Sunday, September 25, 2011

Homemade French Fries

I am not really sure what to call these potatoes that I make, but my kids really love them and so do I.

All I do is wash and then cut up about 3 potatoes into thin circles. I place them on my baking stones. Then I spray them with a Pam type spray, usually the store brand from my local grocery store. I sprinkle them with seasoning salt. Tonight I put on some Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt because the kids have been into putting that on everything lately. You could also put on some garlic or onion powder, depending on your personal tastes or what else you are serving with them. Tonight we are just having some turkey breast and maybe some fruit along with our yummy potatoes.

I bake them at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes.

When I started making them tonight, Hannah came into the kitchen and sighed excitedly, "You're making potatoes!" Yes, my darling, just for you!

Making Your Stovetop Shine

I have been working on this entry for a while now, but have been distracted by so many other things that I keep putting it off. I wanted to send out cleaning suggestions for all those different types of stove tops out there.

I clean for people with all kinds of stove tops from the new perennial favorites of the flat, glass top cooking surfaces to gas tops and even a JennAir, which can be a bit of a monster to clean. I have also cleaned the regular electric top stoves as well, but do not currently have any.

This is a before shot of a stove top that was pretty bad one day. I used Ceramabryte to get it to the shiny state you see below.

The after shot of the particularly dirty stove top above.

Let’s start with the glass tops…. The manufacturers of these new stove tops that are flat will tell you that you should only use the cleaners that are specifically made for glass top stove surfaces, such as Ceramabryte, lest you will risk ruining your stove top. While these cleaners do work very well and effectively, I can attest that there are other cleaners you can use without damaging the surface. I have cleaned some of these stove tops for years with Soft Scrub, Comet, Bar Keeper’s Friend, or even good old-fashioned Baking Soda. All of these can work just as effectively on a glass top stove. In fact, a cousin of mine had some really stuck on brown/black stains on her glass top stove, for years, and I used Comet and a lot of elbow grease, meaning I scrubbed it really well for about a half an hour, and eventually got most of the stains off the stove top. When I am finished with the abrasive cleaner, I try to wipe as much of it off with my wet rag, and then I finish up with a little glass cleaner to give it a nice shine. On my own glass top stove, I use glass cleaner almost daily to keep it shiny and sparkly and free of kids’hand prints!

For the gas stove tops, I make sure to take all the pieces off and wipe them all down, usually with grease cutting cleaner first and then a glass cleaner last to make sure they look shiny as well. I have one client who has light gray burners on her gas stove top. They can get burn stains and cooked on food marks on them very easily. I use a Brillo or SOS type of pad to get most of those stains off. I have also used the abrasive side of a regular sponge on other stoves. You just have to be careful that the pad isn’t too abrasive or it will scratch the surface of the stove and then those areas always look burnt or dirty.

For the JennAir, I take it all apart! There are lots of parts that come apart on the JennAir. There are the grill sections that have the grilling plates, the electric element, and the grease catching plates. There is the vent area which has a cover and the vent. And there is the electric burner part with the burners that come out, the drip pans that need to be cleaned and then the whole burner section lifts out so I can clean underneath that area. I usually wash the grilling parts, vent parts, and drip pans in the sink with soap and water and a mildly abrasive sponge. Then I spray grease cutting cleaner, usually a Method cleaner, on the whole stove top and get off all the cooking grease, food, and general grime. Then I use glass cleaner on the front of the oven door, the knobs, the top of the stove and the back splash area to get everything all shiny and sparkly. After all of that, I go to clean the bathrooms in that house, so everything I washed in the sink can drip dry for a while. When I come back to clean the rest of the kitchen, I dry the sink items off the rest of the way with a paper towel, and put the whole thing back together. Like I said, it can be a bit of a monster to clean, but I have been cleaning for this family for a long time, and it is down to a science now!

When I clean the electric tops, it is similar to the electric burner side of the JennAir. I take all the burners off, wash up the drip pans, and clean the area underneath the burners as well as the top of the stove with grease cleaner. I always finish off the cleaning with glass cleaner to make everything look shiny.

I know I have said it over and over again, but the end goal is really to make it shiny and sparkly looking. Of course, that means that it is all clean and free of germs and grime. But the asthetic in me just loves that lovely shiny, sparkly top!

Just Clean It!

I have been having lots of computer problems with my desktop lately. It just would not stay on. It did a spontaneous shut down seemingly whenever it felt like it. It also did not want to start up, sometimes taking two or three or even more tries to get it to come on and stay on.  I thought for sure it was crashing. I did a big backup save on my external hard drives to make sure I didn’t lose all of those precious things like pictures, documents, music, and videos.  I worried about viruses and ran every scanning system I have, but still no improvement.

