Friday, April 12, 2013

5 Favorite Things of the Week - 4/12/13

This week has flown by and I haven't gotten nearly as much done as I should have by now. I guess that's just part of being a mom, right? Well, here are my favorite things from this week.
  1. Book Bomb success. This week an author I know, Dave Wolverton (who writes under the pseudonym David Farland), had a tragedy in his family. His son was in an accident that caused severe brain trauma. There are sites set up to raise money to pay for medical bills which could easily reach in the millions. On Wednesday, a book bomb was held for Dave's books to help raise money. Another benefit of a book bomb is it raises the book's status so it's more visible on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. By the end, the book, Nightingale, reached #1 in contemporary fantasy for both books and ebooks, #2 for paranormal fantasy books and #84 overall for paid ebooks on Amazon. It's pretty amazing. If you are planning on buying things from Amazon, consider going to the book bomb link and then clicking on the link there for the book. After doing so, anything you buy on Amazon after will also pay back a little money to the Wolvertons. I'm so glad it was a success!
  2. School's back in session! This week Alex headed back to preschool after a week off for spring break. He was excited to go back and I was excited to spend some one-on-one time with Micah in the morning and get some stuff done.
  3. Fresh fruits and veggies. I've been trying to avoid going to the groceries the last couple weeks because we've been going over our monthly budget for food, but yesterday I headed to the store and got lots of fresh produce, like apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges, onions, sweet peppers, broccoli and spinach. I love having these fresh fruits and veggies around to make smoothies with (and more!). Despite having a completely loaded shopping cart, I also only spent $130 on food. Woohoo! 
  4. New smoothie. This week I discovered a killer smoothie combination: peanut butter, bananas and spinach. I'll be telling you all about it next week. Let's just say it's delicious and I think with the protein from the peanut butter, it works as a meal (I know it kept me full from lunch all the way till dinner, no cravings).
  5. Easter with family. Yes, this is a little late, but I missed my weekly post after Easter. We had a great time visiting with my hubby's parents over Easter. They also brought treats for us and the boys. I love getting to spend time with family :D.
Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vacuums: Review of the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

So I'm sure you're dying to know (and I've made you wait in anticipation long enough). So what vacuum did I end up buying? I went with the Dyson DC40. Let's go over why I picked it and then I'll talk about the what I like and what I don't.

Why I Chose the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

Here is why I chose the DC40:
  • Got it at Costco, which has a great return policy and they had it for $100 off.
  • Though it's an upright, it's light and you can easily maneuver it around furniture.
  • It's bagless with washable filters, so you don't have to replace either bags or filters on it. 
  • You can easily take it apart to clean the rug beater (have I mentioned I have long hair?).

What I Like about the DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

For the most part I do like this machine. Here are some of the highlights:
  • To release the cord, you just flip the cord minder down and then pull it off. 
  • It's really easy to dump the dust that's in the dust bin into the garbage (my one-year-old proved this by doing it himself ... all over the newly vacuumed carpet).
  • The dust bin opens at the bottom, so you're not taking it and turning it upside down to dump it (which I think would cause more of a mess).
  • It's light and easy to push around and get around furniture.
  • It has powerful suction to really clean the carpet.
  • And, as I mentioned, it's easy to take it apart to clean or to take out filters and such. 

Here's What I Don't Like about the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

Though it's a great vacuum, there are some things I would like to see improved:
  • Though the hose has really good suction, it's also really awkward to use. Half of it is a flexible hose and half is a stiff hose, and the stiff hose just seems to long and you can't take it off to use the vacuum without it.
  • The head doesn't go under the furniture. It's those days I wish I still had a canister.
  • It doesn't seem to work as well on hardwood floors. OK, so I don't have hardwood floors, but I noticed a lot of reviews mention this, so I figured I'd add it to the list in case you do. I really think this vacuum was made for carpeted floors (I haven't used it for the kitchen or anything so I couldn't say).

Just the Facts:

Store: Costco
Price: $400
Date Purchased: August 2012
Rating: 4/5
Recommended: Overall, yes, but it's an expensive vacuum. It's possible there are cheaper vacuums that work as well.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vacuums: Canister or Upright? Bagged or Bagless?

This week I'm going to be talking about vacuums, carpet cleaners and other topics related to carpet care. Today I thought I talk about what to look for in a new vacuum.

I used to own this Bosch canister vacuum
So last August, we moved from Utah to Washington so we could live closer to family. As we were getting packed up and ready, our vacuum died after 5 years of use. What bugged me the most about it dying though was the fact that it was just a part within the vacuum that no longer worked and if I could have opened it up to replace it, it probably would've lasted a few more years. But the manufacturers of the vacuum created it so there was no way to get the cover off of the head. There were no screws or anything as far as I could tell. I don't even know if I could have taken it to a certified vacuum repair shop to have it fixed because I didn't see how it could have been repaired. Typical of our throwaway society right? I hate that!

So I borrowed a friend's vacuum to get our place ready for moving and once I got settled into our new place, we decided to look for a new vacuum.

Canister or Upright?

Upright vacuum from Bissell
The first thing to consider is whether you want a canister vacuum or an upright. We really like our canister vacuum for the most part because the head was so small, it was able to get underneath furniture like the couch and beds so we didn't have to move furniture in order to clean underneath. It also makes vacuuming the stairs really easy and you were only pushing a light head back and forth instead of the entire heavy vacuum.

However, when I started researching vacuums, I discovered something about canisters. In order for them to work as well an upright, you need to have the motor that's in the body and a separate motor in the canister head. Otherwise, the head is using air to turn the rug beater and it's not going to have as much power as an upright vacuum. Because of this, the less expensive canisters are really made to work with carpets that have no pile whatsoever (which isn't very common for homes).

