Friday, February 5, 2016

Bitmoji – The Avatar That Doesn't Make You Look Like A Kid

I've been playing around with emojis and avatars for quite some time and most are pretty lame. They make your look like children (probably because they're designed for kids and teens), but what if you're an adult and want an avatar that at least resembles a grown up? Meet my new favorite:


Bitmoji

My Bitmoji


THIS is your own, personal emoji which you can, obviously, customize to look like you. Choose your physical features (I love that they have different body types, including curvy), then dress yourself in designer clothes. 


Your Bitmoji will then be available in dozens of moods and stickers with updates coming in about once a week. And they're not just happy, “rainbows and lollipops” pictures. You can show a range of emotions including embarrassment, rage, impatience, etc. Now, the content rating is Teen because of “Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Language, Crude Humor”, but that's what makes it perfect for adults.  At the moment, the themes include Star Wars, Zoolander No. 2, Terminator, Inside Out (love Rage), and Game Of Thrones. 





Download your Bitmoji for use as a screensaver, with a photo editing tool, and/or share it to Facebook, Instagram, etc.  I've used on on all my social media and even texted my Bitmoji to my kids as a hint to show them how I'm feeling (the surprised one confuses them pretty well).


Confuses the crackers out of the kids!  "What do you mean, Mom?!!"


Best of all, this app is FREE and available from the Play Store or the App Store. 


Give Bitmoji a whirl! 
 This ain't your kids' avatar! 


Thanks for reading!!!




Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Must-Read For Children Touched By Cancer


Children's author, Patricia Polacco, is somewhat of a hero at my daughter's elementary school. Ms. Polacco has been to our school several times and her books have brought hours of pleasure to my usually-reluctant reader.



Patricia Polacco at our elementary school


So when when I heard Lily's dad reading Ms. Polacco's book, The Lemonade Club, to our princess, I didn't blink an eye...until I started to listen to the plot of the book
 

which is about the usually adult topic of cancer.


Traci and Marilyn are best friends. One day Marilyn is being bullied about her weight while Traci stands up for her pal. Shortly thereafter, Marilyn begins losing weight and is tired all the time. The diagnosis: leukemia. With the help of the girls' teacher, Miss Wichelman who believes that “when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade,” the young ladies learn about how Traci's disease will be treated.


The Lemonade Club is an AMAZING book 


because it doesn't just gloss over the topic of leukemia. There is genuine shock when Miss Wichelman's class first hears of Marilyn's diagnosis.  Similarly, readers feel the horror and experience grief when Traci loses her hair due to chemo. But there's joy here, as well, as Miss Wichelman and her class welcome Traci back to class and astonishment when someone unexpected divulges that she, too, has cancer.


The book is a MUST-READ book for any child touched by this topic. 


It will resonate with children who have cancer or know someone who does. Best of all: it's a true store written by someone who was a witness to it all.




Do you know of any other books which might help a child touched by cancer?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Fun, Unique Take On An Old Word Game: Meet Wordox

One of the few non-caloric obsessions I have is with word games. Most, however, fall into one of three categories:


1) Scrabble-like where you build words with others' words 
2) Boggle-like where you try to build words out of random letters
3) Word Search-like where, you know, you search for words. 


Whenever I look on Goggle's Play Store for something different, I'm usually disappointed. Until now. Introducing my newest word game obsession:



Wordox




It's a Scrabble-like like game, but with a twist: you can steal the other person's letters! When you make a word out of one of the other person's letters, you get the points for that letter and it comes OFF their score. That means you can flip the game in your favor!  


Here's the video showing how to play:   





Play with friends, through Facebook, and with random players. Participate regularly in the rankings with other players, and finish at the top to earn coins and jokers! 


One of the challenges I really like is that if you make a mistake and a word isn't valid, it's going to cost you either a turn or a joker. That means I really have to be up on my game and certain before I hit PLAY.


The free version comes without ads, but I love Wordox so much, I bought the ad-free version. Give it a try and let me know what you think. This app is available again, through the Play Store or the App Store. For more information, visit http://www.wordox.com.








As always, THANKS FOR READING!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"It Works!" Greens On The Go Drink Powder – Is It Worth The Money?

