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Every Christmas, inevitably, my friends tease me about my fear and loathing of the retail-created Elf On The Shelf tradition.
You know what I am talking about – the annoying little creature who looks like Isaac from Children of the Corn and shows up in countless Facebook pictures during the month of December. I’m usually tagged in half of them because, apparently, it is hilarious to get on my nerves.
Sorry, but the thought of a little man dressed like a psycho hiding in my house and posing in weird scenarios doesn’t exactly put me or the kids in the Christmas spirit. It is a great way to sell poorly written children’s books though.
But I digress…
Before you go calling me a buzz-kill, let me state for the record that I do not despise all make-believe characters. I like Santa. The Tooth Fairy is pretty cool too. We even have our own make believe character “The Goatman” that we use to keep the kids from wondering off at airports.
I also really like the Halloween Switch Witch.
The Switch Witch is a health and wellness minded witch who takes some of that nasty Halloween candy and (you guessed it) switches it for a toy. The Switch Witch lets the kids control what she does. Put some, all or none of the Halloween candy out for her – she doesn’t care. But the more you give her, the bigger the gift. She won’t hide in your house or, worse, require you to purchase a Witch On The Shelf kit. She just comes and goes on Halloween night, taking whatever your kids want to give her, and leaving behind a present.
With three kids trick or treating, there have been years when we’ve filled a 60 quart storage box full of candy. Add to that the candy they get from school and parties and the corn maze and the pumpkin patch and the bus driver and the mailman and grandpa, and I end up with a candy staging area in my dining room… (chocolates in Box A, lollipops in Box B, gross Candycorn and no-name peanut butter chewy things in Box C – who eats those?)
Hey, if the Switch Witch can help with that, then sign me up.
The Story of the Switch Witch.
The Switch Witch lives in Candyland and so has a serious need for candy. In fact, the whole town of Candyland can’t live without it so they make really cool toys and things hoping that children will trade all their candy on Halloween night for a pair of rollerskates or a doll or whatever and help keep Candyland running strong.
To let the Switch Witch know that you are ready to make a trade, the kids leave a few pieces of candy on the front porch. I suggest Candycorn or those peanut butter chewy things. The kids then leave a bag of candy in their room and a special note asking for a toy. After the kids go to sleep, the Switch Witch will do the old switch-witcheroo. Sometimes she leaves a note too.
In my house she also leaves an apple and a new toothbrush.
If your kids are afraid of witches, tell them that the Switch Witch is the kind and beautiful sister of Glinda from The Wizard of Oz. Whatever works.
Inevitably, my kids will not give her all of their candy. They keep some of the good stuff. And despite my best efforts, their father usually keeps his stash too.
But, if I can condense the 60 quart candy box down to a couple of ziplock baggies then I am happy.
The Switch Witch Spirit
In full disclosure, my kids know good and well that I am the Switch Witch. They don’t believe that Candyland story anymore than they believe the whole Easter Bunny thing.
Comme çi comme ça.
I actually prefer the version that doesn’t include the Elf-On-The-Shelf-like story anyway so nowadays I just say – “Hey, kids, if you donate some of that massive amount of candy to Treats for Troops then I’ll replace it with something cool.” It’s a win-win-win – Me, the kids and the troops
… or, at least the troops who like Candycorn and peanut butter chews.
Moms concerned with living a healthy lifestyle are always on the lookout for safe and natural pest control alternatives. The problem is, when it comes to mosquitoes, most natural remedies do not work well enough to protect your kids from the problems mosquitoes can bring. The dilemma is always the same: risk exposing your children to the harmful effects of DDT or risk exposing them to the deadly diseases that mosquitoes often carry.
A safe solution might be just around the corner: the Kite Mosquito patch has received plenty of seed money, including contributions from the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research have also been contracted to provide testing and research. The NGO Pilgrim Africa in Uganda will be utilized for field testing. Interesting.
Apparently, the 2-by-2 inch adhesive patch that you wear on your shirt, works by interfering with the mosquito’s ability to sense your emission of CO2, essentially making you “invisible” to the pesky blood suckers for about 48 hours.
Even better – the developers claim that the active ingredients are non toxic and considered safe by the FDA for all – children, seniors and pregnant women included. If true, this might prove significant for countries where malaria, West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses affect large portions of the population. According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people contracted malaria in 2010, so the Kite Patch has the potential to be worldwide breakthrough in countries such as Africa where over 91 percent of malaria cases occur.
No details yet on if and when the patch will be available or how much it will cost. As of this writing, researchers are still looking for an additional $75,000 to complete the field trials.
A worthy campaign and certainly one to keep our eye on!
