Duct tape – a frugal parent’s best friend

You have probably heard over and over that duct tape is the magic solution for all problems. It might even prevent World War III. Here is one fine example of how it can save a parent some money.

Springfree Trampoline

Five years ago, I bought my girls a Springfree® trampoline.  What is awesome about these, pretty much as the name implies, is that there is no spring on which to catch one’s foot.  In fact the whole thing is pretty sleek.  Despite the seemingly hefty $900 price (I see they cost a bit more now), this is the best recreational investment I have made for the kids, for several reasons:

  • After five years, the cost is already down below $200 per year.
  • I set it up in early May and take it down in early November, so it lasts much longer than a swimming pool (here in Canada).
  • The girls use it almost every day that is not rainy when we are around the house, sometimes for as much as an hour a day between them.
  • The girls sometimes stay much longer than an hour on it together – not just jumping, but hanging out (which saved me the time, energy, money and swollen thumbs of building a tree house).
  • Sometimes they use the trampoline to practice dance moves they cannot yet do on the living room carpet, so it does improve their dancing.
  • When they have friends over, it is a natural attraction.
  • It’s an activity I can do with my girls, and I often do.
  • I occasionally use it myself, by myself, just to get my blood flowing in the middle of the day (not often enough, I must confess).

So what does this have to do with duct tape?

Cracks in the Springfree rods

Look carefully at the trampoline.  You see how the net is kept up by curved white poles?  And the trampoline mat is also kept up by curved white poles?  98 of them, in fact.

Well, those poles are not actually curved.  They are straight.  But they are in a state of flex, so they curve, which means they are under a lot of pressure.  Tension.

This spring, as I was taking the trampoline out of hibernation, I discovered cracks in a couple of the poles holding up the net. What was amazing was that these rods, under great pressure and with a crack in their outside curves, were not snapping. Nevertheless, I was worried. So I called Springfree for advice.

They told me (as I had guessed) that the plastic is just a sleeve. Inside was a fiberglass rod that did the actual work. The plastic sleeve’s sole role is to protect the fiberglass from the deteriorating effects of solar radiation.

The problem is that the plastic sleeves themselves will crack as a result of solar radiation.

Their suggestion was to buy new sleeves, for a price of $60. That was for the whole packet; you can’t buy them one by one. If I just let it sit, sooner or later the fiberglass rods inside would deteriorate – and that would be much more expensive to replace.

Then I noticed that it was not just the upright rods holding up the net that were cracked…

Cracks in the Springfree  rods

This was a little unsettling, since these are the supports for the mat we jump on. And almost every one was cracked. In multiple places. Yikes!

But remembering that it is the plastic sleeves that are cracked, not the load-bearing fiberglass rods, I set to work with my duct tape.

I have no idea if the $60 would cover both the upper rod sleeves and the lower ones, but I suspect that the replacement cost for all of them would have been more in the $150 range. Never mind, duct tape is cheaper either way, and it does the job.

  • Duct tape covers the cracks, so that no sunlight can sneak in and harm the load-bearing fiberglass rods.
  • Duct tape holds together the plastic, so that small cracks don’t become larger.
  • Duct tape covers the area between cracks where new cracks are most likely to appear.

I used about half a roll in total and spent about an hour applying it.  Better even than saving the money, is the time I saved.  It took me about an hour to set up the trampoline five years ago.  This time it would take me about that amount of time to disassemble it, and again that amount of time to reassemble it.  So two hours plus an unestimatable amount of time and possible damage and/or pain of changing each sleeve.  But duct tape helped me avoid that for now…and maybe for another five years.

The result?  Ta da!

Duct tape fixes the Springfree

Duct tape fixes the Springfree

Pretty stylish, right?

How to inspire your kids to greatness

To be able to go on to do great things, children need encouragement and inspiration. A child will try his or her best when a parent’s support is behind them. Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out exactly how to help kids with this, but there are some things you can do that are sure to inspire.

Follow Your Child’s Bliss

Pay attention to what your child loves. If he or she loves art, encourage the creation of paintings, sculptures, drawings, or whichever media they have an interest in and keep plenty of art materials on hand. If you notice your child looking at the stars and gravitating toward astronomy topics, make plans for trips to a planetarium. Know what your child is interested in and feed that interest in every way possible.

