Saturday, March 28, 2015

HHHHHH: A Measure of Improvement

This post might be better labeled "confession" than "hint."  Longtime readers will know that I am that rare person who uses his bread machine regularly, currently a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme.  I still use a recipe from one of my Breadman machines, modfied only with a substitution of 3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (WWW) for an equal amount of white flour.  No one in our family really likes traditional whole wheat flour, but this small substitution adds a little nutrition and actually lends some nice structure to the basic sandwich bread we use all the time.

I've used the same recipe for years and worked out the ratio of using 3/4 cup WWW in a total amount of 3 cups of flour as the maximum amount of WWW without making the yeast fight to rise the loaf reliably.  For years, when getting out my ingredients and measuring devices, I would get out a one cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure and a 3/4 cup measure.  Now that 3/4 cup measure came from a set we got at the King Arthur Flour store on a pilgrimage to Norwich, VT, a sacred place for bakers.  In addition to the traditional 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup measures, our set includes a 2/3 cup and this 3/4 cup.  One doesn't know one needs those (or a 3/4 teaspoon) measure until one owns them.  Even owning this set for years, I left an opportunity for efficiency on the table (er...counter).  See, I would measure 2 cups of white with my 1 cup measure, then 1/4 cup of white, then 3/4 cup of WWW with that measure.  Any mathematicians shaking their heads yet?  

In the last few months, I figured out that I was replacing one part out of four with WWW.  That means I could do all my flour measuring with one measure - the 3/4.  Now, I fill that one three times with white flour and once with WWW.  There are multiple benefits:
  • It's faster to use one measure than three for the actual measuring step.
  • It keeps my counter cleaner to not put down two used measures (the other option of plunking them in the sink one by one always made me impatient).
  • I wash one cup measure instead of three.
 The strongest hint in this post is to acquire more finely-graded cup measures like this awesome-if-not-cheap set.  The other one we love is a 1/8 cup measure from another set.  While one doesn't see 1/8 cup in recipes much, one sees 2 tablespoons often, and 2 T = 1/8 C.  Boom!  Then, once you've acquired them, pay more attention than I did and find ways to cut down on the number of measures you have to use.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sexiest Young Man Alive?

If the science is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) that women find men who are interested in babies sexy, then our Charlie (12) should do pretty well with the ladies...eventually, after acne.  This year, he has added helping out in the toddler room to his church activities.  One Sunday a month, he reads over a prepared lesson and teaches the kids in the toddler Sunday School class.  He loves it and is so excited to be old enough to take on this duty.  A chidren's ministry employee told me recently that when it's Charlie's week, the paid caregivers in that room know they have easy duty because he will keep the kids' attention the entire time.  He devotes his whole self to it.

As evidence, I submit this image of his Google calendar (Yes.  He has a Google calendar.  What do you think he is?  A farmer?)  The left-hand appointment was created first and shows that it's his week to work in the toddler room.  He created the right-hand appointment later, presumably when he saw the original appointment.  It's just his private celebration of getting to spend time with the little tykes.  It's so sweet and captures his lack of self-consciousness, even in the crucible of the middle school years.

Charlie (4) holds Teddy in the first
month of brotherhood
We knew early on that Charlie loved babies.  He doted on his baby doll (Baby Russell) and was extremely affectionate and solicitous when a real baby joined him at home.  Little-boy affection for his younger brother didn't necessarily predict the current state, of course.  We feel lucky to parent this pre-teen who just loves babies and toddlers in a wholesome and caring way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mashup: Parent Comment Rage and Beautiful Winter Images

I take guilty pleasure in reading the comments on my school district's Facebook announcements of delays and closures.  We've now had several of both this winter.  Parents go absolutely nuts, complaining about the administration.  One really fun facet: the comments cut both ways, of course.  If the district delays or cancels school, that's inconvenient and sends a bad message.  If the district holds a full day or only delays without cancelling, that gets its own round of second-guessing.

To share the joy, I've copied selected comments verbatim from these Facebook announcements and surprinted them on beautiful winter scenes.  Enjoy!

On the day of a delay

This from a snowy Saturday when the high school basketball championship games were not cancelled.  Linda Lane is the superintendent.  Bus drivers love to comment; not sure if they're parents of children in the district or not.

