August 22, 2014

Satisfy Your LEGO Fans with the LEGO YouTube Channel

LEGO Playlist

As I am certain you know by now, our home is over run with LEGO® blocks of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the figurines and finished masterpieces that occupy every available flat space in the house.  Jon and the girls are always looking for a new challenge to take on over the weekends, but they often take just as long to find said masterpiece as they do to create it.  Thankfully LEGO® has created The Official LEGO® Channel just for parents like us jammed packed with over 600 mom-approved videos made specifically for kids 6-11 years old.  It’s the perfect way for my girls to get their LEGO® fix while also being assured that each video is safe for their viewing.

That’s right! Now YOU can create your own LEGO® video play list with all of your kid’s favorite LEGO® videos and minibrands.  On the Official LEGO® Channel, parents can add videos from LEGO® Star Wars™, LEGO® Hero Factory, LEGO® DC Universe™ Super Hereos and more.  While I would never just allow my children to have free rein on YouTube, with the video list creation so easy to use and so safe for family use.  Just this weekend, I created a LEGO® playlist for the girls to satisfy their adventurous spirits and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and how much fun the girls have had with it since.

So now, when Jon is scouring the ‘net for the next project, the girls will have plenty of fodder (and fodder I can change as needed) to keep their minds safe and entertained.  The girls have also found that they get ideas for new inventions and LEGO® creations – now KG is forever making projects she wants to send to the LEGO® club magazine.  This latest ability to create playlists will open up lots of opportunities for children everywhere to safely view videos that keep them entertained.

Super Easy Create LEGO® playlist

·     Visit Youtube.com/LEGO and watch one of your favorite videos
·     Click “Video Options”?
·     Select “Add To Playlist”?
·     Sign-In using your YouTube Login ?
·     Add your selected video to an existing playlist or create a new one?

There is a lot of content on web; creating a playlist on the Official LEGO® Channel is a great way to ensure your kids are entertained and watching videos you can feel good about.

Visit the Official LEGO® Channel to build your own playlist to watch with your kids and then reply below for a chance to win one (1) $1,000 gift card to buy your family’s favorite LEGO® products!

Hop over and build your own list then come over and leave your list in the comments, I’d love to check them out!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LEGO. The opinions and text are all mine. Official Sweepstakes Rules.

Playtime on a Dime: Encourage Learning through Play

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It’s no secret that children learn best through play and there have been countless studies done in support of this fact, these days parents everywhere are looking for new ways to pack the most educational benefits into their children’s playtime.  While there is certainly a surplus of “educational” toys marketed specifically for children’s enrichment and learning, parents don’t always need to head out to the store for the latest toy when they usually have everything they need to provide endless opportunities for learning already in their home.

Sensory Play

With the recent wave of eco-conscious parenting that has flooded the nation, parents and caregivers are discovering out of the ordinary educational possibilities in every day toys; one parent who really stretches her children’s imaginations through play with household items is Catherine Moss. Catherine regularly fills large shoe boxes with bulk dried beans and small toys like alphabet fridge magnets turning these average items into sensory bean boxes where her children can dig, pour, sort, pretend and more with the beans and box contents. Every day items like these are being used by parents in a variety of ways to encourage and reinforce counting, sensory development, and spatial skills, while simple tricks, like encouraging a child to describe their choice in dress-up clothes for a pretend play, help children develop valuable social and language skills.

Pretend play enforces life skills

Reinforce Life Skills at Home

It’s natural for parents to want their children to succeed in school and in life, which is why the recent push for the mastery certain skills before Kindergarten has propelled parents across socio-economic classes to seek out new ways to help their children be ahead of their peers. Homeschooling parents like Christina Strickland have been incorporating learning into every day activities as a natural extension of their day to day life. Christina suggests that parents talk to their children and explain the processes as they go throughout the day, for example:  “When you cook together, explain fractions; when you do laundry, talk about how washing machines work; and when you go for a walk, point out animal prints or how the leaves have changed.”  Since children has a deep rooted desire to learn and are sponges for information, parents are learning how every day life can open up the possibility of learning, simply by doing.

