An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Pink Unicorns and Purple Rain April 21, 2017

Filed under: Eats,Independence — edamomie @ 2:56 pm

However it appears – in plain sight in the form of a Pink Unicorn, or hidden in marinara sauces or salad dressings – sugar is masquerading behind its feel-good mask.

But make no mistake, it is an addiction. Sugar is the new tobacco. We’re still fighting tobacco use and seeing a resurgence in labeling and awareness ads thanks to the introduction of vaping and the e-cigarette, but we can look to it as a model of how to handle our sugar education and intake. Is sugar addiction along the same lines as drug and alcohol abuse? Some argue no, but when this was all coming into public light in 2014, the Huff Post article quoted Dr. Lustig, the California doctor and creator of Sugar: The Bitter Truth, (2009 YouTube video with 7M views) as saying: “Every substance of abuse -– cocaine, heroin, you name it -– has required social or personal intervention,” says Lustig. “For sugar we have nothing, and my prediction is that we will need both.”

Social Intervention

PinkUnicorn_01Anti-tobacco campaigns could be repurposed – just swap out sugar. In fact, when I followed a link to Starbuck’s limited time availability Unicorn Frap, up popped a Stop the Start MN anti-tobacco campaign promo video sighting the dangers of tobacco companies’ appeal to teens through social media. Enter in the #PinkUnicorn.

Can you imagine the government cracking down on retailers and baristas and mandating that a portion of their profits fund anti-sugar campaigns? What might that look like? “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that sugar is harmful in significant amounts –- not necessarily because it’s high in calories but rather because it triggers a toxic chain of reactions in the body that produce harmful fats, hormones and other metabolic by-products. Sugar is a direct cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases, as well as obesity.”

Like any warning label, it’s one small (but significant) step in the entire picture. More education, better alternatives, consumer preferences spoken with their dollar, and social responsibility coming from a balance of government, business and consumer initiatives and actions is needed. A quick search revealed groups like the World Anti-Sugar Campaign, movements like Fed Up (2014 documentary on sugar complete with a 10-day challenge) and significant activity around this topic over the past two years.

Recently a friend of mine, Carie LaRock Allen (both of us moms of tweens and teens), invited me to join The Sweet Freedom Summit (Apr 10-17, 2017) to hear targeted talks from experts in their fields on the subject of sugar.

Personal Intervention

PinkUnicorn_02I tried to carve out as much time as a could to listen to these interviews. One that jumped out was a talk entitled Break Up With Sugar by Sara Vance, nutritionist and author. It resonated because she talked about it as a family affair and specifically addressed how our body develops a sugar addiction in childhood, which is intensified as kids grow into their teens. Teen boys are the highest offenders (Calvin, my 12YO, will soon fall into this category). They consume drinks full of sugar tipping their average daily sugar intake to 28.3 teaspoons (National Health and Nutrition Survey) when the daily recommended amount is 8 teaspoons. (See: Are Our Kids Eating Toxic Amounts of Sugar?)

I sat down with Calvin a few evenings ago to watch Vance’s video. He humored me, but afterward he lashed out — I’m active, What do you mean give up soda and sugary cereals? What am I supposed to eat?
Sugar intake has been a sore subject in our household for at least the past three years. It used to be that I could control it more, but with tween independence and a little spending cash, trips to Kowalski’s for soda and candy, etc I’m convinced I need to work harder and be more thoughtful in my approach with him. This kid loves sugar. I once found a bowl of cake mix, just dry cake mix with a spoon, tucked away in his room. I could site many other slightly appalling incidents, but the point is they need to make their own decisions and choose better.

I have a 14YO daughter too. Fancy coffee drinks, like the Pink Unicorn, are the enemy there. Maybe Starbucks and other barista bars could help us out with portion control and modifications to the norm? In my experience it’s hit or miss with the term “light whip,” but they mostly get my “half syrup” request correct (can we make that the norm?) Don’t even get me started on Shamrock Shakes.

I have a sweet tooth myself. I know it starts with parents as role models so I am going to take the 10 Day Challenge. This will mean giving up food and beverages like my beloved white chocolate mochas and my morning square of Ghiradelli. But not before I test out a Pink Unicorn…

PinkUnicorn_03I went in skeptically and came out pleasantly surprised, which is actually no surprise given my tastebuds. They went into sensory overload experiencing sweet and fruity to tangy and tart with a hint of sour in the powder. I ordered a “tall” 39 grams of sugar (or nearly 8 teaspoons, the max daily allowance) and strolled the block from Starbucks to First Avenue to see if Prince’s anniversary flowers were flooding the sidewalk. Not yet. It’s not even raining. I finished about half of my drink and give it a rest. Verdict: I am hopeful Starbucks keeps their five-day only whimsical drink just a passing fantasy. I’m already addicted.

