Sunday, August 28, 2011

Half a Dozen Odds and Ends

Maggie writes:
Here are just a few ways to "think outside the box." I hoped to think of more, but the baby is a Brain Vampire these days, and it is hard to be clever.

Pizza cutters are a more versatile than you may know! Don't tuck them away for the sole purpose of pizza duty. Break them out for halving just about any sort of sandwich, wraps or quesadillas! That's not all! Need to coin hot dogs or kielbasa sausages? Lay several down at once and zip on through the lot of 'em. It makes quick work of a potentially tedious task.

Get a small soap dispenser bottle, put white vinegar in it and set it by your kitchen sink. Use a squirt or two to get rid of onion and garlic smells as needed.

If you have a small child who loves small puzzles (no bigger than a pizza box), go to your local pizza place and ask for a few unused boxes. Keep all the puzzle pieces safe and sound with the work in progress.

Just got done finely grating an orange (or cheese, ginger, etc., etc...) and now you need to get everything out of the tiny holes of your grater? Take your handy dandy vegetable brush and go to town! Don't have one? Keep a spare (clean!) tooth brush handy to get into all those little nooks and crannies.

White boards aren't the only things you can use dry erase markers on! Go to your local dollar store and find posters that have been laminated (MUST be laminated!!). The ones I've seen are about the size of your standard freezer-on-top door. Stick it up there however you'd like it, and go to town with reminders, lists and doodles. My children adore the snot out of those markers, and if yours do, too, stock up at the dollar store while you're there.

Have you caught a cold and are hacking up a lung? A friend of mine told me about a whacky cure that really works! Slather Vapor Rub on the bottoms of your feet (or the sicko loved one's), put on a pair of socks and go to bed. It worked for my baby, and I've had relief from this method as well.

Well? What about you, loyal readers and fellow bloggers? Any crazy methods of Gettin' it Done that have worked for you? Do tell!

Millie chips in:

Oh, I might be able to think of a FEW:

If you use dryer sheets, use the spent sheet to clean the lint trap after each load. The fuzz will stick to the fibers and NOT to you.

Speaking of dryer sheets, use only a non-scented variety; use fragrance-free soap, as well. This serves two purposes: if someone with whom you regularly come in contact has asthma or allergies, you will not trigger an attack; and if not, the scent of your clothing will not clash with the scent of your chosen perfume.

Ditto deodorant. While we're on that subject, can we PLEASE agree that "Axe" smells like the smoky flatus of a thousand diseased yaks and somehow get that point across to the male population?

If you don't want to use harsh chemicals around kids and pets, try pouring boiling water directly onto dandelions and other weeds. That'll l'arn 'em.

Making cookies? Make twice as much and freeze half the dough for a day when you're not feeling quite as energetic.

If you can stand the look (some of us can't), let your child use a sleeping bag on top of the mattress rather than conventional linens. The kid will love it and this approach solves the "make your bed, dammit!" argument for good. Get one that's machine-washable; if your kid still wets the bed, just slide one of those big rubberized-flannel pads in under him and hope for the best.

It's too late to do it this year but next year, when you're planting those hanging baskets (we have such hope in our hearts when we're doing that, don't we?), slip a coffee filter into the bottom of the pot. This will not only keep the dirt from running out through the drain-holes, it will help hold the water in the pot just a teense longer - a big consideration considering how quickly pots and planters dry out when it's hot like it is now. I've even heard of people who slip half a sponge in the bottom of the plant, but I've never tried that one myself - have you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Payback’s a – Well, You Know.

Millie writes:

I found out last week that I’m going to become a grandmother in March. Of course news like this calls for a lot of heavy thinking, and one thing I’m thinking about is – revenge!

C’mon, you know we all do it – entertain ourselves with thoughts of how we’ll “get even” with the rugrats someday, when they are the ones with the mortgages and the migraines and we are the ones with some time on our hands. Nothing wrong with these fantasies – whatever keeps you going through the Parenting Doldrums is fair game as long as it doesn’t hurt the kids or scare the livestock!

