Not like the others

My parents visited me a few weeks ago and we celebrated my Dad’s 73rd birthday. Before their visit I took stock of what needed fixing around my house. You see, my parents are doers and they show their love by helping.

During their visit my Dad fixed numerous things, but one thing stands out for me. A light switch.

My kids’ bathroom had a broken light switch. Being a single parent and living in an expensive area (aka Seattle), my family has learned that things don’t get fixed quickly. Instead, we work around things until I fix something or find a cheap repair option. (Besides, the longer you wait before repairing something, the sweeter the repair).

I had wanted to fix the switch, but common sense told me to wait until a Y chromosome was in the house. And no, I didn’t think to employ my daughter with this fixit job. Not this time.

Instead, my Dad came to the rescue. He took apart the switch and made numerous trips to hardware stores. Home Depot and Lowes didn’t carry the same light switch, so the color and functionality wouldn’t match. He thought this might be a deal breaker for me, so he asked me what I wanted to do. I considered my options: a working switch that’s not quite like the others or a broken switch that’s, well… broken. I chose the working switch and my Dad installed it for me.

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New switch is on the left

Sure the switch is a different color and it doesn’t function like the one to the right. My old switches require a double click action which most guests can’t figure out, so the new switch is better in that regard. But that’s not why I like the switch. I like the new switch because it’s a visual reminder of my Dad’s desire to help me. When I use the switch I smile and think of him.

Throughout my life my Dad has always been willing to help me. My Dad is a calm, sweet man, who would do anything for anyone in need (especially his family). Dad: thank you for helping me throughout my life and teaching me the values and morals that I hold today. I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Experimenting in life

My daughter was bubbling over with excitement when I picked her up from school one day. She was excited about an experiment. The catalyst was a handful of brightly colored tissue paper. Why so much excitement?

Earlier she observed that when colored tissue paper gets wet, the dye from the paper colors the water. Excited by this observation, she dreamed up an experiment involving rice. Her plan was to use the tissue to dye rice.

When we got home she got right to work. She put the tissue paper in a bowl, added water and waited. The waiting is the hardest part when you’re eight years old. Once the water was red, she added the rice and waited some more. Overnight, the water evaporated leaving red rice.

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Red dyed rice mixed with regular rice

The experiment was complete. Her hypothesis was proven true. Colored tissue paper could be used to dye rice.

My daughter then played with the rice and inavertently made a mess in the bathroom. Her sister was mildly annoyed, since they share the same bathroom and rice stuck to her feet. Having my own bathroom, I was less annoyed and able to see the fun that rice and tissue paper provided. Sometimes the simplest things can be delightful.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you experimented? Have you tried something new? What were your results? Please share in a Comment.

New or used gift: Does it matter?

My daughter doesn’t differentiate between new and used. She’s 8 years old, and to her stuff is just stuff. Even in the case of a gift.

This story begins with a birthday party. I keep a stack of Barnes & Noble gift cards for kids’ birthday parties. I have the stack for a variety of reasons – the gift cards keep things simple, require little shopping, and I like to give books as gifts.

That said, my gift card stash was depleted and a birthday party was imminent. A Sunday morning bookstore dash was becoming likely, but I stayed silent. I wanted my daughter, who is an excellent problem solver, to come up with a solution. And she did.

Surprisingly and thankfully, my daughter didn’t mention going to a store. Instead, she started going through her stuff. Knowing that her friend loves Pokemon, she thumbed through her Pokemon movies. “How about this?” She offered up a favorite, Lucario and the Mysteries of Mew. “Sure,” I said gleefully.

There was a moment of silence. The gears in her head were spinning. “If I give this to Chaz, can we get another one?” Impressed that she was willing to give away a favorite, and excited about not going to a store, I said “sure.”

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Gently used birthday gift with homemade card

What I appreciate about my daughter’s thought process is that she considered what she had, and not what the closest store had. She found a great gift and it didn’t matter that it was used.

I was thinking of popping out to buy something, but my daughter found a great gift amongst her things. In her mind, stuff is stuff. New or used, it’s all the same. And why not? A great gift is a thoughtful gift. It doesn’t matter if it’s used or new.

What about you? Do you give gently used gifts? Have you gotten a used gift? What did you think? Please share your thoughts in a Comment.

Postscript: We should be near the end of my daughter’s Pokemon phase. I’m hoping that if the dvd is replaced, it will be with something else – a different used dvd.

Postscript #2: I read this post to my daughter today and she thought I missed an important point. The dvd  was originally her birthday gift from me. She told her friend as much and he loved the gift.

Postscript #3: Enough with the postscripts. 

Treasure or junk?

Experience has told me to check the pockets of my youngest daughter’s pants before washing them. What I mostly find are rocks. She loves rocks. Sticks too. Feathers. Her backpack has more treasures – larger rocks and objects she finds on the playground. A broken this or a piece of that.

Her recent treasures:

treasures

What do we have? Some cool beads, blue wooden block, hair clips, bouncy ball, feather (my daughter picks up ALL feathers with glee), nerf ball piece, packing chips, and a rock. She arranged her treasures on a fabric scrap (another treasure) for me to photograph.

Treasure or junk?

I love children and their unique perspective. So young and fresh. Children are often amused, excited, and interested in things that adults like me overlook. My daughter finds broken bits of plastic on the playground and they become toys. Using her imagination, broken discarded items become useful. My daughter rarely discards anything. And, if she finds something – it’s always a treasure.

