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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Quick and Easy Breakfast- 3 Ingredient Hidden Ham and Cheese Biscuits 

With three kids and two adults trying to get out the door quickly in the mornings, I’m always looking for something new to add to my breakfast rotation (see my earlier post where I shared some of the ideas I have tried). I’m always excited when another winner comes along.

This breakfast requires less than ten minutes prep time (more like five if the biscuits are easy to separate 😉), and the rest happens while you are drinking a cup of coffee and reading my blog. Hint, hint! You see what I just did there?

Alrighty, let’s get to it. First, you need to grab your three ingredients from your refrigerator- or someone else’s refrigerator if you aren’t home. If you are home, you probably shouldn’t go to your neighbor’s fridge and grab ingredients. Okay…I’ve got to stop for a moment. Can someone PLEASE tell me why fridge has a “d” in it but the whole word, refrigerator, does not? This drives me crazy!

The three ingredients you need are a can of flaky biscuits (the flakes makes them easier to separate), five slices of deli ham, and a bag of shredded cheese. Get whichever cheese you prefer…you’re eating this, not me. If you’re wondering, though, I used a Colby & Monterey Jack mix. 

  
The first step is to preheat the oven and spray a muffin pan with nonstick coating so that you can get these lovelies out when you are finished. Next, you will need to separate the biscuits into two halves, using the layers to help you do so. 

  

They look like little open mouths to me…just waiting on the game and cheese! Take your ham and cut it in half. I had the deli sliced ham that comes in small circles, so half a piece was perfect for fillings he biscuits, but if your ham slices are larger, adjust accordingly. I had two layers of an because after cutting the circle into two parts, I folded each piece in half. See what I’m talking about…

  
Okay, after you have added the ham, you’ll want to top it with some shredded cheese (or sliced cheese if you’d prefer). I see a Colby-Monterey Jack blend, but almost any cheese would work. I think a sharp cheddar would be great. I just happened to have the Colby jack on hand the day I came up with this recipe.  You’ll need about a tablespoon for each biscuit. 

 
After that, you’re ready to seal the pockets up and get them in the oven. 

  
To seal them, simply fold the top flap over and press the edges down into the muffin pan. 

    

   

  

  
They look like little pillows. Yay! The hard work is over. Who am I kidding? That was not hard work at all. You don’t have to tell the people you are serving them to, though. You can act as if you slaved over them for hours if you’d like. I won’t tell.😉 Now, just put them in the oven, go drink a cup of coffee, and relax. Check them after about ten minutes. After that, keep a watch on them until they are golden brown. 

     
Place them on a pretty plate and serve them. Pat yourself on the back, then sit down and enjoy breakfast with your family.  

    
  

Quick and Easy Hidden Ham and Cheese Biscuits

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
 
•one can of flaky biscuits 

•5 slices of deli ham

•shredded cheese

Spray a muffin tin with nonstick coating. Tear each biscuit in half. Cut the ham slices in half. Place the bottom half of the biscuit into the muffin pan. Put one piece of ham on top, sprinkle shredded cheese over it, and cover it with the other half of the biscuit. Cook at 350 until browned (about 15 minutes).

 

What Should Kids Learn in School?

 If you have children, have you ever  thought about what you would like for them to learn before leaving high school? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course in the beginning you want them to learn the alphabet and numbers. You want them to learn to write their names. Later, you want them to learn their colors and eventually how to read. You want them to learn the rules of grammar and how to write neatly, and you also want them to learn how to “do math” well. Finally, throw in a little science and history/government for good measure. You might even say that you’d also like for your kids to learn to appreciate good literature or to learn basic business skills or to study the Bible. Few of your lists would offer many more details than those (unless you knew that someone would later critique your list), but I think this is a question that more parents need to actually sit down and ponder.

If you don’t know exactly what you want your children to learn, by which standards will you evaluate their learning experiences once they have finished? I have taught for enough years to know that, if questioned, almost every parent out there would gladly offer his or her opinion of the school system his or her child attends. I would like to better understand the criteria on which the schools are being judged by the public. I teach in Mississippi, and in our state, we have a teacher evaluation tool called M-STAR. It is a 20 page rubric by which teachers are evaluated twice per year. Here is a brochure, produced by the Mississippi Department of Education, outlining the basics of M-STAR. The goal of M-STAR was to increase teacher performance and student learning. This brings me back to the question I started with, however. What do parents want their children to learn?

As a teacher, I want to make a difference in the lives of the students in my school. Most teachers have this goal. However, I believe that in order to make a difference, we have to teach much more than what is found in the curriculum. The things that students learn from observation will often carry much more weight in their lives than the things on which they are tested while in school.  This is where I think teachers make their greatest impacts upon students’ lives.

