My Kid Has a Kindle, So What


One of my friends works for a local news affiliate and posted on her work page an article about a new “real barbie” coming out.  It sparked some talk about the lack of imagination in children today and how technology plays a big part in that.  Well, it’s funny that I felt the need to chime in because I’ve had the title of this post sitting in my draft box for the last week.  So, nows a better time than ever to sit down and put my thoughts out there.

Yes, Henry has a Kindle and yes, I know people judge me for “spoiling” my one year old with a piece of technology that he doesn’t know how to work.  False, he does know how to work it and he’s pretty dang good at it too.  Before you get all judgy judgy on me for sticking a piece of technology in my sons hands instead of interacting with him, let me lay my point of view out there.

Five years ago I started working at Washington Middle School, a 1:1 school.  For those of you who don’t know what 1:1 means, it’s one device (iPad, computer, etc) per one child.  When I first heard of this I was beyond excited.  Technology is my thing, heck I have two degrees and a certificate in it.  Then after awhile I got irritated.  Our technology person, whom I now consider a wonderful friend, took me aside one day and said, “Allie, why won’t you conform?  You teach technology all day long, but you won’t allow the students to bring their devices to your lab and you don’t collaborate with others.” I expressed my concerns with him and he then took me for a walk.  The man is quite the talker with all his analogies, so as you can imagine, I wasn’t all too phased at first. However, as we walked and he took me in the room of teachers doing GREAT things, he opened my eyes. These teachers weren’t just putting technology in the students hands and saying good luck.  They were using the technology as a tool. There’s a different between using it as a tool and as a crutch.  One thing I vividly remember from working with our technology person, is he’d always say to me, “Allie, a teacher doesn’t put a book in front of a kid and say good luck. The book is the tool.  The device is a tool.  It’s not doing the job of the teacher.”

I went on to work at Washington in that environment for 3 years, I became the assistant to our technology person, helped roll out the 1:1 iPad program and am beyond proud of the things I learned while working there.  Now, I’ve helped propose bringing a 1:1 program to one of the schools I’m working at.

You see, technology in the hands of children is what you make of it.  Kids don’t learn to read just by picking up a book. Technology doesn’t limit creativity, but it helps enhance it.  I’ve been blessed to work amongst AMAZING teachers, teachers that I’d kill to be, and the things they’ve done is mind blowing.  They’re still teaching, but they’re doing so much more than that.  Eyes have been opening, ideas have been put to work and great pieces have been created.   There are even teachers  who don’t even want to use technology because it goes against what they’ve taught for years. Schools aren’t just puddles of technology.  If someone finds one, can you please point me there?I’d love to work at it!

I’ve also seen teachers abuse the technology and I’ve also seen teachers abuse textbooks.  A crutch, not a tool. One person commented on the thread this morning that her child is on an iPad 4 hours a day at school.  Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous.  Not even I, who forces technology down peoples throats, think that’s right.

Someone else brought up that  recent college graduates won’t know how to teach because there’s an app for that.  From my experience in college and working with recent college graduates, they don’t get to dabble in as much technology for teaching as others think.  It’s because each district is different with their technologies.  A lot of teachers will learn Web 2.0 and have sessions on technology, but that’s not all college is.  New teachers still have fresh new ideas and may find a way to use technology along the way, but is it wrong to help reinforce a topic my using an app?

People will continue to argue that teachers aren’t doing their jobs and the technology is.  I urge those people to step into the rooms of teachers and see what’s really going on.  It will amaze you. Technology is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere.  We should embrace it in our education system.  I still use paper and pencils for lots of things in my classrooms because I find it important. If I taught math, I’d certainly teach them how to do it with a paper and pencil before ever giving the students technology.  Sometimes I get irritated when I see collages hanging up in the hall, but then I think, awesome people still use magazines, glue and scissors.

Flipping gears, when I brought to Ben’s attention that I wanted Henry to have a mobile device he looked at me funny.  I know our one year old (he was 10 months when he got it) doesn’t need it, but I wanted him to have it for no reason other than I think it’s a great learning tool.  Originally we settled on an iPad mini, but thanks to an awesome Black Thursday sale at Best Buy, we went with the Kindle.

