Attention Parents: MamaBear is an App You Need to Check Out

Raising children these days exposes parents to so many more challenges than the ones faced by our parents. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying it is more difficult. I’m just saying it is different. While we face so many challenges that have arisen due to the increase in technology, we have also gained a number of tools that can make things easier…if we know what they are and how to use them. Today, I’m going to introduce you to one that I think is amazing.

Let me begin by saying that when it comes to parenting, I don’t mind being the bad guy. My three children are 13, 11, and 5. The 13 year old is the only one with a phone (and at this point, the only one who spends much time away from us). We made it clear to her that we would monitor her phone – not because we didn’t trust her, but because we didn’t trust others.

The app I am talking about is called MamaBear. If you would like to know where your child is without having to call or text and ask….if you are concerned about what is happening on his or her social media accounts…if your child just started driving and you want to make sure he or she is not speeding…if your child rides with other teens and you want to make sure they are not driving too fast with your child into the car…if there is a particular place you want to make sure your child does not go…if you just want to know when your child arrives safely at school each day and you know they won’t remember to text you…this is the app for you. If you are worried about offending your child, this is not.

I have the feeling that most teens would be a little aggravated if you told them you were installing this app on their phone. Luckily mine was not, but let me be clear – I would’ve put it on her phone even if she was. I take this parenting thing seriously, and my number one priority is her safety.

I first learned of this app from my brother. He lives in Knoxville, and his son drives himself and his brother to school each day. I was at their house for a visit, and my brother received a text telling him that his son had arrived at school. I asked how he got the text, and he explained the basics of his app to me. I knew right away that I had to have it.

Let me explain some of the awesome features. First, you can view on a map where your child is at all times. The map is like Google maps – you can zoom in and view a basic map, or a satellite or hybrid view. You can then name the place as a “safe place” and receive alerts when your child arrives at or departs from the place. You can also send a message to your child using the app. When he or she replies, it will give you the street name of his or her location. I love the idea that I can click the app at any time and see exactly where my child is.

The app also gives you the ability to monitor quite a few social media accounts. It can monitor Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can have it alert you if your child adds friends/followers, if anyone tags or mentions them, if they upload a photo, and you can list restricted words to watch for and receive an alert if they mention any of those words in a post. If your child has an android phone, you can even use it to monitor texts.

The last feature that I am super excited about is the driving feature. You can set a speed limit for your child (whether they are the driver or a passenger with someone else driving) and receive alerts anytime they exceed that speed limit.

I realize this app is not for everyone. Many of you will feel like this is an invasion of your child’s privacy and that is certainly your decision. We each get to approach this parenting thing in the way that we feel works best for us.  I am simply sharing this information for the other parents like me who would find this useful. Ithis a free app, so if you think this might be something you would like, go check it out on the App Store.

If you already use it, let me know what you think. Do any of you use a different app that has similar features? I would love to hear what others are out there and what you think of them.

 

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30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 4 Kitchen Utensils 

So, if you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love to cook. I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant. Creating plates of food that people enjoy eating makes me happy. Because of this passion I have for preparing food, I have built up quite a collection of kitchen supplies….ingredients (as we discussed in the pantry mission of this challenge), dishes, cookware, appliances, and kitchen utensils. Just as a carpenter needs the right tools when building, I’ve always felt that I need the right tools when cooking.

When I began my big clutter clearing mission last year, I knew that clothes were my biggest problem and that the kitchen was next. It’s pretty simple…every time I catch myself complaining about cleaning, the two things I complain the most about are laundry and the kitchen. It makes sense that those are my two most cluttered areas.

You see, the problem wasn’t just that I wanted to have every tool I might need in the kitchen (even is I only used it once a year), I felt like if having one tool was a good thing, having two or three was even better.  As I started to group my items, I was amazed at how many duplicates I had. You might be, too.

