Sunday Inspiration

And just to keep the Independence Day spirit going…John Adams
“[Independence Day] ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

~John Adams to his wife, Abigail on July 3, 1776


Where have you found inspiration this week?


Sunday Inspiration

O Ship of State: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;
‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee, -are all with thee!

Where have you found inspiration this week?

Sunday Inspiration

The Star-Spangled Banner

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Happy Independence Day!

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Where have you found inspiration this week?

How do I find good media for my kids?

I had an internship while I was going to law school in Portland, Oregon. I remember talking to my supervisor right before one of the last Harry Potter movies came out in theaters. I asked him if he was going to take his kids, and he told me no. I was a little surprised because Harry Potter was huge.  It was what all everyone was watching and talking about. It was life! He explained that the movie was rated PG-13 and would be too scary for his young kids.

I’ve thought about that experience a lot as I’ve tried to make good choices about the media I expose my kids to. There are literally thousands of apps, tv shows, and movies available for kids of all ages. This makes it hard for parents like me to know which apps are the best ones. Which apps are going to keep my kid quiet on a long drive or on a flight? Which apps aren’t going to turn his brain to mush? Will the apps that advertise themselves as educational actually teach my kids something? Or are the apps no better for their brains than fruit-flavored gum is for their bodies? Can I just rely on movie ratings to make a determination about which movies my family will watch? Is a tv show that advertises itself as educational actually going to teach my son anything?

Recently, I wrote a post about the AAP’s new guidelines about screen time for kids. I talked about the resources that the AAP offered to help parents plan out their kids’ screen time. There was a guide to making a media plan and a calculator to help parents prioritize their kids’ time.

The AAP linked to in their media plan template. This website reviews apps, movies, tv shows, books, and almost any other kind of media available that your kids might consume. It provides subject summaries for the different media. It also designates which age group the media is best suited for.

The website receives support from several different well-known foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They claim that they don’t get any money from the products they review and that, because of this, they provide totally independent reviews. They say that this allows them to give you unbiased information about all the apps, tv shows and movies out there.


Their “About” page provides information on what goes into their ratings and how they break them down by age group. The ratings they use are helpful. Rather than just focusing on the negative side of things, like violence, sex, and language, they also focus on positive things. They give a rating for a movie or an app based on the positive message they portray or the positive role models they include. These can be great indicators if you’re looking for something that isn’t just entertaining but also uplifting for your kids. One unique negative indicator that they use is consumerism. I have not seen a similar indicator on other sites.


The age groups are relatively short periods of time, and the year designation makes it easy to know who they are talking about. They don’t break it up into “toddler” and “teen,” and leave you wondering if they’re talking about an older, younger, or middle-aged teen or toddler. Instead, they use two to three year increments so that you have a better idea of whether or not your child fits into their age designation.

Here’s an example of their rating system in action. Doctor Strange is a Marvel movie that recently came out. gave it a 12+ age designation. They go through the seven categories listed above with an explanation of their ranking. For example, they give language a 3 out of 5 because there are two uses of a**hole, a use of *ss, a use of h*ll, and a possible use of sh*t.

Probably one of the coolest aspects of the site is that they have a section with discussion topics for families. They give ideas on how to talk about the Doctor Strange’s character progression from arrogant and selfish to humble and perseverant.

This is a great site to help you weed through the thousands of choices of apps, tv shows and movies available for your family to use and watch. What do you use to make sure your family is watching great movies and tv shows? How do you make sure that the apps your kids use are the best ones?

AAP’s New Tech Rules and Creating Your Own Family Digital Media Plan

You’ve probably seen the new guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published on how much time kids should be spending in front of screens on a daily basis.


It’s something that has garnered a lot of attention in the news. The headlines are all over the place on this. Depending on the site you visit, you may have a wildly different reaction to what the new guidance actually says.

CNN used New Screen Time Rules for Kids, by Doctors. This is pretty straightforward, no nonsense. What it is, and who said it.

The WSJ used Banning Tablets is Best for Children. The subheadline follows: “Latest guidelines recommend just one hour of screen time a day of ‘high quality programming.'”… This is pretty confusing. So, should we ban tablets or shoot for one hour a day?

Gizmodo used We Were Wrong About Limiting Children’s Screen Time. This is kind of foreboding. How were we wrong? Are our kids brains already mush? Is it too late for our kids?

So, what did the AAP actually say?

They set the stage by saying that kids today spend an average of seven hours a day on electronic entertainment in front of the tv, computers, phones and other electronic devices. This is a crazy amount of time! If a kid is at school from 8 until 3 and getting entertained by technology for the rest of the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for interacting with family, running around outside, or doing things like sports. The whole seven hour thing is something they think parents need to change.

How do parents do that, you ask? Well, they suggested that parents come up with a media use plan for their kids. If you have no idea what this means, that’s ok. The AAP provides tools to help families make their own digital media plan. They have two different tools. One tool focuses on creating a family media plan. The other tool is a media use calculator.

The media plan is divided up into nine different categories for each child. The categories are screen free zones, screen free times, device curfews, choose and diversify your media, balancing online and offline options, manners matter, digital citizenship, safety first, and sleep and exercise.


This is the Safety First section of the plan that I can work on for my three fake kids–Bill, Billy, and William. It provides age-appropriate suggestions for each age group, like “no texting and driving” for the 13-18 year-old and gives you the option to add your own guidelines. The AAP encourages you to return to this cite often throughout the year to reassess how your plan is doing and making adjustments for different times through the week like weekends and holidays.

The calculator allows you to see how much time your child should have for electronic entertainment after doing everything else he or she needs to do throughout the day. It helps parents prioritize things for their kids like getting a good night’s sleep and physical activity. These are the two default activities that have a period of time set off when you open the calculator. Screen time also starts with an initial period of time set off, but its time decreases as you increase other areas. Then it includes suggestions of things that kids should be doing each day like reading, going to school, and spending time with family. Here’s an example of what I was able to create for my imaginary 6-12 year-old “Bill.”


As you can see, the way that I have prioritized everything for my hypothetical child leaves him with only 30 minutes of screen time each day. (As a nerdy aside, I was recently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. William H. Seward, one of the Republican candidates running against Abraham Lincoln for the presidential nomination, studied as a kid from 5 A.M. until 9 P.M. every day. This set the stage for his success as a governor, U.S. senator, and the U.S. Secretary of State. On the other hand, Lincoln did not have a lot of formal schooling. He obtained much of his education from books. He was always reading. Goodwin’s book is amazing. I highly recommend it. Aside over.)

Do you use tools like these? Have you found them to be effective?