For now, I’m doing the challenge and starting the family on alternate breakfast options. Say goodbye to breakfast out of a sugary box, especially if it comes with unicorns, leprechauns or Wonder Woman. Who’s with me? What’s working/ not working for you and your teens?

— #RIPPrince, In Minnesota, the unicorns should be purple.


The Evolution of the Birthday July 17, 2016

Filed under: Independence — edamomie @ 8:59 am
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My son, Calvin, turned 11 late June and here it is, July 17, nearly a month after his birthday and I’m just getting around to reflecting upon it. I’m usually more of the moment, but his birthday celebrations have been going on for just that long. Really. Not my fault.

Birthday Presence

Birthday Presence


This year, an on-the-ball mom and friend of mine got her invites out early and marked the day before Calvin’s birthday for her son’s birthday party. Summer gets busy with kids at camp and weekends at the cabin. It was totally fine by Cal and me (she was thoughtful enough to consult with us and even sent Cal home with a special birthday cupcake!). He was jazzed to be at a sleepover at his friends even though it bumped out his birthday party with friends about three weeks.

Per the ushe, we were last-minute gift shopping for the family celebration on his actual birthday, a Sunday. This used to stress me out, now that’s the only way we roll. And truthfully a full 12 hours in advance left plenty of time for thoughtful selection, but in the case of the Stephen Curry shoes unavailable in his size that needed to be shipped, not so much (they would arrive 2 days after his birthday).

Golf with the Gilhois

Golf with the Gilhois


Calvin’s older sister, Ava, and I took on the arduous task of shopping — I jest, we fully don’t mind it. We took the afternoon the day before to scout out the afore mentioned shoes, golf shorts and fancy belt from Under Armor, PlayStation4 NBA 2K and a Nerf gun of the bizillionth variety. Check to it all. Some of it even got gift wrapped. There was even a heartfelt card from his sometimes pain-of-a-sister (who deep down loves him unconditionally and vice versa). It was a nice, low-key, little family party on the day of his birthday plus he got in 18 holes of golf, despite the heat and humidity.


When the boys rolled in around 8:00p.m. after golf, Calvin seemed pretty beat. Selfishly, I was not. I had spent the afternoon in the air-conditioning. I had not planned, hosted and corralled wild-spirited 11-year-old boys for a birthday party. I was relaxed, reflective and feeling so much love for this sweet boy, who is wise beyond his years.

Skyzone Prep Bench

Skyzone Prep Bench


The friend birthday outing would come later — just a few friends that fit in my car and a visit to Skyzone for the afternoon, followed by pizza, movies and candy I don’t even want to know about (and I didn’t — I was at the Guthrie enjoying South Pacific!). And because it was a #lateover (a phenomenon I discovered around the time of Ava’s 12th birthday), my husband dropped all of the boys off at their homes around 10:00p.m. Brilliance as far as I’m concerned!


Did I make his birthday special enough? What about Ava’s 13th birthday we celebrated super low-key early June, was that special enough? I couldn’t help but ask. I reminded myself that they’re calling the shots now. They don’t need princess parties or packed pinatas to enjoy their special days. Was it just my crazed mother mind that made it so for previous birthdays? And why did I go to so much work and fret planning birthday parties of the past? I like to think it’s just the evolution of a birthday and chalk it up to that. No looking back now — we’ve hit the tween and teen years. We’ve evolved.
— Happy 11th Birthday, oh my wise Calvin!


More Sweet Than Bitter: 13 June 10, 2016

Filed under: Independence — edamomie @ 6:45 am
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I: Independence

My little girl is 13. And it came without any of the drama or flurry of past birthdays filled with balloons, cake and slumber-less nights. She wanted to spend her birthday with family. We were honored.



Happy Hour at Benihana

We made an entire weekend out of it. It was all about Ava. With an early June birthday, the transition to new digits has always come along with the transition of the school year. This year she said goodbye to seventh grade without looking back, welcoming the independence rumored to be given to eighth graders as head of the school.


It was time to transition. From the stories being reported at dinner time over the last three weeks, it became clear that a restlessness that tried both teachers and students patience was heightening. I think that was a factor as we talked a month in advance about her birthday about plans for that day. She was totally fine with a low-key celebration.


It went like this. After school last Friday, the day before her actual birthday, her brother came home with a Good Manners certificate from fourth grade for Benihana just as we were contemplating how Ava wanted to spend her evening. That solved the first pressing question of where to go for dinner. The usual roadblock of my husband ixnaying the Mall of America wasn’t even a factor — he took the only Apple Genius Bar appointment in town for an immediate fix for his iphone.



