I made this!



Student created cover art. Amazing software from Balfour. Lots of photo contributions from parents. Sommer kids can look back on the year and cherish the memories.

Programming Apps for Kids

programming apps for kidsI recently reviewed several programming apps for Common Sense Media and wanted to give the rundown of a few hits, especially as summer approaches and kids have some time to focus on new projects. Developers are sensitive to exposing kids, especially girls, to STEM. What’s pretty cool about apps to introduce kids to programming is that meta element of a developer writing an app to help kids do what she does. Who knows better than a developer what future developers need to know?

I’ve seen the question posed of when is a good time to introduce kids to programming, and I’d say seven or so, for most kids. Not all of these apps would appeal to a seven-year-old, though, so read the reviews and think about your kid to decide what is most fitting.

My Robot Friend — $3.99

My Robot Friend is a LeapFrog app, but don’t think it’s for preschoolers. It’s probably the easiest entree in to the programming apps, though. Kids drag and drop directions to move a robot to its destination, eliminating obstacles in the way. Playing gets kids thinking in the steps and commands involved in coding.

Hopscotch HD — Free

With the colorful characters (sprites) and story-like environment, Hopscotch seems well-geared for typical girls. (I write typical because I know, since I live with one, that some girls will prefer the robots to the cutesy characters.) Kids drag and drop chucks of code in to place to create their programs.

Cargo-Bot — Free

Cargo-Bot was programmed on an iPad — pretty cool — to get kids thinking like programmers. Kids drag and drop commands into place to direct a robotic arm, and each command introduces kids to a programming concept. My programmer husband played it, too, and was pleased with the concepts included and the level of challenge.

Codea  — $9.99

Codea is a program designed specifically to write programs for the iPad. Cargo-Bot was written using Codea, which is based on the Lua programming language. Codea reminds me of sitting down with my Commodore 128 and the user manual and copying their programs and then altering them to see what happened. Kids can easily do the same with Codea and the many sample programs provided.


Happy Mother’s Day!

The Facebook Profile pic:

DSCF0912Aren’t we cute?DSCF0910


The reality of some moments:


As always, it was a tearful and joyoful Mother’s Day. Yesterday, we had a crafting / sewing day at church to make Little Dresses for Africa. Maybe I was already feeling raw, or maybe that triggered it. But I can’t sew. Granted not having a mom is no excuse for that. I can certainly take a class or teach myself, but yesterday, watching all these other women sewing and hearing some talking about getting their moms to help them finish up just hit me HARD. And, being Amanda, I am not good at all at hiding my emotions, so I tearfully packed up my sewing machine, took it to the car, said I was done (and when someone asked if I at least had fun, answered “NO! I did not.”) and proceeded to set up chairs for the next day’s service. Sweetly, two ladies thought they had offended me and came to apologize, and without going in to details, I assured them they did not offend me and that my emotions were not externally influenced at all. It was all me, internal stuff. Basically, I started my Mother’s Day pity party early.

I had my outfit and accessories, including my Mother’s Day heart-with-a-hole necklace, all picked out when I opened my gifts this morning. Elizabeth picked out two nightgowns for me. She wears nightgowns and wants me to, as well, instead of my usual pajama pants and t-shirt. And Caroline picked out a sweet silver necklace — a heart with a heart inside it that says MOM and YOU ARE LOVED on the back. I thought in my mind that I should wear that and it alone to church — let my daughter’s love fill that hole in my heart. Wouldn’t it be nice and neat if I could just close up that hole like that? But I wore both. Maybe another year, but I’m not holding high hopes for that. I can have a perfectly full heart, even with a little hole in it.



Daring Greatly

Last weekend I got away for two nights with the ladies from St. Julian’s. Church friends, new friends, and old friends came together — two dear friends who don’t officially call St. Julian’s home came, too — spend the weekend having fun and discussing shame and vulnerability. I was a small group leader, and I must admit, feel pretty inadequate at it. I gather from my friends that their groups opened up a lot more than mine did, and I know that is because I didn’t set the right tone. I tried to share, but I do think I already had a healthy shame attitude and that hindered my vulnerability as a group leader.

I enjoyed my time with friends, though, and at the house on the river in Gruene. The house was great! It slept 24 and had many bathrooms. I slept upstairs in an open area with two queen beds. We had a bathroom with a toilet and sink and next to it, by my bed, was a closet — that housed the shower! Talk about using every bit of space!


