Year: 2016

Childhood Ingenuity

As a stay-at-home mom, I am always devising things for the kids to do when they are not in school or studying afterwards. There are activities you do inside such as games, movies, cooking with me, arts and crafts, and the like. Then there are those things they do outside; the primary one is swimming in the pool. They could spend hours there. They also like tossing a ball, skipping rope, listening to music while in lounge chairs on the patio, and playing hide and seek. Recently I saw them running the hose down the slide in the year and got the immediate inspiration to buy an inflatable water slide for our pool. It would be far superior to the makeshift one we already have.

The day it arrived by truck and was installed promptly poolside, the kids were in a panic to try it out. It was ready and waiting as there was no major work to do in getting it functioning. They started racing to the slide to see who would go first. “Take turns,” I cried but it didn’t matter. They went in the order of who was fastest in getting back on after a dunk in the cool pool water. It was a big hit. Why had I not thought of this before.

So the warm days flew by and they were spent in the pool and on the slide. Either a group of kids were in the throes of slippery fun or even just one loner who happened to be at home. I enjoyed their glee and thought about what else I could get to add to it. Maybe a raft for floating in the pool. They are inflatable and easy to store off season in the garage. Soon two appeared in comical shapes. If you don’t have a pool in your backyard, by all means take my advice and get one. You won’t then see your kids constantly on their cell phones or watching TV. They will get good exercise and will sleep well at night as a result.

One day I came home in the afternoon and no kids were at home. I suppose they were visiting friends or walking to the local store. I would see them soon enough but I needed to check the pool area to be sure before retreating to my room for a nap. I walked slowly to the edge of the pool as I couldn’t see much from my vantage point in the house in spite of the large sliding glass doors. I heard some odd noises and as I got closer I knew what they were. Our family dog was using the water slide and splashing about in the pool to get out and try again. I laughed so loud. It was a very funny sight indeed. I didn’t want to put a stop to it as the dog seemed safe enough. Most animals can swim and this pet was quite good at it.

There are Always Options

Being green is a great epithet to have associated with your actions these days. It shows responsibility and environmental concern. It is not hard to do your part. You can separate your garbage, take cloth bags to the grocery store to avoid hogging the paper bags, and you can recycle old appliances and metals. You can even donate your car to charity so they can sell the old parts for profit. It is a clever form of fundraising. It is hard not to be green as a matter of fact since it is so encouraged. There are websites devoted to instructions as to how you can comply. It is all about not being wasteful with natural resources and when using cleaning products, to make sure they are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

Fortunately, there are many product lines that boast of this advantage. They are to be used to clean your house first and foremost, but guess what, I also use them to clean my hot tub. The product description guarantees safe non-toxic ingredients. Is this carrying going green too far? By no means no. Nothing is exempt from environmental protection. I also appreciate that cleaning products are no longer laden with harsh chemicals that are harmful to pets and children. We have way too long been used to such brands before the green revolution. It is wonderful that we can do an about turn and correct our ways. I am concerned about my family and thus I buy a whole line of complete cleaning products. The liquids are colorless so they even look safe. Read the label if you don’t believe me. There is nothing dangerous or harsh.

Make a list of what you do to be environmentally friendly. I bet you will be surprised that it is not a long list and that there is a lot more you can do. Check certain stories that specialize in green living like Whole Foods and you will get ideas galore. You can even get special cat litter and recyclable cleaning rags. If you have a hot tub, I bet you never even considered the products that you use. You buy them at the pool supply store and go for the lowest price. If your tub uses chlorinated water, you may not feel you need to clean the unit at all. But not everyone uses chemicals in their hot tub for health reasons as there are consequences. These chemicals are harsh on the skin, making dry, red, and flaky. Remember, it is your children who are soaking in this water. So there are many dimensions of using and caring for a hot tub that bear scrutiny. Take it from me and include it on that list I asked you to make. Green products don’t cost any more than regular ones, so that is no excuse. Owning a hot tub need not make you an environmental violator. Get with the program and address the issue with care.

The Verdict is In…

Everyone adores the family dog. Maybe you have more than one. It lives in your midst providing hours of unconditional love for which there is no substitute. Sometimes it sleeps with you on the sofa as you watch TV or atop you in your favorite easy chair next to the cozy blanket. Most have been known to grace the bed covers during sleeping hours no doubt imparting enough pet dander to create some major family allergies.

