Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Preparing for Trigger Thumb Surgery: Before, During, After

After my initial post on my first daughter's trigger thumb surgery, I received more responses than I had expected.  Now, two and a half years and one more trigger thumb surgery later (on another daughter, not the same one!), I wanted to share the more details about the surgery with those of you who have expressed so much interest.

The Surgery
Trigger thumb release surgery involves an incision being made near the base of the thumb where the bump or nodule on the tendon is.  The surgeon cuts the sheath that the tendon goes through, making it big enough that the enlarged spot on the tendon can easily slide through the sheath to straighten the thumb.  The surgeon sews up the incision and bandages it up either with a hard cast or a soft bandage, depending on preference.  This surgery is a minor one (though when it's your child, it doesn't sound minor), taking only 15-20 minutes per thumb. Though, when you factor in anesthesia, it's more like a 2-3 hour ordeal.  In the end, it's really quite magical, the things that modern medical advances can do!

Hard Cast or Soft Bandage?
I had two daughters that have had bilateral trigger thumb release surgery (surgery to fix both right and left trigger thumbs).  One daughter's Orthopedic surgereon perferred using hard casts while the other perferred using a soft bandage. The reason the one surgeon liked the hard casts: with a cast on for 2-3 weeks, it gives ample time for the incision to heal, and since kids can be pretty rambucious, this can make sense.  The other surgeon's reason for using the soft bandage: with a bandange, it can be removed after two days and the child can go straight to using his/her new thumbs.

Having the rare chance of expeiencing both the hard cast and the soft bandage, I'll share the pros and cons.  If your surgeon gives you the choice, hopefully this can help you make your decision.

Hard Cast
Pros
  • 3 weeks gives wound time to heal, letting the swelling go down and the incision to close up.
  • If you have a very accident prone child, this might be a very safe option, because it wouldn't be fun to break open a freshly stitched up job.
Cons
  • Parents will invest plenty of time helping their child eat, dress, and wipe after up after the bathroom.
  • Getting the cast cut off can be a bit of a traumatic experience for a child. 
  • Child doesn't get to realize the benefits of their new, working thumbs until weeks after the surgery.
  • Bath time is crazy for a few weeks.  Plastic bags on casts...
Soft Bandage
Pros
  • Only needs to be on for a couple of days, so I only had to spoon feed my daughter for a couple of days as opposed to three weeks.
  • No need to schedule an appointment to have them removed.  You can remove them yourself after a couple of days.
  • Child can start using thumbs as soon as bandage comes off, though he/she may not want to for a day or two.  Remember, they've been locked in place for months.  
Cons
  • Parents have to help the child take care of their incision while the wound is healing, keeping it clean and not playing too rough.  We put band-aids on each thumb to remind our daughter.
Tips for Before, During and After Surgery

Because there have been enough questions, I'd like to address some of my thoughts about preparing your child and yourself (the parent) for the surgery.

1.  Schedule the entire day for surgery:  Though the surgery will only take 2-3 hours, schedule the entire day.  I had my husband take off work to help me out.  It is nice to have someone to help out, especially if you have other children at home. Can you do it on your own?  I think so, but it would be more stressful.

2.  Talk to your child in simple terms about the surgery:  You know your child best.  If you think they need a couple of weeks to allow the idea of getting their thumbs fixed to sink in, talk to them early about it.  For most of us, we'll be taking in little children between the ages of 2-4 for surgery.  Typically, they don't need the worry of knowing about a looming surgery date. With my kids, I didn't tell them about it until 3-5 days before.  We all know that kids get scared of anything that has to do with cutting.  I was very careful not to use the word "cut" when I told my kids what would happen.  I explained it something like this:  "When we take you to the doctor to fix your thumbs, they will want you to get in some doctor pjs first.  You will get to put on your own clothes again after the doctor is done.  First the doctor will help you go to sleep so that he can work on your thumbs.  The nurses will put a funny plastic thing on on your mouth to help you sleep.  Then, when you wake up, your thumbs will be fixed!  You will have bandages on your hands to protect your thumbs."  I didn't want to go into a lot of detail about the bandages and how to take care of them until we actually got to that point.   It turned out to be wise.

3. What to bring the day of surgery:  Usually the surgery is planned in the morning because there is a 12 hour fasting restraint.  Because it was early, I woke up my kids and took them in their pjs first thing.  Be sure to bring a change of clothes, paying attention to a shirt that will have wide sleeves to get over the bandage or cast.  (I forgot this both times I took my daughters for surgery!)  Normally, the hospital or surgical center is pretty mindful of having a little gift for the pint-sized patient, but if you aren't sure, have a back-up plan of a something soft and cuddly to give your child afterwards... because they will not feel well when they come of the meds...  And for you, the parent, the surgery wait is about 2.5 hours, so if you can focus on a book, bring one.  If not, they usually have TVs and magazines in the waiting rooms and chatty people too!

4. Parting:  Depending on where your child has surgery, there may be different rules about how long the parent can stay with the child before the surgery.  It's a good idea to check with the hospital or surgery center before hand to find out if you can be there until the child falls asleep or if you have hand them off to a nurse before the anesthesia.   We've gone through both scenarios and both went fine.  When the nurse had to take my daughter, I told my daughter that the nurse would take care of her like a babysitter and bring her back to me when the surgery was done.  I didn't hear any crying, and didn't ask about it afterward, so ignorance is bliss in this situation :)

5.  Be prepared for sadness after the surgery:  Even though as a parent, I was really excited for my daughters' thumbs to be fixed and really excited to see them both after their surgeries, the look on their faces reminded me that they were not yet in the mood to celebrate. Coming out of anesthesia is a pretty confusing thing for kids, plus they may be feeling pain from the surgery.  I remember when my daughter 2 (she was 3) went through surgery, I was escorted to her room as she was waking up.  I  held her in my arms, watching her eyes open and close.  At one point as her eye opened, she held up her hands so she could see them.  When she saw the bright pink bandages on them, her eyes got big, her mouth frowned, and she began to cry and cry.  She yelled "I wanna go home!  I want these off!" and started hitting me.  I'm really glad that the she didn't have hard casts at that point.  She pelted me for a good ten minutes until we could get the discharge papers taken care of and reassure her that we would go home and that the bandages would come off in a couple of days.  My daughter 1 (she was 4 and a half when she had surgery) woke and was very weepy and sad.  Even the Barbie doll the nurses gave her didn't make her smile.  For both my daughters, that original sadness only last 1 or 2 hours.  I found it helpful to rent some movies and have some good cuddle time for the rest of the day.  Order pizza or have dinner made in advance.  Take it easy!

