Middle School’s not that bad after all.

1237035_10153199800085215_528962306_nTook 7 years and middle school for Puddin’s dream of a class guinea pig to come true.

She’s so happy she volunteered to go to school early to clean cages. She sent me this and in my head I immediately heard “The phone, the phone is ringing!”

Middle School’s not that bad after all.

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There’s An App for that: Flash Card Edition, Quizlet

So tech Thursday this week is inspired by A: Homework getting real around here and B: This post over at KidsActivityBlog (which used to be June Clever Nivana but I don’t understand that part) about the awesomeness that is SpellingCity.com

I agree SpellingCity.com is a great big bowl of awesome. We were introduced to it through several of our elementary school teachers. They use teacher accounts to set up the whole year of spelling words – no lost lists or What is this word translations needed. Great iPad app also – for Spelling words, nothing better.

But I don’t think it’s the best for vocabulary. (not bad just not the best)

We have found the most awesome for Vocabulary to be Quizlet.com and it’s completely free for parents (I believe teachers can buy an upgrade account and manage a class with it but I’m not sure about that part)

On Quizlet you can set up digital flashcards for just about anything. (I think the original intent was to create foreign language flashcards but they have now grown beyond that – but that’s one of the reasons they have a killer audio feature) Then they have tools and games to learn the content of those cards and when you’re done studying them you can set up tests to quiz yourself in a variety of ways – matching, true/false, or multiple choice  It will also accurately read the content to younger children.

The same day I saw the other post my eight year old came home with the first set of vocabulary words for the year. So I set up a list and then because it’s hooked into social media – I was able to share that list with other moms and the teacher as well.

Here’s the list so you can see it in all it’s glory

http://quizlet.com/25315280/new

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They also have killer iPad, iphone, and Android apps

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So if you’re looking for a killer site for flash card study – weather it’s vocab, or language, or whatever. Check out Quizlet.

I don’t get paid to talk about the things I like, I just like ‘em.

Flat On My Back – The update

As you might recall, last week I completely ruined my week by straining my back BY STANDING UP.

I spent most of the week either laying flat or walking around because those are the two things I can do. Sitting was not an option. Bending and reaching – might as well have asked me to fly.

This week I’m up to sitting for about 1-2 hours at a stretch. Then I have to lay back down to relax the muscles and I’m fine to walk around quite a bit after that.

Literally 3 seconds of injury – two weeks of recovery.

I. Am. Unhappy.

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But because I’m not happy with unhappy, let’s look for the silver lining. Oh here it is.

This was the final straw with the old desk chair. I took a moment to realize that if I had a regular desk at a regular office or cube at corporate I would not be sitting in such a cheap crappy board table type chair. Just because I’m a teleworker doesn’t mean I should not have what I need. So I went out and bought a reasonably priced but still highly rated task chair that is rated for 8-10 hours of sitting. Who knew chairs were rated for sitting hours.

New chair does not photograph well.

BTW – my temporary desk has been taken over

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We don’t do Disney (Channel)

I had already scheduled this to be the topic I wrote about today long before the events Sunday at the VMAs but sometimes something you want to write about just comes together with something everyone else is writing about …

Over the years I have come to hate the Disney Channel. We loved the Disney Junior shows and Kim Possible, and yes I even came to like Hannah Montana. But from the very beginning there have been cracks, there have always been forbidden shows,  the first being – Zack and Cody.

It only took one episode of that show to see that it had no redeeming value and in fact was quite terrible. Zack and Cody took the Eliose story and turned it on it’s ear – two mischievous boys living in a hotel, mostly being raised by the hotel staff. The problem that I quickly found was that the adults were all bafoons, the boys had no respect for adults, after all they are the butt of the jokes, and the moral of the story was more “don’t get caught” than “do the right thing.”

Unfortunately this storyline has been replicated over and over again in almost every show since. Absentee parents, surrogate clowns in charge, overly smart mouthed little children getting laughs for disrespectful and deceitful behavior.  Even if the parents are there, they are treated as idiots, the kids are still the ones in control and respect for adults is non-existent. Alex Russo is a total Be-och and makes no apologies for it. And Charlie’s mom and dad are such clowns that the older sister is more in charge of the baby than the parents. It goes on and on…

We just don’t watch them. This weekend’s Miley Cirus weirdness now has be wondering how terrible they must be for the kids in them as well. The Disney machine takes these kids, bakes them into a format with multi million dollar marketing and the Disney brand – makes them famous for being on their channel and show, and truthfully it has little to nothing to do with their actual talent – I wonder if these kids know it’s Disney, not their talent, that is making them famous. That when they outgrow their roles they’ll be put out like so much trash and left to try and figure out what happened.

