Sharing the fun and creativity in my world and encouraging the same in yours.

Archive for the ‘Solutions’ Category

3 Ways A Timer Can Help You And Your Child With Tasks

I am an avid reader, not only of fiction but all sorts of non-fiction too. Self-help books are a special interest of mine as well: how-to and do-it-yourself books/magazines on home improvement, painting, gardening, organizing, decluttering, time management, self-care, self-discovery, and healthful eating.

Like this squirrel finally figuring out how to grab some bird seed from this hanging bird feeder, I’ve tried many ways of doing things to find out what works best for myself and my family. I am forever seeking ways to improve our lives as normal changes occur over time, so I love learning about new ideas, and solutions.

Take a lesson from the squirrels, never give up!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Anything to help me reach my goals, make my life easier and happier, run more smoothly is all right by me. Even if it’s as simple as a new way to dust baseboards. Hint: put those single socks to good use (you know, the ones the dryer didn’t eat or the ones that have holes in them). Insert hand and swipe the wood, super easy/fast! 😀

Or a bit more challenging like managing your time and figuring out if you’re a calendar person or day planner or an app person? I’m definitely a calendar person. I am a tactile person; I like the feel of a pen in my hand, stickers to peel and stick for reminders or after I’ve accomplished something that day. Makes for a pretty colorful wall-hanging at the end of the month!

One of the most useful tools I’ve discovered over the years is a timer. A timer works wonders for me on those days that I feel scattered or overwhelmed by all I have to do. I set the timer for 15 minutes so I can focus on one task at a time. I must say, it helps tremendously and I have found that many tasks (like unloading the dishwasher or loading it) take only 5-15 minutes.

I used to think it took a lot longer until I set my timer (especially loading it after dinner). Surprise! Leftovers put away, dishwasher loaded, counters cleaned, sink wiped in under 15 minutes! Without even racing, mind you! 🙂

Second terrific use for a timer? A timer works great for children doing homework. I used it with my son when he was overwhelmed with the amount of homework he needed to do in elementary, middle and high school. He’d almost have a panic attack thinking about everything he had to get done; so much so, that he couldn’t decide which assignment to tackle first.

I would have him start with the most important or urgent assignment. He’d set his timer for 15 minutes (sometimes 30 minutes when he was older) and do it. At the end of that time, he could take a 5-10 minute break: go for a walk outside, get a glass of water, play a short card game with Mom. When the timer went off, he knew to set it for another stint of 15-30 minutes for homework. It really helped calm him down and allowed him to take his homework one step/assignment at a time.

And, if he had a tough piece of homework, I had him do the easy stuff first. That helps reduce the pressure and the dread of doing that tough assignment/topic. And, if he was having trouble with one assignment, when the timer went off, he could switch to an easy assignment. “You can always go back to it”, I told him. I believe he even uses the timer now that he’s in college when he needs to.

The third use for a timer helps with clean-up tasks with your children. Telling a child to “Go clean your room.” doesn’t help them break the task into manageable chunks. Use the timer to help you decide on the task you want them to complete.

Assign the task then set the timer. Tasks as simple as: fold, hang, and put away clothes; pick up and throw away all garbage; dust; or vacuum can more easily be assigned and completed using a timer. Usually, 5-15 minutes for each task is good. (Don’t set the timer for more than 30 minutes or an hour. Overwhelm sets in and nothing gets done.)

The key is to adhere to the timer. When the timer goes off – make sure they STOP! Even if there are some clothes left out. STOP. Now set the timer for fun! 5-15 minutes of dancing, hoola-hooping, running outside, getting a drink of water. When the timer goes off again, they know it’s time to finish their task or carry out another one. Once again, set the timer for the task.

You *must* adhere to the timer, especially for young children. They (and you) can get into a real rhythm with no nagging involved. The timer tells them when to start and when to stop. They (and you) know exactly what they’re supposed to do and the timer helps them focus.

