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COA Resources
  • Driver's License - You must make sure you change your address with your State's department of motor vehicles (DMV).
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  • Call to Change Your Address - This is an FAQ entry on how to change your address over the telephone.
  • USPS State Abbreviations - This is a real quick table for looking up State abbreviations.

Archive for August, 2010

10 Common Teenage Pranks Involving Houses

So you have a friend that you want to pull a prank on, but you just aren’t sure how to pull off something that will be epic (okay, at least not too lame).  Well, there have been a lot of pranks over the course of my life that I have either participated in as the prankster, victim, or witness.  In order to keep it somewhat interesting the pranks in this article have to involve the outside of the home (yards, garages, sidewalks, trees, and more are all fair game).  I have broken down 10 common teenage pranks (not that there is an age requirement for pranksters).

  1. Operation TP
  2. Okay, this one is easily the most common prank involving homes. In order for this to work best, your victim must have plenty of trees in their front yard. If the land is barren, no worries I’ll make that work here in a sentence or two. You unravel a portion of the toilet paper and hold onto it as you throw the TP up into the tree repeatedly (don’t use really weak TP or your strands will be pretty short). If they are tree-less then you are forced to rip a sheet at a time and cover their front yard with small squares of toilet paper. For bonus points you take a window, a car, or even the ground and write a message to the victim in toilet paper. If the operation confuses you, well you are in big trouble.

  3. Operation Let Go My Eggo’s
  4. This little operation is pretty simple but also pretty messy. This involves the help of syrup loaded and/or wet eggo waffles (they have to be sticky and wet). Basically you plaster the house by tossing wet or sticky eggos at it and/or their car which must be parked in the drive or in the street. It’s better than throwing raw eggs at the house but if you want a full breakfast… You may have to provide a breakfast combo of waffles and eggs for your friend.

  5. Operation Tree Decorations
  6. Now, this one has epic potential. In this operation you must locate large objects that your friend either loves or hates and of course they must have big, mature trees in their yard too. Using ropes you hang their bicycle, mower, or other large items from the tree (the prank is best the more you do or the bigger the items are).

  7. Operation Pink Flamingo
  8. This operation will require you to collect and or purchase multiple pink flamingos in order to decorate your friends yard with as many as possible. If you don’t have at least a couple of dozen of these then forget about it. Again, the more, the better ideally you completely cover the yard but that is going to take some time and a lot of flamingos. You never know you may end up making the Flamingo the official bird of your town, right Madison, WI? Here is the article.

  9. Operation Confusion
  10. This one is pretty easy. With operation confusion you simply move as many items as possible outside the home. Move their car to the other side of the driveway or further up/down the street (just a few feet). You may rearrange patio furniture or move a shed. Again, you are going for subtle changes that are just enough to be noticed. You may have to repeat this operation over the course of several days depending upon how sharp your victim is and you may have to move more items and further until they catch on (usually it’s pretty quick). This is some seriously dry humor but for the right person this can be hilarious.

  11. Operation Duct Tape
  12. Okay so this one requires your victim to be away and for it to be after dark. You simply tear strips of duct tape and lay them side by side all across the victim’s driveway with the sticky side facing up. When your victim rolls over the tape with the car (because they can’t see the strips) you get a sticky mess that is difficult to remove from the tires. Simple, but trust me, extremely annoying to the victim.

  13. Operation Team Rivalry
  14. Okay so you and your friend don’t see eye-to-eye on a college sports team or maybe even the local high school teams. Well after a big win you may want to remind the victim of your team’s superiority by creating a message on their yard in snow or mowed into the yard if you can pull that one off. You can use signs for your team and anything else that will clearly show their allegiance to your team and not their team. Use ample amounts of images of your team’s mascot maybe even stuffed animals, clothes, it’s all fair game.

  15. Operation Political Activist
  16. You simply collect every possible political sign in the neighborhood and make sure they all end up in your friends front yard. You are going to need A LOT of signs we are talking about 50 to 100 to make it really work. You can also slow play the signs adding 1 or 2 every night. These work especially well if the people are the opposite of who your friend likes or wants to vote for (if they are a republican, then all democrat signs, etc.).

  17. Operation Gnomes
  18. The garden gnome is legendary in most parts of the U.S. In this prank you either insert additional garden gnomes in your friend’s yard or move all of their existing gnomes (that is actually ideal). WARNING: THIS HAS LAME POTENTIAL SO MAKE IT GOOD! When in doubt, use more gnomes.

