Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swim vests

Last summer, Chickie took swimming lessons at a nearby park. She didn't learn to swim, but she did get over a lot of her fear in the pool, which, in my book, spelled success.

During some of the lessons, the pool put swim vests on the kids. Seeing how much more freedom and safety that offered Chickie, I wanted to get vests for both kids. I did some research on Amazon and ended up getting them each an Original Konfidence Jacket. They weren't cheap, but they were highly-reviewed on Amazon, and I bought gender-neutral colors so that Zoodle can use Chickie's when she doesn't need it anymore and he's a little bigger.

We seem to be swimming more this summer, so the vests are getting good use.

I've gotten questions online and in person about these vests, so I wanted to write a brief review.

The most important thing to realize about The Original Konfidence Jacket is that it is a swim vest, not a life vest. Honestly, I was surprised and disappointed that they were not ultra-buoyant. To compare, here is the type of vest that Chickie used at lessons:

Image source: Amazon. Click on image for purchasing information.

That vest really kept her head completely out of the water with no effort on her part.

The Konfidence vests are different. They don't hold a child's head high out of the water. If Chickie stayed stationary and relaxed in the deep end, wearing the vest (which she doesn't unless I'm holding her), part of her head would be under water. This vest requires Chickie to tread water in order to completely stay up. (By the way, the reviews on the Amazon site don't indicate that all kids have this issue.)

So last year, the vests really weren't that useful to us. Neither Chickie nor Zoodle had the confidence (or Konfidence?) to be in deep water without a parent to hold on to. Zoodle is still that way this summer.

However, something has "clicked" in Chickie's head this summer, and she is enjoying "swimming" (dog paddling) in her vest. She has to move her limbs to keep her head completely above water. She's learning some basic water-treading skills, and I love that. If she had a vest that was totally buoyant, she wouldn't be as motivated to figure out what it takes to tread water.

Another thing I love about this vest (and the most important selling factor to me) is that the eight "floaties" inside the vest are removeable. So as a child becomes more confident in the water, the parent can gradually remove the floaties (two at a time, in a particular order) to give the child less and less assistance.

I think before too long, we'll probably be able to remove the first two floaties from Chickie's vest. And while I'm tired of holding Zoodle so much in the pool, he seems to be getting a little more comfortable, so I hope that by the end of the summer, he'll experiment with treading water and dog-paddling too. We'll see!

The last thing I appreciate about these vests is they seem to be very comfortable. The kids don't complain about wearing them at all. And the vests don't float way up (with the shoulders of the vest level with the kids' ears) like many life vests do.

Before long, we plan to get Chickie into an acclaimed swim program near us. We'd like her to have at least a couple of months of quality swim lessons soon so that she can learn the basics of swimming when she's young. But as a family who doesn't swim that often, swimming lessons haven't been our top priority. The Original Konfidence Jacket vests are a nice way for our non-swimming kids to have some extra safety and assistance in the water, until they learn to swim.

However, if you are looking specifically for a vest that keeps a child's head out of the water, check out the other one I linked to above. It's an "all-or-nothing" vest (no removeable floaties) but really does help a child to have fun in the pool without worrying about getting water in their nose and mouth.

Disclosure: This is not a paid review; we bought the vests ourselves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is this a Christian blog?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that we've had a houseguest recently. Our pastors recently moved, and our church has invited a really great couple, Jerry and Wilma, to be our new pastors. We don't know yet if that's going to work out, but Jerry is here for three weeks, preaching on Sundays and getting to know church members.

I was nervous about welcoming him into our home since I didn't know him well before he came. However, as the visit got closer, I became more and more comfortable with the idea of him being here, with excitement crowding out my dwindling nerves. When The Engineer first asked if I'd be willing to invite him to stay with us, I was hesitant. But I felt like God was urging me, "Do it; it'll be a good thing." So we did.

And having Jerry here has been a very good thing. I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I spend a lot of time with houseguests! Jerry offers so much encouragement and wisdom. We don't see eye-to-eye on every issue, but his heart is full of love and faith. It's been wonderful to get to soak up all of that as we have great conversations about faith and politics and church and all sorts of other things. Right now he's visiting an out-of-town friend for a few days, but I expect more of the same good stuff when he returns.

When I started this blog, I decided I didn't want it to be a "Christian blog," even though I'm a Christian who blogs. I reasoned that I didn't want to limit my audience in that way.

