Am I a Funny Girl?

Lock it up, lock it down, keep it safe with #LionLock

lionlock-disclosureI talked to you last month about general password management, and how LionLock can be a great solution for a busy parent/blogger/small business owner. This month, I want to tell you more about what makes LionLock such a great option, and why it’s really a safe way to go when you’re looking for a streamlined way to keep track of your passwords.
lionlock-cloud-storageLionLock stores your passwords in the cloud, not on your local machine. Kind of like having a safety deposit box at the bank is better than one in your bedroom closet, because your secrets are stored in the cloud, your passwords are safe even if your computer crashes… they’re always up to date no matter what machine you use to access them, and they aren’t being stored in a Word document or any desktop app, so no one can access them just by logging in to your computer.

I love the convenience of knowing that all of my passwords are available to me, safely stashed out of the hands of grubby bad guys.

I’ve created a picture in my head of just how safe my passwords are with LionLock; each of the systems that are in place are another layer of security.

  • The crazy internet is a zoo. (Bear with me, OK?)
  • The Vault system is the walls between exhibits, that make it impossible for a Secret to be viewable from any other Vault)
  • The AES-256 bit encryption is the electrified fence around the animals.
  • The SHA-512 hashing on all passwords is the lion in the cage
  • My passwords are the juicy steaks that the lion is saving for her dinner later.

Do you really want to think about what happens to someone who gets between a lion and her dinner?

Yeah, me neither.

  • There’s also a password generator to help you create safe, complex passwords and
  • SSL encryption between the LionLock website and your machine/device

But I’m out of ideas for my zoo metaphor. Maybe I should make the password generation algorithm be that slightly weird popcorn vendor that you think might be following you around but you aren’t really sure…

Where was I?

So yeah, your passwords are like steak being guarded by a lion.

Not bad, right?

 

Retail therapy delivered: February @StitchFix Review

My friend Amanda introduced to me to the wonder that is StitchFix last spring, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Why it’s taken me this long to review one of my boxes (this is my 5th one), I have no idea, but that’s not the point. We’re here now, right?

What is StitchFix? The concept is pretty simple; you pay a $20 “styling fee” and fill out a comprehensive survey, which they call your “Style Profile” Then a stylist will pick pieces for you and send them to you to check out. Keep what you want, send back what you don’t.

Filling out the Style Profile is lots of things like this:
stitchfix-style-profileYou can choose from Love It!, Like Most, Like Some, or Don’t Like it Much at All
You can also link them with Pinterest, which I love, because I’m constantly updating my fashion and style board with pieces and looks I adore. (Shameless plug: Find my Pinterest board here. You should follow me!)

stitchfix-boxYou’ll get a box with your “Fix,” suggested styling ideas for each piece, and a note from your stylist about why they chose what they did. They’ll say things like “This color cardi will look great on you, and it’s a fab splash of color for spring, try pairing it with the leggings for a another casual look!” I really appreciate that there’s a specific stylist who chooses and signs the pieces.

Each Fix contains five pieces; I’ve said yes to including accessories, so I get 4 garments and an accessory. I have three days to try everything on and make my picks. I keep what I want, send back (pre-paid postage envelope included) what I don’t. You check out on the website, and if you buy something, you’ll get your $20 styling fee back as a credit. If you send everything back, you’re out the $20. If you buy all five pieces, you get a 25% discount on the whole lot. (Woo hoo!)

stitchfix-warehouseI’ve actually been to the StitchFix warehouse, since it’s close to me, when they were having a clearance sale… all of the people I met were super friendly and adorable and completely people I would trust to go shopping with me.

Why do I love StitchFix? I don’t have time to shop as much as I’d like to. Max hates the mall, so he makes it hard to get out sometimes, without making a detour into the LEGO store. I don’t blame him; even Angry Birds on my phone isn’t enough to keep him entertained while waiting for me to try stuff on.

The stylists don’t have the same preconceptions about pieces that I do; they’ve sent me quite a few pieces that I’d probably never even pull off the rack to try on, let alone buy! (In the Style Profile, you can include how adventurous you are, and how “out there” you want them to be)

And, it’s fun! I get my Fixes sent to my office, and my co-workers and I end up oohing and aahing over each other’s boxes, and trying things on in the bathroom as needed.

My beef with StitchFix? Isn’t really a beef. I feel like it can be hit or miss, but I also feel like they’re really responsive when I’ve expressed my concerns. Some months have been great (like this one, I loved everything, but some just weren’t right on me, or I couldn’t justify the price of it) and some have been frustrating. One month, I only even kind of liked one piece; it’ll be good for spring, but the other things were just not a good fit forĀ  me, stylistically or physically.

Overall though, it’s totally worth the “risk” to me to get these kinds of great pieces out of it.

