Eating Our Vitamens

So I’m a couple of chapters into START by Jon Acuff, and right off I identified with his point about one of the barriers to starting is that we want to have the whole thing planned out, and how that just about never happens. That making a small start, “sample yogurt sized” as he puts it, is where it’s more likely to root successfully.

One thing I’ve decided is that out of my ideas that I’m flirting with is that I can’t possible start everything all at the same time. So I need to prioritize. Clearly I’ve put firing up the old blog at the top.. mainly because right now I’m seeing it as a tool for working through the other things. For thinking my thoughts. After that I might tackle one new start every week or so for the next few months. I’m starting small with my starts.

Up Next comes the food thing.

This is one effects the kids so I want put this high on the list. We don’t eat well. We used to before the drama but now, not so much. By well, I’m referring to nutritionally, rather than volume or quality. Two factors contribute to this, first we are on the go all the time with the girls sports schedules. And second I hate to cook, or more correctly I hate to clean up afterwards, the cooking I’m okay with actually. So as a result, given those factors we have snacked and munched our way through summer and very little of it holds that much value.

Summer is ending so it’s a good time to change.

The truth is I’d love to be a whole-food, vegan dish preparing mom whose kid’s lunches are little bento boxes of wholesome organic goodness. That is the BHAG, That is where I get stuck on this food thing. I have felt like it has to be an all or nothing, zero sum change. We have to go all in or not at all. But that isn’t going to happen. At least not overnight. So I sat down to figure out where we can START.

Here are my goals with #EatingBetter:

  1. I want to eat well enough so that we are getting our needed vitamins and minerals in our food and drinks. If it doesn’t help fulfill this goal, we probably don’t need to eat it. I’m looking at you Cheetos, we love you but really what is your point?
  2. When given the choice, I’m going to pick versions of the things we like that are more natural or organic or  free range or hormone free or whatevergogurt
  3. There are still somethings we’re allowed that aren’t going to fit into those first two rules but that fit into our lives: like Pop-Tarts. That is okay.
  4. We will limit meat but aren’t going to give up meat or dairy – I feel that the girls need the protein and the calcium sources in their diets. But again, better choices and better sources. We might work our way toward vegetarian but probably not vegan.
  5. It’s okay to treat ourselves occasionally – yeap I’m looking at your snack sized McFlurry

So there are the 5 rules I’m going to START taking with me to the grocery store and through the drive through and into the take out menu.

I’ll let you know how it’s going next week.

Mile Stones: Biking to a friends house after school

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See those two, as we speak they are supposedly doing math homework that “would be so much easier if we worked on it together”….

Yeah, I know, I remember that one too. 🙂 Those were the days.

Truth is today has nothing to do with homework and everything to do with growing up.

Puddin’ strapped on her helmet and rode over to a school friend’s house who doesn’t live that close after she got home on the bus. Out of the neighborhood and across a fairly large and crowded intersection full of impatient minivans driven by distracted moms late for soccer/ballet/football/cheerleading.

This kid regular trains for her races by doing 6-10 miles at a time but this two miles.. probably the significant she’s ever done.

With that two miles, she broke the neighborhood barrier and left to go out on her own to a friend’s house with instructions to start heading back home by 6:30 or when the other family was ready for dinner, which ever came first.

One more taste of precious independence.

She’ll be 12 next month and the way I see it, I’ve 6 years to get her ready to take her passport and walk out that door fully capable of roaming the planet on her own.

I fully intend to get her there on time, one two-mile bike ride at a time.

Dear Random Children of the Internet with Blogging Moms:

ImageI’m sorry.

You have been yelled at, threatened, slut shamed, and talked down to  by both your parents and your friends parents ad nauseum on the internet this week.

I’m not sure why, sometimes we just get in a mood. Truth is these letters aren’t about you really. They are about ourselves – or at least about the view of ourselves we want others to have. They have way more to do about the image we are looking to project to our peers than they actually do about any real parenting we’re trying to pull off.

That being said….

I promise to never write an open letter to either my children or their friends expressing my disapproval of whatever pop culture, social media, buzz worthy crap that has me teed off this week.

