Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm thinking...I'm thinking...

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Mom, today I learned that some people should not be allowed to use YouTube.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that photographing a building this large can present certain problems.

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For instance, I cannot, for the life of me, convince Michael that his flat cousin is propped against a beehive sculpture and not a steaming pile of dog feces.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that in weather like this...

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...you have to be creative...

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...to keep a flat person dry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that when you bring your nephew to work, you're less likely to write a story involving sexual politics (which I've done two weeks in a row now). Joe and I are going to be writing about food waste this week. Provocative, no?

We're discussing heuristics in my cognitive psychology class, and I was tasked with finding online demonstrations of such for a recent assignment.  For those not in the know, a heuristic is a little trick your mind uses to help you make decisions quickly.  For instance, if you walk into a room and your spouse is lying in a pool of red liquid, the thousands of hours you've spent watching every incarnation of CSI and Law and Order will tell you he's been brutally murdered, even if he's actually just unconscious after tripping over the cat and spilling half made jello.  (I can see why you would think that.  Men don't make jello on purpose.)

The above is an example of the availability heuristic.  The more you have of one type of information, the more easily you will draw on that information when judging a situation.  It's why moms rush to their children when everything suddenly gets quiet.  They've experienced many a disaster in similar situations.  But heuristics can be inaccurate, which is why moms sometimes find their kids have not conspired to destroy the house but are peacefully sleeping on a pile of laundry.

The video below was likely made for a school project, and I think it demonstrates the availability heuristic pretty well.  Moms, listen to Laura.  She is wise beyond her years.

Monday, April 18, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that it's perfectly all right to take the flattened version of your nephew to a PG-13 movie, even though the real version is only 6.


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Taking a picture like this to appease his parents is just fun.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that couples who have just been married are happy to oblige crazy people and their flat relatives...or they're just not able to run away fast enough with all the fancy clothing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that our week hosting Flat Joseph has officially begun!  I get to have WAY more fun than I originally planned to have this week!  Hi-jinks and shenanigans to follow!

(Author's note: Flat Joseph is the flattened version of my nephew, Joe, who is currently residing with his family in Germany, where my brother is serving in the military.  My house is his 4th stop on his current tour of the U.S.  So far, he's been to Del Rio, TX, Wichita Falls, TX, Lexington, NC, and now Salt Lake City, UT.  He'll finish his visits in Ogden, UT, with his Aunt Carla, and then he'll be heading back to Germany with a full journal, pictures, and souvenirs.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's good for matchbox car races too.

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Mom, today I learned that you can keep any group of kids entertained for hours with an old king sized mattress on an incline.

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This gives the adults plenty of time to take goofy pictures on the new mattress.  We should buy a new bed every week...or just start calling the family room the "mattress slide room."

I have a secret.  I love a good Rick Roll. I was a HUGE Rick Astley fan when his song was just a song and not a viral internet prank, so when I get Rick Roll'd, I count it as a blessing and enjoy quality time with the British redhead who's never gonna give me up.

So, when I happened upon this silly video, a compilation of quotes from the Oregon State Legislature that follow the lyrics of Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up", I was tickled.  The fact that they added a little bit of my main man in there was just a bonus.  

Oregon, these are your tax dollars at work.  You should be very proud.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The great party rebellion of 2011

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Mom, today I learned that even though all the other kids in children's choir bring food like this to the year end party,

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my kids have no problem bringing food like this.

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And while I only insisted on good food to ensure that THESE beautiful kids would have healthy options in the midst of everything else...

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All the other beautiful kids were happy to help eat it, too.

Today's Outrageous News story comes to you compliments of my friend, Jenn, who shared with me a report of a grade school in Chicago that has banned homemade lunches.  According to the story, the principal of the Little Village Academy has determined that the school lunches are more healthy than the food parents have been sending from home, so parents are now no longer allowed to pack a lunch for their children and must pay the $2.25 per meal for the food offered by the school.

My knee jerk reaction upon hearing this was one of rage. How dare they, right?  How can they force parents to pay $2.25 per day, per child for what is probably processed crap mixed with fat, too much salt, and way too much sugar.  I mean, did you see the Jamie Oliver show?



The problem with this thinking is that I don't know that this school is offering food like the school above.  It may very well be that the Chicago school is feeding kids the same healthy options my own kids are fed.  I happen to live in a school district that is ahead of the game when it comes to healthier school lunch choices.  My kid eat school lunch every day, not because I don't have the time/energy/wherewithal to pack them lunches, but because I know they're being fed food I would choose myself.

