Been Some Late Nights Here at the Brick House

While my husband and I are pretty handy around the house (a requirement if you have kids), there are times when we need a little help. The ceiling fan in Kiddo’s room has been running super slow, which makes it hard for Kiddo to sleep. That makes is harder for everyone to sleep! There have been some late nights here at our house. Rather than hire an expensive electrician, we decided to combine forces and become the family handymen. All we needed were some basic troubleshooting tips to get the fan working properly again. We first searched for the original instructions that came with the device. It had installation procedures and a website for other issues. We went there together with two pairs of eyes staring intently at the screen to absorb the information. A few key notes were taken.

The guide on the website was pretty thorough and covered all sorts of malfunctions and complications, most of which you probably can’t fix yourself. It simply states the reason for them. They assume you know how to proceed or have the sense to call someone who does. We have a good set of tools in the garage so we were optimistic about completing the task of literally getting the ceiling fan up to speed. The unit could need cleaning for one thing. The electrical connection is not likely to be the cause. The fan either runs or it doesn’t. The tiny motor might be full of accumulated dust.

And so on. We read about the remote and the wall control as they could be the culprit. Again, they either work or they don’t. Here is the kicker: you might have the wrong setting—on low in this case given the visible evidence. This would make the fan too slow. It is a speed some people like for a gentle circulation of air. We wanted the room to be cooler overall. We checked the controls and they were set correctly at medium speed. The guide said that the control might be “stuck.” If you turn the switch off and on again it should right itself. If not, you would need to send it back to the manufacturer for a replacement.

Fortunately this tactic worked and the fan started to whir nicely to everyone’s delight. Kiddo was ecstatic. We thanked the site on their Facebook page. He thought the whole thing was super amusing. He enjoyed watching us scurry about trying to fix the darn thing. After all, it wasn’t that old and had cost a tidy sum. We wanted one with a nice central light fixture and a dimmer, apart from the master speed control. We even matched the blade finish to the color of his little boy’s room. We bought the deluxe model to ensure smooth operation and a quality appearance. But the fan had let us down. As it turns out it wasn’t a huge problem. We are grateful for the website guide that set it right in no time flat.

Sometimes Brick Building is Stressful

It is time for Legos! This announcement is frequently made in our home. It is a ritual that never gets old for kiddo Brick. I remember when the mania started. As a baby, my son had the usual stuffed animals and alphabet blocks; but then one day someone gave him a set of Legos as a birthday present. He was two. He took to them instantly and tried to build things on his own. Daddy Brick and I wanted to help him by showing examples of what could be done.

After that, he always wanted us present during Lego building time. We complied and had established a pattern that was never to be broken. We adore our son and playing with him is a privilege. Time goes by fast and he is easy to get ready for bed. Legos have helped him become extremely cooperative because he knows that it is a reward for good behavior.

The only pause in this practice is when Mama is cooking or cleaning (or watching a favorite TV show) or when Daddy is tired after a hard day at work and Lego building would be stressful. He needs a rest and goes to the back room for a smoke. It calms him down and gets him in the mood for playtime. In good weather, he sits on a lounge chair in the patio, but when it is cold, he is entrenched in his favorite leather stuffed chair. I hate when he smokes in the house as wisps of the odorous material permeate the entire house. Kiddo Brick doesn’t seem to care, but I do. This is definitely not good for the child’s health. If I ban the cigarettes, there are nasty mood consequences, so I must put up with it for now. I am going to handle it with technology.

Immediately after a meltdown, I went online and found the best air purifier for smoke and set it in the den. I am not sure my husband even noticed it. It was a unit designed for smokers and used a HEPA filter for extra protection. I read about it on Facebook. It cost more but had rave reviews.

I took to opening the windows during smoking sessions and set down some new ground rules. Here is what I demanded. Now smoking was going to be on my terms:

  • Smoking permitted on rare days when stress must be dissipated and there is no other means.
  • Smoking is done outdoors unless it is raining.
  • After smoking, the culprit must spray the room with lightly scented deodorizer.
  • While smoking, a candle will be burning. It is a good addition to other odor-reducing techniques.
  • Smoking in the den is limited to one cigarette.
  • No smoking elsewhere, especially Kiddo Brick’s room.
  • Opening windows is a precursor to any smoking.