  19. Operation Saran Wrap
  20. This one is my personal favorites. In this one you saran wrap all doors to the house so that when they enter or exit they go through the saran wrap. As an added bonus you saran wrap their car which takes time but is equally interesting. This is also a good party trick where you saran wrap the door and then force your victim somehow to run out the “open” door.

There are plenty of other great pranks that I have experienced but these are some of the best and cleanest that come to my mind.  Always remember safety first, humor second as the code of pranking.  Also, by no means am I endorsing these pranks or recommending that you pull them on anyone, not even your best friend.  As always some people have to go and ruin our fun making some pranks illegal. For instance TP’ing a house in California or Virginia is an act of mischief or vandalism (usually resulting in a nice fine). So be aware of the laws in your area before even thinking about pulling a prank involving someone’s house or property in any way.

10 Ways to Insure Your Home Against Disasters

What would happen if you had a party at your home and say someone had a little too much to drink and takes a tumble down a flight of stairs?  What if you didn’t know them very well?  Are you insured against those types of injuries in your home?  If not or if you don’t know, you might want to check your policy to find out how much coverage you have (most homeowner’s policies are limited in this type of protection).  There are other scenarios that you may not have thought of as well so I put together this brief list of 10 ways to insure your home.

  1. Homeowners insurance – If you have any insurance at all on your home and you own your home, you will have this one.  This generally will cover your home for damages from fires, theft, storms, and lightning.  You need to read the fine print on your policy to make sure you have all the coverage you think you do and that you don’t need specialty insurance for some of the items listed above (fires, burglary, etc.).

  2. Renters Insurance – If you do not own your home but are renting a home or an apartment then you really should get renters insurance.  Renters insurance covers your possessions inside the home (furniture, electronics, clothes, etc.).  It is generally very inexpensive insurance coverage and well worth it if you ever need it.  Actually some landlords will require you to get renters insurance before giving you the keys.

  3. Mortgage Insurance – Again if you own your home (or are buying your home more appropriately).  If you have a mortgage and especially if the amount you owe is above a certain percentage of the value of the home you will be required to have mortgage insurance.  Mortgage insurance though is generally good to consider as it will protect you from the inability to pay your mortgage due to disability or even death (impacting family members).

  4. Flood Insurance – You really need to verify if your home is in a flood plane and if it is, you definitely need to consider flood insurance.  It will protect your home from flooding that most homeowner’s policies will not cover.  It’s basically like a pre-existing condition in health insurance if you chose to buy a home in a flood plane then the homeowners insurance company is not going to take a flood risk, that’s on you.  Here is an interesting news release from FEMA on why you need flood insurance: http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=47480.

  5. Personal Injury/Liability – This is the type of insurance that you need to protect yourselves from that person that stumbled down your stairs mentioned above.  In general you will have some protection in your homeowners policy but you may want to consider more especially if you have people over to your home a lot.

  6. 6. Title Insurance – Okay title insurance may seem like an odd item to throw into the discussion as you normally only deal with title insurance when you go to buy or sell a home.  However, it is something to consider having because you never know about possible claims that may get attached to your property.  Here is a great article on the subject: http://www.trulia.com/blog/john_barry/2009/10/20_reasons_to_obtain_title_insurance_on_your_property.

  7. Hurricane Insurance – While most homeowners insurance policies do cover damage from high winds, they only cover water damage that is a direct result of rain entering via a wind-damaged area of the home.  It won’t cover the types of flooding that are common with hurricanes.  Here is an interesting article and video on hurricane insurance: http://www.chiff.com/personal_finance/insurance-hurricane.htm.

  8. Earthquake Insurance – If you live in an area of the country that is likely to have earthquakes then you should definitely consider earthquake insurance (no it wasn’t something Woody Harrelson made up in the movie Doc Hollywood).  Here is an article in wikipedia on earthquake insurance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_insurance.

  9. Farm Insurance – If you live on a farm, it’s important for you to protect your home as well as your land and crops with farm insurance.  Again, portions of what you would need to protect barns, sheds, equipment, etc. won’t be covered by any of the other policies we have discussed.  Here is an example of the type of insurance I am talking about: http://www.statefarm.com/insurance/other/farm.asp.

  10. Household Insurance – yes, this is different than homeowners insurance even if it doesn’t initially sound like it is different.  This is much more similar to renters insurance than it is homeowner’s insurance as it covers more of your property.  You can read more about it here: http://www.superpages.com/supertips/household-insurance.html.

Of course, there are plenty of other types of insurance that most of us need to have including health insurance, auto insurance, and life insurance.  There are many different ways to make sure either you, your property, or loved ones are protected.  It’s always a good idea to do at least an annual review with your insurance agent to make sure you stay on top of all types of insurance that may apply to you.  When was the last time you talked to your insurance agent?