Try it! I hope it works as well for you as it has for me over the years. 🙂

Have you tried using a timer? Has it helped you, your children? Or do you have another tool you use to help you or your children focus? I’d love to hear about them!

Copyright 2011, 2012, 2013 – All rights reserved.

I Had A Battle Today And Lost – Ouch.

Laundry

I had a battle today–with a bleach bottle.

I rarely use bleach, in fact, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I used it at all. My son came home from college with our white towels and well, they weren’t white and smelled awful! There really was/is no place for him to hang his towels so they dry, he says. They get put into his hamper damp and that does not bode well for the towels nor any of his other clothes. I had to use bleach.

Plus, now that my husband is doing work on older homes (both small and large renovations), he’s getting filthy!! Especially his socks and any white t-shirts he may wear on-site. I miss the years he worked in new construction. ~sigh~

Anyway, I battled the bleach bottle…and lost. 😦

I swear I saw stars while cleaning this wound.

After I gingerly washed my hands, I carefully laid the flap of skin back over the top wound to re-seal and heal itself. (Oops, sorry, TMI?) The nice red welts below that are blisters which will, hopefully, re-absorb into my palm without breaking open.

How Did This Happen?

Trying to open the bleach bottle, that’s how, you know, the darn “Press Down and Turn” cap? Well, I did and it didn’t. I hadn’t noticed what I’d done to my hand until I gave up and stormed off into the kitchen.

My Solution?

My husband came home from an errand and I waved “hello” with my bandaged hand.

“What did you DO?”

I showed him. “Ewww. Ouch.”

I told him of my dilemma fully versing him in my attempts to open the bleach bottle: at first gently pushing and turning the cap as instructed, and when that didn’t work, I used my full weight on it again and again and again. Grrrr…..

“You want me to open it?”

“Sure.” He proceeded to go out and, of course, opened the darn bleach bottle on his first try. I took a deep breath and squinted my eyes.

“I did that!! I tried doing it gently and lightly at first!!!! It didn’t work!!”

“I believe you! I believe you.” He closed it and opened it again.

“It’s not fair and it’s not funny!”

He walked away chuckling while I carefully started the white load then squealed with pain when I had to wash my hands afterwards. Hours later, I have to laugh too.

This whole thing reminded me of an hysterical Carol Burnett skit where she plays a woman who comes home from grocery shopping and proceeds to try to open up various items: cheese, jars, milk cartons, all to no avail. Click on her name above to watch it. Me?

I’m letting my husband grill tonight. I’m not going anywhere near the kitchen. The laundry was enough for me today. 🙂 Oh, and at some point, I’ll thank him for opening that bottle of bleach for me.

Have you ever felt like you’re in a Carol Burnett shtick?

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

The Night Before Delivery

(A nod to Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.)

The Night Before Delivery

Twas the night before delivery
When all through our home
We were sweating, trying to sleep
but tossing and turning, dreaming of gnomes.

The area was cleared, laundry was done and removed
For we had received a phone call with news…oh, what news!

What had planned to be a Wednesday delivery
Had been moved up to Tuesday. Oh gee!

So Hubby in his boxers and I in my pj’s
Had finally settled down for a cozy night of sleep…NAY!

When out in the driveway there sounded a loud beep!
I rushed to the kitchen and made ready to greet.

Opening the garage door I threw up the switch
Turned on the light and I began to twitch!

***

The sun on the pavement and bright white truck & van
Made my heart flutter as my eyes tried to scan.

Hark! What to my tired and bleary eyes should appear?
But a van and two trucks with five workmen in gear.

With a tall young driver, so prompt and polite
I knew in a moment, everything would be alright.

More rapid than greyhounds, introductions were made.
And he pointed and shouted and called them by name.

“Here’s Todd. Now Dave! Now Michael and Dixon!
Now on to the plans we have for a fixin’.
To the inside of the garage and the side of the house!
We need to detach, remove, install and replace for her spouse!”

As bees set to work on cleaning the hive
When they carry the debris to the outside,
So on to the old units the workmen encroached
With a truck full of tools and the Supervisor’s approach.