Daughter 2 an hour after surgery, with soft bandages, watching a video.
Daughter 1, with hard casts, waking from anesthesia.
6.  Something for the Pain:  The surgeon will likely perscribe a pain medication to help control pain after surgery.  Neither of my daughters liked it.  We ended up throwing it away both times.  We got by just fine on a dose of children's tyenol or ibuprofen.  In fact, one dose was all they needed.  They didn't complain about pain.

7.  When the dressings come off:  Whether your child gets a cast or a bandage, there is some prepartion needed for you and your child when it is time to remove the dressing.  With a hard cast, there will very likely be fear of the cast saw, no matter how carefully you prepare your child.  And then there is an ick-factor of seeing the incision area that kids (and mommies don't like to see).  What I'm saying is, don't expect that everything will be "all better" once the dressing is off.  I warned my daughter 2 right before I took off her bandage that it wouldn't look all better.  She started crying when she saw her thumbs, not because it hurt, but because of how it looked.  Daughter 1, because she had hard casts, also had to deal with the yucky skin that's all flaky from being covered.  Both my daughters were totally disgusted with the stitches and the incision. We covered the incision with bandaids for a few days.  You can use alcohol to wash off any remaining idoine (yellow stuff) from the surgery...or you can let it slowly wash off with soap and water.  If after a week the ends of the stitches are sticking out and irritating your child, you can cut the ends off with nail clippers.
See, it looks yucky!

8.  Using those thumbs:  If your child isn't using his/her thumbs after dressing is off, don't be alarmed.  It will take a day or two.  And soon, they'll be using them quite adeptly.  It could take up to a month.  If you notice problems, it's a good idea to call the surgeon.  My daughter 1 had some therapy after her surgery, but this is generally not necessary.  It's only been about three weeks since daughter 2's surgery and she has been using them fine.

9.  Follow up with the surgeon:  You will likely visit the surgeon once or twice to check on the healing progress of the thumbs. Then, it's history!

I hope I've covered most aspects of the process of trigger thumb surgery.  My twins just finished making a mess in the kitchen and have moved on to the laundry room. I should stop.  I hope you have a good surgery experience!

Please, those of you who have had children undergo trigger thumb surgery, share your tips as well.  Let's bring some awareness to this seemingly obscure phenomenon of pediatric trigger thumb!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Surgery Center Vs Children's Hospital

In this post, I'm sharing my thoughts about pediatric trigger thumb surgery.  Two of my children have had it; one at Denver Children's Hospital and the other at the Surgery Center in Manhattan, KS.  We had great experiences both places.  But, if you have a choice between a hospital or a surgery center, there are differences to weigh.  Here are so of the things that I noticed.
At the surgery center before surgery with her bear, compliments of the surgery center.

1.  Size:  Hosptials are big and busy.  Surgery Centers are smaller and often located right near a hospital.  Hospitals have sick people, so if you are concerned about germs, it's just something to consider.
2.  Check-in: Check in time varies between a surgery center and a hospital.  We didn't have insanely long waits at the hospital, but the surgery center, just because of its smaller footprint, was faster for us to get from the car, to check-in, to the waiting area, and then to the operating room.
3.  Level of  care:  If you can go to a children's hospital, you will get very specialized care, targeted to children, which is very nice.  The children's hospital gave my daughter a Barbie doll after her surgery.  That was very nice.  At Denver Children's, one parent is allowed to accompany the child going in for surgery until he/she is a asleep under anesthesia.  We didn't get to do that at the surgery center.  However, the surgery center did a wonderful job with our three year old.  There was a little stuffed animal waiting for her which she got to take with her to surgery.  They even allowed her to take her nasty, filthy blankie too!  The doctors and nurses at the surgery center were very sweet to our daughter.  It helped me feel good about my decision to have her surgery there.
4.  Cost: Surgery Centers generally cost a bit less.  I tried to get a quote from the hospital and the surgery center here so that I could compare the two, but the hospital never got back to me.
(For those of you wondering what the insurance gets billed for a job like this, it's roughly $12,000.)
5.  Accessibility: In my experience, the Surgery Center really wins here.  When I call, I get a person on the line right away.  I ask questions and I get connected with a knowledgeable person.  When call-backs are necessary, they are fast.  Calling a hospital is a bit more daunting, starting with an automated message and then a menu to choose from.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pediatric Trigger Thumb Surgery, Again

Let me explain.  About 2 years ago my 4 year-old daughter underwent bi-lateral trigger thumb surgery at Denver Children's Hospital.  Just today, my 3rd daughter (3 year-old) just had her bi-lateral trigger thumb surgery at an outpatient surgery center.  Having the somewhat rare, opportunity to take two children through trigger thumb release surgery, I'd like to do a bit of comparing and contrasting on the differences in the two experiences (which have both been positive) for those of you out there who have children whose cute little thumbs are stuck bent. (According to the stats on my blog, there are more of us out there with kiddos dealing with pediatric trigger thumb than I'd imagined.)  Here's a quick run down of each daughter and the circumstances surrounding her trigger thumb experience.