Impending grandparenthood reminded me that one of my longest-cherished schemes was to wait until I had grandchildren and then send them musical instruments. That will be especially rewarding in the case of this particular procreating pair, because the Daddy-to-Be was the member of our in-house basement band with a 400-watt guitar amp and an effects pedal. Grandkid #1 is going to be getting one of those poppers with a handle before s/he can even walk.

Other silent-yet-vengeful plots include:

“When you are an adult, I am going to come over to your house and pee all over your toilet lid.”

“When you have a baby, I will find out what time said baby goes to sleep, and I will arrange to phone you every night at five minutes past that time and wake the baby up.”

“Someday, when you have your own house, I am going to visit you and bring dirty clothes with me to throw on your floor.”

“Some day you’ll invite me to dinner and spend hours cooking a meal to impress me with your culinary skills. I will take one bite of it and then demand a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.”

“I hope you have a kid someday who is JUST. LIKE. YOU.

. . . Actually, that last one would be pretty sweet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

To Censor or Not to Censor: That is the Question

Millie writes:
One of the best things about Facebook and other social media is that it allows us to chat about interesting and controversial topics with people all over the world. (This is also one of the WORST things about Facebook and other social media, but that’s a different entry altogether.)

Last week my friend Beth posted a YouTube link to a video entitled, “Letter From Ex-Witch Regarding Harry Potter.” (The link is below, if you’re interested; like Beth, I recommend you mute the sound and just read the scrolled text; there’s just someone reading the words and her voice is rushed and distracting.) She wanted to know what other people thought about it, because her 12-year-old son is interested in reading the books and – since Beth is a Christian mother – she’s trying to make up her mind whether a series that features witchcraft will undermine the values that she and her husband are instilling in their children.

As you can imagine, her friends had strong opinions. Here’s what I wrote:

I usually stay out of discussions like this because most people are just looking for ammo to bolster the opinion they've already formed. Since I've read the Harry Potter series to all my kids once (and most of them re-read it on their own) and the Narnia series several times, obviously I don't feel either one of them is harmful to children. Where I think the trouble comes in is when someone decides, "Well, I can certainly understand metaphor, simile, fantasy and the difference between fact and fiction, but then most people aren't as intelligent and socially conscious as I. Why, what if someone plays a game of Dungeons and Dragons, for example, and suddenly they can't distinguish between their friendly mail carrier and an Orc? I think I read about that happening somewhere, sometime! This menace must be stopped! Think of the children!"

I don't think it is ever necessary to let someone else do all of one's thinking for one - not even (or maybe especially) in the case of one's children. Parents naturally want to protect their children from harm, but I don't think ideas or concepts are harmful in themselves. I think that by segregating some themes or concepts into a great "We Do Not Discuss It" pile, we not only confer upon those subjects the irresistible cachet of "forbidden knowledge" - we deprive ourselves of a natural springboard to discussing our own ideals and beliefs. Of course, it is possible to live in a manner that excludes all fiction or entertainment as lies and frivolity, and some extremist religious or political sects do just that. I don't think this approach armors children to live in today's world, but then - they're not my children, it's not my business.

In short, I don't think reading Harry Potter - or The Necronomicon, or Spell Casting for Dummies - will turn someone into a witch or a Satanist, any more than reading Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography will turn someone into a body-builder. Ideas and beliefs are not mental land-mines, quiescent until they're stepped on by the unwary and explode with soul-destroying reverberations. If a child understands poetic license - and they all do, otherwise every sponge in the U.S. would be wearing pants - they will know fiction for what it is. I think the important thing is that the child knows what his parents believe, and how the world fits into that viewpoint. "Of course we know there's no such thing as The Easter Bunny/ black magic/ talking trees, but it's fun to think about" seems a lot less damaging to me than "OMIGOD YOU READ A CHILDREN'S BOOK AND NOW YOU'LL BURN IN HELL." So many people don't give their kids credit for any sense, when most children have a pretty good grasp of what's real and what isn't even if it's not something tangible. If a person grows up to become a mass-murderer, there was a lot more going wrong in his life than his choice of childhood reading material.

This is what we think, the decisions we've made for our children.

What do you think? I’m really askin’.