Daddy agreed to the rules immediately and promised to stop smoking soon. He bought some liqueur and tiny glasses. He was changing one vice for another, but I didn’t want to complain. I was just happy to put away the deodorizer.

Who Knew?

As a tight-knit family, we go through everything together. Nothing is withheld, including to Kiddo. Life is full of trials and tribulations that rear their ugly heads at every turn. When mom and dad have to make big household decisions, it concerns the whole gang. That is how children should grow up. Maybe we have to budget for a certain expense, making important ones impossible until a later date. I say this because recently the water heater broke and we needed to get a new one installed. We opted for the best we could afford, a state-of-the-art tankless electrical unit, such that a weekend camping trip had to be postponed for a short while. It is so inconvenient when the hot water turns cold during your morning shower. It is more than inconvenient when you can’t light the pilot and have to spend $100 on a plumber. It was time, we all thought, to get the best appliance and to ensure an adequate supply of hot water for years to come. Those old tank models are so obsolete. You can still buy them at a low price, but who would want one? When you make a change, why not anticipate the future?

We didn’t even have to take a family vote. It was so obvious that a tankless water heater was the right choice. They are economical and save significant funds on monthly utility bills. After a while, maybe a year or more, the unit pays for itself. The new heaters are also energy efficient and save on precious resources. Everyone is into being green these days, trying to avoid waste of any kind, such as when a huge amount of water is sitting idle in your hot water tank waiting to be used. With tankless systems, they generate only what you need, when you need it. The discussion about being tuned into sustainability was valuable for all family members – or almost as Kiddo is a bit young. At least we are preparing him for the future.

A benefit of installing the new tankless water heater was the special expertise of the plumber. After installing the unit and explaining how it works, he went on to present the positive qualities of a home water filtration system from Home Water Health. We never would have considered adding something like this right after the new heater. The plumber assured us that we would enjoy pure, clean, pollutant-free water which would conserve this valuable resource as it would help control usage. We could also stop buying those nasty unrecyclable plastic bottles. I envision piles of them in a crowded landfill. They don’t biodegrade, but sit there forever as a testimony to the foolishness of modern man.

We don’t feel foolish any longer. We love both our new appliances and particularly enjoy softer, contaminant-free water. It is perfectly safe now to drink or cook from the tap. It is practical, easy, economical, and wise. We need more clever inventions to bring our standard of living to the right level.

As Seen on TV?

I was shocked when my little son came to me reporting a commercial he liked on TV. It came on between cartoons so I expected it to be about a new toy he wanted. This happens a lot. But it was a different animal–an ad about a metal detector. Why on earth was he interested in this device? He didn’t know that gold is a valuable commodity and that daddy would love to have a few coins. He had no idea why anyone would want to find it lying on the ground or at the beach. He knew mommy had gold jewelry so he was guessing this was why. He liked the idea of making her a necklace for her birthday and thought this would help him with the DIY project. He loves to make things out of clay, construction paper, and crayons as a rule. He had no inkling about jewelry making any more than precious metals. My mouth hung open as I asked more questions. He already had a design in mind and he draw an awkward rendering for me to inspect and approve.

His reply was short and sweet. “I want to know how a metal detector works.” Okay, I would oblige. I would show him a video on Facebook. That was not enough for his curious young mind but I was not about to go out and buy one for a personal demonstration. I told a neighbor about this strange request. He told his cousin who happened to own this device. I could borrow it and take my son on an outing to find “gold.” He wouldn’t recognize it if he saw it, so any coin in the ground would do. It might be fun—and instructive. Kids like learning new things, but usually they have to do with the human body, how to make a papier maché mountain, or the best way to make cookies (particularly his favorite kind).

We went to the park as I assumed that some kind of cast-off metal would be there or perhaps a few fallen coins from a jogger’s pocket. We set the detector as I had been shown so it would pick up most anything. We didn’t adjust it to a fine setting as this would limit our catch. I was bound and determined to show how this odd object worked. We shouldn’t be disappointed given the public nature of the location.

We spent a lovely afternoon exploring together and had a nice picnic lunch. We hadn’t found anything yet as we had just begun. Now it was time to get serious. I let my son turn the metal detector on and taught him how to hold it out in front of him as he walked. In no time at all, a sound beeped and he stopped cold. He was transfixed as I bent over and dug into the barren lawn. Out came a quarter in pretty good condition. “It’s gold,” he cried, totally thrilled and excited.