Daughter 1:
  • We first noticed her bent thumbs when she was about 2 years old.  My husband and I thought they were cute and didn't think much of it until she was 3 and a half and starting to use scissors.  She could not open scissors.  I figured her stuck thumbs might be hindering her.
  • We went though at least 2 health care professionals before I self-diagnosed my daughter and then asked for a referral to a specialist.
  • Surgery on both thumbs performed at Denver Children's Hospital.
  • Surgeon put casts on her hands and forearms to protect the incision and stitches.
  • Daughter went to a few sessions of physical therapy after the surgery.  
  • Now, two years later, daughter is doing well.  She's using scissors just fine!  
  • For more detail about her surgery, follow this link:  http://humdrumhero.blogspot.com/2009/11/congenital-trigger-thumb-or-my-child.html
Daughter 2:
  • Daughter 2 is a fraternal twin.  My husband and I jokingly checked her thumbs and her twins sister's at birth when they were born to make sure they didn't have trigger thumb.  Both girls thumbs extended fully with no problems, then.  Little did we know. 
  • By 18 months old, Daughter 2's thumbs were locked.  Interestingly, her twin sister has nodules on each tendon at the base of her thumb (tell-tale sign of pediatric trigger thumb when accompanied by thumbs that are stuck bent), but does not have locked trigger thumbs.
  • When daughter 2 turned 3 years old, I scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery before the age of 3 is usually not recommended.
  • Surgery on both thumbs at a surgery center near a general hospital.
  • Surgeon put soft bandages on her hands and instructed us to keep them on for a couple of days.  After that, we should cover the stitches with band-aids until the stitches dissolve.
Next post I'll talk about the differences that I observed between a hospital and a surgery center. I'll also keep you posted on the healing of Daughter 2's surgery and the healing process.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Made in USA for Christmas

I have been somewhat inspired by ABC News Made in America series.  The premise of the series is that if we all made even a minimal effort to buy products made in the USA, we could help create jobs right here.  So, while the lawmakers are fighting on Capitol Hill, we can get to work and start making a difference.  I like that idea.

With Christmas fast approaching I've been looking at toys a lot.  The internet has really simplified my shopping because I can read reviews of products before I buy them.  It's also really helped me hunt down USA/American Made toys.  Typically when I think of American made toys, I think of wooden ones.  Now, wooden toys are quite nice for babies, but for older kids... blocks and puzzles aren't going to cut it. I'm going to highlight a few affordable favorites that I have found.

This Christmas I plan on buying some American made toys on purpose for my kids.  I hope you will too!


10 Made in the USA Toys
for kids ages 5-10 (in no particular order)

1. Wikki Stix are a fun, reusable craft toy, great for quite play without a mess. Checkout the reviews at Amazon.   Price: $8-30  www.wikkistix.com

2. Arrow Copters are flying toys that can be launched high, I mean HIGH, into the air.  Read reviews at Amazon.  Price: $10  http://www.arrowcopter.com

3. Shrinky Dinks are a fun craft toy for boys and girls.  (These have been around for years, and their simplicity is what I think keeps them around!)  Design and color and then place in oven to shrink.  Price: starting at $5  http://www.shrinkydinks.com/

4. K'nex building set - My 8 year old son LOVES these (girls love them too).  I love the expandability of these toys.  With the option to put on motor on his contraptions, it will be a long time before he outgrows these.  Plus, they are compatible with Legos bricks. (Some special pieces may be made in China.) Price: $20.00 and up  www.knex.com

5. ZingWing- Model airplane toys. Kids and adults alike dig flying toys!  These look like quite a bit of fun, though I haven't actually found a lot of reviews on them.  I contacted the company and learned that some of their models are made in the USA while others are in China. Price: $1.99 and up  http://zingwing.com/models.html

These four models are made in the USA:
http://zingwing.com/diperdo.html

http://zingwing.com/zingwing.html

http://zingwing.com/zoomerang.html

http://zingwing.com/maxair.html
  *A reprsentative from the company says they plan on moving production back to the USA in a few months.  I hope that happens and goes well for them.

6. Lauri Toys Tangrams Plus - (Lauri Toys makes lots of toy puzzles for younger kids as well, all made in the USA).  This is a nice puzzle toy with lots of puzzle cards to stimulate a young mind.  Read Reviews at Amazon.comPrice: $10 

7. Silly Putty:  Don't forget this time-tested favorite!  I recently saw silly putty on sale at Target for $1.  Makes a great stocking stuffer or party favor.  http://www.sillyputty.com/

8.  Slinky:  Okay, here's another kid pleaser.  When I think of a slinky, I think of a crumpled up one that I can't get undone... that's what happens when you give them to kids under 4.  But, older kids really like these.  Don't be fooled by the dollar store, Chinese-Made imitations, though.  The original slinky is much better quality.  Price: $2.50 and up http://www.poof-slinky.com/

9. Books:  Thank goodness we still print books in the USA!  And, you can find these with little effort.  I recently bought a Disney Princess Paperdoll set for my daughter and a novel for my son that were both printed in the USA. Price: varies

10. Yo Baby Kick Flipper:  This is a great toy that gets kids moving.  It's like a skateboard without wheels.  You have to see it to understand it.  Includes a DVD for instruction.  Price: $15  www.fatbraintoys.com/specials/made_in_america.cfm

For Even more great Made in America toy gift ideas, visit: http://www.fatbraintoys.com/specials/made_in_america.cfm

Monday, October 3, 2011

EEK! Bead stuck in Toddler's Nose!

I've been meaning to write about this embarrassing/funny/crazy/disgusting experience for some time now.  It happened a few months ago.  I was pretty exhausted and was trying to get the kids in bed on the fast track.  We did a haphazard clean up of the room and I then proceded to tuck the kids in bed. Upon tucking the twins in, I noticed that one had a little bead, about a 1/4 inch in diameter in her had.  It was from her older sister's bead necklace set that evidently didn't get put away.  My sweet daughter wanted to keep it and was treating it like a treasure, so against my better judgement, I let her keep it with her.  Bad mommy, I know.

I didn't even have time to get downstairs after tucking the kids in when I heard my daughter crying.  I couldn't understand what she was crying about, but I knew what she was crying about.  I knew she had stuck that bead up her nose... because she likes puzzles and a bead in the nose is an absolute perfect fit.  As I surveyed the situation I could see that the bead was "up there" pretty far... out of the reach of a tweezer for sure.  Well, I've been a bad mom before, so this wasn't the first time an object had been lodged in a child's nose under my supervision.  When my older daughter stuck a crayon up her nose I closed her clean nostril with my finger and instructed her to pretend like she was blowing her nose.  Out it popped.  I wasn't sure if it would work on this child because she's younger and not too good at blowing her nose.  We tried, and sure enough, it didn't work.

No way was I going to take the kid to the ER on a Saturday night for a bead in her nose.  So, I Googled my way to safety.  Don't try rigging your shop vac with a small enough attachment to get the object out of the kid's nose.  I know.  I tried. My daughter was too squirmy and afraid of the shop vac's loud sound.  As a result, she was afraid of any vacuum for a couple of weeks afterward.  Every time I turned one on she'd plead, "Don't vacuum me up!"  Bad mommy.