Reading books

Reading books

Guess what, Henry uses it and I love it.  It’s loaded with tons of free apps from Fisher Price and free ebooks.  He LOVES the sounds, colors, and interaction.  He LOVES books.  He’s getting something from using his Kindle, his books are coming to life.  We didn’t teach him what the duck says, he learned it from his ABC app.  Did we teach him what the cow and horse say, absolutely? We maybe pull out the Kindle once a week and usually it’s me on Mondays when Ben is gone and I’m trying to cook dinner while making sure Henry doesn’t get into anything.  So, after I’ve plopped him in his highchair, I’ll break it out turn on the ABCs and we’ll go through things together.  I’m not using technology to babysit my child (well except when we were road tripping this last weekend and he’d had enough of the car.  The Kindle was the only thing that kept him quiet).  We’re learning together.  He’s not dependent on his device to function.  He still plays with his toys all night long and has showed us he has quite the imagination.  He knows where it’s stored and never has he sat screaming at the drawer waiting for me to pull it out.  Every night he gets read too and spends more time playing with books than any child I’ve EVER met.

Reading a book in public....sssh don't tell anyone

Reading a book in public….sssh don’t tell anyone

You see, technology in moderation is fine in my opinion.  It’s how you use it and approach the tool that matters. We don’t bring it in public to restaurants with us.  At the grocery store he’s far too busy looking around (or trying to climb out of the cart) while we talk about different foods to even care about my phone with the grocery list on it.  Heck, he still loves my phone as a chew toy (and taking selfies of course).

Personally, I see where people think that technology is taking away the creativity and imagination of kids.  I’ve found, professionally and as a parent, if you are using it correctly, it only enhances their learning and imagination.  Henry won’t be allowed, as he gets older, to use his Kindle when he wants.  (The best part about the Kindle is the parental controls and the ability to turn off after certain periods).  He’ll still be outside finding adventure and hopefully loving books as much as he does now.  We won’t allow game consoles in our house and he sure as hell won’t watch SpongeBob.

Before you judge teachers, schools and parents for giving todays children, 21st Century learners, a piece of technology, look at the approach. Yes, I’ve seen parents use technology and TV to babysit their kids (I’ve even done it while trying to mop the floors on a Saturday morning), but there really are parents and teachers who find great ways to use it with their children. In the end, people do what works for them. Sometimes we need an electronic babysitter so we can breathe for a few minutes!

It’ll be a never ending debate as people will continue to abuse the tools in schools and at home, but the drinking age, smoking age, when kids should be allowed to drive and numerous other things have continually been a debate for my 26 years of life.  Society feeds off politics and debates, lets just add technology use to that list.



Why I Wear Red


February 7th was National Wear Red Day, February is Heart Health Awareness Month.  Until I was in college, I’d never heard of such a day/month and if I wasn’t for January of 2007, I would’ve never cared about promoting it either.

See, in January of 2007 I was helping chaperone Outdoor Education with my cousin at our old middle school.  While blow drying my hair, my heart started racing out of control and knocked me off my feet.  I couldn’t catch my breath and was completely freaked out.  However, I didn’t want to say anything to anyone, so I went on with my day.  A few weeks later, it happened again.  I talked to my mom about it and we both chalked it up to anxiety (college was stressful), but thought it was worth getting checked out.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my heart started racing so fast it woke me from a dead sleep.  Never have I been so scared.  My mom called to push my appointment up to an earlier date (yes, I was 19 and my mother still made my doctors appointments.  Sometimes she still does).  She decided to tell my dad and he called me one day to say that my Aunt Claudia had a similar problem and to give her a call.  For those of you who don’t know my Aunt Claudia, she’s an amazing woman.  Not only has she raised a family, taken care of the Soetenga’s, but she was also a nurse in the NICU in Des Moines, IA. She’s truly a caregiver through and through. We had a nice conversation, she is a woman with words and she told me what steps to take next.  I was to go see my regular doctor, have some tests run and wait for them to tell me I was perfectly healthy.  Seriously.  Then I’d get to see a cardiologist (SCARY), they’d run more tests and decisions would be made from there.

Everything my aunt said, happened to a ‘t’. I had to wear a heart monitor round the clock for four straight weeks, except for when showering.  Each time I had an episode I’d need to record it on the device, call this number, send the recording over the phone waves, and repeat.  This was horrible.  The pads ate up my skin.  It was starting to become warm and I couldn’t wear warm weather clothes because the pads were all across my chest.  I didn’t want people to stare.  I was still in school so I had to let all my professors know that I was a ticking time bomb.  Every night I went to bed scared of dying.  I kid you not, I’d tell Ben to check on me in my sleep.  My roommate, bless her heart, lived through my crazy “I’m going to die in my sleep” moments all the time.

