15 August 2014

Free screening passes: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar [Portland]

Island of the Lemurs: Madagascar

Friday surprise for Portland Parenthackers! I've got a download code for free advance screening tickets for ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR, playing tomorrow in IMAX 3D, 8/16, at 11am at Regal Bridgeport Village!

Thanks to the PR folks at Allied THA for setting this up -- this is awesome. (Bonus: Morgan Freeman narrates. Here's the official trailer.)

When: Saturday August 16, 2014, 11am showtime

Where: Regal Bridgeport Village

Download passes: www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter code: WOMSLKX

First come first served, but please, PLEASE only download passes if you are able to attend.

14 August 2014

Teaching our kids the difference between video game combat and real war

Photo credit: Carl-Megnus Helgegren

On the ONE Campaign blog today, I share my thoughts on a father's choice to teach his sons about videogame violence by taking them to Israel and Syria.

While I respect his choice, it wouldn't be mine. From the ONE post:

I have a 14 year-old son who loves to play combat video games. We draw the line on mature, realistic war games, but he plays a few sci-fi themed first-person shooters. I can’t stand these games, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to play them. But I do recognize that they are games, and so does my son.

I wrote more on my reasoning which didn't make it into the ONE post due to space considerations. Here it is:

Like it or not, the simplistic good vs. evil/you vs. me nature of combat is the basis for many games (playground games, video games, sports, board games). Indeed, it's behind many of our most compelling novels and movies. Conflict is the fundamental plot driver of a story. And "getting the bad guy" is a satisfying ending, even if it's not reflective of real life. 

For me, violent video games (and movies such as Harry Potter and Star Wars, and novels such as The Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings) open the door to conversations about the complexities of war and conflict. These fictional setups become common ground where my kids and I meet to discuss larger issues that don't fit neatly into the plot lines of a story.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments here or on the ONE blog.

* * * * *

This piece specifically addresses international violence, but the topic is just as relevant to violence here in the US. I'm thinking about the frightening events unfolding in Ferguson, MO, right now.

06 August 2014

For #Blogust '14: What I Learned By Sending My Kids to Summer Camp

#Blogust 2014This post is my contribution to Blogust '14—Shot@Life’s month-long campaign to provide vaccinations for kids in need around the world. I'm writing on the theme of "Happy and Healthy Firsts."

You can help Parent Hacks unlock 500 vaccine donations by leaving a comment or clicking “Tweet” or “Like” below. (Details at the end of the post.) Thank you for supporting this important effort! -- Asha

Both my kids went to overnight camp for the first time this summer. My 11 year-old daughter went for a week, and my 14 year-old son -- on the brink of high school and tugging at the reigns -- went for a month. A MONTH.

When I made the plans for their camps earlier this year I thought nothing of sending them off. I’m thrilled by every step they take toward independence. What could be wrong with an extended period of time spent in the fresh air, surrounded by new friends, plenty of exercise, and a lack of electronics? Plus alone time for my husband and me?

That, and the big, fat scholarship my son received made summer camp a no-brainer. 

As I drove away from the camp drop-off, I had no idea I was about to experience my own surprising “first” -- my first inkling of what life will be like after my kids grow up and move out.

Parenting instinct can surprise you.

I’m not a hoverer, nor am I much of a worrier. I’m also an optimist who believes the world is generally good. As long as I trust my kids are safe I’m fine if they’re not always smiling or comfortable. So I wasn’t overly concerned with whether or not my kids would love every moment camp; no matter what, they would try something new and learn about themselves in the process. 

But about 48 hours into my son’s four-week absence, I was hit with panic. It was the visceral, lizard-brain level realization that I couldn’t reach my kid.

The camp has an emergency-only phone call policy and doesn’t circulate kid-specific pictures or updates. There would be no funny texting, no peeking at his Instagram feed, no email. Nothing except for a postcard or two if he thought to send them.

Now I don’t keep tabs on my son. Our day-to-day texting is pretty one-way: him to me. I didn’t even want to contact him; my rational self knew it wasn’t necessary and that it could interfere with his transition to camp life. But my instinctual self was a flailing mess.

It’s not as if I was worried about his safety or his emotional state...it was something much deeper. The closest I can come to describing the feeling was loss. It was as if my kid was in a place I couldn’t reach, and it felt Wrong.