Repurpose Toys

Parents are also finding new ways to repurpose some of their children’s older toys or toys that have been passed down over the years.  Educational consultant and mother, Candice Lindemann likes to use her son’s old toy cars to reinforce the concept of physics and gravity with ramps and tunnels made from blocks and tubes from other games.  She also suggest using animal figurines to learn about the different animal classifications, to reinforce size difference, and more.  More and more, parents are finding new ways to sneak learning into playtime.  Whether they’re practicing counting and currency skills with the play money that came with their parent’s monopoly game or sorting and building with their blocks, there’s no doubt children have ample sources of education and play surrounding them, not only in their “educational toys” but also in their beloved baby doll.  The opportunities for learning through play are endless and parents are just beginning to truly grasp the possibilities found in their every day toys and household items.

How do you think out of the box to encourage learning through play in your home?

Tuesday Tunes: The Pixies

Tuesday Tunes

At heart I am nothing if not a punk rock girl – I’ve been rocking out with pure disdain for the last 15 years – long after punk was declared dead.  One of the bands it took me the longest to discover is one I found, or rather was introduced to, as a doe eyed freshman in college: The Pixies.  Now, don’t ask me how I had gone so long without setting my ears on the roots of some of my favorite music…I just had.  Maybe I had to meet my friend, Mark Adolf, before I was meant to hear them…maybe because we had something teach each other.  Maybe, simply, because I grew up in rural Kentucky and the Pixies are just not regular listening for around here.  Who knows…yeah…I came into them a little late.  What can I say?  Now, though?  Now I listen to them all the time.  Every chance I get.4

So, in case you’re like me and you’ve still not set your ears upon them…give them a listen.

If you’ve seen the movie Fight Club, you’ve probably also heard The Pixies and maybe not have even known it…here’s the most recent popular song/video: Where is My Mind?

This is my personal favorite Pixies song, Debaser…I can’t really place why…the gritty sound and catchy hook probably have something to do with it.  Heh.  No, really.  I do love this song…I also really like Here Comes Your Man, but I won’t share that one here this week.

Have you heard of The Pixies?  What are you listening to this week?  What songs move you?


Teaching Kids Basic Computer Skills and Digital Safety

As parents of digital citizens, it is our duty to ensure our children grow into responsible computer users; this means making sure they have proficient keyboarding skills, are well versed in digital security, and know how to use various software programs with ease.  Even though I’m a digital parent, early last year I found I had failed in doing this on so many accounts – my eldest was unable to proficiently use a keyboard and knew little to nothing about about digital security.  It became my mission to make sure I remedied this quickly and to ensure that other parents don’t find themselves in the same place, so I’ve gathered all of the resources for you, as well.

teaching digital skills to children

Keyboarding Skills

Learning Games for Kids – Keyboarding Skills: Fun keyboard for early elementary and young learners

Powertyping: QWERTY & Dvorak + lots of typing games

Free Typing Game: 30+ different typing games for learners of all ages

…more typing games from About.com.

Digital Citizenship

Digital Etiquette Lessons: Digital lesson for older elementary students

Stay Safe Online: Teach your children to become good digital citizens with these resources

Digiteen: Online lessons created by teenagers to help students learn digital responsibility

Reputation: Tips for teaching your children how to maintain digital reputation management

Microsoft Learning Suite

TechnoKids: Collection of technology projects through Microsoft Office Suite activities for children from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

How To Do Things: Basic idea of how to teach your child how to use Microsoft Office.

Structured Learning: Basics of how to use Excel

GCF Learn Free: Basic Excel 2010 usage learning guide

ABC Teach: Tons of learning games for young learners to learn how to use PowerPoint

Presentation Software – About.com: Powerpoint tutorial

Recommended Reading

Raising Digital Families For Dummies, by Amy Lupold Bair: This easy-to-understand guide helps you get up to speed on everything you need to know NOW in order to keep up with your children’s online and gadget activity. This book will be out in April, but you are going to want to order it asap.