This is where the argument gets tricky for me.  If we have a principal whose school is providing genuinely healthy lunches for kids, and we have some parents sending kids to school with soda and chips and calling it a lunch, it's hard for me not to side with the principal.  I know I would pack a nutritious lunch for my kids.  That is not true of every parent.

At the same time, the rugged American individualist in me believes those parents have the right to feed their kids crap, however much I might disagree with that choice, and the principal does not have the right to force parents to buy the food at the school, however healthy it may be.  I believe in education over legislation, so the thought of the government stepping in and saying a parent must feed their child X, Y, or Z is not okay with me.  The school is operated by the government, so I see it as an extension of such.

At this point, I think the individualist is winning the fight, aided in no small part by the budget conscious mom in me.  Whether or not the lunch is mandated, $2.25 per child per lunch is out of the range of the possible for my family.  Feeding all of my kids school lunch every day at that price would cost me $11.25 a day, $225 a month.  I could send my kids to school with equally nutritious meals every day for half that or less.  Knowing my own school district is able to feed kids healthy food for $1.20 a meal makes the price of this school's lunches a little hard to accept.

While I think the choice of lunch should be left to the parents, I do think this debate highlights how important a parents' role is in teaching kids to eat healthy foods.  Reports say that kids at this school are complaining that the food doesn't taste good.  Is that because the food isn't cooked well, or is it because these kids have never been given the opportunity to eat good food before?  A lifetime of pizza, chicken nuggets, and nachos will not endear a child to whole grain pasta and a fresh salad.  Supporting those choices at home will.

I applaud the principal's intentions even if I don't agree with her tactics. If nothing else, this story will get parents thinking and looking more closely at what their kids are being fed on a daily basis.  If it causes a few parents to become rugged American individualists, well, that's pretty cool too.

(Thanks to Jennifer C. of Las Vegas, NV, for the heads up on today's Outrageous News story.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Awesome Product: Comedy Sportz

I'd like all of you to know that I did NOT have an aneurysm last night at Comedy Sportz.  It was touch and go for awhile there, but I pulled through.  Had I died of a massive hemorrhage in my brain, I can assure you, it would have been okay with me.  As someone who loves to laugh, dying laughing is probably the best way to go, and when you attend a show at Comedy Sportz, the risk of laughter induced death is well worth the experience.  

Comedy Sportz is a franchise of improv comedy clubs with locations across the country.  Teams of actors and comedians compete for points, a referee calls fouls and imposes punishments (like placing a brown paper bag over the head of any player or audience member who says something too risque for children's ears), and audience members participate by shouting out ideas, a la, "Whose Line is it Anyway?"

Here's a sample of what you might see at a Comedy Sportz club:





The performance this week marked the second time Richard and I attended a show at the Comedy Sportz location in Provo, UT, but it was a first for the kids.  We'd scoped the place out on our anniversary last year to make sure its claims of clean comedy were true.  An hour and a half of side splitting but family friendly humor later, we were determined to come back with the kids another time.

Now, I initially wondered if the family friendly thing was exclusive to the Provo club, because, well, it's Provo.  For readers who are not Mormon, Provo is THE most Mormon place in all of Mormondom.  There are certainly unMormon things that go on there, but the Mormons who live there don't know it because they're very busy being Mormons.   

A check of the Comedy Sportz website tells me that clean comedy is not isolated to "Happy Valley" Utah.  It's a commitment from the company.  As a mom, I consider that supremely cool.  I don't believe that every comedy club has to offer comedy that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike, but I'm very glad that this one does.

For instance, at last night's show, we giggled as a man donned a wig and a skirt and announced himself to be "Lashondra," and talked about his/her husband, Frank.

"You know how sometimes you're just not in the mood...to...(exaggerated look of realization and alarm at my kids in the front row)...to, you know, when mommies and daddies sit down and write a letter to the stork.  And I say, Frank, I don't want to write a letter right now.  And Frank says, 'But I have a pencil...'"

This was the point in the show that I started to suspect I might pass out from laughing so hard.  When another player stepped forward and said, "Okay, just so the kids don't get confused, this is how it works..." and the referee practically tackled him back into place, I was sure of it.

Comedy Sportz locations don't just offer shows.  The actors can be hired to perform at events and parties, and most locations also offer workshops and classes on comedy and improv performance.  The next class series in Provo begins in May.  Someone let Richard know I want him to sign us up as an anniversary present. 

