Women & Work: SkillBridge Platform For Consulting Professionals

job websitesI recently looked into what my social good passion project is and realized that covering different ways to find work is tops on the list. One of the areas I am interested in are businesses that support ways to find flexible work, which not only parents but also millennials are looking into to support work life balance. I recently received a press release about a company called SkillBridge that was “founded with the belief that talented independent consulting professionals who are passionate about the work they do, should be able to easily connect with high impact organizations that need expert help“.  Because I have an background in consulting this type of platform was very interesting to me. So I emailed them to ask if they could share a story on a consultant that used the site to find work. Here is SkillBridge‘s reply about an (inspirational!) woman named Anna Johnson:

Anna Johnson

 

 

Consultant Anna Johnson discovered SkillBridge after seeing a job posted on the 85 Broads website. She says, “I have a strong interest in retail and e-commerce, and I was looking for opportunities to continue my work in the industry. There was initially a project that was already staffed that had to do with a venture capitalist needing e-commerce research. A month later, I learned about the Warby Parker consulting job. After business school I focused on retail and e-commerce consumer strategies, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to grow in.”

 

Anna continues, “SkillBridge sent out a scope of work that I knew I could handle. We exchanged a couple of emails a couple and we were all setup. The whole process was smooth and quick.”

 

On working for Warby Parker, one of the hottest startups in New York City, Anna adds, “I worked with Warby for six weeks. It was very easy to work with them. Really, they were the easiest to work with. They were very open to the framework I put in place, and they scheduled meetings and provided feedback in a timely fashion. It was all easy-breezy. I would totally work for them again, even full time.”

 

She found working with Warby to be a logical transition.First, I presented project plan up front. I set the framework for how to get things done, and I made sure that Warby and I were aligned in our project goals before we even started. When you think about consulting, making sure you have the scope right and make sure you are staying within that scope are keys to success. I also leveraged training from my previous management consulting experiences to deal with large data sets,” she said.

 

This experience differed from others that she worked on previously because she was working alone, without a partner or a team. However, she loved the challenge and learned quite a bit from her time at Warby Parker and SkillBridge.

 

Anna says, “I transitioned into full-time employment after this experience ended. I realized I could manage this type of work and work full time simultaneously. I realized I gained a very valuable skillset by doing that after business school. I had the knowledge to excel, but I also had the process down too. I think having a plan when I first went in was very important.”

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post. I am covering businesses that offer different ways for women to find work.

 

Top 5 Discoveries From My Teen’s Invisalign Treatments (Sponsored)

iStock_000013029097XSmallWhen I posted earlier about my need to ensure my son’s future dental health and why I was excited to be on the Invisalign Teen – Mom Advisory Board, I was still apprehensive about my teen son entering highschool as a freshman while starting Invisalign at the same time. Invisalign is a series of nearly invisible, removable “aligners” used by adults and teens to gradually straighten teeth without metal or wires. My son has said that he will never forget the pain of being stabbed with his metal braces, so Invisalign was a great alternative to fix his teeth that were over-crowded. So we decided to try Invisalign and are happy to report that I am not apprehensive anymore thanks to these 5 discoveries:

 

Invisalign Aligners

 

1. Would his friends notice he is wearing Invisalign? In our experience, people barely notice that he has Invisalign and it does not affect his speech.

 

2. Would he lose them? So far he has not lost any of the aligners – even though there was a close call when he put them in a napkin at dinner. Luckily he learned his lesson and carries his case with him at all times.

 

3. Is Invisalign maintenance hard for teenagers to do each day? Not really, my teen just takes them out to brush his teeth and cleans them on a regular basis. But he does not seem to mind it and has managed that all by himself. And we all know how happy a parent can be when their teen manages something on their own!

 

4. Do the aligner’s effect his ability to eat? No, my son just takes them out to eat and puts them back after he is finished.

 

5. Are the orthodontist visits time consuming? We just spent time in the beginning with the Orthodontist for the Invisalign fitting. We only go back for short maintenance appointments and get a few aligners at time (which he swaps out every few weeks).

 

So we are on the path to fixing the overcrowding problem with my son’s teeth! I can’t wait to see the results once he is done with his Invisalign treatments. While I was sitting in the dentist chair myself yesterday, getting dental work done yet again caused by decay between my teeth from overcrowding, I was happy to know that I was doing my best to help my son have a healthy dental future. Which means I hope he will only need to go the dentist for yearly checkups instead!

