Category Archives: Uncategorized

iPhone apps for kids that don’t suck


There’s this great thing about having a smart phone (or tablet) tucked away – at the doctors office and all sorts of other places around town where we sit around waiting I have a way to entertain my kids with ease. The key is, apps. Fun, educational apps. Here are my faves (some are paid, but worth it, others are free).

Dragon Box

Dragon Box: Aimed for ages 8 and up, my 4 and 6 year olds love it too. It’s an intuitive game that separates the screen in half, and the goal is to isolate the “dragon box” on one half of the screen. But whatever you do to one half, you have to do to the other half of the screen too. It teaches algebra skills without any numbers! That’s right – they’re getting ready for algebra and they don’t even know it!

Cash Cow: cool little game with neat cartoony graphics – teaches math and money skills

Presidents vs. Aliens: Bean and I compete with each other in this one, and I’m afraid to say her presidential trivia skills beat mine. Answering questions correctly gives you the opportunity to shoot aliens out of the sky. Cool? Yes.

Mathmateer: Kids get to build a rocket and then use it doing basic math. You can set the level and skills (number recognition, addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.). Super fun.

Stack the States: By the same developer as Presidents vs. Aliens, this one uses trivia about the US states. There’s another version about countries in the world that’s cool too.

Pure genius: Kids helping with chores


Since our kids are over that infant/toddler-must-be-watched-at-all-times phase, we’ve made a habit of keeping toys upstairs, for the most part. Of course, during the day the kids wander downstairs with toys or books, to make a hideout fort under the dining room table or just because they don’t want to let something out of their sight while doing something else. So at the end of they we have them make sure all their toys are taken back upstairs – and as you can imagine, they often miss a few.

It’s been a constant hassle – sweeping up stray legos, stepping on matchbox cars (or vice versa). So we had this great idea that instead of returning their toys to their rooms when we find them, we’ll put them in a clear container that they can see but not touch.

When they want something back, they have to buy it back with a task from the buy-back jar. Here’s our list of tasks – some are easier than others.

Practice karate for 20 minutes
Play outside for 20 minutes
Make your bed
Fold laundry
Vacuum 1 room
Sweep the kitchen
Clean up all the toys in your room
Find toys and books downstairs and put them away
Sweep the hallway
Clean downstairs surfaces (light switches, door handles, window sills) with a wet wipe
Clean the bathroom counter (upstairs) with a wet wipe
Clean one toilet
Sharpen pencils
Clean up someone else’s room
Read a book to Bruiser
Do 20 minutes on IXL (math practice website)

A couple of things to note: we keep non-toxic Seventh Generation all purpose wipes on hand, so I’m not putting a bleach- or ammonia- based cloth in their hands. Bruiser can’t do quite all of these, but he can do most. I put a little red dot on all the things he can do, so when he needs a task I make sure I pull out one with a red dot.

Will you hang up with us?


Aren’t kids awesome? I thought I’d share a few of the priceless treasures we’ve heard lately.

Dropping the kids off at Sunday School Bean said “Mama, will you hang up with us?” (hang out, I think is what she meant.)

Little Man, singing worship songs loud in the backseat of the minivan, “Hosanna, Hosanna… Be exhausted O Lord our God…”

Little Man, “if you eat too much, you become a rainbow.”

When I woke Bruiser up and asked him if he slept good (at age 2), “No mama, I slep well.” All right, mini grammar coach…

Why I love PetSmart


It’s not just the fun kiddos have looking at fish and small animals at the ‘suburban zoo’ – it’s the people.

For instance, yesterday. We went into PetSmart and a lovely woman asked if we’d like help. Bean piped up and said, “Why, yes, we would!” And much to my surprise, she very politely asked the woman if they carry any leprechaun traps.

Now, just any saleswoman might snicker, look away, or tell my kid she’s very sorry, but that isn’t the type of pet they cater to in this store. But she wasn’t just any saleswoman. She said to my Bean, “Sure we do. We keep them right over here in this aisle. Follow me please!” And when she brought us to the bird aisle where there were all sorts of cages, she looked Bean straight in the eye and offered to help us choose the right kind of leprechaun trap if we’d like her help.

Great people, great store.

Train the masses!


Problem #1: Unemployment is skyrocketing in the US and has been for the last year and a half.

Problem #2: Companies can find cheaper labor overseas, so they outsource a lot of work that used to be done by Americans, leaving the unemployed with the need to find another way to fit into the labor pool.

Problem #3: A lot of the existing jobs require certifications that are expensive to obtain, but not time-intensive.