The girls used to expecting it all to come easy – turn immediately to the easiest thing to do – get slutty.  Forget the Miley trainwreck, have you seen the latest Selena Gomez video – If you want it come and get it? Seriously? Granted it has better production value than whatever it is Miley has going  on but that must be a perk of hanging with User and Justin. Still – they turned her into video girl wiggly nekkid all over offering herself up to come and get. And just go ahead and move CeCe Jones (Bella Thorne) into the Playboy mansion because it just seems like the logical next step for that one.

The boys – who knows what happens to them. Anyone seen Dylan or Cole Sprouse lately?

I know the child star crash and burn is supposed to be a Hollywood cliche but Disney seems intent of firing as many rounds out of that weapon as it possibly can, and Oprah doesn’t have enough time to put them all back together again. Poor Lindsey ..

So bad for my kids to watch – bad for the kids in the shows.

Just Bad.

Two weekends ago I spent a day at Hollywood Studios in Orlando, much of which is dedicated to Walt Disney’s legend. After watching all that history about the man and his dream, and how the whole Disney brand was inspired by the time he spent with his daughters, I’ve got to think he’s rolling in his grave at the Disney Channel mess.

Bad. Just bad.

 

 

Why Picking Up The Phone Matters

080108_ripple_1Last Monday I started a series of posts about the ripple effect that the Terrible Thing has had on our lives. Last week it was a first wave ripple – probably more like a actual wave – a title wave called Single Parenthood.

This week it’s more of a true ripple.

In the past I was never one of those people who knew what to do when something bad happened. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mean an emergency, I’m good in emergencies or crises. I mean in the aftermath. I never know what to say or what to do to make that might make people feel better so most often I would do nothing.

This was especially true if someone was sick, I mean like really sick or ill. I always felt like calling to ask how they were was sort of rude. I guess this stems a bit from how I handle my own MS. I live me life and don’t think about it so if someone brings it up – it sort of seems like they are purposefully being a downer or negative or dwelling on the bad things in life.

In the spirit of do unto others – I never called people

But then I went through what I went through and it was fairly public. And people I was close to and people I barely knew called and texted and emailed. They said nice things, supportive things, sometimes they just said Hi and Thinking of You. And every single time it mattered to me. It made me feel better or okay or remembered or less alone.

And I noticed who never said anything.

So the lesson I took from this was to call or email or text or Facebook – early and often. To cook food, to offer to watch kids, or go to the movies or whatever I could. And to keep doing, long past the day or the week or the month that whatever the problem occurred in. Because that shit matters.  It means they are not forgotten, it means I realize that life as they know it has changed and someone out there in the world acknowledges that their world is never going to be the same again.

I’ve made a point of doing it even when it felt pesty or weird. Because in the end me feeling weird, the least of the problem.

Last Wednesday morning my phone rang early , it was a friend who had seen a article on a local news site. The article said a mutual friend of ours daughter had been in an accident – a bad car accident and was badly hurt in critical condition. The report said the accident had been Monday night. She wanted to know had I heard anything from our other friend. No I had not, but I would reach out right now…

I texted my friend – “Heard about the accident, how is she? What can I do, I’m home all week and can help anyway I can. Please just let me know”

The reply I got back was “What?”

Without even thinking about it I hit the dial button, what did she mean “What?”

Immediately she answered and in just a few seconds it became clear she had no idea what I was referring to. She had no idea. No one called her, no police, no hospital, no one. While her daughter still very much lives at home she’s of age – an adult by law – so no family was notified automatically. Or at least they hadn’t yet.  Turns out the article was wrong and the accident had only happened at 8:00 the night before not Monday but still – more than 12 hours had gone by. I read the article to her, editing to make it seem not as bad – afraid it was worse. She hung up to start calling hospitals.

Because I called. Because it’s part of my ripple effect, now I call.

They were able to quickly locate her at the local trauma center and her injuries while severe are not permanent. They were by her side within the hour.

Because I called. I keep thinking how the old Me would never have picked up that phone. I would never had texted or emailed. I would have felt like I was rubbing salt in the wound or looking for gossip material. I would have felt intrusive. It might have been hours before they found out.