After a day or two the panic faded to low-level sadness, even though I could honestly say I was thrilled my son was at camp. I slowly grew accustomed to his empty seat at the dinner table and life mostly filled in the blanks. But my initial reaction still shocked me. I never would have guessed I’d feel such a jolt of separation.

He's home now -- stronger, more mature, bursting with stories and inside jokes and new friendships. Sending him to camp was the best thing we could have done.

But I've learned it’s time to stop underestimating “empty nest syndrome.”

My tall, tan son (in the green shirt) upon his return from summer camp.
My tall, tan son (in the green shirt) upon his return from summer camp.

Childhood goes by quickly.

Man, do I hate it when people say to me, “Enjoy their childhood. It passes so quickly.” Some of those early years were anything but quick and I would be lying if I said I wish I could relive them. 

But I also suffer with the constant low-level guilt of the non-recorder. I prioritize experiencing the present over capturing its image. That sounds zen, but really it just means I forget to take pictures and write down milestones. Now the memories are fading and I’m scrambling to recall them.

My kids are about to start middle- and high school. I can’t properly express how excited I am by that. But their time away and out of touch at camp made me aware with absolute clarity that our time tumbling around the house together is limited.

My daughter, fresh off the camp bus
My daughter, fresh off the camp bus, ready for the next adventure.

I am fortunate.

I’m grateful to be able to send my kids to summer camp. Valuable as the experience has been for all of us, I know it’s also a luxury.

Another luxury of my circumstance: the easy assumption that my kids will grow up healthy.

Part of registering my kids for camp included digging through my overstuffed files for their vaccination records. There, in smudged ink, were the dates of their childhood vaccines. Each one was an easy choice to protect my kids’ futures for years to come.

Childhood vaccines shouldn’t be a luxury. Every child, no matter where he lives or what her circumstance, deserves a chance at a healthy future.

This month, we can help give 60,000 children around the world that shot at life.

* * * * *


During August 2014, every time you comment on or share this (or ANY) Blogust post, Shot@Life partner Walgreens will donate a life-saving vaccine to a child in need (up to 60,000).

My goal is for Parent Hacks to kick in 500 or more of those vaccines. That means a combined total of 500 comments and/or shares via the "Tweet" and "Like" buttons below.

Will you please take a moment to help me hit that goal?

GO! Leave a comment, and click "Tweet" and/or "Like" below.

  • Multiple comments are fine!
  • Single-word comments are fine!
  • Multiple shares are fine!

It's an ambitious number -- 500 is more comments and/or shares than any Parent Hacks post has ever received -- but I'm aiming high because I know we can do it.

Thank you for reading, and for helping change -- save -- kids' lives.

Want to do more? Comment on or share every Blogust post this month!

05 August 2014

This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees

This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees. #parenthacks

This simple trick will dramatically simplify packing for a family trip, save you money in checked baggage fees, and get your family through airport security in record time. I stumbled onto this tip as we headed on our vacation (those are my family's suitcases, plus a bonus peek at @PDXCarpet).

1. Each person's clothing goes into a separate suitcase.

Assuming a) your kids are old enough to pull a small carry-on, and b) the trip is long enough to merit a full case per person. The fewer cases the better.

2. One person packs a larger suitcase that gets checked.

EVERYONE'S toiletries go in this suitcase, along with bulky stuff that doesn't fit into the carry-ons. Since this case will get checked, you can bring full-sized toiletries and other items that would need to be fussed with or discarded if you were to put them through airport TSA screening.

Now, when you head through airport security, you won't have to open your carry-on bags or deal with quart-sized Ziploc bags full of tiny travel bottles.

3. (Optional) When you get to your departure gate, gate-check the carry-on bags.

To conserve overhead bin space, most airlines allow you to check bags through to your desination for free. This is good. You save money plus you don't have to schlep your bags onto the plane.

(Usually, gate-checked bags show up on the carousel with the rest of the luggage at your destination, but sometimes they'll get delivered to the tarmac on a cart. Be sure to clarify these details with the gate attendant.)

When you get to your destination, pick up everyone's bags, and you're on your way.

How do you simplify packing for a flight? Post your tip in the comments or on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile with the tag #parenthacks.

04 August 2014

Mobile phone lock screen graphic reminds your kid to read [free download]

Austin Kleon is happier when he reads books, so he created this cell phone lock screen wallpaper as a reminder.

"Read A Book Instead" iPhone lock screen wallpaper by Austin Kleon. [free download]

Imagine this as the lock screen on your kid's iPod.