Computer Ethics, Etiquette, and Safety for the 21St-Century Student, by Nancy Willard: This book encourages students to adopt legal, ethical, safe, and courteous behaviors when using technology from International Society Technology in Education.

more books recommended by ISTE.

Since teaching our children digital responsibility is of the utmost importance for parents raising children in this new age, these resources are so valuable for teaching children how to use the new digital world safely and responsibly.

Do you have any resources you swear by?

Affiliate links have been used in this post. I might make some pennies if you buy a book.

Running Along: Preparing for Our Next 5K

As you are probably aware, KG and I took part in our first 5K the first weekend in December last year with her Girls on the Run team.  What you may not be aware of is her desire to make this more a tradition in the new year.  In response to this desire, KG and I have been scouring the web to find just the right race to meet our training needs.  Since the last 5K, KG hasn’t really kept up with her running practice and I also need to work on my stamina when it comes to running.  After some discussion, we’re going to start the Couch to 5K training this week with plans to run in the Clover Leaf 5K Run/2 mile walk in OC in March this year – the March date should give us plenty of time to acclimate our bodies with the extended amount of running we’ll be doing while also giving us a real date to work towards in our training.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to work better once I have a goal date.

Why a 5K?

Why the 5K you ask?  KG turns 10 this June and I am always looking for new ways to relate to and connect with my tween…running is something she truly enjoys doing and since it’s also a release for me, I’d like to find a way to incorporate it more into our lives.  My reasons don’t only have to do with connections though, you see…I don’t know if you remember, but KG has had to work hard to be able to physically handle running.  When she first joined Girls on the Run, I worried all the time that she would have a hard time breathing while she was running and to be honest she did have one time when it got a little scary for a minute; what I really saw over the 2 months KG was involved in this part running group/part self-awareness class was a real strengthening in her body, her lungs, and her confidence…and didn’t only stem from the great lessons or fabulous coaches (though they did play a huge part)…it came from finding her stride in running and pushing herself in a way she hadn’t done before.

Running is my happy placex`

I want to continue to stimulate that part of her and because running is something I also love, when my body is trained for it, I was quick to start looking for races for myself & KG and family fun run/walks for the entire family.  One of our family resolutions for the year was to spend more time together as a family and combined with Jon & I’s desire to live healthier lives, I couldn’t think of a better way for us to enjoy several weekends a year…also, if we choose carefully, we can participate in races that benefit causes we believe in while also supporting our desire for health and togetherness.

KG and I went ahead and picked out a few races we are interested in running, in addition to the Clover Leaf 5K, which benefits a local park system, over the next several months and in the interest of accountability I wanted to share them with you as well:

  • March: Clover Leaf 5K
  • April: I haven’t found one for me and KG, but Jon and I are thinking about signing up to be zombies for the Zombie Run in Louisville.
  • May: Throo the Zoo @ the Louisville Zoo

5K Training

I officially started the C25K training Monday and KG starts up next week (I wanted to make sure I was a week ahead before she got started)…of course I’ll be running with her as well, so it should be double the bang for my buck I suppose.  Heh.  One of the things I’ve been struggling with most is trying to find a way to fuel my body without breaking our budget, so I tend to make up recipes whenever possible to try to find ways to use ingredients I already have on hand.  This week we had some strawberries, blue berries, and Greek yogurt left over from our recent Costco trip so after my work out Saturday, I threw those in the blender with two scoops of my protein mix and about 8 ounces of milk, then proceeded to blend it really well.  The mixture was still really thick so I poured about three-fourths of it into some Mason jars I had laying around the kitchen and through them in the freezer – thirty minutes later (just long enough for a nice cool down yoga dvd) I had creamy “ice cream” that was really good!  I added a little bit more milk to the other 1/4th I had left and Jon drank it for an after workout smoothie.  Apparently, it was quite tasty.