Next, I read the following from a babycenter.com article:

How will the doctor get it out?

The doctor will look in your child's ear or nose, and then decide how best to proceed. There are a number of techniques and tools that she may use.
She may block one nostril and have your child try to blow his nose. If he can't, she may have you cover your child's mouth with your own and give a short, quick breath to dislodge the object as she closes one of your child's nostrils.
She may instead use small, tweezer-like forceps or a suction machine to remove the object. (If there's an insect in your toddler's ear, she may use mineral oil to suffocate the insect first.) If the object is metal, she may be able to use a magnet to remove it.

After the object is out, she'll look in your child's ear or nose again to make sure there's nothing else in there. She may prescribe nose or ear drops or antibiotic ointment to nip any infection.

I figured that as disgusting as it sounded, I would try blowing the bead out of my child's nose.  I held my terrified little girl (remember, I had just tried to vacuum her up) in my lap.  I closed her clear nostril.  I told her that I was going to give her a "kiss."  The first time I blew into her mouth, I didn't use much force because I was worried to hurt her so the bead didn't come out, but it had moved a bit.  The second time, I sent a little more force behind the blow and the snotty bead shot out of her mouth and into mine I was pulling away from her face.  It was that fast.  It was so disgusting we just had to laugh.

So, if this happens to you, you might want to try this before you go to the ER.  Have fun!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dealing with Allergy Related Congestion

I've been treating my allergies naturally for the past couple of years and I like it enough to continue.  I'm not sure there is one herbal or homeopathic medicine that works for everyone, just as no prescription drug works great for everyone.

What I've learned from treating my allergies naturally is that I have to treat each symptom on its own.  For instance, if I have an itchy throat/nose/face, I reach for Marshmallow root and Astragalus root capsules.  When my eyes are watery and itching, I use homeopathic eye drops. And for my absolute least favorite sypmtom, congestion, I use my least favorite treatment:  the nasal rinse.

Well, actually, it's a love hate relationship with nasal rinse.  I love that it works.  I hate doing it.  It took me some time to learn to realize the benefits of using a nasal rinse.  First time I did it, I expected immediate results with no more congestion.  Although it did relieve some of the sinus pressure I felt, it didn't completely relieve the congestion, so I figured it wasn't for me.  I was wrong.  When congestion comes on, it is smart to treat it with a nasal rinse and then do so a couple of times a day and then daily until congestion is no longer an issue.  Since I've stayed on top of my congestion with the nasal rinse, It's been much more tolerable.  It means a better night's rest and that is worth the discomfort from giving myself the rinse.

So exactaly how does one administer a nasal rinse?  There is something that just doesn't seem right about shooting liquid up your nose.  It's not an intuitive art, so WebMD has a really nice slideshow about it.  I thank the model for doing it.  I don't think I would have wanted to be that model for that.

Make Your Nasal Rinse

1/2 cup of  warm water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
a pinch of baking soda

In a cup, combine ingredients and stir until salt is dissolved.  Use a bulb syringe or other dosing syringe to administer.

Swallow your pride and shoot your nose with some nasal rinse per WebMD's instrucions.  Be sure to have some nice soft tissues on hand.  You'll be glad you did.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Almost Perfect Lunchbox for Us

Much better than what we used before
4out of 5
Pros: Quality Materials, No leaking, Great size for kids, Easy To Use
Best Uses: Kids lunch
I really, really like these lunch boxes. I bought two; one for my son, one for my daughter. Both are in grade school. I've been packing their lunches for a couple of years and really hated all the different containers, the leaking drink bottles, and hard to open leak-proof containers. This lunch box addresses most of my problems and nearly fixes them.

First, my kids love these lunch boxes... it actually seems to make eating their lunches more fun for them. The divided container is my favorite because it forces variety. The divided container is also where my only complaint is. The different compartments are not leak-proof from the inside. So, you can only use dry food in them. I'm currently experimenting with Press 'n' Seal to see if I can get keep watery things (like applesauce) to stay put in their compartment. I think it's working.
The other food container isn't divided. I use it for a sandwich. I cut the sandwiches in half or fourths to fit them in. No biggie, since I always cut sandwiches anyway.

I love how easy these containers are to open. Most leak-proof containers are hard for my kids to open and close. These containers solve the problem... and I must stay they are fun to open and close. :)

I like the size of the drink bottle. At one and half cups, it's perfect. (It's really hard to find water bottles that aren't less than 2 cups.) It washes easily since there aren't any sippy spouts or anything. It's simple and I love it. I guess if you child has a hard time drinking from a water bottle, this might not be a good choice for them, but it works great for us.

All three containers fit nicely in the lunch box and in my kids' backpacks. Other lunchboxes they have had have been so bulky.

This set does come with neat chopsticks, but since my kids don't use those, I just pack a spoon or fork and a napkin in the inner pocket on the lunchbox's lid.

This lunchbox works much better than anything else we've used so far.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rethinking Laundry

So, after trying out homemade laundry detergent and not thinking it worth my effort, I started to wonder if it made much of difference to do what I'd been doing for ages: using less detergent than the manufacturer's recommendation. Turns out I was onto something... using lots of detergent leaves residue/buildup on clothing and actually makes them look prematurely dingy. Check out this Wall Street Journal article. Near the end of the article, it quotes Seventh Generation's co-founder Jeffery Hollender in saying, that for most of our clothing, water is really all we need to wash our clothes, and the agitation of the washer does the rest. Now, really, that isn't that crazy since many messes are water soluble. I'm not going to go overboard and say that I've decided to stop using detergent all together. Up to this time, I usually used about half the amount the manufacturer called for. But, what if I did even less, would it make a difference?

THE STUDY
I decided to do a bit of my own scientific study on the matter. I got three white clothes of the same material (new birdseye from my clothing diapering days) and swabbed them with the same amount of watermelon juice. Watermelon is a summertime staple at our house and doesn't normally wash out of clothes all by itself, so I figured it would make the perfect visual test. I chose to use cold water Tide for detergent because it typically has the best track record. I washed each cloth in a large load of laundry, in cold water. In one load I used the normal amount of detergent I had previously used: 1/4 cup (the number 2 line on the Tide lid, even though the manufacturer says that for large loads, I should fill to the number 3 line). In another load, I used 2 Tablespoons of Tide. In the last load, I put no detergent in at all, letting the water alone do the work.