Give Your Child New Experiences

There is nothing like learning about different cultures and seeing new things to open a child’s mind. It isn’t necessary to take a trip to Japan or Africa to accomplish this. Learning about how things are done in a culture on the other side of the world can show a child that all humans are different and interesting. Going to plays, ballets performances, and museums also fall into this category.

Turn off the Electronics

On at least one night a week, turn off the television, computers, phones, and any other gadget that the family is attached to, and have the family create something together. Any child, regardless of interests, should learn to create. Whether you paint something on a canvas, put together a birdhouse, or build a piece of play equipment for the back yard, make something that your child can see every day and be proud of helping to create.

Look into Extracurricular

Whether it’s a day camp for a particular interest, Scouts youth organization, or sports team, get your child into some extracurricular activity. This gives kids the opportunity to work with other kids outside of a school atmosphere. It is important that your child be interested, though. Some children won’t mesh well with all activities.

Expect Good Things, but Don’t Go Too Far

Letting your child know what you expect in terms of school and activities is a good thing. But be careful not to apply too much pressure. Becoming angry when one of their activities doesn’t work out the way you expected it to will only discourage your child. Celebrate over your child’s efforts toward something, rather than only rewarding a perfect result. Also realize that not all children will be good at everything. It may take a few tries before you and your child figure out the best activities and interests for him or her.

In conclusion, do not underestimate the importance of building your own inspiration as a parent. Read parenting books, discover inspiring family quotes, exchange with other parents and do not hesitate to try new activities.

And do not forget, the key is to spend quality time with your child. This is something your child will remember forever.

About the author: David is the manager of FamousQuotesIndex.com, an interactive database containing close to 30,000 quotes and citations from famous people and popular movies. This post has been featured in the Spring Homeschool Carnival and the Garden of Learning homeschooling carnival.

Treasure Your Memories

I wrote earlier about the first verse of Gary Allan’s “Tough Little Boys”, which has been ringing in my head this past little while. Today, I would like to skip to the third verse.

Here is the video once again, followed by the lyrics, followed by my comments.

Tough Little Boys – Video

Tough Little Boys – Lyrics

Well I never once
Backed down from a punch
Well I’d take it square on the chin
But I found out fast
That bullies just laugh
And we’ve got to stand up to them

So I didn’t cry when I got a black eye
As bad as it hurt, I just grinned
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again.

Scared me to death
When you took your first steps
And I’d fall every time you fell down
Your first day of school, I cried like a fool
And I followed your school bus to town

Well I didn’t cry, when Old Yeller died
At least not in front of my friends
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

Well I’m a grown man
But as strong as I am
Sometimes its hard to believe
How one little girl, with little blonde curls
Could totally terrify me

If you were to ask, my wife would just laugh
She’d say “I know all about men
How tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again”

Well I know one day, I’ll give you away
But I’m gonna stand there and smile
But when I get home, and I’m all alone
Well, I’ll sit in your room for a while

Well I didn’t cry when Old Yeller died
At least not in front of my friends
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

When tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

Tough Little Boys – Commentary

I must confess that I never followed the school bus to town. That is probably because we had the girls already in preschool, which we drove them to. But I did feel like following the bus and I did feel something of a loss.

Mostly, though, this verse makes me recall how our eldest would watch for us in the first year of kindergarten. She would get on the bus and the bus would drive off, then turn around in the parking lot just down the street and double back past our house. Sure as the sun sets in the west, our little girl would be watching out the window, eyes desperate and hungry for our wave. And if it was a rainy day, or I was distracted and it looked like maybe I was not giving my full attention to her when we waved, I would hear about it after school.

This is a memory I cannot forget. Every morning when I put the girls on the bus, our eldest still waves to us and watches (with a little less hunger in her eyes) for me to wave back. And every morning, I see that four-year old that waved with such hunger and need in her eyes.

This memory is precious.

It is important to hold tight to those memories that connect us with our past, with key elements of who we were before we became who we are. It’s important to remember the smiles and the trials, the moments of courage and strengths, the challenges that held us down, the times we pushed back…and how we felt and why we made the choices we did.

We won’t all put those memories into song, but it might be worth a try.