Gray and PINK is trending…

We arrived at Benihana with no reservations and a 20 minute estimated wait. Perfect time to run to Sephora to let Ava hand-select part of her birthday present from her mom; while Chad and Calvin ran off to find their birthday gift for her. We opted for bar seating versus the fancy chef prep tables (next time and WITH a reservation!) and were pleasantly surprised. It was happy hour. A few banana berry smoothies and passion fruit drinks later, we were happy with our dining experience and the price, which included $15 off for Cal’s Good Manners certificate (#HaleToday).


We popped into Lids after dinner to pick up Ava’s birthday present from the boys. An embroidered AGJ on a gray pinstriped baseball hat. A hit. Then it was off to see Jungle Book and with Ava just under 13 by a hair, got her last kid-priced movie ticket at $6. Sad to see that era come to an end. Now she can legitimately see PG-13 movies, another milestone.


Must Enter 13 Caffeinated!


The next day was an open book. We paid a visit to the mall. No surprises there! She used some of her birthday money at PINK and Abercrombie and Francesca’s. This girl was glowing with new gray sweats, jean shorts and an adorable wide-brimmed hat for the summer. I wanted to bottle that up.


The afternoon was spent at home. I believe the term is chillaxin’. Her dad brought home a gift from H&M for her — tossed it to me, knowing I am the queen of recycled gift bags, tissue paper and bows. I quickly critiqued it, another gray sweatshirt, sweatshorts? I bit my tongue — I so want to see her in color. You know what, she loved her gift. Go figure.


We enjoyed take-out from from Quangs on Nicollet- pho and spring rolls; followed by french silk pie. Later that eve, we caught up on Once, the ABC series that duals characters in fairytale and Storybrooke real worlds. I feel like we’ve been watching this an eternity… I mean, it’s wickedly good, but will it ever, ever end?


The Style of 13: Gray, PINK and Lots of Sunshine!


Sunday, I had a project. Ava was perfectly content on her own. Not really sure what she did while I tackled my business finances. Oh wait, we did a quick facial mask together late morning. When our paths crossed in the house again, it was mid-afternoon and we rallied the family for a trip to Nokomis. I took our dog, Copper, for a run around while Chad and kids lounged on the beach. Lazy afternoon.


We ended it on that note. With nary a call or outreach to her friends. They will be there this summer for pool, beach and movie outings over long summer days. For now, I just want to revel in the bittersweet passing of tween to teen. Beautifully executed, Ava. We love you!




Queen of Hearts for a Day November 1, 2015

A: Activities and I: Independence

My kids inherited the Halloween gene. While you might say that this proves true for every child — what kid doesn’t like a pillowcase full of candy? — the fact that they start scheming and envisioning their costume as early as June places them in the slightly obsessive category. They owe this debt of gratitude for the love of planning the costume and going to painstaking lengths to ensure its perfection, to my husband. And maybe my handy, if not limited, sewing skills.

Queen_Halloween_MakeUpThis halloween, my 12 year-old daughter, Ava, envisioned the Queen of Hearts three months before the spooky holiday neared. She found a DIY costume video from a teen pop culture icon, Bethany Mota (#SpookBook), on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland version of the Queen of Hearts character inspired by the actress Helena Bonham Carter.

Two months out, we made our list of stuff we would need: fabric: red, red lace and gold brocade; thread, black corset, red ribbon, black elastic, gold fabric paint, red jewels, a dowel rod, gold piping and gold foil for the scepter; funky black tights, black felt, hot glue gun and sticks and of course, the make up.

We hit Joann Fabrics for the first round of items. For the first time in 20 years, I actually bought a sewing pattern for the skirt (typically I just pull something out of my closet with a similar cut and improvise). The red skirt complete with interfacing, waistband and a zipper presented numerous challenges and creative differences. My Brother sewing machine needed a $75 tune-up. Halloween costumes of the past with glittered to sequined fabric had taken its toll. We used too thick of a thread for our satin fabric. Ava accidentally cut out a small chunk of the nearly completed skirt. We sewed in the zipper upside down. The list goes on…


The most challenging part was the red lace overlay. The entire skirt was a Project Runway #MakeItWork moment. We were three weeks in and Ava was starting to wane — this is a ton of work for a costume I’m going to wear for four hours! Let’s just buy a costume at the store. I assured her, we would see the project through. We were already $80 (+ $75 for repairs) into the project.

By five weeks in, we came at it with renewed energy on a quest to find the red tutu and black corset for less than $30 and $50, respectively. We ended up finding a $6 red tutu at Michaels and a $16 Bebe corset at NuLook Consignment. Perfect moment for a refresher course on our Halloween costume budget and the meaning of DIY. Ava was quite focused on executing the costume to every exacting detail she saw in the video. I stressed the importance of using things we already had on hand and reinventing our own version — creative and economical. We shared some very vocal creative differences again… and resolved them.


