Sunday, November 9, 2014

This or That: Kitchen Edition

Have you ever wondered whether a decision you make at home on auto-pilot is the right one? I do, and have decided to stop guessing by...asking my husband Mark to figure it out. It started with the
dishwasher. We have two (remember: eight kids).

What cycle uses the least amount of energy and water? Here's how it goes:
  • Smartwash (no heat)--best
  • Smartwash (heat)
  • Normal (no heat)
  • Normal (heat)
  • 1 hour (heat is not an option)--worst
Sigh. I've only been doing that wrong for about three years. Has to do with how hot the water has to be and for how long to get the dishes clean faster, and how much fresh water is needed when you don't have time to filter. These results were specific to our Kenmore models but are pretty consistent across models.

Bad news for the environment: The drying cycle only adds another 9% onto the energy used per cycle. This seemed miniscule to me, especially since the dishes are wet and my dishwasher gets moldy when I go days and weeks without using the "heat dry," as I stoically do. I didn't mean to, but the first time I used the dishwasher after hearing the "9%" I used the heat cycle, and now I'm up to using it about half the time. I figure I'm still ahead if I lay off the 1-hour wash.

So we moved to clothes washers and dryers. We have a top-load model in the basement (no pictures down there, please) and a front-load model in the kitchen. The front-load is newer and hanging in there, 9 years old and churning out 3 loads a day minimum, partly because Mark has become an amateur appliance repair man for obvious reasons. So I already know our upstairs model is more efficient (hallelujah) but USA Today's recent comparison of top and front loading models of the same year did the comparison. They say front loaders save money in the long run (because they're more efficient) but cost more up front so you need to use them a lot and keep them a long time to make the savings significant.


Of course I always use the hottest, shortest drying cycle, for the same reasons I use 1-hour wash, or run through the rain hoping to get less wet: a less-is-more fixation with Time. Only the hot, fast cycle keeps up with the wash cycle. So I'm not looking this one up, folks. I don't want to know.

We move onto stoves. I use my natural gas stove instead of my electric stove whenever I can so I hoped this was smart because I really hate my electric stove. Not that my electric won't get plenty of back-up use for the holidays, but we've had it for almost 15 years, since before we had a gas line installed, and the imprecision of the burners is explained here on How Stuff Works.  Gas stoves use three times less energy than electric before you even consider the cost difference. 


Now to fridges. I can't do a comparison of different kinds because mine are the same except for the icemaker. One has through-the-door ice and water, the other doesn't have an auto ice maker at all and this turns out to be the significant difference>Listings from EnergyStar

  • Top mount freezer (w/o  ice)--best
  • Bottom mount freezer (w/o ice)
  • Top mount freezer (with ice)
  • Side-by-side (w/o ice)
  • Side-by-side (with ice)--worst
So if you thought having the icemaker on the outside of the fridge saved energy from the opening and closing, you are apparently wrong. That's not why we got it (it was a Brady Bunch thing, I always wanted one, and notice how nicely I keep the orange but skip the avocado color scheme) but keep in mind the differences in energy use are slight, about 13 dollars/year between the most and least efficient kinds of fridges, when comparing similar model years and are affected more by how cold you keep them both than what type you have. 
Brady Bunch kitchen from Brady Bunch Blog

Still, I'll probably get a top freezer model when one or both of these crash and burn. I kind of miss the big, open spaces. I can't even fit a big pizza box in my fridge or freezer, jeez. And the slimy water tray for the icemaker and water supply that always needs to be bleached? Changing the water filter? re-sealing the rubber to make sure that when one side closes the other doesn't pop open? I'm over the side-by-side thing. 

But a little concerned how a top-model will look next to a side-by-side, and what to do when we only need one fridge. What else would I put in there? 

I have other this-or-that dilemmas chasing their tail in my brain, about how much energy the twinkle lights all over my house (and yard) use, but I'll save investigation for closer to Christmas, when it's relevant to sane people who only string them up then. 

Or maybe not investigate at all.