I'll act surprised.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blog Awards Giveaway Winner!

So last month, thanks to many fans who nominated me, I was in the running for the Best LDS Female Solo Blogger of 2010 Award (say that three times fast!). In my pursuit of this prestigious honor, I bribed offered my readers the chance at a prize whether or not I won.

This is good news for all of you, because I didn't win.  I was, however, a runner up, and I think that's pretty darned respectable for a blogger who hasn't been doing this for very long.  Next year?  It will be mine.  Oh yes, it will be mine.  (Kudos if you got that awesome 90s movie reference.)

So, this morning, I employed the very scientific method of putting folded pieces of paper into a hat to find out which of you lovely readers won the big giveaway.  It was a tight race for a minute there (it was a small hat), but Amanda Long of Lexington, North Carolina, YOU have just won $50 worth of Stupid/Awesome product goodness!

Will it be a Pillow Tie?  A World's Largest Gummy Bear?  An Outward Hound Port-a-Bowl?  A three month sponsorship of The Mother Load?  (I think that last one is a steal...)

For all of you disappointed fans who didn't win, I have plans for another giveaway in the coming weeks.  It will probably be tied to a fan goal, and it will definitely be amazing.

To all of my readers here, thanks for your loyalty, your support, and your uplifting comments!  They make all the difference in the world to me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

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Mom, today I learned that the people who developed these worksheets have no idea what ADD means to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stupid Product: Denny's Bacon Sundae

There are people in this world who think nothing of eating the brains of monkeys and the eyeballs of cattle.  In some countries, it is the custom to cover certain insects in chocolate and serve them to guests at parties.  Why, billions and billions of people in my own country have chosen to ingest "food" at an establishment fitted with a shiny "M" that surely stands for Malevolence.

While I don't eat the above, I understand that people are different, cultures are different, and we all get to choose what we like and don't like.  But people, there are some things that are wrong in every language, every culture, every time period.

The new Bacon Sundae at Denny's is one of those things.



Somewhere, people sat in a meeting and decided to do this.  Rational, well paid people sat down to brainstorm all the ways they could serve more bacon to the patrons of Denny's restaurants, and someone shouted out, "Hey! I know!  We can make a sundae out of ice cream, bacon, and maple syrup!"

Instead of immediately vomiting all over this person, causing him to run screaming from the room and never, ever suggest another menu item again, the other people in the meeting agreed that a bacon sundae sounded like a grand idea.  I know this because there it is, being served at Denny's.  The vomit free individual probably got himself a raise.

Richard and I saw the special Baconalia menu the last time we ate at Denny's and had the following conversation with our server.

Richard: "So, this bacon sundae..."
Sarah: "Is it..."
Server: (nodding) "It's disgusting."
Richard and Sarah: "That's what we thought."
Server: (shaking head) "I don't know what they were thinking."

Denny's, your own servers can't recommend this product.  That should tell you something.  Also, it's an ice cream sundae with BACON IN IT!  That should tell you A LOT of somethings!

Someday, people in the future are going to look back on this and think of us the same way we think of the chocolate covered bug eaters today.  I can only hope someone has kept a record of this blog so when the future people go back in time to choose a sensible leader for their new society, they'll pick me.

The server at Denny's can be my vice president.

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Mom, today I learned why Carla still gets all the attention.

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The good news for me is that this...

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Provides a decent way to get back at her for it.

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It also may or may not have caused a hospital related person named Jared to have to come fix something. I'm 47% sure I didn't actually cause the problem.

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Of course, the moment Jared forgot those wires were attached to Carla's head and accidentally gave it a yank was enough to assuage any guilt feelings I may have had. Thanks, Jared!

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I learned that when Carla is sitting like this...

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Her brain waves look like this.

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But when she does this...

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We have a lot more fun watching the screen.

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I learned that even though she's cooped up in a hospital room and can't get out, she has a great view.

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And finally, I learned that I could improve the view inside the room with a stop over at the gift shop.

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I think the card was a nice touch.

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So did she. :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You've Gotta See This: Mom My Ride

Today's You've Gotta See This video found its way into my brain via one of my closest friends.  Pamela and I had some girlie time one day last week and had the opportunity to compare the messes in our respective minivans.  (Mine was much worse.)  Pam's a mom of four, and you know how many kids I have.

