Monday, June 22, 2015

What's Happening in My World

Every now and then this blog starts to feel like a ghost town. Let me assure you I haven't gone offline, I'm just putting my words elsewhere. Well, this didn't involve a lot of words, but it did take several months of planning with a fabulous team at the Skokie Library--I co-hosted a Teen Appathon!

Inspired by my friend Debi Pfitzenmaier and her San Antonio Code Jam, I've tossed about the idea of some kind of youth coding event or challenge for a few years. Chicago already has a vibrant Scratch Day program, mostly geared at middle school students. I wanted something for a slightly old crowd.

On The Maker Mom, you can read everything you might want to know about the Teen Appathon, including tips for hosting your own, just click here. Short on time? Skip to the video in the post. It provides a nice visual summary of the day.

Speaking of videos, this one featuring Tesla is proving to be a hit.



And I did my fist "unboxing" video. Have you heard about these? It's a thing; a genre. Top unboxing YouTubers are supposedly making six figures just by posting videos of themselves opening boxes of toys and whatnot and showing off what's inside.

There's so much wrong with my video including my lighting, make-up and hairdo. For the first time in almost 25 years I've grown out my bangs and am not liking still getting used to the look. Also, people over 35 shouldn't have to broadcast themselves in HD. Then again, I guess there's no need to show my face in a true unboxing video, so maybe I'll continue on this seemingly bizarre path.

At any rate, I'm showing off the contents of a Doodle Crate, part of the Kiwi Crate Family. I'm an affiliate of their subscription box program. They have monthly maker and STEM kits designed for kids ages 3-16. I'm looking forward to making the Doodle Crafts next week with one of my nieces.

Watch and reveal the mystery craft!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Don Quixote by the Royal Ballet at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre

photo credit: ROH / Johan Persson, 2013

"I am Don Quixote; the man of La Mancha," is the refrain I recall from the musical of the same name back when my high school performed it in the 1980s. That was the all-singing all-dancing version. This week I'm headed to see the all-dancing version performed by the Royal Ballet, accompanied by live music performed by Chicago Sinfonietta at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. My husband and I will be guests of the Auditorium Theatre.

Performance June 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 PM with a 2PM matinee of the 21st. Tickets begin at $32.

On Saturday, June 20, there will be a family-friendly matinee. How family-friendly? Well, for each adult ticket you buy, you'll receive a child's ticket for 50% off using code FAMLY. Child, being a person age 17 or under.

Even better, with tickets to the June 20 matinee, your family members can participate in a movement workshop with a former dancer from the Royal Ballet, David Pickering. He currently works as their Learning and Participation Manager. The workshop runs from 12:30 - 1:30 and is free with June 20 matinee tickets. How cool is that?! Click for details.

For tickets, call 800-982-ARTS (2787) or go to the Auditorium Theatre website.


Monday, June 08, 2015

She Lost Her Child at Target

So I was at Target with the other day when an older woman pushing a baby stroller with an infant passed by calling out "Carolyn...Carolyn!"

I stopped her, concerned about her lost child (or maybe grandchild, but I wanted to err on the side of caution; maybe she had late-in-life babies?).

"Is Carolyn your daughter?" I inquired.

She paused and gave me an odd, confused look before answering. "Yes," she practically whispered.

"Would you like me to help you find her?" I offered.

Then she smiled. "Oh, Carolyn is my daughter, but she's 30 years old. This is her baby," she said as she pointed to the contents of the stroller."

"Uh, okay. I guess she can manage safely on her own until she's found then."

And...scene.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Our Dog Reacts to Frontline Plus

Although our dog has a stomach of steel, which is to say very little upsets it, his skin is much more sensitive. In general, his immune system is delicate, or perhaps I should say supercharged, ready to react to...stuff. Allergies have been an issue. Late last summer was an especially miserable time for him. We haven't pursued testing, but he's likely got environmental allergies.

We keep him on a grain-free diet. That is, until he gobbles down a bagel someone left too close to edge of the kitchen counter, raids the garbage can, or one of his doggie grandmas buys him treats with ingredients he's not supposed to have.