I felt like I was back in elementary school as I took pictures and recorded my results. *Now, as I've said before, I'm no photographer... I did my best. The lighting was slightly different for the before and after shots, even with my efforts to control it. The "after" results really aren't as dingy as they look.*

Here they are:

You can click on each image to get a better look at them. As you can see, with the water, the watermelon did get washed out somewhat, but left a stain.



And here, with the my regular amount of Tide filled to level 2 (1/4 cup)... Tide label would have had me fill it to level 3. There is a stain there, just not as visible as when washed with water.



Here, the results from using 2 Tablespoons of Tide. It may not be completely visible here, but it took out the stain just as well as the above load washed with 1/4 cup of Tide.

My Conclusion: It's A-Okay to use less detergent without compromising results. In fact, I'm starting to wonder what would happen if I used 1 Tablespoon... And how to get out that watermelon? Pre-treat it. It's the only way. I used my stain-remover concoction .

Another tip: for whiter whites, soak a load of clothes in 1/2 cup of Borax (a lot cheaper than Clorox 2 and works just as well) for a half hour to 1 hour before washing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent Review

Last year I read about making your own laundry detergent. I was skeptical. Why? Mostly because a lot of people swore by it (like I said, I'm a skeptic). Also, with all the recipes for homemade laundry detergent one can find on the web, they are all very different. Some are for the liquid form, others are for the powder form. While the ingredients are all pretty much the same (Borax, Fels Naptha soap, and Washing Soda), the ratios are quite different. Google it. You'll see.

I had never heard of Borax, Washing Soda, or Fels Naptha soap previous to my looking into homemade laundry detergent. As skeptical as I am, I'm also agonizingly curious, so I had to go ahead and making some laundry detergent. Upon buying these ingredients, I took a look at each product label.
  • Borax is a naturally occurring mineral compound that can be used as a laundry detergent booster, an alternative to color-safe bleach, and great multipurpose cleaner and deodorizer.
  • Washing Soda a.k.a soda ash, is sodium carbonate and is also consider a laundry booster and multipurpose cleaner.
  • Fels Naptha is a nice stain remover in the form of a bar.
My Experience
I choose to try the powered laundry detergent because making the liquid stuff just looked too laborious. The powdered stuff is just a matter of stirring our three ingredients together. Some say to use a tablespoon per load of laundry and others say to use 2 tablespoons per load (What to do???). For the record, I used one Tablespoon per load.

I used this homemade powder stuff for about 5 months. I can't say it cleaned my clothes better than the stuff I was using before. (I think it was Wisk.) Nearly every time I put the tiny Tablespoon into the washer, I had my doubts. I had read that the Borax label recommended half a cup in each load of laundry if using it as a booster. The washing soda also recommended a modest 1/4 cup amount for laundry booster. And here I was, using it as part of a detergent, barely using a couple teaspoons... (Anyway, I still pretreated all soiled clothing with my stain remover that I love.) Like I said, no real difference in cleaning my clothes.

I did, however, notice a difference in my washing machine: a greyish waxy film, making a ring at the water level. Yuck. That, I'm pretty sure was from using the Fels Naptha Soap. After all, one of soap's main ingredients is oil. I cleaned the waxy film and went back to my regular detergent, with a few changes. I'll talk about what changes I made in my next post. Suspense, I know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs...Finally!


This post isn't timely for Easter... but maybe if you'll be taking a potato salad or egg salad to summer picnic it might help. For years I have fought with hard boiled eggs. I've figured out to cook them quite perfectly so the yolks weren't green... but peeling the eggs, that has been an issue for years. How could I cook them so that the shells weren't hard to take off?--ALL the time. I looked all over the internet for tips. Some say to rinse the eggs in cold water after cooking, others say not to; to let them cool on their own. Some say to boil them in vinegar and salt water. Some say to poke a hole in the eggs with a pin before boiling. Well, I've tried most of these tips and none were completely fool-proof for me. I NEED fool-proof.

So, this last Easter I turned to my Facebook friends, asking them for their fool-proof method. One friend gave me a new suggestion I had not yet come across in all my looking. She said that she has always removed the eggs from the fridge about 2 or 3 hours before she cooks them so they come to room temperature. Then, she cooks them like usual.

Now, room temperature eggs. That was one thing no one had ever suggested. Apparently, it was the silver bullet for me. So now, here's my fool proof hard boiled egg cooking method:

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

1. Remove eggs from the fridge 2-3 hours before cooking them so they can come to room temperature.

2. Place eggs in a sauce pan of water (also at room temperature). Bring the water to a boil on high heat.

3. Once water has come to a boil, turn off the heat, place a lid on the sauce pan and set a timer for 15 minutes.

4. After 15 minutes, remove eggs from water. Allow eggs to cool to room temperature. (I like to let my eggs cool in a colander in the sink.)

5. Peel eggs!

Now, how come I never thought to ask my Mom about this?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shiney Fixtures!


I don't normally take household cleaning advice from dirty old men, but this guy that did some work on our tub offered unique enough advice that I figured I'd try it. He said that if I waxed my sink, tub surrounds (not floor as it would make it slippery) and fixtures after I washed them, they'd stay shiny longer and wouldn't need scrubbing as much. I'm all about less scrubbing.

I just used some car wax we had hanging around. (We don't wax our cars, so it was just going to continue hanging around.) I applied the wax to all the sinks in my house as well as fixtures and tub surrounds. I must say, it is nice. When doing my routine cleaning, I no longer need to buff the fixtures dry to make them shine. I just wipe them and when they dry, they are shining. I love what it has done for my kitchen sink. I used to scrub it once a week. Now, maybe every couple of weeks is all it needs. The wax does wear off, so I reapplied it after about a month and a half.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adblock Plus Now for Chrome!

I have LOVED Adblock Plus as an ad and pop-up blocker for Mozilla Firefox for some time. Only downside of it was that it was only available for the Firefox browser. Well, I'm happy to say that there is currently a beta version available for Google Chrome users. This is great since the previous ad-blocking software available for Google Chrome (AdSweep) wasn't that stellar. All you Chrome users outta check it out: AdBlock Plus for Chrome.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moving with Ooma!