When you have a momly van, filled with all the accoutrements of motherhood, it's good to have a friend who understands.  It's even better to have a friend who tells you about a video like this.  People,  my ride has been "mommed" for a very long time.

I would.

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Mom, today I learned that if you're saddled with a name like Otto, you might as well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

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Mom, today I learned why 24 hour printing service was invented.

(Author's note: I also learned that salt does NOT help water to boil faster, but lids do.  Thanks, scientist Miriam!)

"Trousers dragging, slowly dragging through the street. See, I'm walking, but I'm walking without feet."

This song is on my mind as I prepare to write today's Outrageous News post. Someday, I'll win something because of all of you lovely readers, and I'll post a YouTube video of yours truly singing that song (and you will be shocked and amazed at my musical prowess...and I will have the camera-person cut away before I vomit in my nervousness).

The song in question, "Sam, You Made the Pants too Long," is a relic, an example of of a bygone era when people thought pants should fit. Many of today's gangsta wannabes would rewrite the words to thank the fictional Sam for allowing them to look just as ridiculous as they've always wanted.

Having worked with teens, I know the sagging phenomenon quite well. I got to hand out consequences any time I saw a pair of boxers peeking out over the top of a sagged pair of jeans. Unfortunately for those of us in the business of helping wayward youth succeed, we weren't very successful at that aspect of it.

I'm happy to say that a principal in Memphis has succeeded where I failed, and the rate of sagged pants in his school has dropped (heh) to almost zero. He calls his
efforts the "Urkel Initiative." I call it the most creative solution I've seen to this problem.



Twist ties! All this time, all we needed were twist ties! According to CNN's version of the report, the boys are actually given the choice of accepting the Urkel treatment or taking a dress code violation, a consequence that would involve having their parents come to the school. If those moms are anything like mine was, their kids are probably more than happy to accept the twist tie treatment.

To Mr. White, I commend you for taking a stand and making it work. To the students of the school, good for you for accepting it like champs. You look better as Urkel, anyway.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm the kind of person who doesn't know what she doesn't know.  I've never met a project I didn't think I could do from the outset.  I've never met a skill I wasn't willing to at least try to learn.  My mindset is 3 parts stubborn gumption, 2 parts intelligence, and 1 part delusion.  Add a dash of "I may not know, but I can find someone to teach me," and you have the makings of any do-it-yourself project.

It's a testament to my sister in law, Barbara, that she was willing to believe in me.  See, Barbara owns the house we rent, and it was Barbara who wanted to rip up the 30 year old carpets in the front room and dining room and replace them with something else.  The something else she had in mind will not be named.  I will just assure you that, while it was an option that would have worked, it was not the beautiful hardwood that was hiding under the 30 year old carpets.

Finding my voice (read: speaking up after Richard said, "Hey Sarah...didn't you want to talk to Barbara about something" in her presence), I proposed to her that the floors visible under the worn spots in the carpet appeared to be hardwood, and that if she would allow me, I would be more than willing to rip out the carpets and refinish the wood myself.  With my trademark confidence, I said, "I don't know how to refinish a wood floor, but I know I can learn and work."

And so began the latest of my, "I'm sure I could do that.  How hard could it be?" projects.  I won't bore you with every last detail (but you know I'd like to).  What I will present here, instead, will be a mix of What I Learned Today, Stupid Products, Awesome Products, and The Mother Unload.

What I learned while refinishing my dining room floor:

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I learned that ripping up carpets is messy, messy work.  I also learned that ripping up carpets is the most fun I've had since I was a teenager and the landlords let me help rip up the laminate wood floor.  Apparently, I like to rip things up.  I may be in the wrong profession.

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If it involves destruction, your kids will help.  A lot.

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I learned that THIS is why it pays to live in a hundred year old house.

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I learned that this sander...

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Is much more user friendly than this one.

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I learned that kids' enthusiasm for home remodeling does not end with the destructive part of the job.

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And neither does a husband's.

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I learned that staining a floor this big...

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Is a two person job.

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Even when the second person is this guy.

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I learned that when you get to the polyurethane step, it's smooth sailing to the end.

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And the end is very much worth the work.

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Very, very much worth it.

Stupid Product:

I only have one Stupid Product to profile from this floor project because I had success with most of the equipment and products I used.  The Silver-Line SL-8 drum sander, however, was not so kind to me.

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Now, if you're going to strip a hardwood floor with a sander, you're going to need a heavy duty drum or belt sander like the one above if you don't want to take all day to do it.  The SL-8, however, presents a few problems for a novice and even a veteran floor refinisher.

