Lessons from a Two-Year Old

I gave my son and daughter-in-law lots of gifts when their son Elijah was born. But none has come back to bless me more than the Gift of Friday. Since he was six weeks old, I’ve closed the door to work on Fridays to care for and learn from my grandson, Eli.

In these two years, Eli and I have explored our neighborhood looking for cats, dogs, bugs and birds. We’ve met neighbors we didn’t know and found the skunk we knew existed but had never seen. We’ve played at the park, counted planes and listened for fire engines.

 

Last week, we took a walk to the 99 Cents Only store to see if we could find anything from the movie “Toy Story.” I was fully prepared to shell out a buck or two if indeed we could find anything. I figured it was doubtful, given the kind of store it is. But the most amazing thing happened.

Before we could even get through the door, Eli locked eyeballs with Buzz and Woody on a gift bag. I was surprised and reacted with great drama, which made him laugh hysterically. As we walked up and down the aisles, Eli made one “Toy Story” discovery after another.

I would have never noticed the things he found, from photo albums to stickers, books, pencils, gift bags, cups, plates, cards, key chains and other “Toy Story”-branded trinkets. The more things he found, the more I reacted, which only spurred him on.

Here is where Eli and I are not at all the same: He didn’t want any of these things. He just loved finding them. The fun of discovery became its own reward. I, on the other hand, have some kind of automatic response mechanism that insists that if I love it, I must then buy it.

I learned a couple of important lessons from Eli that Friday.

First, I don’t have to own things to enjoy them. Isn’t that an amazing thought? And it goes the other way, as well. Just because I don’t own it doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy it from afar. Second, often there’s greater value in doing things together, than in owning things.

Creating this little game, and then beating me at it over and over, provided Eli with so much fun and enjoyment, the thought of actually buying all that stuff didn’t seem to cross his mind. He loved doing more than getting.

After a half-hour of treasure hunting, Eli took a ride on the 50-cent mechanical horse, and we walked home. On the way, between taking in the wonders of bugs on the sidewalk and trying to decide if it might rain, he said, “Ahma, that was a fun store. Go again next week?”

You bet we will, Eli. And next week we’ll look for cars, trucks and anything green. And we’ll count the cracks in the sidewalk and look for caterpillars.

We’ll laugh and run and count to 20. We’ll enjoy every minute and make memories for a lifetime without having to buy a thing.

Update: I wrote the foregoing in my journal more than six years ago. In what seems like a blink of an eye, Eli is now 8. Since then, little brother Sam has joined our Fun Friday adventures. While it has little resemblance to the 99 Cents Only store, Costco is the place Sam, age 2, and I look for hidden treasure. He prefers Mickey Mouse to Toy Story, and sure enough, without fail, he discovers that mouse over and again on merchandise, posters and displays that I would never notice in a million years!

image_print

Instant Pot Quick-Start Guide

About 20 years ago there was a pressure cooker renaissance in America. Our grandmothers knew that day would come, that we would return to her favorite kitchen tool—a pressure cooker—to make fast braises, stews, soups, and casseroles. They just didn’t know how we’d get there.

If you, like me, are a Nervous Nellie who grew up hearing stories about a great aunt who shellacked her ceiling with country stew when the thing nearly blew her to Oz and back, relax. I’ve powered through the fear and discovered modern pressure cookers have amazing safety features to put all fear to rest. Now it’s time for you to start exploring as well, especially if you’re busy, hate spending hours in the kitchen but hate even more having to go out and spend a fortune on a marginally edible restaurant meal.

Perhaps you impulse bought an Instant Pot—on a whim and now it sits unopened in the garage, nearly forgotten. Or it’s been on the countertop for months and truth be told, you don’t have a clue what to do with it.

Or it’s possible you have used Instant Pot, tried it once and it turned out to be a complete disaster. The pot roast turned out dry and tough as shoe leather. The pasta came out a frothy, sloppy mess. Disappointment, thy name is Instant Pot.

Whatever your situation—even if you’ve never heard of a pressure cooker let alone how or why you need to—today’s the day. It’s time to put away all preconceived notions, rumors, and failures and start over on the right foot.

IT’S DIFFERENT. Pressure cooking is a completely different kind of cooking. You can’t just throw stuff in willy-nilly and expect perfection five minutes later. There are rules, which when followed, pay off in spades. But you have to know them, learn them and follow them. It’s not hard, but it is completely different than what you might be used to.

image_print

Best Inexpensive: Towels, Mattress Pad, Down Comforter

In my lifetime, I have spent way too much in an attempt to furnish bedrooms and baths with high quality towels and bedding. What I have discovered through a lot of trial and error is that the price does not always guarantee great results.

Today I want to tell you about my picks for the Best Inexpensive bath towels, mattress pads and down (the real deal) comforters.