Obviously having two motors costs more, so in order to get a good canister vacuum that will do as good of a job as uprights, you're looking at paying $100 to $300 more than for a comparable upright. Something you'll have to consider if you decide you want an upright.

Bagged or Bagless?

Bagless upright vacuum by Panasonic
The next thing you'll have to consider when purchasing a vacuum is whether you want to go with a bagged vacuum or a bagless vacuum. Bagless vacuums seem ideal. You no longer have to pay for bags, which can be expensive. Instead just dump the dirt into the garbage when you're done vacuuming. There is a hidden cost to these bagged vacuums, though — the filters. Sometimes you don't think about the fact that many bagless vacuums have filters that have to be replaced every so often and can easily cost as much as vacuum bags.

Bagged vacuums come with bags. Many consumers try to buy off brand bags for their vacuums, but this isn't always wise. Branded bags are usually made using cotton and paper that is designed to trap particles so they don't escape when you remove the bags from the vacuum. These thick, 3-ply bags trap the dirt and dust particles so you can remove them cleanly. However, off brand bags often just use paper and have small holes in them allowing the smaller particles to escape releasing them back into the air to settle on the floor once again. If you're allergic to dust, it's especially important to buy the name brand vacuum bags.

So when it comes to vacuums, there are lots of decisions? Do you want to have a vacuum that is light and easy to push around? That's easy to clean stairs or can easily be transported upstairs and downstairs? Are you willing to put in an investment into your vacuum or would you rather pay less and go with a middle-of-the line vacuum?

Tomorrow I'll tell you which vacuum I chose and give you a review on it. In the meantime, tell me which vacuum you use. Do you love it or hate it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Activities for Preschoolers: Scissor Skills

This year, my son is part of the Head Start program, so every Monday through Thursday morning, he has school from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. It's great because he's learning a lot, not just about typical school stuff (ABCs, writing, numbers, etc.) but he's also learning other skills. They talk about what to do if you're angry, how to wait your turn, sharing, eating healthy, etc. They also serve the kids breakfast and lunch, which is awesome because that's 8 meals a week that I don't have to worry about feeding Alex. It's also great because that's 14 hours a week where he's out of the house and I can get more done without worrying about IBS — I'm Bored Syndrome.

But this week is Spring Break, which means Alex is home all day every day. This is especially hard for me since I'm a work-at-home mom, so it's not like I can just take time off and spend it with him. Still, I am trying to use the time to be with him more and not work the whole day.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten by Teaching Your Preschooler to Use Scissors

Before Alex started at Head Start, I didn't even think about working with him on using scissors. I taught him his letters, shapes, numbers and counting, animals, etc., but scissors never entered into the equation. Then last week the teacher said to me right before leaving on the last day, "Alex really needs help on using scissors. Maybe you could work with him on it over the break." I was thinking, What? Why? Why would being able to use scissors be important? Luckily for me, there's the Internet.

Why Kids Need to Learn to Use Scissors 

  • Cutting with scissors builds muscles in the hands needed for fine motor skills like writing and painting — anything that requires a grip. 
  • It helps strengthen hand-eye coordination, so your child is more coordinated (like for throwing balls and such). 
  • It works on bilateral coordination — two sides of the body work together (for example, holding the paper with one hand while cutting with the other).

Ways to Practice Using Scissors

There are many ways to practice using scissors with your preschooler. The important thing is to not stress about it too much and go with what you're up to doing that day. Here are some ideas:
  • Draw shapes on a piece of paper and then have your preschooler cut them out. After, you can decorate the shapes together. We just used scrap paper I had in the recycles bin for this.
  • Print out some worksheets, like those found at Kids Learning Station, and have your child cut along the line.
  • Create an art project that requires cutting, such as this one from Make and Takes. That way it's fun and your preschooler won't realize that it's practice. If you need inspiration, there are lots of ideas on Pinterest.

When Should You Start Teaching Your Child to Cut with Scissors?

Did you know that you should start having children use scissors as early as 2? I had no idea, but I suspect it's why Alex is so far behind in writing, so it's definitely something we'll be working on, and I'll start working with MW on it sometime in the next year. Here are the recommendations for when you should teach your child what:

  • 2 years old: Use scissors to snip the ends off of pieces of paper
  • 2.5 years old: Cut through a piece of paper from end to end
  • 3 to 3.5 years old: cut along a line that's 1/2 inch thick (should be able to stay within that line without cutting outside of it more than 3 times)
  • 3.5 to 4 years old: cut out a circle (should be able to stay close to the line for at least 3/4 of the circle)
  • 4.5 to 5 years old: cut out a square
It's also recommended to use a variety of thicknesses, starting with thick paper and working towards thinner paper (which is harder). Materials would include play dough, thick folders, construction paper, regular paper, and then tissue paper.

When choosing scissors, find ones that allow for stability, such as these children's scissors, especially the ones on top from Fiskars. These allow stability, making cutting easier, and they have blunt ends that are rounded.

Alternative Activities to Using Scissors

If your child doesn't have the strength yet to use scissors, there are other activities they can do that use the same muscles so they can build up to using scissors.
  • Use tongs to pick up objects and put them in a bucket.
  • Cut out pieces of paper and have your child use tweezers to pick up a piece of paper and drop it into a box.
  • Have child use a single hole puncher to punch holes in paper.
  • Create a race where your child has to pick up an object with tongs and carry it to the other side of the room and drop the object into a tub.
So if you're looking for ways to help your preschooler prepare for kindergarten, don't forget to work on those scissoring skills! What things are you doing to help your preschooler prepare for kindergarten? I'd love to hear it!
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