How To: Surviving Finals Week

That time year is upon us… again. 30 seconds ago we were dealing with midterms, and now we are struggling to keep it together for 10 minutes at a time! Gaaaahhh…

 

So, here are a few tips to making it through this dreadful time:

 

  1. Take breaks! Your brain is wired in a way that a 6 hour study bender isn’t very effective. I study for a while, then find snacks or talk with people or even watch TV.
  2. All-nighters are a myth. Truth. Your brain NEEDS sleep. So, all that information you stayed up to cram into your brain has no way to “harden.” Study until you’re reasonably tired… then go to bed. Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep does more for you than that sleepless-cram night. Just ask neuro-psychologist John Medina.
  3. Remember the taking breaks part? Yeah, use one of those breaks at the gym. Yet another scientifically proven fact that I don’t care to cite right now.
  4. RELAX!! This is just a final. This final does not determine your worth. It does not dictate how your life will turn out. You are a good person who does good work. And if it doesn’t turn out how you want, tomorrow is another day.
  5. Create a study-friendly environment: cuddle up on the couch (NOT YOUR BED, we don’t want to associate sleep with studying. At least I don’t.) with some comfy blankets, turn on background noise if you need it, have delicious beverages and comfort-brain food nearby.
  6. Combat procrastination. Try small, semi-frequent study sessions. I, personally, turn on the TV so I get noise AND some fun. Remember, studying isn’t going to last forever. At some point, you’re going to have to take the exam. Face it. It’s a fact.
  7. Day of: wear the clothes you normally wear, do the things you normally do, sit in the seat you normally sit in (if you can). Human brains like patterns. Our memories are associated with certain sensory information. So, do your best to mimic a regular day and your brain may have just a little bit easier time recalling that desired information.
  8. Studying: everyone studies differently. Now really isn’t the time to start something new. Do what you’ve done all semester; maybe add a little bit more. Or even just a little bit more time. Just don’t go overboard.

 

You’ll make it through this, I promise. At some point the semester has to end. The sooner we get the exams out of the way, the sooner it’s behind us… and then CHRISTMAS IS HERE!!😀

A few thoughts on the Web

For those of you who don’t know, it’s the year 2015. There is quite a bit of technology out there. It would even seem that there has been an incredible technological boom in the last 20 years.

I remember when the first iPhone came out—I was positive that it would flop. I was in the 8th grade and remember thinking that there is no way a phone could be a touch screen. How naïve I was… Since then, I have frequently been surprised by the progress of technology.

MIT’s publishes an annual technological review detailing the headliners of that year’s innovations. It’s important to note that not all of the products are available. For some of these, it’s only the major groundwork that has been laid. But that is not a small thing! I mean, this year the list includes Magic Leap (a device that can make virtual objects appear in real life), car-to-car communication, Liquid Biopsy (a blood test to catch cancer early), and Megascale Desalination (a cost-effective way of desalinating seawater to make it potable… available now). [1] More information on these and the full list can be found here.

Needless to say, there has been a lot going on! So many positive things. But then we enter The War. With so much technology and opportunities, it seems that we have a whole new generation that has grown up with these items. They know how to operate them with ease. I was surprised when I heard a friend’s three-year-old learned how to run the DVD player! Yet, I judge my parents for their inability to handle their technology. It seems that it largely comes down to our exposure.

But that’s just it: The War focuses largely on exposure. Just what is too much? And at the heart of it all, is technology and social media good or bad?

If you ask the average mother in the grocery store, she might share something about how her precious son is now a zombified shell of what he used to be. Or she may share that without that stupid movie Frozen, she would have lost her sanity ages ago to her toddler.

Again, it would seem that there are positives and negatives. So, how do we sift through them?

 

The Pros: Self-esteem, communication

 

In an article for CNN, Kelly Wallace discusses “The Upside of Selfies.” She reveals that there seems to be a larger positive effect of social media on self-esteem than negative. Wallace reports the findings on a study of social media stating that, “in the survey of more than 1,000 13-to 17-year olds about how they view their digital lives, 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing versus 5% who said it made them feel less so.” [2] Simply put, your child’s Facebook account may actually help improve their self-esteem. You don’t hear about that much in the news, do you. No. Instead, the news is comprised of story after story regarding cyber bullying and its effects. Yes, this particular form of bullying is crushingly painful—a child can’t escape it as easily as walking home. However, I think it’s important that we embrace the positive qualities of social media. If not for any other reason, than just to let our kids feel a little better about themselves.

