Monday, February 25, 2013

My wish: adjustable jeans

If you have kids, you are probably familiar with adjustable waist pants. They are a must if you have slender kids.

We cinch them in a lot for my older son.
Now, I don't know if you're like me and a lot of the women I know, but my weight can fluctuate. Some is a monthly issue, due to bloating. Some is due to holiday indulgences.

I'm tired of needing 2 or 3 sizes of pants in my closet. Especially when I know some weight gain, such as at the holidays, will only be around a few weeks. I certainly don't want to be uncomfortable either.

Do you know what I want? I want adjustable waist pants for women. And not the ones found in the maternity department. Because I am so past maternity clothes and pregnancy certainly isn't the only reason I might need to let my pants out a little or cinch them in.

I want some nice Levis that I can wear for years, but with a little button and elastic strap hidden in the waist.

It's bad enough women's sizing means nothing. I don't always want a belt. And sometimes a belt only makes the problem worse.

Jeans makers, any takers on this idea?

Oh, and while we're at it, can we permanently ditch the skinny jeans?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The attic playroom

The house I grew up in was an American Foursquare built around 1908. It was white stucco and siding, with a shady front porch and a graceful elm tree out front. The basement was scary, at least when I was younger, what with the old 'octopus' furnace. As teenagers, the basement became our rec room, a place to play music and dance around, play darts.

But the attic was our playroom. Half the attic was used for storage and Dad's train set. The other half was ours. We stapled posters to the slanted ceiling and walls. The carpeting was a hodgepodge of remnants in different colors and styles. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but it was a wonderland to us.

As we grew older, toys were boxed. Dress up clothes were donated to charity (or tossed in the case of a few gowns that were tattered). And then the old house was sold almost a decade ago and those boxes were unpacked in a new playroom at my parents' new house, entertaining the next generation.

But the kids are getting older and no longer play with some of our old 'friends'. This weekend it was time to cull some of the collection.

And so Mom, Tracy and I took a walk down memory lane.

The old play stove, still standing after all these years.
 The old play stove, handmade from plywood, an old faucet, and some paint, is still standing, solid as ever. Yes, it shows wear and tear, but it's simple design, with painted on burners, was all we ever needed.

It'll go in my sister's garage sale this spring, along with our many toy pots and pans, plastic food, and other play kitchen wonders.

It used to sit in the corner by the front windows in the attic playroom, the table and chairs nearby.
Tracy's dollhouse.

We each had our own dollhouse. The houses were identical, but we chose the shelf paper for the walls and floors, thus customizing them. Many a trip was taken to the local shop, which we walked to on our own, to buy new furniture and such for our dollhouses.

Mine didn't survive the move, but the boys still play with this one. They are very creative, choosing to put the kitchen on the second floor, for example.

The house will hopefully stand a few more years until they outgrow it.

Some of our old games.
Just as when we were growing up, there is a closet full of games. Many of the boxes are taped together and some pieces are surely missing, but we spent house playing those games.

I've brought a few home, adding them to our game shelves, but the rest still live in their closet, waiting for the boys to be ready for them.

There are a few they can play now, like Hungry Hungry Hippos, and some we need to introduce them to, like Can't Stop. That was always one of my favorites.

My babies, well-loved, not a retirement fund.
Yes, I was the perfect age in 1982 when Cabbage Patch Kids burst onto the scene. My first doll, the one with long hair, is not a 'real' Cabbage Patch doll, but I loved her just as much as the others that followed.

My Cabbage Patch Kids had quite a wardrobe, with 'real' clothes and handmade ones from craft fairs and ones my mom made.

Their diapers are long gone, but they and their clothes are ready to be loved by a little boy or girl.
Need a seat? Let me give you a hand.

Do you remember the Green Giant? His face (or hand) graced many items in my childhood. We had foot sleeping bags and patterned sleeping bags. And we had this chair.

Its molded plastic is just the right size for small bottoms. And it's staying right where it is, ready for little sprouts to sit cozy.
White picket fence not included.

Did every child of the 70s and 80s have one of these Fisher Price houses? With the odd little people and the single seat car? Two of these currently live in the playroom at my parents' house. One was ours and one lived at my grandparents' house in the basement playroom.

These compact little houses are a classic. Many an hour was spent on the domestic affairs of the little family in the perfect blue house.

Strawberry Shortcake and friends, before they were teens.
Strawberry Shortcake is making a resurgence. But I had the original dolls. Orange Blossom has sadly been lost to the rough play of rambunctious little boys, but Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Raspberry Tart, Lime Chiffon, Butter Cookie, Cherry Cuddler, and Apple Dumplin', along with their pets, the Berry Bake Shoppe, Snail Cart (with Escargot), and Flitter-Bit the Butterfly, still come out to play with the boys. Their hair no longer smells yummy, but they were well-loved.