Download Austin's "Read A Book Instead" wallpaper for free: Read A Book Instead

Give a little link love! If you come across something you think qualifies as a parent hack, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

Photo credit: Austin Kleon

01 August 2014

This month, your comments save lives

Did you know that a child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine?

Did you know that 75% of unvaccinated children live in just 10 countries?

Did you know that by simply leaving blog comments or sharing posts during the month of August, you can give a child a shot at a healthy life?

This year, I have the honor of contributing to Blogust -- a month-long blog relay organized by Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation. Every time you comment on or share a Blogust post during August 2014, Walgreens will donate a vaccine to a child, up to 60,000 vaccines.

#Blogust 2014 contributors

I've been an enthusiastic participant in Blogust since it launched in 2012. I've left comments all over the place. Knowing that each one unlocked a vaccine donation was powerful, but even more powerful was the feeling of joining with thousands of others to do it together. Getting to be one of this year's storytellers...well, that's amazing.

Share or comment on #Blogust posts to unlock life-saving vaccine donations.Blogust begins today, but my Blogust post, about a Healthy and Happy First in my life, goes live on Parent Hacks on August 6, 2014.

My goal is for us is to provide 500 vaccine donations. That means a combined total of 500 comments and/or social shares via those "Tweet" and "Like" links at the bottom of my post on August 6.

  • Multiple shares (via the Tweet and Like buttons on the post) are fine!
  • Multiple comments are fine!
  • Single word comments are fine!
  • Commenting over and over is fine!

It's an ambitious number -- 500 is more comments and/or shares than any Parent Hacks post has ever received -- but I'm aiming high because I know we can do it. PARENTHACKER POWERS ACTIVATE.

Mark your calendars and get ready to share or comment on my Parent Hacks Blogust post on August 6.

In the meantime, there's something you can do right now: read and comment on or share the first Blogust 2014 post at the Shot@Life blog, or watch for the #Blogust hashtag on Twitter and Instagram

Today, Blogust alums from 2012 and 2013 are sharing words and images, and all of your comments and social shares on those posts equal vaccines! I'm logging in while on vacation so I can retweet #Blogust tweets and "heart" and comment on Instagram photos as much as I can!

Thank you, friends. Wouldn't it be incredible if we could be part of 60,000 children's healthy futures?

To see the full schedule of Blogust participants, visit shotatlife.org/blogust.

30 July 2014

Turn a wooden magazine holder into a corner shelf or charging station

Turn a magazine holder into a corner shelf or charging station. Photo credit: Design*Sponge

Look at this smart reuse for an IKEA magazine holder! This could work well over a kid's desk to stash art or homework supplies. OR as a charging station for the family's mobile devices.

Read the full how-to at Design*Sponge: DIY Wednesdays: Catch-All Shelf

Give a little link love! If you come across something you think qualifies as a parent hack, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

Photo credit: Design*Sponge

29 July 2014

Bake cookies on your car dashboard

Bake cookies on your car dashboard. Photo credit: Mikeasaurus for Instructables

Road trip snacks, anyone? No kidding: Mikeasaurus has thought through the food safety issues on this one. Consider this the silver lining on your next drive in the insane summer heat.

Read the full how-to at Instructables: Dashboard Baking

Give a little link love! If you come across something you think qualifies as a parent hack, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

Photo credit: Instructables

28 July 2014

A trick for for preventing spills because the drinking straw's too tall

Drinking straw hack prevents kids' spills. #parenthacks

A smart drinking straw trick from Sarah, via my spiffy new hack submission form on Tumblr:

Ever have a kid who wanted to tip the cup because the straw was so long that it was above the kid's head with the cup on the table? 

Bend the straw to a 90 degree angle. Then use your fingernail to put a crease in the fold, and squeeze together. The straw should retain the 90 degree bend, and slow the drink rate a little.

YES. That should prevent a few spills when you're out to eat with your kids. Thank you, Sarah!

What's your parent hack? Share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

25 July 2014

Turn a t-shirt into a no-sew superhero cape

Turn a t-shirt into a no-sew superhero cape. Photo credit: Cool Mom Picks #SavorSummer

This DIY project breaks Edna Mode's #1 fashion rule for superheroes, but I don't care. It's quick, easy, cute, and it involves zero sewing machines.

As part of their collaboration with Martha Stewart on the Savor Summer project, CMP founder Kristen Chase documented how well this craft turned out when her kids did it (mostly) themselves.

