For the adventurer.

Hello.

I don’t know how you got here but here you are. You stumbled upon my blog.

My name is Julie. My family nickname is Bug, if you’re curious where the “Bug” came from in “Bug Bytes.” And “bytes,” well – it’s a decision I regret. I don’t know what a byte is but it has something to do with computers.

Bug on the computer.

I’m married to Scott. There’s a lot I could say about Scott but for now, all you need to know is he’s my husband.

I have a daughter, Emma. She is 11 years old and in 6th grade. It’s called middle school now, not jr. high. Just so you know.

I have another daughter, Kate. She’s 8 years old and in 3rd grade. She’s a good kid other than she refuses to “fake smile” for pictures.

There they are. My family. We live in the Kansas City area. No, we don’t live on a farm. This is at Home Depot. We have Home Depots in Kansas.

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There’s nothing special about us or this blog. It’s just a place for me to write about my life as it happens.

I write for a Kansas City magazine – Simply KC magazine.  I am a contributing author to the New York Times Bestselling “I Just Want to Pee Alone” series, a parenting anthology titled, “But Did You Die? Setting the Parenting Bar Low” by a Bunch of Know-It-Alls. and you can find my words sprinkled around the Internet.

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I am a humor writer.

There you go. Sometimes you need a re-cap on who I am and what you’re reading. I am a writer, wife, mother.

Mother.

You would think I have a handle on parenting after 12 years of being a parent – but no, I don’t. The rules keep changing. You know – the rules:

“Jarred baby food is bad. It’s best to make your own baby food.” – Whoops.

“Keep your children on a consistent bed time.” – But how will they catch the lightening bugs at 10 p.m. in the summer?

“Don’t read your kids’ notes they pass to friends in class. Respect their privacy.” – But that’s the highlight of my day – opening a backpack stuffed full of post-it notes. ‘Can I borrow some duck tape?’ – ‘Well aren’t you fancy.’ I just want to make sure my kids are funny in the written form.

“Limit screen time.” – Limit screen time. I agree with that. Adults should limit their screen time too – ah hem, Kardashians. It’s not good for your eyes or your butt.

I don’t limit my kids screen time.

Computers, iPads, iPhones – or Androids! Sorry! Shoutout to the Androids – texting, social media. We’re raising kids in a digital era. I want my kids to be proficient in technology. They need to know how to open a website. They need to be able to speak the digital language if they’re going to be successful as adults. They need to know how to be safe on the Internet too. I’m not saying I give them full access.

I am also an ambassador for National Geographic Kids. I let you know what’s going on inside those big National Geographic Kids offices in Washington, D.C.

National Geographic Kids partnered with Pley.com. Pleyboxes are a monthly subscription box for kids. Each Pleybox takes kids on an adventure to a different part of the world. The amazon, the arctic, the virunga. The virunga is the home of gorillas – didn’t know that, did ya? That’s National Geographic Kids. 

This is the Great Barrier Reef Pleybox. I believe this is month two in the series.

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And this is what you get inside: A National Geographic Kids Great Barrier Reef t-shirt, a National Geographic Kids book, a sticker sheet, a cloth bracelet, two small figurine animals from the Great Barrier Reef, an activity booklet, a certificate of achievement, and access to a online digital games that features the Great Barrier Reef – because kids in this generation still need to learn from a computer. National Geographic Kids knows this. We all know this.

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These two figurines are pretty small, hence the 5-11 age group recommendation.

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National Geographic Kids books are magical unicorn books that get kids to read. And even I still learn something new from them – hello, virunga gorilla land.

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You like that trick, don’t ya. That’s the power of the digital age. Watch, I’ll do it again – the activity booklet.

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If you’re looking for a Christmas present that keeps on giving to the kids – check out Pley.com. There are also pleyboxes focused towards younger kids, without the small toys and chapter books. You can choose just one box or six boxes or subscribe all year.

