familiarizing yourself with your baby's toilet routines and using this information to train the baby to use the toilet.  There are many ways to practice EC and every family who practices EC is different.  For us it has been different with each of our boys. 

With Big Boy, I was inspired when I read the "Diaper Free Baby".  When I read the book Big Boy was just over six months old and he was becoming a steady sitter.  The day that I started reading it I went to Toys R Us and bought the exact potty that the author of the book recommended (as if at mattered) and brought it home.  I popped Big Boy on the potty and he immediately peed.  This was an exciting development so I kept sitting him on the potty at various times each day until he was regularly cued to use the potty when he was put on it.  He developed his own hand signal to let us know he needed the toilet and he became more accurate over time.

By the time he was about ten months old, he had developed a pattern for bowel movements and we were able to predict them nearly all the time.  I would put him onto the toilet in the morning while I got ready and close to supper time.  He was nearly completely accurately trained for bowel movements.  He definitely preferred using the toilet to having a soiled diaper. Over the next few weeks he became more accurate with pees and by the time that he started part time daycare at ten and a half months old he was using the potty almost exclusively.  Gradually we switched him over to underpants and he was trained.  It was wonderful!

For Big Boy we had to buy unusually small underpants because his transition was early.  Most of the stores in Canada stock underwear starting at size two or three but H & M had twelve month size with his favourite movie characters on them. 

Little Boy was entirely different.  I started putting him on the potty when he was a steady sitter and he had no issue with being on it, but he didn't seem to understand what it was for.  After a while he would use the potty every time I sat him on it but he was also happy to use his diaper.  I think that part of the problem was that he had bowel movements almost constantly throughout the day, so he was on no set schedule.  We continued with this pattern for months and finished up potty training him around his second birthday. Once his muscles had properly developed he easily mastered toilet training and he had no fears or hang-ups about using the toilet because he had been using it regularly for quite some time.  This was not an ideal EC situation, but I think practicing EC helped and was an overall positive experience with Little Boy.

Training Baby Boy is once again a different EC experience.  I started putting him on the potty when he was a steady sitter, but he didn't love the potty, so I tried to sit him on the toilet with a reducing ring and he was happy with that.  He would sit and play but not necessarily use the toilet.  After a couple of weeks, he started going to the toilet every time I sat him on it and Big Boy taught him to use his old potty sign.  We have gone through a lot of changes over the last few weeks and we have basically been living in a nomadic situation, but the one constant has been his toilet seat.  He now tells me consistently when he needs to use the toilet and since we arrived in Houston almost a month ago he has only pooped in a diaper three times (on two of these occasions he asked to use the toilet but I didn't take him quickly enough).  

Baby Boy tells me when he needs to use the toilet with the hand signal (every time) and I can usually get him to the potty on time (he isn't walking yet so I have to carry him).  Over the last work week, on three different days Baby Boy had no accidents from when my husband left for work until when he returned in the evening (evenings are usually chaotic and Baby Boy almost always pees in his diaper during supper), and on one of these days he was suffering from diarrhoea. If I was faster to respond to his cues, we could have perfect days, but with two other kids in the house, this is impossible!  Also when we are out of the house it can difficult to take him to the toilet. 

Speaking of outside the house, for the older boys I carried a toilet reducing ring and used it when we were out of the house.  With Baby Boy I have just been holding him on the toilet when our at-home reducer is not available and it is working really well. I'm happy to have one less piece of equipment to carry!

We don't have our shipment of household goods yet, but when it comes I may start to use underpants on Baby Boy.   I don't want to make the transition too early and cause him (and me!) unnecessary stress. 

Baby Boy wakes from nearly every nap and about half of his overnight sleeps with a clean dry diaper. His muscles are developing in this regard much earlier than his brothers.  Maybe we can be a "diaper free household" sooner than I thought!

Baby Boy is not quite trained but he is getting closer every day.  He understands his bodily functions and how to communicate them to his family (despite the fact that he is not talking yet) and this is the most important piece of the puzzle in potty training.  

Picky Eater

Today the schools were closed because of inclement weather (freezing rain - ha!  I'm sure in Canada people would still be wearing shorts). Anyways this meant that our move was rescheduled and the kids were all home with me. 

We are in a temporary apartment too far away to arrange any play dates so it was supposed to be a fun at home day.  The kids had fun, but Big Boy was looking for more excitement.  This made it difficult for him to cooperate in a couple of circumstances, notably when eating lunch.  