It is a sad state of affairs to find out that one of your children is allergic to this favored pet, who otherwise can do no wrong. Allergies in kids are serious matters causing coughs, shortness of breath, wheezing, and general respiratory discomfort. Well, the obvious solution won’t work. You can’t get rid of the precious pet no matter what. The anguish to the child alone is far worse than the allergy symptoms. We wouldn’t put food in our children’s lunches that aggravate allergies, so why keep the family dog around without taking some precautions.

Where there is a will, there is a way. It comes in the form of an air purifier designed for pet allergies and odors. You can ban the pet from the bedroom to be sure, especially at night, but you need to do more than that if he or she is to live peaceably in the family home. An air purifier is designed just for such occasions when the air quality is poor and full of pollen, pet dander, mold, germs, odors, bacteria, smoke, or allergens. They work wonders in keeping kids breathing well and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. You will want a good portable model that will take care of an entire room of up to 500 square feet. You don’t have to install the appliance in your HVAC system which might be cumbersome unless your family allergy problem is quite severe. Room size air purifiers cost much less than the whole-house models in any case and can be quite effective when used consistently. You can then move it around as needed as they weight from 10 to 20 pounds, but let it reside in the bedroom for the night.

So which one to buy? After careful scrutiny, the verdict is in. I prefer a HEPA as opposed to a carbon filter. A lot of confidence goes with that name. It is a common sense step to eradicate air pollution. What this means is that some room models use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can capture ultrafine particles. Most such specialized filters need to be replaced annually, an expense that might increase the total cost of the air cleaner (A few air cleaners are now available with cleanable HEPA filters.) Be advised that room models that use either electrostatic-precipitator or ionizer technology produce some small amount ozone, which can be a lung irritant. Check the product specifications to learn how to cut back on this emission or opt to avoid this process altogether. I think, however, that the benefits outweigh this drawback.

A New Chapter for Mom

Retirement is indeed the turning of a big page in one’s life journey. So much so that many people do not look forward to such major upheaval in their lives. I don’t look at it that way since it is not about me this time. My mother, a nurse, is about to retire and a party is in store to celebrate her many dedicated medical years. We have a lot of family coming to join mom’s coworkers. It will have a medical theme, of course, with plenty of references to the stethoscopes, hypodermics, blood pressure cuffs, bandages, compression stockings, and more. I have my ideas about decorating the room. I will try to use the medical paraphernalia humorously, some of it hanging from door jambs and windows. I will fill bandages like a piñata laden with assorted candies and mini toys. I want it to be festive and fun and a big send off for her termination of a major lifelong career.

Mother’s friends are nurses so I will have favors and gifts for them as well. I am making goodie bags full of colorful Band-Aids (the kind kids like), shoe laces in colors for nurses sneakers, miniature tongue depressors, and the like. It is all in fun as every guest will be entirely familiar with this hospital stuff.

Some family members are not as in the know so they asked me about finding gifts for nurses. What do you get a retired nurse? I answered just about anything. Don’t worry about making it practical since she is no longer on the job. Why not eschew the nurses gift idea altogether and get luxury items she never had time to use like perfume, cosmetics, scarves, and real pantyhose—not just the thick and unsightly compression kind. I myself had been struggling with the gift idea since I wanted it to be a representative of the major nature of this event. So I started thinking about a nice vacation to a sunny isle somewhere where she could bask leisurely in the sun. As a nurse always confined to dark hospital corridors, she had gotten a bit pale. I think this kind of gift would be a big surprise. She never had time to take more than two or three days of vacation, as dedicated as she was. She never wanted to abandon the patients and she was always on time for her shifts. I think if I do the sunny isle location, I can add this to the decorations of the party as a getaway secondary theme. We can have rum drinks with little umbrellas and trays of tropical fruit like pineapple. We can have colorful cloth draped here and there, the kind they wear in Hawaii on those famous shirts and muu muus of the state. It will be a hint of what is to come. I want to convey the idea that life is grand after retirement and something indeed to look forward to.