I realize it will just make me look judgy and kind of ridiculous and would in reality have absolutely nothing to do with actually communicating with or parenting you.

2 Million views would not be worth the inevitable embarrassment these kinds of posts must cause the children of the people involved.

Instead I promise to sit down and talk to you personally about what ever shit is going on. Or even in some cases keep my opinions to myself because  – I kind of give you credit for being pretty awesome people who don’t need to be preached at in person, much less over the internet.

That is all.

Carry On.

Mom

p.s. The cats are still fair game.

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.

Literary Rites Of Passage

I bought Puddin’ some summer reading books for a graduation present this week. Yes, books. I’m on a simplify and add more value to our lives kick, and expensive gadget presents are out – books are in. More on that later.

This week, in addition to all the festive graduation stuff, they also watched “THE VIDEO” – yes, that video. The one where girls watch a different one than the boys.

So one obvious choice was this one…

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I’ve actually been a little surprised “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” has not come up along the way  because it was the must read book of my 5th grade experience.  But I’ve found that Judy Blume (at least our school) has become a casualty of Harry Potter, Wimpy Kid, and 39 Clues. If it’s not a series that Scholastic can push at the book fair then it doesn’t get attention.  Judy’s must read books from my childhood have sadly been overshadowed and over looked.

I’m on a mission to change that and to introduce her The Mother of the Young Adult Literary Genre. Because let’s face it – without Judy, there would be no John Green, no Sarah Dessen, no Cecily von Zeigesar, no Stephanie Meyer.

So we’ll start with Margaret. And after that will move on to Deenie, and Iggie, and Sally J .. 

And we’ll steer clear of “Forever” for a few years.. so she won’t pass a dog-eared copy around her 6th grade class like I did. LOL  (see what happens when mom’s don’t read)

I’d love to see Scholastic do a “Throw Back” themed book fair and feature some of the best loved YA books from the last 30 or 40 years instead of new stuff – wouldn’t that awesome!?!

I mean I’m sure that there were awesome YA novels published in the 80s and 90s that I never heard of since by then I was in high school and college and that whole internet thing hadn’t really caught on yet. But whatever those books are, they are sitting dusty on some library self somewhere, unknown to these kids who only get pushed the latest and greatest it-must-be-a-three-part-series-whether-the-story-holds-up-that-long-or-not from the publishers. (Insert publishers just care about profits these days rant)  I’m looking at you Divergent series, I’m looking at you.

Seriously – when was the last time you saw “A Wrinkle In Time” featured at the book fair? That book alone hooked me on Sci-Fi for years to come. That book changed me in ways only a great book can. It set me on a path of interests that I would never have followed other wise, it made me like science and math and effected choices I made about education and professions.  And let’s face it, as entertaining as Vampire Boarding School Series are – and I admit they are… they just don’t have that kind of effect.

So help me out, what other awesome books for middle-schoolers came out in the 80s and 90s that I don’t know about ..what are some can’t miss it books from the last 30 years that a soon to be 6th grader should be reading?

All Field Trips lead up to this…

The 5th grade field trip to Disney is a rite of passage here in Florida (it happens again as a senior but that is an entirely different story)

It was an amazing day. Seeing these kids go to Disney with 200 of their classmates, children they have known in many cases since Kindergarten. Remembering them as kindergartners… this one cried, that one still ate paste. Now she is taller than me and he looks me in the eye when he speaks finally.

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Even as parents it felt like a milestone, a graduation of sorts.

We are the same parents who have been going to The Zoo and City Hall, and the Symphony for the last 6 years.  Sometimes we don’t even know each other’s name – we’re just Sally’s Mom, or Joey’s Dad. We know each other by hat and sunglasses and hairdo.  But we know each other – because 4 years ago you helped me find the lost kid in my group and 2 years ago I took your group when you started feeling bad in the heat. We are not friends but we know each other, we trust each other. We’ve looked out for each other, we’ve had each other’s back.

