Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I love you more than...

So, we've been blessed with sweet children - or maybe it's better stated - children that are sometimes so sweet. :) I love the relationship Coleman and Brooklyn have. They fight a lot, but they love each other fiercely. I love to watch them together. I love the relationship both Cole and Brookie are building with Flint. They were loving with him from the very beginning, but now that he's responding to them with his extremely contagious smiles and squeals, they're even more interested in being his friends. Here are a few of the cute moments from the last couple weeks:

Brooklyn is our little spitfire child. It sometimes seems like she's just waiting for the right time to push Cole's buttons. She's quite good at eliciting huge over-the-top reactions from our otherwise even-keel Coleman.  It makes me smile, however, that when she sees anything green (Cole's favorite color) she always mentions how much Coleman would like it. She gave him her green bouncy ball the other day that she bought from the vending machine at Old Navy in exchange for his blue one. He was eyeing hers and she noticed and just traded - no biggie, not button pushing. :) (This is a big deal when we don't push buttons given the opportunity!)

Brookie is ALWAYS willing to help out with Flint. She loves to pick out his clothes or run to get a diaper or wipes. She's not one to always do as she's asked the first time (I jut asked her about 15 times to finish her orange from lunch), but whenever her little brother is involved, she's Johnny on the spot. :) She's saved me from a few very messy situations. :) She's always so cute with him and could probably change his diaper by herself if I'd let her...

Coleman and Brooklyn both are always united by treats. Whenever I give one of them something, they always share with the other one or ask for one for the other. I think it's sweet. They're also united in their criminal acts. Any time there's a crazy scheme in the works, they're always in it together. I sometimes find them hiding under the table sharing contraband chocolate chips or other treats.

My new favorite thing - and if I had time, I'd make it into a children's book - is what Cole says to Flint when they're just talking. They talk a lot and Flint LOVES the interaction. Cole does it willingly without being asked. A couple times a day, Cole comes bounding up to Flint, gets right in his face and says "I love you more than..." and he inserts wonderful things. My favorites are:
"I love you more than chocolate pudding!"
"I love you more than presents - even special Christmas presents!"
"I love you more than candy and all the good things we get to eat!"

I'm writing these experiences down so I can remember them later when these kiddos are too grown up for these things and they have more sophisticated social skills. Right now, it's all out there on the table - the good and the bad. I'm so thankful for these times when it's good and I can see glimpses of how much they really do love and care about each other. What a special blessing it is to be a family! These kiddos crack me up! They are so unique, exciting and wonderful! It's humbling to think of who they are and where they came from. I feel so blessed to call them mine. They're teaching me so much! I love them more than chocolate pudding! :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Asking Santa for Christmas Presents

Christmas is an exciting time of year, especially if you're a kid.  Out kids just wrote letters to Santa this week and were sitting at dinner telling us all thing things on their lists that Santa would be bringing on Christmas.  We took the opportunity to explain that we don't always get the things we ask for for Christmas but that Santa may surprise us with a few things or something else fun.  I told them about when I was 16 and put a truck and motorcycle on my Christmas list.  Santa surprised me with a toy truck and toy motorcycle.  I added at the end that I still didn't have a truck.  Coleman followed by pointing a couple of things out to me.

First, Santa brings toys for Christmas so, of course, I didn't get a real truck and motorcycle.

Second, he suggested I change from my doctor job to being a mailman so I could have a truck.

Why didn't I think of being a mailman so I could get a truck?  Looks like it's time to consider a career change.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Am a Child of God

I Am a Child of God is Coleman's favorite song. I love that he loves it. He sings it to Flint all the time. I especially love that he believes this and is learning how true it is and how much Heavenly Father loves him. Today we made the coolest paper airplanes. Cole is loving flying them all over the place.  He lost one and had been looking for it and asking for my help. We couldn't find it. I thought he had maybe given up until he came running into my room.