1.  The method of attaching the sandpaper to the drum was dreamed up in the depths of hell.  It requires the user to shove the ends of a sandpaper strip into a narrow opening in the drum, getting the paper as snug to the drum as possible, and then tightening a couple of bolts which are supposed to draw the paper in even further, ensuring a tight fit.  This does not work, it does not happen, and 5 times out of seven, the paper ripped off the drum within a couple of minutes.  The two times I got it to work, I could not determine what I had done right.

2.  The sander is very heavy and requires that you pull up on the handles as you pull the sander backward in order for it to actually sand the floor.  This is hard.  It hurts.  It hurts more than it needs to.  I'm not anti-pain.  I'm just anti-pain when another sander wouldn't hurt so much.

3.  Because the drum is always in contact with the floor, it digs into the floor whenever you stop to move forward again.  I'm not saying I stopped and left it running for 30 seconds.  The sander dug small grooves into the floor in the half second it took for me to change direction from back to forward.  All I was able to do with the sander was the first, diagonal pass.  Had I been able to complete a pass on the grain, it might have fixed that problem (though, it would likely have caused it again in other areas of the floor).  See #1 for the reason I was not able to complete a horizontal pass with the sander.  So, though my floor looks lovely now, there are marks here and there where the drum sander scarred the floor.  I'm sad about that.

4.  There are better drum sanders available.  A trip to Home Depot for a certain type of sandpaper allowed me to see the other types of drum sanders available.  If (WHEN!) I rip out the front room carpets and refinish that floor, I will be renting the Clarke-American EZ 8 drum sander to do the initial work.  I nearly cried when the guys at Home Depot showed me how easily the sandpaper can be applied.  To their credit, they waited until after I left to comment on the crazy sander lady.

Awesome Products:

1. YouTube.  People, you can learn anything on YouTube.  There are contractors out there giving away their tips and tricks for free, and I would never have gotten through this product without their advice and demonstrations.  Every step in this remodel was preceded by at least an hour of YouTube time as I noted how the professionals get the job done.

2.  The DascoPro 7 1/2" Ultra Bar II.  Say that 3 times fast!  This little tool is cheap, easy to use, and powerfully effective against nails, carpet tacks, and staples. It was, hands down, the best purchase I made throughout this project.  I love it.  I might marry it.

3. The Silver-Line 1218R Orbital Polisher was a lifesaver for me after my trouble with the drum sander.  While it is not the type of sander that will strip a floor, it did go a long way in smoothing out the problem areas made by the other sander and by the edger, which I had to use to finish stripping the floor.  This sander is extremely easy to use and did a fine job of getting the floor ready for staining.  This is also the sander I used to sand each coat of polyurethane before putting on the next coat.  (There is nothing more painful than intentionally scuffing up a beautifully coated floor.  Go ahead and cry when you have to do it.  Just know that it will be okay.)

4.  Finish Factor Tack Cloth. When you're working on a floor, you're going to kick up a whole lot of dust.  A shop-vac will go a long way in getting most of the sawdust up before you stain or coat your floor, but it won't get everything.  Tack cloth is absolutely essential to get up the remaining bits of dust. You will be amazed at how much is still on the floor.  I recommend you buy more than you think you need, especially if you're working on a larger room.

5.  Lowe's and Home Depot. Think what you want about "big box" hardware stores.  I found the staff at both to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful as I completed my project.  They didn't just help me find what I needed.  They explained how it worked, how to use it, what to do if I had trouble, etc.  One Lowe's employee walked to several different parts of the store with us to brainstorm how to repair one area of the floor that had obviously been damaged for decades.  Knowing I didn't have the skills to rip out and replace that section of floor, he helped me decide how best to repair it.  His suggestions were helpful and clear, and while that section of floor will never look as good as the rest, it is now in much better shape than it was and is protected from further damage.

The Mother Unload: Losing weight the remodeling way!

I did not do any real cardio workouts the entire time I was working with the floor sanders and stain.  I didn't need to.  If you want to lose a few pounds and build up some muscle and flexibility, REFINISH A FLOOR.  Holy-purple-pumpkin-moly, my legs, arms, and abs were sore.  Sore and loving it. There were muscles I had forgotten I had that screamed at me at the end of each day, but the screaming was much more "WOOOOOHOOOOO!" than "YEEEOOOOOUCH!"  Well, hello again, muscles.  Nice to see you!