Get More Bang for Your Buck with Three Easy Home Fixes

At the Craftsman Blogger Summit in June, before we were allowed to use any of the tools at the Craftsman Experience, we were introduced to Lou Manfredini.

Lou works for Ace Hardware as their Home Expert. At the Summit, he was the one in charge of making sure we knew how to use the equipment safely. After I returned from Chicago, I was contacted on Lou’s behalf: Would I like a home improvement themed guest post? It was bound to lean a little heavily on the “Go to Ace Hardware for your needs…” stuff, but since I actually do shop at Ace Hardware I don’t really have any antipathy for it.

So, here is a home improvement themed guest post, by Ace Hardware Home Expert, Lou Manfredini.

Get More Bang for Your Buck with Three Easy Home Fixes

If you’re looking to make a few updates around your home this summer without breaking the bank, look no further. With a very small investment and a little effort, any homeowner can tackle these tasks and reap the benefits. Here are three easy home maintenance projects that you can get done in just one weekend – or less!

  1. Maintain your outdoor spaces. Any homeowner that has a deck or outdoor wooden patio knows how quickly the sun or moisture from rain can ruin the natural beauty of the wood. There is an amazing clear, wood stain called Flood Clear Wood Finish with UV Protection, which is available at Ace Hardware, that not only seals the wood and protects it from moisture; it also offers UV protection from the sun. The stain can even bring life back to weathered wood and depending on the size of your deck or patio you can make your space beautiful again for as little as $20.
  2. Change front door light fixtures. By changing your light fixtures you instantly transform the main entrance to your home, adding ambiance and curb appeal. With so many options available, it’s important to take the size of your door and entrance into account when you make your selection. If you have a small entryway, I recommend a chain hung lantern mounted over the front door. This will maximize the light without over shadowing the beauty of the door. For homeowners with a large front entryway, I recommend adding wall lanterns on each side of the front door, slightly above eye level.  When installing, make sure the breaker is off and follow the installation instructions that come with your new fixtures.
  3. Refresh your hardwood floors. New floors are expensive, but most hardwoods can be freshened up inexpensively with a coat of waterborne urethane like Ace Great Finishes® Water-Based Poly Finish.  Before you begin, make sure to clean the floor thoroughly.  Then, apply the finish with a synthetic sheepskin pad and let cure for a couple of hours. The urethane will remove many of the scratches and add a new shine so your floors look like new.

For more product tips and advice to help you turn your home maintenance to-do list into a to-done list, head to your local Ace Hardware store or visit

Guest Post from Daisy: Let’s Learn About Awesome

Daisy, author of DaisyJD, is a Twitter friend who is also a Red Wings fan and that’s pretty much all I should have to tell you about her. Let’s Go Red Wings.

I’m DaisyJD, and on the surface Backpacking Dad & I might not have that much in common. The last backpack I carried was in law school and it was full of heavy, overpriced books filled with mostly useless information. (Law degree, FTW!) He has a wife and two adorable children and I have a husband and a neurotic beagle mix who thinks a stuffed Eggland’s Best egg is his best friend. Shawn lives in California, my husband and I live in Chicago. The list goes on…. but before you start wondering just where in the heck I’m going with this I’ll throw it out there that Backpacking Dad and I both have a slightly unnatural love for the Detroit Red Wings. I’m not really your stereotypical hockey fan. Growing up my parents took my brother and I to the occasional college football game, a few polo matches and once we went to the University Boat Race in London, a rowing event held on the Thames River. Needless to say, the National Hockey League wasn’t sending me emails regarding upcoming ticket sales. Then, as many women do, I met a man who swept me off my feet and I got to learn in excruciating detail all sorts of things about his favorite sports teams. Namely the Michigan Wolverines, the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Red Wings. As a solid University of Southern California and New Orleans Saints fan, I couldn’t be swayed by his atrocious taste in football, however…well…the Red Wings sucked me in. For those of you new to hockey (or just reading about it, say, right now) let me run over the finer points:

1. It is fast and therefore fun to watch unlike, say, baseballzzzzzzzzzzz sorry I fell asleep;

2. Fights, which while rudimentary at best, are very fun to watch; and

3. Beer, lots of beer, and often times delicious ice cold Canadian beer.

Now that you are sold on the game of hockey lets dig a little deeper. The National Hockey League began in the United States in 1942 with six teams, now referred to as the Original Six. If you meet someone who cheers for a hockey team outside of this list of six, please feel free to snub them. The Original Six were the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It wasn’t until 1967 that the NHL expanded, allowing six more teams in (including some teams that were operating before then, but sadly for them, they are not part of the Original Six) and slowly the league grew into what it is today. Although, if you ask me, Raleigh, North Carolina and Tampa, Florida should not have a team. (Alas, no one asked me. ) Anyway. The Red Wings. According to Wikipedia (the knower of all things true):

Between the 1933-34 and 1965-66 seasons, the Red Wings missed the playoffs only four times. More recently, the Red Wings have made the playoffs in 25 of the last 27 seasons, including the last 19 in a row. This is the longest current streak of post-season appearances in all of North American professional sports.

Take that Yankees fans.

The Red Wings roster has included many greats including my husband’s personal favorite Steve Yzerman (the only hockey sweater he will wear bears Yzerman’s name and number), Gordie Howe and my personal delight Chris Osgood. The Red Wings are known for many fun traditions, namely winning, but also the legend of the octopus that is thrown onto the ice by energetic fans during play off games. Ollie’s 8 legs signify the 8 game sweep that was necessary during a post season tournament of two “best of seven” rounds in the 1950’s for the grand trophy of them all, the Stanley Cup. Like the Lombardi Trophy in football, it is the award given for the top NHL team of the year, and the Red Wings have brought it home to the fine citizens of Detroit a grand total of eleven times.

At this point, with a few mind staggering statistics and the mention of people throwing dead octopi (octopuses or octopodes, natch) onto large sheets of ice, I remain firmly convinced at this point that I have lured you into the ways of the Red Wings, and at the very least the game of hockey, but if for some reason I have not, let me take you back to point three:


And there we have it. Lets go Wings!

— Daisy, Just Daisy

Guest Post from Heather: Sibling Rivalry

Heather is the Babyshrink. I’ve been asking her for parenting advice for as long as I’ve had a dad blog. I begged her to write a guest post for me and she agreed, which is kind of like getting a lawyer to give you legal advice for free, or a contractor to build an addition for free, or a philosopher to drive a taxi for free. I’m very pleased to let the rest of you share in her wisdom. Definitely read her blog for answers to more questions, and don’t be afraid to enlist her professional help if you find yourself out of your depth.

I asked her the following question: "So, part of my daily routine is trying to teach Erin that when Adrian whines or cries at her constantly being up in his face or grabbing his head or taking his toys or pushing him as she runs by, he doesn’t really like it. It’s not fun for him. However, I find that I’m spending a noticeable amount of time saying "Erin, leave him alone!" or responding to his demands for comfort by picking him up or hugging him or something. It often feels like what I’m reinforcing to her is that I think she hurts her brother and what I’m reinforcing to him is that daddy will pull his bacon out of the fire. Adults who end up with attitudes like that are generally bullies or wusses, and we don’t respect them. Is there a link between what I’m doing, which I think is appropriate, and that outcome, which I think is inappropriate?"

To which she replied:

Shawn is a philosopher, so he’s assigned me a heavy-duty philosophical issue to solve – ONLY an issue that’s plagued humanity for all history. The issue of sibling rivalry — in 500 words or less. Shawn, YOU’RE the one who needs to finish his dissertation – I’ve already done mine! So what’s up with your complicated question?! I’ll try to be brief – but it’s a huge issue.

I love it when parents say, “Our toddler is SO happy that she has a little baby brother, now. She seems to have accepted him totally!” Just wait. Sibling rivalry usually doesn’t become a problem until your toddler has to contend with a mobile baby – one who gets into her stuff, pulls her hair, and otherwise competes with her in the Zone of Stardom she previously owned in the family. When that happens, all the harmony that existed in the home evaporates, replaced by screams of “MINE!”, “HE HIT ME!”, “STOP TOUCHING ME!”, and “AAAAAGGHHHHH!”

