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.

31 things to teach your daughter

1. How to give a firm handshake.
2. To never wear clothes with something written across the butt.
3. A man will never treat a woman better than he treats his mom. Pay attention to how the guys treat their moms, and run from the ones who aren’t respectful.
4. Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
5. People will judge you by what you say. “I was like, um, totally!” does not qualify as a sentence.
6. People will judge you by what you wear. Show respect for yourself (and see #2).
7. How to change a tire.
8. How to throw a football.
9. Don’t be afraid to use your voice – sometimes it’s the most powerful thing you have.
10. Basic self defense – be able to get out of a situation, and run fast. And use that powerful voice.
11. Teach them how to apologize well, ask for help when needed, and that anger is more harmful to the person who harbors it than to who it’s directed at.
12. What’s in the magazine is photoshopped. Confidence is more attractive than size 2 jeans.
13. Laughter can diffuse many a challenging situation. Especially when you can laugh at yourself.
14. Block out the voices. Not every opinion is worth listening to – listen to the ones that matter, and learn whose opinion you’ll allow to shape your thoughts.
15. Advertising is full of hidden agendas. Don’t fall for it. “Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s Maybelline” – really? Maybelline didn’t make her anything she wasn’t born with.
16. How to hit a baseball, throw a punch, and use a compass.
17. How to write a proper thank you letter, and how to type.
18. How to manage her money.
19. Appreciate the little things (and little refers to more than diamonds and pearls).
20. Read often and much. Read works of classic and contemporary literature, fiction and nonfiction.
21. Walk in someone else’s shoes.
22. Listen well, both for what’s being said, and for what’s being omitted.
23. Dream big, and set realistic goals. You can accomplish more than you think you can.
24. Girls can do most things as well as boys can, in general. But know your personal limits, what your own strengths and weaknesses are. Once you know them you can use them to your advantage.
25. Most things worth having or worth doing require sacrifice. Know what you’re willing to sacrifice, and for what.
26. No regrets. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on what could have been.
27. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Push the limits.
28. Basic sewing skills.
29. How to handle herself online – using good privacy, remembering that anything shared can go viral (including pictures in poor taste), and knowing that people online aren’t always who they say they are.
30. Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Listen to that voice, and don’t silence it.

31.  The world isn’t all there is.  Rely on God more than you rely on anything else, including yourself.

New Year’s tradition

Can I just say that hubbs is the smartest man ever? At breakfast this morning he asked the kids to tell us what they were most thankful for in 2011. When everyone had talked about specific toys and events, he said that we need to make room for 2012.

Get it? Make space. Get rid of clutter. And he got the kids on board. Because if they want 2012 to be as awesome as 2011 was, they need to have space for it! So we spent the morning cleaning out Little Man’s room. And the afternoon was spent cleaning out Bean’s room. Of the two, Bean’s was much harder. While on first glance it seemed like the cleaner of the two rooms, Bean has a knack for turning other people’s trash into her treasure. And hiding it.

One conversation with her went like this:

Hubbs: “How about this Burger King crown. Why don’t you wear it more often?”

Bean: “Because, um, it’s cardboard. And it’s not pretty.”

Hubbs: “So, maybe you can throw it away now?”

Bean (as she puts the cardboard not pretty crown on): “NO!!!”

The crown eventually did make it to the trash today, along with a very great deal of the rest of her “treasures”. The good news is that Bruiser is only attached to a few things, so tomorrow will likely be an easier day.

Loving our brand new tradition! I think it’ll be back every year.

Six

Six years ago today Little Man was born. 3 weeks early, but through what must have been the easy labor and delivery ever. He was easy going then, and he’s still easy going today.

Little Man is truly a gift – he lights up a room by walking into it. He can befriend anybody in no time flat. He knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs, planets, Lego Ninjago, and Star Wars. He’s an awesome brother. He’ll earn his green belt in Tae Kwan Do this week. He wears his heart on his sleeve – he’s not afraid to tell you how much he likes you, how pretty you are, or how glad he is to be spending time with you (watch out, ladies!). When we’re sitting at bedtime reading a story, he likes to run his little fingers through my hair.  And the things that come out of his mouth are priceless. Just today:

“My 3 favorite things are God, Jesus, and Legos.” (That’s the trinity, right? Father, Son, and Holy Bricks?)

He came home today wearing a paper “Happy Birthday” crown that his teacher made for him, and all the kids in his kindergarten class signed. Love that. Instead of a birthday party with friends, the whole family went out to see The Muppets at the Studio Movie Grill – it’s a restaurant-movie theater, where every seat is at a table facing the screen, and waiters come to take your order. There’s a full menu, complete with strawberry lemonade, chicken nachos, milkshakes… Between the movie and the experience of dinner at the ‘theatre’ it was an awesome day.

Little Man went to bed tonight with only a little regret. “Tomorrow it won’t be my birthday anymore.” But he sure did have a great day today.

