Super Secret Cheats

Welcome to Single Father Super Secret Cheats, a new series here on The Single Father's Guide Blog. This feature will highlight little tools, shortcuts, tricks, and cheats in which no one is harmed, of course, that will make the life of the single father and his children just a little bit easier. Is there single, single father who couldn't use a little extra help now and then?

Freshpet Select Cat Food

I'm a real a dog lover.

Since I've been a real single parent for nearly the past nine years for three young children, however, the time and responsibilities of dog ownership would have been just too much for me. So, in order to enjoy a pet experience with the kids, I've had cats.

I've learned quite a bit about cats. Probably, the most important lesson relates to cat nutrition.

For a long time, cats we owned had difficulty digesting the typical grocery store food, even popular brands like Purina, Iams, and the like. I discovered that most cat foods seem to use corn meal as a filler, and corn meal irritates cats' delicate digestive systems.


How did I know corn meal irritates cats' digestive system? Well, I got sort of tired of cleaning cat vomit and smelling foul odors from the litter box.

So, I started to buy a cat food with no corn meal. Taste of the Wild seemed to have been the best for our cats. The instances of upset stomach decreased precipitously and there even seemed to be fewer hairballs. Odor at the cat box decreased, but the frequency of visits and volume production didn't.

Recently, after we'd run out of Taste of the Wild and I wasn't able to stop at my favorite pet store, I checked the ingredients in a refrigerated cat food, Freshpet Select Cat Food: no corn meal filler.

Our cat, Fiver, didn't take to the food immediately. Like Morris, Fiver is finicky. However, after a few days, he was eating. What I discovered was a pleasant surprise.

First, Fiver ate less because, I assume, Freshpet Select better satisfies Fiver's nutritional needs with less food. Next, similar to to our/his Taste of the Wild, he had no problems with indigestion or hairballs. Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the odor and frequency at the litter box decrease significantly, which made the management scientist in me very happy. Smaller volumes at the cat box both means perhaps fewer cat box cleanings and makes the litter last longer. That saves money.

Anything that saves time and money makes me happy.

Tea Tree Oil as an Insect Repellent

Are the leeches still screaming, Lisa?
One of the most humorous memories of my own summer camp experience was "crawdad fishin'" at McNair Park in St. Charles, Missouri with, among other campers, my sister Lisa who is four years my junior. There, we all were happily turning over stones in Blanchette Creek, which winds through much of the town, when my little sister released a blood curdling scream, "LEEEEECCCCCHHHHH!"

Lisa had discovered, to her considerable dismay, that there, on her thigh, was a freshwater leech. You'd have thought a water moccasin had attached to her eyeball. A counselor or someone removed the leech and, after breathing into a paper bag for several minutes, Lisa regained her a little bit of her composure. I think she was finished crawdaddin', though.

The fact is, school is out and summer camps are in. That means your little campers will make their own life long memories. While's they're hiking, fishing, canoeing, or even crawdaddin', help to insure their experience is as enjoyable as possible by keeping summer pests, like mosquitoes, chiggers, black flies, and even lice and ticks. None of these insects are a laughing matter, especially considering deer ticks spread Lyme disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's "Lyme Disease Data," in 2011, "96% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Lyme disease is the most commonly vectorborne illness in the United States . . . (and) was the 6th most commonly Nationally Notifiable disease."

Tea Tree Oil
While I take a multi-pronged approach to personal pest repellents, the tool I have found to be among the most effective has been tea tree oil. The Empire State Lyme Disease Association suggests tea tree oil is an effective tick repellent, while according to WebMD's article, "Tea Tree Oil," evidence is allusive to the benefits of tea tree oil for lice.

True story. When one of the Beautiful Daughters was in first or second grade, her elementary school experienced a sort of lice epidemic. At the table where my daughter was one of four students, the other three children had lice. She didn't.

I use tea tree oil only sparingly by adding four of five drops to a full bottle of shampoo and gently shake the bottle. During the summer and early fall months, the whole family uses the spiked shampoo, which, I believe, has helped us avoid or, at least, minimize the unpleasant and unhealthy effects of insect pests.

A note of caution, using tea tree oil in conjunction with lavender oil could potentially result in negative, unintended consequences for boys. According to WebMD, "Applying products to the skin that contain tea tree oil along with lavender oil might not be safe for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. These products might have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy’s body." Of course, before using any supplement, topical solution, or treatment, consult your own physician or pediatrician.

Plan Ahead for the Summer Movie Season

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and Ed Helms in The Hangover  III.
Memorial Day was the unofficial start of summer. Pools are open. Propane tanks are filled and charcoal is purchased to barbecue steaks, burgers, dogs, and burger-dogs. (We'll talk about burger-dogs later.) And, of course, summer movie blockbusters are released.

A few of this summer's most anticipated movies include Oblivion with Tom Cruise, Iron Man 3, the new Star Trek 2: Into DarknessThe Hangover III, starring The Second Favorite Daughter's new favorite actor, Bradley Cooper and mine, Zach Galifianakis, and Will and Jaden Smith's After Earth. Like a lot of single dads, moms, and, well, just about everyone, it's likely that I and some permutation of my family and friends will see one or more of these movies.  Personally, The Hangover III and Star Trek 2 are high on my list, but I'll probably wait to see Oblivion on pay-per-view and pass on Iron Man 3 completely. (I've already seen and reviewed After Earth, "Movie Review: After Earth." It's a dog.)

Superhero: Robert Downey, Jr.

Aside, who knew Robert Downey, Jr. would have lasted this long after having had both acted in and lived the real-life movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero?

While I'd already shared one way to avoid the big line at your local movie theater in a recent edition of the Single Dad Super Secret Cheats, the single dad can avoid all potential problems with getting movie tickets: BUY THEM ONLINE!

My favorite online ticket service is (Click link or the banner on the right to order your tickets.) Save yourself some time, money, and stress; order the movie tickets ahead of time. Then, stroll right to the concession stand for your popcorn and candy and find your seats!

Sorry, but I can't help much with the high cost of movie theater nachos. Well, maybe I can, but that will have to be the subject of another Single Dad Super Secret Cheats!

Movie Tickets

Today, it's easier than ever to buy movie tickets using or The prerequisite for making a pre-purchase of tickets is, of course, you and your children or you and your date have chosen a movie before you arrive at the theatre. What happens, however, when you make a spur-of-the-moment decision to see a movie, the self-serve computer ticket kiosks aren't working, and the line at the ticket booths is 150 feet long?

So, here's the cheat. Almost all of the newer theatres, Regal, AMC Loew's, Wehrenberg, and so forth, have a customer service desk in the theater lobby behind which a manager sits. Typically, there aren't many complaints for the duty manager to handle, so he or she is most often shootin' the breeze with a  cinephile or a staffer. A lot of folks don't know that movie goers can also buy tickets at that customer service desk.

This very thing happened on the night that The Hunger Games was released. The Second Beautiful Daughter, who read and is perhaps the biggest fan of The Hunger Games Trilogy, and a friend wanted to see the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. I don't think we could even be bought online due to some sort of opening night blackout and, when we arrived at the theatre, the line for both the ticket kiosks and ticket booths were incredibly long. My daughter and her friend were overcome with anxiety that we wouldn't be able to get tickets, so I asked the young ladies to get a spot in line while I strolled into the lobby and to the theatre's customer service desk where I bought three tickets for the showing we wanted before it sold out. The Second Beautiful Daughter and her friend were ecstatically amazed and I was a hero.

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