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.

 

Feel Like You Have the Flu? These Two Remedies are the Best Kept Secrets!

 My family has been very fortunate over the last few years. My husband and I both teach school, so you can imagine how many germs we come into contact with on a daily basis. My oldest child is at the high school, my middle child in elementary school, and my youngest is in preschool…so, we are collecting germs from a variety of environments every single day and bringing them into our home. 

For one reason or another, many students come to school sick. Students who are eligible for exemption in classes based on their attendance do not want to miss a day if they do not have to, so we end up with a lot of sick students walking around our campus and in our classrooms during peak flu season. I’m going to share with you today some of my tips that have worked to help my family stay well.

Let me begin by stating the obvious…hand washing is essential. There has been a trend toward the use of hand sanitizers over the last few years. I do love my Germ-X for a quick fix, but hand sanitizers are no replacement for washing hands with soap and water. I think of it like this…do I want to simply kill the germs on my hands, or do I actually want to wash them off? I prefer to know that they are gone, so I try to use soap and water as often as possible.

I also use disinfectant sprays in the classroom. Each time a student sneezes or complains of not feeling well, I make sure to disinfect his or her seat when class ends. If the student is using a computer, I get disinfecting wipes and wipe down the keyboards and desktops. Occasionally, though, we pick up germs anyway. There is no way to avoid germs in the hallways at school, so getting them is inevitable.

I have learned to watch for the signs of impending illness, though. I have learned that if I can catch an illness at the very beginning, I can usually stop it in its tracks. At the first sign of a cold (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose), I use Sambucol Cold and Flu Relief Tablets, Black Elderberry, 30 Count. The main ingredient is Elderberry. I heard about these a couple of years ago, and I have used them each time we have felt a cold coming on since then. I love these because they are safe even for young children. They come in a very small tablet and dissolve quickly in your mouth. They even taste pleasant, so my children do not mind taking them. I rarely have to take more than one or two before my symptoms are gone.

My second line of defense is for the more serious illnesses. Any time one of us develops a fever along with cold symptoms, I immediately turn to my old standby Boiron Oscillococcinum for Flu-like Symptoms Pellets, 30 Count/0.04 Oz each. These are specifically targeted at flu symptoms such as fever, body aches, and chills. My kids know these as “mouth sprinkles” because they come in these tiny tubes and look like teensy white balls. You pour these magic “sprinkles” into your mouth, and they dissolve. They are really fun to take, so my kids never complain about them. My son began taking them when he was two years old, so they even work for young children who are sometimes hard to convince to take their medicine. Here is what the box looks like:

 

We have had flu-like symptoms and fevers many times over the years since I discovered this product, but so far since using this, none of us have developed the flu. I recommend that everyone keep a box of these on hand and take them at the very first sign of any flu-like symptoms. I am not saying to replace anything else you take (read the label for yourself but this homeopathic remedy does not appear to affect any other medicines), but I would definitely add this to my arsenal of defenses if I were you.

Do you have any other remedies that have worked well for you? Have any of you ever tried either of these? I would love to hear if they worked well for your family, too. Good luck throughout the remainder of flu season. I wish you all health and happiness!

 

Having Less Gives Me More…

declutter simple minimal minimalism  This morning when I walked downstairs and looked around, I started to panic. My house looked like a wreck! How could this be? I have worked so hard to eliminate the unnecessary. I have tried to establish rules for everyone to follow about putting things away as soon as they are used. I have assigned places to all the things that belong in the kitchen and family room areas. So, how was I looking around at such a mess?

Thoughts started to swirl inside my head… What if someone drops by? They will never believe that it was clean yesterday! I begin to argue with those thoughts, though. I watched a movie with my husband after the kids were asleep last night. This rarely happens because I usually fall asleep too early. If I had spent the time cleaning the kitchen, I might have missed the opportunity to spend that time with him. Hmmm…. there had to be a balance. I decided to just suck it up and the girls and I got busy cleaning. A funny thing happened, though. It only took twenty minutes to clean. Twenty minutes and it was right back in shape! Clean enough for company. Do you have any idea how exciting this is to me?

You see, although there was stuff everywhere, it all had a place where it belonged. It was simply a matter of putting it there. Some things were downstairs that belonged in the laundry basket upstairs…less than two minutes to gather every one of these items and place them in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. Next, there were several pairs of shoes scattered around the room…30 seconds to gather and put in another pile beside the stairs. A few dirty dishes on the table and beside the couch needed to be moved into the kitchen, then the big kitchen clean-up began. First, I filled one side of the sink with hot, soapy water. Next, I started quickly loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. There were more in the sink and on the counters. Where do these things come from? Is our cat preparing midnight snacks and eating off of plates every night while we are sleeping? I might believe that was the case except that we were downstairs watching a movie until after midnight.