Back to cyber bullying. With the increased use of social media, we also have children who are “getting online” at younger and younger ages. The parenting decisions involved in that are irrelevant here except to say that perhaps the best way to mitigate the dangers of cyber bullying is raising a healthy and aware child. The internet is not going away. It really isn’t, sorry, Grandma. I believe that just as we teach children how to handle bullying in the classroom or schoolyard, we also need to incorporate lessons regarding social media.

Perhaps it’s time for a little comic relief. Check out the interview comedian Mark Malkoff conducts asking school-children about social media:

 

[3]

 A 2013 study conducted by Micah O. Mazurek found that adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders who use social media are more likely to have close friends. [4] Looking closer, adults with ASD are known to struggle with interpersonal relationships; the social skills we came by honestly generally have to be consciously learned. Screen technology offers the opportunity to communicate with other individuals without having to interpret that non-verbal communication that proves so difficult.

But, think about the bigger picture! Social media can help your child. Again, there is the risk of cyber bullying, but there is also the empirically supported idea that social media helps those with ASD develop and maintain relationships. However, there is still a need to research the interaction between online and offline relationships.

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The Cons: Brain Chemistry, cyber-bullying

 

So, you child appears to be addicted to his/her phone. He/she can’t seem to break eye contact with their screen long enough for a conversation. There’s now a diagnosis for that: Internet Addiction Disorder. I am not kidding you. You’re welcome. A Chinese study found that those brains addicted to the internet respond the same exact way as those addicted to other substances. [5] Wow!

A pill popper obviously consumes a pill then receives a high. Someone with IAD gets their high from checking media, email, or what-have-you. This one is an attention thing. A person becomes addicted to the tension release associate with having been paid attention. It’s psychology 101.

I’ve discussed addicts before. Once again I will say, addiction sucks. I’m guessing that someone experiences these compulsive acts are suffering just as I did. And their families aren’t too happy, just as mine wasn’t.

Additionally, I mentioned cyber-bullying. It’s nasty. I mean, bullying in general is nasty. But to me, there is something about being bullied in a space that is supposed to be separate from the school yard. Five thousand 15-24 year old kids commit suicide each year. That’s just the statistics of successful suicides—it doesn’t even touch on the attempts. A British study found that at least half of juvenile suicides are connected to bullying. [6] Just to add to it: 42% of teens with access report experiencing cyber-bullying each year. [7] Scary.

I could go on to further discuss cyber-bullying, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are plenty of resources out there (and online!) for you to read if you want more information. Personally, I think it’s starting to become a well discussed topic because it greatly impacts our kids. Parents generally want happy, healthy kids. Monitoring their internet use and their demeanor are part of the package.

 

The Big Picture: what’s awesome & sucky

 

The Awesome: The internet is always available! You don’t have to wait until business hours to get the information, so much information, you need. And work—you can continue that at home if you want to, too! Finally, my personal favorite: it’s so easy to contact people. I am able to connect with friends and family from the present and the past. It’s wonderful

When-I-see-people-arguing-on-a-facebook-post---meme

The Sucky: There is always danger in life. In every area, there is something to worry about. The internet is no different. The internet facilities all sort of illegal activity. You can coordinate drug and human trafficking. You can purchase things you probably shouldn’t have (but that’s not illegal). But you can also find some disgusting things to fix whatever disgusting urges you have (child porn, etc.). And there is the cyber-bullying.

funny-Facebook-people-Fry-meme

 

Final Thoughts

 

All in all, I guess I feel a little defensive of the internet. For the last few years, all I’ve heard is about how the internet and technology is destroying today’s youth. I hardly think this is the case. With advances in any aspect of human life, there are risks. That’s how it goes. Yes! Your kid could be completely overcome by the internet, but no one ever said that teens have good judgment. In fact, all the evidence says the opposite: their frontal lobes aren’t finished forming. They are physically incapable of making good decisions. Instead of bashing technology, maybe it’s time to step up and teach others how to be responsible? I don’t know. That’s just what I think.

My personal motto is that there are some things that are best said in person. There are some things that you just don’t need to comment on or add to the chaos. Some people just like creating fires and watching them burn. There are also some things that I should probably keep to myself… so I do. Most of the time.

