Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Swimtime and the Floating Enemy

Tuesday evening was Katy's first swim lesson. She has always loved swimming and been fearless when it comes to the water. For example, in Jamaica, when she would tumble off of the lounging mat and would be underwater for a second before I'd retrieve her, she be smiley and laughing when I brought her up. Well, being fearless is one thing, but we felt is was important that she be able to back up her fearlessness with some awesome swimming skills.

We arrived at swim much earlier than needed; I wasn't sure how long it would take to pick her up from school and get to the Y and change, so we ended up waiting around for about 25 minutes! It wasn't all bad; the wait helped build excitement for the swim class. And, I think it helped that I took her to the edge of the pool a couple of times to give her a quick dunk. :)

The first sign of trouble arose when the kids started lining up for the class; they were all grabbing a little flotation device that strapped to their backs. When Katy saw this, she immediately told me that she "didn't need one" and didn't want to wear one. I told her not to worry and that she wouldn't have to put one on unless/until a teacher told her that she needed one.

The instructors then split the kids into two groups: the experienced "Pikes" (the younger group) and the "Eels" were in one group and the new "Pikes" were in the other group. Katy and two other kids were in the new kid group. Inevitably, all the kids in both groups had to put on the floaties. Katy was screaming and crying and really carrying on about having to wear one, but I eventually just put it on her and then the instructor picked her up and comforted her in the water.

The instructors must experience bugged-out little kids fairly frequently, because "Miss Sue" was able to quickly calm Katy about the whole experience. After the kids got used to the floaties on their backs, they added two extra yellow arm floaties that they all wore, too. Then, they started swimming with the floats on. It was amazing to me to see how quickly and easily Katy took to swimming. Sure, she is being propped up by floats, but she was able to propel herself quite a distance fairly quickly.

Well, I was sure Katy was over the floatie issue when, from half a pool-length away, she called out to me, "Daddy, I like the floatie now. The floatie's OK now." After the class was done, she asked me, "Please, five more minues?" I told her that I was glad that she liked it and that we would do it next week, but that the teachers said it was done for today. She was cool with that.

I am glad that she still likes the water as much as she used to and that she is so ready to swim. I am relieved that she got over having to wear the floatie, too. I tried to use it as an example of how she should trust that Daddy is not going to suggest something that isn't good; we'll see if I can remind her of this the next time she is freaking out about something meaningless. :)

After swimming, of course, we still went swinging for a little bit before bed. The extra missing pieces arrived in the mail, so I was able to attach the rings and the hand-holds for climbing. I'll probably install the extra anchors in the next couple of days.

Tonight is Halloween, so there might not be much time for swinging, but we'll see. Katy is going as "Princess Dora." We bought her a princess outfit a while ago, but she recently has been saying she wanted to be "Dora." So, I suggested "Princess Dora": the "Dora" part will be that she will say "Gracias" for the candy instead of "thank you." ;)

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Swingset Adventure

Katy has been asking about a swing set of her own for several months now. As the days have passed, she has become progressively more aggressive about it. Well, it was her fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago, and Kendra and I decided that she would finally get a swing set. When I heard that Grandpa Carl was coming to visit this weekend and wanted to help with the swing set, I knew it was time to get one.

Last weekend, Katy, Kendra and went to Menard's and picked out a swing set. During the course of the week, I tried to get as much prepped prior to Carl's visit. I borrowed a chop-saw from my buddy and co-worker, Jason, cut all the wood to length and started the assembly of the pieces. There wasn't much time on Saturday to work on the project, but that night, I made the roof and the two sides that, when combined, become the tower.

The swing set before its creation.

Sunday, I needed to buy one more 2x4x8 to support the gray "climber", so I ran back to the store. While I was shopping, Katy and her grandpa moved all of the cut wood, tools and play-pieces outside to the planned location. Then, Carl and I moved the large pieces I assembled out of the walkout basement where I constructed them and into the backyard.

The swing set before its creation.

Shortly after we started, Katy was already asking if I would push her on the swings. It took all day, and multiple swaps of the battery for the drill, but we finished. By the end, she was crazy excited: hanging off me, wanting to climb on it, wanting to swing. She was very cute for the duration.

An excited little girl.

The excited little girl, again.

