Wednesday, June 30, 2010

House of Shade and Water: Screen House as a Pool Shelter

Summer is here, and it is a scorcher.  Ranger and Scout (the toddler formerly known as the Raptor) want to be romping outside, while I am driven to stay in the shade.

Our backyard gets full sun most of the afternoon, so I've been reluctant to put out the wading pool and endure the relentless sunshine while the kids slowly boil in the pool.

In a recent bout of cleaning, I rediscovered a SwissGear Screen House we bought two years ago for $20 (as opposed to its MSRP of $130) and promptly gave a few cubic feet of our garage.

My clever friend mentioned putting a canopy tent over her kids' pool, so I decided our screen house might provide an oasis of shade.

The tent itself was a snap to set up with two adults (though it had been a laughable fail with our earlier toddler, preschooler, and one adult construction team).

The screen house not only offers shade and limits bug exposure, it also keeps the beach balls from getting away.

Though I think we may now need a bigger pool.

What summer solutions are lurking in your garage?

***Baby Toolkit is the unsolicited opinion of a couple pasty (rumored to be cave-dwelling) geek parents with boisterous, outdoorsy kids.  We have no fiscal relationship with SwissGear, but we are Amazon affiliates, so if you make purchases through our Amazon links a small portion of the proceeds power our family's secret Large Hadron Collider.  Okay, they just help pay our monthly Internet bill, but maybe someday...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Motherblogger's Make-over: Improving Moms Without Plastic Surgery

Yesterday I got PR spam selling the virtues of "Mommy Makeover" plastic surgery.

Some PR agency thought that I as a woman with children and a blogger (let's be candid, I'm more of a motherblogger than a sweetie mommy blogger), that I would freely endorse helping mothers
"become a more improved version of themselves"
through the miracles of a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, breast lift, and liposuction.

I don't even wear makeup.  Ever.  The last time I used my blowdryer was to speed-dry a painted name banner two years ago, and the time before that was to de-ice my car's lock in 2003.

Through advertising and marketing, girls are taught from a tender young age that they are not good enough without flawless physical beauty.  It's disturbing.

As women we are continuously taught to hate almost every aspect of the bodies that carry us through life despite those machines' amazing reliability and beauty of design.  When we dislike our physical beings because we don't match impossible standards of appearance, we waste our lives.

During a recent workout, I was so impressed at the weight more experienced members of the class could manage.  As I watched us all in the mirror, they reminded me that each effort, every lift, made me stronger.  When class ended, the same women passed behind my locker discussing how they hated the classroom's mirrored wall and how they spent most of their time focusing on their bodies' faults.  When such strong and beautiful young women obsess over imagined (or minuscule) defects in themselves, it brings everyone down.

For ourselves and for our daughters, I do want moms to become more improved versions of themselves: Please take a week and contemplate what your body does well.

I am glad I can lift my children and other heavy objects.  I rejoice in my ability to see and read.  My hands move across the keyboard with a speed and accuracy that surprises me.  I can laugh until my ribs hurt.  I can climb up a hill or a playground slide.  Though I can't go as far on one breath, I can still glide under the water for a surprisingly long time.  When I smile, people tend to smile back.

This body is more than a casual transport for my brain, and it can do things now that it may not be able to do in 10 years.  Today offers me the gift of an able body, and I can revel in that miracle.

What do you like about yourself?

For an engaging documentary on American culture and female body image check out America the Beautiful (also on Netflix live streaming).

***Baby Toolkit is the mostly unsolicited opinion of a geek family.  These are not the Joneses that everyone is trying to keep up with.  We are Amazon affiliates so a portion of purchases made through our Amazon links defray the costs of the growing empire that is Baby Toolkit.  We have no fiscal relationship with the movie America the Beautiful or its partners.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My Bad Romance: Facebook


When we met I thought we might be friends, but time has taught me that you cannot be trusted to respect my confidences.  And more than that, I'm tired of our ever changing relationship.  This perpetual Easter egg hunt for snippets of actual content gets caught up in the general gossip of other people's lives (what groups they're joining and who is invited to what party).  Time spent with you just feels too much like high school.

Sure, I'm thankful that you've reunited me with a few dear friends, but I just cannot take your incessant chatter.  I especially hate that you may be selling me out while you're wasting my time.

So, Facebook, this means delete not deactivate.  If you find anything that belongs to me, just throw it out.  I hope you will forget we ever met.


Friday, June 04, 2010

Captivity: A Haunting Hoax

...the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead.

These words in the publisher's book jacket description of Deborah Noyes' Captivity set my geek heart all aflutter.  Those interested in American literature, social history, religious history, magic (top hats and card tricks variety), hoaxes, and/or marketing usually have a passing acquaintance with those wily Fox Sisters who opened the floodgates of the American imagination to "the other side."

The chance to "meet" them through a well-researched novelization was a bit of time travel I could not resist.  I also wondered if the author, like so many of their contemporaries, would be able to resist their siren song?  The centrality of the Fox Sisters suggested to me that the tale would either thrive on intrigue or belly-flop into a quagmire of hokum.

I contacted publisher Unbridled Books for a review copy, and I am pleased to tell you that Captivity offers hours of immersive reading.  This is a great summer read and a vacation unto itself (no beach required).

Noyes' story of a famous hoax ends up investigating the real things that haunt us.  This ghost story for skeptics includes mysterious happenings (not of the supernatural variety) that keep pages flying (as if under their own power!) until the very last page.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaCaptivity transforms history into warm-blooded fiction and marries it to historical fiction of the same era.  Readers who liked The Devil in the White City or The Thirteenth Tale will find themselves quickly caught up in the world of the Fox Sisters and (fictional) zoological artist Clara Gill.

Captivity's great pace, interesting characters, and a potent combination of history and fiction make this book a Baby Toolkit top summer reading recommendation.

You can see other books we've been reading, loving, criticizing, contemplating reading, and condemning to the dustbin (library donation box) at Goodreads.

Captivity is available in hardback ($25.95, currently ~$19 at Amazon).

What are you reading?

***Baby Toolkit is the independent opinion of two geek parents.  We're preparing for a great summer vacation by getting a jump start on some gripping fiction.  DISCLOSURE: We received a review copy of Captivity from Unbridled Press.  We have no fiscal relationship with Deborah Noyes or Unbridled Press.  We are Amazon associates, so a portion of the proceeds from sales through our Amazon links pay for our internet connection (thanks, Amazon shoppers!).