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MOVIE NITE! ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector Review

This just sounded too cool to pass up. AT&T Wireless gave me a review unit of a product called the ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector. Guys. It’s cool.

The ZTE Spro 2: What is it?

The ZTE Spro 2 is an Android-powered portable projector. It has a small footprint, so it’s easy to transport. The unit also includes a hotspot, Wifi, a 5″ touch screen and it’s own carrying case. It gives you media at your fingertips for presentations, and decently easy on the wallet for $359.99 with a 2-year contract. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who runs a non-profit called Music Workshop  and she thought it sounded really useful to her. If she can present her video-based program to a potential donor with the help of this handy tool, all the better.

Our interest in the item was strictly entertainment. It’s summer, the weather has been hot, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to have some of the kid’s friends over for an outdoor movie night. My husband, whom you all know as “The Capt.” and I spent the evening before our event getting it set up and ready, testing it out, using the side of our house as a movie screen.

It. Was. Awesome.

ZTE Spro 2 choosenetwork

Plugged in, powered on, ready to connect.

Simple setup. It took us probably seven minutes, tops, to get it up and running. We connected it to our home WiFi. Yes, our network name is Man and WiFi. Capt is clever like that.

setup

Next up, time and date, etc.

If you look at the time stamps on the screen in the upper right hand corner, you can see how quickly this got set up. From 10:27 to 10:35, and we were ready to rock.

media

Main media screen

We then added the Netflix app from the Google Play store and downloaded it to the unit. If you look closely at the picture, you have a mess of options – streaming from YouTube, access to Drive for presentations, and even games. Imagine Minecraft projected on a large wall. The kids would go nuts.

netflix

ta da! Streaming.

I logged in, done. Movies at our fingertips. Being able to add apps and stream from WiFi is what makes this stand out. This isn’t your old 80’s movie projector. (Tell me I’m not the only one who remembers them? Please?)

That night, we went to the backyard and watched Turbo.

ZTE Spro 2

Sure, you can see our siding, but it’s still great, huh?

The night of our event, the kids all gathered around outside and watched Earth To Echo, one of Boy Child’s favorites.

Summary:

When I review a product, I make every effort to be honest. I add pros and cons, and make certain I’m not just blowing sunshine.

I really don’t have any cons with this one. It worked perfectly and was easy to setup.

One note: I didn’t attempt to use the hotspot feature, so I don’t have good info on how that would work in a setting where it is necessary.

It’s not too late, and it’s still really hot, so get out and enjoy! The ZTE Spro 2 has applications for home and work, and is a really good price with the two-year activation and the $50 off online order promotion. Check it out.

A big thank you so Andy Colley of AT&T Wireless for loaning me the unit. It was a lot of fun and our family loved having it.

Wisdom From My Father: The 3 Times You Call 911 (Or Your Parents)

wisdom from my fatherMy dad is a retired oral surgeon. He turned 80 late last year, but he worked part time as an adjunct professor of oral surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University until December. He golfs every chance he gets. Gets his favorite coffee everyday at Starbucks because he can. He’s livin’ the dream now.

Every year he got voted as one of the professors everybody likes. He’s reached an age where he doesn’t mess around with too many words. Remember that: you don’t have to be 80 years old to decide not to mess around with too many words. Clearly this is a life lesson I’m still working on.

He’s also a stellar grandfather to the kids. He takes them to Starbucks, lunch, the driving range, ice skating….best Papa ever.

We were having a conversation awhile ago about the maturing of Girl Child; her being in middle school, whether or not we should get her a cell phone, etc. This is what he said:

“When you get her a phone, tell her what I told my surgery students:”

The Three Times You Call 911 (or your parents)

1) When in doubt.

2) When you know what’s going on and you don’t like what you see.

3) When you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t like what you see.

We got Girl Child a cell phone a few months ago, and thought this idea needed to be revisited.

Is there anything else that needs to be said, here? I don’t think so. My dad is a smart man. You can find him on the golf course if you need advice.

Serve Humbly Where You Are

serve humbly where you areStanding by the sink, water running, dishes overflowing onto the counter, I felt physically sick. Not because of the dried up nasty that awaited, but because this household task was getting the better of me. My brain screamed, “I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN TODAY. OR TOMORROW.”

Serve humbly where you are.

Several years ago, I was working part time at a place where one of the full-time employees was really unhappy with the way things were going. She and I were talking, and she said “I just need to tell myself ‘serve humbly where you are.’ I have a job and a lot to be thankful for.”

