Category Archives: Projects

Time Out for Brainology!

Ever since our family went to the Brain Exhibit that was at the American Museum of Natural History, our whole family has been fascinated with the Brain. I even took an evening course called, The Wired Child back in the Fall at the Museum (where I was literally surrounded by stand-alone brains!). Recently, my Adult Development course got me right back into the brain and its plasticity, with some great readings, lectures, and conversations.
What amazes me the most is how much of an impact our environment has over our brains. It’s Nature vs. Nurture, and I think I used to be more like, “Well, you’ve got what you’ve got (in terms of your brain), and you can only do so much.” Now, I realize there is a WHOLE lot we can do to train and develop our brains and our children’s brain. It’s as much what we actively do or don’t do day-to-day that greatly affects our brains. And thus, Brainology!
I first learned about Brainology from an online Mind/Shift article titled, Discovering How to Learn Smarter by Annie Murphy Paul. Brainology is a program developed by Stanford psychologist and author of Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck. It helps students develop a growth mindset, as opposed to having a fixed mindset. When I learned it was for middle school and high school students, I was a bit bummed out, because I wanted to get Malachy in on it right away. Lo and behold, someone from Brainology saw my blog (after an e-mail inquiry), and said Malachy might be a great candidate for a Brainology pilot! (Thanks so much, Cole!) How awesome is that?
So, now it feels like Malachy and I are taking a Brain Course together! (Thanks, Brainology!) He already wants to sit and go through all the levels in one sitting, but I told him that we need time to let things sink in (especially for me). The program is awesome because it offers a combination of multimedia videos, an e-journal for recording thoughts, an online Brain book, and other online tools that make it fun and easy to learn about the brain. I’m able to sit with him and type some of his responses in. He could type the responses, but he usually wants to get right back to the watching and learning. For me, it’s great to see how much he has learned so far, and we could have some conversations if something needs further explanation. So far, so great! 🙂

Here are some of Malachy’s thoughts on The Brain, after the Intro. and Level 1…
When you learn new things, your brain gets smarter and stronger.
When you touch things or do anything with your body, your brain detects it.
When you don’t have enough sleep, then you can’t think very well.
When you’re doing your homework, you shouldn’t do anything else, like watching cartoons or eat lunch or listening to your CDs.
When you’re reading, you can do writing or drawing to help you learn.

Time Out for Summer Vacation!

Time Out for a Vacation!
You would think summer vacation means lots of time off to relax and do your own thing. Not for this Dad. On the contrary. For the past two summers, I decided to take on the role of Camp Dad, while Shien finishes her course work. That means Malachy waking me up when he wakes up (i.e., no sleeping in) and planning activities for the day. I could easily just sit him in front of the television and give him the iPad, and he could probably be content the whole day, while I sit in front of the computer and try to get some work done, but that just wouldn’t be good for either of us.

So instead, we get some outdoor time, shop for food (lots of soup), play games like Yahtzee (with real dice or cards), jacks, and pick-up sticks, do some science experiments, give him some time to read and write on his own, take daily naps when we can, and of course, some tech time. I love Planet Fassa’s mantra of Opening Minds, Nourishing Hearts, and Strengthening Bodies. I remind Malachy that we have to exercise our body, mind, and soul. 🙂

When he goes to bed, then it’s time to work on my writing, planning presentations and webinars, reading, and some Bejeweled Blitz… 😉

What an awesome summer so far!

Time Out for a Chopstick!

The Mighty Chopstick!

Who would have thought one chopstick could inflict so much damage.  I’m tempted to call it, “CHOPSTICKGATE!”  So, it started out as a fun night for me and Malachy.  Shien had evening class, so Malachy and I ordered Chinese food from Ming’s.  Everything tasted yummy.  After dinner, I had Malachy work on his homework while I did the dishes.  Towards the end of my dishwashing, I noticed that the drain was getting clogged.  The water simply wasn’t going down the drain.  In fact, some water seemed to be coming back up from the drain, and it was dark and not smelling so nice.  What I did next started the avalanche of events that was to unfold.  I took a chopstick and thought I could try to unclog the drain with it.  No harm, right?  A few seconds later, I heard a sound and noticed water coming out of the cabinet, below the sink!

