Apps That Aren’t Rotting The Kids’ Brains

CommonSenseMediaSummerLEarningGuideIt has been the busiest of summers, despite my best efforts to plan otherwise.  Many days this summer my kids have had to accompany me to work and do their best to play quietly while I bang out registration for classes or curriculum changes or meet with other adults in their presence.

Needless to say, I’ve relied pretty heavily on technology during those times. In an effort not to totally succumb to “Watch TV” apps, I went to Common Sense Media to find a list of apps my kids could download and play that just might actually teach them something! At the very least, they wouldn’t rot their brains.

Here are our Kid-Test Reviews. For even more apps and information in a beautiful, category and age defined list, head to Common Sense Media’s Summer Learning Guide. It’s only July 25th after all!


The Girl’s App Pick: 


Style Studio: Version for iPod Touch

Kid Take-”It was really cool.” You design your own outfits choosing from different styles of clothing that you can then choose the fabrics, patterns, colors, drape etc. Then you put them together to make outfits.

Mom Take: She loved this app but I’m not sure how much education she got from it. However, it is better than staring at television because it required her to think and use her creativity. Also, when I was a kid I TOTALLY would have loved this. It’s like modern day Fashion Playtes!


The Middle One’s Pick:

Terraria Screen shot

Terraria: Version for Samsung Android Tablet

Kid Take: ” It’s like a version of MineCraft and the Game Cube World kinda mixed together.” You start out in a random world with a sword, pickaxe and axe, and you have to find materials and build a house before night time when zombies come. The most fun part was that you were able to craft a different kind of work bench to make other things that you could use in the game. Mom Take: Anything this kid says is similar to MineCraft must be great because he still can’t get enough of MineCraft. What I love about these building apps is not the exploding that the boys love, but rather the fact that they are using spatial awareness and reasoning to come up with  ideas to create the worlds in which they play and survive zombie attacks, apparently.

amazing-alex1The Baby’s Pick (FYI The Baby is 7)

Amazing Alex: Kid Take: “It’s awesome! It’s basically a game about chain reactions. You have to build your way out of failure. That’s basically how the game works.” (I put that in quotes because I wanted you to know this is exactly what this crazy kid said!) What he liked best was that it made him “be creative”.

Mom Take: Similar in theory to the earlier game, he had to build inventions to get himself out of sticky situations using tools available to him. You can also see how others got out of a level if you choose but there is no direct interaction which this mom likes.

There you have it. In between bike rides and riding the waves, my kids still have screen time. Here are just a few ways I’m trying to keep it productive and fun.


Three is a Crowd. But We Like it That Way…Now

Three Then? Whew!
I got a text the other night from The Husband that said, “Taking the Bigs for ice cream.” I was at a playdate (for moms and kids) with the littlest one and his classmates so my husband had the older two at another event (the story of our summer-scattered here and there). He referred to them as The Bigs, because that’s what we call them. The two oldest are either The Bigs or The Kids (dubbed by the littlest when he was The Baby). The youngest are just The Boys and the The Girl and The Baby are The Bookends.

The Boys

The Boys

No matter the arrangement, we have nicknames for our groupings of children because no matter the arrangement, we have groupings of children. Three kids means you have groupings.

The Bigs

The Bigs When They Were Small

I know a few women recently who either just had or are pregnant with their third. A few years ago, I used to look at these women and try so hard not to show the terror or pity I felt for where they were about to go. Three kids, a few years ago, seemed the worst thing one could choose.

The Bookends

The Bookends

Clearly, I was overwhelmed with my choice back then. And let’s be clear, it was a choice. I was certain after two babies that my family was not complete. I chose three and it nearly killed me. Three under five is just not easy. If someone tells you it is, they’re lying or heavily drugged.

But now, just a few short years later, I feel so grateful for our family of five and can’t imagine it any other way. I love our Bigs and our Boys and our Bookends. I love them one on one. I love them all together and I love them in pairs. The groupings of three mean endless personality possibilities and it’s fantastic for everyone.

Three Now? Pretty, darn good.

Three Now? Pretty, darn good.

Now, just to be sure you don’t leave here thinking I am either lying or heavily drugged, please know that three is still quite challenging and often terrifying and always loud. Always. Loud.

Three is a crowd more often than not, but no matter the mess and noise and awkward seating arrangements in restaurants, and the chronic need to drive a damn mini-van, I think three is a pretty perfect odd number. Odd suits this gang of fools just fine.

Navigating a Heavy Heart

Lately, I’ve been galavanting around The country for various work opportunities. I want to write about them all. I want to tell you about fashion, and toys and apps for your finances and your fashion and your toys.
But it’s hard. Not hard in the way that work is always hard, time consuming and tedious, but hard in a perspective kinda way. See, in between all this galavanting, I’m reading news accounts of horrific anti-Semitism that is weighing on my heart and mind. Somehow writing about the week at Catholic camp, where talk of our history shows we’re one degree of separation from Jews yet seemingly doing nothing to curb the global violence, feels wrong.
When I begin to wonder if there isn’t something I could do to use this space to speak up, I check in on Facebook and see friends who have tragically lost loved ones to diseases that need cures and suddenly the latest fall-fashion trend feels a little frivolous.
Let’s not forget, in between work, I’m in school where I am immersed in mental illness and the multicultural inadequacies of our care for those in our systems.
Organic toothpaste review anyone?
I don’t write hard news so to cover these topics feels forced, like I’m not educated enough for it.
I’m also not very funny, so I can’t be the post-9-11 Saturday Night Live and continue doing what I do so people have a place to escape the real world.
I have the great fortune of being able to write about what I think about here on this blog. It is always a privilege and often very fun.
Except when all that I’m thinking about isn’t very fun at all.
I’ll get back to writing soon. I have a lot of cool things to share. I just need to work on how to balance them with all the larger thoughts in my head.


Tweens at Work: Summer Updates

It has been a crazy summer around here these last few months. First, I must update the The Prodigal Cat has returned. He was looking very well kept and fed so we suspect maybe he had made his home somewhere else and perhaps the guilty party had second thoughts when they saw our signs all over the neighborhood. Needless to say, we’re doing our best to turn him into an indoor cat these days!


Another big piece of news is that I haven’t done a load of dishes since June 30th. Let me tell you, it’s delightful. Yep, I finally wised up and put my children to work this summer. Off and on we’ve tried allowances and chores but no system ever seemed to stick and so I’d be back to schlepping their stuff and cleaning up after them all day every day.

This summer we have a new allowance system that is chore dependent but we’ve gone one step further. While there are certain things, like dishes and trash and laundry, that they get their payment for, the payment doesn’t come at all if their rooms aren’t neat and their toys and accessories aren’t put away at the end of the day. So far, it’s been amazing. Not only are they cleaning the kitchen, but every night before bed they’re scanning the house to put all their crap back where it belongs. No more Lego accidents at midnight or tablets plugged into every outlet in my living room. Genius!

See? Ready to Work!

See? Ready to Work!

You would think all this chore activity would give me some free time to blog more, but alas it does not seem to have done that trick. I have a bunch of piece in draft form but they need a bit more research so I’m putting my kids to work on that too. There are some books and apps that I want to recommend to fight summer slag but I figured they would be that much better recommended after my kids gave their input, so this week they’ll be “playing” on the computer at mom’s request. They’re over the moon at the prospect!

There you have it-mid-summer brings all our cats to the yard and my dishes are sparkling clean with  my manicure still in tact!

Not a bad way to send July packing.