Coleman: Mom, I said a prayer to help me find my airplane. Now what do I do?
Mom: That’s great. Now you have to keep looking for it.
Coleman: Oh...
He looked for a (short) minute.
I saw him in my closet, arms folded, head bowed, eyes pinched shut tight.
Coleman: Heavenly Father, do it quick. I really want it right now. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I said a fast prayer that Cole's patience would hold out long enough to find it. I shouldn’t have doubted. He knows his son.
I glanced at Cole and saw the airplane a couple feet away from him in his looking path. He found it and it was quick. 2 prayers answered. Cole happily said a quick prayer of thanks. Now he’s wandering around talking about how “cool” Heavenly Father is.
I am smiling and thinking the same thing.
I know we are all his children and that he knows and loves each of us. How blessed we are to be in his tender care. I'm so thankful for his love that I feel every day in my life - especially through these beautiful children he has entrusted to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RaspBMC = Raspberry Pi + XBMC

 Pi with my media center remote, SD card, and WiFi dongle.

I finally broke down and ordered a Raspberry Pi.  Of course, they've been on back order since their release, so I had no idea when I would see it.  I was excited when I got the e-mail saying it shipped on October 16th, not only because I was getting one, but because I saw this on October 15th.  I was really hoping to get the revision 2.0 with 512 MB RAM.  I ended up getting the original version with 256 MB RAM.  When I called they said my Pi left the warehouse on October 15th, prior to my receiving the e-mail.  Only those shipped after the 15th were the 512 MB model. Bummer.

Although I have lots of ideas for the Raspberry Pi, my initial plan is to make a media center using XBMC.

The Media Center

Raspberry Pi - $35 + $5 shipping = $40
4GB SDHC Card - $5 (I ended up buying a couple of these to get free shipping.)
Media Center Remote - $7.60 - (I purchased from a domestic seller so this was the cost with shipping.)
Edimax EW-7811Un USB Wireless Adapter - $9.99
RCA cable 10 ft - $4.14 (I don't have HDMI so I need this and the adapter on the next line)
3.5mm to RCA audio adapter 6 in - $0.61
Power Supply - free (I'm using an old Samsung cell phone power supply. Listed as 5V 700mA)

Total: $67.35 (plus a little extra shipping for the cables and possibly the SD card)

Accessories

Regular USB to micro USB cable - $1.20 (Hoping to be able to power the Pi off the USB hub)
Belkin powered USB Hub - $11.49 (Because the Pi is limited in power output and only has 2 USB ports, I purchased a powered USB hub.  I was hoping to power the Pi from the hub, but his one is only rated at 600mA.)
USB extension cables - 2 x $1.36 = $2.72 (This made it possible to sit farther away and still control things with my wired keyboard and mouse.)
USB mouse - free
USB to PS/2 adapter - $1.95 (I don't have an extra USB keyboard, but I do have an extra PS/2 keyboard.)
PS/2 Keyboard - free (worked no problem plugged directly into the Pi with the adapter above)
Ethernet Cable - free (Installation of Raspbmc through the wired Ethernet, after which you can use wireless.)
2 extra SD cards - $10 (As above, I bought extras for free shipping and for installation of other Raspberry Pi operating systems.)
RCA switch - $4.13 (Shipping included. I didn't have any more connections on my TV so I needed a switch.)

Cost: $31.49 (plus a little shipping for the cables)

As luck would have it this project was covered by my birthday money.

Setting up the Media Center

Installing Raspbmc

1) Unpack all your fun new things and get organized.
2) Visit www.raspbmc.com/download/ to setup your SD card and download the latest version of raspbmc.
     The process is different depending on the OS you're using to setup the card
3) Plug in Ethernet, SD card, Keyboard, Mouse, Video and Sound (HDMI or RCA) to your Raspberry Pi.
4) Plug in power to Raspberry Pi. There is no on/off switch, so this is how you get things going.
5) Wait for installation to complete.

Helpful hints: Some SD cards don't work.  I used the elinux resource (see end of post) and raspbmc forum to guide me.  I tried a 2GB Trasncend and a 4GB Kingston microSD that didn't work.  The disadvantage of the cards listed above are they are class 4 and therefore slower, but they do work.

