Monday, December 28, 2009
So much has happened since I last posted: Thanksgiving, Kiki's appearance in a local production of the Nutcracker (and her very brave performance - story to come later), Christmas, and my "I'm not 41" birthday. I really hope to be back. If not in the little bit of time left in 2009, then definitely in 2010. So please check back again from time to time. I will be back. Soonish.
Meanwhile enjoy a few pictures from the last six weeks. . .
Thursday, November 12, 2009
JumpStart Wii Review: Learning is fun! Seriously.
The kind people of Knowledge Adventure recently sent me two of their new Wii games for my girls to play and for me to give my honest review. The first one they sent is JumpStart Pet Rescue, an educational game specifically designed for 3-6 year olds.
JumpStart Pet Rescue is very similar in design to the JumpStart Virtual 3D World games, having some of the same features you would find on the web, such as the ability to create a Jumpee and earning stars and coins for games you play. The game also takes place in Adventureland, which is one of the worlds from the online games. However, with Pet Rescue, a Wii Remote is used to navigate your way around, making the games much more interactive. If your children are already familiar with a Wii, they will have no problems learning to use the remote to play on the Wii. If playing on a Wii is all new to your child, JumpStart makes learning to use the remote a snap - the cursor is big and easy to see, and direction reminders are given frequently (orally) during the game in case your child isn't sure what to do next. The child also has the option of using just the Wii remote to navigate, or adding the Wii Nunchuck, which more experienced Wii users tend to enjoy.
At ages 6 and 8, both of my girls found Pet Rescue quite enjoyable, even if it was a bit below their level. They loved creating their "Jumpee" (which is similar to a Mii) and loved exploring and trying to find the "lost pets." There are two modes of play, story mode and explore mode. Story mode is mission based - you have to complete mini missions in order to unlock different worlds and "find" the missing pets. My girls love this type of play and couldn't wait to see which pet they would find next.
Even though the game was easy for them, they didn't care because there was so much to do to entertain them along the way. One of their favorite parts of the game is a big slide, which they could do over and over (and over and over) and laugh every. single. time. They also loved finding and caring for the different pets.
If your child has a shorter attention span, then explore mode is the place to be. The mode allows you to go to the different worlds, without having to unlock them first, and explore to your heart's content, play games, play with the pets, etc. My girls never even wanted to try this mode, they enjoyed story mode so much!
The second game we received was a pre-release copy of JumpStart Escape From Adventure Island, which is geared towards children ages 5-9. The game is more of an adventure, which the girls really liked. The mission of the game is to fix a balloon that crashes on the island. In order to "escape" your child needs to play learning games, and earn sand dollars, which will in turn help her to buy helium tanks to fix the balloon. The games are fun, yet challenging, and while playing, your child can practice math, reading and critical thinking skills.
As in Pet Rescue, you start the game designing a Jumpee, and the girls spent quite a bit of time doing this. They couldn't wait to have their turn to design their own. They also liked designing a tree house, and then exploring around it. Kiki and Boo are both have active imaginations so this type of play is right up their alley.
I love that there is a wide range of age appropriate games for them to play. Boo, who is in first grade, can practice her addition and subtraction, while Kiki, a third grader, can also start working on her multiplication and division, skills she will be learning in school this year.
Escape from Adventure Island also has two modes - story mode and practice mode. Once again, Kiki and Boo spent much of their time in story mode. Because this game is more on their level, I do like that there is practice mode, so they can play the learning games, which is certainly a fun and interesting way of reinforcing the skills they are learning at school. The game is similar to Pet Rescue in that the child has to complete missions to advance, but the learning games were much more age appropriate and even difficult at times for them to complete.
The girls liked Escape from Adventure Island the best, because it was more age appropriate and challenging for them. Their favorite part of the game was exploring the underwater world known as the Scuba Hub and playing The Fashion Show game. They loved picking out the different outfits and following the directions to move their Jumpee around the stage.
I only have a few negative things to say about either of these games. At times the navigation with the Wii remote is tricky, and if your child has never played Wii before this can take some getting used to. The games sometimes are slow to load, but they do have characters pop onto the screen during loading time which helps to entertain even the most impatient child. There is also one game in the Escape from Adventure Island game called Foot Frenzy that my girls got particularly frustrated with. The game is similar to a Dance Dance Revolution type game, except instead of moving feet you are moving the remote which often times didn't seem to respond to the motions the girls were making. I even tried it and had a difficult time with it.
