Category Archives: raising teens

Even for Tech Savvy Kids…

Ah, the interwebs. What a wonderful world it can be. It can also be down right dangerous, even for tech savvy kids.
 
Today my youngest son {the 11 year-old} and his team of science guys are taking a video game they developed into competition. Listening to them rehearse their presentation the night before was one of those ‘Proud Parent’ moments that serve as reward for all the late nights, hectic days and endless hours of worry.   Raising a tech kid can be tough though.
 
The biggest challenge is the fact that nine times out of ten the kid speaks a foreign language.  Foreign to me that is.
 
Sometimes the look of pity on his face as he slows his speech and uses metaphors to explain to his mother what a particular line of code does, undoes me. Wait, I used to change your diapers child. When did you become smarter than me?!
 
With this latest project – he started writing simple code at age 8 – he and the team* are turning cyber safety for kids into a game. The team are all into basketball nearly as much as science, so that’s what the game is framed in. Play ball, get pointers on cyber safety. I sort of love it! 
 
What an amazing tool tech is for reaching kids, getting the message across. When I was growing up we had public service announcements – and that’s about it. Remember, “The More You Know?” The jingle more than the message got stuck in your head.
 
Even if they are getting the message though sometimes tech is such a big part of their daily life they may miss some things. A perfect example comes from a recent field trip both of my youngest kids went on.
 
We love the USA Science and Engineering Festival! The whole family went to the last one. How awesome to rock out with The Might Be Giants, listen to Bill Nye THE science guy speak, and remote-drive a rover across the ocean floor from the DC convention center?! Way, cool!
 
Science is the best idea humans have ever had. The more people who embrace that idea, the better.  ~Bill Nye
Sadly this year we couldn’t go as a family. Thankfully the kids made it there with their STEAM club from school. An epic field trip filled with some serious science. I so wished to be there that I let the boy take along my Droid Turbo 2. After all it’s pretty much unbreakable.
 
The phone performed like a dream. Check out the super cool shark pic he snapped.
 
Sadly it’s made from trash found in the ocean. Giant brains, rocket boosters, 3D printed prosthesis, he texted me tons of science awesome. Then he thought I might like to walk through with him.
 
Even for tech savvy kids
Since we’re Verizon customers, even the kid knew he’d be connected and could do that. What he didn’t do was ask permission. Smart kid that he is he just tapped open mom’s Periscope app and then texted me to watch. It never occurred to him that the settings on the app would allow his video to be viewed by anyone, anywhere, who was also on Periscope. Nor did the danger that could come from that occur to him.
even for tech savvy kids…
 
He didn’t know that those people watching would know exactly where he was, what he was doing, who was with him. I think it just really didn’t get, until that moment, how very big the world is and how small tech can make it. I quickly deleted the automatic Tweet sent out by the app, had him turn it off and uninstall it from the phone.
 
Once he was back home {and I could breath again} we had a long talk. I spent some time on the Verizon website’s Tips for Parents page and over at The Online Mom. Obviously this kid wasn’t the only one who was missing a few things about safety on the net. I needed to step up my game too.
 
How about you? Have you had any scary parent moments online? Better yet, got any tips for us?
 
 
* they call themselves the ‘Five Fists of Fury,’ in true nerd fashion. 
 
Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 
 
 
 
 

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring (review)

Ssh… nobody tell our teen.

We are car shopping for her. Well in all fairness it won’t really be a car just for her. It will need to work for the whole family, even if she’ll be the primary driver {gulp}. We recently took one of our short-list cars on an extended test drive, the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring.

mazda cx-5Road trips are our thing. Being a family of five that means our cars have got to be roomy enough to allow for ample, ‘Stop! Touching ME!’ space. Since the teen will be the primary driver of our next car, safety features and tech are at the top of the list too. Good gas mileage? Well who doesn’t need that?!

Overall the Mazda hit quite a few of those sweet spots. It certainly surprised us in some areas. A covert questioning of the teen’s thoughts {she still thinks the old mini-van is going to be her ride} resulted in a two-thumbs up for some of the following…

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring (review)

Is It Big Enough for 5?

We tend to travel with lots of gear. Sometimes that means folding chairs for the basketball game, other times it’s backpacks and hiking supplies. More often, it’s luggage for five,  electronics and roadtrip snacks. Our cars need to have ample cargo space. The CX-5 Grand Touring has this in spades.

The cargo area was even big enough to serve as our ‘base camp’ sledding this winter.

