10 apps every parent should look out for on their tween’s or teen’s cell phone

As I mentioned in my post about monitoring kids social media, it is very important to look at your kids’ devices for various applications that may not be the most user friendly for kids, tweens and teens. Following is a (partial) list of apps you should question and/ or monitor closely on your child’s device.

KIK– A mobile texting app that allows users to quickly message with friends and other users at high speed, while feeling more like face to face because of pictures appearing in the chat. The app is rated for 17+ but the lack of age verification allows anyone to download and use it. The disturbing part of this app is how it allows users to chat with others simply based on username, no cell phone number needed. This seems like a bad idea, because should kids really be messaging with people they don’t know? Reviews reveal that many users use KIK for sexting with strangers sending up another huge red flag.

SnapChat– HUGELY popular with tweens and teens, this is an app to keep a close eye on. This app allows users to send texts and pictures that “disappear” within 10 seconds of being received. Users use it to send racy photos believing that the photo will disappear, however like everything posted online, we know that NOTHING truly disappears. Snapchat allows users to take screen shots which can then be redistributed. Experts worry that the “disappearing” aspect may embolden users to say or share things they may not in a traditional chat environment.

Yik Yak– This anonymous “social wall for anything and everything” relies heavily on users to do the monitoring making it a hotbed for misuse. The TOC says this app is for 17+ but when did that ever stop a younger user from downloading or using such an app especially when no personal info is required to sign up?  This app is known for making is easy to bully and post hurtful comments and rumors about others. In addition it has been used to post “threats” against schools.

Ask.fm- While seemingly innocent on the surface, this interactive question and answer format app has been linked to numerous cases of cyber bullying and even suicide. While this app is more popular in Europe it has been gaining traction in the States.

Tinder– Nearly all mobile device users know Tinder; the swipe for likes “dating” app which is mainly used for hook ups. Tinder helps unite people by geographical location (danger) allowing users to find and communicate with others in their area once they have each liked the others photo. The geo-location feature and anonymity of the app put youngsters at risk of sexual harassment, cat-fishing, stalking, and more. Numerous articles and parenting sites have posted articles about the danger of this app. Definitely block this from your kids’ phones.


Instagram– As tweens and teens venture away from Facebook, leaving it more to older generations, many are heading to Instagram, a photo sharing app owned by Facebook. While filters are stronger than those on Tumblr, users may still be exposed to inappropriate content and comments. The biggest issue here appears to be “trolls” or anonymous people making hurtful or vicious comments on posts. Many “kid” users have “spam” accounts with fake names used to post content they may not want Mom, Dad or Grandma to see. Geotagging can be turned off and specific users can be blocked but users need to be sure to take advantage of these features.

Tumblr– A photo sharing/ micro-blogging app much like Instagram, Tumblr allows sharing of photos, videos and chatting. The 17+ app is often used by kids under that age which is alarming because filtering is lax making it easy to access pornographic, violent or otherwise inappropriate images. Mental health experts warn that Tumblr can be harmful to adolescents self-esteem and mental health because it shows images that glorify self-harm and eating disorders. While “safe browsing” setting are available they are not easily accessed.

Omegle/ ChatRoulette– These apps allow users to video chat with strangers and despite attempts by developers to warn users when others are using fake web cam software, users DO still slip under the radar. This could lead to a 50 year old man posing as a good looking 15 year old boy in order to try to coax inappropriate pictures or even location information from young users.

Whisper– This chat app allows users to post secrets anonymously and also allows you to chat with others in your geographical area. Obviously this is dangerous in that users, i.e. your child, may be convinced to share info with someone unknown to them by geographically very close, allowing anonymity to be easily lost.

Poof– Poof is an app designed to “clear clutter” from phone screens but in reality many teens are using it to HIDE questionable apps from Mom & Dad.
Bottom line.. parents should be looking at their kids phones regularly and if you see an icon you don’t recognize, research it! You should be using (or monitoring) the apps that your kids are using so you can keep an eye on them. You may think your kid is honest and “well trained” in internet safety but they are kids.. they stretch boundaries and make mistakes. It’s up to US as parents to guide them through this mine field.


More resources:






Vintage Fruit Crate “Cart”

One of my favorite “time wasters” is perusing Instagram and lusting over gorgeous photos of farmhouse decor in inspiring homes… think Joanna Gaines and her ilk. I get so many ideas and so much inspiration for our own home, but the thing I always wonder is, where is all these people’s STUFF?? Because if your family is like mine, there are shoes and socks tossed on the floor inside the front door, piles of mail on the entry table/ counter and a cabinet full of DVDs in family room, none of which are cute OR inspiring. We are a REAL family and we have STUFF, which doesn’t keep me from TRYING to have a cute or inspiring home.  I am just trying to find places that might look cuter to keep our stuff.