I made them tortilla wraps (Little Boy loves the tortillas here) with meat and cheese inside. Little Boy gobbled down two while Big Boy was still chewing on his first. Big Boy just didn't want to eat it. I found that odd because it was basically made out of grilled cheese ingredients (and he loves grilled cheese) but for the tortilla. 

I asked him what was wrong and he told me the cheese had too much flavour so he hated it.  What kind of cheese was it? American cheese slices....the least flavourful cheese I've ever tried!  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stormy Weather

We are preparing here in Houston for a big storm that will likely lead to school closures tomorrow.  Little Boy and I watched the storm rolling in from the window of our apartment this afternoon and now the wind is whistling around our building.  I'm prepared to avoid driving tomorrow on the predicted freezing rain.

Unfortunately we were scheduled to start moving into our "real house" tomorrow but we have pushed the move back to avoid weather complications.

This afternoon I decided to visit the grocery store and cash point to avoid shortage complications.  Both were very busy with people stocking up on random groceries and cash.  I hope we don't need them!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Long Weekend

We are wrapping up a "sort of" long weekend (Daddy didn't get today off but the rest of us did).  We had a busy but relaxing weekend. 

On Saturday I went with a friend to have pedicures. Then we had an amazing lunch at Lupes.  I could eat there all the time!  Then we had dinner with friends - proper Texas BBQ - deee-licious!

On Sunday we did errands and relaxed.  We also took the boys to the park to enjoy the beautiful weather. 

During our trip to the park, I decided to try some exercise equipment and I had a bit of an accident.  I basically tripped and fell on my side. So I bruised my knee and my ego, I scraped my arm, and stretched my muscles (or pulled them?) in a direction that they were not meant to go. I am very sore today!  My husband was just lovely about the whole thing and told me I looked like a whale falling over....thanks!  He even said a spray of dust came up when I hit the ground. 

Today I took the boys out to Memorial City Mall. We had one tiny errand to so and then I took them to the spectacular (free) playground.  They played for just over an hour and then we ate lunch.  Normally I'm not a fan of malls, but when you are not shopping, they can be very pleasant. I will definitely take them back. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Valet Issues - A True First World Problem

We are currently living in a temporary accommodation that was arranged by my husband's company.  It is a lovely serviced apartment that is conveniently located and has nice common areas. It also has valet parking.  

When you drive into the apartment, you have the option to valet park your car or to just drive it into the carpark yourself.  Parking by yourself takes more effort.  Not only do you have to drive and park the car, you also have to take an extra elevator and walk through a security door and a corridor to get to the apartment building.  Also, when you are transporting groceries or other items, if you use the valet, they can provide a grocery cart to take the groceries to the apartment.  If you park the car yourself, you have to walk to the lobby to get a grocery cart and then walk back to your car to get your items.

I love anything that simplifies my routine and when I come home it is much easier to jump out of the car, get the kids and stuff, and hand the keys to the valet.  The problem arises when I want to leave or I want to go back into the car.  I feel like a pest asking the valet to get my car out an hour after I came in, but that's my life - I'm taking 2 kids to and from school, running errands, and completing settling in tasks so I'm constantly coming and going.  Today I came home twice for about an hour - once to drop off groceries and once so that the kids could nap.   If I was in my own home I would not have even considered the short stays odd but it feels like my activities are under a bit of a microscope with the valet system. The valet appears to know my voice on the telephone when I call down for my car.

It's even more awkward when I forget something in the car.  The valet always offers to go get the item instead of bringing out the whole car.  I can see him looking at me with all three kids and thinking that he's making my life easier, but it's just so uncomfortable.  One day I thought I left a bag of groceries in the car but I actually forgot them at the shop. It took him 15 minutes to search my car and determine that it wasn't there - if he had brought out the car or given me the keys I could have made the determination in about a minute.  Instead, he had a rifle through the various bags in our car, including one with a used diaper.

We won't be here much longer and it is clearly not a "real" problem, but I have learned that the valet lifestyle is not all that it's cracked up to be.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back in the saddle again....

Today was an important day in terms of our relocation - we got our air shipment of personal goods. This was a very small shipment but everything in the shipment will make our lives just a little more comfortable here in our temporary accommodation.  

We got some much needed warm-weather clothes, some toys, important documents, and our computer equipment.  Most importantly, Little Boy got his bike and helmet.  He was so excited to ride his bike again. That excitement turned to crushing disappointment when we unwrapped his bike and it had been disassembled (why?  It can't have been to save space....other items in the shipment were packed very wastefully).