Today, you will need to take out all of your kitchen serving utensils and group them into like items. This is great practice for younger kids in matching. Place serving spoons in one group, spatulas in another, whisks in another, as so on until they are all grouped. Once this is done, you should notice that some groups are larger than others. Now, you’re going to have to figure out how many you need. This process will vary from one person to another. For me, it was a matter of thinking through how many food items I would generally prepare at once and what utensils would be needed for prepping and serving those things. So…a typical meal here consists of an entree, two or three sides, and a bread. For prepping that, I could need a whisk, a spatula (the stirring type and the flipping type), a set of tongs, two or three cooking spoons,four serving spoons, a serrated knife for cutting the bread, and a butter knife. I most likely wouldn’t need all of these items in the same meal, but it is a possibility, so I want to be prepared. I want to have all of these items handy so that if a need arises, I don’t have to look around for a needed tool.

Let me stop for just a minute and share a couple of recommendations that might make your life (well, at least the part spent preparing meals at home) a little easier. My favorite utensils to use for cooking are bamboo. This set from Amazon is inexpensive and will last for years. Lipper International 826 Set of 6 Bamboo Kitchen Tools, in Mesh Bag. There are several reasons why I love these. First, they do not scratch nonstick cookware. Second, they come in a variety of shapes that meet most cooking needs. They are made of bamboo, so they do not run the risk of melting and imparting chemicals into your foods as you are cooking, they feel nice in your hands, and most of all…they are beautiful. (You can see a couple of these in the photo at the bottom. I used my wood burning tool to add a few designs to them, but these are the ones I ordered from Amazon.) My second recommendation is that if you do not already have it, you get a nice set of serving utensils. If the ones you have are in poor condition, I suggest these Klassische Kuche (TM) Professional Grade Stainless Steel Flatware 6 Piece Kitchen Tool and Gadget Set. I was able to let a lot of my utensils go because once I had grouped them, I could easily distinguish between the nice serving pieces and the junk.

So, now you’re probably thinking…what if I have a party, or Thanksgiving is at my house this year? I have a solution for you, too. When I did my big utensil purge, I knew that there were several items that I might need occasionally but would not use very often. I didn’t want to face a need and know that I had gotten rid of the exact tool I needed, so I bought a little tub like this one Sterilite 18828012 6-Quart See-Through Latch Box with White Lid and Peacock Latches and placed the items I knew I would use again but not very often inside. I closed the container and placed it on an upper shelf in my pantry. This keeps me from having to shuffle these items around daily while looking for something I need, but also ensures that I have them when the need arises. The thing you want to be careful of here is that you truly only keep the ones you know you will use.

Once you have figured out which items you will actually use, place those back into your drawer, and get rid of the extras. I suggest thinking about your flatware, too. This is not an issue with me, but, I do know people who have three or four complete (?) sets of flatware in their drawers. Why would a regular person in a family of four or five ever need that many sets of flatware? If you don’t have more than six people at your table almost every day of the year, you do not need twenty-four forks and spoons. You need to wash dishes more often. Here is an important thing that I have realized: If you have more utensils and flatware than you need, it is tempting to use more of them before doing the dishes which creates a dirty kitchen. If your silverware basket is always running over in your dishwasher (and you don’t have a houseful of guests), this is probably directed at you. Try an experiment…take away the extras for a week and see if you can survive without them. If you find that it does not create too much extra work to keep them clean and that it does create a cleaner-looking space, pack them up until needed.

My last tip today is to separate your utensils in to more than one drawer if possible. After cutting the number I have in half, I still have quite a few utensils that I use almost daily or at least a few times a week. I hate wasting time digging through the drawer trying to locate the exact item I need, so I put all stainless steel utensils in one drawer and all others in a separate drawer (my flatware is in a third drawer). I realize that you might not all have the luxury of extra drawer space. If that is the case, consider grouping one set in a pretty container on your counter. This one is really nice because it rotates. OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Rotating Utensil Holder You might even have a nice container sitting around that could be put to use for this purpose. My kids can easily separate the utensils into these two sets because either the utensil is all silver or it is not. The end. It is easy to choose the correct drawer. I could fit all the items in one drawer since I don’t have an excessive number of them, but having them in separate drawers is so nice because it allows me to see with a glance what I am looking for and grab it.

I hope these tips will help you and that they will save you a few precious minutes each day. I would love for you to stop back by and let me know how this mission worked out for you. I hope to see you again for the next mission!

30 Day Clutter Challenge Day 4 Kitchen Utensils

30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 3 Books/Magazines

How did the closet mission go for you? I’m pleased to say that I only had to get rid of a few t-shirts this time and one pair of pants that I hung onto in the last purge but realized I really do not wear. I feel like I might finally be getting into a groove with keeping my closet under control. We still have one more step to go in the closet, but I will save it for later in the challenge.