I talked to my cousin, who is my computer guru, and she suggested running the install discs, which I could not find. I did find a paper from my laptop that said I could make my own recovery discs and that Hewlett Packard has a website (Duh! Why didn’t I think of that before!) that I could visit for trouble shooting. I made the laptop recovery discs, but they wouldn’t work on the desktop. Then I went to the website to see what trouble I could get into or out of with their tips.

When I looked up the symptoms of my desktop, it actually suggested that I make sure the inside of my computer was dirty and needed to be cleaned. You know like get all the dust out! So I took off the cover and used my vacuum to suck up and blow out all the dust and dirt, of which there was plenty! I put the cover back on, hooked all the wires back up, and VOILA! it is working again!

Really! That was it! The only thought I could think of was Occam’s razor. You know in the movie Contact where Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, is explaining to Matthew McConaghey’s character, Joss Palmer, about the theory of all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one. Well that was my thought exactly. The simplest solution was the right one.

I do see the irony in the situation that the housecleaner’s computer problems were solved simply by cleaning the inside of her computer! But whatever the fix may be, I am glad for the fix! If you are having similar problems, you might want to try simply getting the dust out! : )

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Attribution Theory

One of the Love and Logic techniques that I have had wild success with Hannah is The Attribution Theory. It is something that is so simple, at first you think it cannot possibly work, but I have found that it does! If you have a student that is just not performing to his/her potential in school, this is a gem that is worth the try!

When your student brings home papers from school, hold up the paper and point to the ones he/she answered or did correctly. (Jim Fay even says to have the student cut all the wrong answers off the papers. I have never actually done that part, and the theory has still worked fine.) Then you ask, "How Come?"

The student then has one of two choices for the answer.
  • I am getting smarter.
  • I am trying harder.
That's it. Then you are done. It really is that simple. What ends up happening is the student begins to attribute the getting smarter or the trying harder with the correct answers or correctly doing his/her work at school.

The other thing Jim Fay says about the wrong answers, because it is our tendency as parents to want to fix that, is that is not our job. It is the teacher's job to work on getting the correct work out of the student, not the parent's, so don't stick your nose into that piece.

With Fred's troubles at school lately, I have really amped this up. Not only am I doing it with papers returned home, but I made him a little sign with it for his desk. One of the troubles he is having at school is lack of interest and then he just doesn't want to do the work. In other words he is bored and just doesn't want to do work that seems boring to him. Some of it is that teaching strategies need to be looked at, which will happen later this week. And some of it is that he just needs to put on his big boy pants and know that this is what happens at school. Not every assignment or activity is going to be the most interesting or fun thing you have ever done in your life, but you still need to sit down, get it done, and listen to your teacher.

I added some pictures to help with inspiration. Next to "How fast can I get this done?" I put a Star Wars picture of Qui Gon Gin and Obi Wan Kenobi with their light sabers out looking like they are going fast. Next to "My job is to be the best student I can be!" I put a picture of a superman type. Although Fred informed me that is not the real superman! But he did say it was close enough!

All of this and extra encouragement seems to be helping with Fred's school disinterest. We have had more good days than bad lately and a lot less whining! (Thank the Lord!) He excitedly tells me that he is getting smarter or trying harder for numerous things. I do it with all of his papers as well as just general behaviors and such. When he says that he did an assignment in class, I even ask and he usually says, while jumping up and down, "I am working harder!"

I know when I started using this with Hannah, she went from sitting and refusing to do her work at the beginning of the year to being a top student by the end of the year in third grade. Her teacher commented at the spring conference that she had never seen a larger turn around in a student in a year. I can only attribute it to The Attribution Theory!

*If you want to read more about The Attribution Theory, it can be found in Hope for the Underachieving Student by Jim Fay of the Love and Logic Institute.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Time to Put on Big Boy Pants!

It is time for my little guy to put on his big boy pants!

I know he is only six, but I am starting to lose my mind, between the whining, and the arguing, and the excuses, and the complete shut downs.

Last week, I found myself being THAT MOM. Yes, you know the mom that is doing something and you think either, “Oh, I hope that never has to be me,” or “Wow, look at her, glad that’s not me!”

Fred has been having troubles transitioning into first grade. We had similar problems last year transitioning into kindergarten. I think he just does not handle change well. I have been trying to put the positive Love and Logic spin on it of “Look you get to learn how to do this when you are six, so that when you are an adult, you will know what to do. Many grownups don’t know how to do change!” (Huge smiling face from me!!!!) He just looks at me with that “Oh, yeah, right lady” look.

He has been getting up fine, getting dressed, getting into the car, getting out of the car, and walking up to the school without problems. (Last year I did take him to school twice in his pajamas, carrying him all the way to the kindergarten door and handing him off to his teacher!) The trouble seems to start when it is time to stand in line. Then the pouting face comes out, the mule legs set in, and he is clutching at my hand, arm, or leg, or all three!