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align (Full disclosure: http://shout.lt/ggGP). All opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Women Entrepreneur Spotlight: Sofia Keck of Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

Sophia Keck & TechMamaI reached out to a California Mom Bloggers Facebook group asking if any bloggers in San Francisco wanted to come to a local tech event and was delighted when Sofia Keck (SK) responded enthusiastically yes. Even though the tech event started at 10pm, she attended to help support a fellow blogger  which I appreciated! I was thrilled to also learn about her bilingual blog American Vida, which shares her food, amateur photography, the latest technology and essays on family and culture. I  especially noticed Sofia’s delicious looking food posts, so when she said she was opening up a restaurant – I was not surprised. Her new restaurant is called Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs and the location is 3224 ½ 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. To learn about her new business and her entrepreneurship tips, I decided to interview her. So here it is!

 

1. What inspired you to start your own business?

 

SK: “I got laid off during my maternity leave in 2009 while working for a tech startup company. I was very disappointed with “the system.” The economic crisis was evident, however it was hard for me to understand how employees could be so disposable.  I was holding my 2 week-old baby girl when I got the call and it was devastating. Since that moment I promised myself that I would never put myself in a situation where no matter how hard I worked I could be gone the next day.  I was happy that I got to stay home with my baby. I started a consulting business from home and I have been a business owner ever since.”

 

2. Why did you start a food business?

 

SK: “I love food, I cook and bLos Shucos Latin Hot Dogslog about food.  My restaurant is Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs, which are street hot dogs from Guatemala, my country of origin.  Shucos are a staple food item in Guatemala and internationally known by foodies and travelers and you used to be able to find them only in Guatemala. One day we were walking on the street with my husband and I told him I was craving a Guatemalan hot dog and that I wished they would have them here in San Francisco, my husband then said to me “well, why don’t you sell them”? So now I do.”

 

3. Tell us more about your restaurant.

 

Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

 

SK:Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs is located in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, California. We sell Guatemalan hot dogs, called Shucos and other Latin-inspired creations.  Our flavors are unique, we make our own bread, we serve hand made chorizo and imported sauces.  Hot dogs will NEVER be the same! Check out the story at www.LosShucos.com and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/losshucos.”

 

 

2. What advice would you give to other moms wanting to start their own food business? Sofia Keck responded with these tips:

 

  • “Remember it is not only about the food: Make great food but keep in mind that marketing, location, great customer service, a strong business plan and financial resources are all part of the equation.”

 

  • “Ask for help: You will need help at home, more if you have children.  You will also need help in your business, so get a mentor or advisor.  I shadowed a couple of chefs to learn from them. I had lunch and coffee with other restaurant owners. I still ask questions to line cooks, to high end chefs, to other business people and to investors. I ask for help. You can also go to your local small business administration (SBA) or an organization that helps you start your own business. They will teach you how to apply for a loan, how to write a business plan, and other important aspects  of your business that you may not have considered.”

 

  • Love what you are cooking: Make sure you really love what you are cooking, because it’s one thing to cook it once a week for dinner with your grateful and loving family.  It’s another thing to cook hundreds per day for an audience that demands a high quality product every time. For example, I am not a vegetarian, so it took me a while to find a vegetarian option for my hot dogs. I wanted to find a vegetarian hot dog that I would love no matter what it was made of.  I could never sell something that I wouldn’t eat myself.”

 

  • “Don’t feel guilty: It’s ok if you can’t cook homemade meals for the family every night, whether because you are at the restaurant or just because you tired of cooking the whole day. It’s ok to take a break and do nothing for a change. By taking a break you are doing something for yourself.  It’s also ok to immerse yourself in your business and forget about the rest of the world for a while. It’s ok to follow your dreams.

 

  • “Keep going: Like most great food ideas, the idea for my business came from hunger.  There will be many challenges but you have to keep going, because if you really want it you will not be satisfied until you get it done.  Opening your own food business is really hard work.  But as a mom you already know what hard work is all about, so you can do it.