10 Tips for Choosing a New Health Club

If you are new to an area it can be difficult to get into a normal routine especially if your normal routine used to involve exercising daily at your old gym.  When you decide its time to hit they gym again (basically after the soreness of the move wears off), there are several factors that you need to consider.  Mainly you want to make it as easy as possible for you to get back on a healthy track.  So you should look for convenience and access to the equipment that you need.  Here are 10 great tips for choosing a new gym:

  1. Location, location location.  It’s always important to consider how quickly you can get to they gym.  Normally I would recommend looking at a gym that is really close to either your home or to your work addresses.  The best choice for you depends on when you plan on going to the gym (early in the morning – home, during the day – work, at night – either).

  2. Size of membership.  When you checkout the gym be sure to ask them about the number of members they have and the times of day that are generally the slowest and busiest.  One thing that is very frustrating is not being able to get on the equipment you need for extended periods, interrupting an otherwise good workout.

  3. Classes offered.  It’s also good to see what classes they offer at the gym and what the normal levels of participation are for each class you are interested in attending.  So do they have spinning classes, yoga classes, aerobic classes, etc?  This is especially important if you are looking for some social interaction as well as getting fit or staying healthy.

  4. Monitoring equipment. It’s a good idea to see if they offer any monitoring equipment to keep track of the number of calories that you are burning and/or just recording your workout routine.  One example is the FitLinxx system that has become very profitable.  You can see more about it here: http://www.fitlinxx.com.

  5. Free weights.  If you are interested in resistance training then you will want to check out the gym’s free weight selection.  Actually, the number of free weights and the condition of them will actually tell you a lot about a gym.  You can see if it is older (all metal free weights) or newer with rubber covered free weights, newer benches, etc.

  6. Staff.  Take the opportunity to learn the names of the people that run the front desk as well as a few of the trainers at the gym.  If you spend a little bit of time with people on staff at the gym you can quickly tell how much they care about their jobs as well as whether or not the gym is customer focused which can be the difference between coming regularly or not at all.

  7. Security. You will want to make sure that they gym has adequate security to protect your privacy and also to make sure that your belongings are safe.  This includes police or security patrols outside helping you get to your vehicle and keeping the vehicle safe.

  8. Supplements.  It’s a lot handier if the supplements that you normally use our actually stocked by the gym you are attending.  If they are not, you might want to talk to a fitness counselor to find alternatives that you can then buy from them.  Supplements are usually not about the brand but about what will make a difference in your overall health level.

  9. Friends. The ideal scenario is to find out where your friends, neighbors, or co-workers are working out.  If you can get into a group of people that work out together you will find it much more likely that you will both get more out of each trip to the gym but also ensure that you actually go in the first place.  It’s a lot harder to skip when other people are counting on you to be there.

  10. Cleanliness. They say cleanliness is next to godliness… Okay, well in the case of a gym the cleaning crew can make all the difference in the world.  How does the gym smell?  How about the smell in the locker rooms?  Even though you aren’t there too much, it’s great to know that all the equipment and facilities are kept clean (don’t be tricked by a new club, make sure they are cleaning well because even a brand new club can get rancid quickly).

10 Tips for Finding a New Church Home

Whether you just moved to a new community or for one reason or another you feel like you need to change churches, there is a lot to consider.  There are lots of great churches (congregations) and I’m sure several in your local area.  Choosing from all those local churches can be a challenge if you aren’t clear upfront with what you are looking for.  I don’t think it is just about finding the closest church to your home, there is more to it than that. Finding that right match to grow your beliefs and to meet new people requires some time and lots of commitment.  Accordingly, here are 10 tips to help you as you seek a new church home.

  1. List the local churches.  You can fairly quickly get on the Internet and search for churches by your city name and/or your zip code.  You might try going to Google and typing in “Baptist churches in Toledo” making sure to insert your denomination and town in the appropriate places.  Hopefully you will quickly get a list of 3 to 5 churches to visit.

  2. Consider close religions/denominations.  If you are a Christian and typically attended a Methodist church, try a United Church of Christ or Presbyterian Church as well as other Methodist churches.  There are several Christian denominations that are fairly close in ideology by considering other denominations you really open up the number of choices.

  3. You also need to make sure you know what type of church culture works best for you.  Do you want to feel welcomed by the people immediately or do you prefer to sort of blend in with the crowd.  If you really want to mingle and get to know other members you might opt for a smaller church.   In order to know for sure though you have to visit because larger churches can overcome this with the right church culture.

