Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Over"parenting Our Kids

I usually use this blog to write about gardening and self-sufficiency, but I just got back from taking my youngest child to 8th grade registration. It's a new school this year and she is excited to start.

When I was in school 20+ years ago, we didn't have registration each year.  On the first day of school, we got handed a stack of papers in homeroom to take home to have our parents sign along with bills for fees.  My children's school district has the kids come in a few weeks before the start of the year.  Everything gets done at once and the kids familiarize themselves with locker combinations, class schedules and see old friends.

At registration, I hang back and let my kids do most of the talking.  When staff look at me and ask for a name, I have my daughter answer.  SHE takes the papers and holds them for safekeeping.  SHE then asks where to go (sometimes with a prompt from me).  I do this at doctor's offices, as well.  If it is their appointment, then I have them check in.  I do not answer questions for them.  I want to raise kids who are empowered and comfortable speaking to adults and conveying and asking for information. 

I'm amazed at how many parents, in doctor's offices and at school registration (or anywhere), do everything for their kids.  By the time your kids are teenagers, they should be able to handle registration with you as the observer, not them.  Too many kids I saw were following their moms around while the mom held their schedule and told them where everything was.  Their kids looked distant and bored. Of course they were.  Why should they even try to take charge, clearly their parent thought they were incapable of it.  Kids become what we tell them and show them they are.

The kids who held their schedule and were taking charge were engaged in conversations with their peers and their parents (and usually they were with Dad).  I had to tell my child to slow down a few times because she was reading the map (on her own) and racing ahead to find classrooms.  Sometimes she went the wrong way and got stumped.  She'd then take out the map, get her bearings, and then tell me which way to go.

Let your kids stumble and fail during these things.  What is the worst that will happen?  They'll lose a paper?  Their hair will look weird in their school picture?  That you might have to call school later to find out where the bus stop is?  She'll get lost in a new school?

When my oldest was in high school softball, I never went to her practices, only to her games.  I was the minority.  Most parents were at every practice.  WHY?  The coaches don't need you there and your child certainly doesn't want you there.  I know this from teaching piano.  I do not mind parents sitting in on an occasional lesson, BUT every time a parent does sit in on one, EVERY TIME, their child does more poorly, is more self-conscious, and oftentimes misbehaves. Stop hovering.

I think we've become so concerned with protecting our children from failure and striving for perfection, that we're creating future adults who think failing is bad and perfection is good.  Neither is true.  Frankly, it's the opposite.

Let your children be their own advocate in this small stuff as they get older.  The more experience they have with taking control of their own schooling, health, etc., the more likely that when a big problem arises, they will have some skill in knowing how to deal with it and how to ask for help.

We all love our kids and there's no one-size-fits-all manual.  I just wish more parents would let their kids do more things on their own.  Stumbling is normal.  It's our job as parent's to help kids learn how to get back up after a fall, big or small.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adapting Your Home for Climate Change

A warming world doesn't sound so bad.  What's 2 degrees?  Except 2 degrees is the global average.  Most of us will not just have a slightly warmer winter.  Rising global temperatures will mean that climates across the globe will change.  The climate where you live will become less calm and extremes in heat and cold, drought and floods, will become more common.  I am pessimistic that our political leaders will be able to accomplish anything to prevent the world from warming more, so my focus has turned from changing minds to preparing my home, yard, and family for weather extremes.

In my climate (5a/5b) in the Midwest, we can normally range from low 90's for a few days each summer to temperatures of 30-40 below zero in the winter.  Droughts and floods happen.  More recently though, each year we seem to experience one extreme: lots of heavy rains resulting in floods, no rain resulting in crop loss and an explosion of insects, prolonged and frequent heat waves, warmer winters without a deep frost to kill insects or snow pack to replenish groundwater, or 100 inches of snow in a winter.  There is no "normal" year around here anymore. 

I keep asking myself what I can do to adapt to this new normal.  Some prepper websites and blogs will say to move to the hills and set up a rural homestead.  That only makes sense to me if you have a working knowledge of rural life and/or have very close family/friends who would help.  Also, we all still need money to buy things and access to health care and insurance.  My oldest daughter has bipolar disorder so being close to medical facilities/doctors and having insurance is very important. My husband also works in the city, at a job he likes, so a rural homestead isn't practical for us.  I am not an alarmist by nature, but I do need security and preparing as best as I can for possible events seems the intelligent thing to do. 