I recently finished an out of state move (whew!). I'd been using Ooma for my phone service for almost one full year. When I first got Ooma, I had my old number ported to Ooma. After this most recent move, naturally, I wanted a local phone number. Time for another port! Because Ooma didn't offer any local numbers in my area, I had to take the long route: get phone service through a regular carrier (so I could get a local number) and have the number ported to Ooma. Though I'd been through this porting process just about a year ago, a bit had changed. Let me tell you about it.

Porting My Number To Ooma
After getting the least expensive phone service through a local carrier ($40 a month with taxes, once all was said and done!), I went straight to Ooma.com to begin the porting process. Submitting the order is a lot easier this time around than it was last time. Everything is now electronic, including my signature; no need to fax any documents! That was really nice. (BTW, it costs $39 to port a number.) The only thing I didn't get a chance to clarify on the order form was that I wanted this new number to replace my old number. I just have Ooma basic, so I can only have one number serviced through Ooma. If I'd of had Premier, I could have had both numbers on my account.

The whole porting process didn't take very long: I sumbitted my order to have my number ported on April 22 and by May 5th, the number was ported, so it went a lot faster this time than it did last time. But, it wasn't completely seamless. My port was scheduled for May 4th, but was actually ported a day later. On May 4th, I received automated phone calls from Ooma about every two hours all day, informing me that Ooma was working on the port. It wasn't until the afternoon on May 5th that a real person from Ooma called me and told me that they couldn't port my number because I didn't have premier. When I explained that I wanted this new number to replace my existing one, there was no problem and the port happened within an hour.

Caller ID Confusion
Now, it's time for the yucky news. With my old Ooma number, I had caller ID with name (I have basic service). When my old number was ported to my new number, I no longer had caller ID with name, just the number. I emailed customer support (this is the best way to get service, I have found) and was told that for some reason Ooma had not turned off the caller ID with name after my initial premier trial subscription ran out (a free premier trial subscription comes with every new Telo). So, I was basically getting a premier service for free, which I liked! Well, as I looked on Ooma forums, there are others out there who have basic service and have caller ID with name, so there is some discrepancy here which is a bit unnerving.

At any rate, I can live without the caller ID with name. I can Google numbers I don't know. Also, from Ooma's website, in my account, I can view call logs and add numbers to my contact list, putting in the name of the person/company. Next time someone calls from my contact list, Ooma will pull that info and it shows up on my phone. So, I can have caller ID with name for the people I know.

My thoughts on Ooma
Would I recommend it? Yes. The price is just so impressive and so far can not be beat for what they offer. Call quality isn't as perfect as a land line, but it's a lot more reliable than a cell phone. Let me explain that. For the majority of our calls, the quality is like a land line or better, but every once in a while a call will get dropped or break up. For the first year I had Ooma, I had it with DSL internet and I noticed echoing on some calls. Now I have cable internet and I don't notice any echoing. Since I've had my Telo for over a year, it has paid for itself. I intend to continue with it. Hey, just getting that bill from the local phone company for the one month that I had service through it, was a sour reminder of the chunk that phone service can cost. I'm not up for it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Make a Resuce CD for Your Computer Now!

I have posted info on some ways to access your hard-drive should your computer become incapacitated for some reason, via a Linux live CD. Today I want to talk about something less intimidating... hopefully something that everyone with a computer should be able to do: Making a FREE AVG Anti-virus Rescue CD. Everyone ought to have something like this on hand. Should your computer ever become compromised, you can use this CD as your first line of defense to check for viruses. Just slip a live anti-virus CD in your computer and boot from the disc. AVG will automatically update virus definitions before it preforms a full system scan.

So, getting the free CD is easy:

1. Head to http://www.avg.com/us-en/avg-rescue-cd

2. Download the rescue CD

3. Burn the image onto a CD. This is the ONLY part that I think would be hard for newbies, but not insurmountable. Burning an image is not the same as burning the files to a CD. You have to expressly select the option "burn image" or "burn iso image" (depending on your burning software) in order to burn the image correctly.

4. There. You have a rescue CD. Now, label it and put it in a place you'll remember. Hopefully, you'll never need it, but chances are pretty high that you'll at least have a friend who might!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Preface
Okay, background: My kids went to a peanut-free school. They bring their lunches to school... so no PB&J. What is a Mom to do with picky kids? If they don't like what I pack, they just don't eat their lunch. That is really frustrating. They come home famished. And I'm irritated. I came upon making this Cinnamon Swirl Bread to help remedy the issue. I make it with white whole wheat flour so that it can be as nutritious as possible, yet tasty enough that my kids will eat it. We spread cream cheese frosting on it and have a yummy Cinnamon sandwich ready for lunch. But it very good as toast with butter on top too.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
2 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 brown sugar
1 T yeast
1/4 cup canola oil
1 T salt
2 T lemon juice (helps make bread soft)
5-6 cups of white whole wheat flour (enough to make a soft, not sticky dough.)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients but flour. Let yeast bubble. Next, add flour, cup by cup, stirring as you go, until it gets to hard to stir, then use your hands unless you have a nice mixer. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Allow to rise (40 mins). Punch down divide dough into two equal parts. For each piece of dough, roll out, spread with a thin layer of butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Allow to rise until double in size (40 mins to 1 hour). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins. Makes 2 loaves.

I like a nice swirl in the bread, this is how I got it:


1: shape enough dough for one loaf into a loaf.


2. Next, roll it out so it's nice and looooonnnnggg.


3. Spread a very, very thin layer of butter on it, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Too much of any of these ingredients and your bread will separate at the swirls. Practice makes perfect.


4. Starting at one of the short ends, carefully roll up the dough, pinching on the sides as you roll. And now, it should look like the loaf you started with at the beginning, expect it's filled with yummy stuff.


5. Delight in the perfect swirl inside.



Cream Cheese frosting

5 oz cream cheese
2 T butter
2 c. confectioner sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Mix ingredients, adding sugar slowing on medium speed until thick and smooth. Top on cakes, cinnamon rolls, etc.

