Mama, what happened on September 11?

If you haven’t heard this question from your child yet, you’re likely to hear it any day now.  As the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches, I’m seeing and hearing more commemoration than in the past eight years.

My son asked about September 11 two years ago when the newspaper vending box showed a solemn, patriotic event and he wanted to know what that was about.  The simple answer is, “Every year on September 11, we remember people who died when our country was attacked.”  That would be enough information for some young children.  As with any sensitive topic, the best approach is to answer only the question the child is really asking.  I am sharing the full “story” I told to Nicholas (who was only 4 years 8 months old but was already a very detail-oriented, tell-me-the-whole-story type of person!) as an example of what you might need to explain to a child, but be careful of heaping them with too many details.  In particular, think about whether your child is really asking, “Exactly what happened?” or, “Why did it happen?” Read more…


Bullying: an article I wrote, and three I don’t have to write

Although I am discussing my work here, the point of view is my own, and this is not an official statement of the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

As the data manager of a long-term research study, I recently helped to write this academic paper: Bullying Perpetration and Victimization as Predictors of Delinquency and Depression in the Pittsburgh Youth Study.  What we found, looking at data collected from the 503 men we’ve been interviewing repeatedly since they were in first grade, is that bullies are more likely than non-bullies to grow up to be criminals, and bullying victims are more likely than non-victims to grow up to be depressed.  That’s not really surprising, is it?  But it’s good to add to the hard scientific evidence that bullying is a serious problem with lifelong consequences.  This whole issue of the Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research was a special issue on school bullying, with 7 more articles on the subject.

I had been kind of thinking I should write something about bullying that might be read by people who don’t read dull academic journals.  But I felt very shy about it and afraid to admit that, well, I know there’s a problem and can prove there’s a problem but can’t claim I ever solved this problem for myself or anybody and tried so many things that didn’t work and when I even think about it I get so scared and what if– Read more…

Masoor Dal (Indian Lentils) with Carrots

Meatless MondayThis started with a recipe I found online, but we’ve made some adjustments. The most interesting (though not authentically Indian) one is adding carrots, which turns this from just a high-protein main dish into a full meal. It’s easy and pretty quick to make.  It’s vegetarian and can be made vegan, it’s gluten-free and nut-free, and it tastes good (and is safe) at various temperatures, so it’s great for potlucks of people with diverse dietary needs.  It’s soft and mushy, a great baby food.  It’s one of those spicy foods that makes you feel better in the summer without requiring a long time over a hot stove, but it’s also a comforting food for winter suppers.  My mom told me she once made this recipe on a very hot day in her electric skillet on top of the central air-conditioning unit so that she could cook in her breezy back yard instead of heating up the kitchen! Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, August 20 Version

Food on Fridays

This is part of my ongoing documentation of spaghetti sauce variations.  Like the sauce I made around this time last year, this one contains the seasonal vegetables we happened to have on hand, but they were a little different this time.  This sauce has about the maximum basil flavor I can stand.

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

All-Ages Game Night: A great community event!

I ran an All-Ages Game Night at my church last month as both a social event for our members and a way to connect with our community (and maybe attract some new members).  It was easy to do, extremely inexpensive, and lots of fun!

My family loves games and owns enough to fill a large chest of drawers, so we simply brought about half of our games (see list below), the ones that are easiest to learn and don’t take a really long time to play.  We didn’t serve snacks at Game Night–food is distracting and expensive and gets the cards sticky–but we did serve ice water and lemonade using our real glasses.  It was a hot, humid evening, and our parish hall is not air-conditioned, so we set up fans. Read more…

Links, Links, Lovely Links!

UPDATE: Visit my Pinterest board for more links!  I am going to try doing all the updates over there starting in 2013.  Pinterest can be used by anyone; you do not have to get a Pinterest account to see and click on the links.  If you have any trouble using the page, please comment on this post or e-mail becca [at] earthlingshandbook [dot] org.

Sometime two or three years ago I decided to have one post for collecting links to pages I thought were interesting but didn’t have so much to say about them that it was worth a new article.  Instead of putting up a new Links post every few months, I would keep adding new links to the top of that one post.  It worked just fine for a long time.  Then, about nine months ago, the software I was using (Online Quickblog) pulled an irritating new trick: Whenever I edited a post, it would “re-publish” it and change its URL to include the current date.  That was a major problem for anyone who had bookmarked the page, because it had vanished from its old location.

Since moving The Earthling’s Handbook to WordPress about five months ago, I’ve been meaning to write a new Links post including all the cool stuff I’ve found on the Internet since I stopped updating the old post!  (Once this is published, I will edit the old post to reflect the existence of this one.)