Finally, it was time to get my referral to the cardiologist, a nice man whom also treated my grandma.  We violated HIPPA laws for a nano second when I mentioned our relation.  He also told me she was one of his oldest patients and I his youngest.  How lucky are we?

Dr. Phan explained the whole process. He held my hand and assured me I would not die.  My resting heart rate was anywhere between 150-200bpm.  When I was having an episode it was off the charts in the 300-400bpm range.  A natural persons resting heart rate is 60-80bpm.  Everyone joked that I was bionic because it dawned on me why I never truly got tired when working out (when I worked out).  However, it was a blessing that I have no athletic ability as sports would’ve caused me a lot of harm (read as dying on the soccer field).  We also learned why I was so tired.  My heart was working double time, which the doctor explained to me as having the heart of an obese person.  He’d ask questions such as, do you get winded easily? do you sleep often? do you breath heavy?  All of my answers to every question was yes.

On May 21, 2007 I have my first EP Study.  Ben and my parents accompanied me to this day surgery, which ended up turning into an overnight stay.  Dr. Phan really wanted me to be monitored overnight due to my age and the severity of the case.  He burnt two of my bad pathways and froze another.  The burnt pathways could never grow back, but I’d have a higher chance of needing a pacemaker.  A frozen pathway could come undone, but a pacemaker was less likely.

The surgery was tolerable.  They went through the main arteries in my groin, put me in twilight sleep, and sandbagged my legs for hours after.  Not moving was a curial part to recovery to insure that I wouldn’t bleed out.  I had an allergic reaction to the meds, which was horrible seeing as I couldn’t hold myself together enough to vomit.  I’ll never forget that nurse who helped and cleaned up after me.  I had to pee in a bed pan and felt mostly helpless.  I was told that after I came too, the surgery would have made a huge change.  It did.  Had I been able too, I would’ve run a marathon.  For the first time in probably my entire life, I felt amazing.

Recovery was slow.  I couldn’t wear underwear, walk stairs or sit to pee.  My parents were nice enough to have me home again and took great care of me.  I was bruised from the waist down and uncomfortable for a long while.

By summer, I felt great.  I was back to watching Katherine, staying busy with summer classes, and doing what most 19/20 year old do.  Then came April of 2009.  It was back.  The heart was fluttering and I was freaked out.  Ben and I both agreed we would not tell our parents until after meeting with the doctor.

Sure thing, the frozen pathway had come unfrozen.  There’s no real test to show this, but Dr. Phan feared this would happen.  I wore the monitor again.  My heart rate was elevated, but not as often as before.  I begged him to let me wait to have the surgery until after summer was over.  I had big plans.  Trips.  Parities.  Turning 21.  I couldn’t have another summer being laid up and uncomfortable.  He agreed, but told me I needed to have it done before my birthday.  August 6, 2008, I had EP Study number 2.  Much easier than the first.  Another overnight stay.  Same recovery, but I felt better about it all.

August 17, 2008 I got engaged, August 18, 2008 I turned 21 and FINALLY felt normal.  We had just bought a new house, were now getting married, life was awesome.  By October, my flutter was back.  Dr. Phan told me that he couldn’t do any more surgeries.  Burning more pathways would kill me, awesome (not) and freezing was out of the question.  He also told me that some women hormonally have a natural flutter.  After that appointment I started drinking water like it was my job.  The flushing of your system and staying hydrated helps the blood flow better.  I will continue to drink water like it’s my job until the day I die.

For the second time I went on medicine for the flutter.  The first was between April and August of 2008.  I hated the meds.  They made my hair fall out, I felt high (or at least I think that’s what I felt like) and they gave me anxiety.  I took them because they made my heart feel better.  The rest of my body didn’t feel great, however they worked awesome at curing hangovers.  Can you tell I was a youngster then?

I took the meds until we decided to try and get pregnant in November of 2011.  Dr. Phan and my OB agreed no meds and if needed I’d go back on in the second trimester.  Well since pregnancy didn’t come easily, I took the meds occasionally.  Only when I had an episode.  Dr. Phan also told me pregnancy would make me feel like my heart was never affected or it would cause a major flair up.  When we finally got pregnant, I never had one side affect.  My heart has not skipped a beat (knock on wood) in a VERY long time.  Pregnancy cured me!

My resting heart rate is still 90-100bpm, but my body has adjusted so well that I’m barely affected. I still drink gallons of water a week to help blood circulation.  I try to stay healthy and keep somewhat active.  I’m always hesitant being active (and lazy) as I HATE the feeling the flutter gives me.  I haven’t asked Ben to check on me in my sleep in ages.