Prologue
The end of the story. We have moved (hence my blogging hiatus) and now my kids go to a school that is no longer peanut-free! This has been wonderful! It was one of the first things I inquired about when I was registering my kids at the new school. The lady at the school said, no, it wasn't peanut-free, but they do have lots of kids with lots of different allergies and they deal with them on an individual basis. I know I'd be opening a can of worms if I say too much about this peanut-free thing (google it, people on forums and message boards can get pretty feisty), but I did just want to say, that it can be done: a child can go to school and have a peanut allergy without making the entire school peanut-free. There, I probably opened a can of worms anyway...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Pillows, Made in the USA at a Great Price? Yes!

Okay, a few weeks ago when I was changing the bedding in my kids' rooms, It became painfully apparent that I just had to get some new pillows for my kids. They, the pillows, resembled stale toast more than they did actual pillows. They aren't that old, and are clean... but you know how pillows get all frumpy and chunky? That's how they were. So why have I been putting off buying new pillows for my dear children? Well, pillows are expensive and I never seem to be satisfied with my purchase... I've bought name brand pillows like Serta and cheapie pillows from Walmart, all with the same results. It's really irritating.

At any rate, I decided to bit the bullet and just shell out the dough to buy 4 pillows, knowing that they probably wouldn't hold up for more than 4 months at a time. I checked Amazon and Overstock for reviews and wasn't feeling sold on any of the pillows there because of prices and the mixed reviews. (I wanted down alternative pillows.)

Then, I thought of hotels and how they can have such nice pillows (not all, but some do!) and I was sure that they don't pay high prices for their pillows since they probably change them out quite often. So, I started searching google for hotel pillows and found Royal Pillow. (I'm not getting paid for this plug.)

Royal Pillow is based in Florida, sells pillows made in the USA to hotels, hospitals and even regular people. And their prices are amazing! I bought 4 pillows from their current promotion: Micro Denier Fiber Pillows (down-like) for only $6.99 a piece. Now, I must say that shipping was steep. I think I paid about $12.00 for it, but for 4 pillows at that price, it was still a lot lower than what I could have spent.

My pillows arrived in a timely manner, within a week of ordering them. I really, really wanted to like these pillows, but because I paid so little for them I was skeptical. Upon taking them out of the box, I noticed right away that they were a LOT softer than any other down-alternative pillow I had bought. They actually feel like down! I ended up taking a pillow and sleeping on it for a week to see how it compared to my down/feather pillow. It may be too early to tell, but so far, I prefer it to my old pillow because it offers just a tad bit more support.

So, now that I know I like these pillows and want some for my bed, I'll be ordering at least a couple more! So glad to finally have some pillows I'm actually happy with!

If you are looking for pillows, check out Royal Pillow. They also sell down and feather pillows too at great prices.

Monday, March 7, 2011

RIT White Wash: My Experience

About a year ago I picked up some RIT White-Wash in the laundry isle at Walmart. I didn't have a use for it right away, but I'm always interested in trying out whiteners. Well, this last month I had a pretty good opportunity to try it out.

I bet you don't know what happens when you wash a pad of neon Post-it page markers in a load of white laundry. I think I'm probably the only one in the world with first hand experience in this area. Well, you get neon marks all over your whites. I had a minor fit as I surveyed the damage. (It might be worth noting that I didn't notice the neon marks on the clothes until after I had taken them out of the dryer to fold.) I had no idea at first that Post-its had caused the mess. When I figured it out using my "detective skills," I knew a child of mine might have information on how it all happened... but that's another story.

My Experience
I figured now was a good time to try out that White-Wash. RIT White-Wash claims: "RIT White-Wash reliably whitens solid white fabrics." On the box it says only to wash clothing that is all white, no colors. I had a very light colored cotton shirt in the load that had neon marks on it, so I figured I'd throw it in with the White-Wash just to see what happened. I also treated the marks on this shirt with my reliable DIY stain remover just for an experiment.

RIT White-Wash can be used on a small amount of clothing in pot over the stove or in the washing machine. I chose the washing machine since I had a med/large load. I followed the directions exactly. Start to fill the washer with hot water, and slowly add RIT White-Wash just above water level. There is a warning on the package about the dust (not inhaling it or getting it in your eyes) as well as the fumes (keep the place ventilated). First, it really stinks. So, take the warnings seriously. You are also supposed to add your regular amount of laundry detergent and wash as normal. I did this.

The Out Come:
I have mixed opinions about RIT White-Wash. It did NOT whiten the whites. I washed mostly cotton fabric and some synthetic fabric like nylon and polyester. I didn't notice any difference on any of the fabrics. If they were dingy when they went in, they were dingy when they came out. If they were bright white when they went in, that's how they looked when they came out. Now to the neon spots. The neon pink and green spots on the clothes were removed. The neon yellow ones, they were hit and miss. Must have been a weird pigment issue. Anyway, the light colored shirt I put in, it was slightly lightened, but still had color so it looked fine. The neon spots on the shirt were yellow, but remember I had treated those with my stain remover and they came out completely. Yippee for the stain remover!

I don't think RIT White-Wash is a total waste. If you need to do first aid on a load of whites that got washed with a red sock, this would probably take the pink out of your whites. But, just as a whitener, I don't think RIT White-Wash cuts it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Changing Your Tracfone Number: My Experience

The Plug
I'm a proponent of prepaid cellular because I'm just not that attached to my phone. It's not an emergency-only phone. I'm just not much of a "chit-chatter", so 900 minutes can last me a whole year (costs $120) and there aren't any other phone plans that can beat that yet. My husband uses double the amount of minutes I do and it's still a great deal we haven't been able to find elsewhere.

There are some down-sides to Tracfone. For one, there are some really spiffy phones out there that Tracfone just doesn't offer... yet. (I'm sure they'll be offering android phones eventually.) For another, customer service is all overseas, so if you don't understand people with accents, you'll be in a bind.


Changing the Number
This Monday I began the days long effort of changing my husband's Tracfone number. We're in the process of moving and wanted him to have a local number to keep from having a roaming rate eat his minutes. Tracfones are pretty inexpensive and even free with an airtime card, so why would we bother changing the number on his 4-year old phone (from the ice age, really)? It gets an analog signal, and there aren't a lot of phones anymore that pick that up. Case in point: when we are driving in the wastelands of the West, my husband's phone can pick up an analog signal to make calls with and my phone, just a few months old, cannot. We like that analog capability, so we want to stick with it for as long as it works.

