My son turned 14 today. And he started 9th grade a few weeks ago. He is always the youngest in his class, but has always been ready for school. For the first day, we have do a photo on the front steps of our house. Although, as I went back through the years, not only did I get sentimental looking at how teensy he was compared to the young man who is now almost as tall as me - I realized that we didn't do his first day of school photos on the stairs every single year like I always thought we did. Funny how your mind plays tricks on you. [envira-gallery id="13804"] Which is one of the reasons I am "donating" a post on my kid's birthday for one of my favorite free services, Signup.com (formerly VolunteerSpot). I have worked with these guys as a designer, and used their site both as an organizer and a volunteer and I love how they help me stay on track.
I was very lucky to work with author T.A. Barron last summer on his web site. Not only is he a very talented writer, he is a very nice person. When I heard he was starting Merlin Camp in Boulder this summer, I was very sad my son is now too old to attend. If you have not heard of him, T. A. Barron is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Merlin Saga, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. The Lost Years of Merlin was recently optioned for a major motion picture by Disney, with screenplay by Philippa Boyens (one of the screenwriters for the Lord of the Rings films).
One of my favorite new PBS KIDS shows will have a new special on January 18th! NATURE CAT is all about the outdoor adventures of a goofy house cat. It packs a whole lot of environmentalism and physical activity into a television show, which is a weird concept, I know. But Fred and his friends encourage kids to "play the show" - meaning, take the skills they learn and go outside to use them. Like my kid who has grown up in downtown Denver, Nature Cat loves the outdoors but isn't quite sure what to do there. I love the mix of humor, adventure and great animation that encourages all of us to be brave. Not surprising since the show was created by the Rudman Brothers, of Cookie Monster and Jack's Big Music Show fame. Heart emoji.
Last week, I was honored to attend the PBS Annual Meeting where PBS and PBS KIDS preview the upcoming season for all their stations and the media. Media, including a group of bloggers like myself who specialize in stalking PBS KIDS shows and their characters. Did you know that David Rudman, the man behind Cookie Monster, also has an animation studio with his brother Adam? That studio created the amazing Jack's Big Music Show. And they have a new show in the works called NATURE CAT. I can't wait for this one to come out because I know my whole family will love it. The brothers noticed that this generation of kids are less about playing outside and more about playing on screens, so they want Nature Cat to be all about a love of nature. A television show telling you to get outside? YES! Nature Cat will model behaviors they hope that kids will pick up on, but will also provide small screen activities like a scavenger hunt app.
Let me just preface this with the fact that my aunt is just barely a "senior citizen" by age and she sure doesn't act elderly (ha ha ha) but she has been retired for some time and has had health issues that have restricted her movements. Most times she uses a walker and sometimes uses a wheelchair... and her computer is on it's last legs. Rather than replacing a desktop where she had to continually sit in one uncomfortable spot to use, I knew we had to get her a tablet. I reached out to my friends at Microsoft Lumia and they loved the idea of helping Aunt Heidi out. I decided they should send the tablet to me, I would set it up, and then bring it to her when I was visiting recently. Again, let me say, for the sake of my Christmas presents, my aunt is certainly not stupid. She could have done all this herself. But in this time where technology moving so quickly, it was just so much easier for me to get it all ready for her and then spend our time together teaching her the tablet. And doing touristy stuff.
Sometimes you attend a conference that fills you up with so many emotions, and so much knowledge, it takes you some time to process it. Such was the case for the first ever AYA Summit, held at Google's Washington DC offices and hosted by the ONE Campaign along with their new initiative, ONE Girls & Women. I had first heard of ONE about 10 years ago at an U2 concert with my close friend Marabeth. She and I went to college together and have seen U2 more times (together and apart) than I can count. Bono is a co-founder of ONE, and spoke passionately about the organization then, as he does about pretty much everything. But here is the thing, ONE has become a major advocacy group around the world, so it's not just Bono's voice - it's all of ours - speaking out to fight poverty and disease. Given my background in public health and cancer prevention for nearly 15 years, these issues are very important to me. I was honored to attend the AYA Summit with fellow bloggers from around the world, and meet people who are making such a difference in terms of health, economic stability, energy, human rights - particularly in Africa. As many of these problems affect women disproportionally, the majority in attendance and the majority of the focus was on female issues within the scope of global crisis. "Aya" is a hardy west African fern, and the name was meant to represent the resilience and strength girls and women show during times of great stress.