Here are some deals I’m passing along, if you order before December 19th. All orders placed before Dec. 19 at 12 p.m. EST are guaranteed to be delivered for Christmas.

  • Get your 1st Disney Princess Pleybox for $10 (+shipping), when signing up for a subscription (CODE: DP10)
  • Get your 1st National Geographic Kids Pleybox for $10 (+shipping) when signing up for a subscription (CODE: NG10) — This is ours.
  • Get your 1st Hot Wheels Pleybox for $10 (+shipping) when signing up for a subscription (CODE: HOT10)

One more thing! Oh my gosh, how can I forget?

You remember my daughter, Kate? The one that is a good kid but doesn’t “fake smile” for pictures?

This is Kate after exploring the contents of the Pleybox, playing the Great Barrier Reef computer games, and wearing her new National Geographic Kids t-shirt.

She smiled for a picture.

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And there’s your review from the most brutally honest kid, behind-the-scenes at National Geographic Kids.

Link: Pley.com

Link: National Geographic Kids

Link: The Virunga

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Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

And don’t forget to buy my book, “But Did You Die?”

 

The Book of Heroes.

Kate: What’s a hero, um. A hero-ings. Book of hero-ings?

Me: Let me see that. Book of Heroines. It’s a woman hero. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. It’s someone that…let me think. It’s a brave woman. A woman you admire or look up to.

Kate: Do you have one?

Me: A hero or heroine? Teachers used to ask me this when I was little. Hm, I never had one. I was never into superheroes.

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When National Geographic Kids sends you books for your kids to review, you take a selfie. Ok, they didn’t say the selfie part. I’m sure they’re cool with it. 

As a National Geographic Kids Insider, it’s my job to tell you what’s going on at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. Heroes and heroines are not always the super variety.

Kate ran off with The Book of Heroines because girls rule and boys drool, mom. You’ll hear her review after she runs for President in the year 2044.

The Book of Heroes sat on our kitchen counter.

National Geographic is earth’s great story-teller. National Geographic turns to the explorers hanging off cliffs, scientists testing the ocean floor, the astronauts circling earth, and the top photographers in the world to help tell earth’s story. And those top photographers don’t take selfies with an iPhone.

National Geographic Kids may have the harder job. Explaining the world to a 7-year-old is more difficult than explaining it to a 35-year-old. The big question every kid wants to know – why?  And they’ll whittle you down until you are trying to explain the meaning of life itself.

Why is he a hero? Why is she a heroine? Why is that person special? Why can’t I be like that person? Why don’t you have a hero? Why is Superman a hero? Why are humans not Superman? Why can’t that be you, mom?

I don’t care what you say, National Geographic Kids is magical. I had no intention of reading those books the day we received them. None. My kids are good readers; they don’t ask me to read a new book to them. I planned on reading the books later. I just had better plans for the night – a date night with Scott and a Redbox movie rental in our living room.

The Book of Heroes sat on the kitchen counter while Scott and I watched “Sully.”

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You know Sully. The true story about Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot that performed an emergency landing using the Hudson river as a runway. All 155 passengers and crew survived on that January day in 2009.

The movie scared the hell out of us.

We live in a post 9/11 era where catastrophe on an airplane is not common but the nightmares are. 155 people were told they were going to be making an emergency water landing and to brace for impact. I can’t imagine one person on that plane thinking their story would later be told as a happy ending.

Katie Couric: People call you a hero.

Sully (played by Tom Hanks): I don’t feel like a hero.

Me: He’s totally a hero! How does he not see that?

Scott: He’s a hero. He doesn’t feel like it because he did his job.

Me: Or the airline is screwing with his head by going after him and his decision to land in the river. I can’t think of a bigger hero than Sully. If Tom Hanks ever plays you in a movie, you’re a damn hero.

When the movie ended, I placed the DVD in its container.

What a hero. Hero. Heroes. Heroines. The Book of Heroes.