He was just about to burst into tears when the lovely man who was unloading our shipment offered to assemble the bike.  He put it together and Little Boy had amazing maiden voyage in Houston.  He was so happy his face could not stop smiling!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We have a stander!

Today Baby Boy started to stand on his own.  He gets up on his wobbly legs with his bottom sticking out and stands for a few seconds.  Then he realizes what he's doing and he falls into his bottom!  He has a big grin and can't wait to try over and over. 

I haven't managed a picture yet, maybe tomorrow!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Corner Bakery Cafe

I am looking for a new coffee shop to be my "go to" coffee shop here in Houston.  Today I took the two younger boys to the Corner Bakery Cafe. It's a cute little shop that is sort of on our way to and from school. 

We ordered a cappuccino, a kids hot chocolate, and a piece of lemon pound cake. Everything was delicious but it took a long time to get our order. I think they either forgot about it or found it complicated to make the kids hot chocolate. Either way, while we waited the kids got crumbs everywhere and the server was clearly not please. I have to say if the wait was more reasonable we would not have been so messy because they would not have had as much time to make a mess.

Anyways.....it is clearly not our new cafe. The wait plus the pricing takes it off the list. It's fun to keep searching!

Shuffling Along

Yesterday Baby Boy spent most of his free time shuffling along the edges of furniture.  He has shuffled before but yesterday it was his favourite activity. 

He crawls up to the low table or a couch, pulls himself up and then awkwardly shuffle-walks along the edge. When he gets tired he plops dramatically onto his bottom. 

Baby Boy has a pair of leather shoes (faux Robeez) from Superstore and when he wants to shuffle he finds both and brings them to me.  Then he lays them over his feet and shows me until I put them on his feet. 

He seems to have a fascination with shoes. He goes to our door a few times per day and tries to put all the shoes on his feet.  It's very cute!  Little Boy was also very interested in shoes. He used to bring guests their correct shoes when they left our house!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bread

Good bread seems to be both rare and approximately the price of gold dust in Houston.  The nicer supermarkets all carry bread that doesn't look and taste like a giant sliced sponge but it costs $4 and up per loaf!  Given that my family eats nearly a loaf in a meal, that's not a price I want to pay. 

I decided to buy a bread maker.  I shopped for one online and eventually I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond with a coupon that my friend gave me. The store only had one bread maker in stock and it was not the one I wanted. I decided to check online again before ordering one so I went home. In the meantime my friend linked me in with an online buy/sell message board. I posted a request for a bread maker and bingo!  Someone had one to sell. 

So I bought another used bread maker. I met a woman in a car park and we exchanged cash for a lightly used bread machine. 

I remembered the first few loaves I baked in Aberdeen (terrible!) and I assumed we would have to eat our way through quite a few flops before I was making good bread.  With that in mind I sorted out soup for my husband and I to have for supper and popped in ingredients for the first loaf.  I assumed we would be dunking imperfect bread in our broth. 

When the bread was finished, the cycle beeped and a perfect loaf came out!  It is tasty, has a lovely texture and a perfect crust!  

The loaf is bigger than my old bread maker would make (and the bread maker is also much larger).  This new bread machine has a few more options - crust colour, quick bake, etc. - and I'm really looking forward to using it. 


And yet another first day of school!

Little Boy had his first day at his new school today. It went really well.  He was not interested in me hanging about after drop off an he urged me to leave. I had paperwork to fill out at the school office and a few minutes later they told me he was playing with a new friend already. 

When I picked him up I saw the classroom in operation. The teacher was trying to teach them colours.  She would point to a colour and say "what colour is this?"   Each time Little Boy yelled "green", no matter what colour it was. 

His teacher said he had a good day and played well with his classmates. They are all girls!  I heard her telling another mum that her child had a rough day, so I know it's not one of those schools that only gives positive commentary!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Another First Day of School

Big Boy had his first day at his new school today.  We had an awkward start to the day because we are still living in our temporary accommodation. We had to drive to our rental house and then walk to the school. 

We arrived at the school just after the bell and waited in the crowded office for a few minutes.  Someone from the office walked us down to Big Boy's new class and we met his new teacher.  About a second later, Bog Boy was whisked into his new classroom - we didn't even have a proper goodbye!

I went to settle some paperwork and his lunch account and then I left the school. I spent the rest of the day running various errands and taking care of the other 2 boys before I went to pick up Big Boy. 

I was nervous when I was picking him up.  I wondered if he had a good day and whether he had made any friends. 