Love, Lisa

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Parenting Playbook

My youngest daughter thinks I'm unreasonable about her bedtime, and of course 
she may be right. I'm closing in on my 10,000th day as a parent, and with all the extra practice from all the extra kids, I have a playbook I stick to pretty closely.  
I can't have long debates over bedtimes for 10,000 nights, I'd lose my mind. So I become rigid about some things because I think they're right or they're effective, and I won't debate them. They become a kind of parental operating manual that my husband I mostly share, though we have our own styles. Here are some of my go-to's over the years: 

  • If you're sarcastic, I'll stop talking to you until you're merely sullen. If you're polite I'm going to beam at you like endless sunshine and bathe you in attention.
  • If you're late for curfew, you'll get locked out and have to knock and face your father. He won't be happy.
  • If you're on time for curfew, you have to knock and come into our room. Our light is on low until everyone is home. You have to talk to us until we say good night. This is not a one-word conversation. 
  • You have a brother or sister, or two to share your room. You have to find a way to share and get along. We're not going to broker many peace deals because you're always going to be living with other people in life. You have to practice.
  • If you bully any of your siblings, hell will rain down on you in the form of innumerable chores you need to do in their stead and kindness reparations that can be grueling.
  • If you're crying or whining or nasty in public, we'll leave. I won't be happy. You'll have to find a way to make it up to me. Until then things will be tense between us, and there may be grounding. It depends on how bad you were. 
  • We're in charge of your religion until you're sixteen. Conveniently, this is just past the age of Confirmation. 
  • Mistakes are constant, and natural, for all of us. The thing is to recognize
    them, and do something different next time. That might be a mistake too, but eventually you'll get to the right place. If you don't recognize a mistake, or learn from it, I'll tell you. If I make a mistake and you were right, I'll tell you that too. 
  • Driving is expensive and can be dangerous. We're not going to help you get a license or let you borrow a car until we're impressed with your judgment and decision-making skills. This can vary between the ages of 16 and never. (Similar rules exist for cellphones and computers). 
  • Chores are a given, and unpaid, just like mine. If you screw them up, you'll have to do them over but that's your choice. There are some extra jobs, including babysitting, that you can get paid for. A good attitude will help you get these jobs if you want them. 
  • If you put in the effort of being on a team, I'll put in the effort of going to every game. With pleasure, no matter how I have to rearrange things at work. Ditto for awards ceremonies, recitals, concerts and art shows, and then we'll get ice cream because you make me so proud. 
  • I'm going to have opinions on your classes/colleges/relationships/jobs because I know you, and I know stuff. I'm going to try to convince you to do things that I think are best for you, and you pretty much have to hear me out. That's all, just listen. Then I'll help you when you choose something else. 
  • Once you finish school, you need to get a job and move out into the world. There may be extenuating circumstances that keep you home, but if so you still need to be working and contributing to the household as an adult. 

There are more, but the point is that the more kids you have, the more chances you have to find the "parent plays" that fit your personality, your family, and most of all that work. If you're lucky, they also make you laugh. On long car trips, driving alone with a car full of kids can be a nightmare. Having an SUV  that fit nine of us was a decidedly mixed blessing. So there was always the promise of McDonald's. Always. And the kids who were good on the ride got Happy Meals. The rest got a hamburger (no cheese) and a milk. 
from the root

The Sad Meal.

We have a home version too (peanut butter sandwich, no jelly, and milk) for kids sent to bed early.  There's a lot of chuckling from the older kids when they see it threatened, but I'm sure they'll use it themselves when they're parents. There's a culture and camaraderie to growing up in a big family that I don't even fully understand, because the family I grew up in was small. Knowing that most of the experiences you had as a child are shared with this whole group of people is kind of cool. 

Including having a Mom who rolls her eyes and defers to her rulebook every time you have a complaint. 

As to the rigidity part of all this, I think it's more like a parental routine, and I'm not that bad overall. I took a quiz to check ;) (see below). My rules have built-in wiggle room. If there's a big game on and you're into it, you can stay up to see who wins. But a movie? That can be recorded and watched the next afternoon, hit the sack.

It's gotten to the point that when faced with a tough situation regarding one of our kids, the first thing my husband and I ask ourselves is "what did we do last time?" and then "how did that work out?" Like coaches who don't get too riled by a few bad plays and are always fine-tuning the game plan to try to keep the team ahead. We still want to win, and for our kids to have great lives, but we're not going to get there by throwing out everything we've learned. So bedtime is 9:00 on school nights in middle school, 10:00 in high school, lights out 30 minutes later. 

Of course she is our only child at home in school now, so might be occasionally lax in rule enforcement ;). 

Love, Lisa

What's Your Parenting Style?