Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Embracing the Change

Alternate Title: How the Salesperson at Best Buy Made Me Feel Old

So it's not a secret that I've been pining for a new laptop for a while now. Mine was slow, and froze all the time, and was generally super annoying to try and write with. I filled the void by using Adam's computer and using my babysitter time to go to the library, but I was itching for a replacement. I didn't want to spend a ton, so I tried to exercise patience and scoured the "back to college" sales.

Then Adam found a deal online! Hooray!

The only issue was that it wasn't a traditional "laptop". It was a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid. Functions as a laptop, but you can detach the screen and use it as a tablet as well.

Looks like a laptop, right? 

I wasn't sure. I mean, I have a phone, I have a Kindle, we have two iPads in the house, and I have a tablet that Adam handed down to me that I literally never use. Ever. I don't need a tablet. I need a laptop.

But it was a laptop...kind of. And it was a really good deal. So I did what made sense to me. I went to an actual store to check it out before committing to an online purchase. I went to Best Buy because I figured they were the most likely to have something at least comparable to what I was considering. Plus, even if it isn't always true, there's at least a good chance that the person you're talking to knows what they are talking about.

So I went to Best Buy. I skulked around for a while, looking for what we'd seen online. But should I look in computers? Laptops? Tablets? Crap. I was stumped by the first step.

I finally found what I was looking for, so I started playing around. I wanted to make sure I liked the keyboard, and that it felt like a laptop and...

Enter salesperson.

SP: Can I answer any questions for you?

Me: Sure! Can you tell me about the 2 in 1 models?

SP: long speech that sounds like either a press release or a Best Buy script. Or both. Function of a laptop with convenience of a tablet! Intel processor! Battery life! Blah, blah, blah, I read all this on a Amazon already.

Me: I guess what my real issue is that I like the size and the price. The laptops I'm looking at seem huge and really expensive! But I don't really need a tablet. I liked my laptop. Will this feel like a laptop?

SP: Oh I get it. We find that a lot of older customers like to stick with what they know and...

Me: totally tuning out because OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST CALL ME AN OLD LADY????

SP: ...I mean, right now, it's a lot like desktops were a few years ago. A lot of people resisted laptops because they were so comfortable with what they knew! But these are really the way personal computing is going and...

Me: still not listening because OH MY GOD you did call me old!!! Geez, I just want a freaking laptop that opens and closes and will work when I sit in my bed at night or try to write at Starbucks! STOP ACTING LIKE I'M A TECHNOLOGY DUMMY!

SP: Do you have Netflix? You can detach the keyboard and watch all your favorite shows..

Me: Ok, thanks. I'm going to think about it.

Sorry, but do I seriously look like I haven't heard of NETFLIX? I mean, clearly I'm not eighteen, but come on! I was done.*

Then I left without continuing to play with it because I really didn't feel like being patronized anymore. And I came home and we ordered it on Amazon because I am NOT OLD and Amazon Prime never makes comments about my ability to embrace changes in technology**.

I've had it for a few days now and I'll admit, there's a bit of a learning curve. So far I have not attempted to detach anything, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a laptop and not a tablet. I'm aware that it has a touch screen, but I haven't used that either. The biggest issues for me are the way the weight is distributed (the bulk of the machine is in the tablet screen, which makes the keyboard very light, which is totally backwards from what I'm used to) and the storage. You are never more aware of how much space an OS takes up until you are working with limited storage.

But I am embracing the change because I am NOT OLD and I can totally handle changes in technology.

So there, Best Buy.

* It is entirely possible that the Best Buy salesperson was not calling me old, and simply explaining shifts in personal computing. This insult to me could have been completely in my head and a result of my own frustration about not being able to find exactly what I thought I wanted. 

** It is 100% certain that Amazon Prime didn't call me old. In fact, given the TV shows and toys they suggest to me, based on the videos we watch and what we order, they think that I'm a 5 year old girl. So they still win. 

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Excitement of New

Ah, my favorite time of year.

Back to school sales! Crayons and pencils and notebooks and highlighters! Backpacks and lunchboxes! New clothes! New shoes!

September and January are the fresh start months for me. I've written about this before (always implemented with varying degrees of success), but these are the months where I replenish our supplies and make plans to revamp and start fresh with routines and schedules and systems.

New planner! New workspace! New calendar!

What always cracks me up is my refusal to put any of these things in places as I get them. The new school supplies are still shiny and new in their packaging. The clothes still have their tags. The systems are planned, but not yet in use. You can't use your school supplies until school starts! You can't wear your new clothes until September! We won't put this system into place until we're back!