At pickup I spoke briefly to his teacher. It was such a relief!  The teacher said he fit right in and it was like he had always been there.  Big Boy was chatting with another student when I walked up - another good sign. 

As we walked home Big Boy chatted about his day and told me about his fellow students. He seems to really like his new teacher.

I'm so happy his first day went well. He is a very brave boy and approaches new situations with a fairly open mind. It was such a relief to see him chatting away with a big smile after school. 

He seems to like the new kids in his class.  He commented that he noticed that most of the boys have brown skin -not like his - but it didn't seem to concern him.  

We went home and had a special dinner and dessert for a treat to celebrate this important day. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's up with the weather?

When we were deciding about moving to Houston, so many people urged me to think about how nice it would be to have warm and mild winters.  Everyone said that although the summers were stifling the pleasant temperatures throughout the other 3 seasons would more than make up for it. 

It has not been warm since we arrived.  It has been - at best - no too chilly. Most days have been cold and windy. Right now a storm is moving in and we have been warned of freezing temperatures tomorrow. Today we visited our rental house and wrapped the exterior water pipe in insulation as well as turning on the taps to a drip. 

Our temporary accommodation is on a very high floor of an apartment tower.  This evening has been very windy and the building has been vibrating and making odd sounds because of the wind. It sounds like when you blow across the top of a bottle (or a flute mouthpiece). I hope I can sleep!  It is very loud!!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Houston Zoo

This morning after breakfast we headed over to the Houston Zoo.  We arrived a little before 10:00 a.m. and the parking lot was pretty empty.  My husband and I had free admission because of a deal from our bank and the kids had discounted admission so our total cost to get into the zoo was $20.  

We spent a couple of hours wandering around the amazing zoo.  It has a park-like feel and the animal habitats are open and airy. We focused on the African area and the big cats.  The kids loved the crawl through fish tank and I though it was cool to see the armadillo skittering around. 

I took a picnic lunch and we ate our sandwiches near the children's zoo.   As we were finishing our lunch the zoo started getting really busy.  On our way out I noticed that the parking lot was nearly full.

We had lots of fun at the zoo and it was beautiful.  The only complaint I have is that the washroom near the entry/exit area was very dirty.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Regular Day

Today we had what was close to a regular day.  My husband went to work and I spent the morning doing errands with the kids.  Big Boy is not in school yet, but otherwise it was pretty typical. 

Our first errand was to activate my debit card.  We drove to a location of our bank and I was shocked to find that it was not a traditional bank location but an enormous drive through with many lanes.  It looked more like a car hand wash than a bank.  I managed to pick the wrong lane so I parked nearby and walked through a lane to use the machine.  I may have looked funny but I got what I needed. 

After that we drove to what must be the world's ugliest post office.  Big Boy was unsure about whether we were even welcome in the building.  We went in to buy stamps and I tried to pay with cash.  Unfortunately there was no change left on the premises.  Someone was going to get change but they had not left yet and the clerk told me it would be a long wait.  I volunteered to pay with debit or credit. She said they could take debit but the machine was not working right.  I tried and the debit machine didn't work - no joy. The kids were (of course) getting rowdy and the line was getting long so the clerk started to get desperate.  After a few minutes the staff pooled change from their wallets to get rid of the customers waiting for change (me and a few others).  The line moved up a couple of spaces before being stalled again by the no cash issue.   By the way, my change was $28 so it was not like I was just going to leave without it. 

We finished up our errands with a long trip to Kroger, a grocery store. I didn't know where anything was (it was my first time in the store) so nearly every item took a long time to find.  The kids were tired and hungry and trying my patience by the end of the trip.  In the confusion (caused by the noisy kids) I left a bag at the store accidentally - it was fittingly the one with their treat (cupcakes).  

At the stores here they bag your groceries for you.  They are clearly not trying to reduce the number of bags used.   They often put only one or two items in a bag!

After shopping we had lunch at home with my husband and then the kids (and me too!) had a nap. I took the kids to the park in the afternoon and then we made a roast and some delicious green beans for supper.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Relaxing Days

We have had a couple of relaxing days.  On New Years Day we took the kids to a nearby park and my husband played basketball with them.  Then we came back to our apartment for naps before heading over to visit friends for lunch.  It was lovely to spend the afternoon visiting and eating delicious food. 

Today we went over to our new house and walked around the neighborhood. The kids played some basketball and I practiced my driving. After naps we went back to the basketball court before supper. 

The weather was very cold today....no need for the shorts I packed yet,