Squeezing the Charmin Ultra Strong–You Just Can’t Stop Yourself

charmin ultra strong

charmin ultra strongOkay, I admit it. As a single dad on a budget, I have a bias towards bargain brands, and toilet paper is no exception. I’ve used my favorite warehouse brand TP for decades and never made a connection between it and the underwear skid marks (I always assumed it was operator error—mine and the kids’). So when the folks at Charmin sent me some Charmin Ultra Strong and asked me to review it, I wasn’t terribly excited. I mean, toilet paper is toilet paper, right? Coincidentally, though, it was time to install new rolls in two of our four bathrooms, which gave us a chance to do a butt-cheek-to-butt-cheek comparison.

The difference was immediately noticeable in several ways. First, Charmin Ultra Strong is really soft. It made all those commercials with the family of bears seem a little less silly (plus, they always make me miss Mr. Whipple, who, sadly, died in 2007.) That by itself wouldn’t have been enough to get me to switch brands (although if I lived in Morocco, where the TP feels like sandpaper or one of many countries where they use newspaper, I would have switched immediately).

Second, there were fewer skid marks (aha! So it might not have been operator error after all). Maybe it’s just our family’s diet, but even with bleach, those marks never got completely out of our underwear, which meant I needed to buy replacements pretty regularly. The difference seems to be Charmin Ultra Strong’s washcloth-like texture. Human bottoms are apparently kind of like English muffins, in that they both have all sorts of nooks and crannies. Regular, flat TP can’t clean out those hiding places very well unless you use a ton of it and wipe three or four times (and, let’s face it, who’s got time for that?). But Ultra Strong’s texture did the job after just one wipe. The bottom line? You end up with cleaner underwear and use less three or four times less toilet paper to boot. Actually, let’s call it half as much: Ultra Strong is so soft that you may end up giving yourself an extra wipe just because it feels so nice. Either way, the trifecta of using less TP, cleaner underwear, and softness is definitely reason enough to switch.

Disclosure: I received free product and some compensation to facilitate this review. However, it would take more than a few rolls of toilet paper and a few bucks to make me give something a thumbs up that I don’t honestly believe it deserves.

photo credit: charmin.com

End Bullying + Safety vs. Panic + Adolescents and Risk

Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied.
Topic: What every parent, teacher, and kid needs to know about ending the cycle of fear.
Issues: Eye-opening stats on the prevalence of bullying; the harmful effects of bullying on the brain; creating a home environment that produces neither bullies nor victims; why typical school anti-bullying/zero tolerance policies do more harm than good.

Paula Statman, author of Raising Careful, Confident Kids in a Crazy World.Topic: Teaching kids to be safe and strong.
Issues: Striking a healthy balance between safety and panic; turning nice kids into safe kids; why scare tactics don’t work; what parents and kids need to know about sex offenders; much more.

Michael Ungar, author of Too Safe for Their Own Good.
Topic: How risk and responsibility help teens thrive.
Issues: Adolescents are safer now than at any time in history—why are we overly protecting them? How bubble-wrapping kids stunts their healthy growth and puts them at harm; the benefits of experiencing manageable amounts of danger.

Hey, Let’s Take a Road Trip!

When you’re hitting the road with the family, comfortable and occupied kids are quiet. And quiet kids make for a far more peaceful experience for everyone. Here are some new road trip accessories for kids of all ages to help you keep on truckin’.

Junkie orgznizerJunkie and Sneck (BubbleBum)
Junkie is a car organizer/activity station combo that keeps kids’ stuff all in one place and your car cleaner. Just stock it with your children’s favorite toys, harness it into the backseat, and you’re ready to roll. There are two retractable trays, two cup holders, an insulated area for cold items, and plenty of storage for coloring books, snacks, crayons, and anything else you can think of. There’s also a removable tote bag so you can bring your finished (or in-progress) projects into the house, hotel, restaurant, or wherever you’re headed. Sneck is a travel pillow (microbeads on the inside, plush on the outside) that makes easy for kids to nap in the car. You can use the Velcro strap to attach it to almost any headrest and your child can then adjust it to the perfect spot. Sneck also has a small mesh pocket that can hold a small toy or electronic device. Junkie and Sneck are both available at https://www.bubblebum.co/us/  or most major retailers.