Last week, he wouldn’t even get into the line, choosing rather to stand off on the lawn of the school’s front yard. When the bell rang, the door opened, and his fellow classmates started filing into the building, he just stood in the grass. I was trying to negotiate him if not into his classroom into the front door of the school. His afternoon teacher, whose door we line up at, said, “Oh I will handle this,” and proceeded to chase him around the yard. I felt that I should help her, although I found it ridiculous to let him have such control over the situation. I was the one that finally caught him and then she carried him into the classroom. It really would have been much better to negotiate him into the building with words and let there be consequences for his actions.

I did write a letter to her and to his morning teacher, the wonderful Mr. Davis, so that we could all be on the same page for Fred. Some emails were exchanged between myself and the afternoon teacher, and to make that ever-so-long and not exactly fulfilling exchange short, I was able to convince her to at least let me bring him into the classroom in the morning to work in his activity book or write his alphabet letters and completely bypass the line, which is where we seem to have problems.

We have been doing this new procedure for a little over a week and it has been working well. He hasn’t had any more red days at school, but several days when he is at home, he falls apart again. He may just refuse to do his homework, which might only be to write his five short spelling words five times each.

Last Wednesday, he was supposed to start a church club that he has been looking forward to doing for over a year now, but I said if no homework was done, then I wasn’t going to sign him up yet. He ended up going to Grammie’s so I could get Hannah registered for her girl’s church club. This week he did his homework and gladly went to the church club. I think it will be good for him to be around other boys and men.

Over the weekend, he had papers that he needed to do that he has not been doing in school. Mr. Davis says that he often shuts down when he is at his desk and will not work. Fred is also having problems at school with crawling around on the floor under the desks when they are supposed to be having floor time together, so these papers were sent home for us to finish. The first one was to write the day and date for four of last week’s days for which he had not written anything. After two and a half hours, he only had the four days written, not the whole sentences of “Today is Tuesday, August 30, 2011,” etc., and he had whined, and made excuses for most of that time. I simply felt like I was going to kill him and sent him to his room so we could both have some space. I don’t even know how many times I said, “Sit down and do your work.”

If he would just write it, it would be done in about 20 minutes. He did do another assignment much more quickly. I asked, “How does that make you feel?”

“HAPPY!” he yelled.

“I feel HAPPY too!” I said, “Let’s feel HAPPY all the time!”

But then he just as quickly reverts back to the activity where he simply refuses. I asked him after his very good day today how that made him feel.  Again and this time, “Happy, VERY HAPPY.”

I try to tell him how proud of him I am, but so quickly he can turn back to whining and making excuses. I have gone to just picking him up and carrying him to his room when it starts and saying, “I will see you when you are sweet and talking in a big boy voice.”

I have tried to get him to work these things out with his sister and cousin as far as the whining. One day we were all cleaning together at one of my housecleaning houses. Fred came up and said Hannah and my nephew would not play with him. I asked why not. He said, “They say I am a whiney pants.”

What could I say? I said, “Well, honey, I am sorry to say, but I don’t really disagree with them. Sometimes you are very whiney, and right now the way you are talking to me is whiney.”

“NOOO, I’m not whining.” He says in his most whiney voice.

“Really?” I asked. “Well, what do you think you should do about it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would you like to hear what other kids do in this situation?”


I proceeded to give suggestions anyway, “Well some kids just ignore their friends and play anyway. Some kids might talk in a voice like this (and I made my voice deep and loud) ‘Would you like to play with me?’ so that they are not mistaken for whiney pants, and some kids just talk in a normal big boy voice.”

He never responded, but went off to play and somehow must have figured it out with the other two because later they were all happily laughing and playing together.

Yet, times like these still do not seem to last.

I am trying to be patient and love him through it. I use bedroom time A LOT. I try to do the problem solving strategy like I did with the whiney pants. I talk about what a successful day at school will look like. I have taken away his DSi (Nintendo gaming system) until I no longer have to worry about him going into the school building nicely or doing his work or doing what he is supposed to be doing. I am letting him earn some toys for good days at school for a while. Unfortunately sometimes, I am just loosing it! I have to admit that at times, I just look at him, and yell out, “Fred, I can’t take this anymore! Put on your big boy pants!!!”

I know I am not supposed to yell, but frustration has definitely set in. I am trying some other items for school and home such as the Attribution Theory, which I will write about soon. I feel like I talk with him constantly about meeting the expectations of school and home. I just pray a lot too! I am working on my own calmness as well! I have been better in the last week and know that Fred is making little steps of progress each day. I just want him to feel hopeful that he can do this; that he is capable of wearing his big boy pants!