 

3. Besides food, what other interests do you have?

 

 

Sophia Keck

 

SK: “I love kids. I have two of my own, an 11 yr old son and a 5 yr old daughter. I love pets, I have 3 dogs. I love spending time with my husband, I’m passionate about Guatemala, technology, meeting new people, social media, being involved in the community, attending conferences of all sorts, reading, coffee and tea which are technically not food but drinks” 

 

Check out Los Shucos – Latin Hot Dogs in San Francisco.. I know just looking at the pictures on the website are making me hungry!

 

 

Photo credits: Lonny Ivan Meyer or lonnymeyerphotography.com

 

 

 

Automate Most Important Skill For 21st Century: #SelfieBot by Orbotix #AprilFools

It is the beginning of April (first day) and what better way to celebrate then automating your daily selfie? The #SelfieBot by Orbotix will help the whole family, even your dog and cat which I am sure also enjoys taking selfies.  Selfies are also great for self esteem because pictures are everything in the modern online world. This will also help parents because they won’t need to worry about helping their kids learn the art of selfies, a skill that is essential to 21st century socializing. I love any tool that helps parent automate their day, so the #SelfieBot by Orbotix will do just that.

 
 

 

 
And happy April 1st… Digital Trends has more details…

 

 

 

 

OneNote And Office Updates: iPad, Feedly, IFTTT and more

I am excited to participate as one of the Office Champions because Microsoft Office was already my go-to productivity tool for work and home management. I was also interested to keep updated on the new product releases, lately there have been exciting announcements! While we have many PC’s in our house, my teen uses a MAC. Because of our Microsoft Office 365 subscription he uses Office on the MAC. He also uses OneNote on his iPhone. So the recent announcements will offer him more ways to use Office and OneNote. I also can’t wait to try the new productivity features of OneNote that will help my day including the ability to send blogs and news articles directly to OneNote via Weave, News360 and Feedly. I can also connect to OneNote through IFTTT rules, send scanned documents using printers, scanners and apps as well as sending handwritten notes on paper with a Livescribe Pen. Here are the fun details below.

 

ONE NOTE FOR MAC

PRESS UPDATE: ” OneNote for Mac is now available for the first time, and for Free. Now, you can use OneNote on all the platforms you love including PC, Mac, Windows Tablets, Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone, Android and Web (phew!) We are also offering a freemium version for these platforms—so even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can enjoy OneNote anywhere and everywhere.”

 

 

OneNote for Mac

 

NEW FEATURES FOR ONE NOTE:

 

Along with the update was information on OneNote were also recently released new features related to note-taking, travel planning and organizing (three things busy families always could always use digital help with!):

 

  • Web clipper lets you quickly save web pages to your OneNote notebook.
  • me@onenote.com service lets you email notes directly to your notebook.
  • Office Lens lets you capture documents and whiteboards with ease using your phone. It even flattens the image (even if taken at an angle) so it’s easier to read, and makes the text searchable so you can find it later!”

 

 
OneNote

 

 

The press update also included the below information on the partnerships that add new digital note-taking functionality to OneNote:

 

 

 

 

 

To keep the new announcements going, yesterday Office announced Office for the iPad. Here are details on Office from iPad from the Office blog:

“you can download Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad from the App Store.  The apps have the robust capabilities and familiar look and feel that is unmistakably Office, while offering a fantastic touch experience built from the ground up for iPad.  With the free versions of the apps, you can read your Word documents, view your Excel data and present with PowerPoint. Your documents will look as good as they do on your PC and Mac®, and better than ever on your iPad.  With an Office 365 subscription, you can edit and create new documents with the iPad. When you edit a document, you can be sure that content and formatting will be maintained across Office on PC, Mac, tablet and phone. And, you always have access to your up-to-date documents in OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.”

 

 

How does your family stay productive?

 

 

Disclosure: I am an Office Champion and have received sponsorship and products. This is NOT a paid post, it is a press update. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Sell Your Cell Phone Online With eBay (Sponsored)

Disclosure: My blog post was written as part of my collaboration with eBay.
 

 

sell an old cell phoneAfter years of buying things for myself and my family on eBay I finally decided it was time to experience the other side of eBay, selling . Cleaning up my old electronics drawer provided the needed inspiration to find new homes for some great technology in perfect working order that was just sitting around collecting dust. When I was contacted to learn about eBay Sell My Phone it was the perfect opportunity to figure out my own plan to sell an old cell phone and other electronics online.
 