I am a longtime Apple / Max / iPhone user. In fact, I’ve been drinking the Steve Jobs made kool-aid for about ten years now. And I am okay with that because I love me some Apple products. After growing tired of replacing my PC laptops and desktops every few years, I signed away my first born child and bought an iMac. It was so incredibly fabulous that I bought a Macbook too. And I am still using BOTH – nearly ten years later. No crashes. No viruses. No problems. Add to that a slew of other Apple devices: iphones, ipads, ipods, and even the AppleTV, and I would say I am a happy Machead.
So, what the hell am I doing with the new Samsung Galaxy S4?
Call it a moment of weakness. I’ve been listening to the Google-devotees sing the praises of the Galaxy S4 for months. Supposedly, it is everything the iPhone is and more. Bigger, better, stronger, faster and all that. So, with my old iPhone 4 on its last legs, an eligible upgrade and the long wait for the the release of the iPhone 6, I decided to go Droid.
You’ve probably read the same stuff as I have – the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13MP camera (only the rear camera of course, the front is 2mp), an easily accessible and removable battery and expandable storage. When I held that bigger screen in my hand, I was sold. Plus, no more having to depend on some pimply kid in an Apple store to install an $80 battery. I am free at last.
But, deep down, I don’t want to be free! The Apple Store is only like the coolest place on the planet. Visiting a Starbucks and then the Apple Store is the secret wormhole to Yuppie-dom. And those geeky, pimply kids are so nice and comforting in a crisis. Now, looking down at my new phone, I get a sinking feeling every time I see that dumb Samsung swoopy S4 logo instead of the shiny little half-eaten apple. I think I might’ve made a mistake. Someone make me a Genius Bar reservation pronto.
The Galaxy S4 Doesn’t Suck
To be fair, the Jelly Bean powered S4 doesn’t suck. The fact that it comes in FSU Seminole red is pretty cool for us alumni, even though I am sure Samsung doesn’t realize its Seminole red. It’s fast and has great battery life. It has a great looking display – rich colors and clear text. The screen is definitely bigger and better at 5 inches (as compared to the iphone 5′s 4.8 inches). Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend where they stop making everything so damn small. And, just as advertised, the back cover easily pops off giving you full access to your battery and SD card allowing you to expand your battery options and storage capabilities. Nice!
I haven’t made up my mind about the 13MP camera yet. It takes great photos in certain settings, less than great in others. It is better than the 5MP in my old iPhone, but not 8MP-better. Perhaps I was expecting too much.
The weird little physical buttons are a bit hard to get use to. As far as I can figure out, one acts as a “back” button, the big one in the middle is the “home” button and the one on the left is a menu button that I haven’t figured out why I would ever use. Seems like wasted space, especially since they are invisible until you accidentally touch one of them because you forgot they were there. These buttons are a metaphor for the whole phone: invisible features that you didn’t know you had and don’t really need.
In other words – overkill.
Herein lies my biggest gripe about the Galaxy S4 – the bloat. It is so loaded down with bloatware that the advertised 16GB of storage is actually only a little over 8GB. I guess its a good thing they allow you to expand the storage because once you add your music and apps and pictures of the kids and stuff you are going to need it.
Sure, it does lots of cute and fluffy party tricks – for instance, you can wave your arms around to scroll through your picture gallery, or air-slap your fingers near the screen to display a preview of your email. I believe Samsung calls it Air Gestures. Meh. Not only do you look like an idiot, you quickly realize it doesn’t work half the time.
The Smart Stay eye thing is particularly annoying because of the little eyeball cartoon that keeps flashing on the screen when it can’t detect your eyes, which is most of the time. Enough already. I can scroll with my finger like a normal person, thank-you-very-much.
I had my new S4 exactly 24 hours before I disabled Smart Stay and Smart Pause and Air Gestures and Air View and Air-Slap or whatever. Smart Scroll my ass.
Apple does a great job of keeping Verizon or AT&T crap off their phones. Samsung does not. There are upsells around every corner on the S4. And the Google apps… my God the Google apps! They are everywhere. Play Books. Play Magazines. Play Movies. It took me an hour to delete them all. Unfortunately, the S4 includes lots of Crapware that you are not allowed to delete. Bogus!
There is so much junk on the Galaxy S4 that you quickly feel overwhelmed. It’s like a Trader Joe’s shopper being forced to find organic hummus in a Walmart Super Center. Good luck with that.
I definitely do not like having to sign my life away to Google in order to make the transition from Apple easier. People in my line of work already know that The Goog controls way too much of the Internet so I am not particularly thrilled with letting them control my stuff too. How do you get your music from iTunes to your S4, for instance? You download Google Drive and Google Play and Google Wallet and Google Mail and Google This and Google That. Sure, storage is free… for now… so I will drink The Goog Kool-aid and get on their damn grid but I am not happy about it.