Disclosure: This product was given to me (actually, I asked for it) for reviewing purposes, however, the thoughts expressed in this post are my own. 





I am not a veggie eater, but still, I need those nutrients. With my husband being a health nut, I have tried some of those all-inclusive-miracle-veggie drinks. Most tasted like swill, although one or two were good. Unfortunately, the ones in my grocery store and Whole Foods are sweetened with bananas, which I've recently become allergic to. So when I saw Debbie Arrington's posts on Instagram about the "It Works!" Greens On The Go Drink Powder and found out it does NOT contain bananas, I asked to try it. 


Greens On The Go is a single serving packet of “38 herbs and nutrient-rich superfoods” which is supposed to energize you and keep your digestive system regular and the toxins flowing out. In other words, it helps you poop. The powder contains some neat stuff including: broccoli, dandelion leaf, kale (ICK), spinach, slippery elm bark, tumeric root, watercress, white willow bark, and okra. 


Now, I was nervous trying this stuff, especially when I poured the powder into my glass and it was green. Again, I am not a fan of green drinks. I poured water, mixed the concoction around, and got close to the sink in case I needed to spit it out....which I did not....because


THIS STUFF TASTES GREAT! 


I tried the berry flavor (it also comes in orange) and was amazed that not only is it delicious, but there's no funny aftertaste. And despite it containing plaintain leaf (I would assume, relative of my nemesis, the banana), I had no allergic reaction to Greens On The Go. Did it energize me? No. Coffee does that, but it certainly was not unpleasant and there were no unpleasant side-effects after drinking it.


So is "It Works!" Greens On The Go Drink Powder worth the money?


Well, online a 30 serving box retails for $59 not including shipping and handling (although lower-priced packages may be available from individual dealers), so figure it's about $2 per serving. If we assume the product literature is correct, and this mix contains “the nutrition of 8+ servings of fruits and vegetables”, and if you're NOT a fruit and veggie eater, then it may be worth the money to you. For me, in combination with a daily multivitamin, I'm confident that drinking Greens On The Go Drink Powder is a step in the right direction health-wise. 


I'll be purchasing this product in the future.


For more information, please visit Debbie Arrington's website: www.debswrapparty.myitworks.com or email her at debsbaskets@email.com.


Thanks for reading!  






Friday, January 15, 2016

A Quick, Easy Happy Family Casserole Your Family Will Adore




Recently, my son, once again, threw me under the bus with my husband. Here's how it played out:


My husband wants me to cook organic meals for the kids from scratch. Unfortunately, the kids don't want those meals – they want crap, like frozen pizza and microwaveable fried chicken. My daughter will settle for pasta (Kraft mac and cheese – as long as REAL cheese is not involved), but Junior is really picky. Half the stuff I make, he won't eat, yet, whenever Daddy's around, the kid becomes a martyr and wails, “Mom, I WANT nutritious food, Mom, but you never make it!!!” SUCH BULLSHIT!! So tonight, I came up with my easy:


Happy Family Casserole




Since it was made on the fly, measurements are approximate.  


Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of ground meat (turkey, beef – whatever the family will eat); I used lean ground turkey
  • 2 cups of frozen or fresh veggies (again, whatever the hell they'll eat); I used chopped broccoli because I wanted there to be a lot of small pieces
  • ¼ c of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup of diced frozen or fresh onions (if they'll eat them)
  • 2 cups of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • ¼ cup of butter or margarine
  • 1 package of shredded American cheese (again, if they like it)

Instructions:

  1. Brown the meat and onions in a skillet and add the Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Spray a lasagna pan (approximately 10x14) with non-stick spray.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the bottom of the pan; add salt and pepper if you want.
  4. Layer your vegetables over the meat and sprinkle with a handful or two of cheese.
  5. Spread the two cups of frozen hash browns.
  6. Using a teaspoon, drop teaspoons of the margarine over the hash browns and sprinkle the top liberally with the shredded cheese. 




What you have now looks like a pseudo-lasagna. Bake at 400 degrees until the potatoes are brown and the cheese on the top has melted.


That's it!