Have you ever noticed how a negative attitude can spread like a forest fire? Imagine a classroom full of smiling, happy faces. One student is missing, however. Johnny is running late today. A few minutes pass with pleasant conversation as the teacher begins the lesson. Suddenly, the door opens abruptly, slamming into the wall with such force that the Parts of Speech poster is knocked to the floor. Sally lets out a quick scream and the flying poster hits Susie in the leg, causing her to yell at Johnny. He stomps to his desk, slamming his bag onto it so hard that it tips forward. Billy, sitting in front of Johnny, turns to yell at him. At this point, the room has turned to chaos. The teacher has a choice… she can get angry and escalate the situation, or she can remain calm and diffuse it. The students are all waiting for her response, and although it is not in the curriculum, this is a teaching moment.

Students observe teachers’ attitudes toward their peers and administration, as well. If teachers constantly complain about those around them, the students will begin to view this as acceptable workplace behavior, but when the teachers continue to “put on a happy face” no matter the situation, we can teach a valuable lesson that will help our students in their future careers. Being able to adapt to changing management and workplace standards is a necessary skill in almost any profession. We, as teachers, have a great opportunity to model appropriate behavior for our students.

When we are faced with new principals, changing testing requirements, updated teacher evaluation models, and all the other curveballs that continue to be thrown our way, reacting in a positive manner (at least in front of the students) is an excellent way to teach them to deal with adverse situations in life. Students need to learn to coexist peacefully with people who are not necessarily “like” them. The world, just like our workplaces, is filled with people with differing opinions and lifestyles, and the better we are at getting along with one another, the more peaceful it will be.

Learning the curriculum is important, as is performing well on tests – especially if a student’s path is leading him to college. Higher grades and higher test scores certainly lead to more scholarship money and opportunities for acceptance to “better” schools. Students definitely need to learn to read and write, to perform a variety of mathematical operations, to understand how the body works and the science behind the world surrounding us, and to understand the ways in which our government is run and the historical path which led us here. These are not the only lessons students should walk out of the doors of high school with, however. Of equal importance are all the other things that are not in the curriculum.

In my next post, I will share with you twenty-five things that are not in the curriculum that I hope I am teaching my students, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think children should learn in school.

How to Earn a Vote for Mom-of-the-Year (the Easy Way) and a Simple Boredom Buster for Kids

 Let me begin by saying that I am NOT mom-of-the-year. I do a lot of things wrong. We don’t play enough games together. We make messes and don’t immediately clean them up. We don’t take the kids on individual dates. Though I am improving, my house doesn’t stay clean. We don’t invite friends over as often as we should, but when it comes to being a mom, I try. I really, really try.

I’m really not much of a girly-girl. I’m most comfortable in jeans and chacos or my running clothes. My hair is rarely seen down, and the only makeup I wear is mascara and a bit of eyeliner so that my eyes don’t completely blend in with the rest of my face. I have two daughters who are a lot like me. The oldest is an athlete. She doesn’t wear makeup and thinks that dressing up is wearing a pair of jeans with one of the cross country shirts she has won instead of Nike shorts. The younger does like to experiment with clothes, but by experiment, I mean see how many days in a row you can wear the same clothing a without getting in trouble!
Here’s the thing though…we are still girls and girls occasionally like to play dress up.

They each invited a friend over to spend the night last night, so I came up with an idea. I would pull out my old formals, buy some cheap makeup and temporary hair color, and we would have a contest. The girls would each, with my assistance (if they wanted it), do their hair, makeup, and clothing to see which one could best replicate Lady Gaga’s style. Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit that Lady Gaga has a style of her own. My favorite of her quotes is, “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you’re all the same.” I don’t want my children running around in dresses made of raw meats or outfits made entirely of caution tape, but I do want them to feel comfortable in being who they are.

There is so much pressure these days to be like everyone else. Though this has always been true, in the past it took a lot more work to find out what “everyone else” was doing. You had to sift through Teen magazines and watch countless videos on Mtv, and spend hours studying every episode of Full House to figure out what “they” looked like. Today, most kids have access to all these things in their hands or pockets at all times. With more knowledge of what the celebrities are doing comes more pressure to conform. You might say that I’m promoting that with this contest, and you might be right. I hope not, though. I hope that what I did was show them that 1. It’s okay to be yourself, 2. It’s okay once in a while to dress up and put on crazy makeup and clothes, and 3. When you want to do these things, you can invite me to go along for the ride.

Once they were all at the house, I went over the rules. They would each choose a dress, grab some makeup, and head to separate rooms. I would come around to the rooms as they prepared and offer assistance. Once the makeup and clothing was complete, they would each come to the “hair room” where we would discuss options and I would help each girl style her hair however she wanted. Once each was done, we would have the big reveal. The girls looked over all the glittery makeup options, chose a couple of favorites, grabbed a dress, and off they went.