It’s easy to find the bad in anything. I believe that it is best to acknowledge the negative, but look to the best.

Now, I have to confess. I didn’t start this blog for fun. I didn’t. A college course I was enrolled in required some sort of relationship with the internet. I WILL say that having a blog is something I have dreamed of doing. Bucket List: CHECK!

Personally, the internet makes me a little paranoid. The idea that you can google my name and come up with an entire resume of information is scary. But then again, I also consider myself to be relatively good at handling my online presence. I love sharing my thoughts and ideas, I do! With great power comes great responsibility, right? So, maybe when it comes to being online, people need to get a little smarter.

Once again, that’s not to say that there aren’t positive aspects of an online presence– there are! I mentioned the benefits to self-esteem via “selfies.” I would be remisced to say that that is the only opportunity to feel better about yourself. I mean—my blog! I get notifications when someone “likes” or “follows” or “comments” on a post. I assure you that the warm-fuzzies that accompany these messages are just as good, if not better, than when I receive positive feedback from a Facebook “selfie.”

It all comes down to you, obviously. What do you think of the internet? The good and the bad. But, more importantly, how do you compose yourself online? Think about it.

 

————————————————————-

References:

 

[1]       10 Breakthrough Technologies 2015 | MIT Technology Review. (2015, February 18). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.technologyreview.com/lists/technologies/2015/

 

[2]       Social media positive for teens? Maybe! – CNN.com. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/

 

[3]       What Kids REALLY Think About Social Media. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nceDhoXKLKk

 

[4]       Mazurek, M. (n.d.). Social media use among adults with autism spectrum disorders. Computers in Human Behavior, 1709-1714.

 

[5]       How Facebook (FB) is Altering Your Mind… – David Rainoshek. (2015, November 13). Retrieved December 13, 2015, from https://medium.com/david-rainoshek/how-facebook-fb-is-altering-your-mind-8a16b16b6d91#.kb7es6yh8

 

[6]       Cyberbullying Rampant on the Internet. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/07-10-12-scourge.html

 

[7]       Bullying Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html

 

 

 

 

Painted Coffee Mugs

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I’m a fan of anything hand-created. I’m not sure what other people think… but I believe there is something special about items you make yourself. Plus, the whole ‘creation’ process tends to be enjoyable!

For Christmas this year, the grandmothers are going to be receiving coffee mugs painted by little Gus. They are SUPER easy to make.

Supplies:

Cheap mugs

Alphabet stickers

Ceramics paint & brushes

Step ONE: Stick those stickers on. We’re rocking the “Nana” and the “Mima.”

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Step TWO: Paint away! Make sure to paint completely over the stickers.

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Step THREE: Air dry! Seriously. Let those bad boys sit for a few hours. The stickers are easiest to tear off when they paint is NOT tacky.

Step FOUR: …peel off the stickers! Things I learned: let the paint completely dry. Otherwise the paint will come with the sticker. I ended up using an exacto-knife to help feel them off. It can get pretty tedious, but it’s worth it.

Step FIVE: Now, with painting ceramics, you have to heat them up. You can either let the cups sit untouched for a month, or you can do what I did. I set the mugs in the oven, set the heat to 350 degrees. When it reaches that temperature, I set the timer for 30 minutes. Finally, I turn off the oven after the timer sounds.

Basically, you let the cups heat up in the oven, cook, then cool down in the oven.

These are top-shelf dishwasher safe (if you use the same kind of paint).

Our “Mima” cup didn’t turn out… because I tried to peel the letters ahead of time, but the “Nana” cup looks pretty darn good!

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Not too shabby!🙂 Time to wrap these up and get ourselves a nice “datte” (that’s “latte” in Gus speak.)

10 Holiday Cookies

IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!! Okay, so it’s not quite Christmas… but it’s the Christmas Season. Capital ‘S.’ Oh, how I love it. I love the colors, I love the snow, I love the time with friends and family, I love the warmth, I love the food… and cookies.

 

Yes, my friends, it is officially Cookie Season. Capital ‘S.’

 

In honor of said season, I present to you a list of cookies that give this time of year such wonderful magic.

