Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sippy Cups & Social-Networking: Togetherville a Facebook for Kids

 Have you guys heard about the new website Togetherville? It’s essentially Facebook 4 Kids.

The social networking site is for children ages 6 to 10 and their parents. Togetherville makes a lot of strides to provide a safe place for kids to interact online. Though they can do art projects, play games and swap videos, everything is vetted first. Like Facebook, kids can have friends, interact with children of their parents friends and they can comment on posts and make status updates or “quips.” The comments however are canned and innocent: I (heart) my family!

All of this sounds good, but what’s the point and will it catch on? I’m sure the same questions were asked of Twitter and look how that turned out. But still sippy cups and social networking?

Togetherville says that as kids in what I call the iGeneration are more plugged into their gadgets there’s a need for a safe place for them to practice healthy social-networking habits. It says it helps them to become “good digital citizens.”

One of my girlfriends told me recently how her 6-year-old threw a fit because she wasn’t allowed to get her own Facebook account. My friend’s compromise is that they share mom’s. But you can easily see where that could get sticky. All of a sudden you’ve got 7-year-olds posting random stuff on your wall or some high school cockroach making inappropriate comments that you can’t delete quite fast enough.

Togetherville would work well for them, but it’s like all social networking, if no one participates what fun would it be. Would you be on Facebook as much if there were only 30 people in the Facebook world, as opposed to the 410 million that are there today?

So we’ll see. I have to admit I’m skeptical, but intrigued.

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Where’d My Effervescent Hope Go?

This past weekend I went home to Kansas for my niece’s high school graduation. It was a lot of fun to watch her and her friends bubbling with excitement about their big day and what lies ahead. Most of her friends are going to college, some big and some small, but in talking with them, it struck me how they excitedly hopeful they all were.

Do you remember feeling like anything was possible? If you dream it you could achieve it? Opportunity knocks. If you built it… and all that jazz?

I do. I remember wearing that mortar board and itchy choir robe waiting for my name to be called, sitting next to a pretty girl named Summer and thinking about going off to college, majoring in journalism, becoming a journalist, traveling the world and at some point down the road having a family. I had it all laid out. And I was excited. And hopeful. And thirsty.

Now, about 15 years later, (gasp!) I’ve done those things and had a lot of fun. Tons of fun, but somewhere along my journey I lost that enthusiastic hope. I’m no Debbie Downer, in fact I consider myself a generally positive person, but I miss that carefree-everything’s-going-to-work-out-OK feeling.

A couple of my co-workers still have that attitude and being around them is like a breath of fresh air. One time I asked the guy how he was able to remain so positive, he just shrugged and said it didn’t make sense not to be. When I asked my other colleague, she just said she prefers to enjoy life. She admitted that she does get annoyed, she just tries to quickly let it go.

Maybe effervescent hope can go on my New Year’s resolution list of items to “Reclaim.” It’s going to take some work, less sweating the small stuff, less perfection, more perspective and patience. Wow, when I put it like that, it seems like a tall order, but I guess you never know until you try, right?

Work Evaluations vs. Mom Evaluations

 

Work evaluations, we’ve all had them. Each year (or about that) managers reach out to discuss our performance. There’s often an e-mail that gives you a heads up that a review is coming, which is sometimes followed by a self-appraisal. There’s forms with words like “Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Needs Improvement.” Also eventually comes the conversations where “stretch goals,” “development” and even “career paths” are discussed.

It’s all very structured, very tidy.

Very different from mom evaluations. Those come with no warning, no forms, no regular timing and certainly no structure. And when you get a bad one, it can cut. Deep.

The review on how good of a mom you are can come from anywhere. This morning my little guy turned to me, unprompted, and said “Mommy you’re my best friend.” Or it can be a teacher who brags to you about the thoughtfulness of your 16-year-old.

Then there’s the disapproving looks at the store when your child is screaming, thrashing and essentially frothing at the mouth. Your mommy friends who are surprised your toddler is *still* using a pacifier. The tween who screams she hates you, and the fire in her eyes lets you know she means it. Then there’s the jarring heart-to-heart with the 30-year-old who tells you all of the pain you’ve caused.

And we can’t forget the harshest critic of all: Ourselves. How many times have we flogged ourselves for misdeeds minor, major or imagined?

Momevals are hard to receive constructively because it’s a judgment on something we hold dear, our life’s passion. But all evaluations are hard and no one wants a bad one.

The thing to do is to put them into the proper perspective. (He’s not going to take his pacifier to college and she won’t hate you forever) If you’ve made mistakes, admit them, learn from them and move on. After all you’re trying your best.

Eating My Words … (Again)

I sent my kid to daycare today with flashing shoes and a black Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirt. I’ve become that parent. The following is Case No. 849 of me eating my words:

Before Logan, I’d see kids in stores and on the streets covered in over-the-top animations of cars, trucks, fairies, princesses, Care Bears, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and every other Disney character imaginable. I’d make a judgmental mental note, when I have kids, they’re not going to look like an advert for the Cartoon Network.

Some of these kids also had shoes with blinking lights, bells and horns. Horns!!!! But mine wouldn’t.

This week we go shoe shopping and unfortunately not the kind of shoe shopping that used to culminate in boxes of edgy stilts and flirty wedges. It’s shoe shopping at JCPenney in the “family section.” I go there for shoes for the little guy because you get good brands for very little cost. We mostly do Stride Rite, but I don’t like Stride Rite prices. Plus if your kid suffers a meltdown, no worries, you’re surrounded by sympathetic moms.