Installing Wireless & Remote

1) Inside XBMC go to Programs and install the Network Manager Add-on. Reboot.
2) The Edimax adapter above was detected for me without incident and works fine.
3) Remote setup was plug and play, though I did reboot before using it.

Media

Option 1: Network via SMB, NFS, UnPNP etc..  I'm connecting to media stored on my desktop using the Windows standard samba protocol, though I understand NFS is faster.
Option 2: USB Storage like a hard drive or USB flash memory.

Ripping and encoding that media from DVD or Blu-Ray is another discussion entirely.  I mostly used MakeMKV and Handbrake.

I then used the IMDB scraper and a TV scraper to get the movie artwork and information.

So far it works really well.  I've played 480 and 720 content successfully.  Unfortunately, the 1080 content was very choppy, which I believe is due to the bandwidth limitation of my 802.11g router.

My only complaint is that periodically, the Pi it will decide to not connect to my media via SMB.  It seems that turning of the Pi and letting it sit without power often resolves the issue.  Also, connecting to the Pi via SSH (I'm using Putty.) and typing the following commands works too.
- sudo initctl stop xbmc
- sudo initctl start xbmc

Pi on top of the VCR and connected.  USB Hub peeking out from behind the VCR.  It usually is hide entirely. Switch on the left since I don't have enough RCA inputs on the  TV.

At some point maybe I'll post a picture of the user interface.  It is a basic XBMC Confluence skin if you want to Google it.

Hindsight (It's 20/20 you know.)

Other Media Center Options

There are multiple Android based options, which may have the advantage of Netflix compatibility through the Android app.  Of course, the media center PC is the most versatile option but also most expensive. Unfortunately for me the Pi is the only inexpensive option supporting analog out for audio and video.  Since I currently don't have a TV with HDMI, it is my only media center option.
1) MK802 - $40
2) MK808 - $75
3) G-box Dyno - $50-80
4) G-box Midnight - $90-100
5) Xios - $115
6) Apple TV - $99
7) Roku - $90
8) Odroid - $69-135 (Quad-core ARM processor - multiple model options)
9) GK802 - $99 (Quad-core android based USB stick)
9) Media center PC (XBMC is available for Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Apple TV, and Ubuntu)

As you can see from the above list the world of mini PCs has expanding very rapidly in the last year and options continue to expand daily.  liliputing.com keeps up with the new options, both software and hardware, very well.  In addition to leaning about new mini PC hardware, I learned recently from this site that Netflix is now unofficially available in Ubuntu. (see here).

Alternative Mini PC uses

Also, it appears that there are several Ubuntu options for the MK802 (herehere and here).  Unfortunately, this is limited to the MK802 because the other android stick PCs use different ARM processors. Ports for some of those are still in development.  Naturally, there is no need to use Ubuntu if you are planning to build a media center.

The exciting part about the Raspberry Pi and the Android devices is that they are inexpensive.  The unfortunate part is that they are early in development and thus poorly supported and full of bugs.

Possible upgrades

Case - I think I want to make my own.
Faster SD Card - Though I don't remember where, I read this card works with raspbmc.  It's rated much faster than Class 4.
Raspbmc Dynamic Overclocking - From what I've seen on the web, this can cause corruption of the SD card, but can be done if you run Raspbmc from a USB flash drive.  You still need the SD card for boot.
Raspberry Pi Heatsinks - the Pi doesn't get that hot, but these are inexpensive and may provide a little benefit if overclocking.  I've seen them as cheap as $2-5 for the set on ebay.

Sources
The Official Raspberry Pi Website - www.raspberrypi.org
Raspbmc - www.raspbmc.com
e-linux for the Raspberry Pi - http://elinux.org/RPi_Hub
XBMC - xbmc.org
liliputing - liliputing.com


Can you guess the subject of the conversation?

We had a nice conversation with Brooklyn this evening over dinner.  I asked her about her day.  We had a discussion about an event.  Your job is to guess what that event was with just thee short lines from Brooklyn.

"It made a trail."
"It went in my shoes."