So this is what I am doing and have done to adapt the house we live in to deal with extreme weather:

 Replaced all of our crappy builder grade windows with high quality energy efficient windows (Anderson).  We lose a lot less heat in the winter and the house stays a lot cooler in the summer. On hot days I keep the windows on the East and South side of our home closed and the blinds and curtains drawn to keep out heat.  I put up an awning on our south facing deck to shade and cool down the deck so as to not radiate heat into the closed up house.  At night, we place window fans in our windows to draw the heat out of the house and the cool air into the bedrooms, reducing our need for air conditioning. 

I began container gardening on our deck to learn to grow more food in a small space but also to help cool down the south side of the house which is mostly decking and stone.  Wonderful in winter but blistering hot in summer.  We've also planted numerous deciduous trees that will help shade us in the future.

We have a finished basement: drywall, wall-to-wall carpeting.  If frequent heavy flooding is in our future, the kind that our city's storm water system cannot handle, we'll have to replace the drywall and carpet with materials that are more suited for a damp environment.  Tiled floor or painting the concrete and removing some of the drywall may be the wisest action. Raising furnaces, water heaters, etc may also be prudent.

Installing swails in our yard or landscaping with berms to prevent flood waters from creeping toward our home (we live at the bottom of a steep hill) may be in our future.

An alternative source of cooking and heating will be important if we lose consistent electricity due to weather.  I'd like to get a woodstove for my living room and build an outdoor bread/pizza oven.

What's important is paying attention to what significant, extreme weather events happen to your area over the next few years and changing your home to make living in it during the most common events, better and reducing the weather's impact on your home. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bottling our Homebrew

My husband began brewing his own beer about 16 years ago, when I was pregnant with our second daughter.  The smell of that first batch added to the nausea I already felt from morning sickness and for years afterwards, I would feel sick whenever he'd brew up a new batch.  Thankfully, that is no longer the case and I like the smell of the wort

The ESB ready to ferment.

After 16 years, I still don't understand the whole brewing process, nor how to set up the siphon.  I tell people it's because science was difficult for me and my husband minored in Chemistry at University, but the real reason is I just don't really want to know how to do it, just in case that would become another one of my jobs around here.  I don't know how to use our gas grill for the same reason: I just don't want to have to do it.  

The siphoning process, yes, I know it's easy and I don't care.

I do know how to do the bottling part. I push the thingie down in the bottom of the bottle and it fills with beer.  Voila!
Here my husband is capping the bottles.  I like to use the capper in the forefront when I cap.

Here our oldest wipes off the bottles and puts them in the cases to sit for a month.
When she was 7, during "show and tell" at school she told the teacher and her classmates that she got to brew beer over the weekend.  We live in Wisconsin with a drinking culture and a large German population that likes beer, but that did raise some eyebrows.  Whatever.  

My favorite part of brewing: the tasting.  It was good, even before carbonation.

We'll be tasting the new ESB over Labor Day weekend.  If you're in the Madison area, come and sample. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

I like to use basic, homemade cleaners for my home.  Not only are they MUCH cheaper, they're safer and I actually know what's going into them.  This is a recipe for liquid laundry soap that I found on Twitter (I can't remember from whom, sorry!) that I just began using. It takes 10 minutes and costs less than 25 cents to make!

You will need:

1/2 bar of grated soap (I used basic DIAL; try to use an unscented or lightly scented bar of soap)
1/2 cup of Borax
1/2 cup of Washing Soda

You may have to hunt for the borax and washing soda.  I found the Borax at Target and the Washing Soda at Woodmans (a grocery store).

Grate half of a bar of soap.

Then, in a large pot that holds at least 2 gallons (32 cups), heat 4 cups of water and add the grated soap, stirring until the soap completely melts.

Add 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/2 cup of Washing soda to the soap mixture.

Stir until everything is dissolved.

Add 2 cups of HOT water to the soap mixture, while stirring.  Then top the container with cold water and mix well. 

Pour the mixture into saved laundry detergent containers and you have liquid laundry soap for less than a quarter!  By the way, use about 1/2 cup per load.
I used old laundry containers that my daughter found at college.

I found the Borax and Washing soda for less than $4 each and the soap was about 20 cents a bar.  You could add a couple of drops of essential oil to your mixture if you like a particular scent.  I like "plain" scent.