Chopstick + SInk Drain Pipe = DISASTER!!!

I opened the cabinet and saw water gushing out from the pipe!  The chopsitck pierced a hole in the pipe!!!  I immediately found a vase under the sink to catch some of the water.  PANIC!  I then used my thumb to plug the hole.  I yelled out for Malachy’s help, as I tried to think of more things to use to catch the water.  More vases, metal bowls, pots, ai ya!  I told him to hurry up and get me a towel from the bathroom.  He asked which one.  I’m like, “Get MINE!”  He ran and brought over his towel.  I was like, “NO, GET MINE!”  I didn’t want to use his towel to wipe this yucky water up.  He finally got my towel.  I was left wiping one-handed since I was still plugging the hole with the thumb of my other hand.

I tried to get Malachy to get me some bowls, after opening another cabinet, but there were ceramic bowls on top of the aluminum bowls.  Last thing I needed was for Malachy to break a bunch of bowls, so I ordered him to go back and finish his homework, after I thanked him for helping. 😉

It was crazy!  I reached out for more bowls, while knocking over bowls that I had already filled with water.  At the same time, I was trying to get everything out from underneath the sink.  What a mess!  After all the water finally emptied from the sink, I had 3 or 4 bowls and a pot filled with water.  I got a bucket, poured all the water into it, and flushed that down the toilet.  Then, I grabbed 3 or 4 more towels and wiped everything down underneath the sink, while emptying all the stuff that was down there.

The broken pipe removed.
The broken pipe.

It was getting later, so I needed to shower Malachy and get him ready for bed.  Before that, I checked online to see all the Home Depot hours, and I thought I might have to rent a car after Shien got home.  I then had a better idea.  I called my dad and asked if he could help me out by coming into the city and bringing me some tools and then driving with me to Home Depot to get some supplies.  Thank God he was available! 🙂

Malachy was really cooperative the whole time.  He finished his homework on his own.  I explained to him how I would have to go to Home Depot in order to fix the damage that I had caused.  He wanted to go, too, but knew he had to rest up for his trip to the circus with Mom the next day.  I let him play a while longer, as I gathered my tools and removed the broken pipe.  It was pretty nasty inside the pipe.  I think there was an old chopstick in there, but it was almost unrecognizable since it was so decomposed.  I took the pipe to the bathroom sink to clean it out.  I used the plunger that I had in the bathroom to make sure the gunk didn’t clog the bathroom sink.  Another mistake!  Malachy called out from the living room that he could hear more leaking water!  Believe it or not, the bathroom pipes were somehow connected to the kitchen pipes!  For the past few nights, the bathroom drain was a bit clogged, so I had used a mini-plunger to unclog it.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that, by using the plunger in the bathroom sink, I was actually clogging the kitchen pipes!

Anyways, when I went to check out the kitchen, it was GROSS!  When I plunged the bathroom sink, I pushed all this water and nasty stuff out of the kitchen pipe!  Another mini-flood.  The kitchen pipe was exposed because I took out the broken pipe and never covered it!  AI YA!  More towels, more wiping, and a nasty smell, similar to that of bad eggs. (nitrogen?)  🙁

My dad arrived after I had cleaned things up as best I could, throwing the soaked dirty towels into the bath tub and trying to clean them.  I also had to wipe down the kitchen cabinet underneath the sink with paper towels and cleaning solution.  I was able to then read to Malachy and get him ready for bed, while we waited for Shien to get back home.

When Shien got home, my dad and I said goodnight to Malachy and I told him I would tell him all about Home Depot the following day.  We got to Home Depot around 10 ‘ish.  I LOVE Home Depot and any hardware store for that matter.  We got a pipe, a pipe cutter (recommended by a worker), a plunger, some toxic drain cleaner that didn’t harm pipes, and some new kitchen mats since the other ones got soaked from the flooding.