So I’m there, checking out the selection and Logan spots these black gawd-awful shoes with plastic red cars. “I want THAT ONE!” I tried to make snazzy gray Sketchers seem cool, but they were no match for the red car shoes that blinked red. I caved. I bought them, and he couldn’t have been happier hopping out of the store with strobing shoes.

The shirt was also a recent purchase and I saw it, knew he’d love it and told myself it wasn’t as horrible because the shirt was black. (The lies we tell ourselves! It’s actually very, very ugly)

But that’s the way it is. You think you’ll be one kind of parent and your kid teaches you that you’re another. And it’s all perfectly fine because they’re the greatest, hardest lessons you’ll learn.

An iTouch for a Toddler? ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?!?

That’s what I said to my husband when he told me he wanted to get Logan an iTouch for his 3rd birthday. I repeat THIRD birthday.

Hubby and I are gadget geeks and we ooo and ahhhh over the latest iPods,iPhones, iTouch, iPads and iWonderWhatThey’llThinkOfNexts. And I believe we try to be somewhat sensible when it comes to getting stuff for Logan.

Which is why when hubby asked me if I thought we could get Logan an iTouch I was shocked. A 3-year-old? Really? What’s the point? There’s educational apps, he tells me. What’s wrong with books? (I has a half-a-second from pulling out the ol’ “Back in my day….”) I began to suspect we’re going to buy this iTouch “for Logan,” but it’ll really be for hubby. But he insists, nope, it’s for the half-pint.

So, a $300 toy for a 3 year old? Not sure I can get over that. I mean, I can still hear the sound of his portable DVD player bouncing down the stairs when he chucked it mid-tantrum. (Surprisingly, it survived the nearly fatal fall.)

A few days later, I asked a woman who’s been an educator for years what she thinks of these devices for little ones. To my surprise she says it’s great. In fact she just got back from a conference in Chicago where the iPad was being touted as a wonderful education tool, especially for special needs kids. They’re already in some schools. You can do speech therapy, cover your ABCs and 123s, colors, animals and sounds. Apparently its bright colors and sleek design are ideal for capturing kids’ attention and as far as the iTouch, they’re perfectly sized for little hands. Though she recommended the  youngest of the iGeneration be 5 years old.

Who knew? Even though it’s been almost three years, I’m still adjusting to looking through the world with parental lenses.

iPods, iPads, iTouch for kids… iDon’tKnow, but maybe my hubby isn’t as crazy as I thought. What would you do?

How’s that New Year’s Resolution Coming Along?

Remember your New Year’s resolution? Have you kept it? Well, next month we’ll be at the half way mark of 2010. (Can you believe it!?!?) Are you half way to losing that weight? Paying off your debt? Have you been spending more time with family?

Many people blow off their New Year’s resolutions, so I try really hard to keep mine because I kinda like being different. It doesn’t mean I’m extra ambitious, I just set reasonably achievable ambitions. But this year I tried something new. It was Christine Kane‘s method where instead of picking a resolution you choose a word that you will embody all year long. Here’s a better explanation of it: Pick A Word.

After reading that post, the word that sprung to mind was reclaim. So that’s what my 2010 is supposed to be about. Reclaiming my old body (I lost 30 lbs!), reclaiming my confidence at work (long story), reclaiming my relationships (reconnecting with old friends) and anything that takes from me without giving something worthwhile in return isn’t supposed to be a priority.

As I look back at the year so far and do a gut check I noticed I’m slipping away from my reclaim touchstone. It’s time for me to get back on the Reclaim Train.

What about you? Does the Pick A Word approach appeal to you? If so give it a try, there’s plenty of time, you’ve got more than half the year left! 🙂

‘Mom, our house is messy’

“Mom, our house is messy.” That’s what my 2 ½ year old told me this week. I surveyed the room and saw he was right, there’s a battlefield of trains, cars, tractors, buses and firemen blanketing the living room floor. Half of the dining room table looks like I’m potty training a puppy and all of the shoes we’ve worn this week are well-positioned to recreate the Great Wall of China just inside our entryway.

Such is life, as some say.

But wait, this wasn’t supposed to be my life! I swear I used to be a clean person, I really was, but that was B.C. (before child.)

Now I must say before my hubby hops on here trying to out me, I’ve always had an issue with clutter in that I keep paper items. Magazines I am “finishing up,” coupons that I intend to (but never do) use and random pieces of mail. I cull through these little piles of papers and toss them, but they re-emerge. They’re not like the leaning tower of Pisa or anything, honestly they couldn’t fill one shoebox, but still.

I wonder if my place will ever be clean for more than 12 hours. I’ve tried picking up a little bit each day, but that doesn’t last long. After getting up at 5 a.m., leaving the house every day at 6:20 a.m. and returning at 6:30 p.m. only to make a Herculean effort to feed and get my kid to bed by 7:30 p.m. I run out of energy to then clean something. Afterall, there’s still dinner to be prepped and ate, at some point I need to have a conversation with my husband and also likely need to log in to my job to handle a few things.

I’m thinking that as my son gets older, he’ll be able to chip in more with chores. Right now he picks up his toys (um, somewhat) and likes the handheld vacuum, which is a start. Until then I guess the next time he tells me the house is messy I should just smile and say: “I know sweetie, deal with it.”