Archive for September, 2013

My smartphone is broken but maybe that’s not bad

My smartphone has been dead since Friday morning when it didn’t wake me up to get the kids off to school. (Michael was out of town on business, and I woke up on my own at 6:53 a.m. with Walsh’s carpool ride sitting outside my house and Lilina’s ride coming in 17 minutes.)

My smartphone is my phone, camera, internet, calendar and alarm clock to remind me to do important things like pick up my children. It also entertains me while waiting in carpool with Candy Crush, Facebook and Twitter.

I was pretty upset that my smartphone let me down. My irritation continued on Saturday when I couldn’t revive it and had to make sure the babysitter had Michael’s number in her phone and vice versa.

However, when we arrived at the wedding that night it was very liberating not to have a phone. I didn’t feel the need to check it all the time or document everything by video or photography. I just enjoyed the company, food, drink and music.

It still wasn’t working on Sunday so Monday …

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Good idea? Schools allow seniors to drop classes for sleep

In a program designed to help teenagers get more sleep, seniors in Fairfax County, Va., can opt out of as many as two first-period classes as long as they are on track to graduate and can find their own way to school.

About 650 students or 5 percent of the 2014 seniors in the county are participating.  In Fairfax classes begin at 7:20 a.m. In other nearby counties, classes begin at 9 a.m.

From The Washington Post:

“Fairfax’s “opt-out” program — unique in the Washington area — is a first step toward giving county teenagers additional rest. Parents and advocates for later start times have been arguing for years that early school starts are detrimental to teen health and that even an extra hour or two of sleep could make a real difference. Critics have said that changing the schools’ schedules would be expensive and a logistical nightmare, requiring more buses and more time spent battling traffic on the country’s most congested roads.

“School Board member Sandy …

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Is it OK to fight in front of the kids? Can it actually be healthy for them?

The Wall Street Journal had a great story this week about: Is it OK to fight in front of the kids? The conclusion of the author was that if done in a very specific way, fighting in front of your kids can actually help them feel more emotionally secure and can help them develop better problem-solving skills.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“The answer is complicated. Child psychologists who study the issue tend to say yes—if parents can manage to argue in a healthy way. That means disagreeing respectfully and avoiding name-calling, insults, dredging up past infractions or storming off in anger, for starters.

“Kids are going to have disagreements with their friends, their peers, co-workers,” says Patrick Davies, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “If they don’t witness disagreements and how they are handled in constructive ways, they are not well-equipped to go out into the world and address inevitable conflict.”

“Dr. Davies and fellow researchers found …

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Are you scared of your wife? Does it help you kick bad habits?

President Barack Obama says he is scared of his wife and that fear helped him kick a very bad habit. Here’s the story from AP.

From AP:

“NEW YORK — President Barack Obama says he hasn’t had a smoke in years – thanks in no small part to first lady Michelle Obama.

“Obama was chatting privately with a U.N. official Monday and said he hoped the official had quit smoking. The exchange was caught on camera and aired on CNN.

“After the official appeared to ask Obama about his own cigarette use, Obama said he hadn’t had a cigarette in probably six years.

“He added, with a broad grin, “That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”

“Obama has acknowledged over the years struggling with tobacco use. Mrs. Obama said in 2011 that her husband had finally kicked the habit.

“Monday’s exchange came on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.”

One of our friends who is a newlywed posted this story on Facebook with the comment “Fear is effective #lessonlearned.” But what do you …

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Is your school safer than last year? What changes did your district make?

USA Today took a nationwide look at how school safety has changed in the months following the Sandy Hook shootings. The reporters found schools across the country making changes to building structures as well as staffing. Some schools have even armed their teachers.

From USA Today: (Read the whole article for the all the measures taken. It’s pretty long.)

“In a grim reminder that mass shootings have become a fact of life in America, school districts across the USA this fall are opting for more locked doors, more visitor check-ins and more surveillance equipment. Many have had security policies on the books for years, especially after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. But the massacre last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six educators, introduced a new level of urgency. Suddenly, even children in elementary schools were not safe from bad guys….