The only other downside to the games is that they are one-player games. My girls love to play games together and were a little disappointed they couldn't do that with these games. However, they still had fun watching and interacting with the child that was playing the game and were surprisingly patient waiting their turn. The advantage to this is there is no competition between the two of them, thus less frustration for
All in all both games are great. I love that Pet Rescue is geared towards preschoolers since there are so few Wii games that are suited for this age. So many families play Wii together but often times the little ones are left out. This game uses very basic Wii motions, which allows a child to get familiar with the game without having to master remote skills as well. Escape from Adventure Island is more challenging and suited for older children, but is simple enough to navigate that it doesn't matter if your child is a Wii novice or expert.
A few facts about each game: JumpStart Pet Rescue is rated Early Childhood by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board), and is appropriate for 3-6 year olds. The game was released on September 1st and retails for $39.99
JumpStart Escape from Adventure Island is Rated E for "Everyone" and is appropriate for children ages 5-9. It retails for $29.99, and is slated to be released on November 17, 2009. The wonderful people at JumpStart are having a contest with the release of this game. Check out the details of this fantastic giveaway:
- The contest is live now through 11/16/09.
- Each person will be allowed two entries into the contest (details on contest page)
The theme of the contest is “Time to Escape!”
We want to hear how your family uses imagination to escape the everyday and turn life into an adventure! Tell us your story for a chance to win.
- 50 winners will receive a copy of JumpStart Escape From Adventure Island
- 3 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS will receive a family Escape Pack (over $1000 value)!
- 1 Nintendo Wii Console
- 1 copy of JumpStart Escape From Adventure Island
- $250 in spa gift certificates
- 1 JumpStart branded flip camera
- 3 lifetime JumpStart memberships (1 for winner, 2 to share)
- 500 virtual coins for JumpStart.com
- 4 JumpStart pirate hats & 4 JumpStart kids T-shirts
If you'd like to find out more and enter this fantastic giveaway click HERE. Good luck!
Thanks to the fantastic people at Knowledge Adventure for supplying me with copies of these games to review. All opinions of this game are my own (and Kiki and Boo's too).
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Three of the four members of my family love fall. Bill loves the cooler weather (and of course, football), both girls love playing in the leaves, eating fresh apples and pumpkin muffins, etc. I like some of those things too, but knowing that the cold winter weather is just around the corner makes me not really LOVE fall like the other three do. I could do without the rain, cold blustery wind, and the bare trees. I do, however, like Halloween and Thanksgiving, pumpkin flavored everything, and football. Most of all, I look forward to some of the traditions fall brings to our house.
In the past we've always visited the local pumpkin patch, and the haunted house at the Children's Museum, but this year we tried some new activities we hadn't yet experienced in our town before - apple picking and Zoo Boo at the Indianapolis Zoo. While I missed going to our favorite fall festival and picking pumpkins, I liked that we did something new and different, and am hoping we can add these activities to our yearly traditions. And who knows, maybe we will change it up a little bit and find a new activity or two every year.
What are your fall traditions?
Monday, September 28, 2009
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and as a way to help raise awareness, I wanted to share a story of at least one child affected by this horrible disease. I've written before about my friend's child, Braeden, who recently passed away from Neuroblastoma. Now I want to introduce you to Baby Reef, a baby with Acute Lymphoblastic (sometimes known as Lymphocytic) Leukemia, which is a cancer of the white blood cells.
I could tell you what I know, but I thought it would be best if someone close to Reef told his story in their own words. Here is what Reef's grandmother wrote, in her own words:
"Baby Reef was diagnosed with ALL at the age of 5 months. A seemingly normal, healthy baby, who, at his 6 monthly checkup was diagnosed and sent immediately to the pediatric oncology unit. I cannot begin to explain the complete and utter devastation to our family. Reef is our only grandchild and a joy to anyone who has met him. He has smiled his way through 7 months of grueling chemotherapy and now, at the age of 11 months is in total isolation having his bone marrow killed off in readiness for a bone marrow transplant (this took place on 8th September, 2009).
This precious little baby has been through renal failure and dialysis, seizures, infections, port insertion and now Hickman and central line insertion. He has been admitted to I.C.U. three times in his short life and this has been the worst emotional roller coaster any family could go through.
All the brave little cancer victims we have made contact with through the many hospitals Reef has been in have touched our very souls. All the parents having the same expression of hope, misery, hurt and expectation in their eyes, all understanding just what the other is going through.
Please pray for this little angel."
I also wanted to share the letter Reef's Uncle and Godfather wrote about him:
“Faith in the face of adversity” was the first thing I had inked into my flesh. It popped into my head, whilst doodling. And I thought nothing of it but I knew I needed to make it a part of myself. I don’t think I had fully appreciated the full extent of the commitment I was making to myself, to God, to you.
