Monday, August 31, 2009

Yogurt for Diarrhea

Okay, you can guess what's going on in my family right now. Diarrhea is the worst with kids in diapers because... well, you know. Last year my daughter had a case of it that lasted almost 2 weeks. I called the doctor's office and they said it was going around, and I didn't need to bring her in unless she had a fever. She never got one, but it was a long couple weeks. (So, it's wise to make a call to the doctor if you are concerned.)

This year it's my little babies. It's been about a week now. Ugh. At first I thought it was due to something they were eating, then teething, and now I'm sure it's just diarrhea.

Over the years, I have found these tips helpful when dealing with diarrhea in children (works well with adults too!):
  • No fruit juices
  • Cut out milk (dairy), they can still have breast milk, of course
  • Bananas and apples or applesauce are fine since they aren't stool softeners
  • Keep them hydrated: water, Kool-Aid, breast milk (just not fruit juice)
  • Feed them yogurt. This is the exception to the no dairy products rule since good yogurt contains live active cultures that are great for the digestive system, especially during the havoc of diarrhea. Yogurt also acts as a bit of stool hardener, if you know what I mean. You can read up on Yogurt's role here. And, as a side note, yogurt is also a great supplement to a child's diet when they are on antibiotics since antibiotics can cause loose stools. Yuck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pandora: A Radio Station That Knows What You Want to Hear

My Husband introduced me to Pandora Radio. It's a very cool web radio station that will play the music you want. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, set your preferences, (the bands or genre you like) and then Pandora takes over from there. You can tweak the stations by giving a thumbs up or down to certain songs or bands. You can also set up a bunch of different stations and play just one or play a mix of them at once. Of course, there is more to Pandora than just that. You'll have to dig in for yourself.

Pandora was born out of the Music Genome Project. It's basically a scientific study of different music, citing differences and similarities. It is because of this study that Pandora is able to intuitively select other songs that you might like based on your set preferences. It's a nice way to get to find other great bands that you might not have heard of.

Check it out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lint Hack- Removing Lint From Clothing

Without thinking enough, I inadvertently tossed some new towels in a regular load of laundry. After drying, everything came out with lint, the same color as the lovely towels. I tried running everything, sans the towels, through the washer's rinse cycle and then dried them again. Still, everything had lint on it.

So, I resolved to an old trick I learned back in my minimum wage days when I worked at a screen printing and embroidery joint, which I now lovingly call a sweatshop. We had to remove thread and lint from clothing quite often. Our trick was to wrap an 8-10 inch long piece of clear packaging tape, sticky side up, around our hand and then go to work patting the article of clothing until the tape had picked up the mess.

I enlisted my son to help me remove the lint from the load of laundry. There is something so wonderful about tape, it was hardly a chore for him.

Note to self: never wash new towels with anything else, ever.

Friday, August 21, 2009

DIY Yourself Fabric Softener Follow-up

A couple of days ago I figured I'd try to make some fabric softener since I ran out of dryer sheets. I used my small concoction of vinegar, hair conditioner, and water with my laundry over the last couple of days. I used it in a downy ball, in the washer's fabric softener dispenser, and even dampened a cloth with it and put it in the dryer (like a dryer sheet).

From my experience, this particular fabric softener recipe was no good. It certainly didn't soften the fabric. And the static? Still there. So for now, back to dryer sheets. (I read in some threads that they're carcinogenic. I'd have to really research that to find proof. In the meantime, living is highly carcinogenic.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Listia for Free Stuff

There's a new place to go to get rid of your stuff when you want to give it away for free. It's called Listia. When I think free, I think Freecycle and Craigslist. Where both Craigslist and Freecycle are more geared toward giving and receiving free stuff within a relatively local area, Listia knows fewer geographical bounds (although you can choose to give and receive only in your area, which would be most economical).

So, how's it work? It's free, sort of. Listia works like Ebay in that you bid for an item, but you bid with credits, not money. So how do you get the credits? When you sign up and list an item, you receive 500 credits (equivalant to $50). When you a refer a friend to Listia, or your stuff "sells," you earn credits. You can also just buy credits for 10 cents each. So, as you can see, Listia has a slight trade tinge to it, since you must give stuff away in order to keep a good bank of credits. So what about shipping? Well, Listia assumes that you'll want to do things locally so there is no shipping. If not, you and the seller can work out the shipping.

Freecycle and Craigslist are still free, more so than Listia, but I can see some perks to Listia. The biggest benefit I see to Listia is the potential broadened inventory. The bidding aspect of Listia makes sure that the person that wants the item most gets it, in theory. Plus, you can view the feedback of other Listia users which is a perk compared to Craigslist of Freecycle, if you are concerned about safety. And, at the end of the day, it may take off just because of it's novelty. I may go ahead and try this with some of the dorky books I have that I can't sell... If I do, I'll let you know how it went.

