Monday, May 19, 2008

Favorite Foods

I sometimes feel like I'm serving JD the same foods over and over. It's easy to get stuck in a rut.

I'm hoping that by posting some of JD's favorites, some of you will respond with some of your kids' favorites. I hope they enjoy them as much as he does.

Grilled Sandwiches
JD loves grilled sandwiches. I always serve them open-faced.

For breakfast, I make egg and cheese sandwiches.
-Start with a small frying pan, non-stick spray, one egg, one piece of bread, one piece of cheese.
-pre-heat the pan on medium heat. when it starts getting warm, use a bit of non-stick spray
-crack the egg into a bowl and scramble
-pour the egg into the pan and immediately put the bread on top. Allowing it to soak in helps it stay together when it's being eaten.
-turn the heat down to medium-low. On my stove, there are numbers 1-10. I preheat at 5 and cook at 3.
-when the egg is cooked, use a spatula to turn. Put the cheese on top. You can turn it down a little bit or not. Turning it down will allow the cheese to melt while reducing the chance of burning the bread. You can even set a timer for about three minutes. I use that time to cut fruit, pour milk, put a few dishes into or out of the dishwasher, or find JD halfway up the stairs to the second floor.
-when the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, put it on to a cutting board. Allow it to cool for 1-2 minutes. This will help prevent the cheese from melting back together as soon as it's cut.

You can use this recipe with tuna, chicken, or egg salad sandwiches for lunch or dinner. The difference there is to put the salad mix on the bread off to the side while the pan is preheating. Then put it in the pan with the bread down and cheese on top. Keep it on heat level 3 (med-low) and cover for 4-5 minutes. No flipping needed.

For fruit, JD loves bananas and grapes. He tolerates apples and pears. He likes strawberries, though they're only just coming into season. Rasperries are $5 per 8 oz container. That's about as much as 8 oz. of choice tenderloin from Costco. No way. Blueberries are also out of season but a favorite. Melon is good, but they're big and bulky. It's almost impossible for our family of three to go through one before it goes bad. Pineapple is too much work.

JD doesn't like vegetables! I'm not sure what to do about that. I offer them to him, or just put them on his tray. Force-feeding will not begin until he's at least two. Just kidding. Maybe three. Any ideas? Corn, peas, and carrots occasionally get a taste. He pushes broccoli and asparagus away immediately.

Let me know if you have ideas!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hang This

My wife's clothes are a pain to clean. That's just the reality. It sucks doing her laundry. You know why? Because I hate hanging wet clothes. That's it. That's my big reason. It's not even the time factor. I can deal with the fact that it takes an extra five to ten minutes out of my day to hang them rather than just throwing them into the dryer. It's that I'm having to touch wet clothes.

Not just touch them, but shake out the wrinkles, then turn them right-side-out, then put them on a hanger. It's a lot of wet-clothes-touching.

When was the last time that you had to deal with wet clothes? You didn't like it, did you?

First, they're wet. Second, they're inside-out. Did you know that clothes wash better inside-out? I didn't. But now I do. I'm a label reader. I've even read parts of some book I bought my wife from In Style magazine, something about being a stylish woman. Anyway, one part says that clothes wash better inside-out. So now I'm turning both of our clothes inside-out. But you know what you have to do to hang them up? Turn them back again! Otherwise, you're hanging wet clothes, then drying them, then taking them off the hanger and turning them right-side-out. I'm certainly not going to waste that kind of time just because I've got some silly issue with wet clothes.

So now I've got this whole system down on how I hang shirts and pants on hangers, then hang them on door frames. I space the clothes evenly so that air can surround them to dry efficiently.
For a while I got all hang-clothes crazy. Everything had to be hung. I was this close to putting her thongs on hangers to dry. I was re-designing my laundry room in my head; visions of efficient clothes-lines running across the ceiling; front-load washer and dryer with a custom-built folding table over top of them; a steamer! What joy! It even crossed my mind to get rid of the dryer. Who cares? Saves me on my gas bill. Eco friendly! Plus, gas dryers are expensive!

But wait! It turns out that my clothes respond better to the dryer. That's right. While a moment of drying any of her shirts or pants (pajamas notwithstanding,) my clothes not only don't shrink, but they feel perfect. I tried hanging things up - polos, t-shirts, jeans. Actually, t-shirts are fine. But, my polos come out wrinkled and feel like rough cardboard. Jeans don't feel all nice and snug. It's a conspiracy.

Occasionally, one of her items accidentally makes it into the dryer. I try to hang it up and hope that she doesn't notice. A few days go by and I start feeling safe. That is, until I wake up to groans of anger at 5:45am. She's found that the exact top that would go with the pants that fit her properly on that particular morning has somehow shrunk. Then I'm briefly annoyed that she woke me up over this trivial fact. Then I realize that she's already up at 5:45am and probably not thinking 100% rationally. She's not the one who gets to go back to sleep. Then I feel guilty for getting annoyed with her and probably saying something smart. Then I feel guilty for ruining her top. Then I get pissed at the $50-100 I'm going to have to spend to replace the thing. (I won't mention that she's got three other tops almost exactly like it. Logic has no place in this arena.) I'm certainly not fool enough to put her jeans in the dryer. That would cost me two months of golfing. F*&^ that.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Home Improvement

Since becoming an at-home Dad, I have taken it upon myself to save money by doing things around the house for which I would have previously hired a professional. I am now considering several home improvement projects. The first was installing new toilets.