But the other motivation was that I care so much about what other people think of me, and when it comes to something as polarizing as spiritual beliefs, I often stay quiet, because I don't want others to look down on me. I don't want the awkwardness or rejection that can come with disagreement. It scares me.

But in the last couple of weeks (starting before Jerry came, but definitely accelerated by his visit), I've felt my connection with God being revitalized. I'd lost most of the passion in my spiritual life, and I was okay with that. I'm not okay with it now. I'm seeking God deeply again, and I want to keep that up. I'd forgotten the peace and joy I have when I'm really connected with my Father.

With all that happening, I've been considering what I blog about. If my walk of faith is important to me, I want to give myself the freedom to be honest about it. I want to write about what's on my heart, whether that's a recipe, or a parenting story, or something I'm experiencing with God.

But I also want to be clear about something: It's not my job to convince others to believe the way I do. I don't want to manipulate anyone. I don't want to bang anyone over the head with my beliefs. I don't want to judge anyone. An important part of my faith is believing that God is strong enough and loving enough to draw people close to him. That's not my responsibility.

I just want to let God lead me in every part of my life, and I want to be open about that. I want to stop telling myself that talking (or writing) about Him is too scary.

So is this a Christian blog? I'd prefer to say that it's a Beth blog. It's about the things that interest me--family and cooking and crocheting and running (or, these days, walking.) And my faith affects all of those things, so yes--it's about faith too. It's not about sermonizing. It's just about me being real...and me welcoming you here, wanting you to be real too.

Whether our realities are similar or different, I'm glad you're here. Even if you can never be a guest at my house, I'm always happy to welcome you as a guest here, at my blog. (And I don't even have to tidy up the house for you!)

Sprinklers...and life vests

Friday, we went to a local outdoor mall that has a nice splash pad. (Marketing has become so creative, hasn't it? Get the kids to the mall for free sprinklers; and maybe the parents will go into the stores and restaurants for some non-free items.) We were there with Ann and her family.

Zoodle delighted me when we took off his shirt and and he asked,

"Mommy, can I have my life vest?"

I'm not sure if he understood my explanation of why life vests aren't necessary at splash pads, but he willingly ran off to get wet.


At one point, all four kids decided that they wanted more of a full-body experience.


Our temperatures have been hitting triple digits almost every day, with heat indexes at times several degrees higher. If this goes on for long, adults may start bringing their bathing suits to the splash pads too!

Thanks to Ann for the photos!

Monday, June 20, 2011

My new crocheted handbag!

I'm so excited! I have a new handbag! As I've shared, I don't get new purses very often. In fact, the one I blogged about two years ago is the one I just replaced! (Apparently I still liked the color scheme, since I unintentionally chose the same basic colors for this bag!)

For some time, I've wanted to make a crocheted purse, but I wanted it to be fully lined so that small items didn't end up poking out of the stitches. So with the summer lull (not too many hats are needed this time of year!), it was the perfect time to choose fabric (a heavy cotton print that will really last) and yarn (100% wool), and to do the really fun part...figuring out a custom pattern!

I was working on it last night and kept getting closer to the end, so I repeatedly put off bedtime. I finally finished it a little before 2:00 this morning, and I love how it turned out!


Would you like to join me on a tour of my new handbag?

Beth's Bag
(I really need a more interesting name for this design--any ideas?)

I wanted the bag to be roomy, but I didn't want things to get lost in the bottom of it (as they did in my last purse.) It's about 13" x 8" x 5"...plenty of room, but shallow enough to really see what's in there. For the outside, I made widely-spaced ribbing, with a faux cable design (front and back.)


I was excited to use magnetic clasps for easy closure. I used one on the top...


...and smaller ones on the sides. The sides will stay clasped most of the time--it helps prevent them from poking out when the purse is closed. But if I need to open up the purse a little more, I can easily unclasp the sides to expand it a bit.


But as you can see, even with the sides cinched up, there is a lot of room in here!


The inside has two main chambers, with some smaller pockets built into the lining. I really thought about what size pockets I wanted. In one place, I have four narrow pockets. Two are shallow (for packets of gum, business cards, lipstick, etc.) and two are long (for sunglasses, tampons, etc.) If I make this design again I'll probably eliminate one of these pockets and make the other three a little wider. I may add another pocket or two on an open area of lining next time, too.