It’s a simple statement that took root in my mind and altered my attitude toward tasks many consider drudgery, and situations that make a person feel trapped and stuck.

I will never, ever forget it. “Serve humbly where you are.” There is something about repeating it in my head that opens up a hole in the dark and lets light seep in; when I feel overwhelmed, when I have a burning desire to escape whatever task is waiting for me that I dread. I repeat it in my head when I begin to think to myself, “If I have to ______ one more time, I might implode.” I stop myself before I go reeling to the light-less place of self-pity and think: Serve humbly where you are.

The dishes are part of a bigger picture. The non-stop bickering of my kids is a link in a long chain. The bills, the yard, the mortgage, the car….they’re all part of a life we have built; a life that requires maintenance.

A beautiful life requires the ugly – but momentary – task of taking stinky garbage out to the curb and scrubbing the toilet. Because when I dig in and do what needs to be done, I’m providing my beautiful life the maintenance it requires.

The Shift

special needsWhen our daughter was born and we discovered she had a craniofacial birth defect, it was earth shifting. Everything I knew and thought I knew changed. I recall not truly realizing what it meant. She was born without an ear canal or outer ear, a craniofacial birth defect called Atresia/Microtia. What is this? What does this mean?

The reality sunk in all too soon when she was wheeled away from me to have her newborn hearing screening done. One side wasn’t testable because it was closed. The other side? She failed it. Twice.

The Shift

Becoming new parents is huge. Becoming new parents of a special needs child is something else entirely. Capt and I experienced, simultaneously, the fear that accompanies a calling: “Am I strong enough? Are we?” Something unlocks inside your soul, and you slip uncomfortably into one of two places: strong enough, or devastation.

I watched her every second for a flinch, a twitch, something to show me she wasn’t deaf. In those first few days, the flinch never came.

Exhausted from typical newborn baby struggles coupled with the stress of creeping fear, I left her and Capt in the room to go put pajamas on and brush my teeth. I looked up at myself in the mirror, mid-tooth brushing, with a vision of myself as the parent of a deaf child. I cursed myself for not paying closer attention in my college sign language class. And then I cried. Hard. The kind of cry that comes from a place in your heart you’ve never been. Holding it together wasn’t available to me in that moment. There was nothing for me to hold together. I was empty. All the thoughts and fantasies about the child I had with the man I love and call my husband circled the drain with the water in my sink. This isn’t what I signed up for. How did this happen? Why? What now?

What rose out of that huge empty space, the place where who I thought I was, who I thought WE were existed untouchable, is the marriage we have now. A fundamental shift occurred after the birth of our daughter and the weeks of uncertainty that followed. United in a shared experience of fear, longing for might-have-been, and the vast unknown that lay ahead, his was the only hand I could see and feel in the dark, questioning space I found myself in. “Help me. I’m falling apart, and I can’t find any of my pieces.” Time after time in those first weeks, I would reach out blindly and his hand was always there. I don’t know how he did it, because I know he was falling apart too. He carved out a piece of himself for me to gather strength from. I know it must have been painful.

There’s something that happens to you when you no longer have the luxury of wallowing. The shift happens. It’s about standing in the new space created by the circumstances you find yourself in, and making it yours. This is what survival feels like.

In following years of learning what this meant for all of us, we found our way beyond survival and began to carve out the relationship we have now in that formerly empty space of fear and longing. What can arise out of the darkest time is sometimes the most important and changes the trajectory of your life. The child we have now; the strong, happy, loving, hard-of-hearing (not deaf) girl whom we wouldn’t trade or change for anything, the integration of her and her unique needs into our lives (the fear is gone!) and the relationship we found in those early days of parenting made us the family we are today.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave

One from my Random Thoughts blog. I still feel this way.

I *knew* when the church doors opened and the music started to play I was in the right place at the right time with the right person. The last 16 years hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth every minute.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave.

My Grandma died in 1997. I had been dating Capt. for less than a year.

At that point, we were still kind of tiptoeing around each other. Neither one of us were the “fall fast fall hard” types, and I wasn’t sure if I could REALLY honestly believe that he would be there when I needed him. I’d been disappointed so often before with others bailing out or making an excuse when I was having a hard time, I had trouble even contemplating he might be different. So, I kept asking him, “Are you coming with me?” And he would say, “Yes.”