Not only that, but with the promise of new right around the corner, I don't put a ton of effort into maintaining the old anymore. Why bother? New is just around the corner! (Yes, I realize this makes absolutely no sense and makes me sound totally shallow. I'm not. I promise. But there are only so many times I can stain treat ice cream stains on shirts before just shrugging and looking toward the pristine new ones waiting for stains of their own).

Every year this feels ridiculous to me, yet every year I do it. Watch those shopping bags pile up, arrange the stacks of clothes and notebooks, but don't integrate them yet! Not yet! Not yet!

Sidenote: new haircuts are allowed. That would be pretty hard to wait on until the first morning.

I love it. I love starting the year off with a brand new notebook. I love having a first day outfit that's brand new. I love having the containers in the lunchbox be pristine. It helps the excitement and anticipation. Both girls have been eager to put their new school things to the test, but I've been teaching them the art of holding off and really starting the school year off new.

This year, I'm going to be tested.

My test this year isn't for something for the girls. It's for me. After weeks and weeks of frustration, Adam found a great deal on a new laptop for me to write on. Yay! New! It's been backordered, but we finally got the news that it shipped and I'll have it in my eager little hands by tomorrow night. I cannot wait to tear this box open and finally have a functional computer again!!! YES!!!

But wait! Does this count as a back to school purchase?

It was in a back to school sale.

It'll be used for our homeschooling curriculum.

My writing time will be factored into our new schedule.

Uh oh.

After spending far too much time agonizing over this, I'm going with no. It's not a back to school purchase, which is evidenced by the fact that this particular post has been delayed twice because my old laptop keeps shutting off, and I've been whining about the state of that particular machine for months. It's totally a business purchase.

Just don't tell my kids why Mommy gets to use her new stuff and they don't.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Get the Stink OUT!

This past week has been oppressively hot and humid where we live.

Now, I made a pledge this winter, as I have the past few winters when we're dealing with three days of snow and polar vortexes and astronomical heating oil bills and finding coats and boots that fit, that I will not complain about the heat. I can acknowledge the heat, but I can't complain about it.

Then our central air went out.

This happened to us last year too. We're at the end of summer, we get a really hot week, and our twenty-two year old system starts getting tired. The outdoor fan just won't kick on, and we end up living in a hot box while we wait to get it fixed. Because unlike "no heat" service emergencies in the winter, "no AC" calls in the summer get put in line. You'll get fixed...but maybe tomorrow...or maybe the next day...

And I realize that we are totally spoiled and would make terrible pioneers because we are sweating here! I really, truly don't mind the heat most of the time, but this brought be back to my childhood - trying to fall asleep on the second story of a hot house on a humid night, where every movement brings more sweat.

We survived, of course, and we managed to spend a good amount of time at the pool during the day while we waited for the repairman, but yesterday, when I woke Reagan up from her nap, I realized that her sheets were soaked in sweat, and even though it was kid sweat, it still gave her bed a nice locker room odor.

Yeah, we all got sheet changes once the air was back on. Stinky sheets are no joke.

Really, it's been the summer of sweaty, stinky stuff. Camp clothes and tennis clothes and golf socks and chlorine soaked, mildew-y bathing suits and towels forgotten in the pool bag...EW. Reagan had an accident at camp one day, and I didn't realize it right away because she'd come home in a bathing suit. The next morning was when I discovered the plastic bag of goodness that had been sitting in her backpack, in the hot car. Awesome.

We're almost done with the sweaty summer, but I have a feeling that as the girls grow, my dealings with stinky laundry will grow with them.

Back to School is coming fast, and I'm teaming up with Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator to offer a back to school giveaway.  Febreze sent me a free bottle of this to try earlier this summer, and this past week put it to the test. I was very happy to realize that even my grossest summer laundry smelled fresh after adding this to the wash. I was thrilled to jump in and participate, because I know how stinky fall sports can be.

Enter this Back to School giveaway from Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Walmart, $50 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods and Febreze In-Wash to get rid of the stink this fall!

One winner will take home a $100 Walmart gift card, $50 Dicks Sporting Goods gift card plus Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator to help you expel the smell.

Undo the Pee Yew

So much for back to school, it's time to get back to STINK. Football. Soccer. Hockey. Fall yard work. Hitting the gym. You name it, the stink is back, and it's badder than ever. So click here to download a $2 off coupon to try Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator to expel the smell, undo the pee yew and sink the stink. And if you're already a fan, click here to leave a review.