We've been using Frontline Plus for flea and tick prevention on him without incident since we first received it from his vet nearly two years ago. Two months ago we received a sample of NexGuard, a chewable "treat" put out by the same company, Merial. In April, I gave him the NexGuard to try it out. He gobbled it down with no ill effects.

In May, I gave Tesla our last remaining dose of  Frontline Plus. I was pretty eager to be done with it and move to the chewable, despite the additional expense. Tesla always tries to scratch at the area where the stinky Frontline Plus is applied, but this time it seemed to bother him more than normal.

He'd rub his neck either by going belly up on his pillow and wriggling around or scratch with his back claws. I noticed the spot where I'd applied the Frontline was looking bad.

Normally it's a bit greasy looking for a day or two, but this time the hair was matted down and looked a bit dusty. When I went in for a closer look, it was clear that something was going on underneath his matted fur, but I couldn't tell what. It looked nasty, though. Oozy and maybe infected. Tesla let me know the area was tender to the touch. I did my best to clean it off and then covered it with as much antibiotic ointment as I could.

The next day I got him in the shower and was able to gently shampoo the whole area, but I still couldn't get a good look before I covered with ointment again.

Finally, we visited the vet the day after Memorial Day. They shaved him down and cleaned him up, and did a laser treatment that they said would help heal the area. They decided to put him on antibiotics and a short course of steroids. (He also had something going on with a back paw, but I'm not sure if it was a cause or effect of the Frontline Plus, or possibly unrelated.)

Because the spot is on his neck, we couldn't cone him, but I did cut the sleeve off of an old t-shirt and used that to cover up the spot and preventing scratching while it was still raw. We also had some prescription powder on hand.
I called Frontline to make an official report on the issue. They told me that a dog can have a bad reaction to Frontline Plus at any time, even if they've used it without incident previously. Still, the company is only aware of reactions if people (or their vets) report them. So if something like this happens to your dog, be sure to call their hotline and let them know!

PS Tesla is going fine now. The area is clear and his hair is coming in.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars #GiveBrighter

Outshine interactive billboard to benefit Feeding America
I'm participating in Outshine's Give Some Good billboard campaign. As a team member, I receive product and incentives in exchange for this sponsored post.

Have you ever had Outshine frozen treats, like their refreshingly sweet fruit bars? I'm pleased to be working with the brand as they partner with Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger-relief organization to Give Some Good and help bring fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need. They've come up with a novel concept that's a first for Chicago and the nation, a "donation billboard."

Located in the BNSF tunnel of Chicago's Union Station through June 9, the billboard invites passersby to actively join the fight against hunger. Look for it and give a swipe!


Here's how it works:


Commuters and tourists can donate $1 with a quick swipe of a credit card right down the middle of the billboard.

In addition to making a donation, the swipe activates a film sequence on the billboard screen that shows fresh fruits and veggies falling from the sky into the hands of a young girl.

The $1 donation may not seem like a lot, but it allows Feeding America to provide nine pounds(!) of produce to people in need.


Have you heard the story about how a person in line at Starbucks bought a drink for the person behind her in line, starting a chain reaction of people that followed suit lasting for hours? Well, you can start something similar at Union Station. Step up to donate and others will follow along. And at nine pounds of produce for just $1, you'll spread more good will and good nutrition than you would with a pricey cup of coffee.

You can help from home, too.

So maybe your commute only takes you down the hall or across town. No worries! Pick up a specially marked box of Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars this June or July and the brand will donate a pound* of fresh produce to local food banks.

If you've ever volunteered at a food bank, you know that most of their food comes in cans and boxes. I'm glad to be part of a program that is helping bring fresh produce to those in need.


Outshine Yogurt Bars


*If you're doing the math, the purchase of each box of Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars that meets the conditions above means an $.11 donation, or one pound or produce secured by Feeding America on behalf of local food banks. The brand guarantees a minimum donation of $150,000, but will donate a total of up to $220,00 from the sale of special packs until July 31, 2015.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: Book Giveaway

Frank Bruni College Book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be
Shortly after lingering over Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is not Who You'll Be (affiliate link) I received an email offering me a review copy and a chance to give away up to 5 copies of the book. I jumped at both. Frank Bruni's new book is a hot topic among my friends who are in the midst of or getting ready for the college admissions process. The book is like a reassuring hug for those who easily get sucked into feeling like their child has to go to a big-name, high-prestige college or university.