So, now that the details are out, the jury is out too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bon Jovi's New Album & Single

It's ode to Bon Jovi time. They've got a new album, The Circle, coming out November 10th... and since I've been following Bon Jovi years before Twitter made it easy, it's only fitting that I write about it. Listen to their new single, "We Weren't Born to Follow."

And just in case you were worried, this album is rock; no country this time.

Aluminum Foil in the Dryer to Prevent Static?

I ran out of dryer sheets this week... and I'm not about to make an unscheduled trip to the store. So, time to improvise. I read about putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer to prevent static on some message boards and in forums. I also read about making some fabric softener from hair conditioner, vinegar, and water. The foil idea was fastest, so I figured I'd try it first.

Foil: Tried it.
Results: I didn't notice that any static control. My clothes stuck together the same as they usually do when I don't use dryer sheets. I live in a dry climate and I'm not sure if that has something to do with my failed attempt. Anyone ever tried this? How much foil do you use? I just made a ball of foil about with about a 2 inch radius. Anyway, I don't think I'll be doing this again. I felt pretty silly pulling a ball of foil out of the dryer. My kids wanted to know what it was doing in there...

DIY Fabric Softener: Made it, going to try it. I made a very small about of the recipe because I wasn't about to waste 2 cups of conditioner on something that may or may not work.
Results: Will be posted next time I do laundry... most likely in a day or two.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tangrams For Fun & Learning

I was at the dollar store the other day and happened to snag a set of 4 Tangram puzzles for my kids. We broke out the Tangrams today and had a fun time. I was thinking my 6 and 4 year old were too young to really enjoy these. I was wrong. My 6 year old could do them on his own and my 4 year old enjoyed "helping" me find the right shapes to make the different puzzles. There are oodles of educational aspects of Tangrams. They are so versatile too, from simple to complex. But mostly, they are just plain fun.

Of course, you don't need to buy Tangrams. (They can be outrageously priced.) You can make your own. Or you can just play them on the computer.

One adaptation I would make to Tangrams for little children would be to make them adhere to something. For instance, sticking a strip of magnet on the back of card stock or foam pieces, and playing with them on the fridge or a cookie sheet... or making them with flannel and using a flannel board. Or, if you are handy with wood, make the Tangram out of wood! I wish I were handy with wood!!! Hmmm. Anyway, these are some ideas I had for keeping the pieces from sliding while little children make the puzzles.

If you have finished reading this post and have no idea what you just read, click here to read up on Tangrams.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Help With the Housework

Just when you think you have conquered one challenge another grows out of the supposed fix of the past one... at least that's how it seems things go for me. With that in mind, I'd like to share what we're currently doing to work together to keep the household functioning. In the past, my two oldest children have helped me fold laundry, set the table, clean their rooms, etc, but it was hit and miss. I didn't want them to grow up thinking that's Mom's job about anything pertaining to housework. Plus, I go insane trying to keep up with the messes that can multiply with 4 little children.

I have heard of some pretty extensive Programs (that's with a capital P) for teaching kids to work. They seemed like a lot of work for the parent. I prefer simple. Here's my version of simple. I made quick little "Job Chart," just a table with 3 columns and 10-15 rows. Column 1, type of chore; Column 2, Child 1; Column 3, Child 2. I filled in the rows of column one with various jobs that both children can perform with little assistance and left a few rows empty so that we can write in jobs as they happen. I didn't put cleaning their rooms, putting away their laundry, or cleaning their toys up at the end of the day on the job chart because those are mandatory for basic room and board in our home. I put things on the list that are what I consider above and beyond the basics: emptying dishwasher, vacuuming, folding laundry, sweeping floor, dusting, help cook, help clean bathroom... Get the idea.

My kids are 6 and 4, and they can do these things pretty well on their own. Now for the motivation. They needed some motivation. They will do these things with motivation. For my children, money is a great motivator. So, I'm paying them 5 cents for every job they do. They mark off the job with little tally marks in the column of their name and at the end of the month, we have a sit down one-on-one session where we look over the chart. It's a nice time to praise them and offer some encouragement if needed. So far, I haven't paid either of the kids more than a $1 a month. It's not breaking my bank and I've seen an increase in their willingness to help. Very nice. As they get older, I'm sure we'll tweak the system a bit, but for now, this is what works.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Heard of Google's Wave? Educate yourself

Don't be the last know what Google's up to. Check out a video explaining their newest tool: Google Wave, expected to come out later this year. The video is an hour long. So, if you don't have time for that... (who does, Google?!) , here's a more simple explanation of the next big Google thing. If you are interested in helping with development, you can sign up to test the Wave.