Enter to Win!

Complete the form below to enter to win!
Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm ET on Monday, August 31, 2015. Entrants must be residents of the United States or Canada. Promotion is void in Quebec.  photo mediumsignature_zpsbff01a79.png

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's PLAY!

This post was sponsored by Genius of Play. But my passion is all mine.

Today, Reagan wraps up her week of "camp". She starts preschool in two weeks, and because she's Reagan, and she's stubborn, and she's three, I wanted to give it a trial run, and a relaxed summer program seemed like a good way to test the waters.

Obviously, there were some moments that made it very clear that preschool for Reagan will be a big adjustment. There was some sulking at drop off, there were some moments of frustration during the day, and even the occasional accident (very unlike Reagan!). But every day when I picked her up, she said she had a great day, and that she had fun, and that she wanted to go back the next day.

I'd load my tired little girl into the car, and start the questions.

What did you do? 
What was your favorite thing today?
What was fun?

And every day, she'd answer with.

We just played, Mommy. It's fun to play.

Ah, unstructured free play. The reason we chose this school.

Obviously, I know they are doing a few more things. Reagan has told me that they have dance parties, and they read stories, and they play games, but ultimately, this preschool is all about play.

Two years ago we sent three-year-old Madison off to a great play based preschool. We loved the open ended set up, where you were free to play in the kitchen, build with blocks, dress up, whatever you were drawn to. And yes, they had circle time and story time and art time, but the overriding philosophy was play.

Then her school closed.

It closed right around the time that our town announced full day kindergarten, and districts everywhere were boasting about their rigorous kindergarten curriculum. They were launching these kids into hard core academics and, oh, look what they could accomplish. And if that wasn't unsettling enough, the rigors of kindergarten pushed the hard core academic focus into the preschools. Suddenly, every school we were looking at for Madison, despite the cheerful rooms of toys, was being sold to us on the "academic strength" of the program. Maybe they thought it's what parents want to hear, but not one program sold themselves as "play based".

Where did all that academic time come from?

I think we know. From playtime.

And if kids are in school, all day, not playing...and then they come home with homework (yes, already)...and then they have to eat and do chores and maybe even an activity...where's the play?

Now, I'm not going all crazy on the schools. The pressure comes from above, and it doesn't only trickle, it gushes down. If third graders are going to be tested on X, then they need to know Y by the end of second grade, and Z by the end of first grade, and the only way they'll all be able to do that is if we start doing this in kindergarten, but even that's not enough, so preschool teachers, if you wouldn't mind, we really need them all reading and writing and doing math before they get here.

Prove your worth! Every child can and will overachieve! The race starts now!

And I know many, many children who were in those academically minded preschools, and that rigorous full day kindergarten, and the kids did well. Would Madison have done well and still come home saying she had fun? Of course.

But cutting down, even cutting out, the time for unstructured play, starting as young as three and four years old, isn't really the best thing. Heck, play is still important for five, and six, and seven, and eight year olds too!

Among parents, there is sometimes an attitude that playtime is important, but it needs to be focused, and adult facilitated, and always have an undercurrent of learning.

He wanted to play in his toy kitchen! So cute! So I got out the measuring cups and we wrote a recipe (look how great his letters are!) and we counted out scoops and we learned about time while we watched the clock and how to divide our cake among all the dolls because no one should have hurt feelings...

Parents and kids playing together is great. Playing is FUN and the girls love asking me to join in. But does anyone else feel like that particular playtime became more about writing and math? The adult took over, and the rigor is back. Sigh.

When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I got talking with a woman about the Genius of Play campaign. And let me tell you, when you have two people, both passionate, on a subject like this, you feel like you can talk for hours. What this campaign is doing, in a nutshell, is speaking out about the importance of free play. The fact that play helps develop all sorts of skills, especially if we get out of the way and let it happen. When we were kids, we just played...and we still learned. Now, we can't seem to stop ourselves from micromanaging and making sure that every moment of the day is actively teaching a lesson of some kind.

I was asked to take the Pledge to Play - to let my kids engage in one hour of unstructured free play every day. I signed right up...because kids deserve that from us. I hope you'll check it out, and no matter how much rigor the kids have in learning, they can take an hour to just do what kids do best.


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Amazon and Wishenpoof - Another Big Hit Here!

If you can wish it...