 

I have been buying new and used items on eBay for years but did not realize the size of the online secondary phone market.  I learned from eBay that “on average, a cell phone is sold every 4 seconds on eBay.” All different types of phones are selling such resulting in  ”a Samsung cell phone is sold every 22 seconds, an iPhone is sold every 16 Seconds, Nokia cell phone is sold every 3 minutes, HTC phone is sold every minute and a Microsoft windows cell phone is sold every 7 minutes on eBay.”

 

 

Sell your phone

Photo Credit: eBay

 

 

I viewed the Sell My Phone eBay page and saw that the steps to sell an old cell phone were pretty straightforward: select a device, check the current value, and then list it for sale. I also saw the page of instructions detailing how to wipe my phone which I feel is important to make sure all personal information is removed prior to sale. So it is time for me to take on something I have been putting off: move my gadgets not being used from the drawer to selling them online. My first step will be to sell an old cell phone, then graduate to other gadgets, saving money along the way to use on my next purchase.
 

 

Do you have a draw,  closet or just a pile of unused tech gadgets? If so, what is in your draw?

 

 

old electronics

 

 
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of eBay.
 

 
Tracking Pixel

 

Twitter Party 3/20: Making Screen Time Beneficial #SylvanPlay

One of the top daily struggles I have with my boys is with screen time. Luckily there are many new educational apps and websites to help make that screen time beneficial (a win-win situation!). Please join me (TechMama) and co-host Mike Johnson of PlayGround Dad for a Twitter Party on March 20 from 6-7pm PST. The topics we will discuss includes screen time, finding educational games and apps, how we can empower our kids to learn on digital platforms, helpful resources and more.  The Twitter party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, which has a personal approach to learning including the latest digital tools. I am excited to share that Sylvan Learning just launched a mobile game network for kids (the press release is below).  

 

Sylvan Learning

 

 

#SylvanPlay Making Screen Time Beneficial Twitter Party Details:

 

  • Twitter Party name: Making Screen Time Beneficial
  • Twitter party hashtag #SylvanPlay  ( @SylvanLearning  )
  • Time and date of the event: 6pm PST/9pm EST Thursday March 20
  • Host’s: Mike Johnson (@Playgrounddad) and Beth Blecherman (@TechMama)
  • How to join the party: Follow join in our discussion by sharing tweets with the hashtag #SylvanPlay on Twitter.  Party hosts will share the party questions. 
  • Prize details (optional)– Three $50 iTunes cards will be randomly be awarded to those participating using #SylvanPlay hashtag.
  • Rules: No purchase necessary to participate. A purchase will not improve your chance of winning. Winners will be randomly selected from those who participated during the party and answered at least one question using the Hashtag #SylvanPlay. Winners from the Twitter Party must be 18+ Years of Age and must have a valid USA mailing address and email address to receive the prize.

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Sylvan Learning Launches Mobile Games Network For Kids

SylvanPlayHelps Kids Build Critical Grade-Level Skills Through Fun, Educational Apps

 

BALTIMORE (March 13, 2014) – Is it ok for kids to binge on mobile games? Sylvan thinks so – as long as they are the right ones. But how can parents find games that guarantee their kids’ screen time is actually beneficial? To help take the guesswork out of choosing from the thousands of apps available, Sylvan Learning introduces SylvanPlay – a comprehensive, educational mobile games network for kids in 1st through 4th grade. SylvanPlay provides the best collection of educational games that reinforce grade-appropriate lessons in fun and engaging ways and enhance what kids are already learning in the classroom while on-the-go.

 

Rather than just one individual app, SylvanPlay is launching with a library of eight fun, Sylvan-approved edutainment apps all packaged together in one network. The games, which have been developed to help students build critical skills in reading, math, science, geography, strategic thinking and more, include:

 

