Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everyone Loves Peanut Butter and Chubby Babies

All I do is facebook. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, and poop facebook. So, as I was getting my morning fix, I noticed that today is Unite for Hunger and Hope Day (thanks for the do-gooder goading, Jay). Bloggers are supposed to write a post about ending world hunger. And since my blog is the first thing most Americans read, I thought I'd do my part.

There's nothing worse than being hungry (I know how bad I feel when I haven't had my Nesquik by 10 a.m.). And as a parent, I can't imagine looking into the eyes of my starving children everyday. Half of the world's children who die, starve to death. But that's actually a good thing--not the death, but the cause--because the problem is solvable (unlike AIDS, cancer, child abuse, or other causes of death). In fact, a French scientist developed a great product called Plumpy'nut. It's made of peanut butter, vitamins, minerals, and powdered milk; it doesn't need refrigeration; and it has a 95% recovery rate for severely malnourished children. Wow! What a product!

For $15 (my family spends twice that at McDonald's), you can buy enough Plumpy'nut to save a child. Sometimes it's hard to be moved by anonymous people halfway around the world, but imagine how grateful you'd be if someone gave you something that would save your child's life. You can help here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy April 15th!

I think it's our responsibility as citizens to be able to do our taxes. Sure, for some it's easier or more efficient to to go an accountant. For others, their taxes are complicated and they need professional help. But most people should be able to use a software program or just read the instructions in the 1040 booklet.

Yes, the U.S. tax code is complex, but much of it doesn't apply to average individual tax payers. And it's not like filing tax returns is a one-time deal. It's something most people do every year for 50 years or more. So, figure it out. If you have a new tax situation, learn about it. Your knowledge base will grow and what once seemed tricky (claiming income from stock sales, filing with partial-year residency in multiple states) will become easy.

And for goodness sake, don't under-withhold. Just don't do it. And if you do it, don't blame anyone when you owe money.

April 15th shouldn't be a bad day--unless you have a messy house and seven people coming over tonight. Better get to work!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Less Is Less (Work)

We always have a laundry back-up. I guess it's because we're disorganized, or because we have four small kids, or because we're busy with more important stuff, or because our washer and dryer are in the cold garage, or because the kids fight and misbehave and get into the Thin Mints when I'm out of the house for five stinkin' minutes! Well, for whatever reason, we have piles of dirty clothes. The piles get moved when we have company, sorted through when we're looking for something specific, and just stepped on the rest of the time.

We usually assess the clothing situation every night. "Do the kids have clothes for tomorrow? Are they weather-appropriate? Do we have clothes? Are sports uniforms clean?" Inevitably, we forget something, and Ian is wearing my socks, or we're drying off with hand towels (a 6'1" man drying off with a hand towel is pretty comical). After studying this problem for several months, I've noticed that we're all wearing the same four outfits (well, we're not ALL wearing the same outfits, we're each wearing our own same four outfits). A few clothes get washed, they're worn and thrown on top of the dirty pile, they get washed again, and the vicious cycle starts over.

After amassing piles of data (literally) and conducting a thorough analysis, I've concluded that we all need fewer clothes. The kids will have seven warm-weather outfits and one cold-weather outfit for spring and summer (we recently bought their spring/summer clothes and I'm in the process of sorting their winter stuff). All their other clothes will be given away or put away for a younger sibling. I have tons of clothes that I will only wear if nothing else is clean, but if I keep my acceptable clothes clean, I won't need the "emergency" clothes ("Quick, grab the stained Yosemite t-shirt--it's a laundry emergency!!"). And Nathan can't possibly need 20 junky work t-shirts and 30 pairs of holey socks.

I hope that this simplification will improve the laundry situation, and if it doesn't, at least the piles will be smaller.