Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Night in the life

My friend had posted this link on facebook:

I read it, thinking, this women is not that much different than me.  I nurse a toddler,  we co-slept (now transitioning to a crib in our room) and have the bigger kids in their own room.  Coincidentally, I also typically have a picture of myself, my child, and my mei tai in my avatar. And, like her, sometimes I do have beautiful peaceful bedtimes with my kids.

However, on a regular basis my nights go more like this:

I sit down with a sleeply baby and try to look at a board book.  He alternates between trying to tear the pages out of the book and flashing me the milk sign.  Although we were only able to get to 'read' the first page, we stop. His milk sign is so cute and quite hard to resist.  I figure he must be tired,  so I get up to change him into a new diaper and pajamas.  He screams and cries the whole time.  Every time the diaper tab is almost closed, he sits up.  By the time I get him laying down, I have to readjust the diaper and it starts over.  This happens at least twice a diaper change.  Once we're done I pick him up and bring him to my room, to fight him into jammies that always seem too tight.

Picture perfect, just me, nursing my toddler in a rocking chair.  Nip.  Nope, not on my finger.  He looks and me and giggles.  I don't smile and ignore it.  Nip.  Giggles.  This time I say say no.  Nip.  Teeth sink in and he turns his head (moms, you know what I'm talking about).  I stifle my bubbling anger, calmly say no and close up my shirt.  My moment of pride that I had kept calm is immediately terminated when in one solid motion, he slaps me in the face, rips off my glasses and throws them to the ground.

I quickly get up and carelessly put him in the crib.  It only takes a couple seconds for me to realize I was acting too harshly, so I place the blanket on him with extra care.  I stay and sit on the floor next to the crib.  Slowly, I get him to lay his head on the pillow and rest.  Minutes tick by, but it wont be much longer.  He sucking his thumb and his eyes are closing.  After his eyes close for about a minute I look at the clock and congratulate myself.  Only 5 minutes.  Nice.  He must sense my thoughts, his eyes pop open and he giggles, looking as though they were never heavy in the first place.  I wait another 10 minutes.  30 minutes. After more than 50 minutes, he's finally asleep.  I leave the room.

I glance down the hall where my husband is arguing with my big kids, who are laying in bed, about another cup of water.  I think to myself, I'll come back in 5 minutes, when they've calmed down.  I go down downstairs and think about what do with the few hours I have to myself.  I decide I'll tackle some house work, and fold laundry while watching TV.  I drag the laundry baskets in, turn on the TV, and get it to the program I want.  I sit down, and let the peace sink in.  I remember I was supposed to check on my big kids, so I pause the TV and head upstairs.  I see my big kids are much calmer now, and I'm looking forward to the few quality minutes I get to spend with them everyday.  Then I hear my toddler cry.

I sigh, turn away from the big kids room, and go to rock my toddler to sleep.  I never get back to relaxing and the kids are asleep by the time I go check on them. 

Maybe tomorrow's bedtime will be better.

Monday, October 10, 2011

DIY Balance Bike Finished

I used some of this great (80 degree) October weekend to finish up two projects.  The first was the balance bike I started in the spring.  It's a bummer that I didn't get it done for use this summer, but I'm glad it's done and he still have a few months to use it before winter. 

So...  Ta da!

 Yes, I love it, and I'm glad it'd done.  It's inspired by kiddi moto's line of balance bikes.  Below are the images I  used to compile my design of the bike.  I started with a simple Skuut bike design, and worked my way towards a motorcycle. I ended up very similar design to the kiddi-moto syle bike, shown at the top left.  I tried to keep the frame (the black part) one peice, as shown below, but for several reasons it wouldn't work.  In the end, I do like my design, but I think if I were to make more and more of these, my design would start to look more like the kiddi-moto design.  Their assembly seems easier, and their design looks more a typical motorcycle.  Kudos to the designers, they did a good job. 