Okay, I will admit that my husband and I might have cooked a snack to eat while we watched the movie. And by snack, I might mean that we cooked sausage dogs on an indoor grill pan and didn’t clean up the mess when we finished. Don’t tell my girls though. 😉

Back to the cleaning…any dishes that did not fit into the dishwasher went into the soapy water. Once the dishwasher was fully loaded, I turned it on. Ten minutes into the cleaning at this point. I hand-washed the remaining items while the girls dried them and put them up. Fourteen minutes. I used the soapy water to wipe down the countertops and cooktop while the girls cleared the remaining items off the table and put them away (sunscreen, paper and markers, coasters). I wiped down the table. Seventeen minutes had passed. All that remained was for the girls to grab a few toys from the family room and take the dirty laundry, shoes, and toys upstairs while I swept the floors. Done in less than twenty minutes! Now, don’t get me wrong… the floor still needs to be mopped, the furniture dusted, the baseboards cleaned. What I’m shooting for is presentable, though – not looking like a tornado just came through my downstairs. And, we achieved that in LESS THAN TWENTY MINUTES.  I owe this all to having less stuff.

Before I started eliminating the excess, I had pieces from five sets of dishes. A few had been broken along the way, so I kept adding more to replace them without ever getting rid of any. This resulted in my having a towering set of mismatched plates in my cabinet. Putting the dishes away when they were cleaned required great skill and balance. Plates had to be removed from the cabinet and rearranged each time the dishwasher was cleaned out in order to avoid an avalanche if they were not stacked from largest in diameter to smallest. I had three stacks of these. I also had two different types of bowls that resulted in the same problem. They had to be strategically stacked in order to avoid a collapse. I have a good bit of cabinet space in my kitchen, and I felt as if I needed to fill every inch of it. I wish I had counted the number of coffee cups I had accumulated. I love to drink coffee, and we have collected a few coffee cups from places we have visited. In addition to those cups, I had a variety of cups that I had received as gifts throughout the years, the cups that had not broken from three sets of dishware, the twelve cups that were part of my set of china, and the list goes on. For Christmas, my mom gave me a set of black dishes. Twelve dinner plates, twelve bowls, and twelve coffee cups. I decided that I would keep that set and my set of china and get rid of the rest. Putting dishes away became SO much easier. I have two stacks of plates on my lower shelves – the black dinner plates, and the china dessert/salad plates. There is no balancing act because each plate in its stack is identical. And, in case you are wondering, yes…we use the china on a daily basis. My four year old eats breakfast off of the china plate. For years I stored these dishes that I love so much in a china cabinet and only brought them out once or twice a year. I realized a while back how crazy that was. I love these dishes! Why was I saving them?

I kept a few of the special coffee cups in a separate cabinet because when I’m the only one awake, I like to drink my coffee from one of these mugs. If the cabinet gets crowded, though, some will have to go. It is so much easier to put things away when the cabinet is not crowded. If I ever have the need to host a dinner party, I still have more dishes remaining than I have seating.

If you dread having to clean out your dishwasher or put away the dishes after hand-washing them, take a minute and evaluate your dishes. How many do you have? Do you need them all? If not, do you love them all? Try keeping one set of ten to twelve dishes (unless you have a smaller or much larger family) and packing the rest away temporarily. I’m not telling you to get rid of them *yet*. This is just a trial. Give it a month. See how it goes. You might just find that it brings you more peace to wash dishes a little more often but to have an easier time getting them out of and putting them into the cabinets. While you’re at it, evaluate your cookware, too. How many eyes do you have on your cooktop? Do you need more pots than that? What about casserole dishes? How many do you need of the same size? If you run across something you think you might be able to live without, pack it up and put a date on it. If you can make it through a major holiday without needing it, you can probably let it go. If you just feel as if you can’t let it go, at least pack it away so that you don’t have to work around it each time you open the cabinet door.

I have learned that having less gives me more. It gives me more space, obviously. It gives me more time…time that I don’t have to spend cleaning/moving/organizing/looking for/putting away. It gives me more peace…clear spaces make me feel so much more relaxed and calm. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment…I am learning that the things of life do not define me. Give it a try and see…you just might find that having less can also give you more. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. What does having less mean to you? If you are working on this, what have you eliminated from your kitchen and did you miss it after it was gone? If you plan to give it a try, let me know how it goes!

A Series of Fortunate Events

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”   -John Lennon

I used to be a lawyer. It was brief, at times it was fun, but in the end I decided that it was not for me. You see, when I was in school, I was always one of the smart kids. I was competitive with my grades, too. I didn’t just want an A… I wanted the highest A. This determination served me well, and I ended up being the valedictorian and the STAR student (highest ACT score) of my graduating class. I had people telling me all the time that I would end up being a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO. I believed them, and when the time came to decide on a major, I began to explore my options.

