Invention Marketing Claims

A decade ago, I worked at an invention marketing company, whose services were intended to help people who had ideas for new products hook up with companies who would manufacture those products.  Some really cool stuff came through, but there were also a lot of silly ideas.  The Federal Trade Commission forced the company to accept all ideas unless they actually violated the laws of physics.  On top of that, the company advertised on very-late-night television, attracting some strange people.  It was frustrating to see people spending thousands of dollars trying to strike it rich with really lame ideas, and sometimes it was quite a struggle to write technical documentation based on less-than-lucid written descriptions and illustrations, but it was an extremely entertaining job!  I collected some of the funniest bits–some from the inventors themselves, some from summaries written by other staff members who had a hilarious tendency to use misplaced modifiers–and I now present them for your reading pleasure. Read more…

Counting to Three

Counting to three is a discipline technique used different ways by different parents.  I’ve seen it used as a gentle way to assert authority, which is what I’m going to talk about here.  I’ve also seen it used as a threat (“Do it before I count to three or I’ll whip you!”) and as a way to pretend you’re doing something when you’re not (“One…two…two and a half….  Don’t make me come over there….  Oh, whatever!”) and I am not advocating either of those styles!

I use counting to three exactly the way my mother did, because I remember that it was effective without making me feel shamed or powerless or any other bad thing except mildly disappointed that I had to stop whatever I’d been doing.  I started around the time Nicholas turned two, and at that time I wrote this explanation of the most common way I was using it: Read more…

Tips for Expectant Parents

Disclaimer: This is one of those “This is what works for my family” type articles.  We have only one child.  All children are different.  These are some ideas that have been useful to us that we hope will be helpful to other parents.

My favorite online source of information about all things child-related is Mothering Magazine’s huge array of free discussion boards.

I absolutely loved the Maya Wrap sling carrier! Read more…

The Horror of the Porch!

One of the people to whom I e-mailed this story in 1998 requested that I post it.  At the time this was written, Daniel and I were sharing a house with two friends, Bill and Steph.

Lest any of you may be feeling that your housekeeping skills are deficient, here’s a story to demonstrate that you are not alone and things could be worse!

Because our kitchen is so small and lacking in storage space, we have a lot of canned/packaged food stored in the enclosed back porch, along with the tools and cleaning supplies.  We have two sets of shelves and a wheeled cabinet out there.  The broom and mop and rake and snow shovel generally lean in the space between the cabinet and one set of shelves.  The general tendency of everyone in the household has been to put things on/in the appropriate storage unit but not necessarily in any particular place thereon/in, and recently a lot of surplus groceries got stacked on the floor Read more…

Pittsburgh: A Love Letter

As of last August, I’ve lived in Pittsburgh longer than in any other town.  Sixteen years, and I still love it!  Pittsburgh is the #1 most livable city in America.  I grew up in Oklahoma, so that’s my basis for comparison, and Pittsburgh wins in many ways: Read more…

The Yogurt of Christ???

SCENE I: our dining room, a couple of weeks ago
NICK (age 3): I want a plum!
MAMA: (picking up plate with toast crumbs that has been on table all day) Okay, I’ll put it on this plate.
NICK: No! That plate has crumbs on it!
MAMA: I will brush off the crumbs.
NICK: NO!!! Don’t touch them! Bring that back!
MAMA: What? You want to keep a plate with just crumbs on it?
NICK: This is no ordinary plate. This is a decoration of my church. (sets plate just so, amid clutter on table)
MAMA: Umm, you and I belong to the same church. That’s not one of our church’s decorations.
NICK: Also I belong to my other church. In my other church, we eat the Yogurt of Christ. I am the Spooner. (offering spoonful of yogurt) The Yogurt of Christ, the Yogurt of Heaven.
NICK: Mama, you’re supposed to kneel!

SCENE II: our dining room, this past Sunday
NICK: (serving as Spooner again) The Yogurt of Christ, the Yogurt of Heaven.
DADDY: Amen.
NICK: No! This is a different church! That’s not what we say!
DADDY: Oh, sorry, what do we say?
NICK: “You pay.”
DADDY: Um, okay…
NICK: The Yogurt of Christ, the Yogurt of Heaven.
DADDY: You pay.
NICK: No, you pay!

The yogurt in question is Brown Cow whole-milk yogurt, and it is very good, and I thank God that it exists, but I am puzzled by my son’s theology.  I wonder if he’s been sneaking out to this other church while I’m asleep.

Visit the Write Mama Blog Hop for funny things said by other kids!  Here are some more funny sayings from mine:
The Hammer Festival
Words he made up
“I wish I was a crayon.”

A Year of Pencils

It was around this time last year that I suddenly questioned my use of ballpoint pens.  You know, those ubiquitous plastic-cased pens that–if they don’t jam–keep writing until they run out of ink and have to be thrown away.  They were my usual type of writing implement at work and at home, and I carried a couple in my purse at all times.  I do a fair amount of writing, much of it on scrap paper that’s getting a second use before it hits the recycling bin, but I was doing almost all of it with disposable ballpoints.

It’s not that I’d never considered their environmental impact.  At various times I’d tried refillable ballpoints and fountain pens, but I couldn’t find one that worked reliably, and they’re so expensive that I couldn’t keep extra ones on hand to use when the first one jammed, nor could I gracefully accept having lost one.  The amount of usefulness I could get out of a disposable ballpoint seemed to make up for its petroleum-based construction, pollution-generating manufacture, and nonbiodegradability.  Refillable pens probably aren’t much better, once you take into account the manufacture of the refill cartridges and their excessive plastic packaging.

What I didn’t realize until last winter was that when I need a writing implement, I don’t necessarily need a pen.  Read more…

Breaking the shell of shyness

I was a shy child.  I liked to be around people and was very interested in them, but for some reason I found it difficult to talk to unfamiliar people or even to feel that they were looking at me, and I was nervous that I might do something “wrong” that would make people yell at or laugh at me.  Some people continued to seem unfamiliar even when I was around them frequently, so in public settings like school I often spoke very little and tried to pass unnoticed.  (I got teased and harrassed by other kids, which motivated me to keep trying for invisibility…but in retrospect I wonder if it was because I was so quiet that I made a good victim!)  My shyness lasted until I was about 15, and then I began to come out of it gradually. By 18, I could walk up to strangers who seemed to have something in common with me and start a conversation feeling only slightly nervous, whereas at 11 that would’ve made my heart pound in my throat, and before that I was hardly willing to try it at all!

An old friend recently asked about my transition out of shyness, how it worked and what made it happen.  It doesn’t seem completely explainable to me–it felt like my innate temperament changed at some deep biological level–but these are some experiences that I think were helpful:
Read more…