I stand here on the precipice of tragedy clinging to hope, holding strong to my faith.
Nothing has touched my soul more then the feeling of holding you in my arms and seeing you smile at me. It is something etched into the core of my being.
But the words that crept from behind a pair of tight cold lips, one normal Friday afternoon in a badly lit hospital ward, have forever changed me. 33 days ago I was locked out of your life with only images of you smiling at me behind the glass of my cell phone. Days ran into days, and as they did the images I received transformed, as one by one the pipes and tubes were removed to reveal the child I saw enter that isolated dark place.
A week ago, I got to hold you. You smile at me. You laugh and hide your head under that little blanket, pulling it off, smiling thumping your feet, but there is lead that runs through my veins and into my already heavy heart. That behind that beautiful smile rests something I cant fix, something I cant change.
I can’t let them see I am affected. I am told I need to be strong. The sound of your mobile brings me to my knees. The soft chimes echo in my head coupled with the thought of my big brother singing happy birthday to a boy I love, as he turns 6 months old, behind the closed door of a ward. You are wheeled off to have marrow extracted from your already scarred tiny body. One day when the other children ask you where you got the marks from, they won’t know what it took to get there.
This is not the end, I wish I could put my hand on you tell you the pain will stop, that all will be ok. But I cant. The road is long and you have taught me so much without being able to say a word.
As i write this i know, remission is only the beginning, you are almost there if not there already. But it means the doors will close again and I will see you through the glass of my phone for years to come. Will you remember me when this is done? Will I be a person you would want to know? Will you still smile? I don’t know if I will be able to keep the promise I made you when that needle cut the commitment into my skin but I know now that when I did it, I did it for you, even though you were not yet with me.
Reef I Love You. I will see you again a long time from now, not as just a beautiful face behind a tiny piece of glass. I will be able to give you my hand and I will show you all you could not see from the room you will have spent so many days in and that is one promise I will keep."
There are so many other children like Reef and Braeden. 36 more kids will be diagnosed with cancer today, 36 more tomorrow...and the next day, and the next, and the next. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
**If you want an easy way to help, go to Chili's Bar and Grill today, September 28, for lunch, dinner or even just a snack. 100% of the profits will go to St. Jude's Children's Hospital to help fun childhood cancer research.****
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Get Your Gold On
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and today, September 12, 2009, is Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. I wanted to have a post written and up this morning, but life is just crazy busy right now and this is the first chance I've had to sit down and write anything.
If you've read my blog before, you already know that cancer is one of my biggest causes, especially when it comes to children. You also probably know that one of my closest friends from childhood recently lost her 3 year old son to Neuroblastoma. This is a friend I just reconnected with last October, just about two weeks after I wrote a post about Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I thought it only appropriate to repost it today, updating it with some current information and some pictures. I didn't include any pictures when I wrote that blog, because I didn't personally know anyone who had a child with cancer. Sadly, that is no longer true.
Here is what I wrote last September:
Last week I posted some thoughts about cancer, just after watching the Stand up 2 Cancer special on t.v. When I posted my thoughts, I didn't realize that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Since so much attention is often given to adults with cancer, I feel it is important that we not forget there are children fighting this disease as well.
Here are some childhood cancer statistics:
- On the average 12,500 children and teens will be diagnosed with some form of cancer each year in this country.
- Each school day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer.
- One in 330 children will develop cancer by age 20.
- Although the 5 year survival rate is steadily increasing, one quarter of children will die 5 years from the time of diagnosis.
- Cancer remains the #1 disease killer of America's children - more than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, asthma and AIDS combined.
- In the U.S. almost 3,000 children do not survive cancer each year.
- Over the past two decades, only ONE new cancer drug has been approved for pediatric use.
- Currently there are between 30-40,000 children undergoing cancer treatment in the U.S.
- As a nation, we spend over $14 BILLION per year on the space program, but only $35 MILLION on childhood cancer Research each year.
- There are 15 children diagnosed with cancer for every one child diagnosed with pediatric AIDS. Yet, the U.S. invests approximately $595,000 for research per victim of pediatric AIDS and only $20,000 for each victim of childhood cancer.
- Research funds are scarce as most money is diverted to well-publicized adult forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate.
- Right now, this second, somewhere in America, there are 7 children fighting for their lives who won't live through the day.
There is a great way for people to get involved that don't otherwise know how to help. On September 28, Chili's Grill and Bar is donating 100% of their sales to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Take a night off from cooking and cleaning dishes and go to Chili's for dinner. You will be helping a great cause and getting a good meal too!