  • Critter Cruise (ages 6 – 9): Inspires math and language learning as kids take a landmark filled road trip across North America, filling up their gas tank by correctly answering questions.  This game was developed exclusively for SylvanPlay and aligns to specific grade level content and the Common Core curriculum.
  • Battle Station (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids improve number sense as they defend their ship from enemy submarines by estimating their location using marker buoys. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Angle Asteroids (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids develop an intuition for angles as they position their laser to blast away the incoming asteroids. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Pizza Party (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids master fractions by splitting up the treats at a pizza party with fun tools like the Slice-o-matic. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Sushi Scramble (ages 6 – 9): Develops language skills through a multiplayer word-building game where 2 to 4 players collaborate or compete to “serve” up the most words or longest word.
  • Get Rocky (ages 6 – 9): Inspires an interest in science through a geology-based racing game that takes kids to the core of the earth.
  • Not Lost in the Universe (ages 6 – 9): Kids learn about how wind, the sun, water, and heat create lasting sources of energy while helping the brave explorers on the Planet Blarp refuel their power cells.
  • Wonder Bunny Math Race (ages 3 – 8): Helps younger kids ages 3-8 learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction as they help Wonder Bunny win the race and collect carrots along the way.

 

“Sylvan Learning is focused on providing a personal learning experience using the latest technology to engage and connect with kids,” says Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning. “We developed SylvanPlay as a way to extend the learning that happens in our centers and provide parents and kids with Sylvan-approved games they know will be fun, educational, and grade-appropriate. With SylvanPlay, parents can be confident that their kids are turning game time into brain-building time.”

 

The SylvanPlay network will continue to expand on an on-going basis and the content range will soon be available for kids up to 6th grade.  Additional edutainment apps and subjects will inspire more kids to play anywhere and learn everywhere in new and engaging ways.

 

SylvanPlay is available for both iOS and Android operating systems and offers an assortment of free and paid content ranging from $.99 to $4.99 To download to any mobile device, parents can type in “SylvanPlay” or any of the app titles into the search function of either the Apple App store or Android’s GooglePlay store to locate the educational mobile games network. All apps within the SylvanPlay network are free for current Sylvan Learning customers.

 

“As kids became more comfortable working with technology, Sylvan has moved its curriculum to iPads® with the SylvanSync platform,” continues Fitzgerald. “Sylvan continues to follow what families are doing and adapting the curriculum to the devices they prefer.  Why make parents say “no” to apps and games if we can turn them into educational tools that help their child succeed?”

 

To build the new educational game network, Sylvan Learning partnered with Fingerprint, a global technology company, to leverage its well-established mobile technology platform and proven network model. Now SylvanPlay can provide a fun and safe edutainment hub for kids and parents alike.

 

For more information on SylvanPlay and Sylvan Learning log on to http://www.SylvanLearning.com/resources/SylvanPlay or www.SylvanLearning.com.

 

# # #

 

About Sylvan Learning, Inc.
With more than 30 years of experience and more than 800 locations throughout North America, Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K–12. As the leader in supplemental education, Sylvan is transforming how students learn, inspiring them to succeed in school and in life. Sylvan’s proven tutoring approach blends amazing teachers with SylvanSync™ technology on the iPad® for an engaging learning experience. Sylvan programs include study skills, math, reading, writing and test prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also provides educational services to public and nonpublic schools. The company was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS, or visit www.SylvanLearning.com or Sylvan’s Mom Minded blog at www.SylvanLearning.com/blog.

 

About Fingerprint

Fingerprint is a mobile technology company offering a dynamic technology platform through customer networks. Fingerprint’s enterprise platform solution, with an easy-to-use SDK and curated play-and-learn content from top developers around the world, enables global brands to license and develop customized and localized networks of their own. Fingerprint is funded by leading consumer tech investors including Corus Entertainment and K2MediaLabs. For more information, visit fingerprintplay.com or facebook.com/fingerprintplay.

SylvanPlay and SylvanSync are trademarks of Sylvan Learning

iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

 

Disclosure: The Twitter Party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning.
 
 

 

TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Taking on Family 2014 New Year’s Resolutions. Is it Possible?

*sponsored series

 

2014 Family New Year ResolutionsWhen it comes to annual New Years Resolutions, taking better care of myself and my family’s health  always tops the list. This year we are focusing on finding ways to fit regular exercise into our busy schedule, cooking more plant-based foods, practicing stress-management, spending more quality time together (unplugged!) and advancing my kids’ oral health. Assembling the list was the easy part. Actually doing the list, well, that’s the real challenge. So, following the rules in my book, The Parent Plan, we started putting together the family plan.