Summer Celebration

It was an exciting weekend: birthday party time! I love planning my children’s birthday parties. With a summer birthday, when my daughter asked for a pool party, I knew exactly where I wanted to take the idea—her new favorite movie, Finding Dory. I went looking for some appropriately themed pool toys first, and managed to score a couple of turtle and fish rafts, which made life much easier for me! Next, I started work on the décor. I found a cool lantern/jellyfish project that worked nicely. My daughter loved the end result. Honestly, so did I. I wouldn’t mind keeping them up a little longer! For entertainment, we made an obstacle course using the kids’ fabric tunnels and streamers. The kids would follow the course by navigating a trail of “seashells” we put on the ground. We also made a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey where the kids would try to get Dory the closest to her parents. For food, I had the usual treats that I put out but with a couple of variations. For the crudités, I made little slices in carrot sticks to look like fins, then used ranch dressing to add stripes to make them look like clownfish. I also made sugar free gelatin using blue food coloring (natural food coloring, people. Don’t start. I know the dangers of artificial food coloring. I boiled red cabbage. I know it sounds gross but as long as you don’t use a lot of it, you don’t really notice the flavor) and poured it into a fish shaped mold that I scored off ebay. Instead of a big cake, I made cupcakes, replacing the butter with applesauce and using whole wheat flour. I did make a cream cheese frosting, however. Gotta give the kids at least a little something sweet! I printed out little octopus images, taped them to toothpicks, and stuck them in the tops of each.)
Everything was going swimmingly—see what I did there—until the wind picked up and everyone started complaining that they were getting chilly. Kids started hopping out of the pool and looking toward the house. Rather than run the risk of ten wet children running around my house and sitting on all my furniture, I had my husband bring out our outdoor patio heater. I am so glad that we bought this particular model because the children’s safety is always a huge concern. The base is nice and wide, which keeps it from falling over. The actual heater is quite high so little fingers can’t reach it. We were able to keep the kids warm enough for the grand finale of the party: we made a movie screen out of a white sheet we hung between two trees, had the kids spread out their beach towels to sit on, and we used our projector to have a showing of Finding Nemo. They got their last treat of the night, which we called Fish Food but was really seasoned air-popped popcorn mixed with organic cereal.
All in all, it was a great party! I am always up for the challenge of creating a fun party and finding little details to make things unique. I had parents coming up to me afterwards admiring the jellyfish decorations and asking me how I managed to get their kid to eat carrots—I told them it’s all in the presentation!

Keeping the Children Safe

Keeping your kids safe is a full time job for any parent. They can meet peril any time of the day or night. You have to be super vigilant and observant, and never let the young ones out of your sight–unless they have other authorized supervision. Their sense of reason is underdeveloped and they can wander into unsafe territory without ever knowing it. They can tempt fate, and they often do feeling a bit of daring in their souls. The point is, of course, to teach children about safety and to ward off potential accidents.

Kids can break things and cut their little limbs; they can get scalded with too hot bathtub water; they can slip on an oil slick in the garage; or they could fall down a flight of steep stairs. They can get locked in the basement or outside when no one is home. Poisons abound in homes without anyone realizing it—and they can be as close as under the sink. Open windows can suddenly fall shut or something from above can topple over onto small heads. When you think about it, it sounds pretty terrifying. Children can also run into the street before an oncoming car or they can take their bikes for a ride and break down. Predators can stalk them around school play yards or when you least notice them. It is a harsh, cruel world out there!

It seems that sudden danger lies in wait no matter how much you prepare. No wonder parents are paranoid about their kid’s activities and whereabouts. One other cause for concern are weapons in the home. Gun owners should fear unauthorized access to these firearms, even if they are in a locked gun safe. An accident only has to happen once. Horror stories abound. Parents forget to lock the safe after the last entry. It pays to take every precaution if you feel you must protect yourself with a gun.

One way is to get a secure housing unit for your weapon in the form of a biometrically operated safe. With this type of safe, in addition to or in lieu of a combination dial or electronic keypad lock, you can have a personal form of identity used to open it. It makes it just that much harder. People often use voice commands or special numbers such as a birthdate or social security ID; but fingerprints are also a great means of limiting safe access to only those permitted to enter and withdraw the contents. This is an ingenious invention that boosts security in the home and helps limit accidents.

Children are therefore as secure as you make them by planning ahead and teaching caution. They are never too young for instruction. Whether it is knives in the kitchen, chemicals in the garage, or guns in the attic, it is vital to take action to ward off peril. It is a parent’s full responsibility and no one else’s. Guidelines for safety in the home are readily available on line and should be consulted.