Follow the how-to at Cool Mom Picks: Easy DIY superhero cape project, no pattern required

Give a little link love! If you come across something you think qualifies as a parent hack, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

Photo credit: Cool Mom Picks

24 July 2014

Easiest frozen yogurt pops: mini yogurt + Popsicle stick

Easiest-yogurt-frozen-pops

Frozen yogurt on a stick! I recommend Popsicle sticks (pick them up cheap at the craft or dollar store), but you could also use takeout chopsticks (as pictured here). Great way to prolong the life of yogurt nearing its expiration date.

FOREHEAD SMACK OF BRILLIANCE to my_dream_future for sharing this on Instagram. Thank you!

What's your parent hack? Share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #parenthacks or go to parenthacks.tumblr.com/submit

16 July 2014

Ever been on pregnancy bed rest? Please share your #parenthacks!

I'm writing the "Preparing for Baby" chapter in the forthcoming Parent Hacks book (did I mention I'm writing a book?) and it occured to me that some of my future readers may read it while on bed rest.

Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum Online Collection
Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum Online Collection

I'm doing research into how folks handle bed rest, but (not surprisingly) I think you have the smartest and most creative suggestions.

Would you like to help me with this part of the chapter?

If you've experienced pregnancy bed rest, I'd love to hear your best tips for how to cope.

  • How did you use your time?
  • How did you handle frustration and boredom?
  • How did you work with your family and friends for support?
  • Any other tips you'd offer other moms on bed rest? 

Please leave a comment, and be sure to include your name so I can credit you in the book.

Thank you, dear Parenthackers!

14 July 2014

GIVEAWAY: Tickets to the Portland screening of BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD Movie

It's one thing to make a movie. It's another to do something completely new with the medium.

From the promotional material for BOYHOOD:

Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, BOYHOOD charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay's Yellow to Arcade Fire's Deep Blue. BOYHOOD is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting. It's impossible not to watch Mason and his family without thinking about our own journey.

I can't comment on the movie as I haven't seen it yet, but the NY Times review is fascinating and Rebecca's review at Girl's Gone Child blows me away. Watch the trailer and tell me you don't feel a major tug.

(Update: I just found out that for a few of you the trailer's not appearing on this page. Click here to watch it on YouTube.)

As the mother of a teenage boy the concept hits me right in the gut. I'm feeling it even more so now because my son is away at his first sleepaway camp. He's been gone for three weeks so far with another to go, and it has been a hugely eye-opening time of growth for all of us.

The PR folks for BOYHOOD have offered me 20 screening invitations to give away to 10 readers + their guests. Which means we could have a movie date together! Rael and I will be at the screening, and it would be so fun to see you there.

Here are the details:

1. The screening is on Monday, July 21 at 7pm in the Portland, OR area.

2. Therefore, only Portland-area readers are eligible to enter. Please only enter if you can commit to attending the screening! (It would be sad if the giveaway winners ended up not coming.) The movie is rated R, so your guest needs to be old enough to watch it. Teen-to-adult is my guess.

3. If more than 10 people enter the giveaway, winners will be chosen randomly.

4. The PR company is running the giveaway via email. They will notify the winners via email on Thursday, July 17. 

I hope to see you there!

To enter, send email to PORTLAND@43KIX.COM with the subject line ‘BOYHOOD – PARENT HACKS’ and your name in the body of the message.

07 July 2014

AMAZON DEAL: Big Book of Boy Stuff for Kindle only $1.99

The Big Book of Boy Stuff by Bart KingBart King is on my mind for five reasons. I saved the best for last.

1. He's the author of two of my kids' favorite books.

He's written many books, but two of my kids' longtime favorites are The Big Book of Boy Stuff and The Big Book of Gross Stuff.

2. He's a local author, like really local.

I think we might live within walking distance of each other.

3. We finally met in person. 

My kids were a little starstruck when I told them Bart and I were at an author event together. He's interesting, generous, and full of good humor about the book business.

4. He has a new book out.

It's called The Big Book of Superheroes and a review will appear here shortly.

5. The Kindle edition of The Big Book of Boy Stuff is on killer sale right now.

At Amazon, the paperback is over $14, but right now (not sure for how long) the Kindle edition is $1.99.

A dollar ninety-nine! HELLO CHEAP SUMMER BOREDOM BUSTER.

(Sadly, the Kindle edition of The Big Book of Girl Stuff doesn't have the same discount, but it's still pretty inexpensive at under $7.50.)