It's a bug, bug, bug, bug world.
 I admit, I liked bugs. Most don't bother me and many are very cool. Maybe Bug World House was a ploy to stop me from waving worms in my sister's face, but I loved it. It was one of the coolest toys. Wil and Sam have both loved to play with it too.

It has an eggshell shower, a potato balcony, a peapod hammock, and cute bug friends. What could be better?
Creative play at its best: Puzzle Town!

And then there's Puzzle Town. This is a set that will not be leaving the family anytime soon. As soon as I pulled a few pieces out to take a picture, the whole family gathered in the playroom to build the buildings.

Richard Scarry was a genius. And marketing a version of his world that kids could build and play with, changing every time, was the best idea ever. We didn't have all the sets, but enough to make a working village from farm to shops to house to city hall. I wish Playskool still made these.

There were so many toys and so many memories. Some toys mean too much to get rid of, but others need to be loved again. That's the lesson of Toy Story: toys should be played with. While it's a little sad parting with pieces of my childhood, the baby dolls and Barbie dolls, the tiny plastic plates and tea cups, the costume jewelry and all the rest that we culled will hopefully find good homes and bring happy memories to another generation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

School safety balancing act

I went to the panel on school safety last night. I was pleased that the overwhelming message from all the panelists was balance between safety and a positive learning environment.

Topics discussed included doing safety drills, having teams on staff at every building who are safety leaders, including custodial staff who are there in the evening, and communication.

Communication, communication, communication. That was the thing most talked about. As it should be.

I read the article in our local newspaper this morning, which I think reflected the tone of the evening well. Then I read the article on WISH-TV 8's website and watched their coverage. While the tv coverage wasn't bad, I thought it focused too much on security measures and not enough on the balance the schools are trying to achieve.

One parent even told WISH-TV that it wouldn't make a difference until there were armed guards at the schools. I was very glad that Mike Diekoff, our local police chief (and someone I actually know), was able to rebut that. Because the best defense is not letting it get to that point.

Here are a few facts and numbers to think about:

In 2009, a mass shooting occurred on a military base, Fort Hood, where A LOT of people were armed and trained in weapons use. Thirteen people were killed. Just last year, in June 2012, a soldier shot and killed his superior officer at Fort Bragg. Armed guards are no guarantee.

Violent deaths at schools are very rare. From the CDC Youth Violence Fact Sheet:

  • During the 2009-2010 school year, 17 homicides of school-age youth ages 5 to 18 years occurred at school.
  • Approximately 1% of all youth homicides in 2008-2009 occurred at school, and the percentage of all youth homicides occurring at school has been less than 2% since the 1992-1993 school year.
  •  There was approximately one homicide or suicide of a school-age youth at school per 2.7 million students enrolled during the 2009-2010 school year.
Compare that to the 20.1% of high school kids who reported being victims of bullying on school grounds in 2011. Or 4,828 homicide victims aged 10 to 24 in 2010. Or the 2,136 fatalities of kids age 0-14 in traffic accidents (in 2003).

Wanna know the top 10 causes of death by age group? The CDC can help you out with that data.
Did you know crime rates are actually lower than they were in the 80s and 90s? 
Want some information on those mass killings that keep making the news? 
  • Mother Jones put together a nice guide to mass shootings 1982-2012
  • Then there's this article from the Associated Press which points out that the chances of of being killed in a mass shooting are approximately the same as the chances of being struck by lightning. 
  • And this article, that, despite the sensational title "Mass Murder Rate Still Rising, Experts Say", mentions that the average number of deaths per year, 2006-2008, from mass killings was 163, only 2 higher than the rate in the 1980s. I'd say an increase of 2/year is statistically insignificant, especially considering the population increase in that time (thus indicating that the rate is actually decreasing!).
  • And here are "Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States"
So is MCCSC doing a good job with school security? I think so. They do reasonable things like lock school doors during the day. They practice safety drills (fire, tornado, lock down). They have well-trained staff and a good relationship with local law enforcement. They stress communication. 

Does this mean something couldn't happen in one of our schools? No. Nothing is 100% secure. I don't expect that. 

I feel comfortable with my kids attending our schools. As Dr. DeMuth said when I spoke to her after the panel, the only one who should be worried during the day is her. Parents, students, faculty and staff should all feel safe and prepared. They shouldn't feel fearful. That's no way to create a good learning environment. And that's what our schools are really about.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The bedtime routine

We have a pretty successful bedtime routine for the boys. I could list all the steps, but I think Wil's take on it is quite fascinating.

Ice Cream Writing from schoolTo translate:
First, put on the blanket. Next, put on the pillow. Last, I sat in it. Feelings: I felt happy.
For context, he "turtles" inside his pillow, arms and legs tucked inside it.

The accompanying drawing.

The drawing shows Wil in bed with his pillow on top of him. Daddy is turning off the lights. Above are the ceiling fan and the boys' orrery.

He also has Santa, a reindeer and sleigh on the roof.

The square drawing at the top is a picture of his dragon pillow.