Rather than spotlight big name schools, Bruni highlights our national obsession with them. Think about it, how often do you read or hear a business leader being referred to as "Harvard-educated" as opposed to being called out as a graduate of, say, Northern Michigan University (which is where Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz went)? The less well-known schools do not get their due. Further, Bruni drives the point home that a less well-known school is not a lesser institution.

He rips into the college rating system that's currently dominated by US News and World Report, sharing examples of their flawed rating processes.

As Bruni provides a detailed overview of the modern admissions process, he lays out application trends. I didn't realize the Common Application has been around for decades. It only recently caught on like wildfire, though, likely because of the ease of modern communication. Today's student typically applies to more schools than my age peers did. He notes the rise of international students coming to college in the US and its impact on admission rates for US students. In addition, he examines the impact of legacy admissions and other political aspects of the admissions process.

He also shines a light on the rapidly growing business of college admissions consulting. Affluent families set on top tier schools may spend as much as $50,000 for coaching and consulting from middle-school until their child matriculates. Bruni notes that although many counselors stress their role in finding the right fit for a given student, they also tend to boast about the number of their clients who head off to highly selective schools.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book right now and even though we're not eyeing the Ivy League schools for my boys Bruni has given me a lot to think about and discuss with my family. His book is an informative, but easy, read. I think you'll like it.

Win a copy of
Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be!

To enter, leave a comment below and a way to contact you (email or Twitter or just your name if I know you in real life), so I can get in touch if you win. If you have any tips on the admissions process share them in your comment. Also let me know if you have any questions about the admissions process that I can address in a future post since that's pretty much the recurring theme of this blog now. Leave a comment until 11:30 PM on Friday April 17, 2015. I'll notify the winners next week. Books will be shipped from a PR company.

Monday, March 09, 2015

College Road Trip: Cancelled

The whole college thing is a complicated dance. You want your kids to lead because in the end this largely about your child and his choice. But on the other hand, if you simply relegate yourself to the role of follower, your child might might miss out on certain opportunities, like actually being organized enough to apply to college the fall of his senior year of high school.

The college counselor at our high school is a big advocate of campus visits. So with Spring Break on the horizon we started planning an epic college visit road trips: 4-5 schools in as many states with brief stop in Canada to see some family. My son made the requisite school tour reservations (I'm told admissions offices do not appreciate working through parents) and we checked the dates with our dog sitter.

Last Friday I assured my husband that our trip was a go before he left town last weekend, but I changed my mind by the time I picked him up at the airport on Sunday.

We didn't cancel as a punishment to my son. And it's not that we feared the "fun" of the four of us being packed into my sedan for a nearly a week, knowing that at least 50% of our children would be tired/bored/hungry/grumpy. We didn't back out because of the thought of 4 near-adults sharing a single hotel room (not to mention bathroom) made us twitchy.

We cancelled because I was the driving force behind the trip. We planned to see an urban liberal arts school, an urban highly selective technical school and a technical school in a small city. All good possibilities, my son agreed, but all schools of my choosing.

My son didn't oppose any of the schools. He remains open to the thought of someday attending any one of them, but he didn't express a passion for any of them. I wouldn't say that our trip would have been a total waste of money, but I also don't think it would have been money wisely spent at this time.

If he wants to get a sense of different campuses there are plenty we can see in Chicagoland. And when he decides he wants to see a school that's far from home, we can make a visit. (Or, in the case of a certain highly selective school or two, we might wait until he gets accepted before planning a campus tour.) Maybe it won't be a big family trip--chances are it won't. In fact, maybe he'll head off alone to a university that one of his friends attends--that's how I made my college visits.

How are you handling the college review and admissions process? How do you encourage your child to take an active role in it? And doesn't this seem so much more intense than when we went through it?







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