 

  1. Pretzel Hugs: These might not technically be cookies… but what is a Christmas cookie plate without these morsels of deliciousness? They’re stupid easy to make and only 3 ingredients. I totally recommend them.
  2. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies : in keeping with the Hersey’s theme, here is another classic! I suggest trying the caramel or candy cane ‘kisses,’ because they’re delicious, but nothing beats the old-skool milk chocolate.
  3. Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies: We love the biscotti. We love the scone. Now it’s time to love the cookie! Add a little modern twist to your holiday by incorporating these in the festivities!
  4. Holiday Confetti Cake Batter Cookies: You could probably make these for any random day in the year. Just tailor them for the season with different colored sprinkles. I think it’s a fantastic and so simple idea! Work smarter, not harder😉
  5. Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies: Brownies + Peppermint + Cookies?? Ah, yes please. Need I say more?
  6. Peppermint Bark: And while we are on the topic of peppermint, why not throw some of these bad boys into the mix?? You are seriously just eating chocolate. Who can say no to that??
  7. Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies: Confession time: I haven’t actually made these. They just looked super cool!! Meringue cookies are mouthwatering already… but ones shaped liked trees? How perfect!
  8. Spritz Cookies: What’s Christmas without The Spritz?
  9. Thin Mint Truffles: So much work but so much deliciousness. Girl Scout Cookies are an American staple. Truffles are just freakin’ amazing. So much work, but so good.
  10. Russian Tea Cakes: My absolute, all time, unquestionable favorite cookies. Call them Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowball Cookies, or Russian Tea Cakes (as I call them). They melt in your mouth. I have so many memories that accompany these cookies.

 

There you go, friends!

 

My family (read: me) is planning on giving out plates of holiday cookies as gifts and these are the ones we are planning. In the spirit of the sharing season, I’ve decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to help other readers/bloggers who are cookie-gifters, too!

 

Happy baking!

Winter Emergency Kit

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In the upper Midwest where I live, snow is pretty common. I love the stuff. I can’t imagine my life without it. Snow is the best…

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…but it can also be the worst. Like, when you’re driving. You may be the best driver in the world, but those road! I’m telling you!

 

Generally, it’s a good idea to carry a first aid kit in your car, regardless of where you live. I believe in taking that a step further, especially for those chilly winter months: an (almost) all-inclusive emergency kit.

 

Today, I give to you, my emergency kit.

 

  1. First Aid Kit – really, you should already have one of these. No judgment! Just get one now.
  2. Blanket – just a little something for you to keep warm with when you’re balls deep in a snow drift.
  3. Kitty Litter – “But I don’t have a cat,” you say. Well, it’s not for your cat. It’s for your car. Stuck? Just pour a little bit of these magic rocks to help your wheels gain traction.
  4. Shovel – Um. To dig yourself out, duh.
  5. Flashlight – It gets dark fast in the winter and I, for one, like to see!
  6. Flag/chemlite – something that you can leave on top of your car to signal to other drivers or emergency vehicles that, “Hey! I’m here! I need help!”
  7. Matches – Burn, baby, burn!
  8. Food! – Starvation sucks.
  9. Water – Dehydration also sucks.

 

I made a few alterations to my kit; I encourage you to do the same.

 

  1. Little heat packs – why not? Cold hands and feet are the worst. So is frostbite.
  2. Chapstick – because my lips hurt really bad
  3. My food cam in the form of an MRE. Bonus of being in the army, I have a nonperishable packet of food, perfect for an emergency kit such as this.
  4. Kleenexes – Something to wipe the “what the hell has happened to my life” tears.

 

If you have any suggestions, I welcome them! Stay warm and safe out there, my friends.

So, your toddler has a snow day…

You spent your entire childhood (and adulthood, let’s face it) loving snow days. I mean, come on! It’s a free day at home!

 

And then you had a toddler.

 

Remember how you were going to be the best mother ever? You weren’t going to be that frazzled, exhausted mother—no—you were going to be The Best. So far, you’ve been The Okayest at the whole parenting thing.

 

And then the snow day happened.

 

It was just another day at work. You had been watching the weather reports, hoping for some snow. Come on, the brown grass just looks sooo much better under a blanket of magic. Then the clouds rolled it and the powder began to fall.

 

As you stared out the window, it hit you: you should probably go pick up your kid from daycare while the roads are still decent. So, you pack up your stuff, get in the car, and head down the road. In your mind, you’re assembling a list of things you want to get done now that you’ll have the afternoon at home.