A Non-Building Interest of the Kiddo?!?

It’s all about bricks in our house—yes, for the entire family. It has thrown us a bit now that Kiddo Brick wants to play on a friend’s soccer team. I am worried that this will new activity will infringe on our communal building time, something we have been doing for a while now. We went to a lot of effort to get our child interested, and now he has a non-building interest all his own. I am going to have to get into soccer mighty fast. There are enough children and plenty of matches on TV. We can still have a group hobby, so I am not going to despair.

I am a little worried about the intensity of the game and the problem of headaches and concussions. I hope it is true that they have banned headers for youth. I need a good introduction to the sport and the basics of what to wear, how to hone one’s skills, and all the basics. Mom and Dad are going to invest in some training equipment from to start the kiddo out right. Maybe we may have to hire a personal coach. I look online and it says you can find an “experienced coach by age and city who can help you improve your athletic performance and reach your individual goals.” That sounds so serious for a young one under ten. I think a teenage player from the local high school might do just as well. We need someone who will teach our son youth simple soccer drills. They must be appropriate to his skill level. Do we need a practice goal net? As my Uncle Jim used to say, “all shall be revealed.”

While they have loads of coaching videos online, I want the experience to be more real for my child. I want to set up a lifelike training regimen that will prepare him for the real deal. Training is important in any sport and it is not just a few warm-up exercises. It means learning the actual moves and techniques, just like they occur on the field. A backyard system will be a mini version that will expose Kiddo to soccer as it is played on a team. Using it for training will tell me his level of skill and if he really takes to the game. I am going to order a few things and I hope they do not have any assembly required.

So many kids play soccer nowadays that you can discuss it with almost every parent around. Your offspring will have lots of play dates if you have the training gear. Why not have soccer parties for the neighborhood? A theme could be “getting in shape for soccer” or “soccer kids challenge.” We can have a few competitive events and soccer-themed prizes like gift certificates to use at the local sports emporium. Our family hobby will now be shared with everyone. Making friends is easy and fun.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

No one dies from not sleeping enough, or so I am told. When I was a new mother, my newborn kiddo kept me awake most of the night. There was to be no catching up during the day! I adore my son and he is so talented and blessed; the memories are stacking up in my brain. While I like to reminisce about the early days of his sweet life, the lack of sleep had me worried. How long can someone actually stay awake safely? I read on this web page – – that said people who are forced to stay awake as a form of torture suffer severe anxiety. If it due to a natural cause such as worry, too much exercise, a sick child, or too much daylight, it is not a cause of great concern. Most of the time you fall asleep out of exhaustion. But I suppose there is a limit to what the body can tolerate. I remember how my son would make noise all night in excitement over a birthday party the next day. Sometimes, he would poop out before the cake was presented.

Many studies have been done in the area of sleep. There are special labs that do this kind of work. We have data and can reach many conclusions as a result of the interest in what we do a great part of our lives. I have seen lists of bad reactions to a lack of sleep such as poor physical appearance, grumpy mood, a propensity for accidents and injuries around the house or office, drowsiness and impaired driving, lower brain function (including poor judgment), and a variety of health issues from high blood pressure and diabetes to stroke and heart attacks. Sleep deprivation is the culprit when it comes to sexual activity. It is also associated with insomnia and depression and is likely to make you more forgetful. For those who want to preserve their looks, sleep loss affects the body’s ability to produce enough growth hormone while it prompts it to release too much stress hormone cortisol. Both impact the quality of your skin. Sleep is the best anti-aging remedy.

On the really negative side, as if there weren’t already too many problems, insufficient sleep can cause you to gain weight. I love the saying “if you snooze, you lose.” Lack of sleep stimulates hunger and appetite. People who get only a few hours of rest are prone to obesity. Thus, quality sleep is a huge health issue in this country. We all have to put those cell phones away at bedtime and turn off the TV and the lights. Taking care of yourself is more than good nutrition and a daily workout. Analyze your sleep patterns now and see if you are falling victim to a terrible, often unrecognized, ailment.

