On Writing and Ignoring the Squirrels.

It’s becoming somewhat of a comical ritual around here, these sessions where I sit down to write. Every morning begins with the best of intentions. I’m going to write today! I say, in my best go-getter voice. And for the most part, I do.

I write a lot for other people. Whether it’s freelance work or for The Risky Kids, I’m often writing content nearly every day. But writing good content isn’t the writing of the soul. I miss that. You know what else I miss? Writing pointless banter. Writing about stuff like the time last I took Gus through the drive-through of Starbucks with me.

“I like your pit bull!” the barista chirped, as I pulled up to pay for my chai tea latte made without full-fat milk or Oprah in it.

“Oh, this dog? You mean this lab-husky mix?” That’s what I want to say, anyways, in a feeble attempt to cover up for our dog’s unpopular breed line.* I’ve given up saying it, though. It’s come up often enough, and whenever I counter with the lab-husky response, I get the look. The one that says, “Mmm-hmm. And that purse I bought in Chinatown is a Louis Vuitton.”

Anyhow, before I can recover from the pit bull comment, the unfazed barista wants to know if Gus wants a “pup cup.” I’d never heard of such a thing, but after confirming that it wasn’t going to cost me another $4.95 to go along with my overpriced beverage, Gus was treated to his very first Starbucks. And I will treat you with this:

I miss writing about my kids. Writing stuff like the time a few weeks ago when Elena said she was going to “make it rain.”

Elena speaks cow

I learned it from the cows, Mom! I learned it by talking to cows!

(If you’re too old for the Just Say No campaigns, this will make no sense to you. That, or if you friend your brain on drugs. Or it just won’t make sense, but I really wanted to use this picture of Elena conversing with cows.)

“Do you know where that phrase comes from?” I asked. Thankfully, she didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from telling her to ask her father. Or when Gus got into her room and ate a $20 bill, leaving only Andrew Jackson’s face as evidence of the crime. “Congratulations, Elena!” I said the next day. “You’re now the proud owner of a dog that shits money.” In neither situation was she amused … can’t say the same for myself. Or that time in the car last week, when Eli told us he had a girlfriend in the neighborhood. A girl who just happens to be his best buddy’s best girl.

“Is this a problem? Are you guys going to fight over her?”

“No,” he said. “We’ve got it all worked out. The first one to kiss her gets to have her as his girlfriend. Cuz, you know, you can’t share love.”

Father and son fishing

I miss writing that stuff just as much as I miss writing from the soul. But for whatever reason, every time I sit down to write either one, I close up. Suddenly, my coffee needs refreshed. The clothes need folded. That picture on the wall looks a little crooked. What was that noise on the deck? I should investigate.

I don’t know why it’s that way (although I’ve never been so caffeinated or so well-stocked in clean underwear, and my house looks fabulous!), but I do know the only way to fix it is to write straight through it. And so I’m just warning you, things could get ugly around here. There might be a lot of pointless banter about dog escapades. Or my fantasy football team. Or about that time we got walked in on the other week (and why you’ll continue to see sponsored content on here now and then, to pay for Elena’s therapy after witnessing that). I don’t even know, but I do know that no matter what comes out, I need to just write.

In my heart, I know it’s not pointless. It’s why I started in the first place, for one. To record, to remember, and to share my voice. But mostly I know it’s not pointless because I read so many other blogs. And while my Pinterest boards appreciate all the recipes, tips, and crafty ideas, the stuff that really inspires me is the same as it’s always been: the words. Not the content … the stories. It’s not pointless to me, and somedays it’s that one thing you wrote that makes me stop in my tracks and catch my breath. Somedays it’s that one funny story you shared that took my mind off that thing that was killing me with worry.

I hope every once in awhile I can do that for you. And so, I wrote today.

* We don’t actually know Gus’ exact breeding. I  mean, he’s a rescue dog, which means he’s a hodge-podge of everything, most likely. Everywhere we go, though, people think he’s a pit bull. Honestly, he could be part badger and we’d still love him. He’s one sweet pup.

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No FOMO on Football, Taylor Swift, or Supernatural: Sprint’s Upgraded Service Gets 3 Thumbs Up

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation Program with Sprint on behalf of Influence Central. I received a sample device to facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sprint HTC One M8

In this day and age, we depend on our phones for so much more than just making calls. In any one day, my phone is my personal computer, GPS, entertainment center, cookbook, coupon resource, camera, texting device, and oh yeah, sometimes it’s simply a way to make a phone call. Because, like me, it’s such a multi-tasker, it depends on good cell service to make it function well. Otherwise? It’s likely to become a missile as well, as I’m tempted to throw it out the window if it’s not keeping up with me.

Sprint knows that we lean on our cell phones more than ever, for a variety of uses, and made improved cell service in Indianapolis a priority, by upgrading cell towers and replacing equipment at cell sites throughout metro Indy. The result? Faster speeds and better call quality. Sprint also runs on Sprint Spark and uses an LTE service uniquely built for data. Those two features combined give users improved performance in video playback and online gaming applications.

In order to put these new features to the test, I was provided with an HTC One M8 cell phone with Sprint service for a couple of weeks. In order to truly test out the phone’s capabilities and the promise of better, faster cell service, myself, Elena and Eli all took turns with the HTC One.

