Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, July 23, 2021

Four Things

1. My daughter has solved a problem for me caused in part by a sort of technology-induced blindness.

I had always been a little dissatisfied with the kinds of lunches I was packing for her. She hates bread, so sandwiches are out the window -- for starters. And then, during summer camp, she became loathe to use her bento box, because she thought it looked childish. Oh, and she wanted something hot in her meal.

And she offered by way of suggestion a very good way to do it.

Back in kindergarten, we'd gotten her a set of two thermoses. One was for drinks and the other for soup. The soup container went unused for years, but I had told her it could keep things warm, and she remembered that. (I know, because I asked her how she came up with the idea.) She wanted Spaghetti-O's that day. I wasn't sure how well it would work, so I told her so and offered to try it as an experiment.

So I went ahead and microwaved them and put them in her soup canister. It worked very well. She has since had leftover dinners, scrambled eggs, and breakfast fajita mix, heated in the microwave and kept warm in the thermos. Today, she's having chicken piccata, aka "Daddy chicken."

It's an elegant solution, and may seem blindingly obvious to many of you -- but I never thought of it because I always use a microwave when I want to heat something for lunch, and had mentally pigeonholed the canister for soup, which I generally don't regard as a meal.

Mrs. Van Horn got her some small plastic containers that can fit onto a freezer block for side dishes. She's been quite happy, and it solves a dilemma I've had for some time: How can I work at places that don't have microwaves without having to buy a lunch or resort to cold sandwiches, which I'm rarely in the mood for?

This is how, and I can thank my daughter's fresh perspective and creativity for it.

(And now that I'm editing, I recall doing something similar when my son was in a hot dog-eating phase. I'd put heated 'dogs in a drink thermos (minus the straw) for trips, knowing he wouldn't do fast food. This doesn't make my daughter's idea any less creative or, since I'd forgotten this, any less appreciated.)

Update: It is important to let children know not to use a lunch stored hot if it is not warm to the touch, or to eat from a hot container later on. The leftovers have to be discarded. More here.

The author and his wife, as game characters. There must have been no facial hair options in this game: He portrays me with my beard when possible. (Image by my son, copying permitted.)
2. Surprise, surprise: My son loves computer games. He will sometimes try to induce his parents to play -- or simply have more character options -- by creating characters for us.

The first time he did this, he got me to play Among Us by making me a character named Nin, with a green space suit (my favorite color) and a "Florida hat," as I like to call the kind I wear to the beach.

His latest creations are of me and Mrs Van Horn, at right. These were extra characters that my wife saved from digital oblivion when it became apparent he needed to get rid of them due to some kind of limit in the game he was playing. He always does a good job, considering the media at his disposal.

He once did great Lego miniatures of my in-laws. I believe they ended up using my photos of those in their Christmas letter last year.

3. I was glad I took Cal Newport's advice to have a "working memory" file on all my electronics devices, including my phone.

This was great for taking notes during my kids' latest check-up. Mrs. Van Horn always wants to know their heights and weights, and we're monitoring a medical condition my daughter shares with me, so I had a great place to keep track of the new data and what I need to do next.

My daughter is closing in on being as tall as her mother. A year or so should do it, I think.

4. I like the fact that in Florida, unheated swimming pools have tolerable water temperatures during most of the summer. By contrast, back in Maryland, I developed a rule of thumb after several times of having the kids ask me to take them swimming, only to get out of the water and ask to leave because it was too cold: No swimming unless it has been at least 85 for at least three days running. Ground temperatures lag ambient air temperatures.

I do face a weather problem here, though. Around this time of year, it pretty reliably thunders and rains in the afternoon -- the time it would otherwise be best to take a dip. Often, it's obvious, and I have no issue since the kids know that swimming during thunderstorms is a Bad Idea.

One day, it seemed nice, and I was in the mood to go swimming -- but the forecast called for scattered thunderstorms. I looked outside and there were threatening clouds in many directions, despite the sunshine.

So I decided against swimming and kept my trap shut about the whole idea.

Unknown to me, Pumpkin was Facetiming with a school friend, and they hatched a scheme to cajole their parents into a play date at the pool at 3:00.

I had to say no to their plan, and I explained why, but the momentary sunshine outside didn't help, despite the fact I took her outside and pointed to all the clouds.

The lightning show and torrential downpour fifteen minutes later were a welcome and timely demonstration of my superior fatherly wisdom.

Sometimes the weather does cooperate!

-- CAV


: Added note to Item 1.


Dinwar said...

#4 reminds me of something that happened at a jobsite. We have a rule to not work if lightning is within ten miles--drill rigs and excavators are tall metal objects, aka lightning rods. A contractor tried to argue with us that we were fine, they hadn't heard thunder in 20 minutes, they could get back to work. While we were on the call a small lightning bolt hit a pile of dirt near where they were talking. Fortunately no one was hurt, just surprised. We got no more complaints after that, and a fantastic story to use to explain why this rule exists!

Gus Van Horn said...


Good story, and, yes, there IS nothing quite like having real-life experience as an example.