It’s pretty upsetting, to see it in action. Our fierce protectiveness of the baby kicks in, and it’s made worse by the fact that the offender ALSO belongs to you. “How COULD she? Am I raising a sociopath? What have I done wrong?” We worry.

First of all, it’s important to understand how painful it is for your toddler to have to share you with a sibling. Here’s an analogy: Your partner comes to you and says, "Honey, I love you SOOOO much that I’ve decide to get another partner JUST LIKE YOU — to live with us, be taken care of by me, and to mess up all your stuff. Isn’t that GREAT?!" Not really. In fact, pretty sucky. That’s how your toddler feels (at least some of the time).

And yet: The sibling relationship has the potential to be profoundly important. Think about it: We have the longest relationship of our lives with our siblings. Siblings can understand each other like no one else, because of the shared, early experiences of our families of origin. For these reasons, we WANT our kids to get along.

First of all, know this: Parenting a toddler AND a baby who are fairly close in age (anything less than 3 or 3 1/2 years apart) is really, really hard. In fact, IT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING I HAVE EVER DONE. Shawn, getting your Ph.D. is going to be easier than getting Erin to stop hammering away on Adrian.

I’m here to give you two messages: 1) Don’t worry – it’s common and typical for toddlers, little kids, and even big kids to fight like cats and dogs. It’s a drag for parents, and not usually anything to worry about, BUT, 2) we have our work cut out for us, if we want to maximize the potential good relationship between our kids. There are lots of things we can do to make it smoother – maybe not so much now, but for the future.

That said, keep these things in mind:

  • Safety, of course, is Job One. Never, EVER, leave a baby alone with your toddler (at least up to age 4), even for a second. The toddler can’t help herself — and you’re not allowed to get mad at her if she starts hitting while you’re not looking. She’s just too young for you to expect more.

  • Adopt a "matter-of-fact" attitude. In normal circumstances, your toddler isn’t a sociopathic maniac, and your baby isn’t a traumatized victim. Baby is tougher than you think, and Toddler is less evil than you fear.

  • Expect your toddler to try to hammer away at the baby — it’s simply human nature – but let everyone know you won’t allow her to hurt the baby. Your mission is to convey this: “I can’t let you hurt the baby. Tell me you’re mad, but hitting isn’t allowed. It looks like you’re mad because Adrian got to sit next to me. Am I right?” Guide the interaction towards talking. This is the perfect crucible to grind out the issue of talking about feelings – instead of acting them out. Political correctness, manners and grace come much, much later (6, 7 and beyond). In the meantime, expect to be there as protector — and try not to get disappointed, worried, or critical of your toddler. She’s just really bummed about having to share you.

  • Resign yourself to breaking up fights — sometimes constantly. I know it feels like you’re a referee all day sometimes, and it’s easy to worry about the future implications of the sibling relationship. "Will they always attack each other like this?!" They might for a really long time — and that might actually be a good thing. Family is the pressure cooker of life, and siblings have the opportunity to work out lots of life’s big issues together: Sharing, patience, and cooperation.

  • But you’ve got to emphasize the positive. When they DO get along — notice, praise, and reward. "What nice sharing, you two! Wow, what a lovely time you’re having together. That looks really fun." Even if it’s only a brief interlude in the action, make a point of praising.

  • Finally, make it a point to regularly schedule “special time” with each of your kids – ideally, with each parent, separately and together – to get some time where that one kid can be the focus. Nothing fancy — even if it’s just a trip to the market while the baby is home with grandma, it will help.

But these are complex dynamics, and it can get really tricky. Lots of my clients need help strategizing with the task of juggling Baby and Toddler, so let me know if I can help you with your family. Having 4 young kids of my own – plus my practice specializing in young children — has helped me to think through a lot of this stuff. So if you’d like some help with your own kids, check out my Parent Coaching packages – starting at $75 – at I’d love to talk with you personally!

Thanks for the guest spot, Shawn. Now what about that dissertation?!


Dr. Heather

The BabyShrink