In another area is a pocket that is sized just right for a smartphone, plus skinny, narrow pockets for pens and pencils.


The straps are lined too, and like all the lining and all the pockets, I doubled the fabric so it's nice and thick. The straps feel cushy and comfy!


I love this bag! If you love it too, you can order one. A custom-made bag in this design (in a color scheme of your choice) is $125 (plus $5 shipping if applicable, and 8.25% sales tax for Texas residents.) I'd also be happy to make bags of other sizes to fit various tastes and budgets.

With the lining, extensive crochet work, and finishing (including sewing the lining to the bag by hand along the top, bottom, sides, and straps), one purse requires significant time to make. But I know I'll be treasuring my one-of-a-kind bag, and I hope to provide that same opportunity to others!

Handbag designed and stitched by C. Beth.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My relationship with my books

My best friend Ann loves to read. I love to read too. But we treat books very differently. When I've read a book once, it looks about the same as one of Ann's books would look if she read it five times. (Actually, her book would probably still look brand-new!)

So Ann and I agreed to each write today about our feelings about books, and how we treat them, and why. Ann's post is at her blog; be sure to check it out when you're done!

I go through phases where I don't read a lot, but I always come back to books. And when I'm reading a good one, I like to read everywhere.
  • When I was in junior high, I'd walk through the hallways reading books. (I have no idea why people thought I was a nerd!!)
  • I often have a book with me when we're going somewhere as a family. The Engineer drives; I read.
  • I read in the tub--and have multiple formerly-waterlogged books, with their wavy pages, to show for it.
  • I read while I'm doing my hair, or cooking, or folding laundry. That means that sometimes I purposefully break the spines of my paperback books so that I can prop them open more easily...with a bottle of lotion, or a kitchen utensil, or anything else I can find.
I've considered why I don't treat my books very well, and I think I've figured it out.

I don't love books. I love reading. Books are just the tool, and just as I don't have a particular attachment to a hammer or a wrench, I generally don't have a particular attachment to the paper and glue and thread that make up a book.

If a book gets wet, I'm very annoyed. But that's partially because wet books are hard to read! And the risk is worth the luxury of relaxing in the tub, reading. I don't mind broken spines, as long as the pages aren't falling out (very inconvenient.) And I think the idea of a bookmark is an excellent one, but I seem to always misplace them...which is why my books so often have the corners folded over, or are left open and facedown. (I should point out that I try to treat loaned books with more care...but I'll admit sheepishly, I've had to pay for borrowed books that I've dropped in the tub!)

Those who adore books--the tools--talk about loving the smell, and the feel of the paper, and the action of turning a page. I can understand that, but I don't really relate to it. Lately I find myself disappointed when I have a book in paper format instead of on my Kindle. My Kindle doesn't have to be propped open. It's light and portable. (And when I seal it in a quart-sized Ziploc it's suddenly waterproof, so I still get to read in the tub!)

I am deeply in love with the hobby of reading. But the book itself is not my lover; it is my servant, allowing me to spend time getting lost in the object of my passion--the story.

Click on over and read Ann's post about her relationship with her beloved books. Then let us know--how do you feel about reading, and how do you treat books?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paying for peace of mind

A few years ago, a very young Chickie dropped my cell phone in a bird bath.

It died.

Then several months ago, Zoodle dropped a different cell phone in the (full) bathtub.

It died, then came back to life, then died again. For good.

Considering my history with cell phones, I have been so nervous that my new Android phone (the LG G2X from T-Mobile) will break. I've considered buying insurance through T-Mobile, but I know it doesn't cover dropping, water damage, etc.

The other day, my mom emailed me about a warranty company that my dad has started using for all his electronics warranties. It's called SquareTrade.

My mom dropped my dad's Kindle e-reader twice, and it broke. They had purchased a SquareTrade warranty that covers ADH (Accidental Damage from Handling.) My mom submitted a claim online, and the next day she shipped the Kindle to SquareTrade with a prepaid label. The full purchase price was credited to their Amazon account that same day! (In fact, they got 5% extra by taking an Amazon credit instead of cash.) They didn't even have to pay shipping or a deductible.

I decided I wanted to look into SquareTrade for my new Kindle and my new cell phone. Then I was lucky enough to find a coupon code online. By using the coupon code "FATHER" I was able to get $30 off a 2-year cell phone warranty (making it $95 plus tax), and 30% off a 3-year Kindle warranty (for a price of $23.09 plus tax.) Both have ADH coverage (though there is a $50 deductible for the phone if I use the ADH coverage.)