My Solution: Why don’t Cisco, Microsoft, Six Sigma and some of the other credentialing agencies partner with state departments of labor to create a program in which the unemployed pay a small fee to enroll in a credentialing course? Even if the department of labor covers a couple hundred dollars of the cost, they’ll pay fewer months of unemployment benefits, saving money in the end.  Their expenditure might even be billable to the participant once he or she gains employment.

What the DOL gets out of it: Lowered unemployment statewide, saving money and resources.

What the unemployed participant gets out of it: Highly recognized credential that makes him or her much more marketable in the job field.

What Cisco and/or Six Sigma (and others) get out of it: Stellar PR for responding to the needs of the job market, and a more highly qualified job pool with greater diversity of skills.

A few things I like


I know, this is a lazy post. But, being that I’m a creative person and being that my children have unwittingly sapped my creative energy today (read: whined the sanity right out of me, till I nearly broke my toe on a chair while walking through the house), I thought I’d point you to a couple creative people out there.

There’s this music video. How can you not like it?

And these wedding invitations.

And then there’s this company – pretty remarkable in the way they tackle problems.



I get my news in the morning on Twitter. And this morning the news says that protesters will be out this morning in force, bearing flowers. I suppose the flowers are a sign of peace (hearkening back to the 1960s flower children?). Twitter also gives links to video reports online – a military general giving his opinion of the president, hospital interviews from victims of police brutality.

Other than that, life goes on as normal for most of us. Bean and Little Man have been told to stay home from school today because they were coughing yesterday. Other than the cough, they’re the perfect picture of health. But apparently we sent them to school one day not bundled well enough, so conventional wisdom says that they got the draft and they’re sick. Allergies and asthma? Those are really superfluous here. My kids caught the draft. So even though they’re healthy the nurse has asked us to keep them home. (Because even if they don’t look sick now, they will in a few hours… because they caught the draft) We’ll see about that.

The good news is that we now have a forced family vacation day. We’ve been informed that there will be power outages today – for 5-6 hours today in our region. So when the power goes out we’re going to load everyone up and go to ‘dinosaur park’ – the park in town where archeologists are digging up bones of a mastodon.

That’s it for today’s news. Flower children in Chisinau. Non-asthma, non-allergy draft-cough in 2 kids. Jurassic park.

credit: Tanya Van Horne

credit: Tanya Van Horne

English class


Bean has English class at preschool. It’s kinda funny because her English is better than the teacher’s. I got to sit in on the class last week for parents’ day, and Bean didn’t disappoint me – she’s always a great source of entertainment. The class went something like this:

Teacher: Stefan, Vot color iza zis cap?

Stefan: Eet. eez. blue.

Teacher: Yes, eet. is. Rebecca, Do you like to ee-at bananas?

Rebecca: Yes. I. do.

Teacher: Good.  Sofia, zis ees a keevee. (kiwi) Do you like to ee-at keevee?

Sofia: Nu stiu. (perfect Romanian, for “I don’t know.”)

And how would she know? Just because someone put it in a book of English language doesn’t mean that all English speakers eat ee-at keevee. Keevee eez expensive at Kroger, much more expensive zan somesing like ore-an-ges or strohberries or leemons. And, of course, while every other child in the class answered the questions in the correct form (yes, I like them zem.), Sofia was your typical American think-outside-the-box type of student who answered the question honestly, even if in the wrong language and the wrong answer.

Good people


Sometimes when you read the news you wonder what’s wrong with people. Sometimes it seems like everyone’s messed up. You look at the headlines and wonder what this world is coming to.

But sometimes things go right. Hubbs took me out to breakfast this morning for Valentine’s Day. When we came home we went about our (very hectic) business – packing to move overseas in 3 days. And then this evening I couldn’t find my purse, but no worries. I figured it must be hiding under a box or stack of something or other – after all, with no furniture left in the house there are stacks and piles  of ‘stuff’ everywhere. We got a call around 9PM from Starbucks, where we had breakfast. They’d found my purse and wanted to return it, and they’d tried all day to find a way to contact me. When we went to get it do you know what I found? Everything. $80 cash in the wallet. My Ipod. My daughter’s toddler bling necklace. My credit cards. Another $20 in a pocket. People are good.

Over the past week my friends have come alongside me to help me pack. They’ve packed for me. They’ve moved furniture. They’ve hauled away my Goodwill donations. People are good.

Friends have loaned us pack-n-plays, shopped second-hand stores for suitcases and snow boots, brought us food, fed us in their homes. Strangers have helped us settle my in-laws in their new digs. People are so good.

This experience of moving across the world has been so good. We’ve seen people come together and shower us with kindness. It’s heart-warming. Thank you to all the people who have come alongside us and helped smooth the transition. It’s been a blessing.