At seven weeks in (one week away from Halloween), we visited Spirit Halloween in search of my 10 year-old son’s costume. Ava was immediately drawn to the $59.99 Queen of Hearts costume in the bag. It was jumping off the rack, speaking to her. It would be so easy… She was practically begging me to buy it. I held firm if a bit incredulous she’d push to go that route after our efforts. I assured her that now was the fun part.


And it was. We put all of the details together little by little throughout Halloween week. By Friday (the day before Halloween), it was pretty solid and she was fairly confident. Halloween day, I picked up black tights for $5 at Target and Ava’s aunt Katie (@Glamwhip), once again showed her awesome skills as a make-up artist. We had pinned away the night before (Pinterest Board: Queen of Hearts) and she came with all of the make-up and ideas ready to go on Halloween. I found my wedding crown and Katie used that in the glam up-do. Ava stepped into my velvet heels and the role of the queen.

Ava’s friends came over around 6:00 on Halloween to enjoy hotdish, hotdogs (#mummydogs) and hotcakes (chocolate cupcakes); head out trick or treating, then just hung out at our house til 10:00. The make-up came off with some persistence (the heels had been shred long before in favor of her Converse) and the candy was counted. It was def a DIY Halloween filled with lots of good lessons on creativity and perseverance with a pricetag of $115, if that’s a factor.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


Bases Loaded Going into the Tenth June 27, 2015

Filed under: Independence — edamomie @ 8:16 am
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I: Independence

10YO Coolness

10YO Coolness

The scheming and theming might be over. Upon Calvin’s calendar reaching double digits, having a party theme that looks like you tried too hard, in his 10-year-old words is not very cool, Mom. I could hardly find a plain enough Evite to send out for the party and it was made clear that the plates and napkins were to be solid colors only.

I thought once we hit Party City he’d warm up to some decor, perhaps a baseball theme since he’d really stepped up to the plate with the Brewers, Richfield baseball this season. Alas, he stood firm. I barely talked him into four solid color balloons. The cashier empathized, How old? me: 10; cashier: Consider yourself lucky. My son is 13. All he wanted for his birthday last week was a ride for him and his friends to the movie theater. Nothing else. 

Ticket Redemption

Ticket Redemption


Well, I reasoned, if it’s the end of an era, so be it. I’d just like to hold on to their littleness for awhile longer. Reflecting on previous parties from pizza and a movie (age 6), Lego My Eggo (age 7), Flip this Room (age 8, all about the remodel) and Skyzoning Out (age 9), we’d had a good run of theme-oriented fun. This year, we chose Grand Slam, a laser-tag, mini-golf and krazy kar extravaganza.

We set the party date for a Friday and offered to shuttle the boys from Minneapolis to Grand Slam’s Burnsville location with a 4:00p.m. drop off. All parents took us up on this offer and we were out the door by 4:20 and with shameless use of the I-35W carpool lane during rush hour, we arrived at Grand Slam by 4:40. Jim, headmaster at the complex, allowed us to check in at 4:45, prior to our official 5:00 start time. He also had great suggestions about the order of events from laser tag to mini golf to pizza, then krazy kars to arcade. I would’ve gotten these all out of order.

My husband and I played Win, Lose or Deal and then played mini golf with the boys, which was much better than sitting on a bench in non-participatory mode. I appreciated the boys’ age, the little monitoring required and the super-easy process at Grand Slam. All for $14.95 a kid (Package #3). Since we were transporting all of the boys, I opted not to bring the triple-layer, double-fudge cake into the venue. We saved that and the presents for our house.

Too Quick for Candles

Too Quick for Candles

The boys burned off some energy playing laser tag no doubt. As a result, switching gears to mini golf when they were ready for a more focused activity, worked well. The course was close-knit without much breathing room, but I appreciated the Pirates of the Caribbean meets The Truman Show vibe they created. Golf was followed by pizza and pop and all sorts of goofiness, which was really sweet, actually.

The boys ended the eve there burning through the six tokens included in their package. Some were lucky to hit jackpots and collect 250+ tickets spewing out of the machines only to discover 500 tickets would only get them a packet of gummi bears. I appreciated that restraint. It forced each boy to carefully select one meaningful item from the ticket redemption area.

I enjoyed a more subdued ride back to our house, with that one special item in each of their hands. When all the boys took their places at the table, we cut into the cake. I’m sad to report that I only got 5 of the 10 candles lit before impatience pre-empted my lighting (we would make up for this during the half-cake family b-day later that weekend). And yes, cake was served on solid color plates.

BD Swag Bag Items

BD Swag Bag Items

Cal decided that for this year’s party, he wouldn’t mind gifts. We had a rapid-fire opening of them and most all translated well to the front lawn from lawn darts to Nerf guns — and they all needed to immediately be tested. Calvin does like his gifts, but he also really enjoyed picking out each and every item that went into each invitee’s birthday swag bag. There were squishy basketballs, paddleballs, bouncy balls and gumballs (Ha! It’s a theme).