Now, on to my February Fix!

stitchfix2I really like this moto-styled jersey top, but the color didn’t do it for me, so it went back.
The striped top maxi dress that’s ACTUALLY MAXI ON ME?!?!? You couldn’t pry it from my cold, dead hands. Can’t wait to live in this all summer! (Note: I added the belt)

stitchfix1I like this striped top a lot, but it’s unfortunately too big. I’m up a few pounds with my “winter weight,” so if it’s borderline now, I’ll be swimming in it in a few months. But style-wise, it’s a win for sure.
I kept this pink cardigan. It fits well, it’s one of my favorite colors, it’s super-versatile, and I’ve already worn it twice.

stitchfix3I was really torn on the necklace. I like it, but (and this often ends up being what I say) I didn’t like it “$52 worth”

My friend Amy got the same necklace in gold in her Fix this month, but that’s pretty much the first time I’ve seen a duplicate item like that.

(Side note: The chevron top seen with the necklace is the one piece I kept from last month’s Fix… Cute, right?)

Overall, I have a mad crush on StitchFix. I love getting clothes I might not have chosen otherwise, from brands that I might not have access to. I find that the prices are reasonable (You can set your preferred price range, BTW) and it’s always fun to get a little happy mail once in a while!

So what are you waiting for? Schedule your first Fix today, and show me what you get! I love looking at other people’s Fixes as much as I love getting my own! If I get enough photos shared on my Facebook page, I would love to share a collection of them in another post down the road.

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored, but it does contain referral links, and I’ll love you forever if you use them!

80+20 Things I Learned in My First 100 Days as a Kindergarten Mom

Max’s 100th day of kindergarten was a couple of weeks ago, and I started this list while he was sticking 100 Angry Birds stickers on his plastic tablecloth cape. Kindergarten, and public school in general, is very different from a pay-to-attend preschool/day care.

And so, for myself and future kindergarten mamas and daddies, I thought I’d compile this list (shared in no particular order):

80 things I learned, and 20 tidbits from my friends.

100 days of kindergarten

Nutrition

  1. Packing lunch isn’t the nightmare I was afraid it would be.
  2. Tortilla roll-ups are great when you’re out of bread.
  3. Meat and cheese roll-ups are great when you’re out of tortillas.
  4. Spend the extra $ on a good water bottle that seals well.
  5. The smell of banana peel that’s been in a lunchbox all weekend is like a terrible whiff of nostalgia.
  6. A little snip of the end of a granola bar package makes it easier for Max to open by himself.
  7. It’s awesome that afterschool care is willing to microwave stuff for Max.
  8. He’ll eat cold quesadillas for lunch.
  9. Tis better to send too much food than not enough.
  10. A post-breakfast, pre-Late Bird start time snack is normal. Bananas FTW.

Classroom

  1. If you want to help, you have to tell the teacher.
  2. Tell her several times, because she forgets, apparently.
  3. Don’t expect systems that the kids understand to make sense to you.
  4. Class doesn’t always end on time, so don’t make plans immediately after school.
  5. Not all kindergarten teachers are cuddly like yours might have been.
  6. They do actual academics in kinder now. It’s kind of overwhelming at times.
  7. If you can’t volunteer during class hours, find out how you CAN help.
  8. Stuff child’s pockets with kleenex during cold season, drill into their heads about wiping a sniffly nose, and washing their hands.
  9. Continuously remind them NOT to try on someone else’s hat or headband. Because lice. (Eew!)
  10. If they have a fever, keep them home. Don’t contaminate the whole class, please!

Wardrobe

  1. Every day can be mismatched sock day.
  2. Jackets aren’t allowed to be worn in class; long sleeves it is.
  3. Have a selection of long-sleeved undershirts to extend the life of tees that are suddenly too short in the belly.
  4. When in doubt, wear the rainboots.
  5. Names in everything. P-Touch works, Mabel’s Labels are better.
  6. But it still doesn’t keep them from bringing home some other kid’s stuff by accident.
  7. Tiny knee holes aren’t enough reason to get rid of pants, or else you’ll never have enough pants.
  8. Plaid and stripes and checked totally go together.
  9. Clothing just isn’t worth arguing over, as long as the important bits are covered and it’s temperature appropriate.
  10. The sniff test can be a lifesaver.

Homework

  1. Figuring out five words that start with the short /u/ sound is HARD.
  2. As is coming up with five things around the house that are oval shaped.
  3. It’s depressing when you need Google to help your 5 year old with their homework.
  4. If the assignment says, “Find 5 things around your house…” don’t expect it to get done at after school care.
  5. Finding five of anything will become the bane of your existence.
  6. Reading out loud for 15 minutes every day can be excruciating.
  7. But it’s worth it.
  8. Encourage choosing a variety of library books; when the whole library has about 5 Star Wars book to check out, they get old FAST.
  9. Let them read to you, even if it takes ages to finish a page.
  10. Don’t let them see how ridiculous and pointless you think the homework assignments are.