After Home Depot, my dad dropped me off, and I told him I’d be fine.  NOPE!  I was able to cut the pipe, but when I was installing it, I noticed the other pipe (the elbow) was cracked at the seam!  Well, it was past midnight, so all the Home Depots were now closed.  They used to be opened 24 hours, but no longer.  So, I did some laundry, washing all the dirty stinky towels.  I tried plugging the drain in the kitchen, while trying to unclog the bathroom drain with the heavy duty drain opener.  I had Shien look up the chemical, because it said it didn’t damage pipes yet claimed to cut grease and disintegrate hair!  Plus, it was supposed to be toxic and could cause burning of the skin!  Turn out it contains potassium hydroxide.  It’s not an acid, so it must be a base.  Anyways,  I poured it in, prayed that it wouldn’t come out of the kitchen, and waited a half hour.  I turned the water on SLOWLY.  First Shien said she heard some dripping from the kitchen.  I stopped.  Tried a little again, and then, all of a sudden, I thought I heard the drain clear in the bathroom and the kitchen!  IT WORKED!  I turned on the water a little higher.  Shien said she didn’t hear anything in the kitchen.  Full Blast.  Nada!  The bathroom sink hasn’t drained so good in years!  😉

So, today I bought some pipes and some more plumbing tape.  I came home and thought it shouldn’t be so bad.  IT WAS.  The pipe I bought was more flimsy than the Home Depot one, so as I tried to cut it, it was crushing and denting the pipe all over.  I wound up cutting it too short.  Now what?  I ran out to another hardware store nearby.  This time, I paid an extra dollar for them to cut it.  I couldn’t afford to ruin another pipe!  They used a hacksaw and a grinder, which worked so much better than my 20 dollar recommended tool.  I ran home, and after a while, IT WAS FIXED! 🙂  We ran some water through it, and no leaks!  Shien cheered.  😉  Later on, when she was out, I full blasted it again, and there were two leaks.  After some more tweaking, all the leaks were fixed.  I also unclogged the kitchen sink and the bathtub with the heavy duty drain opener!  WHAT A SAGA!  Shien did point out that perhaps it was better that my chopstick broke the pipe it just giving way down the line, which could have been even more disastrous.  True.

FIXED! I hope...

Time Out for Cooking!

C is for Cooking...

Malachy and I had Veteran’s Day off, so Shien said, “Why don’t you guys cook together?” 😉 Shien had evening class, so it was just me and Malachy. We typically order out, but we decided on taking on the adventure.

I had bought this book for Malachy and Shien, and on the first night, he wanted to read it cover to cover for bedtime! A few mornings he would study it, and he would ask if they could make things together. They made a couple of things from it, and now, it was my turn! 😉

So, I decided that we were going to make 3 dishes together: Grover’s Chinese Meatballs with Sesame Rice, Big Bird’s Sesame Green Beans, and Cookie Monster’s “Me-Stuffed” Potatoes. Malachy was really good about going ingredient shopping with me.  Shien actually toasted sesame seeds for me the evening before, so I didn’t have to go buy them.

It took us a few stores to find Sesame Oil, but in the end, we got everything. Instead of cooking the bacon from scratch, because I didn’t want to make a big mess, I ordered a side from Cafe Petisco. 😉 Everything else, Malachy and I made together.  Of course, it was mostly me trying to cook all three things at once, but in the end, it was quite a success. I went off script a little when baking potatoes.  I actually went on to http://howtobakeapotato.com/ and they were perfect!  After baking them, I had to cut the top off each one, scrape out the potatoes and restuff them!  We even had my brother-in-law and his fiancee come over, and they were impressed. 😉

The other night, I was so inspired, I decided to surprise Shien with another dinner. It feels good to be able to prepare something for her every once in a blue moon, and it really really makes me appreciate all the cooking she has done for me and Malachy. Our tummies are so blessed! 😉

My Sous Chef!
Cookie Monster's "Me-Stuffed" Potato
Cookie Monster's "Me-Stuffed" Potatoes

Time Out for CAMP!