The parents arrived promptly at 8:30 and the house had quieted by 8:41 or something close to that. I found myself totally cool with the downplay of the theme and the mellowness that was my son’s tenth year celebration. It’s definitely a whole new era.


The Age of The Lateover June 7, 2015

Crafty Paper
I: Independence

The end of the school year is always a flurry of activity, so why not throw a birthday celebration into the mix? The celebration, in honor of my 12-year-old, Ava, would be very non-princess, very non-pink and very bold.

Unlike past birthday parties I’ve thrown for Ava including Disco Superstars (age 8), Babycakes (age 9), Peace, Love and Balloons (age 10) and Twisted Princess (age 11), this one would be notably different in many ways.

First-– we based the party theme around the Avengers, The Age of Ultron, devoid of princesses (unless you count the movie’s female superhero, Black Widow).

Second — it was a progressive party of sorts. We went from our house to the park, to the theater and back to our house. Change of venue kept the momentum up and me with less busy-work and entertaining.

Starry ShieldsThird – my daughter didn’t even ask for a sleepover, it was a lateover. This new term was brought to my attention by the guy sitting next to me at the theater and the father of another 12 year-old girl whose wife had shoed him out of the house during his daughter’s party. Basically it’s a late end to the party — in our case 10:00p.m.. — that pushes parental limits.

After years of birthday parties for Ava where I’m running a bit much, this year, the girls’ ages made it super simple, mind you never less loud.The party began at 3:00, right after the bell on the last day of the school year which included a Grand Slam field trip with their entire sixth grade class. When I picked up half of the crew at school, they looked ready for some down time. After the other half arrived via a rowdy bus ride, they all quietly watched about an hour and 15 minutes  of Once, before I summoned them away to sneak in a 20 minute activity making superhero shields.

Girly MonkeysI wasn’t sure how this would go over. It was borderline and risky, but either the girls humored me or had fun with the making of their bedazzled shields. We used cardboard cake plates as the base and traced and cut circles and stars in varying shapes using craft paper in blue, red, sliver glitter and black stripes (Michaels). With packing tape, we adhered a faux leather bracelet from a DIY kit to the back of each shield. Cap (Captain America) would be proud.

Weapons aside, the pizza delivery guy showed up around 4:45. He parked in the wrong direction and at a diagonal, like his life depended on this delivery. I thanked him for his superhero speed and in turn, the girls downed the two pizzas in about three minutes. Post pizza, they played with shields and musical instruments and harmonized to the Disney parody Thank You BP, then were ready to head to destination two: Veteran’s Park.

The new apparatuses for climbing and zipping at Veteran’s were impressive. I hadn’t visited there with the kids lately so it was nice to let them run wild for an hour while my husband (co-shuttler for the night) and I chilled on a park bench. I noted their advanced monkey skills at this age, climbing, swinging, jumping with agility.

After tMarvelous Birthday Cakehey numbered off diplomatically for who was to go in each car, we made the quick trek to Southdale AMC for the 7:05 showing of Avengers: The Age of Ultron. My 10-year-old son actually wanted in on his sister’s party this year as did my husband. The three of us sat together in the row behind the six girls. True to form at Southdale AMC and 20 minutes of trailers later, the 2:21 movie was rolling. It was a bit of a gamble taking 12-year-olds to see a PG-13 movie so I was a little concerned on the suitability. In discussions after, most gave the movie high ratings for action, pace, story, characters and humor. I thought the action in back to back scenes was a bit intense. I was not following some of the pending end-of-the-world drama either. It had me wondering about an additional suitability rating like CG-35. With this rating, you’d know going in that if you’re over age 35, your child (or a child) will need to explain certain parts of the movie to you.

During the car ride home I received the tweens’ explanation of the movie. I’m still not sure how good and evil got so mixed up within Ultron and why Bruce Banner grew exponentially as The Hulk, when in the TV show he went from 180lbs to 250lbs. One bright friend of Ava’s proclaimed herself the biggest nerd and relayed all the Avengers facts my 35+ mind could fathom. I was starting to catch on, but I couldn’t help but think that a 1.21 versus 2.21 film duration might have lessened the confusion.

The movie trailers and length put us home at 9:48, just in time for a rapid fire light of 12 candles (not possible), the birthday song, cake and ice cream. The girls’ timely parents all arrived, some yawning, at or very close to 10:00. I’m such an efficiency girl that I note all five guests were out the door and it was quiet by 10:17.

Cake Eating with AvengenceAva was exhausted, but happy with her party turnout and the reminder that school’s out for summer. She went to bed. I reflected on the sweetness of her last tween-year birthday, the age of 12 and the lateover while enjoying my piece of cake. Then I went directly to bed myself with no worries of preparing pancakes for six in the morning.