  4. Visit more than one church and visit each one multiple times.  If they have multiple pastors you may want to hear them all.  If they have one pastor you may want to hear him or her more than once before you judge their preaching skills.  If they have multiple services, I would also highly recommend visiting each of the services over a few weeks so you can figure out the differences in each service time.  You might be surprised how much the experience can vary when you go just 1 hour earlier or later.

  5. Sermons that matter.  If you are like me you want to hear sermons that really hit home with you.  Where difficult to understand passages get translated in meaningful ways to touch and transform your life.  Again, make sure you give a pastor enough visits and chances to teach you.

  6. Youth programs.  If you have children it’s important to find out how active the youth programs are at the church.  Do the kids meet on a regular basis?  Do they seem to enjoy being at church?  You can generally tell pretty quickly whether a church has a lot of youth and/or if they don’t.

  7. Sunday school programs.  Sunday school is for the whole family, not just the kids.  It’s an opportunity to meet other people with similar beliefs and to learn from them giving you the chance to grow spiritually in new ways.  I highly recommend trying a Sunday school class in each church you visit.

  8. Choir/Music.  If you enjoy good music in church then a great choir or band can make a huge difference in your worship experience.  Some churches actually don’t even allow music and that may or may not work for you.  I’m not saying that you rate their ability to entertain, just find a church that has a music program that works for you.

  9. Mission efforts.  Find out how active the church mission outreach program is in the local area and around the World.  Do they seem dedicated to helping other in the community or is the church fairly isolated.  Neither is the right answer, but it is important that your beliefs about missionary work are in alignment with the church.

  10. Keep trying until it feels right.  It’s so important to not settle on a church that doesn’t really feel right for you.  Keep trying other churches in the area.  It’s amazing but I’m convinced that when you find the right church, you know it.  Joining a church is a big commitment from you and the current church members so treat this with the gravity it deserves.  Take your time and enjoy the chance to experience your religion from multiple perspectives.

Top 10 Reasons College Freshman Get Homesick

When you move away from home for your freshman year of college, things can be rough.  It’s natural to find yourself feeling homesick.  Most freshmen do find themselves feeling the same way at least at some point (although some won’t officially admit it).  Many people I know are finding themselves in a situation where they are dealing with homesick kids at college so I put together this list of 10 reasons why college freshman get homesick  (guys, hope this helps some as you begin to realize how normal this really is):

  1. Significant other is back home.  One of the most difficult challenges for a new college student is if they either have a long distance romance with someone back home or if they just broke up with someone expecting to move on while at college.  At a time when so many things are changing for them this makes it even harder because the one person they are currently closest to is not with them or accessible in person (skype, texting, calling aside).

  2. Mom and Dad.  As difficult as it may seem just knowing that Mom and Dad aren’t in the next room can be very hard for some kids.  Yes, they complain and complain about their parents and then when they aren’t there it can be a little scary (after a few hours of intense celebration).

  3. Roommate problems.  If you get stuck with a bad roommate in  college that is just not at all like you are (which is highly likely), it can make for a very rough first couple of weeks of college.  They may party a lot, have people of the opposite sex sleep over which is awkward, or even “borrow” more than they should.

  4. Classes are a reality check.  Those first few classes can be enough to overwhelm any freshman as they realize that college is actually going to be quite a bit of work.  This is when thoughts of auditing one or two classes quickly come to mind as they question what they got themselves into.

  5. New peer pressures.  It’s college and inevitably half of the people there are going to be doing some strange things that they have never seen before.  There will most likely be a lot more alcohol and potentially even some drugs that they will have to resist and/or try depending upon their response to new peer pressures.

  6. Starting over again (bottom of the rungitis). Okay they are no longer at the top of the food chain like they were as high school seniors.  This is the down-side of the well documented senioritis where they spend a year making it well known that they are running the high school campus.  They go from knowing it all to not knowing much at all.

  7. Money concerns.  The reality sets in that things cost money and… they may not have much of their own.  Sure they can call Mom and Dad, but who wants to do that when you just gain your independence?  Plenty of kids do, but others also find a job and try to make their own money.  This is hard and naturally causes additional stress.

  8. Miss home-cooked meals.  Let’s face it, college cafeteria food is not even close to the home-cooked meals that Mom or Dad used to make.  Normally families get into a rhythm of serving favorites for each family member every week or on a frequent basis.  That is just not going to happen in the cafeteria.  Say goodbye to Mom’s chicken and dumplings (for a while).

  9. Doing things they normally wouldn’t do.  Since they have their independence they may try new things that they would never have done while they were at home.  This can naturally lead to feeling different about their own person as they may ask themselves, “what am I doing?”  This is completely natural.