Not wanting to end on a negative note, I feel that it would be remiss not to mention the effect of lack of sleep on the mortality rate. This was my original concern with kiddo. I felt I would die of fatigue. While it is not likely, as mentioned above, sleep problems imply a greater risk for fatal health issues like cardiovascular disease.

Ambitious Idea

Legos are the gift of the toy gods. They are anywhere and everywhere in the world. There is something addictive about them. You get hooked mighty fast as a child, and sometimes the mania to build things lingers on. If you are an adult with children, you can share great times and foster imaginative play. In our family, we keep adding new parts to replace those lost over time. They are probably under the sofa or the dog has made off with them. They fit nicely into his mouth—a bite size treat. He doesn’t eat them, of course, but he likes to hide them for a fun game. He likes to watch us looking here and there for his hiding place.

Right now, I am getting all the blocks together to make an exact Lego replica of the garage. It is an ambitious idea as the work area is loaded with tools and implements for the woodworking trade. I have collected these things over the years and have inherited more than a few. My favorite is the best drill press that my dad owned and handed down to me. It is a variable speed marvel. I wonder how I can recreate its special features. For now, I will just tell you about them. My drill press is almost an industrial model and a powerhouse of a tool. It delivers equal torque throughout its RPM range. It also has a laser centering device to facilitate accurate drilling operations. I love the LED display that shows the current speed while the spindle travel’s adjustable depth stop shows clear depth measurements. I have enjoyed using this drill press for many construction and craft projects.

I will include in my recreation other tools such as the typical electric saw, nail gun, automatic stapler, and assorted hammers and screw drivers. It will be cute as my wife says about Lego buildings. I will put a miniature me right in there with all the tools and the work bench. I am careful about selecting the right blocks in a predetermined palette of colors. I am an old hand at this game so it will be just right. I will know when I get my son’s approval. The work is not done until he gives me an okay. I will allow him to make adjustments as he sees fit.

Some of our former family constructions are still in place in the garage. Will I therefore make a replica of a replica? Maybe I will draw the line here as the Legos are of equal size. I don’t have a mini set. I will leave these mementos of former good times out of the current project. I will, however, make space for this new one. At some point, I will need the blocks so I will disassemble my Lego art for future use. No matter. My son loves making a trip to the toy store to buy new pieces. I won’t deny him this perpetual treat.

Why Build With Bricks?

There are so many ways to create family traditions and spend time bonding as a unit. Many share a special meal at a certain time of day or a set day of the week. Some families have a game or movie night. Some work together on a common goal, like a puzzle.Others spend their time together outdoors, doing things like skiing or geocache hunting. The point is not so much what you do together, but that you actually do something together. That is what matters. In our house, it is a time to bond with one another. When we are together and building, we are connecting with one another. There are no screens in front of anyone’s faces. We talk about the things that interest us and try to accommodate those interests with the things we decide to build together. We encourage one another and solve problems together as a team. In short, brick building is the glue that holds this family together, and has made us the close family unit that we are today.

“Assembly required” strikes fear in the heart of most parents when it comes to children’s toys. We hear horror stories from friends who are up late into the night on Christmas Eve, struggling to put together dollhouses and action figure playsets. Many don’t even require power tools or they have less pieces than what we’re used to. They still end up being a huge, regrettable hassle. On the other hand, we’ve been lucky never to have experienced that struggle. In fact, Kiddo would be incredibly disappointed to wake up on his birthday or a holiday and see his toys already assembled! Building sets are different. The assembly process is designed to be an enjoyable part of the experience, not a torturous struggle. Finishing a set feels like an accomplishment, not just a relief. Then, even more fun can be had with the toy you’ve built!

But the best part of building is that you don’t always have to follow the instructions; in fact, sometimes there aren’t any instructions at all! The idea that anyone can build anything with bricks has wide appeal. It is accessible to every skill level—bigger blocks for small hands, more intricate sets for people with more experience. It helps people with their fine motor skills and activates spatial planning. It fires up the imagination of children and adults alike.

Lego has licensing for practically everything, which means there are sets to satisfy nearly every interest. Whether you are into castles or superheroes, princesses or outer space, you don’t have to look very hard to find something that you will enjoy putting together. Take a look down any brick aisle at a toy or Lego store, or do an online search, and you’ll see what we mean. If you can’t find anything interesting to build, in this house we have a saying: look harder, or build it yourself!