My Inspiration Photos

My scaled Mock-Up

 I used plywood leftover from our toy storage shelf and other projects, so I can't really estimate the cost well.   I had a hard time finding good wheels that didn't cost $20 each.  I should have headed to the recycling center/dump, but I never did hit a good time to go check it out.  Regardless, I was able to find wheels from Craigslist off an older style little bike.

First, I printed off the plans I made up in inkscape and then traced and cut those out of the plywood.  I will eventually have plans & a pdf pattern up here (or on ana-white.org) for both the motercycle and Skuut style balance bike...  ( Nag me, and maybe I'll get around to it sooner.)

 After the pieces were cut out, I assembled the front sections.  It would have been a lot easier to just stop at the skuut bike set-up.  All I'd need saw the front of the frame differently, and this would have practically been done.... but I guess I like the challenge.  This is also when I realized that it's too wide (seat area and legs were effected) to have the motercycle section on top of the 'V' shaped  frame.  Plus the frame was made too short and sat over the wheel section slightly.

Could have almost been done.  Ha.

Old 'V' frame style.  I took out the little block there and re-drilled that hole.

So I had to scrap the 'V' shaped frame and chopped those pieces down, take out the little angle block.  Then I didn't take any pictures, but was able to get to the point of having a working prototype.  There are two seat height settings.  The whole body pivots around a screw at the front and the bolt in the center of the body controls the height.  I wish I could get a few more inches on it though. I was still using the two wheels stolen from the other kids bikes and there was no formal seat, but it was good enough to have the kids test it for me. I took it out the hill with the kids in tow and they seemed to enjoy it.  However, it's construction meant two other bikes destruction so it was disassembled soon afterwards :(

Skip ahead about 2 months...  I found an older bike on craigslist, and using this site, was able to get the coaster brake off the back wheel.  However, the back wheel axle was bigger than that of my prototype bike (I've learned so much), and I need to re-drill....  unfortunately I didn't have the right size drill bit, no drill press and the holes got misaligned, and mishapen.  Bummer.  I did give the bike a nice paint job with just a couple cans of glossy spray paint and some contact paper.  Still, I needed to re-do the back supports before it could be ridden.

Looks good... but it's not.
 Finally.  This last weekend I made new back wheel supports.  Before I drilled, I aligned the back supports and penciled lines all over both side.  From my first attempt, I knew it would be hard to find the right spot for those to attach to the main section of the bike (yes, I could have attached first, then drilled, but this seemed more likely to get a straight hole alignment).  I drilled a small pilot hole  and then the inner countersink.  Those were needed to recess the nuts around the large hub of the back wheel.  Finally, using the right size drill bit (from my kreg jig, haha), I made the holes.  I was very careful when aligning the back wheel, and got it just right!  Who-hoo!  I also added in a little seat.  I was planning on making it softer with some foam and black PUL, but I didn't come up with a good way to attach it quickly.  I have some ideas now, but I'll wait to see if he complains before I add anything else to my to-do list.

Second Test Run -Works great!

At this point we did some more test runs.  This bike is a great size for my son, who's 3 1/2.  He was able to glide around on it, and practice putting his feet up.  However, my 5 1/2 year old daughter seemed much to big for it, and struggled to make it stable.  I haven't tried it with my 1-year-old, but think the age for this bike is about 18 mo to 5 years.

The new back supports were painted black and per my son's request,  the handlebar's red.  He was right, they look cooler.  Here's the final battery of images.  After this test run, I added in a 'kickstand'.  My  son was very displeased with any changes to his new awesome bike, but I think the kickstand is one very nice accessory.