 

Exercise: Our family looked at our busy schedule and activities and determined that the best way to fit in regular exercise was to identify flexible exercise options. Was there a year round exercise class for my 11 year olds that focused on overall athletic conditioning? My boys enjoyed baseball, but it did not give them the overall conditioning they needed.  Their favorite gym had a great class and fortunately also offered a workout program for my 15 year old (one drop off).

 

Plant Based Foods: After examining the various medical challenges of our extended family and looking at our own diets needs, we decided to start making plant based foods the staple of our diet. But being a family of 5 healthy eaters, everyone had different tastes.  I found several great plant-based recipe websites, blogs, books and a holistic nutritionist and set out to identify different options that fit our family’s eating preferences. This goal especially overwhelmed me because I quickly discovered just how challenging it was to find recipes everyone liked. I also needed more tools to make cooking fresh plant based foods fit into our busy schedule, including a crock pot and blender. We decided to take one week at time, including new plant-based foods in our weekly meals but still cooking family favorites as well.  We also realized we needed to give our kids a chance to get use to the tastes of some new foods (to go from “yuck” to “yum”). One of those was almond milk and I am thrilled to say they are happy to drink it now, after only a few weeks of adjustment!

 

Stress: Let’s face it, the modern family schedule is so overscheduled that it is hard to dodge stress. With adults managing home and work, and kids balancing school, homework, sports, music lessons and more – even a scaled down schedule is like running a weekly marathon.  What happened to the innocent childhood of yesteryear when kids just played with their friends after school? We decided to prioritize school-week activities to only include high-priority items close to home. For example, instead of driving 30 minutes for music lessons we found a local teacher who was giving lessons to a neighbor and asked if he could stop by our house as well.

 

Family Time Unplugged: Now that our oldest is in high school, we realized that our time together as a family is limited and more family time activities were in order rather than just running past each other each day. Our first step was trying to have family game nights, with electronics turned off. OK, in reality we did accept that types of technology used for games would be acceptable, but checking email or anything else was off limits! Humorous games such as Apples to Apples (we play the “silly” version) and Catchphrase worked the best to enable great bouts of belly laughs, and belly laughs are not only great for bringing our family together – but also for relieving stress. When we feel “serious”, Battleship, Risk and chess fit the bill. But we are always on the lookout for new game.

 

Oral Health: My family moved around when I was of “braces age” so I somehow missed the chance. Because of that, my teeth have some crowding and I have experienced some dental problems. So proper oral health for my boys is a high personal priority. One of my twin sons used a pacifier as an infant while the other did not. He sucked his thumb. Years later it seems using fingers is better than a pacifier because that son does not need braces while the other one does.  My 15 year old has Invisalign, (Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board), as the final touch to wearing metal braces when he was 11. He is in the middle of his treatment and it has been so seamless. He just wears the Invisalign aligners, washes them, takes them out when eating and then gets new aligners to swap out on a regular basis. I was worried about how he would feel wearing Invisalign while also starting High School and we are thrilled it has not been an issue (they are pretty much “invisible”).  My 11 year old has asked repeatedly if he can just use Invisalign.  Although he will likely start with metal braces, we know that the is there will be Invisalign for him as well in the future.  Now if I can just get my kids to floss with their regular brushing without nagging from parents.

 

We want to keep doing family activities that give back (like our regular cooking for a homeless shelter during the holidays), spending time with extended family/friends and setting goals to achieve our own personal best. Maybe I will be brave enough to attempt our household to-do list which includes finding new ways to organize the large quantities of stuff from our three boys. No matter how hard I try I will never be one of those perky naturally organized people that create those beautiful images on Pinterest (even though I find them totally inspirational). Or maybe it is time to realize that achieving perfect household organization may be something not to include so we can at least achieve the family resolution of reducing stress?

 

Organized kitchen

 

What are your 2014 family resolutions? Please share yours and any tips on achieving them while juggling a busy family life!

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align. The opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Lenovo CES 2014: Tablets Still Rock

*sponsored series

 
With all the new announcements at CES 2014, it may have seemed like tablets were not top priority. But I was excited to see the quality of new tablets that are truly becoming that one unified device for both entertainment and work.   A great example is the new Lenovo ThinkPad 8 tablet that joins in with the already released Yoga Tablet 10 and 8.