That said, the rear passenger seating space is smaller than we’re used to. The kids say they’d have liked a bit more room. It felt, “too darn cozy” according to the 11-year-old. But anytime he’s closer than arm’s distance to his sisters it’s to close for comfort.

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ReviewBest Safety Features

Hands down the blind spot monitoring wins in my book. When thinking of a teen driver changing lanes in traffic on the highway {or honestly, anywhere} I get hives. The CX-5 has both a chime and blinking alert to warn you of items in your blind spot.

Three point seat belts for ALL! 4-Wheel disk brakes, front and rear stabilizers, are pretty sweet too. 24 hour roadside assistance brings it all home. I’d have to say that the safety features were my favorite things about this ride. 

Let’s Talk Tech

The navigation system in the CX-5 Grand Touring was a little cumbersome. I think that can be said for most any system. Having tested out dozens of them I’ve figured out there is certainly a learning curve that takes longer than a week to get over.

The suite of tech and entertainment in the model we drove was… well.. sweet. I could connect my Pandora account to the audio with an app that is already installed. Syncing my phone was a breeze. It seemed I discovered something new nearly every time I turned on the car.

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ReviewThe only draw back for me was the control dial used to navigate the technology features. It’s located in the center console and I found it distracting and clunky.

Gas Mileage

Pretty darn good! We drove mostly in city traffic, stop-and-go, the pickup line at school, and averaged 28 miles a gallon. One of the things that certainly contributes to the great gas mileage is Mazda’s SkyActive technology.

From the ground up SkyActive is at work. The body, chassis, transmission and engine are designed to give this car better handling, safety and fuel efficiency. The most noticeable impact of SkyActive for our test drive was the gas mileage for sure.  

Price Tag

Gone are the days when you could snag your teen a ride in the $5,000 range. {Wait, you could do that? Okay, maybe in 1989} so we knew that sticker shock might be a factor going into this. Prepared for that we also took into account that this wasn’t going to be a teen cruising mobile but more of a third car for the family.

The model we drove came in at $29,470 with standard equipment. Not over the top price range we were considering but also not a bottom price either.

Optional equipment included; navigation system, LED headlights, adaptive front lighting, trim, cargo mats, a really cool cargo cover, daytime running lights and a few other options, but these only bumped the price up a little over $1,500. Totally worth it.

Lifestyle Points

All the nooks and crannies – cargo nets, storage space and even a brilliantly designed center console that has a cutout recessed far enough I can get my giant water bottle for Yoga class in it – are obviously designed for people who spend time in cars. Extra USB ports and AC/DC outlets are lifesavers for the family that travels with tech.

Mazda earned big bonus points in my book with their charitable efforts – whether you buy one of their cars or not. The Mazda Drive for Good® Event gives back to communities across the country. During the campaign Mazda pledged one hour of their time to a local worthy cause with every test drive. When a lease or purchase came through they donated $150 to one of four national or 40 local charities.

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Review

The total amount of the 2015 Mazda Drive for Good® Event ended up in the ballpark of $5,354,000 and over 72K hours of service. They also kindly supplied us with a gift card for our favorite local charity. I’m a sucker for brands that give back! 

On a scale of 1-5 {five being best} in the Will this be The Teen’s Ride score book, the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Edition lands a solid 4, maybe even a 4.5. We’ll certainly keep shopping. Remember… mum is the word.

Do you have a teen driver? What are you looking for in a car for them? I’d love some advice!  

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

White House Travel Blogger Summit A cold rain gently fell streaking the windows with of threads of color. I stood in the State Dinning room and looked above the mantel.  As I gazed at the portrait of Lincoln, I’d never felt smaller. How did this kid from a one-tumbleweed town end up as an invited guest, standing in the same State Dinning Room where world leaders have gathered?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

Travel brought me to that moment of awe one year ago today. Attending the White House Travel Bloggers Summit was one of those surreal moments in life. I felt both humbled and emboldened.

We came from all walks of life; television personalities, editors of respected publications, thought leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs, creators, storytellers, each with stories as different as the pages of our dogeared travel journals. Yet here we were one. Each of us bonded by a shared passion for helping others understand the true power of travel as a force for change in the world.

The State Department hosted this event as a thunderclap announcement for the opening of the U.S. Study Abroad Office and to pose the question to the world… Study Abroad Because?