Since I had the summer off, I decided to start a one-man Summer Camp for Malachy.  He dubbed me “Camp Dad,” and he dubbed himself, “Camp Son.”  Instead of spending over a grand and putting him in a summer program, I thought to myself, “Wait, I CAN DO THIS!”  We would have more flexibility in schedule.  We could go on a Family trip and do other fun things together.  Malachy LOVED the idea. 😉

His first request was to have a campfire and roasted marshmallows.  I don’t know what possessed me to promise him one.  As July drew near, he got more and more excited about the idea of a campfire and marshmallows.   I started to fret, and thought to myself, “How are we going to do this in the City?”  A few days before our Camp was supposed to take off, I actually did a Google Search for Campfire in Manhattan, Camfire in NYC.  Guess what?  I found one!  I found something that said, “Beach Campfire!”  It was going to happen on July 2 at Jacob Riis Park, from 7:30pm-9:30pm.  I asked Shien and she said, “Sure!”  Still, I thought, maybe it was going to be a big fire, and we wouldn’t be able to toast marshmallows.  We kept telling Malachy that if it didn’t happen at the beach, we  would toast it at home by candlelight.

At the Beach with PoPo

I called a couple of days in advance just to make sure it was for real.  I got the car from Staten Island, and we went after dinner.  As usual, I relied too heavily on GPS.  It took us through local traffic, and I was so confused because it said it was in Queens online, and we were driving through local traffic in Brooklyn.  I thought it was going to take us to the wrong place.  Anyways, when we got there, NO CAMPFIRE!  I kept figuring it was the July 4th weekend, and that they just decided to cancel it.  There were a few people around, and we walked around the beach for a little bit and decided to stay just a short while and then go home… 🙁

"There's A Hole in the Beach!"

I tried calling the number a couple of times that I had called 2 days earlier.  No answer.  I kept looking far off in the distance, and saw a group of people.  I decided I had to check it out to see if that could possibly be it.  IT WAS!  I couldn’t run back to tell them, because it’s SO HARD to walk fast in the sand.  I called PoPo, and told her the great news.  Malachy was SO excited! 🙂  He got to have his roasted marshmallows and even a hot dog!  There was some even some campfire singing; the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Unbelievable!  Another thing I could never have imagined.  A campfire in NYC, at the beach!  SO COOL! 😉

Toasting Marshmallows at the Beach!
First Beach Campfire EVER for all of us!

Time Out for Projects…

Daddy's Little Apprentice

Malachy LOVES projects. Almost every day, he’ll have some kind of project in mind and will plan and carry out accordingly. Whenever Shien or I are doing something, he feels he should be involved. So, he’ll join Shien in her cooking and he’ll join me in fixing things or putting things together, whether we want his help or not. 😉 He used to be a bit afraid of my tools, especially the power tools, but no more. The noise doesn’t scare him anymore. The past few days, he’s been playing with his Tinker Toys, and they’re awesome, because he can really be creative with them. Shien helped him make a guitar and mic stand, so he put on his “Party CD Mix,” and started singing with his “equipment.” Gotta’ get that on film later. Just the other day, we had a video removed from YouTube because of copyright infringement! Couldn’t believe it. Malachy was just singing What a Wonderful World, but the company that owns the rights to that song claimed that it was infringing. So, we have to be extra careful what we put on in terms of music. Otherwise, YouTube e-mailed that they could delete my whole account along with all of the videos I’ve uploaded!
This one’s safe, though. It’s just Malachy helping me put together his new bookshelf. Trying to get more organized. I was going to do it myself, but he insisted on helping. Turned out pretty cool. My little apprentice… 😉