Total Drama Island: Tween Therapy December 13, 2014

Filed under: Independence — edamomie @ 7:06 am
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I: Independence


TDI Group Inappropriately Dressed for the Island


Please make the eye-rolling stop. The aaaarrrrghs and frustrations on both mine and my tween daughter’s parts are a regular occurrence. Not to say this emotional state is constant, it’s just more interspersed among the easy-going conversations that used to be the norm. Sometimes it escalates to Total Drama Island (TDI).


If you’ve never watched TDI, don’t roll your eyes just yet. I happened upon the kids’ interest in this show last spring and took some time to check it out for myself. I’m obsessive on Lost, but only a lukewarm viewer of Survivor, which is the show that TDI spoofs. The animated series from Canada recounts the misadventures at Camp Wawanakwa, an island retreat where 22 teens compete in extreme challenges while vying for the $100,000 grand prize. Every three days, at a campfire ceremony, the host passes out marshmallows to players who are safe. The sad camper who doesn’t get a marshmallow must walk down the Dock of Shame to the Boat of Losers, which will bear him back to his mundane life.


Courtney, TDI Animated Reality Star

Courtney, TDI Animated Reality Star


TDI, on air for four seasons since its original air date in July 2007, was created based on researching findings on what teens did and didn’t like about reality TV programs. Common Sense Media gave TDI 4 out of 5 stars. And TDI content, aimed at 12-18 year-olds, was a 4.5 by my 9 and 11 year-old’s ranking (Courtney and Duncan got their votes for the island’s IT couple, pictured here).


As tweens start to have more emotional imbalance and complex relationships, households can feel like a total drama island. When the kids were younger, I sometimes felt like our family was its own little island – intentionally, blissfully isolated from the outside world. Now, we can still be that island, but rather than always sharing campfires on the beach, sometimes we want to climb up our own tree and find a private haven. In fact, that’s a lot more common.


Duncan, TDI Top Vote

Duncan, TDI Top Vote

It’s occurred to me once or twice that I may have been a difficult teen. As parents our natural inclinations are to fix things for our children. We help them overcome uncomfortable emotions, sometimes by rationalizing, downplaying or covering them up. I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing, but I’m always testing different approaches. This usually involves commiserating when the mood is low, offering to toss dishware into the fireplace, stomp or scream; or just dramatically changing up the scenery to bring an alternate perspective to the challenge at hand. Sometimes just letting her know her feelings are validated then leaving her be is the best solution.


My take on Total Drama Island is divided into two drama-causing halves (not to even mention the hormonal changes going on behind the scenes): 1. the relationship-induced drama (cited in the prior paragraph) and 2. the daily-task, energy-level induced drama. As a parent, I get swept up in the daily drama, most noticeably in the chaotic morning and whenever we leave the house to be somewhere by a specific time. I wish it were easier to locate a matching pair of socks, a sharp pencil for homework, random field trip forms and the like. It just isn’t, but I continue to work on this with the children, bless them.


Dockside Manners: TDI Relationships

Dockside Manners: TDI Relationships

Sending them off on their day on the right foot is so important. It gives them a foundation to feel confident and make good choices. There have been mornings I regret — all in a rush to make an insane school start time of 7:30a.m. Everyday I get in that last “have a good day,” send off and a kiss if I’m lucky, but the events leading up to send off could have been less TDI.


Living in the daily emotion for tweens and teens and working through them confidently is a skill. Sometimes I wonder if I know the navigation well enough to impart these skills. I do admit (a lot) that I’m not perfect, I have my own issues and I don’t know what to do about said dramatic situation. Watching TDI might be some suggested co-therapy or an outlet and OMG! lucky for you and your tween, there are 93 episodes on Netflix available now.


A Journey Through Movie Season November 9, 2014

I: Independence

It’s movie season in Minnesota. It’s Option A for cold-weather climates. This season, our family is in an interesting era for appropriateness and interest-level for movie-going.  I’ve had my eye on the PG-13 movies for years, even more so now that my daughter is 11 and my son is nine. Just maybe they’re old enough to see some PG-13 movies. I push the boundaries because I’ve paid my PG dues for seven years now.


Lego Movie FansI’ve seen everything from Happy Feet (my daughter’s first movie in a theater when she was four) to Yogi Bear (2010) and Rio (2011) (don’t bother seeing Rio 2; 2014) to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) (don’t bother seeing Cloudy 2). I guess I should be thanking my kids. There were some great films along the way. Their dialogue remains part of our vocabulary and voices inspired by movies like Cars, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Ratatouille and more recently The Lego Movie.