Today’s mission is very simple and fast (unless you have to dig under beds and through closets to find them). We are going through old books and magazines. These items can take up a lot of valuable space in your home. I realize that these items have a sentimental attachment for some people, but they take up a lot of space, and most people do not actually go back and read them again.

I don’t have any pictures to show you from my house on this one, because I got rid of my books and magazines the last time I did a purge. I realized at that time that I had saved stacks and stacks of magazines thinking that I would use one project or another. Do you know where I looked each time I wanted to come up with an idea for a project, though? Not my stack of magazine. Nope, I looked on Pinterest. So….. I saved the one magazine that had a collection of food gifts and their wrapping ideas and got rid of all the rest. All of them.

I also took a long, hard look at my books. This part was a little tougher because I really loved each of the books I had read and hung onto. I had to admit to myself, though, that I really was not going to go back and read any of the novels again. Some of you do that, and that is fine. Keep your books if you will truly go back and read them again. I am just not one of those people. Because of that, I donated my novels. I took several of them to the school, and I donated the others to the local library. They were thrilled to get them. There are a few that contain advice about saving money or decluttering, and since I refer back to them and do read sections over in them, I hung onto those. I placed them all in one location so that I could easily access them and I hung onto a couple of novels that I thought my girls would enjoy when they get older.

I have never had a large bookshelf that was full of books, so I was shocked at just how many books I had accumulated. It was nice to recover that space and know that the books would be enjoyed by others. It’s kind of like giving your beloved books a new life. They exist to be read and enjoyed, and giving them the opportunity to continue that “life” just seems like the right thing to do.

Happy decluttering!

   

30 Day Clutter Challenge- Day 2 Closet, Part 1

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Well, how did you do with yesterday’s challenge? How much clutter did you remove from your pantry? I actually didn’t have as much as usual. I got rid of a few boxes of cereal that were open and stale, one jar of rice wine vinegar that was almost empty but expired (vinegar expires?!), some instant oatmeal that my kids chose and thought they would eat but actually don’t like, a half-eaten bag of stale chips…not too bad. I still have A LOT of food in there, but I am making an effort over the next few weeks to use those items and leave some empty space. How did you do?
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Okay, now….on to today’s mission: your closet. You can see one end of my closet above. If you’re willing to give up just a little bit of control for the sake of less work, you can enlist your kids’ help here, too. They can work in their closets at the same time (assuming they are old enough). I have broken the closet down into two parts to keep it at 15 minutes per day. I mean, come on…it’s Wednesday for heaven’s sake. We don’t have time for an entire closet overhaul on a Wednesday!

You, too, can have more space. All you have to be willing to do is live with less stuff. That’s it….a simple equation that you don’t have to be a math nerd to appreciate.

LESS STUFF = MORE SPACE

Today, we will only focus on the simple…stained/torn items and those that you have not worn in at least a year. First, the stained and torn. This should be a given, but you might be surprised at how many of these items you hang onto.

We hate to waste money, and it seems to us that if we are getting rid of these items, we are throwing away the money we spent on them. Here’s the thing, though…the money has already been spent. You are not getting any of that money back unless you are able to sell the items (and in this case, I don’t think many people will want to buy your torn or stained items). Keeping these items in your closet is taking up valuable space. You have enough space to fit everything, though, so why clear the space?

Have you ever scrolled through Pinterest and looked at closets that you’d love to have? What do they all have in common? Let me take a guess here…MORE SPACE. You, too, can have more space. All you have to be willing to do is live with less stuff. That’s it….a simple equation that you don’t have to be a math nerd to appreciate.

LESS STUFF = MORE SPACE

The next step is to get rid of things you have not worn in at least a year. If you’re thinking, how will I know if it has been a year? Here’s a simple solution: if you cannot remember the last time you wore the item (not the exact date- I just mean that you cannot picture yourself in the item), let it go. The only exceptions are specific items that you only wear once in a blue moon (a suit for an interview, a formal that you will actually wear again,…). The same rules apply here as above. You cannot reclaim the money you spent by hanging onto items you do not use. And….if you only wear the item occasionally just so that you don’t feel guilty about keeping  it – not because you actually like it (be honest with yourself here!), get rid of it.