  10. They realize they are truly on their own.  The one thing they dreamt about for so long has finally come.  They are on their own.  Especially if their friends all went to a different school and they are miles away from home (because they wanted to get away).  Sometimes that reality is not what they had built it up to be in their minds.

The good news is that this feeling of being homesick is temporary.  What is unfamiliar will eventually become familiar and what is scary will become just the way it is.  How long does this take?  It’s different for every college freshman.  Sometimes it’s a couple of days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes months.  However, it will happen if they stick to it and give themselves the time they need.

15 Mail Carriers Real or Not That You Will Know

Do you know any famous mail carriers or postal workers?  I’ll bet you do even though you may struggle to name them if you were quizzed by a street reporter for a late night talk show.  Over the years, several people have been given the nickname “the mailman” or they played mail carriers in significant TV shows or movies.  In addition though, there are several famous REAL employees of the USPS that might surprise you.  How many of the names do you know?  I’ll bet you know them all.

10 Most Famous Actual USPS Employees

  1. Walt Disney (yes, Disneyland, DisneyWorld, and the famous filmmaker) – Mr. Disney was at one time a substitute mail carrier in Chicago, IL.
  2. Steve Carell (famous actor) – Was a letter carrier in Littleton, MA.
  3. Knute Rockne (famous football coach) – Was a mail clerk in Chicago, IL.
  4. Bing Crosby (famous singer and actor) – Was a mail clerk in Spokane, WA.
  5. Charles Lindbergh (famous aviator) – Was an airmail pilot.
  6. Sherman Hemsley (famous actor) – Was a mail clerk in Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY.
  7. Benjamin Franklin (Founding Father) – Was our first Postmaster General.
  8. William McKinley (President) – Was an assistant postmaster in Poland, OH.
  9. Harry S. Truman (President) – Was the postmaster in Grandview, MO.
  10. Abraham Lincoln (President) – Was the postmaster in New Salem, IL.

You can download a bigger list of famous postal workers here: http://www.changeofaddress.org/famous-postal-workers.

5 Most Popular Not-So-Real-Life Mailmen

  1. Karl Malone (NBA Player) – He was a basketball player for the Utah Jazz and is one of the best power forwards of all time and his nickname was “the mailman.”
  2. Newman (“Seinfeld”) – This was Jerry’s nemesis on the show and was a postal carrier played by Wayne Knight.
  3. Cliff Clavin (“Cheers”) – He (played by John Ratzenberger) was a mainstay of the TV Show and knew all kinds of trivial facts that he would spout at the oddest of times (okay, all the time).
  4. The Merry Mailman, Ray Heatherton was the host of this 1950’s-1960’s classic TV show.
  5. Mr. McFeeley played by David Newell was the mail carrier on Mister Rogers Neighborhood a very popular TV show in the 1970’s all the way through to 2001!

10 Ways to Unclog a Stubborn Shower Drain

One of the problems that I have in my home every other month or so is my shower drain backing up.  While I don’t particularly mind taking a shower standing in water, I would very much mind if the water overflowed into the rest of the bathroom (my shower and tub are separate so this could actually happen pretty easily).  My usual solution to the problem is to just use a chemical drain cleaner and go about my business until it clogs again.  This time I decided to research the most common solutions to the problem to see what other do to fix their shower drain problems.  These are the 10 best solutions that I could find:

  1. Drano – It seems that this is really the simplest and first recommended step by most of the articles that I read.  You pour a little into the drain, let it sit for 10 minutes, and run the water for a bit.  Pretty easy stuff, but that’s what I have been doing so I needed to dig deeper.

  2. Remove drain cover and use your hands – This is also an easy solution.  You just pop the shower cover off using a screwdriver as necessary and then grab as much of the hair as you can that is sitting in the drain.  The problem with this approach is you are only scratching the surface of the real problem and I doubt the cure lasts very long at all.

  3. Boiling water – I saw this repeatedly in articles on other blogs.  I’ll try it because I am game for just about anything but… I take a shower in pretty hot water and it seems that pouring water down the drain to fix the clog is well… not the smartest idea in the world.

  4. Vinegar and baking soda – I’m a sucker for homemade solutions so this one is something I might try before Drano next time.  You combine 1/3 cup vinegar with 1/3 cup baking soda in a pitcher.  As soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda it will start to fizz and you need to pour it down the drain pretty much right away.  You let that stand for 10 minutes and then run water down the drain.  You can repeat this as often as necessary to clear the clog.