Thursday Therapy

Last Thursday, I wrote about wanting my girls to always have hope. Last night, I finished up reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The women at my church are reading it to discuss at this weekend’s retreat. The book is fabulous as are the findings of Brown’s research about shame and vulnerability — worthiness and loving and living wholeheartedly. I’m sure I’ll have lots to write after the weekend. What stood out to me last night, though, was how tied to resilience hope is. I knew that on some level. And in my grad studies, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and writing about the importance of challenge and struggle, getting to the other side of tough stuff and how important that is. Brown’s words are so concise and beautiful:

“Hope is a function of struggle. If we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness, we have to let them struggle. And let me tell you, next to love and belonging, I’m not sure I want anything more for my kids than a deep sense of hopefulness.”

Yeah. That.


Works for Me Wednesday — Fast Salt Dough

I volunteered to mix up some salt dough for Caroline’s class this week. The directions specified that the quality of the dough was directly impacted by how long I kneaded it. And I got bored pretty quickly with kneading it. A quick google search inspired me to throw it in my Kitchen Aid. (I think any heavy-duty stand mixer would do.) And voila! Quick and easy salt dough. So easy, I mixed up a batch for the girls to play with while I cooked dinner last night.

2 cups of flour

1 cup of salt

(mix together in mixer)

slowly add a cup of water with the mixer running on low speed

Just let ‘er go for five to eight minutes, until the dough forms a ball

Then the kids can create whatever they want (with cookie cutters or their hands). To dry it, bake it in a warm over (about 200 degrees) for an hour or leave it sitting out overnight. They can paint their creations when it’s dry.

Tech Tuesday — App Pick — Dinorama

I’ve played a lot of apps over the past six months, but a few have certainly stood out and that’s what Tech Tuesday will mostly be about.

Dinorama is one of those apps that is well worth the price tag because of the amount of time kids will spend engaged with it and the learning value it offers. You can read my full review and learning evaluation at the link. For $1.99, kids become entrepreneurs running a dinosaur amusement park. They have to balance finances while attracting customers and caring for the dinosaurs. I may enjoy it even more than the kids. Or I needed quite a bit of time to play and explore in order to adequately review it…yeah, that’s the ticket! If you have a road trip this summer and want an app that will keep kids busy for a few hours, this is a great choice!



Must-have Monday — Two Faced Matte Eye Shadow Collection

twofacedI have been wanting Too-Faced’s matte eye-shadow set for quite some time now and had a special Sephora coupon a couple of weeks ago and decided to finally get it! Don’t let the overly made-up eyes on the packaging discourage you — this can be a great natural daytime shadow, too.

I love that it is matte. That’s what I wanted. Maybe not all 39-year-olds agree, but me, personally, I am too old for shimmery or glittery eye shadow. And some many seem to have a touch of shimmer to them. Not this. And the colors include what I actually wear — shades of grays and browns with some pink/purple. (A little green would make this set absolutely perfect for this hazel eyed girl, though.)

For an everyday t-shirt and jeans casual look, I just use the three big colors and it’s just right. For a more pulled together and made up look, I can add one of the middle shades in the crease. And when I want a more dramatic look, I can add the last, darkest row as a liner.

Thursday Therapy

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

— Phillipians 4:6-8

I’m not a worrier. I don’t get overly anxious. I know that whatever troubles I encounter, I can get through — not that it will be easy, but that I can get through it. But boy, there’s some hard stuff going on in the world right now, and the reality is, I know that I am not immune. It may seem calloused, but some things don’t phase me as much as they do others. I don’t like crowds (or running), so my family isn’t going to be at a big event like the Boston Marathon. But Sandy Hook, that got me. Classrooms full of kids dying. And West, Texas. A small town blown up. So I pray. I pray for safety for my girls. For protection for them.

But above that, I pray for them to be resilient. The stories lately that really make my stomach churn are of these girls abused and then humiliated who took their own lives. These girls had probably the worst thing they could imagine happen to them, and then had it broadcast to their peers. And they felt so hopeless that they couldn’t see beyond that. So they ended it. That breaks my heart. This world is temporary. High school is especially temporary. Devastating situations are, too. As hard as it can seem to get past it, YOU DO. I remember when my mom was sick, when I realized that there was no doubt she was going to die. I planned it out a few different ways — mercifully killing us all, mommy, daddy, Mary, and myself. But I was never actually suicidal. I was too practical and realized that something could go wrong and one of us be left alone. That would be even worse. So, life went on. And it’s a wonderful life. You smile again. You laugh again.

No matter how bad it gets, it gets better. Sooner. Later. Or maybe not until eternity. But it gets better. So I pray for my daughters. For safety. For protection. For resilience. And that they always know hope.