Improving one's home by one's self should be carefully measured. From my days as the service manager at my family's garage, one concept stands out: it is one thing to change a part, it is another to diagnose a problem and then repair to solve that problem.

For example, changing brake pads is not all that complicated. Basically, you take off the tire, remove the caliper, take off the old pads, put brake grease on the back of the new pads, put the new pads into the caliper, reinstall the calipers, put the tires back. But how would you know if one or more caliper was bad? Or if you change the rotors because you're getting brake pulsation, do you change the front or the rear? Are you sure that it's not the hub and bearing?

The same can be said for home improvement projects. I had one problem with each of two toilets. On the main floor, the toilet did not flush well and would back up frequently. Upstairs, the fill water in the tank would not shut off.

Taking the toilet's information to the Kohler dealer, I found out that the new part to repair the upstairs toilet was $20, but that that toilet was old and inefficient. Of course, they recommended a new toilet as the water savings would be significant. After talking this over with my wife, I decided to replace both toilets. My Uncle would help me install them, as he was a contractor in his previous life.

Upon purchasing the toilets and spending about twice as much as I thought I would have to, my Uncle and I set to installing them. The reality is that he did most of the work. We did find out a few things. First, the people who installed the tile in the main floor bathroom did an awful job. One of the screws holding the toilet to the floor was not anchored to anything; the tile probably broke while the hole was being cut for the plumbing. We fortunately avoided any major problems. The second issue was that the main floor toilet was a 1.6 Gallon per Flush toilet, not a 3.5 gpf like the upstairs toilet. I had assumed it was the same as the upstairs one, which had prompted me to purchase rather than repair.

The installation upstairs was easier. The only issue there was a space constraint. There was a small gap between the glass shower door that swings out and the old toilet. According to the specs, the new toilet should have fit, even though it was elongated, not round like the old one. It didn't. We were able to turn it a bit so that the door swung freely. Crisis avoided.

Then we flushed the toilets. They don't seem to be any better than the old ones. I will see if time or adjustment takes care of that. The toilets have yet to be challenged, as the work was completed earlier this afternoon.

When we were done and my Uncle left, I realized that I probably should have gotten some professional advice before doing this. I should have asked for my Uncle's advice or I could have paid a professional plumber to come over and diagnose the problems. There may have been something cheap that could have been done with the main toilet's backup problem and that could have saved the time of replacing possibly a perfectly good toilet.

The point is, if I was just doing this for cosmetic or ecological reasons and all of the mechanicals seemed to be running perfectly well, this would have been a good opportunity for my Uncle to teach me about plumbing. In the future, though, if I'm having a problem, I'll hire someone to diagnose. Then I can decide if the repairs are something I want to undertake or if I'll save money or come out even hiring a pro. After all, a pro will guarantee his own work. If you screw up, the pro has to fix your mistakes while doing the job right.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

2 Minutes in the Box

It's a real shame that so many people fail to see the beauty of the game of hockey. Everyone loves football and it's contact, basketball is fun in the 4th quarter (or late 2nd half in college), and baseball has its fine skills and statistics. Hockey has all of that and more.
It's faster than full speed because it's on ice. The action is non-stop. Athleticism abounds at every position. Any player can be a hero on any given day and at any position. I believe that HD helps hockey on TV, but that it is best seen live.
There's no doubt that it's the most fun sport to play. Ice or floor hockey or even air hockey are all favorites.
JD has yet to appreciate the playing aspects of the game, but he'll watch on TV. Since he was a baby, he's been captivated by hockey on TV. Certainly, it had to do with the motion and colors, but he will still sit and watch a few minutes with me, focused on the play.
Trying to play hockey with him is hazardous. JD's just recently grasped the idea of hitting a ball with the stick. There's still such to learn about holding the stick, hitting the ball to a desired target, and general stick control. I've been hit in the toes more times than I care to remember. When he carries the stick, the blade is at belly height or above. Pretty soon, it's going to be 2 minutes in the box for him.
Maybe that will be part of his discipline; instead of a “time out,” he'll go to the penalty box. I suppose I'll have to designate an appropriate space in the house. Maybe the furnace room. Send him to the basement in a dark, cramped, scary space where he can sit for a couple of minutes to cool off. But is there enough public humiliation there? Part of being in the penalty box is that you are by yourself, feeling shame, and under the view of your teammates, the opposition, and the spectators. A bit like wearing the dunce cap? Maybe, but as a society, don't we make public humiliation part of punishments?
If you are arrested in a suburb, you are put into the police blotter. Celebrities? All over the news, their picture and accusations are front and center. So why are we so obsessed about not humiliating the little ones?
Some of them like the attention. I've heard a saying of Hollywood celebrities that goes something like, I don't care what you write about me as long as you spell my name right. So by making a public spectacle of the wrongdoing child, you are making a spectacle of him or her and giving them unneeded attention or the attention for which they're striving.
Back to hockey, I have to tell you that I love contact. It's really a lot of fun laying a nice hit on the opposition. In my last league game, I was trying to prevent a player from getting a loose puck along the boards. My goal was to get between him and the puck, but I ended up putting my shoulder into him and crushing him against the boards. That was worth 4 minutes in the box. Sometimes being bad does feel good. Just don't tell JD.