Friday, June 25, 2010

"Pine Trail Camp" - How Summer Camp Changed My Fifth Grade Life

I am adding a link to my summer memoir essay that is featured in this issue of Catapult online magazine. The theme is "Summer Days." I hope you check out this great source for creativity and thinking about Christianity and life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Media Girl Hits the Trail

Last week we went camping in Door County, Wisconsin. While the campground does have very sluggish wi-fi access at the main station, it is a bit harder for us to be electronically entertained. The small 12-inch tv we have only gets one channel on a good day. So our evenings are filled with staring at a campfire instead of cable.

Being a brave mother, I decided to drag my 12-year-old along on a hike in the Peninsula State Park. My husband and I love the scenic views and woodsy, rocky landscape. We had explored these trails a bit as a couple, but never with my daughter.

Now I must admit that neither my daughter nor I are athletic types. Our favorite Door County outings usually involve shopping for clothes or fudge. But, it was a gorgeous day, and we decided (with a bit of pushing from Milt) to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the northern woods.

We hiked two trails: The Minnehaha Trail – a .5 mile easy walking beachside stroll – and the harder 2-mile Eagle Trail – noted for cliff trails and somewhat dangerous drop-offs. When we were done, we found that the trails let us off 2 miles from where we walked our car – thus another long hike back to the car.

I’m proud of Sabrina. She did it. No Gameboy. No Computer. Just her parents and the beauty of God’s handiwork.

Let’s do it again!

Milt conquers the trees...

The end of the easy trail, the beginning of the hard one. We were still smiling!

These are the things you miss when you are looking out of the window of a car. We saw such beauty all around us...wild mushrooms, enormous trees, a tiny babbling brook. It made me want to sing a hymn.

Milt was daring enough to walk into one of the caves. It reminded me of Tom Hank's movie Castaway.

Oh no - these signs weren't very encouraging. Sabrina thought there should be nice uplifting ones, like: Keep Up the Good Work! or Hang in There!

A fresh water brook coming right out of the rock.

Amazing limestone bluffs...

Daughter and Dad take a break.

The fabulous lakeshore...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Webkins and Neopets: How Can Parents Limit Computer Time?

They seem harmless. A fluffy pink rabbit and a spotted plush cow. If you are a parent of anyone under the age of ten, you know about Webkins. These adorable creatures - hundreds of them - come with a printed tag and code that unlocks a computer world designed just for kids. Each time they buy a physical plush toy, the code unlocks a virtual pet. The web-site - some of it educational and much of it just for fun - teaches kids about saving and buying and caring for a pet. It also creates a desire for more pets and more points - thus more computer time.

When my daughter moved past Webkins - she moved into Neopets (with a few other sites in between). Neopets is a larger site - also with accompanying real-life collectible items. On Neopets, you own one to four virtual pets that you need to feed and care for. The site is filled with games and battles and strategy. It has a chat option for those over thirteen. My daughter was instantly hooked. She loves Neopets.

We do not battle over too much tv time in our house - we battle over computer time. Especially in the summer, with no school to distract her, I find that limiting computer time - especially from these very addictive, time-consuming sites, can be difficult.

Here are a few tips to pass on - maybe you can add some as well:

1) SET TIME LIMITS - Since she is in middle school, I suggest a time limit I think is appropriate - and we discussed it. We negotiated a bit to find a limit with which I felt comfortable. Some sites say 30 minutes a day. In the summer, that seems a bit too stringent for us. My daughter is an only child - and sometimes outdoor play is not really an option. So each family should set its own limits.

2) ENFORCE REWARDS/PENALTIES - I have offered rewards (in computer time) for volunteering to help out around the house or participating in physical activity. We tend to get out of the house more and go for walks (the dog loves it!).
3) GET ON THE COMPUTER YOURSELF - I join the same sites that  my daughter does. I am on Neopets - I learned what it is - I have an account. This allows me to see what she is doing and to appreciate the fun and dangers of the site. It also increases communication between us - I have learned to care about what she cares about.

4) MOVE THE COMPUTER - Don't allow the computer user to retreat into too private a spot. We moved our daughter's computer to the kitchen table. This allows us to casually glance at what she is doing and to monitor the time use.

5) ALLOW THE NOVELTY TO WEAR OFF - Finally - I've learned to allow some excessive time when a new game is purchased. This can happen with both adults and kids - we tend to be most desiring of a game or activity when it is new. With time, we often reduce time and enjoy it in much more moderation.

6) ENCOURAGE OTHER ACTIVITIES - I must admit that the computer and television and electronic gaming are a good thing for parents. They allow us to have some peace and quiet. They reduce the "I'm bored" comments. Be prepared to do more with your kids as you limit electronic media time. You might have to come up with a things to do list. One year we had a box that we put activity ideas in. We would draw one per day in the summer and do the activity together. Have them help you cook a meal or organize a closet. Cleaning out my daughter's closet also allows her to rediscover old toys.

Helping your kids set limits now will help them use media selectively as an adult!

Here is another helpful article:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

TV Shows You Can Watch With Your Kids

When Sabrina was little, there were some shows that she loved - and I hated. Some of them made me want to poke my eyes out. Barney - for example - somehow charms every child and horrifies every parent. Even worse for me were the Teletubbies. Dipsy and Yoo-hoo - or whatever their names were - were spooky brightly colored aliens who bounced across a creepily deserted landscape with a baby peering out of a giant sun. Of course, my daughter loved them. She even had little creepy tubbie dolls. My husband also mentioned how much we hated The Big Comfy Couch and Bananas in Pajamas. While I enjoyed the cartoon Spongebob Square Pants - I had to be sitting down and watching it. If it was on in the background, the voices made me want to climb the walls.

But there are some shows we have both enjoyed. I love when we find tv shows we can watch together. Here's my list. Add yours!

1) Project Runway - We both enjoy the fashion creating. We like the odd characters and the mentoring of Tim Gunn. I think this even inspired both of us to buy sewing machines. (similar favorites include: Top Chef and Design Star).
2) Mythbusters - It is like science class gone wild. This is a show even my husband will stop and watch. Things exploding, people being lifted by balloons, deadly spiders...what's not to like?
3) Cash Cab - This quirky show is all about trivia - in a New York cab. The questions are tough - but we enjoy trying to get the answers before the contestants get booted onto the street. (Jeopardy, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader also make my list.
4) Everybody Loves Raymond. Family comedies are fun - especially family comedies where people of all ages are included. Raymond appeals to my daughter and to my 83-year-old mother in law. It works for all of us.
5) Gilmore Girls - This is a boxed series that we were given as a gift and immediately became addicted to. While my husband can't stand it (too much talking for him) - my daughter and I fell in love with the quirky characters and the town. It also inspired some thoughtful conversations about dating and parenting and sex. We actually have watched it twice in a row...time to take a break and find a new series!

What shows have you enjoyed watching with your kids?

What shows couldn't you bear to sit through?