This dish was popular with the family for several reasons:

  1. My husband liked it because it was nutritious.
  2. The kids liked it because it involved meat and vegetables COVERED with cheese (always popular here).
  3. I LOVED it because of its versatility. 

You can easily use shredded chicken and whatever veggies your kids will eat (or whatever you can hide among the meat).  In the future, I'll use black beans and some salsa, for a Southwest flavor. If your family is vegetarian, use soy crumbles or tofu. Got fresh veggies from your garden? Throw them in! This dish also freezes really well. 


The Happy Family Casserole will be on my list of go-to dishes and it looks nice enough to even serve company.


Try it and let me know                                  
what YOUR variations are!


Thanks for reading!


 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Got A Daughter? Don't Ignore This


In case you missed the headlines in New York City, an 18-year old girl was gang raped in a park last Thursday. And surely you've heard about the 516 criminal complaints lodged in Cologne, Germany after women were groped and sexually assaulted by a group of men on New Year's Eve. As I'm processing these latest in reported crimes against women, I'm dumbfounded that the same media that focuses on Black Lives Matter and other important causes, is ignoring that age-old issue of


Womens Lives Matter




Where's the rallying? Where are the banners? How come it's not splattered all over the fucking media? Sure, there's outrage and promises of “justice will prevail.” Indeed, four of the five animals in
the rape have come forward and I'm sure suspects have been rounded up in Germany, but once again the world seems to be yawning at more acts of  violence perpetrated against women.


A recent analysis of the World Health Organization in conjunction with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Medical Research Council, found that “globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence” (source). 


Let me repeat that: 35% of women have experienced sexual violence.


That same study says that among the risk factors for sexual violence are “attitudes that are accepting of violence and gender inequality (perpetration and experience)” which come not only from society but from the media – a media that largely ignores sexual violence against women.


I'll get off my soapbox in a second, but I just want to reinforce that Womens Lives Matter just as much as anyone else. I'm not trying to playdown or minimize anyone else's cause or struggle, but let's not let violence against women become a ho-hum reality that we all just accept.


It's disgusting and unacceptable and something we need to take action on. How?

  • By teaching all children that people's bodies are to be respected

  • By reminding our sons that no matter how a girl is dressed or behaving, “no” means “no;” girls are not “asking for” nor do they “want” to be abused.

  • By reminding our daughters that they are strong and deserve to be treated with respect.

  • By not supporting movies, television, games, etc. that depict women as weak and as sex objects. These should never been seen as the norm.

  • By teaching girls to support one another and be heros; if they see someone dissing another girl, they need to stand up and say something. 

  • By not sexualizing our little girls. Think about how many little girls you saw out at Halloween in inappropriate attire (whether dressed as Bratz dolls or any other characters marketed to girls which are sexually suggestive).  

  • By teaching boys that they have absolute control over how they treat a people. The whole “I couldn't control myself” is NOT a valid defense in any kind of crime. If you've got a penis or a fist – control where it goes. 


Womens lives matter.  We think we know it, but with females getting abused every day, I think we need to be reminded of it constantly, especially if we have women-in-training (girls). 




Violence, against ANYONE, is unacceptable – PERIOD.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Getting Your Older Child Back To Sleep

Over the years, my children have periodically had trouble when they would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep. This hurt not only them, but my husband (minimally) and me (more, because I'm the one who invariably had to get them back to bed). My husband's first response in these situations was to punish the child. He believed they did it intentionally, as a power thing. I, on the other hand, cannot say no to a child who is honestly struggling with something and seeks help from his/her mother. Having tried his approach first, what I discovered is that when you a punish a child for not sleeping through the night, it makes things worse because that kid is then afraid to go to asleep at all.  Since I'm the Momager of all things child,  


Here's how I've approached the problem:


Helping your older child get back to sleep can be daunting.


  1. Rule out the physical. Is there an internal reason the kid is waking up, like having to go to the bathroom? This could be an easy fix like “don't drink so much water before bedtime.” Or is it an external thing waking up the child. For example, is the pet hamster getting on its noisy wheel at 1am (solution: move the pet or bring a noise machine into the room) or the cat jumping on the kid's head (close the door to the room or move the feline to the basement at night).