  5. Plunger – This is one I have tried on sink drains successfully so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of using the same approach in the shower.  So you remove the drain cover for this one as well and then plug up the tub overflow hole with a rag or anything you can easily remove.  You then plunge the drain like you would your toilet, pulling up what you can and discarding it.

  6. Straightened metal hanger – You would be surprised how versatile this little tool can be.  If you don’t have a plunger and you don’t have a snake (see below) then you can remove the drain cover and fish out quite a bit with a straightened metal hanger.  This one is pretty safe but it was a little hard for me to actually pull out any of the debris deeper in the drain.  Again, this is more of a temporary fix but effective for a “quickie.”

  7. Manual Snake – You can easily go to the hardware store and pickup a snake.  These are really long cables that you push down into the drain after removing the drain cover and then you simply pull them back up removing the debris.  These will go much deeper into the drain and generally this is what a plumber would use if you called them out to your house.

  8. Automatic Snake – This is the same as the manual snake but with power tools.  You can either buy a self contained one or just attach a snake to any standard drill.  This beats cranking and pulling manually for sure!  Okay a plumber would most likely actually use one of these over a manual snake as noted above.

  9. Wet/Dry Vac – Take your wet/dry vacuum and set it to liquids. Remove the filter and any inside bag and cover the vacuum vent. Put the hose over the tub drain and switch on the vacuum. This will suck up the debris and you can safely dispose of it from your wet/dry receptacle.

  10. Zip-IT Drain Cleaning Tool – Okay somehow I missed the commercials for this product.  It looks like an extremely simple solution to my drain problem and without a doubt I am going to try this one.  You can see information from the manufacturer here: http://www.cobraus.com/product.asp?TypeID=6&SeriesID=25.  There are a ridiculous number of reviews online, most seem very positive.

The ABC’s of Home Ownership

Owning a home especially if it is your first home is an amazing experience usually filled with ups and downs like most great life experiences. Whether you have owned a home for years or just getting started I thought you might enjoy my quick look at the ABC’s of owning a home.

  • Alarm systems are expensive, loud, and impossible to remember to shutoff every time you leave your home. Have a cup of coffee ready for the poor officer that gets sent out to your home.

  • Basements are an amazing place for storage until you get an inch of standing water in it from the first heavy rain and learn how to operate a wet/dry vac.

  • Concrete cracks, apparently pretty easily (in the garage, in the driveway, and even the sidewalk which YOU actually are responsible for).

  • Dishwashers are noisy, but trying to get other family members to manually wash the dishes is far more annoying so they are well worth spending a few bucks.

  • Eggs are fun to throw on other people’s houses but not so much fun when you are the one that gets to clean up the mess.

  • Furnaces don’t just raise the temperature in your house, they raise yours as well when the bill from the power company arrives.

  • Gas in the bathroom can actually be more pleasant smelling than gas leaks elsewhere in the house (instant bank account drain triggers a traumatic reaction at the first whiff).

  • Handy man. If you are not one, you better get to know one SOON!

  • Insurance – one is not fully aware of all of the things you can buy insurance for until your phone is ringing off the hook after buying your first home.

  • Jacuzzis are fun until you have to clean out the jets and get to see what is built up in there.

  • Knocks on the door only mean yet another person is trying to sell you something.

  • Lightbulbs, lightbulbs, and more lightbulbs. You are going to need to buy more lightbulbs.

  • Mirror, mirrors on the wall always look great until one takes a fall. Try cleaning that mess up before you decide one wall of your house needs to be have mirror tiles (thanks for that one previous owner of my home).

  • Newspapers apparently are supposed to be delivered in the bushes or the middle of the driveway for you to run over in your car.

  • Ovens are a pain to clean when you have to do it over and over again (the same one). Self-cleaning ovens are a total ripoff.

  • Pet odors… Well they simply just NEVER go away. Once you think you have them beat a hot day comes along to prove you wrong.

  • Queen size beds shockingly need king-size rooms unless you like to tip toe around the darn thing.

  • Roofs actually do need to be repaired AND it’s never cheap. Why is that? It’s amazing how much it costs to get the shingles.

  • Storage space is eventually always a problem even if you thought it never would be when you first moved into your home.

  • Toilets get plugged up by the darnedest of things.

  • Utilities are more than just power and gas (water, garbage, etc.). YOU actually have to pay for all of those!

  • Visitors are always welcome… to go home after a SHORT stay.

  • Water bills are shockingly high for something that is so easy to use (showers, dishes, laundry, sprinklers, washing the care, etc.).

  • X-rated viewing is for the movies so please remember to close the blinds and cover your windows when appropriate.

  • Yard work is A LOT harder when you have to do it every year, every week, and without reprieve (even in the Winter there is outside work to be done).