 

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet is high definition enough for entertainment while also having the features needed for a successful work device. It has an a 10 point multi-touch 8.3 inch display (1920×1200) with Windows 8.1 Pro, 2MP and 8MP cameras, latest Intel Bay Trail Quad Core processor, up to 128GB of storage and Global 3G/4G LTE support.  Accessories include a USB 3.0 dock that converts the ThinkPad 8 into a full PC experience and a keyboard base. The Quickshot Cover enables converting to Tent mode and peels back to use the 8 MP camera. There is also a microHDMI port that allows connection to a PC to view pictures or photos or use Miracast technology to transfer them wirelessly.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet. Photo Credit: Lenovo

 

The Yoga Tablet 10 (10 inch) and Yoga Tablet 8 (8 inch) Android tablets offer a unique multi-mode design: it has a battery cylinder on the side that makes it easy to hold, Quad core 1.2 Ghz processor, Android 4.2 Jellybean, native storage of 16GB  or 32 GB and can add up to 64GB micro-SD card storage, micro USB for charging, a pop out stand for standing up (good for watching or listening to media and video chat) and the ability to “tilt” the stand (good for typing or gaming).  To really enable mobile use, the battery has a maximum life of 18 hours, lasting throughout the day and more.

 

Both the 8 inch and 10 inch Yoga Tablet have an HD 1280 x 800 display with a 178 degree viewing angle that is wide enough to share with the whole family.  The screen is  crisp, clear and easy to ready and the chrome design is stylish to look at.  Connectivity includes integrated Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and GPS. The sound is enhanced with the tablet’s Dolby Digital Plus speakers that face front. The 5.0M rear and 1.6M front cameras offer the ability to take high definition pictures.  For those that prefer using a keyboard, there is a touch keyboard with nice haptic response or an option to use Accutype keyboard Bluetooth accessory.

 

 

Lenovo Tablets

 

 

Our family had the opportunity to review the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 and 8. We found that the 10 inch is the perfect size for teens and adults to comfortably read content. The Yoga Tablet 8 inch is the perfect size for my 11 year old to watch ESPN and consume all types of content instead of squinting to see content on his small MP3 player. But the 8 inch would also be great for mobile adults looking for a smaller form factor. My husband has been looking for a tablet for a while now, evaluating different operating systems, form factors and performance. His latest experiment has been with the 10 inch Lenovo yoga tablet and it is proving to be very capable for both business and personal use.

 

 

He found that the set up of the Yoga Tablet was very straight-forward and similar to other Android devices. Charge it up, turn it on, establish the WiFi connection and start downloading the apps you need to be productive. The kids were very impressed with the games both familiar and unfamiliar in the Google Play store. LinkedIn loaded quickly and was easy to use, with the front and back camera on the Yoga tablet coming in handy to capture valuable information for various folders that help in home/family and business management.
One very handy feature is the built-in kickstand which enables the tablet to be used multiple ways in addition to holding it in your hands. With the kickstand down, the tablet props up like a computer screen in a landscape position. This is very handy when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth keyboard. Roasted 90 degrees, the kickstand also secures the tablet upright in portrait position, which is convenient when looking at an email inbox, photos, long documents or games. For those who like to use a tablet almost flat to the table, placing the Yoga down with the kickstand in place provides a tablet at a small angle to the table which is great for touch screen use. Our family really enjoyed these different positions, each with their own benefits allowing for customization of use according to what we were trying to do and whether we were sitting or standing.

 

The speakers provide high quality Dolby sound and are located on the front in the bottom corners, a much better design than speakers in back which can be muffled by a tablet cover. The volume controls and headset jack are conveniently located on the side and feel high quality to the touch. No loose headset connection where if you don’t press it in just right the stereo sound turns mono and the audio gets scratchy. And while it’s not usual to like the on/off button on a computer or tablet, the large button on the end of the built-in battery with a very clean motion when pushed is a welcome role model for what buttons on computers should feel like. Also impressive is the screen, with 1280X800 max resolution and a built-in graphics processor which delivers the quality needed for everything from writing documents  to watching YouTube videos and playing games.

 

Pricing as of Jan. 2014:

The ThinkPad 8 convertible tablet configure to order models start at $399 and Topseller
models start at $429.  The Yoga Tablet 8 starts at $199 and the Yoga Tablet 10 starts at $275.00.

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series for Techlicious Lenovo blogger program  I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.