And this week we jumped off a cliff and took the whole crew to Disney and sat back and watched them run as pack, only supervising them from a distance and we talked and laughed and reminisced.  I don’t imagine that middle school field trips will be be the same. They won’t need us like they did in elementary school. This particular group of parents won’t come this way again.

So here’s to the Field Trip Parents for the Class of 2020. We made it through six years of Florida sun, community theatre, and snotty museum docents , we kept them alive, unscathed, and awake  through Alligator Farms, Zip Lines, and Peter and the Wolf.  

We always made it home with as many as we left with.

They were all good days. Salute.

I’ll see your Auditory Reading, and raise you a Math Cake

Last week Jen Hatmaker wrote maybe the most perfect Mom blog post ever  – if you haven’t read it, go now quickly.

Seriously right! We are all feeling it. And this year I got the added fun of having a 5th grader graduating from elementary school. Which I’ve learned involves all the emotional “When did these babies grow up so fast” heartbreak of a high schooler only you still have to drive them everywhere and chaperone field trips.

But each year I get to add one more level of #momfail to this whole season .. my youngest daughter’s birthday falls on the last week of school every year.

Yes, birthday. The last week of school. There is a reason she starts reminding me her birthday is coming up right after spring break.

So while my older daughter, October Girl has always gotten jumpy houses, bowling allies, & sleep overs.. whatever the age appropriate extravaganza is  June Girl gets to “have a few old friends over to swim, but it’s not a party.”

So we start each year inviting only a handful of her closer girlfriends and them inevitable 80% of the moms call me to explain why they cannot attend… dance recital, all star tournament, grandparents are here etc. and we end up with maybe two friends coming over to swim for a few hours on the Saturday before school is out.

This year I had the pleasure of THE DISNEY FIELD TRIP the day before our it’s-not-a-party day. So I left the house at 5:30 am to ride a bus to Disney  (trust me this will get it’s own post) that returned 14 and half hours later at 7:00pm  only to realize I had no cake, no snacks, no prep at all. Well crap. I ran to Publix and Target and grabbed a few things, and headed home. I had this under control, it was going to be okay.

When it came time to bring out the I-got-a-cake-but-is-still-not-a-birthday-party cake, I plopped the candle on top, lit that puppy, and headed out the back door. I walked out to the expected squeals and joy …except for the birthday girl herself. She is looking me with that special disappointment face.

“Mom, I’m 7 now, I’m turning 8” – she points to the cake.

Where I look down and realize I have stuck the “7” candle I was so proud of myself for having just two minutes early.

Crap. Crap. Crap. I can fix this!

I run back in, grab a standard run of the mill cake candle.. slam it in the cake.

That’s “7 + 1 Missy” I tell her – it’s a Math Cake.

Math Cake

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In typical Fancy Pants fashion, she quickly reversed the candles, declared herself 17 and asked for a car.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Best Mother’s Day Present Ever..

Even it came two days later this spontaneous note left to my from S regarding my parents upcoming visit for the remainder of the week has made my month! Maybe Year!

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It reads:

Dear Mommy

You need to give me a ponytail so Mur (Grandmother) can see my face and not have to pull on my hair because it hurts a lot when she tries to do it.

Complete and Utter Vindication for 92% of my childhood complaints prior to the age of 8!

Yes my darling I will protect you from your Grandmother and her Evil Hairbrush of Death! We girls gotta stick together.

Picture of the Day: Getting Her PhD in Little Sister

PIcture of the Day: Getting Her PhD in Little Sister

Yesterday as I’m talking to P about Homework, S walks in and gently touches her older sister the arm. She then smiles and informs us,

“Mr Adam just killed a snake and he let me touch it and I just touch you with the hand that touched it.”

Raising Tech Kids: Kindle Fire and FreeTime

Kindle Fire with FreeTimeBoth the girls received Kindle Fire’s for Christmas. They had not asked for them but I was looking to make an active move towards purchasing gifts that I felt hold more value and would be used more often than random toys and bling encrusted junk that just gets left around for Mama to pick up.

I had stumbled across a promotional price (less than a DS and way less than a ipod)  the week of Black Friday and snapped two up. It was total surprise and ended up being their favorite gift.