I’ve never liked to simply follow the crowd, so I didn’t want to do something that all the others were interested in. That ruled out education and business. I wanted to choose a major that sounded impressive. You see, I also had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The dumb blonde jokes were really popular, and I worked really hard to make sure everyone around me thought I was smart. I never wanted to be thought of as a dumb blonde. I researched my options and decided on electrical engineering. It sounded exciting enough, the research showed that it paid well, and I didn’t know a single person who had majored in it, so that sounded like the major for me. Right up until the end of the first semester.

Engineering, as it turns out, was not the major for me. I had the potential. I had the scholarship. What I realized I did not have was the love. It didn’t make me happy. I gave up the scholarship, researched my options, and changed my major to business…specifically marketing. My brother was working in sales and was very successful, so I decided to follow his path. I loved the classes and started to envision a future in that field. I finished my bachelor’s degree on time, but as graduation approached, I realized that I was not yet ready to get a job. Law school seemed like the logical next step. I didn’t really know that law school was the path that I should take, though. I knew some of the people who were planning to go to law school from undergrad and they all seemed so much more serious about it than I did. Still, graduation was fast approaching and I had to do something. I signed up to take the LSAT. I decided that I would not prepare at all and if I scored high enough, that would be my sign that I should try law school. I did score high enough, but there was another step that I hadn’t really considered…applying! I had less than a week to get my application ready and turned in for law school, so I buckled down and put together what I felt like was a good application minus one thing – the required references. I did not have the time remaining for those, so I sent the application in without them. Again, I trusted that if it was meant to be, I would get accepted. If not, I would find a job. I mean, surely there are always jobs available in sales, right?

I was accepted to law school, graduated a semester early, passed the Bar exam, and married an NFL kicker (whom I began dating when he was kicking in college). The next step fell into place when we were living in Jacksonville. Before he officially made the roster, we needed money. I had passed the Bar exam in Mississippi, where we were from, but I thought that surely I could find a position with a law firm as a clerk. I began researching Jacksonville attorneys online with the hope of finding one who had attended the law school from which I graduated. I found one, e-mailed him, got an interview, and was hired by the firm. I worked with them until my husband was scheduled to kick in NFL Europe for the summer (which got cancelled two weeks before we left due to a hernia surgery). My husband was released by the Jaguars the following year, immediately signed with the Broncos, we moved to Denver, and that is a story for another day.

Eventually, we ended up back in my hometown. We were fortunate to have enough savings that we could take some time off while my husband tried out for some other teams. He never ended up signing with another team, but we had the chance to live, as adults, debt-free for a little while without working. I believe that experience was what shaped all of my future decisions. You see, after that experience, the bar was set high. I knew what it was like to be happy and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.

I realized that the only thing I loved about practicing law was the research. I loved to research and write, but everything else seemed like work. I tried to love it, but I just couldn’t. I had a daughter at this point and started to think about her education. The only thing I knew about the local school system was what I had experienced. I started to think about how I could get involved. I began to tutor and sub and realized that I actually enjoyed the job I never thought I would. I decided to make a major change and get my teaching license.

I am now a teacher. It was a move that most people could not understand. I still have students every year who cannot fathom what would make a person give up a higher paying job for a teacher’s salary. They are amazed. They think I am crazy, and they tell me so (there really is not much of a filter in kids if you haven’t noticed). They ask me to explain my decision, and I do. I know that my words will not sink in now, but I envision a future scenario in which one of my former students becomes a successful lawyer/pharmacist/salesperson/any-other-profession-that-pays-well  and he reaches a point at which he discovers that his true passion lies in some other significantly less profitable field. I see his friends’ and family’s reactions. They tell him he is crazy to give up his great job. They tell him that though the job he wants to pursue is a worthy cause and that those kinds of people are needed in the world that he is too smart for that. He is too successful to give it up. I hope when he gets that reaction and begins to waver in his desire to give up the wealth that he will remember my words and follow his dreams. I hope he will tell them all that it is actually okay and that he knows this because he once had a teacher who taught him something that wasn’t in the curriculum.

And now, here I sit, at the starting line of another dream. I’ve always loved to write, but I never really thought anyone would want to read my words (and I didn’t think I had the time because we still have to pay the bills). As I have spent time lately reading the articles written by others, I have begun to realize that it isn’t really about whether or not others want to read it. It’s about the process. It’s about doing something that makes you happy. So, I will continue down this path and see where it leads me. I don’t know what the destination is, but I know my plan. I’m going to enjoy the ride.

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.