I was hesitant on the cell phone warranty in particular--that's kinda pricey, just a little less than I paid for the phone! But I only got that price for the phone because I was eligible for upgrade. If I have to pay for a new phone due to an accident before I'm eligible for upgrade, it will cost me $400. Knowing my history with phones (and other electronic devices!), and knowing my kids play games on my phone, I figured $100 or so was a good investment. And $25 or so for three years of Kindle coverage is a great deal!

This isn't a sponsored post; I just wanted to pass along the information. Hopefully someone else will be thrilled, as I was, to find a great alternative to extended warranties from electronics manufacturers or retailers. Click here to check out SquareTrade.

And remember that great coupon code, "FATHER." (If it has expired, try some of the other SquareTrade coupon codes at

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stupid watermelon.

The kids just finished off our first watermelon of the season.

Thank goodness.

Because I kinda hate watermelon.

What's that you say? "Watermelon tastes like summer." "It's sweet and juicy." "One melon feeds a whole crowd for $4."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Watermelon tastes good, but I really don't think a slice of watermelon tastes any better than a ripe peach or a sweet orange or a perfect pear....all of which are conveniently sized as single servings.

First, there's the whole cutting part. I don't know about you, but I don't often carve up objects that are larger than basketballs, and when I do, I'm not that good at it. It's hard to cut around it evenly. I'm afraid it's going to roll off the countertop and spread its juicy goodness into every nook and cranny of my kitchen.

And then it's time to eat it, and wouldn't you know, my kids love watermelon. So they eat and eat and eat. At least 15 cups of watermelon juice end up spread over the table, the chairs, and the floor. Hands and faces are coated in the sticky juice. And somehow they still ingest enough to distend their stomachs, until it all turns to pee and they're hungry again eight minutes later.

Yes, that's a real post-watermelon-gorging-session pic of Zoodle from a few days ago.

And then I've got messy kids, a sticky table and floor, and at least half a watermelon that I have to somehow fit in my refrigerator. Because, you know, there's always so much extra room in there.

That rotund, overgrown juice container we call "watermelon" is my summer nemesis, and this year, I'm tempted to say that the first melon is also the last.

And don't even get me started on pineapple.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hat swap!

Recently I designed & crocheted this cow hat for my fantastic friend LEstes65.


When LEstes posted it on Facebook, her friend Bill saw it. He commissioned this black & red hat (also designed by me--and great for girls or guys!)


And Bill offered to barter, so I got my very own fleece hat, handmade by him!


I love that I can make a little money by selling hats, but doing a swap was really a fun alternative! (You gotta admit, the hat looks far better on my head than money does!)

Now if only it wasn't so hot and humid outside....

I haven't posted much about crochet in my blog recently, but I do put my hats on my C. Beth Crochet Facebook page, so feel free to follow me there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ever-changing figure

I was watching some old videos of the kids this morning. In one of them, my dad and Chickie were dancing, and suddenly I entered the picture, holding baby Zoodle and dancing too. I think Zoodle was about five months old.

It was so strange looking at my body in the video. It was almost like it was someone else's figure--at least the top half. The first thing I noticed was my milk-makers.

Wow, I thought, were they ever really that big? And then, Did I fully appreciate them for the little bit of time I had them?!

If you know me in person, you know that when I say "big," we're not talking Dolly Parton. Not even close. But, well, they were doing a great job making milk.

My waist looked different too--still kinda squishy from being stretched way out for the second time in three years.

And I look at myself now. My waist is tighter, thanks to exercise. My milk-making factory has been shut down for a long time, and that part of my body is back to its normal very-petite size. (That may not be optimal for bathing suit season, but it's great for running--these little things don't bounce around much!)

Like I's almost like I'm a different person.

And I love the beauty of my changing figure.

I'd like to talk to fellow biological mothers for a minute. Ladies, aren't our bodies amazing? They can metamorphose in all sorts of ways. The abdomen stretches way out in front, then slowly shrinks back down. Breasts grow full with milk when it's needed, and gradually dry up when it's not. And all sorts of other parts join in on the beautiful dance of a body that can change its purpose, and its looks, when it needs to. It never quite goes back to the way it was before...and that's okay.