Thanks to KidzVuz for sponsoring this post!
Finding good kids shows can be tough. Really tough. I want the girls to grow up to be nice, to be good friends, and to have compassion, and I love when we find someone like that in a show that's fun. Sometimes it seems like the kids have found a great one...until you hear an attitude creeping into conversation that sounds a lot like one of their beloved characters. Or it seems like it has a good message, but after a few episodes the kids lose interest because it isn't engaging. Or it's basically the same old show.  

Having a talent...learning to use it...making good choices...believing in yourself. Sounds like a great message for any kids show to have. Add in some fairy wings, some sparkles and a little girl with some wish magic, and you have my girls hooked. Hands down.

Even though the girls have tablets to use, one of their favorite things to do is steal my Kindle. In the past year, we've found some great original shows. Madison loved Annedroids and all the opportunity Anne had when she put her robotics skills to work. Both girls LOVE Creative Galaxy and the projects that Arty inspires them to try. With Amazon Video, they can watch them anywhere, and that's a huge hit. But on my Kindle, the shows appear directly in the carousel, and something about that appeals to them in a big way. And in addition to those shows, they get to see the suggested shows underneath. One of the suggestions they've had is Wishenpoof.  They watched the pilot episode and loved it...but that was it.

Now, Wishenpoof has been picked up, and we got the chance to review the first season. I'm always interested to see if some of these kids shows can carry on after a successful first episode. Sure, the girls loved the one. But would they keep watching?

Well, in just a few days Madison has managed to watch the entire series. Twice. So, yeah, I think she'll keep watching. I posted a picture of her on Instagram. She's starting to get familiar with Instagram, so she clicked the tag in my caption and was blown away by seeing other kids watching with Fire Kids and fairy wing.  And she even was able to see the girl who plays Bianca, the main character with wish magic. After grabbing some wings of her own and stealing my Kindle to get that experience, she started again.

Bianca's mom is always there to help her realize her potential.

Bianca is the main character in this series. One birthday, she makes a wish and gets the same wish magic her mom has. However, now that she has it, she needs to learn how to use it, and more importantly, how to use it well. She uses her wish magic to make things she imagines come to life, and to solve common pre-school and kindergarten problems in creative ways.

The first episode is all about learning to grow your talent and believe in yourself. Sure, sometimes it seems like the talent (or magic) is just there, but having talent doesn't guarantee success. You have to practice. You have to keep trying. And above all, talent (or magic) doesn't make everything easy. You still have to believe in yourself.

The second episode felt so true to our experiences recently with "real" and "imaginary". Bianca uses her wish magic and imagines a unicorn. She helps the unicorn solve some problems by speaking up. In Bianca's school life, two of her friends aren't getting along. One of them has imagined a pink and purple horse, but the other, feeling very knowledgeable and mature, informs the first that pink horses aren't real. Horses are brown, or white or black. The picture of the purple horse is wrong, and the two girls struggle to get along. Bianca helps out, both with her belief in imagination, and her ability to speak up when she feels people aren't being kind. Such a common preschool issue, and I love how it was dealt with.

There are episodes that deal with listening to what your little brother (or, in our case, sister) wants to do, and not insisting they are the same as you. There are episodes that deal with taking a big job and breaking it down. And most of all, every episode covers the concepts of trying again, believing in yourself, exploring your imagination, and making good choices, with magic or without.

The only drawback to me was the voice of Bianca...but not in the way you think. Bianca (played by Addison Holley, who is also the voice of Miss Elaina in Daniel Tiger) sings many inspirational songs, and she sings in a clear, clean voice that the music teacher in me loves. The issue I have is that Bianca's mature, trained singing voice sounds markedly different than her young girl speaking voice. To me, I hear Bianca age from five to seventeen when I hear her sing. As an adult, that kind of bothers me. I asked Madison about it, and she didn't care one bit.

Mom, that's just how people sing.

So there you go. Mom voted down. 

The series will launch tomorrow, Friday, August 14 on Amazon Prime with 14 free episodes. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a show with a great message, a good dose of imagination, and just enough sparkles to inspire fairy wings and glitter.

And it may even be worth the loss of my Kindle to my very addicted daughter.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

When the Universe Says Slow Down

Last week I was all gung ho about hitting unpause and prioritizing my re-entry. I had plans. I was going to write often! I had my idea book ready! I was going to get organized! I'd planned my projects so I wouldn't get overwhelmed! But I was ready.

Then the universe struck me down with a big, old school Nelson from the Simpsons HA HA!

Nothing huge happened. Nothing awful happened. But little stuff happened and started to sabotage me.