Friends

  1. Max (so far) has pretty great taste in friends, when left to his own devices.
  2. It’s nice finally meeting people who live in the neighborhood.
  3. Other moms in the classroom can (and will!) become your friends, if you’re open to it.
  4. Make it a habit to ask about who your child played with; there’s something to be said for knowing the names of other kids in the class.
  5. Unfortunately, the bullying can start earlier than you imagine. (Jess from Shuggilippo)
  6. Figure out a go-to birthday gift and stock up. Keep them on hand.
  7. If your school has a birthday “goodie bag” tradition (like ours does), don’t feel like you have to top or match the other ones when your kid’s day comes around.
  8. Don’t be afraid to suggest after-school playdates once your kid has established friendships in class.
  9. Don’t trust your child about how to spell a friend’s name. There are some sneaky vowels out there in the world!
  10. It’s entirely possible that child will come home one day with a boy- or girlfriend. Don’t freak out.

The School

  1. Parents will step on kids in an effort to get their kids into the gate first. Seriously.
  2. Make friends with the people in the office. They know lots of things.
  3. Buy out of the fundraisers if you can.
  4. The higher-ups in the PTA get gossipy when they’re off-campus.
  5. They won’t necessarily comb your kid’s hair before they sit down for school photos.
  6. Things are decided at the last minute. Get used to it.
  7. The playground is so much smaller than you remember.
  8. Living .2 miles from the school means we walk every day. I’m terrified of the pickup/dropoff line.
  9. I’m also terrified of the crazy parents dropping their kids off near our house. Running stop signs so your kid isn’t late is NOT cool, people!
  10. Try to meet the principal so he/she at least recognizes you as a parent at the school.

Schedule

  1. Put stuff in Google calendar and sync with work calendar.
  2. This counts for playdates and dental appointments.
  3. Set a phone reminder for pick-up, so you aren’t late. (Even more important if you don’t do pick-up every day!)
  4. Remember to keep some flexibility… our school only does assemblies first thing in the morning, so if Max wants to attend, he has to be an Early Bird for that day.
  5. A day of kindergarten exhausts my child more than a marathon would. Because of that, he turned into a kinder devil each night at home for the first 5 months of school. (From my friend Ali)
  6. I’m guilty of overscheduling evenings, and I really need to try to cut back.
  7. Weekends are not for sleeping in; it screws them up for Monday morning.
  8. Work on bits of the homework packet every night, don’t leave it all until Thursday, when it’s due on Friday.
  9. We’ve had to eliminate Monday-Friday screen time entirely. There is no middle ground with Max.
  10. Keep kiddo in the loop about the day’s plan. Max and I review in the morning while we walk to school. Tee ball practice, dinner plans, whatever we have going on. Letting him know helps him feel a sense of control.

Communication

  1. Get in the habit early on of going through your Kindergarteners back pack near the recycle bin. You would not believe the amount of paper that will come home. I learned to go through it all while hovering over the recycle bin. (From Wendy at Qwendy Kay)
  2. Try to get at least one other parent’s number, so you have someone to text those quick questions that pop up.
  3. Save the teacher’s email address as soon as you get it, so you can get a hold of him/her when needed.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you aren’t sure what’s going on, or what’s expected of you.
  5. Have a specific place where they can put all of the papers they want to keep. Sneak in and purge them every so often.
  6. Don’t keep every piece of paper that comes in.
  7. Mark the things you want to keep with a date. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t.
  8. Kids tell their teachers everything and I mean everything. Might I suggest locking the bedroom door, so there is no discussion about why “Daddy was attacking Mommy with the light saber attached to his tummy.” (This came from my friend Lisa and I had to share it, because OMG)
  9. Ask specific questions to find out about their day. Yes or no questions aren’t going to get you anywhere!
  10. Email comes in handy for keeping a trail of communication, especially when an issue comes up.