TOWELS. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when it comes to towels, my husband and I are both very picky. They can’t be too thin, but not too thick either. Towels need to be highly absorbent, 100% cotton. We’re not into bath sheets, preferring our bath towels to be somewhere around 30” x 56.” They need to be soft but not too soft, so as not to give an invigorating rub down following a hot shower.

I want towels that launder well—able to handle hot wash, vinegar rinse and a high-temperature dry with wool dryer balls. We stick with all white linens, so our towels need to be able to handle an occasional bit of chlorine bleach.

My pick for Best Inexpensive bath towels is Land’s End 100% Rare Supima Combed Cotton towels, hand towels, and washcloths. These are amazing towels. They do not shrink, launder beautifully and look gorgeous hanging in the bathroom. These towels come singly or in sets and in a choice of 15 colors, including white.

Lands’ End Rare Supima Combed Cotton 6-piece Towel Set (2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 2 washcloths) $79.

image_print

Saving by Choice, Not by Chance

A reader question I answered some time ago brought a small avalanche of mail, mostly from readers who were aghast that I would suggest they save such a significant portion of their paychecks for retirement. It was money they just didn’t think they could afford to save.

I can only imagine that for a person who saves nothing, suggesting they should be saving thousands every year is shocking. Or more like impossible! Here’s just one of those messages:

image_print

Put Denture Tablets to Work Around the House

I have a long list of reader questions that I’d intended to answer today. But I got so taken away with Sandy’s question, I used up all the space! I promise to get to the rest of the list real soon.

Can I use my Polident Denture Cleanser to soak/clean my mouthguard for several days in a row, or is it really necessary to start with a new tablet each morning? Sandy

You can, but I wouldn’t. Here’s the reason. Once that denture tablet hits the water it becomes activated to both clean and sanitize. It will fizz and bubble for a while as it cleans. But it loses steam slowly so that 24 hours later it won’t be sufficient to give that mouthguard another go round of cleaning and disinfecting. That may or may not concern you, but it would concern me. So my answer is no to your question of re-use. By I have some things you can do with that solution while it still has a bit of useful time remaining. Denture tablets are great little workhorses for all kinds of jobs around the house.

image_print

Letters to the Editor—Everything From Pedialyte to Bed Sheets, Vacuums and More

I have to admit that my readers’ comments—the good, the grateful; the bad, ugly, glowing, hilarious and even puzzling from time to time—are some of the best entertainment I get every day. Mostly you make me smile and that’s why I love to hear from you.

While I am unable to personally acknowledge every message, I read and appreciate your letters, messages, notes, and comments. Even the occasional angry ones.

Comments on making your own Pedialyte

Just want you to know that the recipe Tom offered is the one the World Health Organization has been giving around the world for decades (minus the Kool-Aid, added for flavor). Pedialyte is an expensive western substitute for “first-worlders” who are too busy to mix it up themselves or who are used to buying everything they need over the counter. If people, where I live in West Africa, had to buy Pedialyte, there would be a lot more dead babies here. Keep up the good work! Jennifer

Comments on Stop Whining!

This ought to go in every newspaper worldwide along with every school curriculum at every level. Thank you for the reminder. I detest when I am a whiner and have even more impatience with others, regrettably. Blessings to you, Patricia

image_print

Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Your money is limited and time is short. Here is my best advice to make sure back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t send you to the poorhouse.

Set spending limits. Time to get real. How much money (not credit) do you have available for school clothes? Write it down.

Take an inventory. Sort through your kids’ clothes and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones they don’t wear due to wear and tear, or because they no longer fit. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need to buy.

Sell the old to buy the new. If you have gently used clothes in good condition, sell them and use the money towards the purchase of back-to-school clothing. You can sell on eBay or on Craigslist, at a garage sale or by taking them to a resale consignment shop to sell or use as trade items.

Assess needs. Not every child will have the same needs when it comes to school clothes. What is reasonable? Now divvy up the money you have against the children’s needs then moving on to wants until all the money has been appropriated.

Start with new shoes. There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes to get kids in the mood for the first day of school. Shoes are so satisfying, this will take the edge off the raging case of the “I wants” that your children may have picked up somewhere. And a new pair of shoes even make last seasons’ clothes perk up.

image_print

How to Get Your Perspective Back on Track

These days, it’s easy to fall into the muck and mire of worry and defeat. Personal crises like a financial emergency, the loss of a job—or worse, your home—punctuated by the daily news can ruin your perspective and dump you into a pit of despair.

What you need to know today is that even when things seem completely hopeless, there’s always a way out. That’s not to say that you should slip into denial when bad things happen. But good things also happen.

By learning how to control your thoughts and stepping back to see the bigger picture, you can climb out of that pit and into the sunshine of a new day. It’s all about learning how to get your perspective back on track.

1. Feelings are fickle. They can’t be trusted. Our feelings send messages to our brains that are not always reliable. Your emotions may be all over of the map. Instead of allowing your feelings to run the show, take control by writing things down in clear, simple sentences. Acknowledge the facts. It is what it is—no better, but no worse, either.

image_print