Not too long ago I spotted a post by one of my fav Instagrammers, Donna of FunkyJunkInteriors, who had repurposed some old wooden crates into a neat little “cart” of sorts to serve as a side table in her living room. I immediately thought of the PILE of vintage fruit crates I insisted we move (twice) because “they are cool and I can do something with them,” AND the unsightly pile of cookbooks I inherited from my Mother, that has been sort of haphazardly sitting in a weird space in our family room until I could figure out what to do with them. LIGHT BULB MOMENT!! I could make my own cart to store the cookbooks, it would be functional and cute and fit with our farmhouse decor! I ran the idea by my hubby who was immediately on board, (I think he envisioned a few of those crates leaving his work space) and we headed to the hardware store for supplies.

I scrubbed the crates with mild soapy water and the jet attachment of our hose and left them to dry in the sun. One dry I gave them a coat of poly sealer to bring out the pretty wood and make them easily wipeable. Once they dried it was as easy as screwing the crates one on top of the other and attaching casters to the bottom. I chose rubber all direction casters so it would roll easily and not scratch up our wood floor any worse than it already is. We chose to add a piece of barn wood (cut to seize) to the bottom to reinforce the bottom and really give the caster screws something to hold onto.


And voila!! A cute little cart ready to hold cookbooks!!


This is only a FRACTION of the cookbooks I inherited.. there are larger ones on a bookcase and I forced myself to really PURGE to what I thought we would use. I love how it turned out and how handy it is. I think I will make another one for the art studio. Where would you use this?

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10 Tips for monitoring your Tween/ Teens Social Media



Raising a child in this digital time is certainly a challenge. It seems that apps change faster than parents can keep up. But keep up we MUST in order to protect our kids from cyber bullies, predators and even themselves.

My daughter is a freshman in high school and got her first cell phone at age 12, when she was starting middle school and taking part in more activities independently. Despite whining and carrying on “that all her friends had phones” even earlier than that, we stuck to our guns until a more appropriate (in our opinion) age. When we gave her the phone, we also set a bunch of ground rules, some of which have evolved but all of which I feel are in line with what “experts” recommend for kids with digital devices.  Here are the Top Ten:

  1. LOOK THROUGH THEIR DEVICES.  This is not an invasion of their privacy.. they are CHILDREN and not known for making the best decisions. See what apps they have, READ their posts and texts, LOOK at their pictures! Be aware of what your children are posting and seeing!
  2. MONITOR APPS. You decide what apps a child can and cannot have on their device. LOOK into those apps. Seemingly “innocent” apps like Music.ly, are unable to keep up with technology and have been linked to kids being exposed to pornography and other inappropriate content.
  3. REVIEW PRIVACY. In alignment with the Child Privacy Act social media sites require kids to be aged 13 or older to join so that their information is protected. If your child is under that age and has a social media account, you must be aware that that account was obtained using false information.
    Be sure to check all privacy features of allowed apps to make sure profiles which may include personal information are private and not open to the general public.
    In addition, check your HOME internet privacy settings to help limit what kinds of content kids and teens can access.
  4. SET BOUNDARIES. Once your child has access to social media, it is important that you discuss WHAT is acceptable to share. Be sure kids know that it is NOT ok to share last name (sign up with middle name or fake last name) location, phone number. Be aware that some apps with geotagging may inadvertently share locations, making it easy to pinpoint where a child lives, attends school or hangs out. Be sure this feature is turned off. Be aware of WHO is looking at and liking your child’s photos. I was shocked to see some of my daughter’s friends Instagram accounts with thousands of followers. These are STRANGERS and many of them are strange MEN. This shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Teach your child that their self-esteem should not be wrapped in on how many LIKES, FRIENDS or FOLLOWERS they have on Social Media.
  5. MONITOR ACTIVITY. Make sure you are a contact/ friend with your child (and their friends) on ALL social media apps. Check what they post, read the comments, watch the activity on their accounts. If there is little to no activity on an account there is a good chance your child may have a secondary/ secret account. Check their devices!
  6. CONTENT. As mentioned above, monitor content. LOOK to see what is being posted. Talk to your kids about the image they are conveying. Would they want You to see it? Grandma? A potential employer?
    Posts that are provocative, portray a lot of partying, drug use, criminal behavior, or other “unsavory” images can come back to haunt the poster later. The Internet, while digital, is permanent and these kinds of posts have been known to affect college applications, employment, and more.
  7. LIMIT ACCESS. It is not unusual to sit down in a restaurant and look around and see entire families with faces glued to phones. Kids seem less able to carry on an actual conversation these days. Do yourself a favor a LIMIT the time they (and you) can have their phones. Most carriers offer options for you turn off internet to devices during certain times such as school hours, after bed time or other times. Set rules about putting phones away during dinner time, homework time, family time or whatever works in your household.
  8.  PUBLIC. Put computers and devices in public areas. Allowing your child to hide away in their room is just asking for them to push the boundaries of what is appropriate to view or engage in. They’re teens, pushing boundaries is their game!!
  9. TALK ABOUT BULLYING. Cyber bullying has taken bullying to a whole new level. It is a real and growing problem for both kids and adults alike. Talk to your kids about what it is and what to do if they encounter it or witness it.
  10. PLAN. Let’s face it, it’s not always the easiest to talk to your tween/ teen and vice versa. Stuff happens.. have a plan for “stuff”. Make sure your child knows where to go for help in the event that things get out of hand they don’t want to come to you. Identify school staff,, coaches, family members or other trusted adults that your child can talk to if they get into an uncomfortable situation online. Make sure they know you support them and are there when they need you.

