Stroller Parking

stroller parking Today, I will address an issue that affects anyone who coordinates programs with children – be it in a library, children’s museum, or activity room. Like silent pack animals they wait, blocking doors, tracking mud, and leaving behind a smatterings of Cheerios. The issue of which I speak, of course, is strollers.

Strollers are an essential item in parenting life, especially when siblings are at different stages of crawling, walking, and dodging up mall escalators. Strollers are a one-stop shops for snacks, naps, diapering necessities, and sanitation rituals.

The problem, however, begins when strollers start wandering into areas that need to be kept clear. Our gallery is small, so we mounted a sign asking people to leave their strollers by the front door (strollers carrying sleeping occupants being the exception of course). The sign sort of worked. But when bad weather set in and muddy slush was being tracked to the back of the gallery where babies were crawling, we realized we needed to strengthen our front door message.

That’s when I hit on the idea of stroller parking.

First, I purchased a 3′ x 22′ non-skid rug runner (it’s rubber backed for those inevitable wet stroller wheels). With shipping, it cost $256. Then, Marissa and I made parking lines with yellow masking tape. It was that simple. I posted our experiment on Instagram in January 2016.

stroller parking rugWell, it worked like magic. Immediately, strollers started parking in tidy little lines at the front of our gallery. And it’s still going strong! Since stroller parking started over a year ago, we haven’t had any strollers wandering into the gallery. Here’s a shot on a busy Monday morning, all parked and proper.

monday morning stroller parkingEvery once in a while a masking tape line gets ripped and we have to replace it. Otherwise, this little parking lot takes care of itself! Mind you, we still have a sign up. I think you need both the rug and the sign to get this to work. Recently, we re-purposed an old gallery element as a new sign post:

lamp post signBest of all, the lamp’s sign holder is open on both sides. So as you’re exiting the gallery, you can read the final sentences from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

lamp post back

Poetry, Like Water Flowing

soaked poetIt all started when Marissa ask me if I wanted a shower notepad. Whaaaat? It turns out that, yes, there is a writing device specifically designed for the shower. Intrigued, I donned my black beret and turtleneck and headed to the bathroom to pen some poetry on the Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad.

aqua notes waterproof note padAqua Notes retails on Amazon for $8. The set includes a 40 sheet pad that’s perforated for easy tearing, and an “aqua pencil.” The pad (which is 3.5″ x 5.25″) has two suction cups on the back. The pencil has a suction cup holder as well.

I expected the paper to feel a little waxy or stiff. Nope. It just seemed a little thicker and smoother than your typical computer printer paper. There was no indication that it was waterproof at all. The notepads are recyclable and non-toxic, with soy based ink and wind energy fueling the printing process. Which is really cool. But does it work? YES IT DOES.


As you can see, I was able to write with no trouble. The pencil and the notepad magically deflected all water, and the lettering was sharp and crisp with no smudging.

initial pad testRipping the pages off the notepad, however, was considerably more difficult than a regular pad. You had to line up the perforation just right. Unintentional bonus for those of you composing long poems – the wet pages stuck to the walls of the shower like a felt board. They stayed up there too! Pages stuck to my shower wall at 1pm were still going strong at 9pm. I removed them, noting that they peeled off easily and left no marks.

One problem I did notice was that after its initial use, the pad stays damp and the pages clump together. You really have to pull them apart. You can remedy this by taking the pad out of the shower for a day to dry out. But I will say this – even soaking wet and clumped together, the pad still worked!

The aqua pencil has an eraser, so we tested that too (writing in the shower is funny, but editing in the shower really gave me a chuckle). When erasing, the writing first appears to liquefy like ink. A quick brush of the hand or a spray of the shower nozzle, and it’s gone!

the eraser testIn terms of hardware, the suction cups held up well. For two weeks, the notepad clung to the wall, even after my kids discovered it and were sliding it, pulling it, and enthusiastically illustrating on it. Their testing efforts also revealed that once an individual page is removed from the shower, it takes about 45 minutes to completely dry.

shower artworkAnd just in case you are wondering:

  1. Does the aqua pencil write and erase on regular paper?
    YES, very well!
  2. Can the special paper handle ballpoint, gel, permanent, and washable marker ink?
    YES! However, the washable marker went on smudgy and took longer to dry.
  3. If you submerge the pad in a tub filled with several inches of water, does it still work?

testing in tub

The product test was a success, but would you actually use this in the shower? That’s totally up to you, but I will say that Katie found an online review in which a husband and wife used the notepad to jot down potential baby names. Eventually, one of those shower-inspired names became the baby’s name.