I look at the nerf ball piece (yellow thing pictured above, under the feather) and think junk, while my daughter thinks treasure. What’s the difference? Context. Her context is one of wonder and mine is well… less wondrous. I recognize the item and label it – oh that’s a piece of a nerf ball. And then, since it’s broken I call it junk.

However, living with children gives me an opportunity to shift my context. I get to see the world through their eyes – and in this case, I get to see discarded broken things as treasures. What a gift.

What about you? Do your children help you shift your context? Do you bring home rocks and treasures? Please leave a Comment.

Children’s book leaves me counting blessings

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My 8 year old daughter picked out a book at her school’s Scholastic book fair: “How to Steal a Dog” by Barbara O’Connor. Excited that she’d picked a book instead of the various Scholastic craptastic toys, I happily bought her the book.

My daughter picked this book because of the cute dog on its cover. However in this case, you definitely can’t judge a book by its cover, because this book is about homelessness. The book opens with:

 “The day I decided to steal a dog is the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”

What a great first line!

The story begins with a mother and her two children living in a car. They’ve been evicted from their apartment, the father has left, and the mother is working two jobs. As the story unfolds, a moral dilemma emerges. Is it OK to do something wrong if your intentions are good? In the story, homelessness motivates a young girl to steal “borrow” a dog, with the hope that the owners will offer reward money, which she can then use towards an apartment. She knows it’s wrong to take the dog, and yet she hates living in a car. She desperately wants a real place to live. And so… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

What my daughter and I got from ‘How to Steal a Dog’ is the importance of having a home. And that not having a home can drive a person to do something they might normally not do. As I read the book to my daughter there were a million opportunities for us to count our blessings. We read about the family’s plight and then felt grateful for such things as:

  • We’re not embarrassed about where we live and can invite friends over to our home.
  • Where we live stays the same. Our home doesn’t move between back alleys and parking lots.
  • We have beds to sleep on, instead of sleeping curled up in a car.
  • Our home has a thermostat.
  • We have running water and a shower. We don’t have to wash our hair in a restaurant’s bathroom.
  • We have a refrigerator and only use ice coolers for trips.

The list goes on and on… We have so much to be thankful for!

What are you thankful for? Please leave a Comment.

The best gifts in life are free

Let me first say that I’m a big tie dye fan. While tie dye may not be high fashion, I love how each dyed piece is unique. One of a kind. Like the people who created them. Speaking of…

Last summer my daughter went to summer camp and was instructed to bring something to tie dye. She didn’t have something, so she asked me for something. “Mom, I want to make you a tie dye shirt.” I thought great, I love tie dye.

Not having many white t-shirts, I quickly came across something perfect. A shirt with a stain. I had been meaning to try bleaching the shirt, but it hadn’t happened. This would be perfect. Take something worn and turn it into something new.

tiedye1So I entrusted my stained shirt to my daughter and off she went to camp. A week later, she returned with much excitement about the shirt she created for me. With visions of decoupage pencil cups dancing in my head, I took a peek at my new shirt. I was blown away. It was simply beautiful. 

The shirt pictured here has been my favorite for the past year. I’ve worn it again and again, and each time I think of my daughter. The splashes of color and the unique white rings are her creation. She deliberately chose warm colors for me. And she created the rings by gathering rocks and tightly winding rubber bands around the rocks again and again, so that the dye couldn’t permeate.  

There are a number of rings on the front and the back. This creation took some time. When I look at the rings I imagine her wrapping the rubber bands round and round. Each time I see the shirt I smile and each time I wear it my daughter smiles too. She knows how much I love the shirt that she so carefully made just for me.

It was the perfect gift and it didn’t cost a penny.

What’s your favorite homemade gift? Please share.

Next time you’re at a thrift store thumbing through white shirts, don’t be afraid to buy something stained. With a little dye, you can turn something worn into something new.

Read aloud: Create an audio book for someone

warriorsbook

My daughters love a book series called Warriors by Erin Hunter. There are 18 some books in the Warriors series, but only 3 are available as audio books. Problem: My youngest wants to listen to all the Warriors books. Solution?

My daughter asked me to make an audio book for her. Clever idea! I love to read children’s books. Reading a Warriors book out loud takes time, so to speed up the process I thought to employ my older daughter.

My older daughter loved the idea and got right to work, reading and recording the first 4 chapters. I told her that I could read a few chapters, but she turned me down. My older daughter thought the book would be best read by a ‘true Warriors fan,’ so I stepped aside. 

In the end everything worked out perfectly. My oldest created an audio book for my youngest. She practiced her read aloud skills, while creating something special for her sister. My youngest happily listened to a Warriors book read to her by her sister, who is a ‘true Warriors fan’. What could be better? I love when life deals you a win/win situation.

Is there a book you’d like to share with someone special? All you need is a microphone, a computer, blank CDs, and time to read. Record your children’s favorites so they can play them while you’re away, or even when you’re not. Children love hearing stories again and again. Short on time? Have your oldest make a recording for your younger children.

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Technical details

My daughter used the microphone included with Rock Band 2 – you can plug the USB connector into a computer. She recorded her voice using Sound Recorder (included with Windows), making each chapter a separate recording/track. Once she had about 75 minutes of recordings (WMA files), she made a playlist in Windows Media Player and burned the playlist to a CD. That’s it! 

No microphone? The Logitech USB Desktop Microphone is inexpensive ($20) and has good reviews on Amazon. CNET product review: easy to set up, small footprint, good sound quality for the price.

Here are some sites with free audio books:

Free classic audio books
Project Gutenberg audio books 
Librivox 

Want to learn more about the Warriors books? Click here.

Have a frugal gift idea? Please leave a Comment.