While superventricular tachycardia (SVT) is not genetic or hereditary, it seems to be in the Soetenga family.  My grandma, aunt, cousin and dad all have had the same procedures as myself.

From all of this, I’ve learned so much about heart health.  Heart disease is the number one killer in women.  A fact that I don’t think many people know.  We always assume it’s the Big C because that’s talked about the most.  I will continue to promote heart health in everyone I know.  Take five minutes and go for a walk.  Park further away from the entrance at Target.  Avoid caffeine (I love decaf).  Drink water.  Eat healthy. Know your family history. Make the heart smart choices.

To learn more about women’s heart health, visit Go Red For Women.  For those of you who wore red and continue to support heart health, thank you.

Why I’d Be Awesome in A Natural Disaster


Today was a cold day, literally.  I don’t think in my 26 years of life, we’ve ever had off school because it was too cold.  In all seriousness this is Wisconsin.  We a bred to stand the cold at least nine months out of the year.  I’ve also never only had 1 day of school in the last 4.  That must be some sort of record.

Yesterday, a girlfriend from upstate New York, was talking about how she lost power in their snow storm.  This got my imagination  running.  Immediately, I turned up the heat and asked Ben if it was possible that our heat could go out.  Being the reassuring husband that he’s been to my neurotic self for years, he told me there was no chance of freezing rain so we would be fine.

Fast forward to this afternoon while I’m surfing the internet, binge watching Friday Night Lights and trying to convince Henry that rawhides are not for babies and the TV goes off.  At first I assumed Henry took the remote, but nope it was sitting right next to me.  Then I thought maybe the TV just shut off.  Tried to turn it back on and nothing.  It then dawned on me that I couldn’t hear the dryer anymore (insert panic attack).

Right away I checked my internet connection because that’s what you do when the power is out.  After texting Ben that the power had been out for five minutes (really it was 30 seconds, but I wanted to gauge his reaction) my wheels were turning.  I called the WE Energies info line.  Something I had never done before.  Low and behold it’s busy.  How is a 1-800 number busy?  Kept calling.  Finally got through, put my info in and found out it was expected to be down for 2 hours!  Two hours! In forty below temps that’s a lifetime at least.

Called Ben and told him I was getting the hell otta dodge.  I picked up Henry, threw him in his crib with a  basket of books and began packing bags for my parents house.  I was anticipating being there for days.  At this point I hadn’t been dressed yet, so I needed to throw some contacts in, put a bra on and slide some deodorant on my pits.  I also had to get stuff ready for the dog, manually open the garage door and warm up the car.  This was exhausting, but I was not going to freeze to death.

Got everything all packed up, put Henry in his fleece bunting and pep talked Bernie about why we needed to leave, ASAP.  Once I got it the car it dawned on me that after our drive home from the Frozen Tundra Ben didn’t put gas in my car because I had a terrible migraine.  No big deal the gas station was right up the street.  At this point I was convinced only my subdivision was without power.  Get to the gas station and the pumps don’t work.  Now I’m about to panic.  It’s forty below, we have no power, and the gas lines are frozen.  I’m going to die with my baby and dog on the side of the road. No big deal, there’s one across the street.  Here, the attendant yells out the pumps don’t work because of lack of power.  Awesome, now what?  Call Ben to tell him that not only do we not have power, I’m toting a dog and baby around in sub zero temperatures, I’m almost out of gas and now my tire pressure light is flashing.  I also was concerned as to why he wasn’t concerned that the power was out in sub zero tempteratues.  Does he not remember our conversation the day before about friend in upstate New York without power during a blizzard?  Men!  When he asked what I needed from him I promptly told him to save me when my tire blows and I run out of gas.

Thankfully I made it to the gas station, the dog did not jump out of the car while I was pumping gas, no one froze and Henry fell asleep.  About more than half way to my parents, Jessica text to say the power was back.  Found the first driveway, turned around and headed back home.  At least we got out of the house, stayed warm and Henry took a nap.


From all of this I learned that I’d be awesome during a natural disaster.  In those situations people are told to get out and get out fast.  That’s exactly what I did today.  Only took the essentials, didn’t look back and knew I was making the right choice.  Now, was I being a little dramatic?  Probably, but subconsciously I felt myself getting colder by the minute.  It’s like that scene from Day After Tomorrow when the ship is covered in ice/snow and Jake Gyllenhaal is about to freeze to death.  You’d never see me waiting it out, EVER!