Then he got sick. Like, barely lift his head off the pillow sick. The fear I was going to have to go through this incredibly emotional experience without him was growing. All I knew was I really wanted him there. We had only recently said, “I love you,” and I was hoping against hope he was the last man I would say it to.

I struggled with myself in the days leading up to the funeral. He had been passing all my little tests thus far. Tests like, “how will he do when he meets my parents?” And, “how will he do during my family Thanksgiving?” With flying colors.

So here we were. One of my most beloved grandparents was gone. I missed her terribly, and really wanted him to be there. I knew I felt stronger with him near me.

The morning of the funeral came, and he showed up at my apartment, wearing a suit, eyes watering, stuffy nose, miserable, and there for me.

It was a turning point for me. After that I really let my guard down with him and allowed myself to fully trust his word. He was there for me. He didn’t try to run when things got hard. No excuses why he couldn’t be there. He’s been there ever since, and I’m so thankful.

Everything is Toxic!

toxicI’ve had this post in draft for a few months now. It’s time to put it out in the world.

TOXIC!

A few years ago I started down a journey of learning about and getting attached to where our food actually comes from. I called it “The Year Of Food,” and wrote a series of blog posts on Random Thoughts about the things I learned along the way. We have some work to do along these lines, as a country.

I became loosely attached to the “New Food Movement” a few years ago and advocated for GMO labeling. I haven’t changed my mind on a label. I believe in disclosure and truth in labeling. What I have changed my mind on is the “New Food Movement.”

I can’t sit by and watch while meme after meme shows up in my newsfeed about how toxic everything is. What I’ve found is some of the people who represent this movement believe that Western (i.e., evidence-based) medicine is trying to kill us. I am the daughter of a Western-based medical practitioner. I have been taught in scientific method, logical fallacies and the psychology of bias. I can’t abide what I’m seeing and associate myself with it any more. Reason has to prevail at some point.

For example:

Girl Scout cookies are poisonous. Wheat is toxic. Seed oils. BEER. School lunches, breakfast cereal, cream soups, milk, your perfume, sunscreen….you get the idea. Don’t get started on vaccines.

My kids go to a school where ~30% of the children are on free or reduced lunch. The meals those children get at school are sometimes the only ones they get for the day. The school community holds a food drive every year for the families who are food insecure in our area. I will sometimes bring in easy, quick breakfasts for the school counselor to have on-hand in case a child is late to school and the cafeteria is already closed. These families don’t have the option to choose the “non-toxic” cream soup. They’re hungry, and they’re trying to survive. They don’t ask “is this ORGANIC?” They say thank you.

If you like Thin Mints, then help a Girl Scout out and buy a box. If you don’t have Celiac, eat bread if you want. If you like Coors Light, DRINK IT. (I won’t, but you carry on with your bad self.) You are lucky to have the choice. Many among us don’t. Screaming at them that their food is poison doesn’t help them, it creates shame. No one should be ashamed for doing the best they can with what they have.

There is an emerging eating disorder called “orthorexia.” It is defined as an obsession with the purity and quality of food. A sure sign we’ve gone too far.

The never-ending stream of fear memes around food has finally worn me down. As I said, I’ve been an advocate in the past for GMO labeling, and I still am. A label offers choice. However, extremism with avoiding any food or medicine that *might* have science in it is a serious problem that hinders health for all.

Asking questions of the industries producing our food is appropriate. I’m not advocating a head-in-the-sand approach to food. I am all for looking at the way we do things and questioning – is this good for humans? Is it good for the earth? Is there an alternative? What are the unintended consequences of these decisions when it comes to food production? Questioning science in an effort to further dialogue is good, and good scientists question themselves. That’s how discoveries are made, and how we move forward. However, it’s important to keep in mind that questions like these and the ensuing arguments are immaterial to a person who needs something to eat.

We have a long way to go in this country when it comes to food equality, education and quality, but fear mongering won’t help. I’m taking a stand. A two-tiered food system – those who can eat “well” and those who can’t – is wrong.

Read Watch Listen Download

read watch listen download

Volume Two! I decided to take the high road and not advise you on what to ignore. I trust you’re able to figure it out on your own (*ahem*Kardashian*AHEM*)

So, without further ado:

Read Watch Listen Download No. 2

READ

Praise Won’t Make Your Kid A Narcissist, But THIS Will – Several articles have been published lately discussing the results of a study investigating the development of narcissism in children. Having studied psychology in college, I remember quite clearly the course I took on personality theory. While there are many theories as to what circumstances create a narcissist, one thing should be made clear: praise alone doesn’t. Overly favorable comparison does. “You’re smarter than everyone in the whole school. The rest of the kids are just average.” <– Ta da! Narcissist. (This is what I geek out to. Humans. They’re really interesting.)