Post workout ice cream and smoothie

Here it is in smoothie form.

The Plan

This week I’ll be repeating the first week of the Couch to 5K with KG and trying to focus on my breathing since that’s where I tend to fall behind.  Speaking of falling behind, I’ve made it clear to KG that it’s not about how fast we complete the 5Ks, simply that we do complete them.

So what are you up to?  Any fitness plans for you and the fam?

Wordless Wednesday: Nifty Wine Storage for a Party

smart party wine storage

While spending some time helping a local winery with their holiday open houses I came across their rather ingenious way of storing and serving wine in their open house venue…I just had to share it with y’all today!

For more inspiring photos be sure to check out:

Better in Bulk, Not Your Momblog, The Divine Miss Mommy, Colorado Moms, Rajean Blomquist,

BrainFoggles, The Centsible Life, Rachel Ferrucci, Lil Kid Things, Resourceful Mommy, ShanaMama and Zensible Mama.

How I Destress + Far Cry 3 Gold Box Deal of the Day {Today Only!}

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Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please visit Amazon.com to get your own copy of Far Cry 3, today’s Gold Box Deal of the Day!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.

It’s Tuesday and Tuesday is usually the first day of my stress week…or at least what become the busiest time of the week – filled with various afterschool activities, class work and volunteering, in addition to our day-to-day life and my client work.  I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in need of some relaxation by Tuesday or Wednesday night; rather than grab the ice cream or cookies, I tend to do one of two things, pull out the treadmill and run or pull out the video games and get my game on with my Jon.

I need the mental release that these activities give me.  For example, when I run I give myself over the feeling in my body – to the peace that follows the rhythmic thumping of my shoes against the tread.  When I game, I release by engaging within whatever alternate universe we’re inhabiting that evening – like with reading (another key destressor for me) – I am transported to another world, another life, another mission, one without so much actually riding on my decisions.  I know it might seem weird for me to destress by playing an action packed video game, but it really does just relax me.  Plus just about anything Jon & I do together is fun, because we have the ability to make each other laugh in those goofy secret ways married people have when they’re still speaking to one another.  I’m really terrible at anything (video games included) that have anything to do with aiming or using my joystick in a rapid fashion, so playing with me is always an adventure for Jon…I guess it’s no wonder he won’t ever sign in under his gamer tag when we play…probably doesn’t want me to ruin his rep..

One of Jon’s favorite video game series is Far Cry; he loves the lush settings, varied arsenal offerings, and the first person shooter game play.  If you enjoy the first person shooter aspect,  great graphics and the ability to zone out in a game you’re in luck!! Far Cry 3 is available TODAY ONLY on Amazon’s Gold Box Deal of the Day!  I know!! For today only you can get Ubisoft’s latest Far Cry offering for just $34.99!  How awesome is that?!

Clever Girls is also giving away 5 copies of Far Cry 3 on January 22nd via Twitter to folks who RT the following:

Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day: Far Cry 3! To buy: http://clvr.li/FC3Gold – RT to enter to win a copy! #FarCryGold

How you destress?

Tuesday Tunes: Three Days Grace

Tuesday Tunes

If you’re looking for a classic grunge sound in a band from this decade, be sure to check out Three Days Grace.  Sounding a lot like they grew up right down the road and got their start in a garage, this classic alternative band just saw the departure of one of their singers, Adam Gontier, but I’m hoping this doesn’t slow them down.  They’re headed my way in February and if there were anyway I could make it out to see them, I would.  Their music reminds me of the music I loved in high school and their latest offering, Chalk Outline stays on my work playlist because it brings a nice change of pace to the rest of my  day.