I will be updating this post as I find new interesting links.  Read more…

When Robots Write About Grildebeest

Last month, I invented a new word for a future animal of my own imagining.  Today, on an idle lunch-break whim, I did a Google search to see if anyone else has been talking about grildebeest yet . . . and I found that one of those wily robots has picked up the topic.  Well, actually, it appears that what this robot did was to pull one sentence from each of many Websites and string them together into a paragraph of text to slap onto a page so that search engines would find it, even though the page has nothing to do with grildebeest or any of the other topics mentioned in the paragraph; it is a page where one can download an MP3 of a song.  I’m not linking to it because, if you want that song, you will find the page easily by searching for the song title.

But thanks, random search-engine-cheating robot, for the block of text which I can now edit (by cutting just a few phrases and editing some punctuation, most notably the use of semicolons where sentient humans would use apostrophes) into some silliness to brighten this stormy Friday! Read more…

Thrifty All-natural Anti-bacterial Moisturizing Face Wash

A lot of skin care products contain scary ingredients and are pretty expensive.  Totally organic facial cleansers are really expensive and sometimes go bad before you can use the whole package–and a surprising number of them ignore organic-ness in packaging and put the stuff in a vinyl tube that slowly saturates it with carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.  There are some great natural soaps available at reasonable prices (Dr. Bronner’s soap looks expensive, but a few drops go a long way!) for washing the rest of your body, but some people’s faces don’t respond well to ordinary soap and get dry or dull-looking.

Luckily, there’s an all-natural, anti-bacterial, moisturizing, low-priced, minimally-packaged, easy-to-use alternative that’s sold in every grocery store, is often available from local sources, is so safe you can eat it, and even tastes delicious! Read more…

How a kid can cook burgers indoors on a hot day

Last month, my brother commented on my article about the Grildebeest that a George Foreman grill is a handy way to cook things with minimal supervision and better energy efficiency than a stove.  I hadn’t considered buying one of those grills before.  (We have a small kitchen, so we try to avoid owning a lot of gadgets.)  Last week, the smallest size George Foreman grill was on sale at Target for $15 and I got a Target coupon for $5 off any size George Foreman grill, so I decided to give it a try.

It’s a cute little thing and very lightweight.  I was skeptical about its usefulness.  But I thawed some veggie burgers, I read the instructions (all about meat) and washed the grill, and my six-year-old son and I attempted to make dinner.  He was very interested in learning to use the new machine.

We cooked a burger for one minute.  Warm, but not very warm.  We cooked it for a second minute.  It smelled good, looked brown, and was too hot to touch.  We tried toasting a bun in the grill for one minute.  Perfect!  One burger ready to go in 3 minutes. Read more…

Great lunch kit for school!

Nicholas will be starting first grade in three weeks, so we’ve got some shopping and organizing to do, but one thing we don’t need to do is buy a new lunchbox!  The one he used for full-day kindergarten is still in great shape for this year and likely for several years to come.  [UPDATE: He is getting a new outer carrying case for third grade.  The box itself is still in perfect condition after 3 years of continuous use, including summer day camp!]

We were not compensated in any way for this review.  We chose this product ourselves and paid full price.  All opinions are our own.

When we were preparing for kindergarten, Nicholas announced that he wanted a lunchbox similar to the mini one his grandma had given him to hold some small toys–a plain silvery metal box with the standard hinged lid and latch.  I decided to take this as an opportunity to teach him about online shopping.  I let him choose the key words for the search, then suggested some refinements to help find what we wanted.

Well, we did ultimately find a few sources of plain metal standard lunchboxes, but in the process we also turned up a number of other lunch transportation systems.  Nicholas got very excited about a few of them, including one that was so totally organic that I expected it would biodegrade before our eyes (and therefore not be worth the incredibly high price) and one with a lot of complicated hinges that I was sure would be irreparably clogged with peanut butter and ants by Halloween, if he didn’t pinch his fingers off trying to open and close it.

But we also saw PlanetBox, a stainless-steel tray with scoopy compartments (like the school cafeteria trays of my childhood–his school’s food is served entirely in plastic and foam packaging, which is one reason he’s bringing his lunch!) and a lid with matching compartments, to hold 5 types of foods without letting them touch.  The latch looked easy to operate.  The box is plain silver but can be decorated with magnets.  You choose a set of magnets to be included with your box, and additional magnet sets are sold separately–so if he gets tired of the picture on his lunchbox after a year or two, he can replace just the picture (or go plain) instead of nagging for a whole new lunchbox!  Also available are little containers to hold wet foods (also stainless steel) and a carrying case made of 100% recycled plastic beverage bottles. Read more…