They each did their own makeup aside from a little help with fake eyelashes and eyeliner. I expected them to need more help with this, so with the extra time on my hands… I decided to join in on the fun. I worked on my own makeup and hair while going from room to room checking their progress. Once each of them finished, they came to me and we worked on hair.

Finally, a contest isn’t a contest without voting, so I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook and asked friends to vote. The votes are still coming in today, and I’d love for you to weigh in… take a look at what we came up with and tell me in the comments which one you think is the most Gaga-ish!

The big reveal….

Contestant Z

Z, pose number 2

Contestant M

M, pose number 2

Contestant C

C, pose number 2

Contestant L

L, pose number 2

And….I’m not part of the contest, but here is what I came up with!

 the aftermath…..

As I sit here the morning after and reflect on last night, I am reminded of a few things. I’m reminded of why I don’t wear much makeup. I’m reminded of why I don’t curl my hair, tease it sky-high, and hold it in place with Rave hairspray. I’m reminded of why I don’t wear fake yellow and purple hair color and fake eyelashes. I’m reminded of why I rarely dress up in fancy dresses. But I’m also reminded of how much fun it can be when I do. Your kids are only young once, so while you have the chance, make memories with them. Don’t be afraid to make a mess or make a fool of yourself along with them. And always, always be yourself – unless you can be Lady Gaga for a night. 😉

Ten Things I Wish I Had Known at 21

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1. Life is going to be great. Not every minute of every day, but as a whole. Remember when things are not going exactly as planned to step back and look at the big picture.

2. Laugh about as many things as you can. When something goes wrong, unless it is a tragedy, laugh about it. Chances are that it won’t seem nearly as bad after a laugh. Car breaks down while you’re on vacation? Air conditioner quits in the middle of summer? The first thing I do is have a good laugh and chalk it up to more memories because when we are reminiscing, many of the things we laugh the hardest about are the things that went wrong.

3. Marriage will not always be a fairy tale, but it will certainly be worth the work. Make sure you choose the right person, and once you’ve made that decision and commitment, stick it out. The grass may appear greener in another field, but there’s still dirt under that grass, too. Fertilize your own yard, and you will reap the rewards.

4. Children will be more work than you think, but they will bring you more joy than you could ever imagine. When you hear someone say that you don’t realize how much you are capable of loving another human until you’ve held your first child, believe them.

5. You will miss your parents when they are gone, no matter what kind of relationship you have now. You might not have a perfect relationship, and there may be many things that you will not miss, but knowing that a person who tucked you in at night or held your hand while crossing the road, or answered the phone when you called for help is gone from this earth will tug at your heartstrings.

6. You don’t need a job that pays six figures to be happy. If you spend most of your hours working to earn the money, you won’t leave enough hours to enjoy it. Money is nice to have, but it isn’t everything, and you usually adjust your spending levels to match your earnings. It took me a while to learn this one, but I would rather earn a teacher’s salary and have the summers off to be with my children than earn an attorney’s salary and rarely see them.

6. Getting up early takes some getting used to but really is worth it. It’s actually peaceful to be the only one up. You can get a lot done and really feel good about yourself if you just go ahead and get the day started.

7. Running is awesome. I always enjoyed running but never did it consistently for long enough to realize how much I love it. It doesn’t take nearly as long to see progress as you’d think, and it is so great for your health. If you ever wanted to “be a runner” give it a try…but realize that you won’t love it immediately. It takes a few weeks of running before it starts to get easier, but give it that long before you decide whether you love it or hate it.

8. A person really can not only survive but learn to enjoy drinking nothing but water and black coffee. I didn’t realize how much sugar I consumed just in beverages until I quit drinking sweet tea. I quit drinking sodas in high school but thought I’d be a sweet tea drinker forever. You simply have to make a commitment to yourself and stick to it to quit. You are strong enough to quit if you really want to. I promise.

9. Try to enjoy a sunrise or sunset as often as possible. When you don’t look at one for a while, it’s easy to start to think that they’re all the same…you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. This is so far from the truth. Each time I look at one, I am impressed by the beauty. There is so much to enjoy in everyday life. Too many people get caught up in looking for something amazing that they fail to realize the amazing creations that surround them every single day.

10. More is not necessarily better. Learning to let go of things that do not bring you happiness (things you surround yourself with at home, activities you participate in just because you think you should, the quest for the bigger home, the better car, the list goes on…) will bring you far more delight than you could ever imagine. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years buying *things* to put in my home only to one day realize that I had surrounded myself with so much stuff that I felt as if I was suffocating. Letting the excess go and making a commitment to live with LESS has brought me so much MORE. Be content.