Essential Oils Don’t Cure Ebola – Seriously friends, stop it. Essential oils have a definite place in wellness and healing. I’ve used them for twenty-plus years. However, this article talks about the gigantic overstatements being made by multi-level marketing essential oils companies and their representatives. Beyond the daily leveraging of personal relationships on social media to increase sales these companies seem to encourage among the reps, (read: spammy, a turn-off) recommending an essential oil combination as a personal lubricant,(yes, really) a cure for pink eye, or for use as a laxative is dangerous. A government agency of some kind will come along to stop this, and I’ll be happy when they do. And now…bring on the spam.

Executions, Beatings, and Forced Marriage: Life As a Boko Haram Captive – These people are insane. Who is giving them weapons? Women and girls are the keys to lifting the world out of poverty and war and ruin. This group, along with ISIS, are dragging the world down with them. This is a two-part series. The second in the series: How I Escaped Marrying A Boko Haram Fighter. Wow.

WATCH

Outlander – Yeah yeah yeah, I know. However…one thing I find myself really noticing about this series is the equality of story with respect to the male and female lead characters. It’s a rare thing to find movies and television shows where the sexuality of the male lead is every bit as front and center as the female’s; his thoughts and feelings are evident, and his development doesn’t rely on old tropes. The character of Claire isn’t simply a plot device for the man’s pleasure. Together, the characters of Claire and Jamie are the plot, and she is the narrator, so the story is told from her perspective. Strong acting, too. Having read the first book in the series, I’m actually enjoying the show more. It’s unusual when show trumps book.

LISTEN

My Type, by Saint Motel – Channeling my inner 80’s child. Take a listen:

 

DOWNLOAD

Dark Sky – Yet another weather app, I know. What’s cool about this one, though, is the hyper-local features. It will tell you with decent accuracy how soon rain is coming, where the nearest rain/weather is in relation to your present location, etc. I live in rain-ville. It’s nice to know. Plus it’s pretty. I’m a sucker for a pretty app.

There you are, friends. Helping you ignore the stupid crap on the internet since 2015. You’re welcome.

The Pencil Test: Conversations With Girl Child

the pencil testGirl came to me recently and said, “Mom, I don’t think I’m fit.” My jaw dropped. She is an active, healthy, average 12 year old.

“Why don’t you think you’re fit?”

“Because I did the Pencil Test.”

 

The Pencil Test

What’s the pencil test? I won’t go into to detail because I want to respect my child’s boundaries – if you want to know about the pencil test, you can look it up. This isn’t the upper body pencil test, Girl was referring to the lower body one. That’s an important detail for this conversation.

She demonstrated it, and that was a moment of clarity for me.

“Wait. Do you think that’s a sign of something bad?”

“I think it means I’m not fit.”

“Honey, whether or not you can hold a pencil there is not a sign of anything other than you are a normal, developing girl with an appropriate amount of body fat to support your growth. If you want to exercise with your dad or me, we would love that. It’s a healthy habit. Just don’t do it because you think you need to in order to be thin or there is anything wrong with the way you are right now.”

“But I saw it on Dr. Oz when I was over at Grandma’s. They said on the show it means you need to work on it because it was a sign of having too much fat.”

“Dr. Oz is trying to sell his show for ratings and money. This capitalizes exactly on the fear tv shows like Dr. Oz try to create: that women are somehow not as valuable unless they have a tiny some-kind-of-body part. You are more than the size of your individual pieces. It’s a distraction you don’t need to concern yourself with at 12 years old. You look exactly the way you are supposed to look for the growing kid you are right now. Look at me. Should I demonstrate the pencil test for you? By that standard, I’ll fail, guaranteed. Do you think I’m not fit?”

(smiles) “No, you run and exercise and stuff.”

“Exactly. I don’t concern myself with how big or small my butt is. I have other things to think about, and so do you.”

Somehow, somewhere, my own teenage and young adult obsession with my appearance faded in the distance while I was looking at my daughter and telling her she is more than the size of her parts. She should always look at herself that way.

You are more than the size of your parts.

Continuing Conversations: Growing Up Girl Child

There were several ongoing topics I wrote about over on Random Thoughts. I plan on still writing about them here. The main ones? Growing Up Girl Child, my dealings with depression, fitness and food, and funny conversations I have with my kids.