In my next post I will cover some of the more popular apps for teens and why they may or may not be safe.


Why I support my daughter walking out of school…

On Wednesday, March 14 there is scheduled to be a national school walk outnot only in remembrance of the 17 shooting victims from Parkland, FL, but also as a call to action for Congress to pass tighter gun control laws.

We have discussed this issue with our teenage daughter many times over the past couple of weeks. Discussions have ranged from anxiety-fueled to calm. How do you convince your kid that they will be SAFE at school when you can’t be 100% sure? All we can do as parents is outline that the school has acknowledged the possibility of violence, and has prepared with drills and has a police officer on campus. How do you make your child feel secure and in control when they clearly are NOT??

I feel the walk out will give these kids, most of whom are too young to vote, A VOICE. This will be an opportunity to unite with other like-minded kids, raise their voices against gun violence, and demand better control from Congress. In this nationwide “protest”, these kids (and parents, teachers and administrators) will hopefully demonstrate their demand for SAFE EDUCATIONAL SPACES. This is the perfect way for students to show that.


In addition to raising their voices, my hope for students, is that in coming together for these 17 minutes, it will be a powerful way to FEEL and express their emotions of fear, sadness, anger, strength, and to realize that they ARE NOT ALONE.

  • I just received an email from our principal stating that they are aware that many students on our high school campus plan to participate in this Nationwide School Walkout, and while they promote academic pursuits, they also recognize the need for student-led civic engagement and social emotional needs. My understanding is that students will be supported in a brief walk out as long as it remains peaceful and on campus. Yes!

For more info on the Nationwide School Walkout:




We’re all in this together

This may not be a very PC post but my mama bear heart is bursting at the seams with too many emotions.

Yesterday a 12 year old boy in a neighboring city took a knife to school and stabbed another 12 year old boy. A few days ago my friend’s daughter’s school was placed in lock down when the office received a threat. Only days before that, another friend’s daughter was in her high school which was locked down for 2.5 hours because of threats found scrawled on a note. Things like this are happening DAILY across the nation. Kids are picking up weapons and taking them to school.. something is WRONG here and its not JUST lack of gun control.

I don’t want to get into the topic of gun control.. I am not anti-gun, but I am not anti-gun control either. Its a tough issue, but I think this issue with school shootings, violence and bullying boils down to something else…

WHAT happened to PARENTING??

IMG_0167Times have changed a lot from when I was in high school. I believe that parenting is harder now that ever because social media and digital devices allow our kids to be in touch with the world, the community and each other 24/7. If we as parents aren’t sticking our noses into their business, we aren’t doing our jobs. You can’t escape any newspaper or news site without SOME headline about school violence lately and so often the parents had NO CLUE about what was going on. Kids do NOT have any right to privacy, I’m sorry.. but they don’t. Maybe they can EARN a certain amount of privacy but as a parent we HAVE to know what is going on with them and their friends.