If the days of summer are starting to feel pretty long, this might be a fun diversion.

Buy now at Amazon: The Big Book of Boy Stuff (Kindle edition), $1.99

Amazon deals change quickly, so if you're interested, don't wait long.

07 July 2014

Let Amazon help you better navigate your local library

Amazon: We're Going on a Book Hunt Summertime is my favorite time at the library. This hack originally appeared in 2011, but it's the perfect time to bring it back to light. -- Asha

"I don't have anything to read!"

Such is the lament of a kid who speeds through books like I speed through magazines. I've got a quick reader, and his appetite for good material is insatiable.

I've already discovered the best reading hack of all -- our local library. The library has saved us hundreds of dollars on books my son reads in a matter of days, not to mention space and time that would have gone to storing and organizing those books.

The trick, however, is to find a good source of fresh material and recommendations. We live in Portland, Oregon, home of the famed independent bookstore Powell's, always a great source of staff recommendations. Our library has good librarians and booklists of all sorts. But what has worked best so far is to lean on Amazon's well-built "let us show you other things to spend your money on" functionality.

Specifically:

  1. We go to Amazon and search for a title my son loves.
  2. We then examine that book's page for leads to other, similar books (read on for details).
  3. We log onto the library website and put those books on hold and have them delivered to our local branch.
  4. As the books arrive my son reads them, noting which ones he liked best. (We might buy those, as he like to read favorite books over and over.)
  5. We plug new favorite titles back into Amazon to widen our search for new material.

Here's what we explore on a given Amazon book page:

The "Customers who bought this item also bought" and "Customers also bought books by" sections. These are the first places to hunt. We let the collective experience of other readers guide us to new books and authors we might like.

The reader reviews. People take the time to write amazing reviews on Amazon. Often they will compare the title to other books they've read. We've found many a book by reading a well-written review.

Listmania lists and reader guides. A Listmania list is a collection of books or Amazon products users put together by theme. A guide is a narrative version of the same thing. Both are good ways to seek out new titles.

Similar items by category and subject. Wide-ranging, but helpful.

The author link. We check out other books the author has written. Many children's book authors write in a number of genres, which is a good way to break out of a rut of say, fantasy novels.

So far our Amazon research has yielded a slew of new titles. Not all have panned out, but that's the beauty of checking them out at the library first. Also, the research skills my son is gaining are priceless.

How do you find new books for your kids to read?

15 August 2014

Free screening passes: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar [Portland]

I've got a download code for free advance screening tickets for ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR, playing 8/16/14 in IMAX 3D, at 11am at Regal Bridgeport Village!

Read more

14 August 2014

Teaching our kids the difference between video game combat and real war

On the ONE Campaign blog, I share my thoughts on a father's choice to teach his sons about videogame violence by taking them to Israel and Syria. While I respect his choice, it wouldn't be mine.

Read more

06 August 2014

For #Blogust '14: What I Learned By Sending My Kids to Summer Camp

This post is my contribution to Blogust 2014—Shot@Life’s month-long campaign to provide vaccinations for kids in need around the world. My goal for this post is to unlock 500 vaccine donations: you can help by leaving a comment or clicking “Tweet” or “Like” below. (Details at the end of the post.)

Read more

05 August 2014

This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees

This simple trick will dramatically simplify packing for a family trip, save you money in checked baggage fees, and get your family through airport security in record time.

Read more

04 August 2014

01 August 2014

This month, your comments save lives

This year, I'm contributing to Blogust -- a month-long blog relay organized by Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation. For every comment left on a Blogust post each day of August, Walgreens will donate a vaccine to a child, up to 60,000 vaccines.

Read more

30 July 2014

Turn a wooden magazine holder into a corner shelf or charging station

This could work well over a kid's desk to stash art or homework supplies. OR as a charging station for the family's mobile devices.

Read more

ALL hacks in August 2014 →

Email updates

  • Never miss a hack -- the next one might change your life.

 

Asha's Book

  • At Amazon: Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less

    Find out why doing less is the key to resourceful, thriving kids, and a calmer, happier YOU.

    Minimalist Parenting is an encouraging roadmap for decluttering your schedule, your home, and your vision for family life. Reviewers call it "a much welcome alternative to the usual parenting advice."

    Learn More at Amazon

    Also available at Barnes & Noble or your favorite local bookstore.

Start Amazon shopping here