GeoPalz pedometer

The GeoPalz Activity Tracker mentioned in this blog.

A friend of mine graciously agreed to write about how her son and his grandfather started a long-distance competition about who could walk the most steps tracked by a pedometer. It is such a great idea, and our kids and grandparents will be getting their pedometers in the Easter basket. Enjoy!

How a Pedometer brought my Son and his Grandfather Closer Together, by Guest Writer, Dana.

I had dreams that, like many other far-flung families, my parents and children would maintain their close connection through weekly Skype video calls. My heart nearly melted thinking about Sebastian, my 7-year-old, flashing them his new toothless smile or our baby girl showing off her cross-pattern crawl to her proud grandparents – all through the iPad. But what actually got transmitted through the ether was my husband and I losing our cool trying to cajole our two uninterested boys into saying a quick hi to Grandma and Pop, or on other occasions, prying Seb and Simon apart as they fought over who got to say hi first. Video calls were a bust for us, but my dad and oldest son Seb have found their own special technological way to stay close between the quarterly visits:  a pedometer.

Last spring, Seb became interested in, okay obsessed with, counting how many steps he takes in a day when he saw a friend wearing a pedometer made for kids, called the GeoPalz, which has fun, colorful designs. We bought him one with a peace sign on it and he began wearing it everywhere—of course to school and to the park, but also to his talent show audition. He hooks it on his pjs every night and wears it to bed. Around that time my parents came for a visit, and my dad was immediately inspired by Seb’s dedication and by all the miles he was racking up with his two feet. A big walker himself, my dad went out and bought a pedometer, and before leaving to go home to Nebraska, he and Seb made a bet involving cash (for Seb) and bagels (for my dad) over who could get the most steps before they saw each other again in two months.

A couple days after the challenge started Seb received an email from my dad:

Dear Seb, It is walking weather in Fremont.  I now have 18,937 steps.  I walked to McDonalds and back this afternoon.  You may want to step it up a notch.  I have new walking shoes and lots of time. Love, Pop 

Pop and Seb started emailing almost every evening, updating each other on how many steps they had. If one had a really big walking day, he would call the other to boast about it. And in Seb’s focused effort to accumulate steps, he decided to enter one of the biggest 10K races in the country, the Bolder Boulder. As he and I jogged along, with thousands of people around and ahead of us, he said, “I’m probably not going to win the race, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to win my bet with Pop.”

Of course I was very pleased that my kindergartner was getting exercise, writing every night, and learning numbers up to the hundred thousands place. But that satisfaction paled in comparison to the deep joy I felt knowing that Seb and my dad were bonding despite the miles between them and making memories that would be cherished by both of them (and me).

Seb did ultimately win that bet. And the two long-distance ones they’ve had since. My parents are visiting again now, and Seb and Pop just started a new contest. Every night they go down to the basement to enter their steps into the spreadsheet they created.  That task must take a few seconds, but invariably they stay down there just talking and hanging out until I call Seb up for bedtime.

March is cruel. Now that I live in Colorado, I get it. Howling winds one day, summer warmth the next, and then a surprise sprinkle of snow or rain. I grew up in temperate Los Angeles, and the end of winter in Colorado drives me crazy. To flee the weather last year, the girls and I headed south to visit the grandparents for spring break. But a freak rain storm in Los Angeles made us quickly change plans and meet up instead in the Arizona desert for our first resort vacation.
The trip was great. The grandparents watched the kids swim. The kids loved the restaurants and the patio where we played cards over lemonade and margaritas. We visited the rec room, and explored the Phoenix Zoo, which was fantastic. I didn’t cook a meal, wash clothes, pack a lunch or clean up clutter, and I had 24/7 babysitters. The grandparents paid. Clearly, I thought the whole experience was brilliant. I started scouting out resorts for our next trip.

So this year, I politely declined to attend a conference in DC for work (we’re getting close to launching our service, DoubleScoop. It’s so exciting.) and I asked the girls if they wanted to go south again with the grandparents. I showed them the resort I found. Five pools, miniature golf, several on-site restaurants, a beach, a game room. And the little rascals replied, ‘Can’t we just go to grandmother’s house? Maybe it won’t be raining.’ And so, to grandmother’s house we go. Maybe I’ll go to the resort by myself.

Study hard, be good.

March 19, 2012

Wise words from Nana

Spring came early in Colorado and five days of 70-degree weather are forecast. I am struggling to find my way to the DoubleScoop office, and to my desk with the enchanting view of the strip mall. At the same time, while I consider whether to show up to work, a voice reminds me ‘Work hard, be good.’

That is how my grandmother signed every letter and postcard written to me for as long as I can remember. When I was in school, from elementary through college, she wrote, ‘Study hard, be good.’ When I finally finished school, she switched the first word to ‘work.’ And somehow, in the context of birthday cards, little notes with clipped out comic strips, or a Christmas gift of flowered underwear, these words never seemed like an admonition, or an order, or a threat. She made this mantra natural and wise. And she was so consistent.

As I got older, married and had children, I don’t remember her signing off with those words anymore. Maybe the great reward for working hard and being good was the marriage and the children. Or maybe she knew if I had children, I of course was working hard. I suspect also, since I kept working after the birth of my first daughter, that my grandmother wanted me to quit my job to raise my child full-time. I don’t think that she wasn’t being critical but instead paying me a great compliment. She thought I could do the job best.

I do wish I had asked her more about how she came up with her signature sign-off. Maybe these words flowed from her mother, or an Irish proverb, or Dennis the Menace. But regardless, despite a warm sunny day dangling in front me tomorrow, I suppose I will trudge over to DoubleScoop, and imagine how best I could connect my grandmother with me.