  2. Can sensual things help the child get back to sleep? Lavender on the pillow helps many people sleep, noise machines block out too much or too little sound, and softer blankets make it easier to snuggle back to Dreamland.


  3. Is there something psychological going on? Sometimes a discussion on what's going on in your child's world can reveal the problem. Is there a problem with your child's friends? A daunting, upcoming test? Are they nervous about a sports event?  You can also place a pen and pad of paper next to the kid's bed so he/she can write down what they're thinking when they wake up (A dream? A nightmare?) and what thoughts prevent them from going back to sleep. My daughter asked if she can draw what's bothering her – YES!!! Any way they can achieve peace-of-mind is a good thing.


  4. How can they help themselves go back to sleep?  By reading for a bit?  Or playing soft music or a book on CD to lull them into unconsciousness?  The idea is to empower them. 

By becoming a co-problem solver, you're strengthening your bond with your child and diffusing the situation.  It's no longer "their" problem; you're working as a team to get through this situation.  


Coming up with innovative sleep solutions can help.



For my son's sleeping problem, the answer came by looking outside the box. We settled on this and it worked: if he really needed to come into our room, he could NOT wake us up. We'd leave blankets and a pillow in a corner of the room so that when he came in, he'd grab them and sleep on the floor. He knew we were near, went back to sleep and we slept through the nice peacefully. Eventually, he outgrew this pattern. 


Now my daughter is facing her own sleeping challenge. At least once a week, she comes looking for me. Sending her back to her room doesn't work since she tearily informs me she just CAN'T go back to sleep. She's tried reading knows she cannot pick up her iPod (the light has been known to throw off circadian rhythms). What I've done is given her a transitional object - something of mine that smells like me. A nightgown works just fine. She wakes up, takes one whiff of the nightgown, smells that Mom is close by, and goes back to sleep.


Will this coping mechanism always work? I don't know, but it is for now. If it doesn't, we'll just brainstorm something else and, if need be, call in a professional for guidance. But I feel that working with the child instead of assuming that they're subconsciously trying to “pull one over on us” IS the answer to helping older children fall back to sleep.





Please that I am not a medical or psychological professional. I am just one mother telling you what's working for me.


What's working, or not working, for you?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

6 Things You Really Need To Do Right Now

I am not a nostalgic “oh, the old year is ending, sniffle, sniffle” kind of person nor am I one who makes resolutions which I will never, ever keep. I am, however, a realist who believes in protecting her data as much as possible, so 


Here are 5 things I'm doing and I hope YOU'RE going to do right NOW to help yourself be safe online:




  1. Updated your virus protection program. Yeah, I know. It does it for you. Do it manually anyway. You never know when a program has missed something and cybertheft is all too common. Run it NOW.


  2. Check your privacy settings on social media. Make sure they're set so that the minimum numbe of people and companies have access to your personal information.


  3. STOP posting that your location on social media. Why not just hang a “Burglars: Empty House” sign on your front door? Sites get hacked all the time and that “friends of friends” setting on Facebook still means that plenty of people can see your postings. Don't advertise that you're not home.


  4. Pictures of your kids showing their names, schools, etc. on ANY website. It's far too easy for predators to find their prey. Criminals do all sorts of nefarious things with kids' photos. Just don't post pics of your kids, especially ones showing their regular locations.  And if you have posted, try to take anything that can lead a predator to their location down. 


  5. Back-up your files, pictures, etc. NOW. Seriously. Think about how difficult and heartbreaking it would be to lose all that data and all those precious pictures. Ideally, back up to three different sources and do it regularly. And consider about WHAT you're backing up BEFORE you do it.  I don't back-up anything with social security numbers to the Cloud because any site can be hacked at any time.  


  6. Check the apps on your phone and see what permissions they've asked for that you've given. Consider whether that clock app really needs access to your files photos and if the convenience is worth compromising your privacy for.

These six simple little steps are probably the LEAST you can do to try to maintain some security on the web. For more on keeping your personal information safe, visit http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0272-how-keep-your-personal-information-secure


Thanks for reading and have a wonderful New Year!