Animal I Have Become is another classic grunge song by Three Days Grace and released in 2006 it does still count as a song released in the last decade.  I just love the sound of the guitar in this song – it’s yet another I can just get lost in while I’m working.  I’m always looking for songs I can play in the background while I work, songs that I already know all the words to, that I can let my mind wander as I listen to…these are the kinds of songs that I look for when creating my work playlist on Spotify.

What are you listening to this week?



5 Tips for Soothing Your Child’s Earache

5 tips for soothing ear ache

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness that takes over a parent’s heart when their child is in pain, this is especially true when your beloved child has an earache.  After a recent bout with earaches and an ear infection, I spent a lot of time researching and trying out home remedies to help stem the tide of pain in my girl.

Here is what I would suggest for any parent who’s child is suffering from ear pain caused by an infection or wax build up.

1)  Apply gentle heat.  Whether through the use of a warm washcloth, rice pack or heating pad (set to low only and do not leave your child alone while the pad is in use), the heat can help stimulate and dilate the swollen blood vessels found in and around the ear; if there is wax build up in the canal, the heat can help it melt and flow more freely.  Make sure you only apply the heat for less than 20 minutes at a time and that you cover the heating pad (if used) with a cloth to keep it from burning the sensitive ear area.

2)  Try a diluted mixture of warm water and 3% hydrogen peroxide.  The hydrogen peroxide can help clear up and remove any wax build up, provide temporary pain relief and fight infection, this is usually a first stop for parents.  Dilute the hydrogen peroxide with warm (not hot) water and apply to the ear while holding your head tilted to the side.  After ten minutes, tilt your child’s head to the other side and allow the mixture to drain out, you may need to gently drop a bit more fresh water into the ear to help rinse any particles out and clean the ear.

3) Defy gravity.  You may find that your child’s ear pain is worse when he or she is laying down (YIKES! Bedtime will be a mess!).  If this is the case, try propping your child up in the bed with extra pillows (or do what we did and put a bean bag under the pillows to add elevation). Sleeping this way will help relieve the pressure and allow you both to get some rest.

4)  Use over-the-counter homeopathic ear drops and medication (only if this is medically safe for you).  The ear drops tend to be a little hit or miss for us, but we’ve had them work often enough that would recommend them as an option – I tend to use the Similasan Homeopathic Ear Drops from Amazon (Amazon affiliate link).  While I tend to only use them as a last resort, I have found that adding the pain relievers (never aspirin since it can cause Reye Syndrome) can relieve pain and help your child get the rest they need.

5)  See a doctor.  Even if your child is starting to feel better, it’s a good idea for you to take your small person to the doctors at your earliest convenience.  You don’t want to miss something that could be more serious.

Parents hate to see their children in pain and will normally do whatever they can to ease their child’s discomfort, these tricks help us when one of our girls get an earache.  I hope they help you the next time your child is suffering from ear pain.

How do you ease your child’s ear pain?

Getting Back into Shape with Ubisoft’s The Hip Hop Dance Experience #UbiHipHop

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Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please visit Ubi.com to learn more about Ubisoft.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. #UbiChamps

As I am sure you’ve figured out by now, I am always on the lookout for new ways to help me stay in shape.  I like variety and my body responds best when I keep active and regularly switch up the muscle groups I’m using…I’m also far more likely to continue working out if I’m trying something new pretty often.  When Jon recommended that we purchase the XBOX 360 for our business (I regularly review video games and our old XBOX had just broken down), I insisted that we purchase the Kinect with it.  The Kinect has really opened up a new world of physical activity for our family and has allowed me the opportunity to try some new and physically challenging games, like Ubisoft’s The Hip Hop Dance Experience (affiliate link).

hip hop dance experience review

Now, let me just say, first, that I am not a rhythmically blessed gal…in fact, some would venture (not in my presence, of course) to say that I’m a bit of a klutz.  Yes, it’s true…but one of my goals for the coming year is to work on my balance and grace, as well as my overall fitness.  Since I regularly listen to hip hop for motivation when I run (yeah, I like to be a bad chick), I was super excited to get and try out the latest dance game from Ubisoft.   (Note: Rated T for Teen, I would not play this game when the children were awake since we try to keep the kind of language and ulterior meanings that are prevalent in the songs included on this game).