Assorted Wisdom from Friends

  1. Kindergarten teachers are angels. (From Cristi of Motherhood Unadorned)
  2. Create a ritual of nightly going through the backpack. I found a penicillin tangerine one year. (Alexandra of Good Day, Regular People)
  3. My kids being proud of their idea and their own work was much more gratifying than having the most over the top project displayed. (Leila from Don’t Speak Whinese)
  4. The rules about Halloween costumes, the changing of holiday names so as not to offend, etc. I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the choices, but was confused about a lot of things! (Amanda from The Befuddled Stepmonster)
  5. Making sharable snacks for the entire class is a pain. (Annie from Mama Dweeb)
  6. Naptime was an excuse to pretend his was working on covert operations in hostile territory. (Lisa from A Daily Pinch)
  7. I am WAYYY less strict than I thought I was. I let these kids get away with murder compared to the other parents. (Jill from Yeah. Good Times.)
  8. Homework still sucks. (Kelby from Type A Parent)
  9. Homework sucks, but kids will do it if m&ms are involved. (My friend Heather, who doesn’t have a blog, even though she should)
  10. My daughter wishes her teacher lived with us. And she’s pretty unaffected by the necessary yelling that has to happen now and then in the classroom. And kindergarten is totally awesome. (Casey from Life with Roozle)
  11. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be (My friend Julie)
  12. Some parents will pick up their child at the classroom door every day after school. And that this will continue through 6th grade, maybe even longer. If you make your kid carry her/his own backpack and walk to the front of the school to get picked up IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD LESS (Stefania, aka @CityMama)
  13. When you volunteer in the classroom you will be astounded at the range of reading levels from the kids who are reading chapter books to kids who can’t recognize any letters of the alphabet. (Jill from Musings from Me)
  14. Kindergarten teachers are extraordinary human beings. With magic powers. (According to my friend April)
  15. If you have a good relationship with your kids’ teachers, invite them over for dinner. The kids get a huge kick out of it and the teachers love it, too. My youngest’s kindergarten teacher has since become one of my dearest friends. (Jill from Life of Jill)
  16. My dream of coming home and going back to bed after the kiddos are dropped off at school never seems to happen, and 5 hours go by way faster than they used to (Teri of Harmony Doula)
  17. That if your child won’t clean up at home, just ask if Mrs. (insert teachers name) would allow that…when they say no, tell them to pretend Mrs. (teachers name) told them to clean up! (My super-sneaky friend Laurie)
  18. Putting an alarm clock in her room was GOLDEN. She could set it for the time based on how long she took to get ready… (My old friend Erin)
  19. Mine like to tell me EVERYTHING that happened in their day in the car on the way home. And whatever happened in the last 20 minutes made the most impact, good or bad. (More from Erin)
  20. All the cliches are true: it goes by FAST. (Jill, again)

So tell me, what would you add to this list?

Photo credit: naosuke ii cc

#DisneySide @Home Celebration: FROZEN viewing party

disclosure#DisneySide Frozen partyI was thrilled when I was invited to host my own #DisneySide @Home Celebration, and even more excited when I realized that the digital copy of the smash hit FROZEN would be available during the time I was to throw my party!
We, like most of the world, LOVED the movie when we saw it around Christmas, and I always love an excuse to have friends over for a little shindig!

Because the movie takes place in a non-descript Nordic land of some sort, we decided to latch onto that for our theme. We had Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes for dinner, complete with IKEA’s delicious lingonberry jam.

#DisneySide Frozen party table
#DisneySide Frozen eating dinner
I printed out mazes and coloring sheets that Disney had provided to celebrate the release of the movie back in November, and set them out with a bunch of crayons for kid entertainment in between eating and movie-ing. You can download PDF copies of the mazes and the coloring sheets for your own use by downloading them HERE.
#DisneySide Frozen coloringI made Olaf popcorn cups by using Olaf’s head from this activity sheet, and then we used pretzel sticks for Olaf’s hair (Antennae? Head sticks? I have no idea what they are.)

We put together a hot cocoa bar for the kids, which included hot chocolate, marshmallows, whipped cream, caramel and raspberry syrup, and a variety of sprinkles. Because everything’s better with sprinkles!

#DisneySide Frozen HotCocoa Popcorn
#DisneySide Frozen Olaf PopcornGrown-ups have a #DisneySide too, so we had Sam Adam’s “Cold Snap” beer and I made a pseudo-traditional Swedish Glogg. (I cheated by using embellishing some spiced wine I had leftover from the holidays, but this recipe looks delicious if you want to give it a try!)
#DisneySide Frozen Grown upsI always like to incorporate as much of the theme into the food as I can; making a quick little sign and taping it to a dish or container can really help make your guests feel the theme and make them smile. Hmm… kinda like how Disney puts all those little touches into their parks and movies, huh?
#DisneySide Frozen Snow Juice
#DisneySide Frozen Olaf carrots
#DisneySide Frozen ice block jelloA simple cookie cutter takes cheese and crackers to a whole new level!
#DisneySide Frozen snowflake cheese
#DisneySide Frozen smilesFinally, when everyone had eaten their fill, we heading into the living room to watch the movie… and we may not have had the words on the screen but that didn’t keep it from becoming our own singalong version!
(Thank goodness for AppleTV and our ability to stream the movie directly from my iTunes account)
#DisneySide Frozen opening scene

Thank you so much to #DisneySide @Home Celebrations for giving me a great excuse to fill my home with friends, family and fairy dust!

Now it’s time for me to get to work on Max’s birthday party!