I defy you to find a cuter use of the Aqua Notes Waterproof Notepad.

This Is My Story

this-is-my-storyYou love books. You think it’s a clever idea. You’ve picked it up while shopping and mused over it a dozen time. But each time you put it back, thinking…do those make your own book mail-in kits really deliver the goods? Well, ponder no more! Today, we’re reviewing the IlluStory Make Your Own Book kit by Lulu Jr.

illustory-kitThe kit retails for around $20 – $30. It includes 10 washable markers, 20 blank book pages, 2 blank cover pages, a mailing envelope, and detailed instructions. It also has multiple prompt sheets to get young writers going (including – and I really liked this – nonfiction stories and biographies). The kit price includes the production of your book and shipping costs from, and back to, your house (USA only). The final product is a 7.25″ x 9.25″ hardcover book with an illustrated story that is a maximum of 18 pages long.

illustory-kit-contentsGetting started, you have two creation options with this kit: 1) Draw the book by hand; or 2) Design it online using templates, backgrounds, and digital stickers (you can also upload drawings and photos). We went as low tech as possible and chose to create the book by hand. The 8.5″ x 11″ story pages have a big box for illustrations, and 5 lines for text. Since your story can’t be over 18 pages, there are a couple of extra pages, just in case you mess up.

Marissa bravely agreed to write and illustrate a story she titled Arnold’s Birthday Party. She reports that the markers were “awesome.” IlluStory recommends using dark pencil or pen. Marissa used ballpoint pen for her illustrations and text, which worked just fine.

page-of-storyWhen the book was finished, we turned to the order form. Here, we were presented with two options: 1) Produce the book using your handwritten text; or 2) Have the company convert your handwritten words to type (but there is a 20 word per page limit, and they don’t correct spelling or edit). We went with hand lettering.

Make sure you read the kit instructions and the order form carefully! Because otherwise you might miss that you need to number the pages, in pencil, on the back of each page (otherwise, they’ll just print them in the order received). You need to write “Cover” on the back of your cover page. And you definitely don’t was to miss the free options to add a dedication page, or author photo and bio on the back of the book!

Ready to send it off? You have two options: 1) Send it via snail mail in the prepaid envelope; or 2) Upload scans of your cover and story pages to the IlluStory website. We stayed low-tech and went with snail mail.

illustory-mailing-setIlluStory say the books are printed less than 2 weeks from the date received, and ship 3-5 days after printing. They were right on the money. In just under 3 weeks, Marissa’s book was back. It looked fantastic.

2-page-spread-of-storyI was worried that the binding might look cheap. Nope. This is a real, honest-to-goodness book. Glossy white cover, crisp printing, text well clear of the binding margins. The author photo we sent was reproduced nicely. They even put the title and author’s name down the book’s spine! There’s a title page too. It looks really cute:

title-page-of-bookYou also have the option to purchase additional copies and send them to your adoring fans (copies of our book, for example are $14.99). You can order multiple copies in advance, or use the info printed on the back of the book to order copies later.

Beware, however. The production on this kit is quite literal. If you did what I did, and fill out the dedication and author bio in ALL CAPS on the order form, the production team will put those in ALL CAPS IN YOUR BOOK. Also, remember to write the title on the cover of your book. They don’t do that for you. Marissa’s book cover is missing a title, but it sort of adds to the mystery of the big package, doesn’t it? What’s in that big package anyway?*

cover-of-bookIn summary, the IlluStory Make Your Own Book kit is terrific! It’s easy to put together with really nice, professional-looking results. Make sure to read all the instructions and fine print and remember – what you send is exactly what is printed. If you know an aspiring author or illustrator, or are looking to create something special for someone, this kit is a sure bet.


*Spoiler alert. Inside the present is a colossal spider – a gift from an eccentric aunt. The spider runs rampant through the town, swatting helicopters, before Arnold shuts it down with bug spray.