I glanced at the kitchen table. The book was still there from earlier in the day. Boys drool.

I turned to the index. I was curious. There’s no way National Geographic Kids remembered to include Sully.

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National Geographic Kids remembered to include Sully.

Without ever intending to open the kids’ books, I was reading about Sully, the pilot who kept his cool, because National Geographic Kids is magical to adults too.

 

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Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Follow National Geographic Kids on Facebook.

Click here to buy The Book of Heroes and The Book of Heroines. See what kind of magic they throw at you.

 

Bookworms.

I’ve always called myself a bookworm.

But why? Why do we call book lovers bookworms? Maybe it has to do with teachers and an apple and a worm? Or maybe book lovers bury themselves in a book like a worm buries itself in the earth?

Wrong.

I searched the depths of google.

“The bookworm expression stems from years ago when books were destroyed by moths, beetles, silverfish, and other insects. Books today do not have this problem. The type of glue has changed to deter an insect’s destruction. Books are also kept in better conditions, such as air-conditioned and heated homes.”

Gross.

And welcome to Bug Bytes.

I’m not here to talk about what we can learn from google. I’m here to talk about what kids can learn from books – National Geographic Kids books.

I got the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Emmett, VP of Kids Content and Erica Green, VP and Editorial Director of Kids Books at National Geographic Kids.

Jennifer and Erica are bookworms too. They gave my fellow National Geographic Kids Insiders and me an overview of their favorite books for our future generations of book lovers. *

* I say future generations of book lovers but I totally mean me. I steal these books from my kids’ backpacks. Come on, it’s National Geographic. A place where nature becomes a story. King of photography. King of videography. King of the Jungle.

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Tales from the Arabian Nights by Donna Jo Napoli Ages 8-12. Hardcover. This book helps kids understand a culture rich with history – the Middle East. Tales of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor, and Aladdin show kids there’s more to the world than a Disney movie. Pretend-riding a magic carpet is still acceptable.

Ultimate Oceanpedia by Christina Wilson Ages 7-10. Hardcover. National Geographic has access to parts of the world you and I will never see. The oceans cover 70% of earth yet there’s a lot that hasn’t been explored. National Geographic Kids dives deep with the best underwater photographers in the world. This “oceanpedia” focuses on preserving the health of the ocean “land” and what kids can do to help. Even if those kids live in Kansas.

2017 Almanac Ages 8-12 Hardcover and softcover. This book is one of National Geographic’s best-selling books. It covers everything – games, wonders of the world, history, culture, discoveries, and explorers. Kids can read about scientists dressing up as polar bears to study them. Or learn about the real species of spiders named sparkle muffin.

Weird But True 8 Ages 8-12 Softcover. Ah, Weird But True. “Mom, did you know..” Spoiler: you’ll most likely not know, question the fact, and go to google to confirm. It’s always confirmed. This is the 8th installment of the series. Kids forget they are learning when they read that death metal music attracts sharks or Kansas produces enough wheat every year to make 35 billions loaves of bread. Kansas smells like home, kids.

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If your kids love these books, make sure they watch the new Weird But True television show every Saturday morning.

Famous Fails! by Crispin Boyer Ages 8-12 Softcover. This book is my personal favorite because I fail a lot. Failing is a learning process and this book shows kids failing is ok. Michael Jordan was cut from the basketball team. The Leaning Tower of Piza was not supposed to lean. Einstein was told he wasn’t smart. The book itself is printed with mistakes. Emma Burton even fails.

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The Ultimate Dinopedia by “Dino” Don Lessem Ages 7-10. Hardcover. If you have a kid that loves dinosaurs, this is the only kids book that lists every dinosaur ever discovered. And 125 species are explained in detail. Fun tidbit: the illustrations had to be carefully considered because the editors didn’t want them to be too gory. Dining with a dino is not served on a plate.