Saturday, December 26, 2015

Note NOW How To Make The Holidays Better Next Year

Christmas is always a mixed bag. Despite what you see on Facebook, I doubt that Christmas (or Hanukkah, for that matter) is blissful for everyone, every year. 


So while the holidays are fresh in your memory, why not consider how to make them better for you and your family next year? Here's how I'm going to do it:


Despite our best intentions, the holidays are rarely perfect.



Think About What Worked And Do It Again Next Year


  • What presents were hits? Can you learn from those? For example, Snap Circuits (an electronics building kit) were not on my daughter's list, but she has been playing nonstop with it. Lesson for me: look for more educational activities that she'll love.

  • Which activities were enjoyed the most? 

  • Which foods did people absolutely LOVE?

  • Who did you invite that you really would love to invite again? Or are there people you didn't invite that you'd like to next year?

  • Did anyone really love something you did that you can do next year? For example, I used some of these ways to wrap gift cards and a few were a bit hit with the Teen.






Consider What Didn't Work And How You Can Change That


  • What was your biggest challenge on Christmas? How can you change that for next year? For example, I really resented being The Waitress the whole friggin' day without anyone asking me for help! Next year, my husband and I have agreed that we'll be going out for Christmas dinner. That will take the pressure off me, means the people who didn't like my menu can order for themselves and we'll all have a happier holiday.

  • If you have to invite someone you can't stand, how can you make the experience better? We've learned that it's easier to tolerate my mother-in-law when there are other, non-family members present; they seem to dilute the mix. So we invite friends we know tend to spend the holiday alone, to be with us. We get to spend time with them, they have fun with us, and the Voldemort is on “best” behavior in front of company.

  • Are there things you did that you shouldn't do next year? For example, we have WAAAY to many decorations out this year. The living room looks cluttered and they're a pain to dust. Next year we go minimal.

  • What traditions are ready to be retired? Remember that YOU make the rules for your family and you're not responsible for everyone having a good time. Change the mix up a bit if you want to and if people can't handle it, that's THEIR issue.


I'm taking notes and adding them to my Christmas card spreadsheet for next year. That way, when I take out my list, my ideas and reflections will be right there with plenty of time to take action. 



How did your Christmas go? 




Wednesday, December 23, 2015

10 Creative Ways To Wrap Those Gift Cards


For Christmas this year, the Teen asked for gift cards...JUST gift cards. Deep sigh...gone are the days of last-minute assembling bikes and Hot Wheels. And while gift cards are great for him and easy for us, opening them on Christmas Day is somewhat...BORING, at least for those of us who are watching. So here are


10 Creative Ways To Wrap Those Gift Cards


How CAN you wrap those gift cards?



1.   Put the card in a box and wrap that in a larger box, etc. Note, however, that this has been so overdone, it yield almost no surprise factor. Still, if you think your recipient would like it, go for it.


2.  Place the card between the paws of a stuffed animal, rubber band the animal's paws together, and then wrap the animal.


3. Wrap the card inside a pair of socks, hat, or gloves. 


4. Place the card inside the box of a common object (one of Junior's is inside an Irish Spring soap box) and then wrap it up. 


5.  Sandwich the card between two chocolate bars.

 
This has nothing to do with gift cards.  I just like reindeer.


6.  Frame the card in a Dollar Store picture frame.


7.  Place the card in a Ziploc bag then put that bag in another Ziploc bag filled with Play Doh, rice, or something squishy. Then put that bag in a box and wrap it. This will completely confuse the recipient.


8.  Stuff a balloon with the gift card and some confetti.  Blow up the balloon, tie it with ribbons and a “pop me” label. Attach a safety pin to the balloon. 


9.  Tape the gift card to some fake money and place it in a Dollar Store purse or wallet. Add a bow.


And the one I used this year: Place the gift card between two large, flat rocks. Wrap the rocks.    I can't wait to see the confusion on Junior's face when he opens his present!


Gift cards don't have to be boring!



If you'd prefer to make a gift card holder, visit this site for some nifty ideas!


Thanks for reading!


Note:  The graphics above are courtesy of Pixabay.