Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting Silly Putty out of Clothes

Boys put things in their pockets. If you're persistent, or maybe lucky, they put their clothes in the laundry. They forget to check their pockets. I have a bucket in the laundry room for things I find in the wash--Legos, plastic Knights, ninjas, K'nex, various toy animals, a harmonica, Tinkertoys, hair accessories, (boys aren't the only ones who leave things in their pockets) various wheels, Hot Wheels, a rubber lizard, something that's either a baby dinosaur or a small alien--you name it. Gum and candy wrappers, broken crayons, used Kleenex, and the like go in the trash. Loose change goes in my pocket.

The day before yesterday, I found an empty plastic Silly Putty egg on the floor. No sign of its former contents. Last night, I found the Silly Putty. The good news is that it had wrapped itself in a pair of pajama pants, so it didn't get on anything else. The bad news is that it had wrapped itself in a pair of pajama pants, so I didn't find it until it had been through the dryer.

I've become quite proficient at treating the most common stains we get around here, but this one was new to me. Don Aslett's Stainbuster's Bible is a very present help in time of trouble, but it had nothing on Silly Putty.

I turned, naturally, to the Web. Problem is, everyone seemed to have a different idea about how to remove Silly Putty, and many people warned against the methods others were suggesting. Who do ya trust? Among all these ideas, someone posted a link to Crayola's Stain Tips page. Crayola, formerly known as Binney & Smith, now owns Silly Putty. Select the Category, Product, and Surface, and Crayola will tell you what their laboratory found most effective.

eHow warns that "WD-40 is a much harsher product and can damage some clothing." It worked fine on 100% cotton pajamas. Don't skimp on the rubbing alcohol, though. After two washings, the pajamas still smelled like WD-40. I got the smell out with acetone. eHow also made the following helpful suggestions: Stretch the material taut when you scrape it. Use a butter knife with a serrated edge. Several people suggested putting the garment in the freezer first. This definitely helped with the scraping.

So did it work? Well, the pajamas are no longer sticky, but a coral-pink stain remains. If this were an expensive garment, or had sentimental value, I could probably get all or most of it out with repeated treatments, but this is an old, ratty pair of kid's pajamas, and the stains match the pink lizards. The pajamas were probably worth less than the cost of the chemicals I used on them, to say nothing of the two hours' labor. It would have been more economical, though less instructive, to just throw them away. Call it a learning experience. I'm just glad the Silly Putty didn't spread itself through the whole load.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Help for cracked and bleeding hands

I learned a few things while working for USPS: Handling all that paper dries out your hands. Mail is dirty, even when it looks clean, and newsprint will turn your hands black rather quickly, then smudge any other paper you handle, so I found myself washing my hands a lot. When you spend a lot of time outdoors in all weathers, you hands get even drier.

I tried every lotion and hand cream I could find. The most effective cost about $12-15 a jar, and all had one thing in common: they listed petrolatum as the active ingredient. That's right, good ol' Vaseline. I can get a small jar of the off-brand petroleum jelly for $2-3 or a big jar for $4-5. Dab a tiny bit as needed, just to the areas that need it. Gently spread it, just enough to cover the area. Don't try to "rub it in." Lotions and hand creams don't "moisturize". The most effective ones don't contain water. They seal in the water that is already in and between your skin cells.

Generally, my hands are driest on the backs, especially around the joints. When they are dirty, the dirt is mostly (sometimes entirely) on the palms. Focus your scrubbing where the dirt is. If you have a smudge on your thumb that you're trying not to spread to other papers, just wash that smudge. There will be time for a thorough cleaning later

Sledding and Cake

Since MB took a cake decorating class, she has been making cakes to practice her skills. Cake is good, but we've been eating more cake than is good for us. TKDS (the kids down the street) plus some of their friends from around the neighborhood spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons sliding down the hill beside our house. GL and BB joined them. It's not much of a hill, and with the warmer temperature, the snow was turning to slush that packed down to a lumpy layer of ice. Some sleds could slide on it, but others had to be pushed all the way down the hill. They seemed to enjoy it anyway.

Then MB got the idea to bring out the extra cake. TKDS & Co. seemed puzzled at first, but everyone accepted a slice. Not everyone finished a slice. I think maybe the pieces with black and gray frosting were less appetizing. Black and gray frosting? It was a Ford 9N tractor cake. I'll let MB tell you that story.