  • Zones. It’s amazing how many zones you need to be aware of (security system zones, sprinkler system zones, and of course your local zoning laws). It’s enough to make you zone out.

10 Tips for Organizing Your Garage

I’m not sure whether it is me or just something that most people struggle with but my garage has ALWAYS been a mess.  Ever since I got my first storage unit/garage about 15 years ago I’ve managed to accumulate all of the junk I bought but never use in my garage and manage to have just enough space to park my car.  All stuff in my home goes through a natural transition from shiny new cool thing, to seldom used thing in a pile or junk drawer, to garage clutter, and eventually dumpster filler or donation candidate.  In all honesty there are few things that I really need in my garage but so many things that are tempting to buy.  So I am turning over a new leaf (or trying) and here are 10 tips that I am using to finally have an organized garage.

  1. Decide what your minimum objective is in organizing and make sure you at least make that happen.  So if your objective is to make sure that one car can fit into the garage (or one more), then make sure that you plan to clear enough space to achieve that goal.  In order to get the car in, all of these boxes or items must go.

  2. Don’t buy items that have a low probability that you will be using them.  For instance that treadmill, elliptical machine, or exercise bike that you were eyeing last January.  Those things are generally always destined to join the junk in the garage (if you can carry the darn things out there).  They are large and eventually just a pain to keep moving around in the garage.  If you have a few like me, just sell them on craigslist or donate them and move on.

  3. Unpack the boxes that are currently in your garage and use a very basic rule.  If you haven’t used something in the last year, you don’t need it.  Put it in a garage sale or donation pile (or the dumpster if it truly cannot be used by any other human).  If it’s a collectible take it into the house where it belongs or simply sell it as the garage is not where collectibles belong.

  4. Don’t store large amounts of gasoline, propane, or other highly combustible materials in your garage.  These are a known fire hazard and they also are floor or shelf space hogs (for instance, before I started I had 5 5-gallon gas cans on the floor of my garage with about an inch of gas in each one).  Another basic rule for garage items is that if it is not SAFE, then fine a proper way to dispose of it.  The ideal scenario is that you keep chemicals and flammable items to an absolute minimum.

  5. You know that old desk, entertainment center, and book shelf is really NEVER going to go back into the house.  Do everyone a favor and donate that to a local charity, individual, or Goodwill.  It’s eventually just going to fall apart outside and then be destined for the junkyard.

  6. Bicycles should be hung using bicycle hooks or racks.  They take up a shocking amount of floor space and generally never end up back where they started from (especially with kids).  If you have a designated spot (hook) and enforce it then this will save you a lot of grief.

  7. Sporting equipment should be stored together in a large tub or tubs that are clearly marked.  How many times have you wanted to play catch only to not be able to find two gloves and a ball?  It’s a great idea to keep like sports items together whenever practical.

  8. Garbage cans and recycling bins also take up quite a bit of space but are a necessary evil.  Just like your cars, you should plan your garage around these items; as you know you need to be able to freely get them in and out of the garage multiple times during the week.

  9. Garden tools should also be hung on the wall using secure hooks being careful to attach each item in a way that keeps them from falling yet makes them very accessible.  If you have hired a lawn service and don’t foresee ever letting the service go, then go ahead and let this equipment go (donate it).

  10. The last item for me is to retire the objects of desire that once were fun projects you planned to get to one day.  If that one day has been coming for more than a year… chances are very good it’s not coming.  You should consider getting rid of that as well (a car you plan to eventually restore, an old motorcycle, the first personal computer you ever owned, the band saw you bought and don’t remember why, etc.).

These may seem like obvious tips but they are good reminders (at least for me).  If you just work through them you can quickly find your way into a manageable situation in your garage.  Once you get the amount of stuff down to a reasonable level to meet your space objectives then you can actually organize the items BY USE (keep your car wash stuff together, your tools together, etc.).  You may need shelving units and/or other storage bins or hooks to finally get the remaining items organized but no doubt you will be very glad you did once the dirty work is finally done and you have that garage you always dreamed of (or at least don’t feel embarrassed to leave the garage door open).

10 Awesome After School Programs for Your Child

When you have children especially elementary school-aged children it can be a challenge to make sure they are taken care of after school.  If both parents work, it can be impossible for either to take care of the kids after school.  That’s when we have to scramble to find good quality after school programs that will keep the kids safe and hopefully help them to develop further.  We all want the best for our children and while recognizing that time with Mom or Dad would be great, sometimes we have to reach out to after school programs in the local community.  If you find yourself in this situation (like I do), then here are 10 great resources so you can check out a variety of after school programs:

  1. YMCA/YWCA – they generally offer a very broad group of classes for after school.  What’s great about the Y is they usually provide transportation for your child or in many cases they will be right on the school’s premises making it possible for your children to be taken care of right in their own school.  The Y’s programs are generally homework focused first and then activity-based.  The activities your children participate in are up to you to decide, but they will usually have several great choices.  You can get more information at your local YMCA or you can start here: http://www.ymca.net.