“Limiting access to school property has been one of …

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What are your favorite fall traditions? (Hint: Mine involve food)

Autumn is officially here and Sunday was the first reasonable day in Phoenix since May. We had friends over to swim after church and then sat outside watching football and the Emmys.

I love the fall – college football, fairs, fire pits, Halloween costumes and of course the comfort food. I’ve been cooking like crazy lately. Here are some of the fall recipes I’ve made during the last two weeks:

Chicken and dumplings – This recipe is pretty fast and could be done on a weeknight.

These are the chicken pot pie hand pies I made last Friday night for dinner. I made the filling and dough the weekend before but never got them put together. So Friday night, I rolled out the dough and added the filling and baked. Three out of the five of us liked them.

These are the chicken pot pie hand pies I made last Friday night for dinner. I made the filling and dough the weekend before but never got them put together. So Friday night, I rolled out the dough and added the filling and baked. Three out of the five of us liked them.

Chicken pot pie hand pies – This took forever, but can be made on the weekend for a meal during the week. I made double the recipe so I have eight hand pies frozen for another meal. This dough is very forgiving and could be made …

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Real-life ‘Parent Trap’: Reality star splitting twins between dads

“My Fair Wedding” reality-show host David Tutera announced last week that he and estranged partner Ryan Jurica would split their infant twins when in their custody agreement.

The explanation is that each man is the biological father of only one of the twins. (They are “heteropaternal superfecundation,” or twins who share a mom but have different dads.)

Jurica lives in Connecticut and Tutera lives in California.

Jurica has said this is not the arrangement he hoped for, and he wants the twins to be in each other’s lives.

Many experts, and people on social media, agree that this is a bad idea for twins.

From Shine:

“We regard these children as twins, and I would be opposed to separation,” Nancy Segal, author of “Born Together — Reared Apart” and director of the Twin Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton, told Yahoo Shine. “I would also be opposed to separating half siblings.” Though the damage of splitting them up at such a young age …

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Paper vs digital: Are there benefits to paper textbooks that schools are missing?

As many schools across the county are turning to e-readers and sometimes exclusively online textbooks, I am wondering if they are missing some learning benefits of paper textbooks for students.

From USA Today about a school in New York that has converted to an entirely digital library system:

“That backpack is going to be much lighter this year. Stepinac in White Plains has become one of the first high schools in the country to drop all textbooks like dead weight and replace them with a ‘digital library.’ When students started classes Monday, they were zipping to an app or website on their tablet or laptop and had instant access to all 40 texts in the Stepinac curriculum, not to mention all sorts of note-taking, highlighting and interactive features.” …

“Stepinac officials worked for a year with Pearson, the education company that has long dominated the textbook world, to design and create a unique digital library that is bound to be studied by other private and public …

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Is playing Minecraft teaching your kids important skills?

While parents may worry that too much Minecraft might be bad for their kids, a New York Times reporter found that many experts say it actually helps them develop academically and improve other skills as well.

Some schools are even using Minecraft in class, according to The Times:

“Earlier this year, for example, a school in Stockholm made Minecraft compulsory for 13-year-old students. “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,” said Monica Ekman, a teacher at the Viktor Rydberg school.”

“Around the world, Minecraft is being used to educate children on everything from science to city planning to speaking a new language, said Joel Levin, co-founder and education director at the company TeacherGaming. TeacherGaming runs MinecraftEdu, which is intended to help teachers use the game with students.”

“A history teacher in Australia set up “quest missions” where students can wander through and …

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Can you teach emotional intelligence? Should it be taught in schools?

The New York Times Magazine had an excellent story last weekend looking at schools across the country that are trying to teach “emotional intelligence” to their students.  The article reports that tens of thousands of emotional-literacy programs are running across the country.

Emotional intelligence or emotional literacy helps people understand and manage their feelings. It helps them not over-react to a situation or incorrectly interpret a situation. It teaches children to recognize where they are emotionally, calm down and analyze what their next step should be instead of just reacting.

A strong emotional IQ can also help a child learn better.

Advocates say that emotional literacy is THE missing piece in American education, but it’s hard to evaluate programs’ success because just addressing it tends to show improvement. And it’s also hard to know how to go about teaching it. Lesson plans are all over the place from scripted lessons to free-form debates more like a …

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