Back on the roller coaster

Until last night, Bruiser had been seizure free (or nearly so) for a year and half. His seizures were so bad when we lived overseas that we had to move back to the US just to find him proper medical care. Funny that almost immediately after relocating state-side his seizures stopped.

In January he had 1 seizure-like episode that I brushed under the rug – it wasn’t severe enough for me to be convinced that he was having seizure activity again. But last night there were 2. The first was minor, but the second was intense. It ended before the critical 3-minute mark, so we didn’t need to call paramedics. But today we start again – trips to the pediatrician and neurologist, which will be followed with MRI and EEG, and then we’ll see…

There’s a temptation to fall into the ‘woe is me’ attitude. But I’m reminded that God is faithful. He’s been faithful to us before, and He’ll be faithful to us again.  While the return of the seizures may come as a shock to me, it doesn’t surprise God in the least. He is aware, He knew it was coming, and He relocated us to Atlanta – where our favorite pediatric neurologist is – just in time for this.

Never… and I mean never…

Never…

Download Kidz Bop albums because your 1st grader wants them.

Put them on your iPod to make them easily accessible.

Give said iPod to aforementioned 1st grader with a portable speaker.

And if you fail to follow my instructions and you do all those things, you might want to conveniently “lose” the power chord to recharge the iPod.

Just sayin.

How to choose a Children’s Bible

There are nearly as many children’s Bibles out there as there are children. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but the fact is, trying to pick one out can be overwhelming. Or, underwhelming, once you start looking at them more carefully. There are so many options, and so few of them are good. I thought I’d share with you a few of the factors I look at when choosing a Children’s Bible, and then a couple of recommendations for good ones.

1. Is it interesting to your kids? If the kids don’t like it, the remaining questions here are null and void. If it won’t hold your interest it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

2. Is the content accessible to their ages? In other words, can they understand the language? Are the stories the right length for them?

3. Which content is there? Which stories are included? Children’s bibles range from lots of stories to just a few. Some children’s bibles – even the extensive ones – will limit themselves to the ‘easy’ stories, the ones that are easy to put at a child’s level. Others include the harder stories – like the crucifixion and other less happy topics. (And why is it that children’s bibles so seldom have the story about the donkey God made talk? Kids love that.)

4. Does the theology gel with yours? Any time you work with a paraphrase of the bible there will be room for an interpreter’s slant to come in. Some bible are equally applicable to Santa, Superman, and the Fairy Godmother as they are to God. Does the faith you want to instill come through in the text?

So, given those considerations, these are the 3 children’s bibles we love (age recommendations are mine, and might not correspond to the publishers’):

Toddlers

Each of the 17 stories in God is Great takes a 2-page spread with 8-10 lines of text – just enough for my toddler to digest. Each story focuses on one attribute of God – He was here in the beginning, He protects us, Nothing is too hard for God, and so on. The illustrations are delightful and I love how the focus is constantly on God. What’s more? My toddler loves it. (Ages 1-3)

 

Pre-K, Early Elementary

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name is my all-time favorite children’s bible. I had a pastor once who said that everything in the bible is about Jesus, even if it’s not about Jesus. It either prepares people for him, foretells his birth and life, or defines a need for him. I didn’t fully understand that until I started reading this to my kids. It opens up a whole new outlook on redemptive history. Why else do I love this one? My kids love it. Bean read it cover to cover when she was 5, and she still likes to flip through the pages and re-read her favorite stories. Little Man takes it to school with him, asks me to read it at bedtime, and wakes up wanting to hear more. It covers tough topics – things parents might want to skip over when their little ones are really little, but tells every story framed in hope and thanksgiving for the God who loves us with a Never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love. (Ages 3-6)

Elementary

Someone gave us the NIrV Read with Me Bible when we were overseas in Moldova. I had low expectations, since I’d already found the Jesus Storybook Bible. And it’s true – this Bible doesn’t “whisper his name” like the Jesus Storybook Bible, but my kids preferred it for a good long time, and as it turns out, it’s a pretty great bible. It has 106 stories, which is huge as far as children’s bibles go. The illustrations are phenomenal, and the stories are told in a way that’s accessible, thorough, and engaging to young readers. (Ages 5-8)

The things kids say

Bruiser is the best. Really, he has so much personality and he isn’t afraid to use it! Just shy of 3 years old, here are a few of his crazy stream of consciousness thoughts:

On seeing a tire in the grass by the side of the road: “Aw, that’s so sad.” (said while sulking and shaking his head) And why was it sad? “Because it should be on a race car!”

When asked by a little boy if he’s 4 years old: “YES! I AM 4 years old! And I’m pregnant too!”

When Gramma said “night-night, pumpkin”, Bruiser responded with: “Night-night kitchen” – because if gramma can call him a random noun, he can dish it right back out.