On a very cold morning when we'd had delays but as of then no school closures at all this year

On the day of a cancellation for cold (but not snow or ice)

When after-school activities were cancelled because the weather went south during the school day

Flickr Photo credits
1  blmiers2 - winter bird in the snow
2  Denis Colette - Route de l'Arc-en-ciel...!!!
3  SBA73 -  neu i vent a la mola
4  Let ideas compete - hot air in cold air
5  blmeiers2 - Frosty Footpath - Winter Snow

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Your Attention, Please

It's kind of a long story, but Charlie reads the announcements over the PA at his middle school.  When I took him in late this morning, the school secretary said "I was just about to look for you.  This is your job; I don't want to do it."  She had a pile of announcements in her hand.  We've heard about Charlie doing this task but had, of course, never witnessed it.  I whipped out my phone to capture the moment.  Caution: the video is a little loud.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Particle Roundup

Call it the Jeffington Post.  It's your occasional parenting article (particle) roundup.  I see particles linked all the time on social media, and I read some of the ones that I see.  Here are some recent ones with my quick take on them.

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught me About Being a Stay-at-home Dad.
While there's nothing actually ground-breaking here, it's well-written and an interesting slice of the at-home dad world.  The best nugget from the justice: "You can’t have it all all at once."

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports
This really targets parents who have bought into the hyper-competitive part of the youth sports spectrum.  It asks for changes from coaches and parents.  Unfortunately, it also lays out why change will be difficult to effect.  "The path is a race to nowhere, and it does not produce better athletes. It produces bitter athletes who get hurt, burnout, and quit sports altogether."

We're Ruining Our Kids with Minecraft; The Case for Unstructured Play
When I read this, I felt very validated about some of the choices we've made as parents: 
"If we want our kids to relearn how to play, we have to begin by exposing them to boredom.We send our kids to camp in the summer, but we also structure their summer specifically to create boredom in hopes that they will overcome it of their own initiative.  Articles like this are fueled by scary statistics; this one features a finding that kids 8 to 18 spend 6.5 hours on screens per day.  That sounds outrageously high to me across the board.  I have no doubt that it's true of some kids, but where are they finding that kind of time?

This is more of a marriage essay (messay?) than a particle, but I saw someone link to it on Facebook.  The title "I Wasn't Treating My Husband Fairly, and it Wasn't Fair" should alert you to the kind of rocket surgeon we're reading here.  It's pretty annoying in the middle, so either read the whole thing or don't read it at all.  She finally gets around to a point that doesn't make me really resent her or her husband.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Behavioral Diabetes

At the risk of upsetting those who have to manage (or love someone who has to manage) actual diabetes, I've labeled a pattern exhibited by my eight-year-old behavioral diabetes.  Perhaps you know a behavioral diabetic, too.  All his life, when he's gotten hungry and his blood sugar has dipped, he's melted down.  There are worse afflictions.  Particularly in a very young child, I'd take hangry over tired meltdowns any day.   I can help reduce hanger by feeding him.  Tired and riled seems only to escalate until explosion. 

This pattern makes being home when Teddy gets home from school feel  really important.  Four to six o'clock is Ted's witching hour.  In his toddler/pre-school years, I felt I wouldn't make it through this dark valley some nights.  By trial and error, I learned that he couldn't identify low blood sugar as his problem.  He saw everything as terrible and hopeless, but he couldn't say "Please feed me."  More than that, as we started to see the pattern and would diagnose a behavioral diabetes attack, we moved from asking him if he was hungry to telling him he needed to eat something.  Unable to identify hunger as the problem, he would fight back, adding resentment of our prodding him to eat to his already-dark outlook.

[Editor's note:  I was drafting this post in my notebook while Teddy and I waited for his brother to finish an event.  I stopped during the above paragraph because Teddy said "I'm hungry".  It was 4:05 pm.  We went out to the corner convenience store for a dose of pretzel-cillin.]

I've tried and failed to capture on video the whiplash transformation in his personality that as little as one bite of food can effect.  He can move from moaning to singing in one-fifth of a banana.  It blows our minds.

As much as I'm proud of us as parents for figuring out the problem and helping Teddy manage his behavior at moments like these, I do worry that feeding him when he's upset essentially lays the groundwork for an eating disorder.  On a recent episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Jeff Garlin, who's had his troubles with food, said in a slick and winning way - "You know, I'll either feel some feelings or have a sandwich."  Likewise, Weight Watchers' current ad campaign enjoins "If you're happy and you know it, eat a snack...If you're sad and you know it eat a snack...if you're human, eat your feelings, eat a snack."

While it seems like there is some chemical, blood-sugar magic to Teddy getting a snack when he really needs one, I want him to learn to take care of himself, not equate any bad feelings with hunger and attempt to eat them away.  It's a delicate balance.  How do I say "Eat this banana now, but don't eat an entire pizza at 2 am when you're 24, and an awesome young lady has just broken up with you."?  Actually, that doesn't sound half bad.  I'm going to try it tomorrow at twenty after four.