And then in a flurry, I heard the men chatter
Then the clinking and clanking of wrenches and hammer.

As I withdrew to my home, and was closing the door
The Supervisor quickly said, “There is more!”

***

He was dressed in his uniform, so clean and so pressed
A striking comparison to me who was so rumpled and depressed.

A clipboard and pen were ready at hand,
He went over the details, waved over my land.

***

His eyes were so bright! His smile so happy!
His demeanor so nice! Whereas I was quite flappy!

His voice was too pleasant for me at this early time.
And I almost swore that he may have mimed!

But the clipboard he held with pen tight in his hand
Was bouncing and moving as if in a band.

He told me of supplies, measurements, time, and expectations.
With barely 5 hours of sleep, I’m not sure I heard all the information.

He was fairly thin and agile, a right pleasing good fellow.
And I laughed when he told me I would soon be able to mellow.

A flick of his head to his workers, the four
And he was off for supplies for an hour or more.

When he came back with supplies, the workers they pounced.
They were ready to finish. They grabbed, strolled and bounced.

And turning again, he drove off with a wave,
And I turned and walked wistfully back into my cave.

***

Then the team called me out, the new HVAC was installed!
And they all drove away. I was so glad I called.

 And I heard their comments so clear in my head,
“Happy Sleeping to you!” The four of them said.

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.


You Think You’re Hot?

This is what I’ve been using to cool off over the past several days as outdoor temperatures have been between 90 & 93 degrees putting our indoor temperatures in an un-air-conditioned house at 88 & 90 degrees.

See the ice cubes? No? That’s ’cause they melted already!

Sitting outside to get cool with a wet paper towel draped around my neck and my feet gleefully playing in this tub of cold water wasn’t too bad but in the evening, the heat was unbearable.

It’s difficult to sleep when it’s still 80 degrees inside with all the windows open! The outside temperature has been getting down to about 66, maybe 70 but the wind hasn’t been in our favor so our house never cooled down below 80 degrees. Hard to fall asleep when you’re breaking into a sweat.

Actually, I was doing pretty well for about 6 out of the 7 weeks. Right up until about a week ago and yesterday (or the day before?), I told my husband, “That’s it! I’ve reached my limit!” As record-breaking temperatures sky-rocketed to 93-94 degrees, it was just too much.

My office was 90 degrees. My hair a frizzy mess (ahh, humidity, my archenemy), and my impression of the Wicked Witch of the West was dead-on although instead of screaming, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” I was whimpering “I’m wilted! I’m wilted!” But the effect was pretty much the same as I sank into my office chair letting it de-pump into the lowest position so I could plunk my head on my desk.

And then…it happened. We got a phone call saying our delivery and installation would be a day earlier than planned. That may not sound like much to some but at this point, it was wonderful, miraculous news to us!

And so…I give you…in my next post…The Night Before Delivery. Enjoy!

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Persistence Pays Off…For Two Generations!

Two Sundays ago, I knocked on my neighbor’s door to let her know about a water main break in the front of her house, in case she wasn’t aware of it. She did know about it and had, indeed, called our city utilities company.  Since it was a main water pipe, not the one that goes directly into her house, it was the city’s responsibility to fix it.  They said they would be out this past Thursday to fix it.  They wouldn’t come out sooner unless neighbors complained about losing water pressure.

When I saw my other neighbor looking at the steady stream of water running down her curbside to the drain down the street, I informed her of the situation.  Since she lives right next door to where the main pipe was broken, I was surprised that she wasn’t told by her neighbor about the status of the leak and the water pressure issue.  I mean, we’re a neighborhood, right?

Thursday came and went with no activity.  By Friday afternoon, I thought I’d give our utilities company a call to find out the status of the scheduled repair.  I was quite irked because they make it a point of emphasizing to our community NOT to waste water.  We’ve been in a very long drought and are always reminded not to water our lawns during the day, water only twice a week on certain days and at certain times.  We’re also encouraged to wash cars on our lawn so the grass can get some water at the same time.