Overall, I think this project could have been a lot easier if I had the right tools to do the job.  I sort of impulsively started the project, and paid for it later.  At first I didn't have the right bolts or dowel for the handle bar.  Nor did I have any wheels.  I didn't have a drill press, or even the right drill bits.  I used the biggest bit for the handle bar holes I had, but spent at least an hour with sandpaper trying to get the hole 1/4" bigger.. and still round.  Initially, I did much of the work in a carpeted entry room, jig-sawing on a couple small bins, with a bunch of our moving stuff around me. Not the ideal work place.  After I moved I had more room to work and a better set-up, but still not the best tools and it still took me a really long time to find wheels.  Later on, I had to wait on the project to get red spray paint and the wood for the seat (and some other projects).    This project took a lot more time than I had hoped, but I think much of that was just poor planning and part of the learning process.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Isaac's Birthday & Blocks

Poor sick baby before food :(
Isaac turned 1 this September, but sadly, he came down with Roseola on his birthday.  I thought he might not be well enough to even have a celebration, but after some Tylenol and food he perked up.

See how much more alert he looks after he ate?
On the presents... We kept it really simple and only gave him 3 presents, since we have SOOOooo many toys and at 1, he doesn't really get it yet anyway.  The first was a the waterproof bib.  We have two waterproof ones already, but I one more never hurts :)  If you can't tell, it's got cute little car prints inside the 1.  I had actually originally made the embroidered part earlier it to stock in my store, but I never got around to finishing it.  Sometimes I feel more motivated to finish things when I know I won't have to take the time to list them online :(

The second present was a CamelBak water bottle. He loved stealing his older sibling's bottles, so I figured he would really enjoy having his own.  He does.  I really love the design of this type of bottle ( I have one myself)- No spills and lots of water.  I would have gotten better prints for the older kids if I had known there more available than those on the CamelBak site/Target.  There are a ton of great prints out there now.

The middle block is the robot's 'button'.

Finally,  the 3rd, and my personal favorite present.  Handmade blocks.  We already had some cheap pine blocks from Christmas Tree shop that we bought for $3, which never got played with.  After babysitting my friend's son, I discovered that blocks can be quite fun to play with if  they're a good weight and size.  I scaled my blocks to have a unit block size of 11/16" x 1 3/8  x2 3/4", which is model after the set of mini unit blocks my friend has. It's half of the standard unit block size, and much better fit for a toddler.

With a little guidance from this site, we were confident enough to try to scrap together some blocks.  We bought stock maple from Lowes ( the main width being 1 1/2" x 3/4" x 8').  With my husband's help, we used a tablesaw to trim down the sides to the right widths.  We used a fence on one side of the tablesaw and cut several test pieces with scrap wood to get the dimensions as close as we could.  It'd say our final dimensions were only about 10 thou off, which far better than I expected, but when stacked up 10 blocks high, deviations can add up quick.  Some of the edges got burned and there were several places you could see blade marks/indentations.  I think some of that was inexperience on our part, but I think a lot of that was a really dull blade on my parent's tablesaw.  I would have bought a blade myself had I known it would be that bad. I would have loved to have used a planer, which is ideal, but I didn't get the time coordinated well enough with a coworker to use his.

After the wood was the right girth we used a chopsaw to cut the blocks to the right length.  We used a stopper to keep the dimensions accurate and consistent, and like before, we used several test cuts in scrap to get the dimension as best as we could.  We did have one problem when we got to the end of a triangle section and had barely anything to hold onto.  The piece went flying across the lawn just after breaking the sawdusk catcher on my parents chopsaw.  1) We probably shouldn't have tried it, and 2) I was told it's good practace to clamp a scrap board the back of the chopsaw, chop through that and then keep it there so there's less of (no) gap for the wood to shoot through.

 I also bought a block of hard maple at a real hardwood store.  We were planning on making some 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" blocks from it, but after the first cut, we gave up.  The tablesaw/weak blade could not handle that wood and we gave up.  Maybe at my friend's shop someday....

It took about 6 hours of cutting (including set up of the tools in the driveway) and about 2 hours of sanding down the edges later at home.  I'm very happy with the outcome, and they're quite fun to play with. But, to be clear, they're definitely not up to the quality/variety my friend has, but were around $100 cheaper.  I would love to have some curves/different styled triangles someday, but those will likely have to be purchased elsewhere, unless I get my dream workshop.