Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ingenious parenting solutions

Babies seem to require a large amount of equipment to keep them properly maintained. Yet after 14 months of daily excursions, I seem still to forget some key item that inevitably becomes necessary. While the following tips may help you in a pinch, you will probably draw scornful looks by the always-prepared parents. To them I say: a fully stocked diaper bag, like a fully planned life, is boring.

Barf rags. Especially in the beginning, babies are small barf machines. The gentler phrase, “spit-up,” doesn’t quite capture the volumes that can be produced. Indeed barf cloths are very useful for wiping these patches off of your clothing or the babe’s (or, apparently, for protecting said clothing in the first place), but other things that work in a pinch include: discarded outer layers, extra outfits you may have remembered to pack, or your socks.

Bibs. My child mostly gets food everywhere except in the bib-covering-region, so I rarely remember to bring one around. Since I also don’t have a barf rag or anything useful to clean his face, I often resort to the old wipe it on my hand and then on my pants method, but sometimes even that is too much. So I have been known to, like a cat, lick my kid’s cheeks clean. I know…shocking.

He's got to get clean somehow, even if extremely temporarily
Wipes. When you run out of butt-wipes mid-poo cleanup, life can seem rather bleak. Especially when you are crouched on a grass median at a campground. First, try using wet paper towels your partner brings you from the nearby toilet block. When that fails, chuck the baby in the closest sink or the ocean (hopefully you’ve decided to change the child in running distance of one of these).

Diapers. This one is particularly awkward. When the babe decides to poo in the last clean diaper you have on hand, hopefully you have a not-too-wet one lying about from an earlier change to place him back into for the time being (here’s an upside of cloth diapers-you don’t throw them away!). Or you might use the extra onesie you used earlier to clean up his barf, your socks, or any other absorbent item lying about that you don’t mind getting dirty as a diaper.

Clothing. It seems inevitable that whatever backup item I forget will become soaked in some disgusting bodily fluid, muddy puddle water, or otherwise need to be changed. For some reason I find that people seem quite offended when you haven’t properly dressed your child in pants, shirt, waistcoat, socks, loafers, and a fedora. A barefoot child running around in diapers seems to dredge up fears of neglect; though I don’t personally define a poorly packed diaper bag as malevolent.
Way easier than sunscreen
Of course, when the weather isn’t cooperating, you must think of ways to shield your child from the elements when proper clothing isn’t an option. I have spent an afternoon shivering in the cold wind in my t-shirt while my babe wore my sweater with the sleeves rolled a million times. He has also spent more than one walk in the stroller wrapped in the wind-proof mat I use for changing him on the go, due to a lack of warm clothing.

Snacks. Breastfeeding is easy, because you don’t really have to think about packing snacks. Now that the babe sometimes prefers to eat solid food, I often resort to popping into the nearest place to buy a croissant or a piece of fruit. Usually this turns out to be more fun, unless the babe is also in a pre-sleep rampage mood and insists on ripping anything he can reach off of the shelves and bowling them down the aisles.

Baby carriers. Babies get heavy. Clever friends have had luck with backpacks, and I’ve made (not very good, but helpful) baby carriers out of a beach towel and a sarong. I’ve also had some luck doing a piggy-back with the baby stuck up inside of my sweater, with his head out the top. This doubles as additional warmth, if you’ve underdressed your child (see above).

Entertainment. Never underestimate the attraction of an interesting piece of rubbish.

What clever things have you -->come up with in a pinch?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Car repair for the overly confident

I took auto shop in high school. I mostly learned that swearing is un-ladylike (which is perhaps why I talk like a sailor now, in retribution); I am scared of the machine used to put tires on wheels; and almost nothing can be done to fix a drooping headliner on your car’s ceiling. Yet, I still consider myself totally qualified to save money on car repair by spending obscene amounts of time doing it myself. Here are some handy tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. When you take something apart, keep the bits organized so that you can easily put it back together. Tossing everything into a heap is a great way to become totally flummoxed later on and waste huge amounts of time looking up repair manuals with incomprehensible exploded diagrams (yes, that’s the technical term) of various components.

2. Some things, like brake pads, have right and left sides. These should be installed in the orientation the manufacturers had in mind.

3. Save the old parts you are replacing. If the new part you purchased from the auto store looks different from the old one, they probably sold you the wrong item. You will proceed to partially or totally destroy your car, leading to a massive bill from a proper mechanic having to fix what you made more broken when you fail to do this.
Be sure to wear the right outfit for the job
4. When your car starts making weird noises, it’s Ok to ignore it if you like the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere for hours on end.

5. When you suddenly start seeing lots of exceedingly friendly people driving past you and waving energetically, it’s quite possible your engine is on fire. Instead of vigorously waving back and carrying on, consider pulling over to assess the situation.
Not exactly a repair job, but getting stuck in shin-deep mud brings its own set of possibilities for creativity
6. It’s probably a good idea to have a look at your engine compartment before something breaks, so you have at least a vague idea of what it looks like intact.

7. If you can’t find the right tool for the job, get creative; but consider that this might lead to personal or automotive injury. For example, there are tools designed solely to remove and replace brake pad springs
--> but a creatively cantilevered screwdriver will do the job in twice the time with the additional fun of injuries to boot! 

Maybe a bigger tool will do the trick
8. You might consider driving around with spare oil and water, and some emergency rations, in case the first two items fail and you find yourself stomping around in the snow trying to find a cell signal to call for help.

9. Build a relationship with your local mechanic so that you can sheepishly bring rusted-together parts over for him to help break apart with his pneumatic tools. Also, he can fix whatever new problems you create with your inventive repair job, possibly without overcharging.

10. Always make sure you have cold beverages in the fridge to celebrate completing the job; to soothe burns if you get too ambitious and don’t let the engine cool down before getting started; or to bribe someone to help you complete a difficult job.

How awesome have your car-repair experiences been?