This leak was wasting water, 24 hours a day for seven days…an entire week!  I called a few numbers to get a contact name and number.  When I called the contact, I wasn’t surprised to get his voice mail.  I left my first name, the name of our neighborhood, the address of where the leak was, the length of time water had been running out into the street and down the drain, and that we were told it would be repaired the day before…and it wasn’t.  I politely asked if we could find out when it would be repaired because it’s such a waste of water, and left my phone number.

Two or three hours later, I called again because, after all, it was Friday and I really didn’t want the water running for another full weekend and didn’t want to wait two more days to find out when it would be repaired.  This time, in my message, I mentioned, “I’d like to be able to tell my neighbors something before the weekend starts. Thank you.”

How did he get into the bird seed? Persistence!!

At a little after 8:00pm, my husband and I heard a heavy and deep noise down the street and saw lights.  The city utilities trucks had arrived!  I’d like to think it was my polite reminders and the fact that I mentioned the whole neighborhood on the conversation that got them to move on it.  Whether they had “forgotten” about this water main break or already had it scheduled for after-hours, I don’t know but I think my phone calls did give them a nudge.

By 1:19am, (after also breaking a main gas pipe, turning off our gas and twelve neighbors’ gas, fixing THAT pipe, then coming around to turn our gas back on and lighting our water heater pilot lights), I could hear them finishing up with the water main break, and trucks driving off.  Success!! 😀  One person can make a difference!

************************************

I live my life with this motto in mind so recently, I was quite proud when our son came home a couple of weeks ago from his job as a server and wanted to call the police.

You see, he had almost had an accident (thank heavens for his quick reflexes!!) because a road sign had been hit and bent at a right angle directly into the road.  He would have been decapitated had he not swerved in time!  It was around 2am, I think, when he woke me up to find out how to call the police.  Of course, my mind jumped to something horrifying and he quickly said, “I’m okay, I just need to tell them about a danger.”  He was concerned someone was going to get hurt and rightfully so.

He had already gone back into the restaurant where he worked to warn them about it since it was on their way home.  While he thought someone from the restaurant was going to call the police, he wanted to make sure the police knew exactly what the danger was and where, so he wanted to call them himself.

We scoured and scoured the blue government pages in the phone book and couldn’t find a regular phone number for the police, so we called 911.  He told them it wasn’t an emergency but his phone call could prevent an emergency.  He gave the operator all the pertinent information, described his close-call, and the next day, the sign had been removed and as far as I’m concerned, lives were saved.

Our son could have easily given up looking for the right phone number or just be thankful for arriving home safely, but he persisted and chose to call 911 and inform someone who could fix the problem.  We’re so proud of him.

To me, it’s proof that people do care…about their community, their loved ones, the quality of life, and the lives of strangers.

If you’ve been persistent in your life when it comes to a personal project, or craft project, or strangers, or your community, your family, your dreams, and your persistence has paid off in a positive way, I’d love to hear your solutions and your stories!  Please share in the comments.  Thanks! 😀

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.

Window Boxes vs. a Garden

Red Hibiscus - We still have this plant!!

While living in apartments, I was successful growing cherry tomatoes in an outdoor container (we had a south-facing, full-sun front door).  That same location was also great for hibiscus as long as I kept the plant adequately fertilized.  I have, however, missed having a full vegetable garden.

So when we bought our first house 10 years ago, I couldn’t wait to plan and plant our first full-size vegetable garden.  But first, we had to deal with the trees.  I call them ‘balls-on-a-stick’ pine trees because they are tall pine trees with hardly any branches until the top. Then they form kind of a ball of branches and needles.  It really does look like a ball on a stick.  And the needles?  They are LONG, at least 12-16 inches in length!  We spent months getting rid of the three-foot deep side yard of pine needles when we moved in.