I’ve always been the sort to look for silver linings, and this one for me. The new Me doesn’t avoid the awkward conversation. The new Me reaches out. The new Me calls.

Finding Veronica Mars

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Yes I realize I’m very very late to this party but OMG – Veronica Mars!

My summer of experimenting with “no cable” has lead us to trying out new shows that we missed the first time around and Veronica Mars has turned out the be the Queen Bee of our Summer TV diet.

How did I miss this before? Well better late than never I guess. We’ve just finished up season 1 and  we are totally addicted.  The girls love it and I love it for them. She’s smart and sassy but also cares about school and grades and treats adults with manners and respect. Already she’s off the scales a better role model that ANY teenager on ANY Disney Channel Show hands down.  Yes she has a bit more freedom than is realistic and she’s got a serious boyfriend addiction but we talk about how life isn’t always like TV in those regards.

I like that the hard working town people tend to be the good guys and the rich 09ers are shown to be materialistic and  lazy. I’m tired of my girls being shown this fantasy that rich and famous is something to admire and idolize – or is even common or an option.

But I also like that it’s not as black and white as all that and that Veronica actually finds a way to exist and get along with everyone worth being friends with. There are good and bad on both sides of the tracks and she aligns with those that are worthy of her friendship no matter who they are or where they live.

Also the clothes  – she’s got style without being stylish or “fashionable”  and looks super cute without going for sexy or slutty.  When Puddin’ started requesting little polo type shirts  in her back to school wardrobe I didn’t think much of it, but was happy to oblige  – afterwards I started to realize where it’s coming from, Veronica likes a little polo-ish shirt as well.  Next thing you know she’ll be wearing a little leather neck choker necklace LOL.

How this show failed to make it past three seasons I’ll never understand. How it inspired a kickstarter campaign that funded a whole motion pictures I totally get.

We might have missed the train the first time around but we are definitely on board now!

Rethinking my iPhone addiction

I love my iPhone. I’m no Apple junkie, in fact I kind of loath the MacBook that I inherited for work and only use it when I have to. Admittedly part of that is comfort, I’ve spent decades mastering the PC so relearning even the simplest thing like how to backspace with a key that says delete when here is no actual delete key – not so much fun.

But I’ve been an iPhone lover from the start – I’ve loyally upgraded every 2 years as my contract allows. I’ve even sort of weaned myself from my big heavy DSLR in favor of iPhone photos. Sort of.

My daughter understandably begs for an iPhone of her own. Right now she uses my old 4 as a glorified iPod touch. But money being what it is and the fact that she’s 11 and prone to loosing things – I am not about to get into another pricey data contract just so she can be like mom.

Enter Metro PCS.. she’s had a crappy it’s-only-a-phone phone with them for a year or so that she took with her to practice and church or where ever she got dropped off so she could call me if needed. The no contract and cheapo less than $50 phone was just what we needed at the time. But not surprisingly it died or more specifically the battery died about a year into it. So with middle school coming up and the year of being responsible phone-wise I agreed to an upgrade.

They are running a special for $40 a month, unlimited talk, text, and data (throttled) and deals on entry level smart phones. So I bit – and I got her the LG  Optimus F3 for less than $100 and off I went home to set it up.

Having never dealt with anything Android I figured again I was going to be in for a bit of a learning curve and like the Mac/PC experience I wouldn’t love the new toy as much. But much to my surprise the whole thing was crazy easy, even kind of fun,  and the Google Play store or whatever they call it had every app she uses on her iPod plus some.

In fact there’s nothing I do on my iPhone that I haven’t found the same or better app for on the Android. And hers has a expansion slot for an SD card so I can control the size of the memory with an relatively inexpensive memory card. Endless room for One Direction songs and videos of cats …. I’m starting to get it now.

So her monthly cost 1/3 of mine (granted I’m grandfathered into unlimited unthrottled data) and her phone is 1/3 the cost of mine. And there is not a contract so it can be upgraded or replaced without drama anytime? And it’s just as good? Just as cool? In some ways better? What??!!??

Time for me to rethink the iPhone I believe. Maybe even my iPad…

I’m due for a new iPad at the end of the year through work as part of a contest and I’m already lobbying my IT boss into letting us choose the kind of tablet rather than getting the Apple gift card by default.  That Nexus 7 and 10 are looking pretty cool…

Nothing in this post was sponsored – this is just me telling the story of how I spent my own money and how I felt about it.