In early December Amazon announced the release of FreeTime – a kid zone type app that would (with my prime membership) allow a number of pre-approved kid friendly items to be at their disposal without me having to pay a la cart for them.

Awesome.

And it is, although it’s very clear that it’s a first generation product at this point.

In spirit –  the FreeTime app rocks. Here is what I love about it.

  • It’s a flat monthly rate (about the cost of 1 book), no begging me for every game or video or book
  • Once they are in it, they are locked in it. They cannot access content outside of it without me unlocking the machine
  • I can choose to add content from outside FreeTime into their FreeTime profile, so if you let your kid on Facebook for example, or maybe download a Judy Moody Book,  that can be added and they are still locked in.
  • You can set up multiple profiles for different kids with different additional content – my oldest is allowed some things that my youngest is not. (i.e. certain Judy Blume books)

But like I said, it’s clearly the first pass at the idea. I think there is a great deal of improvements that can be made and I look forward to seeing the products get better and better.

(Amazon – want to hire me to be a consultant on some of this? Here I’ll give you the first ideas for free )

  • We should be able to segment the content by age level. It’s all in one big pile right now and it’s hard to browse through the entire haystack.
  • Amazon suffers from what most internet app designers do when approaching “Kid friendly apps” – they are totally caught up with Pre-Schoolers and forget there are older kids out there. The majority of the book and video content is focused on the 5 and under crowd and not so much the 6-12 age group. Hint to the content curators – no kid who’s started Kindergarten wants that much Dora… Pull back on the Dora! Nothing against Dora but OMG there is so much of it! You need a Dora filter or something.
    • Especially books, you need more books that aren’t beginning reader books. It’s very heavy on the early reader crowd.Hard to find things for say 4th-6th graders.
  • Make it easier for me to admin. It wasn’t that easy to set up and seriously if I’m tweaking the settings I have to put in my parent password every three steps.
  • Love idea of being able to limit the game time, video time, and book time separately – that was smart. But how much smarter would it have been to give even finer controls, like time periods. i.e. no games during designated times for example my kids do their homework from 4-6pm.
  • Better yet –give us the option to gamify it. Let them earn more game or video time by reading … let me set the parameters maybe every 25 pages or 25 minutes of active reading = they earn the  same amount of game or video time.
  • Allow limited internet access to approved sites. My kids get web based homework assignments from school on sites like IXL.com and www.spellingcity.com and they love doing them on their Kindle’s but I have to let them out of FreeTime to do it. Let me approve websites, like I can approve purchased content.  (also these site have apple apps but not android apps? Why is that?)

So here is my favorite story of Kids with Kindle’s so far… One night little FancyPants was sitting beside me in bed watching videos or playing games or whatever, and I was reading or watching videos or whatever on mine (yes I have one too – older gen 1 Fire). I had on headphones. She taps me on the arm and I pull off the headphones and she asks me this question, “What’s up with the guy in the videos that takes his clothes on an off all the time?”

I tried to hide my panic while I desperately tried to remember if I somehow forgot to put her back in the FreeTime app last time I was doing something and thinking she somehow got into something on the Prime Instant Video stuff I have access to. Very calmly I ask.. “What man, honey?”

“You know,” she says “He’s always doing this (mimes removing a jacket) when he comes and goes.  And his shoes, he always taking his shoes off”

At that point a light bulb went off.. “Do you mean Mr. Rogers?” (Oh thank gawd!)

“Yes!” she says. “What’s up with that!?!”  And then I realized that my kids being daycare and pre-k type kids – they never see Mr. Rogers. PBS puts on a little Sesame Street on Sprout at night but never Mr. Rogers. He’s a day time fellow. The Free Time app has what looks like several season of his show in the video area.

“OMG!” I told her – “Do you love the Neighborhood of Make Believe or what? Henrietta Pussycat was my absolute favorite!” – at which point her eyes got wide and she enthusiastically nodded and we spent the next 2 hours watching Mr. Rogers episodes together – totally fast forwarding to the part where Trolly comes in.

* Note, the products discussed in this blog post were/are paid for in full by myself. I was not paid to write this in anyway.