This is amazing stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Protecting My Computer for Nothing! Plus, Open DNS followup

I protect my computer for free! And it works. A lot of the reason computers get bogged with spyware, viruses and other trash has to do the users frequenting questionable sites. Even a careful internet user can find himself in pernicious territory. That's why every computer with an internet connection should have some sort of anti-virus/anti-spyware tools and a firewall. Parental controls/Internet filtering tools are optional, but also quite helpful in warding off attacks as well.

It's been about a month since I started using Open DNS for internet filtering. I have been very happy with it. I have noticed that I'm a bit of a sloppy web surfer. I tend to click before I look at the address to find out where I am going. Quite a few times I have been saved by Open DNS or my Web of Trust (WOT) settings. The nice thing about all of this is, that if I really want to get on a blocked website, it's easy to do, but the warning is nice. I've only had one instance where I actually did want to view a blocked site; all I had to do was go to the Open DNS website and put the website url on my safe list. EASY.

So, in a nutshell, I've been able to make safer surfing, while protecting my computer from spyware/malware and viruses all for free by using: AVG Free (does NOT slow down my computer during scans, unlike Norton), Zone Alarm (Free version firewall), WOT and Open DNS. Why pay when you can get it for free? Check 'em out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Archived Web Pages

Wonder what CNN's web page looked on Sept. 11, 2001? What happens to old web pages? How are they preserved? Most people don't care to think about this. But, if you are an archivist, you do. I'm not. But I'm glad that some people are.

Check out and try the Way Back Machine. You can type in a web address and see what it was like 5, or even 10 years ago (if it existed back then). Pretty cool.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gearing up for School

This being the last month of summer, I thought it timely that I get my kids' brains ready for the back to school grind. I found a few websites that have nice, free printable worksheets for different grade levels. I printed a few worksheets off and slid them inside sheet protectors and assembled them all into a folder/binder. We used dry-erase markers to work on most of the worksheets (writing directly on the sheet protectors). Somehow, this just makes the whole thing more kid-friendly. Maybe it's because I don't usually condone marker use by anyone under the age of 5. While my preschooler worked on tracing shapes, I helped my 6 year old practice tying shoes. (I dropped the ball on this. I should have taught him earlier.) Then, we switch and I had my older one do a worksheet on telling time while I did something hands-on with the younger one. I guess it's summer homeschooling.

Here are the websites I found helpful: -Great worksheets for math, English, grammar, art... for preschool to fifth grade. - This is mainly for preschool lesson plans. I like it most for the alphabet worksheets. You can print out the alphabet pages for either D'Nealian or standard block handwriting styles.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cucumbers, Cucumbers, Cucumbers!

What to do with all those garden cukes? Here's a very quick recipe that is wonderfully delicious. It makes a great, cool summer sidedish. Best of all, the primary ingredient is cucumbers!

Cucumber Salad

4 med. cucumbers
1.5 cups of sour cream
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 T. oil
2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. white vinegar
1/2 t. dill weed

Slice cucumbers in bit size pieces into a large bowl. Stir together remaining ingredients, except the dill weed, in a small bowl and then pour over cucumbers. Sprinkle dill weed on top and toss lightly. Chill.

I typically cut this recipe in half. It doesn't keep well after a day, so you'll want to only make what you think you'll eat. I like to add more dill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Google 411 Review

I have mentioned Google 411 before, but now I've actually tried it. I LOVE it! Google 411 is essentially free directory assistance.

Google 411 comes in very handy when you don't want to take time to find a certain business in the phone book. You know how phone books are. The Yellow Pages are hit and miss with different books... and sometimes you don't even know the name of business you need... other times a business may have opened within the last year and therefore not yet be listed in the phone book yet. All of these instances are when Google 411 is very helpful.

How it works:
1. Dial: 1-800-GOOG-411 on any phone.
2. You will be warned that the call will be recorded. (This is because Google is trying to take over the world. If this doesn't bother you continue. BTW, it doesn't bother me. Don't believe me? Read this article.)
3. You will be prompted to name the company name/category and city and state.
4. Say the city and state again, for QC, I guess. (Make sure you don't have a background noise issue...if you do, you can type in the name using your keypad, but that's tedious. Not recommended.)
5. You'll hear your city and state repeated by Google's Big Brother computer on the other end. Next you'll be prompted to state the business name/category again.
6. If there is only one result, you have the opportunity to be connected or to hear the company's details (phone and address of company). If there is more than one result, you get to pick from the list.

I've already used this 3 times in the last two days. It's my new phone book. I'm terrible with alphabetical order, and this is the closest thing to a servant I'll probably ever have!