Hey, Caine’s Arcade: Do you need a vending machine?

Most mornings, the kids wake up and get some time in front of some sort of screen. (Please don’t get too judge-y here: I work from home and am training for a 10K, so mornings are pretty much my only time to get stuff done.)

But one morning, the kids were especially cranky about shutting things down for breakfast, so I snapped, “No Screens Tomorrow!

Oh, joy: The punishment that gets me too.

So, when D came stumbling down the stairs the next morning at 7am and asked me for the iPad, I reminded him of the “no screens” day. I then said, “But you can do any craft you want“.

He said, “I want to paint.” At 7am. Le sigh.

So, I pulled out the paints, got him into a smock, and let him go at it. His sisters came down a while later and started thinking bigger.

Do we have a big box, Mom?“, Belly asked.

There was much running up and down the stairs to the basement, but they were all quiet and intent on their work. I had no idea what they were doing, but at their age, they can be trusted to not paint the furniture.

When they finished, they called me into the living room. And what they had created that morning was pretty cool.

Behold, a homemade vending machine:



close up of fruits for “sale”


close up of key pad (on right)

Yes, it works, as long as D is behind the machine. Put the money in, push the “button” for the number snack you want, and using little plastic pegs (that normally hold their Slip N’ Slide onto the lawn), a fruit gets knocked down below where it can be collected. Here’s a video of it being used. (Forgive my terrible camera person skills. All my videos look like this because I cannot hold still for 2 seconds.)


the back of the machine


No, we haven’t given out television away and filled the house with cardboard boxes. But, you can bet we’ll spend a few more mornings than normal with the paints out, the screens off, and the kids’ imaginations intact.


Though they’ve made many creative things before, this vending machine was, no doubt, inspired by Caine’s Arcade. If you haven’t seen this video yet, drop everything and watch it. It’s the best feel-good story out there, and it makes me so happy that kids like Caine are out there.

What are your internet rules?

Though I think the internet is about 85% great and 15% gak-awful-horror, my ratios change quite a bit when I think about my kids being on it. 

I mean, have you ever read the comments on a YouTube video? Even an adorable :10 film of a puppy chasing a kitten will have someone saying, “Your a f*cker and suc* donkey b*lls”. Doesn’t anyone remember that “you’re” needs an apostrophe? Makes me weep for humanity.

In our home, we have parental controls on everything from the laptops to my iPhone. The kids know that YouTube is verboten unless I am with them. And only my 11 year old has an email account, and no way/no how are they getting on Facebook anytime soon.

But, they are now old enough to leave the house on their own, those darned growing-up kids. And, I no longer accompany them on every play date. They even have friends with their own devices: iPod Touches,  iPads, and access to their home computers.

So now what? If I find them huddled around a device in my presence, I tell them to shut it off and go outside to play. But, when I’m not there? Now what? 

I’ve thought about approaching parents and asking, “Do you have parental controls on your kids’ devices?” But then I think I’ll go from being That Weird Homeschooling Parent, to That Weird Overprotective, Nosy, Pushy Homeschooling Parent (who doesn’t let her kids read The Hunger Games).

My husband has asked a friend for a copy of the Internet Contract he’s had his kids sign. I like this idea though I think any memory of a “contract” probably goes out the window as soon as a friend says, “You’ve GOT to see this!

How do you mamas of older kids handle this? Do you tell your kids’ friends to put away the devices in your home? Host every play date so they are always under your roof? Lock them in their room until they are 18? (Oh I could never do that. I read Flowers in the Attic.)

But, seriously, I’d really appreciate your input on this one. When my oldest expressed frustration at me when I was talking this over with her, I said, “Listen, this is new territory. There WAS NO INTERNET when I was a child.” 

“Wait? Not even email?”

Sigh. These kids don’t really understand.

The kids are ruining my appetite for The Hunger Games

I came to The Hunger Games late. It was while I was reading Suzanne Collins’ juvenile series Gregor out loud to my children that I heard that she had also written a Young Adult series. The Hunger Games name rang a bell, so I decided to read it. In a weekend. Followed quickly by Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The books left me breathless, sickened, upset, and gave me so much food for thought, it often took me a while to fall asleep at night if I was reading in bed.

In the meantime, I finished book 2 of the Gregor series and my oldest daughter asked me to please stop reading them out loud. While they are much (MUCH) less violent than The Hunger Games, this series has  enough suspense, death and suffering that my then-ten-year old was having trouble going to sleep at the end of a chapter. I ended up reading the remaining three books in that series alone. 

So it is interesting that this same daughter is now asking to read The Hunger Games. Why? Because “all the kids are reading it” according to some of her friends. And, yes, as soon as I heard that quote coming from the lips of a tween, my eyes rolled back in my head.

At first, I thought “eh, ignore it. Make a big deal about it and they’ll be dying to read it.” But, I have a big mouth and can’t ignore anything, so I’ve been telling them why they can’t read it. Whey they shouldn’t read it. And now they think I’m the big, bad mama who doesn’t let her kids read the most-hyped book since Harry Potter.

Hell, even my seven year old says he wants to read it despite the fact that he’s still working his way through Easy Readers. 

Here’s my gripe: The Hunger Games is not a Juvenile book. It is not even Tween. It’s Young Adult. It’s insanely violent and the violence is almost always against children. It’s bloody and scary. It is NOT the next great novel for kids who have finished the Harry Potter series.

Listen, I get it. The kids want to be “in” on the next big thing. I’m pretty sure kids have read Twilight though I think that is also a YA title. And I snuck Forever out of the library at 16 so I could read about Ralph. (heh)

But, man, when I hear that nine year olds are reading The Hunger Games, it bums me out. 

And if I see them grabbing popcorn and settling into watching the movie with me, my eyes are going to roll. I won’t be able to help it.

If you are on the fence for your kids, check out Snarky Amber’s excellent suggestions in today’s MamaPop article called Is “The Hunger Games” Too Violent For Your Kids?”