P.S. I just realized that technically, I could call them New Kids on the Block. Nah.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Kids down the Street Come Back

The kids down the street came over for games again last night. I brought out several, and they chose Mind Your Manners. We have several game of that general type to GL learn the rules of appropriate behavior, but we have a wide variety of other games, so I was a little surprised that they chose that one. BB was home, so he was able to explain the rules and read the cards whenever someone had difficulty. I opted out of the game this time. First there weren't enough pieces. Later they found another piece, but I was busy on the computer, so I just casually observed from the next room.

They seemed to enjoy the game, but lost interest about halfway through and asked for Candyland,which they didn't finish either.

When they first arrived, the 4th grader asked his younger brother if he'd asked their mom's permission to come over. He said he'd asked their dad, and it was okay. Later their mom showed up looking for them. She said their dad didn't know where they were. They sorted that out, and got permission to stay until 6:00.

Their older brother came by later, and stayed to play for a while. By that time, they were done with board games. I had to remind them once or twice not to yell in the house, and only one person at a time on the mini-trampoline. It was almost painless.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sidewalks, School, Boots, and the Kids Down the Street

I shoveled the walks today or as they say in the South, scraped the sidewalks. Actually, I did scrape them today. Yesterday I shoveled slush several inches deep, then scraped the walks as clean as I could and spread salt because I knew if the slush were left overnight, it would freeze solid. It snowed most of the day yesterday, but the temperature hovered around 35. If it had stayed below freezing, we might have got the 9-12 inches they were predicting, but about half of it melted on the ground and mixed with the rest to form 4-5 inches of slush.

Last night the temp dropped to minus 5, and we got a dusting of real snow, which I scraped today. The temperature slowly crept into the teens, peaked at 20 or 21, and fell rapidly. Now it's 3 above with a windchill of minus 17.

GL fought tooth and nail against every instruction in every subject today. Then he whined for a video, but he was not as whiny as yesterday. After everyone got done what they needed to do on the computer, and he calmed down a bit, I put one on, so BB could do his work without interference. BB was working on symmetry, which we started yesterday. He thought he already knew all about it, but it took him much longer than either of us expected, and he got hung up on several points he thought he already understood. Today's lesson gave half of each figure on a grid, and a line of symmetry, leaving the other half for him to draw. He seemed to have the concept of symmetry mostly down, but had no idea how to locate points on a grid. He tried to just eyeball the lines, without checking the locations of the angles. I had him mark the points where the lines would meet, but he still didn't get the part about counting squares. Finally, I just walked him through a couple of examples. He made a few mistakes after that, but he finally seemed to get it.

MB went to the store to look for winter boots because her old ones had started leaking. They didn't have any warm women's boots in her size, so she ended up with men's boots. They fit well, they are warm and waterproof, and I think they'll hold up better than women's boots. I encouraged her to look at men's work boots, but the insulated ones cost more than the winter boots she ended up with.

BB has not been finished with his school work when the PS lets out, so he can't go out to play when the kids down the street get home. We don't let our kids play outside after dark. I don't mind them playing outside with other kids, I just like to be able to check up on them when necessary. Since it gets dark early this time of year, by the time BB is done, it's too late to go out. So from about 3:00 on, the kids down the street keep coming to the door to see if BB can come out yet.

Now I'm not about to let them dictate our schedule, but constantly telling them one or both boys can't play because BB is still doing his school work does begin to sound like an excuse. I'll admit I'd been wishing they would just go away, but that obviously wasn't happening, and it wouldn't be right to tell them to. GL wants to play with them at every opportunity. My main objection is that they are annoying. They have no idea of good manners or appropriate behavior, and GL will copy anyone he's with and do anything they tell him. But I'd seen enough to know they'd had no instruction, and almost no example. How are they supposed to learn?

BB didn't finish school until time to leave forAWANA* last night. It wasn't too late to play then, just too dark. I saw the kid who'd been waiting for BB just hanging around on the sidewalk, doing nothing. I cleared the table and put the school stuff away, and asked him if he'd like to play a game inside. He said he'd have to ask his mother, which surprised me. She hadn't seemed that concerned with what he was doing before, and even if she were, I hadn't expected him to remember. He came back a few minutes later and asked if his younger brother could come, too. I said yes.