I mentioned in my first post that one goal of this blog is to let grandparents and moms know about the DoubleScoop app. Amazingly, it seems that we are going to launch DoubleScoop in the next week. Why amazing? It turns out there are quite a few delays that are common in software development. I of course was aware of this, but understand that the first launch date I was given was December 2011. After several false starts, I have a lot to do, and I have no idea where I put my marketing plan last year.
Why did it take so long to build? First, coming up with a concept took a long, long time. When I joined the team in the spring of 2011, we were thinking of building a device that simplified social networking for people with little technological savvy, but who want to use social media to stay connected with younger family members. We vigorously debated how to do this all spring and summer. It was awful. The only thing that saved me was that our founder had recently adopted a puppy, Emma, pictured below, and I would play with her while we discussed the endless problems we encountered.

Finally, we focused in on the specific need that grandparents had to connect with their grandchildren. We all personally identified with this need since we all have out-of-state grandparents. We were able to do initial testing with my kids and their grandparents. (One of the first things my mom asked us to add was a delete button. I was appalled that she wasn’t going to keep everything the grandkids sent her, but agreed the quantity of messages the girls sent was overwhelming at first.) We put up our website last week at www.doublescoop.net, and we are graciously inviting friends and family test it out next week. I’ll write later about how the testing goes. In the meantime, I am off to find my marketing launch plan from last winter. I need to get busy.



March 8, 2012

Last week, I planned a movie night for me and my two girls, since my husband was out that night. I am not particularly crafty or creative, but something prompted me to make invitations for the not-so-big event (crudely pictured above). I left them on the kitchen counter the day before the screening. They loved the invitation, and talked about it all day. When will we have the popcorn? What kind of ice cream will I have? Should we wear our pajamas? Anticipating the movie night was almost as good as the event itself.
A visit to grandmother’s house is a lot like that. While being with grandmother is hand’s down the best part, planning and anticipating the trip is really fun for my kids, too. As we get closer to a trip, the kids and grandparents talk on the phone more frequently, and excitedly, as they decide what they are going to do. The kids mull over what they will bring, whether they’ll get a cookie or a cupcake at the local bakery, and whether they will finally go back to Disneyland. And, while I am only guessing, I suspect my mom enjoys the planning period, too. (Of couse, after she reads this, she might let me know what she really thinks).

We are gearing up for a visit right now, and I suggested to my mom that it might be fun to send the kids an invitation to an ‘event’ at her house during our trip. While there is already a lot for the girls to think about, an invitation can add an extra bit of excitement, even if it’s a tea party in the backyard, or a picnic at the beach. We’ll see what might show up in the mail.

I am planning a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, and it’s impossible not to be thinking about one of my two amazing grandmothers, Nana. She loved her Irish heritage, and ate like it. Her diet was plain — potatoes, meat, Cornflakes, cooked green vegetables and what I remember to be a daily dose of chocolate milk made with Hershey’s syrup. Garlic was forbidden, and I am sad she had to live through the rise of garlic mashed potatoes on restaurant menus. (“Excuse me, is there any way I can just have plain potatoes?”) And somehow, with a steady intake of white flour, meat, butter, and limited raw vegetables, she made it to 94 with perfect intellect and no major health problems.
Nana was an ideal grandmother. I only visited her in Chicago once or twice a year as a child, but each visit was perfect. It was so wonderful that someone wanted you to be with them so much, to be doted on and spoiled. She kept an arsenal of toys in her basement, shrewdly connected us with neighborhood kids to play kick the can, indulged us with ice cream or treats every day, and, just as we were saying our good-byes, she had grandpa slip up some cash. A crisp $5 or $10 bill was thrilling. Every time I left her house, I was already hoping to go back.

I am so happy that she met both of my daughters before she died. As the only one of her 9 grandchildren who has had children to date, I suppose she might have been even more excited than me. And just as I would visit her in Chicago, I would take my girls to visit her every 2-3 times a year. I love that my older child remembers her. And I love that I can tell my kids stories about her on March 17, when we dive into a feast Nana would have loved. I think I’ll go with the basics – corned beef, potatoes, peas with butter, and not a hint of garlic.

Why Mint Chocolate Chip

March 1, 2012

My Favorite DoubleScoop

Why Mint Chocolate Chip?
Naming things is not one of my strengths, and I probably should have shared that with the guys I work for. For example, it took my husband and I ten days to name our first daughter. Finally, when the hospital staff let us know that if we needed more than 10 days we would have to pay $250, we settled on Lydia. With the second child, we couldn’t decide between two names, so we named her both, and added onto that a hyphenated last name. Yes, both of our last names are that important. She may fail standardized tests simply because she can’t fill in all the bubbles in time.

The DoubleScoop team spent a really, really long time trying to name our application. I think it took a solid 4 months for us to decide to use the name DoubleScoop. We liked that it is easy to spell, relates to ice cream – a treat most kids and grandparents love – and the ‘double’ makes us think of grandparents giving their grandkids a little something extra. So far, it seems to be working for us.

Then I had to name my blog. We started with DoubleScoop Mom. We wanted to be upfront that I work at DoubleScoop and would occasionally be using the blog to promote the product. But we all found it to be a little dull, and I frankly get a little tired of just being ‘mom’ all the time. Going back to work is my way to take a break from being mom 24/7. But, we wanted to stick with the ice cream theme that we are using for our product, DoubleScoop. A few weeks ago, I had asked that we each put our favorite ice cream on our business cards. Cute, right? Apparently not, according to the team. So I thought instead I could name my blog with my favorite flavor: mint chocolate chip. So, I’ll try this out for a while until I think of something better. Runner-up: AnotherScoop.

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