I’m sure many disagree with this. Heck, I KNOW many of my daughter’s “friends” parents don’t agree or don’t care, because I really don’t think their kids would act the way they do if the parents had a CLUE as to what their kids posted online. Our daughter knows that as long as we pay for the cell phone, we can access it ANY TIME. Likewise her computer, tablet, bedroom, etc. Have I gone into her room and nosed around, hell yes! Do I read texts and look at her Instagram feed? You betcha!  WHY? Because I want to know what is going on in her life…

Does she resent this? Maybe a little. But here’s the thing..  because she knows I might look at any time (and have) she TALKS to us. Maybe too much. LOL.. I laugh because I don’t really need to hear every little bit of gossip and drama going on between “A & B”, but she doesn’t hide stuff. Her friends still think I’m a cool Mom and they all talk in front of me.. even about the embarrassing stuff, the sad stuff and the scary stuff.

So, I think this is the starting point. We (society) need to stop worrying about being our kids friends and PARENT them. We need to not be concerned if our kid is mad at our decision or hate our rules, but be concerned with teaching our kids to be KIND, compassionate people. To be self confident and helpful and GOOD citizens. We need to teach boys that girls are equals and we need to teach girls that they deserve to be treated as such. We need to empower our kids to succeed and help them if they are reaching out for help, and we need to not be afraid to ask for and offer HELP when we see a child is struggling. And if someone is showing any kind of warning signals.. for god’s sake.. SAY SOMETHING!! Don’t wait.. we’re all in this together!


I’ve been a little quiet over here. I have SO MUCH going inside my head but some hasn’t really seemed like the right stuff to blog about. That may change, but right now, lots of emotional, unresolved feelings swirling around. There is a post draft that poured out with a ton of tears but I need to feel a little stronger to go back to that one.
Behind the scenes stuff IS happening..

I’ve been painting up a storm and working through that pile of great reclaimed wood scraps I got from a friend. It was a nice, not too windy day the other day so I took advantage of the sun to get outside and seal and add hangers to a bunch ff painted pieces. As you can see, my supervisor was sleeping on the job.

In addition, I tackled a couple of BIG To Do items from my list that I just haven’t had time to do. My main VA client is away on a trip, leaving me some “me” time so I FINALLY ordered a stamp and BUSINESS cards! I feel so legit, and they shipped today! Yay! You’ll have to get one to see the back.. ha ha!!

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OK, short and sweet, but back to work!! I need to photograph some signs!!


Brushing on wood

You guys… its been insane here. In a good way but still insane. I need an assistant to me being an assistant. LOL I have been sneaking in some painting though..  My friend Kay of Bravo Wood Creations (find her on Facebook) lets me dig through all their scraps so last week I got a big trash bag full of reclaimed wood bits and pieces. Hubby was sweet and pulled all the rusty nails from them over the weekend so I could just do the fun part and paint! Here’s a little sneaky peek. IMG_7509

These are stacked on the coffee table in our family room which is where I currently am working because I still don’t have a dedicated space but we did order my studio! I’ll post on that soon!!

What would YOU like to see on a sign??


IMG_0097Welcome to Brush & Barnwood.. my brand new blog. While the blog is new, I am certainly not new to blogging. I blogged under Bluhm Studios for years, and years, and last year revived my old(ish) blog Short Attention Span Studios when things started to point the direction that I needed to be writing again. Somehow it never really felt like the  right fit and I couldn’t get comfortable there. My life was definitely on a new path and with a new year, I decided to just create a new space to better represent where I am now.

Why Brush & Barnwood? Brush represents my lettering journey. Hand lettering is something I have been interested in for some time but it wasn’t until I lost my Mom rather unexpectedly to cancer (f*$# cancer) that I took the plunge. Amid my grief, I found I needed something to kick start my muse because I couldn’t face my studio and I wasn’t doing anything creative, which made me even more depressed. I decided to sign up for a class from Amanda Arneill in early 2016 and committed myself to practicing and  learning. I kept that commitment to myself and lettered nearly EVERY DAY for a year. I did drills upon drills, practiced my lines, my loops, my swashes and extenders and descenders and more. It WAS NOT a natural thing for me, it did NOT come easily, but I kept on because focusing on learning to letter kept me NOT focused on not having my Mom.

As time progressed, I ventured to new mediums.. felt pens, chalk pens and a love affair with water colors that consumed me for months. We moved into a new home ) I’m Emmagetting to the barnwood) mid 2017 and again my muse decided to take a break. That was until a friend decided she needed a a bunch of hand lettered signs for her daughter’s wedding. She delivered the boards and after staring at them for a few days I took a deep breath and dove in.
That started me lettering pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down…

…and thus the Barnwood… we were fortunate to be able to purchase and move to our dream property last year; A 5-acre ranch on the outskirts of town where we could have our horses, open space and fresh air complete with a barn! Studio coming soon!!

So this blog, I hope, will continue with my new life as a mini rancher, horse owner, lover of rustic things, DIYer and hand letterer. Stay tuned…