So the two boys and GL and I played games. We played Chutes and Ladders, which they hadn't played before, and Sorry! which they had. They had the basic idea of board games, rolling the die (young children seem to have trouble with spinners, even when they do work right) or drawing a card and counting the spaces, but needed the rules explained again and again. They weren't trying to cheat; they just kept stopping to ask about this rule or that. Either they had a hard time understanding, or they just couldn't remember. Every turn, I had to remind every player that it was his turn. By the end of the game, I had a sore throat. Again, they either had a hard time following or paying attention. They consistently called me Mr. Bear, which I prefer but don't insist on, since so many kids are encouraged to call adults by their first names these days.

About halfway through Sorry! they asked if we could do a puzzle after the game. Everyone gradually lost interest in Sorry! not because they didn't enjoy it, but because we had been playing board games for an hour and a half. I pulled out Melissa & Doug Dinosaurs 48-Piece Floor Puzzle. It fits nicely on our kitchen table. We cleared off the table and got to work. By this time GL was asking for a video, not as a form of social interaction, but as a way of escaping it, as he'd had enough. I told him later, so he wandered off to play by himself. The younger boy seemed to have more aptitude for puzzles, but once he'd completed most of two edges lost interest and wandered off. His brother seemed to have considerably more difficulty figuring out which pieces went together, but was more persistent. I gave him clues, but let him figure it out. He had just finished connecting all four sides when their mother stopped by. She seemed surprised that I hadn't sent them home already. She had to take something to her sister-in-law two miles up the road. The older boy asked if he could finish the puzzle first. She said only if it were okay with me. He was working so hard at the puzzle, I suggested she could collect them on the way back. She seemed surprised and relieved. She returned about 20 minutes later, just as he was finishing the puzzle.

Now I don't subscribe to the theory that there's no such thing as a bad boy, but I've rarely seen boys so eager to please. They just didn't know how, and were eager to learn. Well, that's a hodgepodge of what's been happening here the last couple of days. No amusing narrative thread running through it like that in We Are Having Hamburgers For Dinner, but that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

*Yes, they would probably benefit from the program, but there are logistical problems with inviting them. I have to take GL to PT and OT Wednesday evenings, so BB depends on someone else for a ride, and the van is already full. I was only home this week because GL's therapy appointment had been cancelled.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Of all the Dumb Things for Congress to Decide on...

I think voting is kind of a dumb way to choose a champion, but I'm not a college football fan, the teams seem to like it that way (except when they lose), some of the fans agree, and those that don't seem to go along with the system, so I guess that's their business. Other leagues and associations are free to adopt their own rules. So why, in the name of freedom, to we need a congressional committee, and the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee at that, to decide these things for us?

Can't the people be trusted to decide these things for themselves? Has a young congress-critter (congressperson might not be inclusive enough these days) finally got invited to a subcommittee meeting, and the power has gone to his head, destroying all sense of proportion and justice? Ah, I just spotted the answer, about halfway down the piece:
Shortly after his election last year, Barack Obama said there should be a playoff system.
And we can't let one of Fearless Leader's words fall to the ground, however minor, silly, and ill-advised.

Of course, the toadies at Associated Press have to emphasize the "steep odds" the bill faces: one "nay" vote in committee so far, and the apparently mistaken impression some of us have that "surely Congress has more important issues than spending taxpayer money to dictate how college football is played." Fortunately, we have the assurance from subcommittee chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, that, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Asking whether the Government can micro-mange GM, college football, and every last detail of our personal lives purposely avoids the question of whether it should. This is not only another blow for Big Government and against freedom of choice, it will do nothing to improve Commerce, Trade, or Consumer Protection. Is College Football really such a threat to Truth, Justice, and People for the American Way?

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't Advise God

If it were possible, even if I completely understood God's eternal purposes, I doubt very much that I would entirely approve, but the fault lies with me, not with Him.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

My cell phone was stolen today

I was just pulling out of Wal-Mart's parking lot when I realized I didn't have it. I went back in and retraced my steps, but couldn't find it. I checked with customer service, but they said it hadn't been turned in. I gave them the number and they called it, but no one answered.

I found a pay phone, called home, and told my wife. She tried calling my cell. Someone picked up, but wouldn't talk. She called Wal-Mart, and they said the phone had been found and someone had claimed it already. Apparently someone saw the phone being turned in, and decided they wanted it.

It was a prepaid phone, and I only had about 60 minutes on it at the time, so I'm not out that much. Once those minutes are gone, the phone will be worthless. I'd like to burn through the minutes. If this number is a free call for you, call it. If enough people call, the minutes will be used up before the thief has a chance to use many of them. Please pass this message and this number on to your friends:

(262) 902-0516