I’ll start with Growing Up Girl Child. I’ve been writing about the issues we’ve seen arise as our daughter has transitioned into tween-nearly-teenhood. Lots of questions and decisions on how much, when, and what to say. You could call this one: “Parenting Is Hard.” It’s physically demanding when they are tiny; what with sleep deprivation, keeping their fingers out of light sockets, what-have-you. When they get older, conversations about the world and it’s messiness, meanness, complications and where beauty can be found and created take center stage.

And you thought you were tired before.

Here are my Growing Up posts so far:

When Should I Begin Dating?

Let’s Talk About Dating Violence

Body Image

Mood Swings

My First Instagram Account

I also plan on continuing the conversations about Boy Child, my marriage to Capt., and health/depression, largely because they are the on-going issues in my life. The other stuff? I’ll figure it out as we go.

 

Growing Up Girl Child: My First Instagram Account

first instagram accountI finally gave in. Yep. Girl Child is now the proud owner of her very first instagram account. Seeing as she’s in seventh grade, SubHub and I second guessed ourselves on this one quite a bit.

And So It Begins

Instagram? We’re in new parenting territory. I made the decision when I started blogging in 2007 that I would share Girl Child’s story, including pictures. Oh, how naïve and cute that was. I think in the years following, many parents and an entire generation of kids have learned that a picture is worth a million reshares, whether you want it to get reshared or not. Once she was old enough, I let her read all the posts related to her and her experience on the Submommy blog. I took out anything that didn’t sit well with her. Since many of the posts are about her life, I wanted to make sure she felt she has a say in what gets discussed online. There have been times when she has asked, “Don’t share this, ok?” and other times when I have asked her permission to share something. We’ve established an ongoing dialogue as she grows up in the age of the Overshare.

This is one of those moments I feel it was a lucky twist of fate that I got into blogging and social media when I did. So, when the inevitable happened and she asked for an account, I was ready. As ready as I guess a parent ever really can be.

My First Instagram Account: The Rules

Here’s where I cop to being an extremely strict parent. I’ve been paying attention all these years to what gets shared, what makes viral headlines, and what just counts as obnoxious behavior from kids whose pre-frontal cortex needs some work that only growing up and life experience can make happen. A friend of mine says, “Kids run ’til they find the fence.” For Girl Child, the social media fence is close to the house where everyone can see it. These were the rules we agreed on:

  • Her account is private. Anyone sees her profile has to request to follow her.
    • She cannot let anyone follow her that she does not know in real life.
    • Conversely, she cannot request to follow anyone she does not know in real life.
  • She cannot put personal information in her public bio.
    • Personal information consists of: age, birthdate, address, her personal email address, etc.
  • I have to be one of her followers.
  • Her older female cousins have to be her followers also. They are 15 and 18 years old, and have experience.
  • For the time being, she asks permission of me to post a picture. This is a double-check I hope to instill in her. I want her to ask herself if this is a good idea.
  • If she wants to leave a comment on someone’s picture, we talk about what’s appropriate and what isn’t, including the use of hashtags.
  • She cannot reshare other people’s photos if they have private accounts.

As you can see, her first Instagram account is tightly controlled. It’s also working. She is reserved socially at school, and this is afforded her an opportunity to share pieces of her personality that she’s too shy to let shine in big noisy groups. Her school acquaintances have found her and requested to follow her, and she is following back. It’s opening up new possibilities for her as she starts to consider what she thinks is “share-worthy” about her and her life.

The rule that she has to show me what pictures she wants to post has come in handy, too. She brought a picture to me that she wasn’t sure of. It was selfie she took where she had face paint on. This led to a very productive conversation about “What if this gets shared by people? How would you feel about that?” She decided against it.

In talking about this entire thing, we also had to prepare her for the potential for hurt feelings. Her friends may post pictures of things that they have done together, and she wasn’t invited to join. This can hurt, even if you’re an adult. In internet-speak, people have abbreviated this phenomenon to FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. And it happened. She WAS hurt, but took it in stride, didn’t make any comments on the picture, and moved on.

Maturity vs. Sophistication

I’m trying to help her build a pause button before she hits send. I see parents everywhere mistake sophistication for maturity, and I can’t help but wonder if it leaves the child confused, or with a false sense of their perceived importance. We all know that adolescence is when we, as humans, are the most inward focused. I’m doing my darndest to make certain her sense of importance comes from real maturity, not just the illusion of it.

She knows where the fence is.