Monday, January 31, 2011

An Answer for Liz

We have one more question from Liz:

Question: When someone asks a question in a comment on my blog, how should I respond? In another comment? In an email? Or not at all because the person isn't actually looking for an answer?

Answer: This depends on what kind of blog you have. For the typical blog (like SwindleFun) where all of the readers know you and you are not trying to sell a good or service:

If the question is a nice springboard to another post, answer in a future post.

If it is a humorous question that does not require an answer, or if it was designed to simply say, "I read this post and liked it," no response is necessary.

If you have a quick, humorous response to the question, or if you think other people will have the same question, put it in the comments section for others to enjoy.

If the poster needs a serious reply, she should contact you directly by phone or email.

Thanks for the questions, Liz!

Okay Carrie--do you have any questions for SwindleFun from Unicorn Lane?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Liz's Next Question

We have another question from Liz.

Question: At my gym there are three TVs in the small women's workout area. When you work out in there, you can not help but semi-watch every TV since they are so close together. Do you think it's rude for someone to watch a non-neutral show on a TV? For example: a show about a whale giving birth, a gruesome surgery, a man with his hand up a horse's behind? Is it appropriate for me to dislike the women who is subjecting me to this material? I don't subject her to Jersey Shore, and I feel like she's rude by subjecting me to animal grossness. Am I being unfair? After all, no one is forcing me to workout in that room. What would you do? Hit the gym an hour later to avoid her? Barf in front of her to prove your point? Or just hate her from afar?

Answer: The first thing I would do is ask the woman--in a neutral tone of voice--if she is watching the objectionable program. She might say no! And then you can change the channel, release your seething hate, and get on with your fitness.

Unfortunately, if she is watching the program, you're out of luck because she was there first. As long as she is not violating any of the gym rules, you must ignore her TV selections or work out in a different area.

It's very kind of you to consider other people when you choose a TV program at the gym, but you (a) cannot possibly anticipate what other patrons find neutral and (b) cannot create a new etiquette rule simply by observing it yourself.

Your private feelings are your own business, but don't waste any energy on this.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Big Success

Today's weather was sunny and mild, so we decided to go to the park.

Jeremy and the boys took their bikes, and I wore my jogging clothes. I was nervous, because I haven't jogged much since the weather turned cold after Thanksgiving.

But something amazing happened.

I RAN the WHOLE 5k. Ran! The WHOLE WAY! Without walking AT ALL. UP the hills, ACROSS the flats, DOWN the other hills--and we were at the park with big hills. It was amazing, a revelation, a triumph!

It felt so good, I spent a full ten minutes telling Jeremy how amazing I was.

Come to think of it, Jeremy managed a 2 mile bike ride, including the mountain bike dirt track area, with two preschoolers on bikes.

Jeremy wins.

Good Questions, Liz!

We have three new questions for SwindleFun!

Let's take them one at a time.

Question: When is it okay to say "no" when someone asks you for a favor? Also, is it okay to say "no" when someone invites you to an activity that you just don't want to attend, even if you are able to?

Answer: You may decline any favor request or invitation by promptly and clearly stating that you cannot. Miss Manners says that expressing regret is a nice touch: "I'm so sorry, but I can't." Or, "Thank you for inviting us. It sounds fun, but we won't be able to come."

They key is that you never give a reason for your refusal. This protects you from (1) the person attempting to find a workaround, (2) fibbing, (3) communicating to the person what other activity you think is more important than that person's request or invitation.

Miss Manners suggests that, if pressed to explain your refusal, you say, "It's simply impossible."

That's the manners side to your question.

But I believe you are also asking if you should do a favor that you could do, but don't really want to do. If you feel that doing a particular favor would be kind, do it! A little inconvenience never hurt anyone.

However, if you feel that doing a particular favor would make you a sucker, then say no. The key here is staying within the scope of your relationship. If your neighbor gets your mail while you are out of town, it is right to feed his cat while he is away, even if you don't like cats. But should you agree to teach Primary just because the teacher doesn't feel like it? You can safely say no.

Finally, what if you could accept an invitation, but don't want to? If you feel unkind in your refusal, if your conscience is pricking you to accept, then accept. Otherwise, a polite refusal is fine.

Friday, January 28, 2011

le's Question for SwindleFun

We have a second question! le wants to know:

"How did you get that frosting so red on that Easter Bunny cake last year? Do you have a trick or just two jars of food coloring?"

The answer is:

Two jars of Wilton gel food coloring. If you use the liquid food coloring, it will ruin the consistency of your frosting and taste funny.

Further observations on gel food coloring:

1. My friend Wendy taught me to use a clean toothpick to transfer the gel from the little pot to the frosting. Use a clean toothpick each time. (If you're using the whole pot, which is a bold move, a plastic knife is more convenient than a toothpick.)

2. It stains everything. Put down wax paper in your work area to protect your counters.

3. If you want a deep color, buy two or more pots of color. That way you will not have to call your friend Wendy in a panic to bring you more food coloring.