  2. Boys and Girls Clubs – Almost every major city and some smaller cities in the U.S. have a Boys and Girls Club.  These are generally great places for kids to go after school.  Depending on the club in your area this may work well for older kids but the idea is to provide them with life enhancing opportunities and the chance to develop in new ways.  You can find out what is available in your area by going to the following site: http://www.bgca.org/clubs/.

  3. Private Daycare Centers – I know you are thinking you don’t need a daycare provider you need an after school provider.  Well, most private daycare centers have very active and organized after school programs for kids all the way up until junior high school (sometimes further with helper programs).  They generally are a more expensive option but they also will provide transportation and a great environment for making sure homework gets done early.  You should contact your local Primrose, Kindercare, Montessori, or similar providers.  These are also great places to check to make sure your children have a place to go during school breaks and in-service days.  My children have gone here in the past and loved it: http://www.primroseschools.com/.

  4. 4-H Clubs – Another excellent organization (nearly 100 years old) that offers after school programs is 4-H.  They are somewhat similar to Boys and Girls Clubs.  In fact, when I was growing up I attended 4-H and learned life skills like cooking and similar things from their instructors.  This was a great way for me to get to meet other kids and to keep me busy while my parents finished their workday.  You can get more information on 4-H here: http://4-h.org/b/Pages/Afterschool/about.html.

  5. Community Help Clubs like Kiwanis Kids – Kiwanis Kids provides opportunities for kids to help in their school and community through various activities.  They seek to build strong moral character and to further develop leadership skills in the kids.  They are located throughout the country and if you happen to not have a club in your area you can found one if you get at least 15 kids to join.  For more information you can read all about Kiwanis Kids here: http://slp.kiwanis.org/KKids/home.aspx.

  6. Sports clubs – There are many different sports clubs for just about every sport you can imagine.  Some are more organized than others and all of them are of course activity focused first and generally don’t help at all with homework.  If your child is very interested in sports you may look for local basketball, volleyball, football, baseball, or multi-sport clubs.  They will keep your child active and help them develop skills that they are interested in at the same time.  Your school and/or other parents are the most likely source for information on sports programs.  Another option would be to consider kids fitness center options at your local fitness center.  Here is a great starting point: http://clubs.lifetimefitness.com/.  One more option to consider is a club that Kobe Bryant supports: After School All Stars which you can read more about here: http://www.afterschoolallstars.org.

  7. Private tutors and learning centers – You can go to sites like: http://www.tutornation.com to find and or list a tutoring job.  If your child needs assistance with their homework and/or you would like them to get additional training in a specific discipline then you can hire the nightly services of a private tutor.  There are several websites to assist you with finding a high quality tutor that you can trust to be screened to work with your child (though I would screen them myself as well as you can NEVER be too safe).  Another great resource would by the Kumon Learning Centers which are located throughout the U.S., you can look for one in your neighborhood here: http://www.kumon.com/GetStarted.aspx.

  8. Nannies/Sitters – This is especially helpful if you have non school-aged children at home as well.  However, there are several babysitters (especially high school aged kids) that would be more than happy to watch your child after school.  One great site that I have used multiple times to find a great long-term or permanent nanny/sitter is: http://www.greataupair.com.

  9. Dance classes – Another popular after school activity is to enroll your child in a dance academy.  They generally offer classes every afternoon and evening and will teach your child tap, jazz, ballet, and other forms of dance.  In order to find a good program we recommend talking to other parents and visiting multiple dance studios.  The studios are generally small and local so your best bet is to find one to visit here: http://www.yellowpages.com.

  10. Music programs – Millions of people saw the hit Jack Black move, School of Rock.  Well, such schools and programs actually do exist and if your child is very interested in music then this can be the perfect way to keep them safe after school and for them to continuously develop their music skills.  You can look for a School of Rock in your area here: http://www.schoolofrock.com.  I also recommend that you check with your local music store.

There are many other places to look to for after school care and ideas including your local church (highly recommended), your local library, or you can even search for homework clubs in your area (or start one yourself) http://www.homeworkclub.org.  Whether you are in a new neighborhood or just looking for something different for your child, I hope this article gave you a solid starting point.