We own a modest amount of movies on DVD, but I prefer the theater experience. It used to be that my kids really didn’t have a say in the matter of movie selection. I’d choose a movie, they’d happily go along. Now, I have to make a case for the movie. The little critics both have to watch the trailer and it goes up for a vote. Often times, I lose. Their movie over mine or not to see one at all. Sometimes Calvin, my son, will cave with a little pressure because he’s craving popcorn or Gummy Bears. Truth.


Loaded Up with Popcorn for Despicable Me 2A few months ago we saw Captain America based on a family vote as our collective second choice among a list of movies. I went into it with the expectation of seeing yet another superhero action-packed movie. I was pleasantly surprised.The kids both liked it too. It was PG-13, but I still felt it was suitable for them. I thought back to a few PG movies that felt PG-13 to me, like Where the Wild Things Are. Everyone has their own opinion on what’s appropriate, but websites like Is This Movie Suitable and CommonSense help parents sort out movie subject matter, so parents can determine appropriateness. It’s still a bit of a gamble.


The next gamble I took occurred last week when I stumbled on The 100 Foot Journey. No, it wasn’t PG-13, merely PG. Critics and audiences alike gave stars freely. As I read reviews other elements aligned. My daughter takes French, the movie takes place in France. The family in the film is from India with an accent we’re very fond of trying to replicate based on several viewings of Life of Pi. My case was built, but could I convince the kids to go?


Riverview: Our Fave Movie TheaterMy son was an adamant no when I first pitched the movie to him on a Tuesday afternoon. Then he studied the trailer, paused a moment and said sure, we can go. My daughter was swept away from her homework and en route to the Riverview Theater, she watched the trailer. She was an easier sell. This drama film fell into a divergent category outside of our norm. Plus this film runs 124 minutes (as opposed to our usual PG average around 90-100 minutes). I crossed my fingers that it would all go well. Otherwise, who knows when I’d earn their trust back.


This film was a good gamble. All three of us enjoyed it and I found myself wishing for more films like this. The characters were so believable. Every element from culinary to scenery (South France and Paris) enticed me. The family feud was full of life lessons played out meaningful ways. And most meaningful to me: to produce a film with passion and deep context, without the swearing and sexual content that accompanies most dramas of this type. It was simply refreshing and uplifting.


The kids’ review: my son caught that Steven Spielberg co-produced it (with Oprah Winfrey for DreamWorks Pictures) and that meant something to him. He said something like, yeah, well Spielberg produced it, it has to be a great movie. My daughter replayed a few scenes in the car ride home. She thought the relationship between Helen Mirren and Om Puri most curious as their characters cleverly take their status from hate to love.


It was a good adventure in film for this family. What movies are you parents taking your tweens to this season? We are open to recommends.


Blogging: A Three-Year Disappearing Act February 1, 2014

Filed under: Independence — edamomie @ 9:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I: Independence

It’s been eons since I’ve posted a blog. Since my initial blog in November 2010, when the kids were five and seven, I went from weekly postings (Nov 2010 – Oct 2011), to bi-weekly postings (Nov 2011- Dec 2012), to monthly (Jan 2013- Oct 2013) to a significant hiatus (Nov 2013 – Jan 2014). Now, three years into edamomie, the kids are eight and ten. I’ve posted 102 blogs and seen almost 20,000 views. So what’s with my three-month leave of absence? I’ve been pondering this for a while and recently, when checking out 200 some food-oriented bloggers for a client, I discovered a pattern. Many blogs run about three years, then disappear.


When these blogger’s posts trailed off, they acknowledged this gap, explained their absence – I moved, new career, no time/something had to give, started a new blog, etc – and either recommitted or as in most cases, disappeared. I’m not sure which category I’m in yet.


What’s behind this common disappearing act?


The Fun-Factor and Freedom of Choice:
Bloggers all start with a passion to share their thoughts and ideas and many of them set a consistent schedule, i.e. committing to one post a week for one year, like I did. No one’s forcing a post. It’s sharing for fun. When the novelty wears off and there’s no one telling you that you have to post something because they desperately miss you (although my family and friends have wondered, What’s up?), you can stop. That’s the beauty of it too — free choice.


Forced Exploration:
For many, adhering to a schedule and generating content forces the exploration and discovery process. When I was blogging weekly, I was engaging the kids in projects, ideas, outings, etc. Some of this happened spontaneously while other times, I deliberately sought out content for my blog. Either way, it caused me to be thoughtful, frequent and proactive in planning in the types of activities we did.


The Purpose:
Bloggers don’t always receive comments and the futility of posting something no one will read weighs on us. For me, I started writing about my experiences with my kids as a form of scrapbooking, which I abandoned shortly after their third birthdays (read: guilt complex). My purpose for blogging was to create more of a picture album and diary of our lives. Of course, my family soaked this stuff up, but beyond that, what did I care who read my blog? It was a positive, creative outlet for me and a glimpse back into the kids’ lives for them at some future date.


