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Sunday, August 21, 2016

7 Cheap Homeowner Hacks to Keep You Safe, Clean, Efficient, and Happy

As almost any homeowner knows, finding shortcuts, cheats, hacks, or any other way to complete projects more efficiently is always welcome. Many times I hear about something that is so simple that I’m shocked I never thought of it. As I have been working on projects here and there, I have pulled together some of the hacks that I use. So here are seven home hacks to keep you safe, clean, efficient, and happy.
  1. Use long screws for safety and stability. Door hinges and

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Broken Irrigation, Tears of Disappointment, and a Chance to Fix Them Both

The other day I brought home some plumbing parts and left them on the counter. After dinner, my four-year-old son decided to put the two pieces of PVC together and pound them on the ground, wedging the much needed parts together. I scolded him, snatched the pieces, and went into the garage to try to pull them apart, leaving my son weeping. I was so irritated, but my frustration was more at the plumbing situation and not so much at my son.

You see, this plumbing issue has been ongoing. Before we got the house, some knucklehead installed a sprinkler system that includes seven sprinkler valves all stacked up on top of each other in an eight inch strip of dirt, with the house on one side and the driveway on the other. One line has broken numerous times, and each attempt at a fix is filled with frustration, scraped knuckles, and usually

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Great Camp Food and Other Family Camping Hacks

For those of you who do not live in Arizona, it is hot right now. Really hot. Like second-degree-burns-from-trying-to-touch-the-steering-wheel-to-drive hot. This makes it an ideal time to escape to the mountains for a respite from the heat. In just a short two hour drive, we can go from, “I feel like my brain has melted into my feet,” to, “I forgot what it was like to wear long pants and be comfortable.” Aside from the 40-degree temperature drop, camping has so many other benefits – clean pine-scented air, activities that do not involve electricity, time for kids to explore, and cooking everything over an open fire. I love camping, and especially camp food! 

Over the years, and through the dozens of camping trips that we have taken as a family, we have developed some great cheats, or things that make camping a lot easier. Some of these I have seen floating around the internet, but unfortunately do not have the original source. Some of these might be common knowledge, but they seemed like revelations to me. And some of these may be things that we have made up, so all royalties can be sent directly to us. Regardless of where they came from, use what works for you and get outdoors! 
    1.  Foil dinners. My wife and I have made foil dinners for almost 20 years of camping. The premise is simple – take a piece of foil and spray it with oil. Add ground beef, onions, carrots, and celery, along with some onion soup mix. Wrap it all up and seal the foil. Put it directly in hot coals and cook about 20-30 minutes, turning it halfway through. The problem – all of the good stuff on the outside usually gets burned. The solution – cabbage leaves. Add a layer of cabbage leaves on the top and bottom. They help the foil dinner retain its moisture, and they burn instead of your dinner. But that’s fine, since it’s cabbage, and I wasn’t going to eat it anyway.  
    2.  Doggie zip line. So I’m pretty proud of this one. We love taking our dog camping with us, but if we are in a campsite or need to keep the dog from running off, we need something other than a leash. We have tried a coil of rope, but the dog inevitably wraps the rope around the camp chairs or runs the

    Wednesday, July 6, 2016

    10 Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip

    Last year my family and I took a road trip from Phoenix to San Diego. We embraced the challenge that can come with having three young children, then ages seven, four, and three, in a car for an extended period of time. This year, we upped the ante by planning a road trip with our now eight-, five-, and four-year-olds, from Phoenix to Chicago. My wife and I have made this cross country trip several times, and can do it in about 27 hours. However, adding the energy of three children into a car was a feat of strength. Prior to the trip, everybody I talked to about the trip thought we were crazy for driving. However, we had a wonderful time and created some great memories. Based on this trip, I have compiled ten things that helped us have a successful road trip.  

    1. Take your time. For me, this is difficult. When I get in the car to go someplace, I want to get there. However, once we decided that we were going to slow down and enjoy the trip, I started to have less apprehension. We looked for stopping points along the way and made sure that we had plenty of time to rest, stretch, and have fun.
    Greetings from the Petrified Forest

    2. Look for fun things to do along the way. Because we slowed down, I started to look for fun things to do on our route.
    We stopped at some concrete teepees, complete with dinosaur statues (not really sure how those fit together), in northern Arizona. We drove on a musical road in New Mexico. We saw the Cadillac Ranch in Texas. We stopped in Holbrook, Arizona, which reminded us all of Radiator Springs from Cars. I enjoyed looking for those great sites that are normally missed when flying down the interstate.

    3. Have activities. My wife is the master of this. We used

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    The Best Graduation Gift Parents and Teachers Could Ever Give Their Kids

    One spring towards the end of my teaching career, I had a parent request a meeting. All educators know that when parents request a meeting, it usually means that they want to complain about something that you did. I didn’t know what this parent wanted to complain about, but I braced for it. She handed me a blank piece of paper and asked me to write a letter to her daughter. She explained that she had started doing this for her daughter in kindergarten. Every year she had the teacher write a letter to the daughter as an eighteen-year-old. She was compiling the letters in a binder, and as a graduation present, she would give her the binder with letters from her thirteen years of school. Anybody who knows me can guess that I shed a tear, both at the thoughtfulness of this mom and at the honor to be able to write a letter like that to a student. I decided then and there that when I had kids I would do the same thing.

    Somewhere along the line we decided that, instead of just doing letters, we would get a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! for each of our kids. I would have their teachers