We all depend on top-notch cell service in a smart phone for different reasons. Eli is into the gaming aspect. He loves playing both Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies on my cell phone. Elena is all about the videos. She’s hooked on a few shows, and her preferred method of watching is through Netflix on any device other than an actual television. We also depend on a cell phone to keep in touch with her when she’s out with friends or penny boarding through town. And me? I need a phone that takes great pictures. I also need a data plan that works, and quickly. I’m often live-tweeting and Instagramming at events, or while watching NFL games. Bad photos or tweets that are 20 minutes behind are no bueno.

So how did it do? Very well, I’m happy to report. Here’s what we liked about it:

Speed: It is, indeed, fast. In the nearly 3 weeks that we used it, we didn’t experience any lag time at all in downloads. I especially appreciate it during football games. I can easily keep up with scores, manage my fantasy team, and live-tweet during the games without missing a beat.

Sprint HTC One M8

If only my fantasy players had been as fast and furious as my Sprint LTE service this week.

Video quality: Again, fast and good. Elena watched a marathon of “Supernatural” episodes the other weekend, all in the comfort of her bed. The picture quality is excellent and the videos load very quickly. Eli and I were pleased with our multiple viewing experiences of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” video. Man, oh man, do we love that video (and do we secretly wish we could do that finger trick)>

Sound quality: Maybe this is because we tested the Harman/Kardon edition, but the sound was fantastic. We especially appreciated this when using the phone to stream our Spotify playlists.

Call quality: While I don’t currently have a ton of dropped call issues with my provider, we do have issues with reaching Elena at times on her cell phone. She never missed a single call on this phone. This is by far the biggest frustration for me with other networks. Dealing with slow load times is a hassle at times, but clearly a #firstworldproblem. Not being able to reach my kid because of poor cell service? That’s a safety/peace of mind issue for me, and one I’m not willing to skimp on. I’d feel much better with her out and about using the upgraded Sprint network.

In Indianapolis specifically, Sprint has made network improvements at the Indiana Convention Center, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Children’s Museum, and the Zoo. While we didn’t get to test the phone out at any of these specific venues, I imagine it will be a welcome improvement. I’ve had some frustrating moments myself at the Children’s Museum, struggling with poor cell service.

Whether it’s for individuals, couples, or families, Sprint is determine to deliver the best value in wireless, and they want Indianapolis customers to enjoy faster data speeds and better call quality with these network upgrades. Find out more, and check out special pricing plans for families, by visiting Sprint’s website.

 

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DIY Instant Oatmeal Mix

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

My kids, like Mike and I, are polar opposites when it comes to breakfast. Mike and Elena could care less about breakfast, and wouldn’t think twice about skipping it. Mike is a grown man, so I let him get away with it. I shudder at some of the things Elena manages to call “breakfast” in her attempt to appease me by eating something before heading out the door in the morning (Cheese and pepperoni at 6:30 am? Yuck!), but at least she’s getting some food in her belly. Hangry, decaffeinated Angie is a real monster, so I have to eat something and have a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. And Eli? I swear he consumes his entire caloric intake for the day at breakfast.

Because he eats so much and is more open to trying new things in the mornings, I try to make breakfast his best meal of the day. One of the things that he loves to eat is oatmeal. I love it, too, because in one fell swoop I can serve him whole grains and protein that will last him all morning long. Throw in some fruit on the side and the kefir he loves to drink, and it’s easily one of the most nutritious meals he eats all day.

The only issue I have with oatmeal is that if I don’t have any on hand, it’s not easy to whip up on a school morning. My very favorite oatmeal recipe involves cooking oats with milk low and slow for about an hour. It’s easy to make a big batch, and it reheats beautifully, but there are plenty of times when I haven’t gotten around to making a batch. We’re also fans of overnight steel-cut oats, but again, I don’t always think that far ahead.

I’ve eyed those easy packets of instant oatmeal many times in the grocery store, knowing that Eli would love them and it would make those mornings when I’m out of my homemade oatmeal easy. But I also know that they contain lots of things I don’t necessarily want to fill him up with, and that once I get into the habit of just ripping open a packet I’d have a hard time giving up the ease of it.

Instead I got to work in the kitchen, and concocted my own recipe for instant oatmeal. There are quite a few suggestions online, and I tinkered with a few different recipes until I got it exactly the way our bellies like it. And the bonus? Our groggy, decaffeinated selves approve of it at the crack of dawn as well. We still love a good, slow-cooked batch of oatmeal. But for those mornings when ain’t nobody got time for that, it’s nice to have quick, easy (but still delicious) instant oatmeal to fall back on.

DIY Instant Oatmeal Mix

This makes about 14 1/2 cup servings. You can easily double or triple the recipe to have a big batch on hand.

INGREDIENTS

6 cups quick-cook oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup powdered milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Blend 2 cups of the oats in a food processor into a coarse powder. In a large bowl, mix the powdered oats with 4 cups of whole oats. Add the salt, powdered milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla powder (if using). Stir to combine.

Store mixture in an airtight container.

When ready to serve, scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the oatmeal mixture into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup of boiling water or hot milk. Stir and let stand for 3 minutes. Depending on how you like the consistency of your oatmeal, you can adjust the amount of water or milk you add. Fancy up your oatmeal with chopped fruit and/or nuts, if you like. Eli’s a purist – oatmeal only for him. I’m loving mine with roasted coconut chips and a spoonful of peanut butter at the moment!

 

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