Flat On My Back

photo-2This week was supposed to be about me having my schedule and life back to myself after summer break being over the kids.

Monday morning went off like a charm – took the little one to the bus, took the big one to the bus. Came back and settled into a weekly conference call update to learn what had gone on during my week of vacation.

A few minutes into that call I decided that it was a little warm in the room and stood up to adjust the thermostat and RIP… there went my back. Massive spasms up and down both sides. I’ve been flat on my back ever since.

If I lay down I’m fine, then I can get up and walk a bit and be fine. But I don’t dare sit. Sitting is evil. Sitting makes me feel like I’m going to break in half.

This has only ever happened once before, last spring. I was putting away pots and pans and the same thing happened. That time I ended up also aggravating my sciatic nerve during the recovery which was worse than the back pain at times. So note to self: Avoid that!

I’ve already taken a huge step I hope in preventing this again. I insisted on getting a new work chair. I was in a glorified conference room chair and now I have an actual adjust it 10 ways computer chair that is rated for 6-8 hours of sitting. (Did you know office chairs get rated for sit time?)

Anyway – resting it out is the method of choice unless anyone out there has a better idea.

Grand way to start my “year”

Middle School

wpid-972123_10153160297445215_848467249_n.jpgMiddle. School.

I almost feel as if that’s all I really need to say. Worse years of most people’s life and for kid it’s starting… now.

Middle School.

I’m something of a Free Range parent. I believe that it’s my job as a parent to produce children who are ready willing and able to take care of themselves by the time they graduate from high school. That we are on that journey to readiness with every baby step we take today and tomorrow and the next day. (Insert long story of how I left home at 18 and never looked back blah blah blah)

Anyway, Middle. School.

Turns out that the choice to go to our designated middle school was a bit of a Free Range decision. We sit just 100 yards shy of the border for the actual geographically closest middle school and instead are boundried for one that is 5 times farther away. This freaks people out.

Those measures are as the crow flies.. as the car drives it takes about the same amount of time to reach either. This is caused by the face that a major interstate highway that runs right beside the middle school as well. So the while the route to closer school is less than 1.5 miles with red lights and traffic, it takes the same 10 minutes that covering the 6 miles on the highway does.

Still – it freaks suburban people out that their kids are going to go to school in some one else’s neighborhood other than their own.

I don’t mean it’s a bad neighborhood, We are not talking inner city busing, not even close. I’m talking about the fact that they are going to school on the other side of the mall and a golf course.  Because that is what is between here and there. A upscale mall, and a members only golf course and accompanying houses. Seriously.

Still there are vague horror stories that no one can validate or speak to that this school is “rough.”  Rough? They don’t even let the kids go to the lockers at the same times because they are afraid the top row kids will drop a book on the bottom row kids?

Insert rights-of-passage diatribe.

Rough? I’ve seen no evidence of it so far. But still half of Puddin’s fifth grade class was shipped off to private or magnet schools – which are in the inner city of the nation’s highest crime ridden downtowns – rather than go to this school on the other side of the flipping mall and golf course.  Half!

My next door neighbor while agreeing to the common sense of the argument above is still refusing to let her kid ride the bus. The bus might be rough. Rough? It has two other stops before us, both of which are one street away and right between us and the elementary school they just completed – meaning every kid on that bus went to the same elementary school with them in the last 3 years. It’s our neighbors kids! Did these formerly just-like-our-kids children convert to thugs in the last 2 to 3 years? Rough!

Ughh..

Anyway. Middle School I’ve decided is mostly made of up of parents projecting their own fears and worries on to their children. If we tell them it’s going to awful, and rough, and socially hard they will believe us. If we hand them a book called “The Worst Years of my Life” how can we be surprised when they expect them to be the worst years of their lives? (Transparency moment – my kid owns that book although she has not read it)

So I’ve decided that Middle School is no big deal. That’s how we are playing it.

In fact, it’s awesome. A place of new beginnings. The first opportunity, of many, in life she’ll have to redefine herself on her own terms. A place to meet new people and expand her world and boundaries. Where sports will be played and dances will be danced. Sure there might be mean girls but there will also be cute boys, and good friends, and school newspapers, and technology classes and science labs. So much more likelihood for cool things than lame if you only look for it to be that way.

So we’re putting that out there – we love Middle School. We are excited about Middle School.

Middle School is going to Rock!