In future days when I see wrinkles deepening and age spots darkening, I hope I can look back at photos and videos and be thankful for all of the phases my body has gone through--and for the phase it's in at that moment.

This body will never grace the cover of a magazine...but it's doing its job, and it's doing it well.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A nose and a nurse

We had a busy day today, but I was looking forward to ending it by hanging out with friends at a pizza buffet and then at the park. I loaded up the kids at 6 to go to the restaurant.

When we were about five minutes away, Chickie started crying. "My nose is bleeding again!" she wailed.

I looked back, and sure enough, blood was running all the way down her chin, and she was getting more hysterical by the minute. She had her first nosebleed yesterday, and this is new territory for both of us--I didn't deal much with nosebleeds when I was a kid.

I grabbed the Kleenex and kept grabbing handfuls to hand to her, but it was so messy--blood on her face, in her mouth, on her hands, on the seat belt, on her dress. To make it worse, her screaming was completely freaking out Zoodle, and he joined in with his own panicked screams.

"Please, calm down!" I said. "Please!"

Completely distracted, I somehow made it to the restaurant. I did a little bit of hasty clean-up, but Chickie nose was still bleeding, and both kids were still emotional wrecks.

We got inside the restaurant, where I led them directly past the cash registers where I was supposed to pay for our buffets. No one attempted to stop me. I doubt anyone wanted to mess with two crying children, one of whom had blood all over her; plus a mom with that taking-care-of-business fire in her eyes.

We hurried to the bathroom. As I worked on getting Chickie cleaned up, both kids were still hysterical, and Zoodle kept choking out between sobs, "I want somebody to hold me! I want Daddy!" (Daddy was in a meeting.)

A woman came into the bathroom. "I'm sorry," I told her, knowing my kids' panic was taking over the small area.

"That's okay!" she assured me with a smile, and she headed into a stall. When she exited a couple of minutes later, she asked, "Is everything all right?"

"She just has a bloody nose," I explained.

And then things began to turn around.

"I'm a registered nurse," she said. "Do you know how to make a nose tampon?" (Yes, I just wrote "nose tampon." As if the description of blood everywhere wasn't enough gross-out for the night.)

I explained my inexperience with nosebleeds, and she began showing me how to tightly roll a tissue to put in the nostril and stanch the bleeding. We discovered that Chickie's nose was no longer bleeding, but the wonderful nurse not only continued to educate me (so I'd know what to do the next time,) but she also gave lots of direct attention to Chickie.

"It's okay!" she said in a high-pitched, syrupy-sweet voice that somehow broke through Chickie's cries and distracted her from her panic. "This is just a little fluffy pillow!" (She held out the "nose tampon.") "And I know that blood can be scary, but it's okay! Red is a pretty color!"

She continued to talk, and Chickie quickly calmed down. I was free to comfort Zoodle, who began to settle down too. Soon our angel...I mean nurse...left, and we pulled ourselves together so we could go pay and eat.

I'm so thankful that the nurse "just happened" to be there. She took control of the situation in such a gentle and respectful way, and she was exactly the person we needed.

But if Chickie can avoid further nosebleeds...or at least have them at home...on the tile...naked...I'll really appreciate that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mom's Recipe Book: Play Dough

It's been a long time since I've done an entry in the Mom's Recipe Book series!

This isn't from the book of recipes my mom gave me for my wedding, though. This time, it's from an older book--a collection of recipes put out by my mom's side of the family to celebrate her grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary in 1983.


The book is chock-full of tried and true recipes, with chapters for everything from "Appetizers and Beverages" to "Cookies and Candy." But my favorite chapter is the last one: "Miscellaneous." It has recipes like this one...

Photobucket "recipes" from kids including a very young C. Beth.

Subtitle: Disgusting Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I like to dig out this cookbook to make something that brings me back to childhood, with its smell, warmth, and texture--play dough! Here's my mom's recipe:


Yesterday my friend Ann and her kids were here to play, so Chickie, Zoodle, and their friend Coqui all helped me mix the ingredients. I stirred them on the stove to make the smooth dough.

I like to wait to put in food coloring until the play dough is cooked, so that we can break it apart and make multiple colors. I used concentrated icing color, which is so vibrant. I started to mix it in; then I let the kids finish the kneading (with a little help!)


Enjoy making your own play dough! (But please...stay away from my bread recipe.)