4. There comes a point when more gel food coloring does not deepen the color any further.

Good question, le!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Victor likes to sound out words.

Today he came running into my room yelling,"Mmm, Mmm, MISSILE! Missile starts with M!"

Ask SwindleFun

I love reading advice columns. Miss Manners is my favorite. I think I'd also like to give advice.

So if you have a question, post it below or email me and I will answer it!

Our first answer-seeker is Katrina, who wants to know if I am an American mother or a Tiger Mother.

Well, Katrina, I have read Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and the associated WSJ articles and comments.

Let's break the Tiger Mother into several parts: (1) being adamant about making your child master certain skills or do certain things, (2) not letting your child quit those things, (3) the list of things you are adamant about, and (4) the level of contention you are willing to introduce and endure to achieve your goals.

The Tiger Mother is all four of these things--take away one and you don't have a Tiger Mother. Since the Tiger Mother's list of things-to-do is very specific to Tiger Mothers (grades, music, and related competitions) and the level of contention has one setting (excruciatingly high), I am not a Tiger Mother.

However, I admire the Tiger idea that parents should require children to do worthwhile things whether they like it or not. Church activity, piano lessons, and cleaning the house come to mind. But the contention Ms. Chua introduced into her home is an unacceptable price for what she got. An accomplished competitive pianist or violinist? Who cares? That's not what I'm interested in building.

Nor am I interested in "American" children who do what they like and follow their passion (whatever that means--I love Ms. Chua's idea that you build passion when you excel at something, which only comes after extensive practice).

I am interested in building Mormon men who marry Mormon women and have Mormon children.

Let's use a dreadful phrase and call it being a Mormon Mother. You must do items (1) and (2) about a different list of (3) while keeping (4) at bay.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egalitarian Fun

Last week I needed to mend the hood and zipper of Victor's winter coat.

Victor was very interested in my needles and thread. As I was encouraging him to go and play I thought, "If he were a girl, I would give him a little square of cloth and his own needle and thread to experiment with."

Why not? I'm equal-rights fun!

So I rustled up some white cloth and red thread (because we spent December reading the Grinch) and showed Victor how to push the needle through the cloth.

This is what he created.

It's a bird feeder. In his words, "You see, there is a tiny hole for the birds' beaks to get the food. But it is too tiny for squirrels."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fingers Crossed

I don't want to jinx it, but Zeke has stayed clean and dry for five whole days.

My Secret Weapon: marshmallows. The full size variety.

Zeke apparently prefers them to race cars, trains, Bible story figurines (I know, go figure), or anything else I used to tempt him.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Do you need a good sock strategy?

Liz has a great one over at The Sommerkorns.

My sock strategy is the complete opposite, which makes sense because matching and folding socks is the icing on my laundry cake.

Also, most of my personal socks are distinctive and easily matched.

But I think I'll use her strategy for the boys, modified for their constant out-growing of things. I currently toss any sock that has a hole. The modification to Liz's method will be to buy fewer pairs of socks than she does, but to junk all of them when the supply has dwindled to the point of needing a re-stock.

Thanks, Sis!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Night Vision

Unlike Mad Gone Mom, we suffer through snow days in which everything is canceled despite a complete lack of snow.

Such as yesterday, a snow day on which the first flurries arrived around 3 p.m. By nightfall we had accumulated approximately half an inch (and another round of daily closings).

The boys wanted to go out and play in the dusting, but since it was dark and cold and since we lack all but the most basic snow-wear, I said no. I'm not that fun.

They individually explained to me that darkness was no impediment.

Victor: I can see very good in the dark. My eyes get browner and browner and then they can see things. It's like magic!

Zeke: I can see in the dark! My eyes are red and glow and I can see!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Self-Depreciating Gesture

Do you ever read in books about a person holding out his hands in a self-depreciating gesture? I must have, or I wouldn't have come up with that phrase.

Well, a funny thing about Victor is that he has a self-depreciating gesture. If you tell him something new, like, "Victor, if you pull out that tab, the parts will click together," he will cock his head, spread his hands in front of him in a self-depreciating gesture, shrug just a little, and say, "Oh, heh heh, I did not know about that. Heh heh. That is good."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Well, East Coast Girls Are Hip

Last night at Mutual, the Beehives told me about a YouTube video called "Provo Utah Girls," by BYU's Divine Comedy club. (We all remember "Girl's Apartment," right?)

"It's to the tune of "California Girls," they told me.

Since I'm fun, I checked it out. It was easy to find, but I wondered if I had the right video because the song was wrong.

It turns out that there is a NEW California Girls song, one NOT by the Beach Boys. This one, according to Liz, is by the Elmo-related-scandal-maker Katy Perry.

Favorite Christmas Gift

Today for show-and-tell, Victor was assigned to bring his favorite Christmas gift.

He chose to bring his new pants.

They are athletic pants: brick red with a blue stripe down the leg.