The trees, themselves, were dangerous in many ways.  A lot of them were very close to the house.  In fact, you could step on either our front or back porch and casually reach out and touch the trees.  Their pine cones, when green and dense, would come plummeting down from above, and my son and I almost got hit a few times while walking in our yard.  Also, during any sort of windy storm, parts of dead branches would literally spear themselves into our roof.  After a few patches, my husband was getting tired of repairing our roof and I worried about even larger branches crashing right through it.

One day, during a particularly active thunder and lightning storm, a HUGE lightning strike zapped the tallest pine tree in our yard.  The tree removers guesstimated it was about 130 feet tall, almost too tall for them to remove.  That strike scored a winding trail down that tree and I waited with bated breath to hear and feel the crash of the entire tree (or a very large branch) smash onto our house.

We were lucky, nothing fell but that strike took out our a/c, fried the motor on our dishwasher and my computer modem, fried the two phone chargers…everything but the fax machine (go figure!).  When we took a look around the yard, we noticed scars of previous lightning strikes on a number of the trees and it was decided:  the trees had to go.

We spent thousands of dollars removing 29 trees and felt much safer both indoors and out.  I was thrilled with finally getting some sun in our yard for my garden when we discovered roots!  Oh, the roots in our yard!!  They were everywhere and ran barely one-to-two inches below the soil and deeper.

Ok, let’s face it, it’s not soil here in Florida, it’s sand.  Every time we tried to dig, we were jolted to a stop by a root.  Some were only 1/2-inch in diameter but others were up to five-to-six inches in diameter!  We also discovered the soil was in very poor condition due to the acidity of the pine needles.  I had to reconsider growing a traditional vegetable bed.

I decided on raised beds and some container gardening but then the recession hit and the vegetable garden had to wait.  However, I wasn’t giving up altogether.  I designed simple window boxes for flowers.  Beautiful flowers!

See how much fuller the left side is of these Red Impatiens? That side gets the morning sun. 🙂

It was a family project.  I explained the design to my husband, he built them and secured them to the house, our son painted them and helped me staple in the liners.  I filled them with soil, then planted and watered the flowers...and Voila!

Unfortunately, the window box near my office didn’t fare so well.  Between slugs chewing the young growth and squirrels digging in it (at times, I thought I’d break the window banging on it so many times to keep them out), it’s had some flowers but not as full as the window above.  And, the third window box?  Here, let me show you what happened:

Poor plants. 😦 I really do need to yank these things out of there.

Something ATE my flowers!!!  The only thing I can think of that could reach this high (there’s nothing to jump from around it) would have to be deer.  I did hear about some deer bounding through some neighbors’ yards several years ago but it’s not like we live in a rural area.  It’s a regular neighborhood.  Lots of houses, pleasant-sized yards.  Deer…they’re the only thing I can think of that would nibble all the flowers off my plants.  😦

Despite these annoying yet sometimes humorous setbacks, and the fact that this isn’t the diverse vegetable garden I ultimately want, it is a bit of gardening that brings joy and beauty to our lives, even if it’s only until an animal eats them. 😀

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.

Button, button. Who’s got the button?

One of the most annoying things when getting dressed in the morning or for an evening out is to discover you’re missing a button.

Most of the time, you only need one button to replace the broken or missing one, and you can’t buy a single button from the store.

You end up buying a “pack” of two-to-four buttons, buying more than you actually need.  That’s not very cost-efficient and let’s face it, the buttons themselves can be expensive. Plus, who has time to run to the store or wait for a sale when you need that extra button right away?

A small glass jar lets you easily see what you have available.

One tip I learned long ago, was to remove all buttons from your worn-out, stained, ill-fitting clothes before you throw them away and place the buttons in a glass jar like this one.  Don’t forget to add those extra buttons that come attached to your clothing (skirts, shorts, slacks, shirts) too.

Keep the jar with your sewing items or in a special drawer.  It’ll save you a lot of stress when you or someone in your family is running around yelling, “Button, button, who’s got the button?

Bonus tip: If you really want to be efficient, put a small spool of thread (black, white, and/or color of most of your clothes) with a needle in the jar as well.

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.