Beware of all the password stealing Trojans, botnet infections and pesky malware programs when you go Android. The fact remains – Apple devices have far fewer breaches so you will give up this peace of mind when you switch to the Galaxy S4. Take a look at the most recent ISTR (Symantec Corp.’s Internet Security Threat Report) on mobile vulnerabilities and malware. More than 95% of malicious programs in the mobile environment have been targeted to Android devices. You can thank all that open source code for that.
Better delete all that bloat on your S4 so you can make room for some security apps.
Worthy Of A Switch From iPhone?
With all this said, the Samsung S4 is still a great device, mostly thanks to the battery life, bigger screen and accessible hardware. The rest is just hype and WAY too much bloatware. Turn off the cheesy sound notifications, clean up the clutter, ignore the silly hand waving and eye following stuff, and you will have yourself a device worthy of a switch from the iPhone.
At least until the iPhone 6 comes out…
“It is important to us to give back however we can, and teach our children to do the same. Although they might be fun, flashy cars are not important – people are important. Community is important. Home, family and friendship are important.”
You give up a lot when you become parents. Right away it’s basics like sleep and free time, followed by luxuries like romantic evenings out and eating dinner on the couch. And that’s before the kids can even talk.
Hilton Head Islanders Dan and Tryna Fitzpatrick, both 37, are eight years into this journey called parenthood, which means they’re beyond those initial sacrifices.
They’re giving up their Jaguar S-Type sports car by donating it to Hilton Head’s annual fundraising auction. The car will be sold at auction and 100% of the proceeds will go to the school.
“There’s no room in a Jaguar’s back seat for three kids,” says Dan matter-of-factly. So the Fitzpatrick’s are donating their beloved luxury car to the upcoming fundraiser at the school where their oldest daughter attends. Proceeds from the fundraiser help to broaden the school’s academic and teacher programs, while also providing scholarship and stewardship opportunities for those in the community. The Jaguar S-Type, will be part of a live auction that features getaway vacations to the Bahamas and Scotland, among other posh prizes. But make no mistake: The Jag will be the highlight.
The car is a remnant of the Fitzpatricks’ former life, one that involved lazy weekends spent scuba diving with friends in the Florida Keys where they lived. That life didn’t include three children under the age of 9. It was a life without car seats and sudden spills. It was a life the Fitzpatrick’s never expected to leave behind.
The car was brand new when Tryna bought it in 2000. She’d just had a baby, but as a first-time mom she wasn’t quite cognizant of all the ways in which a Jaguar was impractical. ”It was the first ‘from me to me’ gift for Tryna,” says Dan, dad to Alexa, 8, and her sisters Ashlynn, 3, and Addison, 18 months. “It was her first-ever luxury big-ticket item.”
They had fun with the car for a while, but over the years their priorities shifted. When Ashlynn came along, and then Addison, they found fewer occasions to take it for a spin. Eventually, they bought a minivan. ”We call it Black Magic,” Tryna says of their practical family vehicle. “We thought if we got a black one it would pass for ‘cool.’” To fellow parents, perhaps.
The Fitzpatrick’s moved to Hilton Head three years ago after searching up and down the East Coast for just the right community. ”Tryna and I were looking for a real family-friendly place that would also provide us with good expansion opportunities for our growing business and our family,” Dan says.
Finding a good schools “was like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Tryna says. They are proud supporters of Hilton Head schools, operating a busy school uniform store and being active in the school’s parents’ association. The couple also own a successful digital marketing business, 3-A-Media.com, with clients that include the Federal Government, HHI Chamber of Commerce, the Lowcountry travel association and a growing list of local restaurants, hotels, shops and banks.
“We definitely are not the same people that we were when we first met, but that’s a good thing,” says Tryna, who met Dan at a concert in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “We’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing – like changing diapers and attending PTA meetings, but that is okay because there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.” They’re also happy to be helping the community they love make some money off this remnant from their former, more carefree life. “Tryna and I both have a very strong sense of stewardship toward our neighbors, school and community,” says Dan. Tryna added, “It is important to us to give back however we can, and teach our children to do the same. Although they might be fun, flashy cars are not important – people are important. Community is important. Home, family and friendship are important.”
Tryna says she’ll miss her Jaguar but has no regrets. ”One of these days I imagine I’ll get another one,” she says. “But right now juice boxes and Cheerios in the back seat do not work with a Jaguar so if by donating it we can help others then that makes me the happiest of all.”
Published Sunday, November 4, 2007 in The Island Packet, shared with permission.
Click here for an excerpt of the original article.