Necknapperz (Necknapperz)
Like Sneck, Necknappers are microbeads-inside-plush-outside neck pillows. But they’re also adorable, cuddly stuffies that your kids will love to play with while they’re waiting to board the plane or entertaining themselves in their car seat. When they get tired, a few zips and shakes and they’ve got a supportive U-shaped pillow that will minimize the stiff shoulders and necks caused by sleeping with your head flopping around. All 22 Necknapperz have snaps and are easy to attach to your (or your child’s) luggage so they won’t get lost. Retail for $19.99 at http://www.necknapperz.com/

EquiptBaby (EquiptBaby)
This portable bassinet is so small, you can fold it up and put it into your diaper bag. The outside is fine, see-through mesh that lets you keep an eye on your baby from any angle. Besides keeping bugs away, the mesh has an SPF 50 rating to protect your baby from the sun. The padded insert is machine washable, so post-diaper-blowout cleanup is easy. Setup takes literally three seconds (folding it back up takes maybe 10). For ages 0-6 months. $69.95 at www.equiptbaby.com

If you’ve ever run out of sleeping space on a camping trip, grandma’s house, or even a kids’ sleep over at your own house, you really need to check out Kid-O-Bunk portable bunkbeds. They look a little like army cots, but they’re smaller, come in far more attractive colors, and are much more portable. Setup takes just minutes, no tools, mattresses, or ladders required. You can also configure Kid-O-Bunks as a bench for daytime use, or as two single beds if you’ve got the space or the kids can’t decide who gets the top bunk. Regardless of the configuration, they come with plenty of pockets that are ideal for holding books, glasses, pens, and—if you’re allowing it—electronic devices. The material is machine washable, which is always nice. And they come in a zippered bag which makes storage and schlepping really easy. Recommended for kids up to age 12, each cot can hold up to 200 pounds, so weight (hopefully) won’t be an issue. Tall kids, however, may have a little trouble fitting. Comes with two bunks, adapters for stacking, two carry bags, two organizers, and a set of footpads (to minimize ground sinking outdoors or floor damage indoors). $289 at http://www.kidobunk.com or http://www.cabelas.com/

Long Commute Makes Parenting Tough

long commute

long commuteDear Mr. Dad: I work pretty far away from my home and typically spend nearly two hours in the car each way. I also travel a lot for business. I know it’s not a perfect situation, but I’m not in a position to make a change right now. The biggest problem is that I feel like I don’t have a role in my children’s life anymore. They’re 7 and 10. When I head out for work in the morning, they’re still sleeping, when I come home they’re usually getting ready for bed or are already asleep. And on the weekends, it seems like all I do is run errands and take care of household repairs. What can I do to stay connected with my kids?

Reconnecting with your children after a long day at the office is tough enough. Your brutal commute just makes it tougher. As you said, your situation isn’t ideal. But fortunately, there are ways to stay actively involved.

  • Start with the weekends. I’m betting that the kids miss you as much as you miss them. And I’m sure they’d be thrilled to go with you on your errands or give you a hand while you’re fixing things. If you need to go to the bank, take them along. Same with the grocery store, the car wash, or anything else. Always make a point of asking their advice and including them in any decisions or choices you have to make. What you do isn’t important; the point is that you’re spending time together. Plus, with a little planning, you can turn almost any errand into an adventure or a learning experience.
  • Try to set aside at least one evening per week for a family dinner. No fancy restaurants, no elaborate five-course meals. Pizza is just fine. Again, the goal is to spend time together. That’s great for keeping relationships strong and may help your kids in other ways. Several studies have found that there’s an inverse correlation between family meals and children’s risk of abusing drugs (meaning that as the number of dinners goes up, the risk goes down). If possible, play a game together or even Netflix a couple of movies.
  • You can also make better use of all that time in the car. If you’re not going to make it home in time to read the kids a book and put them to bed, call them (using hands-free, of course). Ask them about their day and tell them about yours, help them with their homework, make up a story, or sing a song.
  • Even if you’re not able to see your children as much as you’d like to face to face, you can still let them know that you love them and care about them. One of the nicest ways to do this is by making their lunch for them and including a special note (I used to write notes to my daughters on the shells of their hardboiled eggs).
  • Finally, although you didn’t mention her, don’t forget about your wife. First, make sure you tell her that you appreciate all the extra labor she puts into managing the household and taking care of the kids while you’re at work or on the road. Second, while family time is important, it’s just as important to carve out some special adult time. If possible, get a sitter to keep an eye on the kids while you and your wife go out and enjoy a romantic evening.

All of these things may seem small, but believe me, they’ll make a huge difference to your kids and your wife. .

Effects of Deployment on Children + Deadly Math Problems

Jill Biden, author of Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops.
Topic: The Second Lady of the US talks about being the mother of a deployed soldier and the effects of deployment on children.

Sean Connolly, author of The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math.
Topic: Death-defying challenges for young mathematicians.
Issues: How to defeat vampires using algebraic equations; destroy and out-of-control asteroid using geometry; escape an enemy spy using ratios and proportions; plus killer tornadoes, deadly spiders, zombies, and more.