The Value of Eleven Cents

Find a penny, pick it up;
All the day you’ll have good luck.

I’ve enjoyed this superstition since I was a child and taught it to my child, but I never seriously believed it was true.  The real reason I pick up coins I find on the ground is that they’re money, and I figure every little bit adds up.  Still, the idea that finding a penny brings good luck gives me a little blip of optimism.

I think my son, who just turned five, sees it about the same way.  He’s very logical, and although he loves stories about magical adventures and talking animals, he doesn’t believe in the literal existence of things like Santa Claus.  He doesn’t quite understand how money works yet, but he likes coins and always wants to play with them and put them in his banks, so he picks up any that he finds and often remarks cheerfully, “It’s good luck!”

On our way home from church Sunday afternoon, we stopped into the supermarket for a few things, and we found not only a penny but also a dime on the floor.  I saw them first but let Nicholas pick them up.  We walked on toward home (down the steep hill of our neighborhood business district) singing about pennies and good luck and bagels and such, feeling lucky.

All of a sudden, Nicholas tripped and fell, smashing his face into the projecting corner of a store’s windowsill.

There followed one of those moments of shocked and dreadful silence in which time slows down and holds its breath before the screaming begins.  It was exactly long enough for me to drop into a crouch on the sidewalk and to think, “I am not afraid.” I actually felt kind of like Frog and Toad in the story where they dodge several hazards while shrieking hysterically, “We are not afraid!” and run home to hide in the closet “feeling very brave together”–but I hoped that this Jedi mind trick would help me to cope with what I would see when my beautiful baby boy turned around. Read more…

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Books That Blew My Mind

UPDATE February 1, 2012: For the past two years, this has been an article like my links page where I keep adding content as I get around to it.  Now I’m going to call it finished!  Of course, I expect to read additional mind-blowing books during my visit to Earth, but this list now includes all the qualifying books I have discovered so far.  [Um, and I added one more on February 2!] [Further updates, mostly formatting and links, in June 2015.]

This is a list of books that made a big difference to me at the time I first read them, and in some cases forever afterward, by giving me many new things to think about and/or a completely different angle on an old favorite topic.  I highly recommend them all.  They’re in approximately chronological order according to when I first read them, but that doesn’t mean anyone else needs to read them in this particular order, and where I mention ages please take into account that I was a very precocious reader–many kids will not be able to read these books to themselves until they are several years older.  (Check out these great chapter books for kids!) Read more…

Two Easy Indoor Games

Here are two games that are easy to set up, use minimal materials, and are fun for kids about 2-10 years old at a party or holiday gathering.  (See also these knee-bouncing games for entertaining younger kids!)

Pass the Parcel
You will need a bunch of small toys, costume jewelry and similar trinkets, coins, and/or pieces of wrapped candy; a bunch of tissue paper or used-up gift wrap, in at least two different colors; and a source of music. Read more…

Award-winning Toilet!

One of the nice things about having two toilets in a home is that you can relax about keeping both of them able to handle everything.  As long as one of the toilets has full flushing capacity, the other can limp along in a delicate state, being used only for the easiest jobs, until you’re good and ready to replace it.  Our upstairs toilet is in this category.  Yeah, it’s kind of annoying having to traipse downstairs if you are upstairs when you feel a need to use the more capable toilet, and in the winter we wish our downstairs bathroom were better insulated, but it’s working out . . . for those of us who live in the house and know the eccentricities of the upstairs toilet. Read more…

7 Neat Things My Kid Has Done

…in his last month as a four-year-old.

1. He packed his own bag. He did this for our Thanksgiving trip with some coaching, but even more impressive was in October when we were packing to go visit his grandparents.  While I was choosing my own clothes for the trip, Nicholas was hanging around saying, “Where is my suitcase?” so I handed him the duffle bag we usually use for him, thinking he’d probably fill it with toys and such.  He asked how many days we’d be there, and I told him four.  When I came into his room a few minutes later, the bag contained four shirts, four pairs of pants, four pairs of underpants, and four pairs of socks, and he was just putting in his pajamas! Read more…

Lazy Composting

This is the composting method that works for me!  It’s really simple, and it produces rich dirt for my flowerbeds quickly enough to suit me.  If you are serious about making really high-quality compost or doing it quickly or being certain it is safe for growing food, then you should seek out instructions from somebody who has bothered to learn all about that!  But if you just want to keep some of your garbage out of the landfill and make some good dirt, read on… read on…

Battle of the Bagel Ballads!

Nicholas is almost five years old now and getting even better at making up rhymes.  As the Hanukkah decorations appear around our neighborhood, we’ve been inspired to make up more bagel songs to the tune of “Dreidel, Dreidel”.  Walking to and from the grocery store last Saturday, we took turns singing them and trying to top each other’s silliness.  I remembered some of our creations long enough to write them down: Read more…

I got to be a Shabbos Goy!

We live three blocks away from an Orthodox Jewish synagogue and within a mile of several others, so there are several Orthodox families on our street.  Some are more friendly than others and occasionally chat with us about children, pets, or gardening, but in general they socialize with each other and don’t mix much with those outside the fold.  While the same is true of some of the other ethnic groups in our neighborhood (people from China, for example), the Orthodox always seem more different and separate to me, probably because they dress so differently from the rest of us, with their arms and legs covered even in the hottest weather and the married women’s hair always covered.

Orthodox Jews observe a strict Sabbath: From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, they are not allowed to do any work.  Exactly what counts as “work” and what counts as “doing” is a matter of great debate among their leaders.  I find it all pretty amusing–clever reasoning, but do things like Shabbos elevators really please God?! Read more…

Silk Underlayers

I’m an easily chilled person who hates feeling cold; I live in a place where winter lasts at least 4 months; I commute by bus, which means standing around outdoors for a while each day; I have a desk job, so I sit mostly still all day, and my office isn’t always as warm as I’d like; we conserve energy by keeping our home thermostat as low as we can stand it.  I have many strategies for staying warm, but the one I’m writing about for the “best gift tip” edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday is one that makes a great gift!

Lightweight silk clothing makes an excellent layer in between underwear and outer clothing.  For example, today I’m wearing a silk T-shirt under my sweater and silk leggings under my jeans.  I also have silk turtlenecks and a silk slip.  Read more…

When Robots Write the Blogs

Yesterday I delved into the settings for my blog software and decided to turn on an option to notify me of “trackbacks”–when other sites link to mine.  I thought it would be cool to hear about them right away, instead of just discovering them when I poke around in the “statistics” to see how people are finding The Earthling’s Handbook.  Well, this lunch hour I discovered half a dozen e-mails informing me of trackbacks.  Ooh, I am more popular than I thought!

I was a little suspicious when I saw that the first link went to a blog called “Hello Pills”, but you know, people call their blogs all sorts of strange things Read more…