First, it is important to understand where I am writing this. I am using my husband's computer while he's out. Where did I write yesterday? At the library, using a public computer while the girls were at morning day camp. WHY am I parasiting on others' computers?

 (insert picture here that is refusing to download onto the library computer. And breathe).

Because mine went from semi-annoying to barely functional. It has taken slow to a whooooooole neeeeeeew leeeeeevvvveeeellll.

Fooooooorrrrr the loooooovvvveee.

Those who know me know that I generally move fast. I talk fast. I write fast. I want answers fast. I don't have a ton of patience when it comes to waiting. If I'm sitting at an intersection, wanting to turn left, but traffic is bad and I don't see the possibility of turning left in the near future, I will turn right, change my route, and, quite possibly, take a longer route just so I don't have to sit there with my left blinker on, staring at traffic.

For me, one of the worst computer glitches ever is the molasses drip of death. And it's in every program. It is so slow. I've done a virus scan. I've uninstalled programs. I've defragged. I've backed up pictures and videos onto my portable hard drive. Nope, nope, nope, nope. It's slow. It's a few years old now and it's slowing down. I seriously can't type on it without wanting to throw it out the window after ten minutes. And before you think that you could handle it and this is just an impatience thing, let me tell you that Adam tried it and admitted that there was NO WAY he could handle it either. When most people type they want the letters and words to appear on the screen as they are typing them - not fifteen seconds later.

Then I powered through, fueled by the thought of a new laptop, wrote a post, and my computer froze up while I was in the editing process, and - surprise! - I lost the whole thing. Did I save in Blogger as I went along? Yes, I type directly in Blogger. I don't like composing in Word. Of course I did. Did the computer seem to recognize that? Nope.

So now we're researching laptops, which is fine, but in the meantime, if I want to write and not start yelling, I need to do it elsewhere, on someone else's computer. Not really the best way to get into a great routine.

Then there are the project plans.

My parents had the girls last weekend while Adam played golf in an endless sort of tournament, so I had the house to myself. I live for these weekends. I love these weekends. And man, did I have plans for this one. I had things to clean and things to clean OUT and things to organize. I was going to deep clean the bathrooms. I was going to organize the homeschool materials that are staring at me from the corner of my bedroom. I was finally going to finish my nook, which has sat, not quite at completion, taunting me. I had master lists and sub-lists and daily lists and project specific lists. I put times on there. I set timers to make sure I didn't dawdle. I put my phone in the car so it wouldn't distract me.

I dropped the girls off, stopped quickly at the store to pick up a few things they needed for camp, and worked at home for close to five hours before leaving to have dinner with Adam and some friends. The next morning I worked from 8:00 to 3:00, leaving the house for about ninety minutes in that time to vacuum out the car and hit the grocery store.

And what did I get done?

The laundry (albeit all the laundry).
The general pick up needed before any real cleaning could occur.
My car.

The end.

Wait, what? 

I worked in the house for SO LONG. I had systems in place specifically to avoid the feeling of "not getting anything done"! I didn't get distracted! I made lists! HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE???? People who knew of my grand plans asked about how I managed and I was embarrassed to have such little actual evidence of all my free time.

But really, I think the universe was telling me to slow down. Like I tell Madison when she wants to be at dance every night and do every style and a solo and a trio and ....

Slow down.

Your computer is slow. That's ok. You are finding creative solutions while you figure out the right replacement, which is forcing you to be more productive when you do get some computer time on a decent machine. Are you posting daily? No. But you've basically been on a blogging vacation for a month. Why are you trying to go from 0-100?

You didn't get everything done. That's ok. You got caught up on what you needed to catch up on. You didn't do the projects, sure. But you can't go from a lazy summer of no systems to a perfectly tidy, organized, efficient house in two weekend days. You just can't. Why are you trying?

Slow down.

Both girls are in morning day camp this week, which means, for three hours every morning, I am on my own. I can run errands. I can go to the library and work on a computer. I can come home and get some things done. I don't need to give myself crazy deadlines or goals.

When you go too fast, you burn out. You get frustrated. It's work. It's too hard. Sure, everything is shiny for little while and you feel like Superwoman...but it doesn't last.  You end up wanting to go back to Pause Land and waste your evenings playing Candy Crush and liking pictures on Instagram.

So I'm listening to the universe. I'm enjoying the fact that our house gets far less "messy" with two girls at camp all morning and our nightly clean up is quick, leaving me time and energy to do some more of the actual cleaning. I'm making good use of my limited computer time.

Touche, Universe. You win.

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