We were short a couple of pieces, but I went back to Menard's and asked about them during lunch today. We were missing a two lag screws, eight pan screws and two short chains (for the rings.) Apparently, the company that manufactures these swing sets, Playstar, is very good: the guy helping me called them and told them what I was missing; they talked to me, took my name and are Fed-Ex-ing the materials to my home.

The nearly completed swing set.

The entire process took about a week and much of the prep-work can be done by one person. The assembly process took all day on Sunday, but went much faster than if we had to cut everything as we needed it. It was a fun time, and it is a good feeling of accomplishment. A big thanks goes to Grandpa Carl: without his help and expertise, I seriously doubt that I would be posting about a finished swing set right now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reworking the Site

I am going to take some time to try to update the layout of the site. Some of the links might not work for awhile as I screw around.

As you can see, the site has a completely different look to it. When I first started my blog, I did a couple of pretty neat things. However, as time progressed, the neat things I was doing was making it difficult to add the even neater features, such as comments, that Blogger was adding.

Also, some aspects of the site were becoming outdated. The original blog I had here, the Silly Monkeys, was made with the intent of all my friends posting there. And, they did. However, as time went on, the interest faded and now it seems silly to even allow the option of it being a start page. I do intend on adding a link for posterity's sake, as well as the remote possibility it may yet be used again.

I think I will still put some thought into modifying the template so that I can change the look of the site without republishing everything.

In the mean time, give the comment system a try. :)

The Half-a-Sandwich Plan

As someone who has lost a modest amount of weight by obsessively counting calories, I have an insight into certain things that most people might not notice. Several of these insights are with regard to dining at restaurants, the most important being portion size.

Everywhere I eat, it seems that the caloric values of the food being served per person is much, much too high. An example is a burger with fries; regardless of which place you are eating, if it is a chain restaurant like Chilis, then you should expect a meal that consists of about 1300 calories, and that is without considering any additional condiments you might add after (like ketchup or ranch.) On my diet, both past and present, I have set a caloric intake value of 1500 per day. Thus, if I want to eat out, I have to know ahead of time and eat only minuscule amounts the remainder of the day, or the other option I have recently adopted: eat only half and take the rest home.

Even if not on a diet, I'd be amazed if it could be shown that anyone actually needs to consume 1300 calories at one meal. Mathematically, most men probably need no more than 2500 per day. If you eat 1300 in one meal, you are left with only 1200 for the rest of the day. So, while it is doable, the meal would necessarily be huge (more than twice as much) as each of the other meals for the day (assuming three meals). Eating out twice in one day (which happens frequently to those who travel for business) means eating more calories than one needs. And, most people like to snack at various points along the day, which becomes trickier.

A reasonable strategy is the one I listed above: eat only half the meal. A good rule of thumb is: if you are looking at your plate and think it looks like enough food, it is likely more than you need. If it looks like it isn't enough, then you are likely eating the right amount. Half a meal always looks too little, but it is plenty big enough. Take the other half home and eat it for dinner or lunch the next day. Or, if you really don't care for leftovers, either split with someone or just throw it away. Remember, it isn't a waste if you really don't need the food. I have had some limited success with convincing the guys I go to lunch with that we might consider ordering one thing and splitting it between two. If enough people did this, I am certain restaurants would change their portion sizes accordingly. Until that time, I am content to get a half-off deal on all my lunches.

I wonder why portion size is so ridiculously large in the US? I suspect it has to do with the concept of getting your money's worth: the more you get the better the deal. It also likely has to do with the cost of food to the restaurant: food is cheap, but the markup on it for being served is significant, and even more of a markup can be included if a larger portion is served. It might also have to do with the balance of quantity and quality: when I eat at the nicer restaurants, the portion size always seems much more reasonable.

As I briefly insinuated above, I have taken up my caloric restriction again; I had stopped keeping track and found it was very easy to return to my old ways of eating. A couple of months ago, I decided I needed to re-do my diet before it got way out of control. At 200 lbs, I wasn't even close to approaching my original pre-diet starting weight of 230 lbs, and I have already dropped back to a more reasonable 186 lbs. My intent is to get my weight to 180 lbs and then schedule my yearly free "healthy checkup" with my doctor. At that time, I'll discuss what a reasonable weight for me is. According to BMI, I'd need to drop to about 170 lbs to be at the top of the "normal" range, but BMI isn't a very accurate way to determine if you are at your ideal weight.