 

Sweat Rating

Can I just tell you that I love to sweat?  TMI?  Sorry.  I can’t help it though, I do.  I know that if I’m sweating, I’m working and I’m changing.  Well, this game certainly gets me moving, sweating and changing!  After I played The Hip Hop Dance Experience for the first time, I knew I was going to feel it the next day and boy, did I ever?!  I had body parts I had long forgotten all about aching and screaming the next morning, but I like that too.  What can I say? I like the proof that my body is changing.  I can feel that proof every time I play that game.

Game Play

While I looked like an absolute fool playing/dancing along, the game play is fairly straightforward and pretty darn similar to every other dance game I’ve played, only without the controllers to hinder your smoothness (ie: no excuses for me, except lack of rhythm.) The Hip Hop Dance Experience features 40 hip hop and R & B hits, featuring hip-hop’s biggest and brightest starts from the past and present, including Rihanna, Flo.Rida, Nikki Minaj, Nelly and Snoop Dogg.  The game was fast paced which kept me moving while the music videos and live performance footage kept me interested and engaged with the game(the back up dancers were actually less creepy than in some of the dance game I’ve played).

The Verdict

This is a game that will stay on my workout rotation and away from my children (9&5) for a long time to come.  The Hip Hop Dance Experience tested my endurance and stretched my body’s fitness limits in a way I was unprepared for and I’m thrilled.  I plan to continue playing this game, in regular rotation with my other workout regimens, in the future and you never know, I might see some balance and rhythm advancement.  Games like this latest dance offering from Ubisoft keep me interested, keep me working out, and keep me fit!

What XBOX 360 and Wii games do you love to play to stay fit and healthy while having fun?

 

The Hip Hop Dance Experience Full Playlist on XBOX 360 with Kinect

  • Amerie – “1 Thing”
  • B.o.B – “So Good”
  • B.o.B featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore – “Airplanes”
  • Cassie – “Me & U”
  • Chris Brown featuring Juelz Santana – “Run It!”
  • Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – “Look At Me Now”
  • Ciara – “One, Two Step (featuring Missy Elliott)”
  • Da Brat – “Funkdafied”
  • Drake – “Over”
  • Flo Rida featuring Sia – “Wild Ones”
  • Iyaz – “Replay”
  • Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne – “Down”
  • J-Kwon – “Tipsy”
  • Kid Cudi – “Day ‘N’ Night”
  • Lil Wayne featuring Static Major – “Lollipop”
  • LMFAO – “Sexy And I Know It”
  • M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”
  • Mark Morrison – “Return of the Mack”
  • Mystikal featuring Nivea – “Danger (Been So Long)”
  • N.E.R.D. – “She Wants to Move”
  • Naughty by Nature – “Hip Hop Hooray”
  • Nelly – “Hot In Herre”
  • New Boyz – “You’re A Jerk”
  • New Edition – “If It Isn’t Love”
  • Nicki Minaj featuring Drake – “Moment 4 Life”
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis – “Got Your Money”
  • Outkast – “B.O.B.”
  • Pitbull featuring Chris Brown – “International Love”
  • Q-Tip – “Vivrant Thing”
  • R. Kelly – “Ignition (Remix)”
  • Rihanna featuring Jeezy – “Hard”
  • Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – “It Takes Two”
  • Run-DMC – “It’s Tricky”
  • Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell Williams – “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
  • Terror Squad featuring Fat Joe, Remy – “Lean Back”
  • The Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight”
  • TLC – “Creep”
  • Too $hort – “Blow the Whistle”
  • Trey Songz featuring Fabolous – “Say Aah”
  • Wiz Khalifa – “Work Hard, Play Hard”