My favorite line
"It warmed up my toes."

Feel free to post your guesses in the comments.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

family pictures

while mom and dad, scott, leanne, addie and eden were visiting we took some family pictures. here's the preview. my friend, jen, took these pictures. i think she did a fantastic job! :) thanks jen!


 















Friday, November 9, 2012

Kid-isms

Listening to Coleman and Brooklyn always makes us laugh.

Just after we got to the hospital and Cole say his new little brother Flint.
Cole: "We're a family group."

After we brought baby Flint home from the hospital and Cole was feeling a need to protect his little brother. Cole: "If a burglar jumped in the window I would punch him in the eye before he could get baby Flint."

I was checking up on Coleman in the bathroom.  He sometimes gets distracted playing in the sink when he is supposed to be coming to dinner.
Cole: "Sometimes you make me pee my pants."
Dad: "When do I make you pee your pants?"
Cole: "Like when I was wearing my camo pants and you scared me."

Brooklyn was excited to tell grandma about our other games after we finished playing the snake game.
Brookie: "We have 'Shoot the Ladders'".

While we were changing Flint's diaper...
Coleman: "Mom, is that his pee pee thing?"
Mom: "Yes."
Coleman: "I have a pee pee thing too. Can I show him mine?"
Mom:... ... ...
Coleman: "Look Baby Flint..."

Coleman put on his halloween shirt with glow in the dark bones.
"These are my ribs. And these are my arm ribs."

While riding in the car, Brookie was apparently pondering deeply about other people's perspective.
"Mom, what if we sliced off our skin and traded it with someone else?"

Today in the late afternoon (after about 2 hours of someone whining or screaming at all times)...
Brookie: "Why does your face look like that, Mom?"
Mom: "I'm tired and my kids aren't being good listeners. I'm having a hard day."
Coleman: "I'm having a hard day too. We're all having a hard day."
Brookie: "Yeah."
Coleman: "Except Dad."
Tyler was asleep in the bedroom.
Guess they don't get that Dad is working 'hard nights.'

Coleman (with his hand raised high above his head): "Who wants to play hide and seek? I do!"

A couple days ago, I stepped into the other room to put my hair in a pony tail on our way out the door. Flint was asleep in the bouncer. We'd just finished an art project. I was gone for 5 minutes. All the while I heard the kids giggling and I was thinking how sweet it was they were having so much fun together. Little did I know that the giggles stemmed from a torturing session with their little brother. They were bouncing the bouncy chair and watching him flail around.  As I was finishing my pony tail, I heard "WOA! COOL! My turn!" - I went rushing in to find Flint 4 feet from the bouncer, lying on his stomach and pointed the opposite way, eyes wide.  I had no idea how he got there. I asked the kids and they wouldn't say. Everyone went to time out and I picked up Baby Flint. As I thought about it, I became more and more concerned so I asked Coleman (the more reliable source) what had happened. He explained that Brookie sat on the tall end of the bouncer and Baby Flint flew out and landed over there... I didn't see it, but the picture he painted in my mind was absolutely haunting! Kinda funny now a couple days later - now that we know Flint didn't sustain any permanent damage. The bouncer is put away for awhile now.

The day after the bouncer incident the kids were talking about it .
Coleman: "Mom, do you remember when Baby Flint flew out of his seat?" (How could I forget?)
Mom: "Yeah. That was a bad thing, wasn't it."
Coleman: "I was thinking that he just needed a jet pack, 'cause then he could just keep on flying."

Brookie has had a hard time lately sitting down to eat her dinner. Sometimes I just give up, but last night Tyler was home and we all sat down together and things were kind of normal.  The kids brought toys to the table that were interfering with their eating, so Tyler took Cole's airplane and put it in his room and asked Brookie to set her fingernail polish on the floor. She didn't.
Tyler: "Brookie, I'm going to count to three and your fingernail polish needs to be on the floor or I will take it away...1...2...3."
He took the fingernail polish and put it across the room.
Brookie: "Dad, I'm going to count to 4 and you're going to give it back."