On my first phone call to customer service, I used my husband's phone, thinking that that might help with the change. Shouldn't have bothered doing that. I used 15 minutes and really didn't need the phone to do it. So, start smart, use a landline. On my first call, I told them what zip code I wanted my number changed to, the costumer service rep gave me a number to dial as soon as I was off the phone that would make the change. Easy. I dialed the number and was told to hold while they updated my phone. I heard a loud beep for a few minutes and then it stopped. I was supposed to wait an hour for changes to take place. I waited 24 hours just to be sure. Nothing. No new number, but now my husband's old number no longer worked, so he couldn't make calls.

Tuesday I called costumer service again. (They are very nice.) They had me push a bunch of codes into the phone on the prepaid menu under code entry and then said to wait again for an hour for the changes to take place. I had to wonder if the rep just wanted to get rid of my because he couldn't solve my problem.

Called again on Wednesday. I spent a long time (30 minutes) on the phone entering different codes into the phone. Then I was told that my phone had an error on it and it would take 24 hours to clear. So, call tomorrow. They gave me a ticket number that I was to refer to when I called back.

Called on Thursday. I gave the rep my ticket number right away. I think that helped, because she seemed to know what was going on and what had already been tried. She didn't ask me to punch in codes I'd already done a handful of times. She had me punch in one code and then my phone automatically shut off and turned back on and it had a new number on it! Yippee! It took a long time, but it's done. And we can keep our old Tracfone.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Old Vinyl Floor Transformation


When we were getting ready to put our house up for sale a month ago, we found ourselves carefully deciding what was worth spending money on fixing. We really felt like something needed to be done with our vinyl kitchen floor. The cost of putting in a new vinyl floor wasn't too awful, but the time that it would take to remove the old vinyl prep the floor seemed too daunting for our limited time frame. So, I took a good look at our floor. The problem with it isn't that it is out-dated, it just had has a lot of scratches in it that dirt was stuck in, making it look really dirty and dinged up. I wondered if I could give it a face lift and make it shine. Our floor is a no-wax vinyl floor, so I figured that I wouldn't be able to put wax on it. I was wrong.

After doing some looking around online, I found that many recommended scrubbing down the floor with a vinegar/water solution (I used a 1/1 solution) and then waxing it to seal the scratches. The price of wax was about $9 and the scrubbing would just take time. It took A LOT longer than I anticipated. I srubbed the floor for a total of 7 hours. I had a large scrub brush, medium sized one, and a toothbrush... all helped with the job. I used an old towel to wipe up the dirty water as I went. My arms and upper back were killing me by the end. But I persisted because the scrubbing with vinegar really was doing an excellent job. I had attempted to scrub the floor in the past using commercial cleaners like Mop and Glo and Pine Sol, but they just left a sticky film on the floor that only attracted more dirt.

After scrubbing, I gave the floor a few good passes with a clean mop and straight water and then dried it with a clean towel. The most amazing thing was seeing how the clean the towel was after I had rubbed it across the floor. The floor was totally clean. Next, I applied 3 coats of vinyl floor wax (allowing 30 minutes to dry in between coats). Now, not only is my floor clean, it shines and it looks A LOT better... to the point where I feel good enough about putting it up for sale without replacing the floor.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Metal Snap Removal, In Case You Were Wondering


I was wondering why my son hadn't worn the new pants I bought him months ago. He told me it was because the snap kept coming undone. Okay. Makes sense. So, a faulty snap... I figured it was a loss. Then I thought that maybe I could take the snap off and replace it with a button. Now, I know there are tools out there that you can buy to remove snaps, and while I'm sure they are great, it turns out a simple flat head screwdriver will do the trick! Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some detailed instructions for the process: http://www.sewing.org/scripts/blog/2010/04/how-to-remove-a-no-sew-snap/

How the Snap Removal Went for Me
I will say, that some care needs to be taken to make sure you don't hurt yourself in the process of removing the snap. Now, I had an auto mechanics teacher back in high school that told us never to use a tool for something it wasn't made for. So, don't call it a screwdriver, call it a pry bar. Pry away from yourself and your hands (we always says this, but one one always does it). I did it on surface that I didn't mind scuffing. The trick is to bend one side of the snap away from the other side that it is fixed to. The result left a small hole where the snap had been. I used a scrap of fabric to reinforce the area with the hole, sewed on a button and made a button hole for it. Worked! And I probably only spent 20 minutes on it.

Had the boy try his pants on... and he barely fits them anymore! Rats!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting the Stink Out of That Which Can Not Go in the Washer

I've been busy doing a lot of cleaning. Hence, my absence. I typically do much of my "Spring Cleaning" during Christmas break and January. The New Year just feels better with a deep clean. I've learned a few new things about cleaning that I'll be sharing.

Today's Topic: Stench Yucky, smelly, musty, smells that you can't seem to get rid of. I'm talking about stuff that Fa-breeze can't cut through. And I'm talking about things that you can't put in the washer: carpet, couches, mattresses... surface wash only stuff.

Recently, we started using a mattress that had been in storage. It had a musty, storage smell that I hoped would go away on it's own. I couldn't let it air out outside since the weather wasn't allowing for that. So, I tried shampooing it with the hand tools of my carpet shampooer. It didn't touch the smell. I gave up for a day. Hoped it would air out. It didn't.

So, I searched around online. Most people were saying to put vinegar in a spray bottle, spray the offensive area, allow it to dry. Easy enough. I tried it. It helped. I had also read about using ammonia in a spray bottle, applying the same as the vinegar. If figured I'd give it a shot. Because ammonia is so repugnant, I opened the window and closed the door of the room while the mattress dried. The results were great. The stench was gone...without smelling ammonia instead.

Now, would two applications of vinegar have done the trick? Perhaps, but I think it might have taken 3-4 applications of vinegar. I use vinegar to get the sink out of the carpet after cleaning up barf. It works. Now I know that ammonia works too (seems stronger) and that vinegar is easier on the respiratory system. I have found vinegar to be quite effective in removing the yucky cigarette smoke smell as well.