There are a few of options here for getting rid of the items. If they are expensive brands and are still in style, consider selling them. Facebook is actually a great source for selling items such as this. Just post them on your page, or join a local sales group page and post there. If the items are in great condition and still in style, but you couldn’t get much in return for selling them, donate them.

Otherwise, if they are clothes that no one would want (again, be honest), get rid of them. (If any of you have good ideas about specific things that can be done with these items, please let me know!)

*If you absolutely can’t let these items go right away, box or bag them up, write the date on the outside, and put them in your storage room/garage/basement. Check back in 6 months and get rid of what is still there!

Although you can’t see it in this picture, I have a set of these hanging shelves on the left of my built-in shelves. I use these to organize my folding clothes. The only clothes I do not hang up are underclothes and shorts. Yes, I even hang my t-shirts. I have this thing about folding clothes… I hate it. Anyway, Amazon has these for a great price right now if you are interested in adding them to your closet. They are really handy for organizing clothes for the week.  Whitmor 6536-300-GREY Hanging Accessory Shelves, 10.75 x 10 x 35

Don’t forget to keep up with your results and take before and after pics! I’d love for you to share them in the comments with me or on social media using the hashtag #mysimpleclutterchallenge and let us know how much clutter you cleared!

Come back tomorrow for the next mission. Two days already down…28 to go to. We can do this, and we will be so glad we did. Thanks so much for joining me for this challenge!

 

25 Things I Hope I Am Teaching My Students

 

With the new school year quickly approaching, and a group of students I taught as sixth and eighth graders about to begin their senior year, I have been thinking about what I hope I have taught them. In sixth grade, I read a chapter from a novel aloud to them each day, and I vividly recall the days when they would beg me to read one more chapter so they could find out what happened. I hope that those stories inspired at least a few of them to continue to read books. 

I hope that through Number the Stars in sixth grade, they began to understand how young people can exhibit bravery and accomplish great things.  Through Bud, Not Buddy, I hope they realized the struggles that some children face and that through Walk Two Moons they got a glimpse of what it would be like to travel through the Badlands (and that they enjoyed a surprising mystery along the way). 

Each of these stories (along with the many others we read together) was chosen for a purpose, and I hope as we studied them together that I was able to teach them to recognize figurative language and to use it appropriately. I hope I helped them understand the tools of persuasion that will be used all around them in life so that they know to seek the truth rather than to believe everything they hear. 

As they prepare this year to leave our school and move forward with the next chapters of their lives, though, I can’t help but hope I taught them that there is more to learn than what is in the curriculum. I hope I taught them these 25 things…

  1.  Every single one of you is special and has something of value to contribute to the world.
  2. You can learn – even if your learning does not look the same as those around you.
  3. Sometimes life will not go your way, but you alone determine your reaction to the situation.
  4. There is more to life than your income.
  5. Choosing happiness in the midst of a challenging situation is extremely powerful.
  6. Sometimes the best way to show your intelligence is to know when not to speak.
  7. Every argument cannot be won – even if you are correct.
  8. Never store the key to your happiness on someone else’s keychain.
  9. Teachers really do want you to succeed.
  10. The fact that I do not allow you to break the rules does not mean that I don’t like you. It means that I do like you and I want you to learn to follow the rules so that you will stay out of trouble later in life.
  11. A big smile and a pleasant attitude will take you far in life.
  12. Grammar and spelling do matter.
  13. Problems at home do not define you.
  14. Giving your best effort at all times is not as tough as it sounds.
  15. Hard work beats talent when those with the talent choose not to put forth any effort.
  16. Following these two simple commands will lead you to success : Work hard. Be nice.
  17. People will remember your attitude more than your intelligence.
  18. Smile as much as possible, even when you don’t feel like it.
  19. Consider the effects of your words before you speak them.
  20. Always do your best, even if you don’t receive credit.
  21. Be stronger than your excuses. 
  22. Don’t compromise the things you want most in life for the things you want now. 
  23. It is not going to be easy. Once you accept that, you will get a lot more accomplished. 
  24. Ignore those who talk about you. If you are not being criticized, you probably are not doing anything that matters.
  25. You have the option every single day to choose to be happy.