Little Kids First Big Book of Animals Ages 4-8. Hardcover. Ok, littles! Here’s a book for you! Big, small, slimy, furry, rough, cold-blooded, warm-blooded, brown, blue, polka dots, all the animals are here! This book can be read by an adult to a small child. It answers questions little kids want to know- how do they eat? What do they eat? Are they fast? What do the babies look like? Let’s find out, kids!

Edible Science by Jodi Wheeler Ages 8-12. Softcover. My question to Jennifer and Erica: My kids love to cook. They also love making up their own recipes and a giant mess in the kitchen they leave me to clean. Is there a book out for Emma and Kate that mixes recipes with the science behind cooking? This book was the first book to pop in their mind. Cooking is chemistry and this book turns the kitchen into a science experiment you can eat. I still have to clean the mess though.

National Geographic Kids Cookbook by Barton Seaver Ages 8-12. Softcover. This cookbook is for kids to bake from year-round. It’s not a normal cookbook because Nat Geo is never normal – there are crafts, activities and challenges within the pages. Host a dinner party, pack a school lunch, bake a holiday dessert, family cooking competitions, snow day recipes, and the kids get permission to play with their food. I give permission to clean up your own mess.

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet by Buzz Aldrin Ages 8-12. Hardcover. Yeah, that Buzz Aldrin. The Buzz Aldrin that went to the moon on Apollo 11. Going to the moon is so 1969. Kids today imagine going to Mars. Could Mars be colonized? Well, we’re moving closer to the possibility. This book explains what a real life would be like on the red planet.

And there you have it, from the National  Geographic Kids headquarters in Washington, D.C. Go turn your kids into a bookworm!

But not that kind of bookworm. The cute human bookworm from 2016.

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Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

National Geographic Kids – Weird But True.

Meet Charlie.

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Hey, Charlie.

Oh! And Kirby, Charlie’s sister.

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Hey, Kirby.

They are the hosts of the new National Geographic Kids TV show, Weird But True! The show is based off the National Geographic Kids books, Weird But True! (Your kids know what I’m talking about.) And the books are based off the National Geographic Kids magazine section, Weird But True! (Your kids, your kids’ teachers, and your kids’ friends all know what I’m talking about.)

And now you are going to know what I’m talking about.

I am a 2016-2017 ambassador for National Geographic Kids. What does that mean? I’m here to tell you fine people and your fine kids what is going on behind the curtain at the National Geographic Kids headquarters in Washington, D.C.

And really, when National Geographic Kids invited me to write about dragon bones, belly button lint, and beefalo, I couldn’t say no.

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I googled the beefalo. It’s real. I googled it because I didn’t believe National Geographic Kids “weird but true” fact and now Scott has a new animal to hunt. Stop it, Peta. I’m kidding.

Back to Charlie and Kirby.

Charlie and Kirby Engelman are the hosts of Weird But True!, a new syndicated TV show airing Saturday mornings on Fox. I had the opportunity to interview Charlie on the phone this week. The siblings landed the National Geographic Kids Weird But True! gig by – get this – mostly cutting and pasting. Weird but true.

They cut and paste pictures to help explain how weird our world is. Look behind them. Cut and paste, kids. Cut and paste. This Saturday’s episode is about extreme weather – tornado chasing.

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Photo credit: National Geographic Channels/Jill Littman

Ah, they speak to me. They are in my backyard chasing Kansas tornados.

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Charlie and Kirby pose atop the “Doppler on Wheels”. (Photo credit: National Geographic Channels/Jill Littman)

Just kidding, they’re in Colorado.

Set the DVR! Saturday mornings (but not too early) on Fox. Scramble up some eggs, sit back, and tell your kids, “Weird but true – did you know Charlie and Kirby’s “studio” is filmed from their parent’s basement in Chicago?”

I told you I’m behind the scenes. 

** Kansas City – Fox 4, WDAF at 10:30 am. Every Saturday. For the rest of you – check your local stations.

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Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Stay tuned for more curtain pulling at National Geographic Kids.