Community and Interaction:
There’s also this blogging community where bloggers of like-minded subjects follow and comment on each other’s blogs. Interaction happens and this is rewarding, inspirational and educational at times. In the absence of interaction, we look at our stats and if xx people viewed us yet we have no comments, we tend to be okay with that. However if our goal is to gain likes and comments and there are few, this becomes a reason to jump ship.


Stop the Photo Madness!

Stop the Photo Madness!

Social Networks:
I also considered how the rise of new social networking channels played a role. For me, I became an avid Instagram user in Nov 2012 and essentially started posting my stories previously in blog format, with instant, filtered photos that captured an immediate slice of our lives. Did I really need to blog about the entire experience?  It seemed redundant and less compelling. Or maybe I was just getting lazy.


To top it off, my subjects who started as my five year-old son and seven year-old daughter, grew up. Last year at ages seven and nine, they turned into sometimes non-compliant participants who did not always want to have their picture taken or their lives documented in detail. Often times, I would take photos of their silhouette or obscure them in the background, but when they began expressing their concern with my writing/posting, it became clear I needed to back off.


In summary, the causes cited for a blogger’s exit include lack of interesting content, fading fun-factor, disinterest in the topic(s), shortage of time, decreasing rewards and interaction, new and improved social channels for sharing and other focuses. And in general, it takes about three years of blogging for these causes to equal an exit.


I talked with my kids about my (our) blog. I told Ava, As a parent, I have so many concerns about issues, I could refocus my efforts there. She asked me, what do you want to write about? I listed a few topics like super-short school recess, parental slavery to kids’ athletic and extracurricular pursuits, allergies: food and environmental, online and technology norms and behaviors and how to make dinner when your parents are out. She said, Cool, you should write about that then. She would say that.


The Dogs are Barking April 22, 2013

I: Independence (or lack of…) and U: The Unknown

Dreaming of Dogs: All About Brand Loyalty

Dreaming of Dogs: All About Brand Loyalty

My nine year-old daughter, Ava, has  been dreaming about dogs for a good year now. Off and on. From Yorkies to Pomeranians. Dinner-time quizzes and questionnaires, weekend bursts of chore-activity to show stellar responsibility and more.


After a recent trip to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, she is slowly swaying me toward strongly considering getting a dog. Her interest level is so keen right at this moment. Her younger brother, seven year-old Calvin, is not quite as keen. He’s a bit lukewarm, in fact. Ideally, he’d have the same level of interest as her. Or I would, for that matter.


Pitbull Mix

Pitbull Mix

My husband grew up with dogs. I did not. I am definitely a tougher sell.  I think I’m being hit up now because the family thinks the sleepless nights of the toddler years are long forgotten. I’ve had a good solid four years of predictable nightly sleep patterns. Am I ready to be sleepless again?  …maybe let’s forgo puppy stage and get a fully grown dog then? It’s an option, but not one that Ava is too excited about.


Pleeeeease take me home!

Pleeeeease take me home!

For the sake of pursuing this dog-scenario, let’s say we all agree to get a puppy. How to find the right one for our family is the question. The humane society doled out sheets of info in helpful categories based on dog traits and characteristics: Toys, Spaniels, Retrievers, Property Guards, Pointers*, Sled Dogs, Herding Dogs, Scent Hounds, and Sight Hounds.


Then we hit up the library straight after our visit to check out “Everything Dogs,” “Dogs for Dummies, and my personal fave, “Weimaraners*.” Ava is also able to reference recently library books from school: “Yorkshire Terriers Are the Best!” (mid-March) and “Pomeranians Are the Best!” (mid-April) and multiple online sources.


I would say we’re an active family. Active in two senses: 1. we’re on the go (weekends at the grandparents; sports/eve activities, etc) 2. we’re physically active (running, biking, etc). So we need a dog that is fine being on their own for long stretches of time, but when we’re around, they’re eager to be very active and run fast! Leaning toward Pointer here with top as Weimaraner. But would our city lot allow for enough fenced-in outdoor space (which is a requirement for this breed)?


Just try and say no to me!

Just try and say no to me!

We do not need barking. This would rule out Ava’s front-runners in the Toy category including her beloved Yorkie. What about allergies? In this case, Labradoodles are the preferred choice for low-dander coats. However, they fall in the Retriever category which warns “Don’t expect unsupervised freedom in the house until after two years of age.” I’m beginning to believe it’s like finding a mate  — you definitely have your must-haves and the rest of the stuff, you need to overlook!


To dog-lovers out there: What’s your advice on breed, appropriate age for kids to have a dog, puppy vs dog, over-thinking, costs, training, etc? Need to be enlightened so we don’t end up barking up the wrong tree.


— all photos via Instagram and Instapics at instagram.com/jengilhoi


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