“…we want to ensure America’s future leaders have opportunities to experience the world beyond their border…” ~Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

In the year since the summit my family has chosen to take up the mantle of spreading the word on how travel can better the world. Be that study or volunteering abroad, connecting with the history and traditions of new places {far and near}, or welcoming others into our lives to share who we are.

My teen and I attended a virtual study abroad campus fair where we connected with educators and students from Australia to Georgia {the country not the state}, Italy to Russia. For her it was great to hear college students talk about their personal experiences, I felt bolstered by learning that these programs weren’t just about seeing the sights.

white house travel blogger summit As a family we visited the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, busting a few myths about Canada.  Immersed ourselves Georgian, Latvian, Turkish, and Jamaican cultural experiences … and food. Oh the food.

I even talked myself into being okay with the teen headed to Korea or Russia this summer to study language in an immersion program. Okay, if we’re being honest a small part of me still hopes she doesn’t get in… my baby alone in a foreign land?! Practicing what you preach is tough, yo!  

The best part of the last year though has been getting to know my fellow summit attendees and following along as they make the world a smaller place.

white house travel blogger summitCome join the journey…

Why Taking My Daughter to Haiti Was an Investment in Her Future as a Global Citizen – Leticia Barr

White House Travel Blogger Summit Miniseries – from Nathaniel Boyle’s Daily Travel Podcast

Finding the Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship at the Center of Dalí’s Universe – Brad Bernard

Life Coming Full Circle at the White House Travel Blogger Summit – Colleen Lanin

My Turkish Love Affair – Elena Sonnino

The Moment That Cuba Opened Its Secret To Me – Lillie Marshal

15 Lessons I Learned from Traveling Around the World – Angie Orth

Emotional Travel: Revisiting Places of Personal Importance in 2015 – Matt Long

New Year, New Life: You’re Never Too Old to Study Abroad – Jackie Laulainen (for Yahoo Travel)
Study Abroad Because… There are experiences out there that will totally change your life for the better – A Wandering Educators Student Interview
Why Your Teen High School Student Should Go Abroad (The Parent’s Guide) – Dr. Jessie Voights
 

“Travel can change you. It should change you.” ~ Brad Bernard MyWanderList

Your Parenting Philosophy Is A Joke!

What is your parenting philosophy? Um, try not to get them killed and hope they don’t grow up to loathe me? When that blurry little plus sign materialized on the stick trembling in my hand I was wholly unprepared for what lay ahead.

Confession time; I never wanted kids. That biological yearning to mother another human, it just wasn’t a part of my makeup. Or so I thought. Turns out that you don’t have to declare a desire to rear children in order to conceive. Who knew?!

Only everybody. 

When my oldest “reality check” came along it was almost instantaneously obvious to me that I’d been living some deluded idiom.  The kid was {is} cool.  Cooler than I ever would or could be. I was totally into this parenting thing. Maybe even made for it.

Naturally this revelation also came with an instant, fully-formed, and completely correct in every possible way, parenting philosophy.

Fellow parents, you may roll your eyes now.

My son was singularly brilliant. I’d teach him to read before he could crawl. Yes, he was going to be multilingual by age five. Never would a commercially produced morsel of food find its way past his cherubic lips. He’d wear only the best, washed always in Dreft {also known as the precursor to organic, fragrance free, sustainably produced, vegan, non-gmo laundry detergent.}  A smudge of dirt had less than a thirty second life-span anywhere on him.

Is that the sound of rapidly spinning rotter blades I hear? 

And, like a Highlander… there could be only one. Then, two lines in the window.

When she came along, my first daughter turned my world on its ear. Sixteen years later I’ve yet to right things, and I like it that way.

Your Parenting Philosophy Is a Joke - Because They Have Thier Own PlansWhere my first child was in many ways shaped after the me I thought I was, she would march to her own beat from day one. In fact the first photo snapped of her – seconds after eviction from the womb- shows her with a graceful, long, perfectly-formed middle finger resting on her chubby little cheek. This kid would do things her way.

With all four of my kids {yeah, the “no kids” plan is shot to hell} I’ve tossed out that whole parenting philosophy thing. Instead I just try my best to help them find their place in the world. By world I mean exactly that. We work hard to teach them that there is a common thread that connects us all, no matter our geographic location, spiritual beliefs, or economic situation.

Sometimes those lessons come through our travels, or our “Travel Nights” – a fun family tradition that lets us “travel” without leaving home by bringing in food, music, and cultural information about places we long to explore. Other times it comes in helping them connect with people who don’t look or live like they do through work with organizations we adore – like the UN Foundation.