 

Hahahahaha! I laugh at you. Hahahaha! You think you’re going to get anything done?!

 

You and your little one arrive home. You start in on your list and your toddler runs around the house.

 

Fast forward three minutes: your toddler wants pretzels. You get him pretzels.

 

Back to your list.

 

Fast forward five minutes: your toddler, who is just starting to potty train, wants to go to the bathroom. You take off his pants and diaper and walk him into the bathroom…. And he never pees.

 

So, you figure why not use the snow day to potty train?!

 

Good luck with that.

 

Your toddler will now spend the day walking around the house with his junk hanging out. Really, he’s pretty good at going to the potty when he wants to… but god forbid you go in with him. Or ask if he needs to go. He’s a grown two year old, don’t you know, mama??

 

And you’re back to your list again. But he wants more snacks. He wants you to pick him up and put him down… 3 times before you get smart and say now.

 

Then you’re starting to get frustrated. He’s a ball of energy that missed his nap.

There are just so many things you planned to do! So you turn on the TV.

 

Don’t think that’ll give you a break—it’s just going to add more noise.

 

He’s walking around the house, throwing toys, and screaming “Let it goooo, let it goooo, let it gooooo.”

 

Before you freak out, here are a few pointers:

 

  1. Feed the kid. Pretzels, cheese, crackers, fruit, milk, juice… whatever. Just shove food down his throat. They can’t talk too well if they’re chewing.
  2. Accept that you’ll have a partially naked toddler running around the house if you are trying to potty train. Bonus: he sets himself on the toilet. Minimal work for you.
  3. Whatever it was you planned on doing today, forget it. Find something else unimportant to do. Even that might not get done.
  4. Eventually that kid is going to want an actual meal. So, make sure you have some Mac & Cheese or Spaghetti O’s on hand. Don’t pretend you’re a gourmet chef, because you’re not.
  5. Have an arsenal of activities at the ready: crayons and paper, books, toys, playdough, what have you. Be prepared to redirect him every seven minutes.
  6. If the roads aren’t terrible, go to the store. You don’t need anything… but go anyway. It’ll get you (and your toddler!) out of the house (BONUS: adult contact!). Just know that you’ll probably spend a lot of money on completely unnecessary things.

 

Today has been a long day. You and I both know it. You also know that you’ve had better parenting days. You’ve also had worse parenting days.

 

That daycare provider is a saint. And you’re a pretty darn good mother.

Combat Boots & Sippy Cups

I am a soldier.

But, I’m also a mother.

I have been in the military for just over 6 years at this point, working on the next six. I love the army, I really do.

At this point in my life, I’m working on building a family. I have a husband and a child. I love them so much.

But, there’s a problem.

I spend weekends… weeks… months away from them, and it’s hard. I have a duty to both.

I missed my son’s first steps.

I missed my son’s first words.

I missed the start of potty training.

I missed witnessing his vocabulary expand exponentially.

I missed those tuck-ins and bedtime songs.

I missed wrestling him into pajamas.

I have missed so much.

I miss my husband.

I miss being there for him when he’s exhausted.

I miss helping clean the house.

I miss taking Gus so he can nap.

I miss being present.

 

I want to be the best wife and mother I can possibly be. But, I also want to be the best soldier I can be. If there is a perfect balance between the two, I can’t seem to find it.

With development in one area, the other seems to suffer. I’m stuck.

I want to be home with my family, but I can’t stand the idea of leaving my brothers and sisters behind. Guilt.

 

I have watched my peers move forward in their lives. I have watched them go to college and graduate. I have watched them obtain “adult” jobs. I have watched them grow into the type of people we all once dreamed of being. I see their normal, happy lives and I am jealous.

I joined the army. I went to training. I came home and left again for the desert. I returned and drank. and drank. and drank. I started college and got pregnant. I kept going to school through the birth of my son. By the time I graduate, my peers will have been in the workforce for 3 years.

I love my life, don’t get me wrong. It is beautiful… but it sometimes hurts. I wish I didn’t have to say good-bye to my family. I wish I didn’t feel so far behind. I wish I didn’t have to choose between the military and my family.

 

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I’ve decided that’s okay, though. One day, I’ll reach the “adulthood” dream I created for myself. One day my children will understand why I was constantly leaving and returning.

One day I will be okay with my decisions. I hope.