A Bit of Unsolicited Advice – off topic

Dear Stay-at-Home-Moms, Work-at-Home-Moms, Earners of less than 50% of the household net income,

I have some unsolicited advice for you. 

I know you scrimp and save, you stretch your dollars to make things work, you put up with things that really don’t work as they should because… because.

 It’s great that you are so careful, that you don’t frivolously fritter away the family’s income, but there is a point at which you can say, stop. This isn’t working for me. We need to find another solution. 

We have a microwave. It’s only 2 years old. It never actually worked right. The door didn’t close easily, and so it would need to be slammed shut. Eventually, the power supply to the microwave started acting up. You’d have to jiggle the power cable or hit the side to make it work. But I always got it to work, so we soldiered on. We tested and replaced the outlet, in case that was the issue. Moved it to a different circuit (behaved slightly better for a few days, then started acting up again). 

For the last month or so, it’s been getting worse. To the point that I can’t rely on it to heat food. I’ll put food in a few minutes before I need to heat it, slam the door closed (now the power is off), and hope that it decides to wake up again before I need it, slamming the side or jiggling the cord every now & then to see if it decides to cooperate. 

On Tuesday, we had a babysitter here, and I flat-out told her to avoid the microwave. It can’t be trusted and may in fact be dangerous. 

Today, feeling guilty for our bad purchase 2 years ago or for squandering our money for not getting it checked out when it first started acting up (before the warranty expired), I ordered a new microwave. 

We have a cesspool. The first few years living in our home, we had it serviced once. $400. They told us we needed to upgrade from our 1961 system to a newer, more sturdy one. We didn’t want to spend the money or tear up the lawn, so the next time we had issues, I called a different company. Another $400, and the same story. We needed to replace our pool. 

Fast forward to last year. Company comes in spring. We have issues. $400. Company comes in fall. We have issues. $150. More company comes. $400. And it still needs to be replaced.

Then, this January, we have another issue. We finally are on the same page and get our cesspools replaced. After literally throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet trying to hang on to our old system.

I should have spoken more strongly, more convincingly, that I was convinced we should make the switch. We’d been seriously talking about it for over a year. But I’m not the primary breadwinner, and maybe because of that I feel compelled to be ultra-careful with our money.

When you see something that just isn’t working, speak up. Before it hits the breaking point. You’re not being heroic by making it work, especially when you know it will need to be replaced sooner or later. You’re just adding undue stress to your and your family’s life.

Let it go. Give it up. And don’t feel guilty about saying it just doesn’t work. 

(I’m preaching to myself right now).

6 Very Useful Tools NOT to Give to a Mom on Mother’s Day

It’s that time of year again – that time when dads all over the world panic in their quest to find the right gift – a gift that shows just the right mix of sentimentality and usefulness – something special to show how much she means to him and their family.

I’m not a huge gift person. In fact, I usually just ask for a day without dishes and diapers, but in the name of helping out, here’s my list of 6 Very Useful Tools NOT to Give to a Mom on Mother’s Day (though she may appreciate them at another less sentiment-loaded occasion).

Disclaimer: If a special mom in your life asks for one of these items, she knows best! Don’t tell her I said not to! 🙂

This post contains affiliate links.  Any links to resources on the Amazon website are part of the affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. There is NO pressure to buy. 🙂 **)

1. Shredder

because nothing says “I Love You” and “You Take Such Good Care of the Kids” as much as shredding past bank and credit card statements

2. BISSELL Little Green Compact Carpet Cleaner

because the very first thing mom wants to be reminded of on Mother’s Day is how much time she spends cleaning up various messes from carpet – dirt, potty accidents, yogurt drinks, smashed rotten banana…. yeah. Go ahead and remind her.

3. Planner

because “Now you can get organized” is a synonym for “You’re doing a great job!” No really. No matter how amazing Erin Condren Planners are.

4. Alarm Clock

because encouraging her to get even less sleep is going to go over well. Just tell yourself that.

5. Vacuum Bug Catcher

these things are amazing. They can suck bugs out of little crevices, spiders out of ceiling nooks, and get that fly off the window that’s been driving you nuts. And for the compassionate among us, these bugs can be released back into the wild – no harm done. No squishy Kleenexes. But really? For Mother’s Day?!?

6. Wrinkle Cream

just. don’t.


Happy Shopping. 🙂

Magnatile Maze

Last week, I came across a fantastic activity involving Magnatiles

The idea is to create a maze using magnetic tiles** and a cookie sheet, and then run a marble through the maze. While it’s a great idea, presenting this as a predetermined maze with a single goal misses out on the beauty of these open-ended materials.

I showed the video to my son, 6, and asked if he was interested. We then gathered materials.  I used a 9×13 cake pan because the size was more appropriate for my kids’ arm lengths, and he got to work.

His initial idea was using vertical rather than flat tiles, and he experimented for a while with that. 

He then added a green beginning and a red ending and started constructing obstacles between the two.

Then he started adding roofs and tunnels to play with running the marble through those elements.

When his sisters took over, we added houses with walls and created a marble slide. 

We worked on fine motor control, balance, the pincer grip, spatial skills, executive function and planning, and the scientific concepts of magnetism, friction, inertia, and gravity were all involved, but to them it was play. 

They were able to wonder, experiment, create, and test their hypotheses. That’s learning. 
** we have this version of magnetic tiles. They’ve served us well for a couple of years now and still going strong.** (Amazon affiliate link –  ** any links to resources on the Amazon website are part of the affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. There is NO pressure to buy. 🙂 **)

Avoiding Arguments – One Conga Line at a Time

This week, some good research was reported on, showing a link between preschoolers swinging in unison and their later cooperation in other activities. The article also mentions how music has been shown to improve cooperation.

In our home, when the bickering starts we’ve been making a concerted effort to find a shared group activity that brings us back together. 

Some of our favorite activities include

  • Singing silly songs with movement together (ring around the rosy!)
  • Conga lines 
  • Pretending to be a train that needs everyone on board to go to the next station
  • Playing tree tag (everyone runs to the tree and tags it, not a person, and you take turns choosing the tree)

The key with all these activities is that they only work when we all participate, and there are no winners or losers.

The same premise works when a child is being obstinate or oppositional. Similar to the philosophy of positive discipline, which encourages parents to “connect then correct”, we try to re-orient behavior through shared experience. Some of our favorites include

  • Walking on my feet
  • Skipping together
  • Wheelbarrow rides
  • Spinning until we’re dizzy 
  • Pattycake

One of my educator heroes was a 3rd grade teacher at an international school in Germany. The kids didn’t all even speak the same language at the beginning of the school year, but she taught them all the recorder. Every day, the students would come in, and the first item on the agenda, as they were unpacking, was playing the recorder. Their first job of the day was to play together, in unison, the simple melodies they were learning.

We get so caught up in what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours, keep your hands to yourselves, that we lose fail to teach our kids the joy of working together. 

Families can build these patterns too, of seeing the sum as well as the parts. So the next time the kids are fighting, lead a conga line through the kitchen a couple times, and see if their attitudes don’t change on the other side.