For as long as I can remember, my oldest daughter has been the most taken with the idea of Global Citizenship. Her personal mantra is, “I will go to all the places.” So I’ve always expected that she’d want to study abroad at some point. Like her senior year of college. But as a Junior in high school? Yeah, no.

Be careful what you ask for, right?

I’m not sure why I’m all that shocked that she is so ready to fly. People tell me she’s been asking to spend a summer abroad since middle school. Somehow, I didn’t hear that.  Ignore it, she’ll forget about it like she did One Direction. Much like my feelings for the boy band genre, I’m not cool with this.

Gas up the chopper! 

I was nineteen when I moved to Spain. It’s not like I went without a safety net – or even by choice– the Navy had that covered. My parents never had to find a host family, a reputable program, do background checks, take blood samples, and interrogate anyone that might possibly have contact with their daughter. I was an adult {legally speaking.} She is a baby {mostly.}

This whole give them roots and wings thing is a load of crap. Sappy copy for greeting cards and fridge magnets. How about we just give them that tentacled vine thing they kept beneath that trapdoor under the three headed dog at Hogwarts? Who says we have to equip them with life skills to help them grow into confident, responsible, self-reliant adults?  Bah! 

take the world with you whever you goThe globe has lots of citizens, I only have one KK.

 

 

 

 

Trying on The New Glass Slipper: Cinderella Movie Review

Cinderella Movie Romantic Secret GardenI like my espresso with lemon peel, my books… paper, and my Disney princesses animated. Call me old school, a traditionalist, or just plain old… I know what I like, and how I like it. Or, I did. Here is our review of the new Cinderella movie.

Being the diehard fan of classic Disney, Maleficent fell a bit short for me and I wasn’t in any rush to pay fifteen dollars to see Cinderella. Even my daughters weren’t particularly piqued by the previews. Though the teen was enamored by the elusive {s in out-of-stock-everywhere and going for a 300% markup on eBay} Cinderella themed line of cosmetics at MAC. 

Then a “Royal” invite from Disney hit my inbox and all that sticking to ideals stuff few out the window. What girl can resist a wax sealed invitation to the the ball – even a digital one? Not me. Or my daughters. So we pulled out the chest of party dress and headed out to a private screening of Cinderella.

Cinderella 2015 The Magic of Disney Returns

There was Footman, The glass slipper, even a royal Blue Carpet rolled out for the occasion.  All were pale in comparison to the story that unfolded on the screen.

We. Loved. It.

The expected magic of a Disney film comes to life in a story both familiar and new, with gorgeous sets and stunning costuming. Ella’s happy world, filled family, love and farmyard friends, comes to a tear jerking end when her mother takes ill.  Before her mother slips away she shares a secret with her daughter – one that really resonated with the mom in me.

“Have courage and be kind.”

Ella lives by these words, through the heartbreak of her father’s death and the trials of life to come with her Wicked Stepmother (portrayed to skin-crawling perfection by the indomitable Cate Blanchett – I really loathed her) and gaudy, obnoxious… hilarious, Stepsisters. She continues to be kind, have courage in the face of hardship, and believe in magic – as evidenced by her relationship with the house mice.

Stepmother-and-Stepsisters-Cinderella-Movie

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that Gus {Gus Gus} was still in the story. He was always my favorite! Sure they turned Jacques into Jaquelin, but even that worked to tie in the theme of a courageous and kind female character.  I missed Lucifer having a bigger role, but he was there too. Lucifie!

My girls and I laughed, and cried. We swooned over the handsome prince, cheered for the triumph of kindness over cruelty, fell in love with the wise King. There wasn’t a thing I could find to dislike – and believe me, I tried.  Nonso Anozie as The Captain was my absolute favorite. He was gallant, funny, and gave a performance that even eclipsed that of the amazing Helena Bonham Carter. {who can do no wrong, in my book}

Not one to bide with hyperbole – at least when it comes to movies… excuses for not working out, well that’s a different story – give Cinderella a full four pumpkins and an additional sprinkle of fairy dust for the stunning costuming. Do not wait for this one to come out on DVD, it must be seen in on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

Trust me, it’s well worth the $15 ticket and $20 small diet coke.

Some Princesses are tougher

 Disclosure: My family and I were invited guests of Disney for a private screening of the film as well as an event. I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are entirely my own – because you deserve nothing less!