You can also visit Chili's any day during September and can contribute to St. Jude in multiple ways:
- Make a donation to St. Jude and receive a Create-A-Pepper chili pepper coloring sheet. Decorated sheets will be displayed in restaurants nationwide throughout September.
- Purchase Create-A-Pepper T-shirts that can be customized with permanent marker.
- Buy a customized Create-A-Pepper key that can be cut for use at home or the office..
- Visit www.createapepper.com to make an online donation.
There are so many other ways you can help. Give up a little bit of your lunch money and donate to Lunch for Life, which raises money for the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation. Help to spread cheer by volunteering at a local children's hospital. Prepare meals or help provide childcare for families who have children in the hospital or sick at home. Donate blood or bone marrow. Or just simply take the time to help raise awareness. For starters, get your gold on this month. If you don't own any gold clothing, go to your local fabric store and buy some gold ribbon. Spread the word on Twitter or Facebook. Write about cancer on your blog. Just taking the time to do something so simple can help more than you can possibly know. DO IT.
I am hoping to share some stories about children with cancer this month to help raise awareness and put a face to this horrible disease. I already have a couple of stories in the works. If you know anyone who would like to share their story, please send me an email. I am more than willing to talk about these cancer warriors and give them the spotlight they deserve. I only wish I could do more.
**Other sites to visit:
Friday, September 11, 2009
My need to shelter them from the news started when I had the TV on during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kiki was four and had been playing in the next room. I didn't think much of what was on TV because after all, they were just talking about weather, and she never seemed to pay attention when the news was on anyway. Kiki had been singing and playing and then all of the sudden she was quiet. When a normally not so quiet child becomes quiet, that usually means trouble, so I looked over to see what she was doing. She had walked into the family room and was standing just staring at the TV. Before I could turn the TV off or do anything, she asked "why are people standing on their houses, Mommy?" I found the remote and quickly turned it off, and told her not to worry about it, that it was just a TV show. She wasn't buying it. "Mommy, what's a hurricane? Can a hurricane come to our house? Are we going to lose our house too?" Obviously she picked up on more than I had realized. All of that time she was playing and singing she was also listening.
I decided then that I would never have the news on in the house when the girls were awake. To me it just wasn't worth the risk. However, I knew that I couldn't do this forever, that eventually they would go to school and would hear other kids talking about events on the news. So I've slowly and selectively allowed them to see some news stories I thought they could handle, with me sitting with them and explaining it to them. There is only one topic I've completely avoided: September 11, 2001.
I have really grappled with how to explain this day to them. First of all, on September 11, you can't really turn the news on without media showing the images over and over (and over and over and over), and that is definitely something I am not sure I want them to see just yet. But I know they are going to hear about it eventually, and it could very well be on the school bus. I know the school celebrates Patriot Day and the children are encouraged to wear red, white and blue that day. Last year I know they were not told the purpose behind Patriot Day; Boo was just a Kindergartener, and Kiki was in second grade. I asked the teachers and found the kids were not told anything about 9-11 specifically, but that the focus was more on celebrating our country's heroes - police officers, fire fighters, rescue workers, and of course, our soldiers. The girls decorated flags, sang patriotic songs, etc., but not much else.
I know the time is coming though, especially for Kiki, who is now in third grade. If I don't tell her about it, she is going to learn about it on the school bus, the playground or in the cafeteria. Or it may be that she learns about it from her teacher, which would be better than hearing about it from another child. I know her teacher would tell about the events less dramatically, and much more factually, than a nine year old child. I worry some, because Kiki tends to internalize these types of things. She often shows empathy and even cries when she hears about people who suffer. She thinks about stuff like this for days, and wants to know as much detail about it as we will tell her. I also know that she would worry this type of thing could happen again.
How do you tell your children about something like this? Eventually all children know that there are "bad guys." This is evident whenever you visit any playground and spend some time watching children playing games like cops and robbers. Our girls know first hand about some of those "bad guys" since some of those very types of hooligans broke into their cousins' house and stole their electronic toys and Halloween candy. I've warned them about the dangers of strangers and how important it is to stick close to Mommy and Daddy when out in public. They even know the sadness of stuff like kids who are sick and even sometimes die from cancer.
But how do you explain the events of September 11, 2001? How do you tell them there are people so mean in our world that they wanted to kill thousands of people in one day? That they wanted to blow up buildings and airplanes, and take away lots of mommies and daddies, all because they hate us so much? I can't even begin to think of how to tell them.
I do know I want to tell them the gentlest way I can, and focus more on the heroism of that day, than the horror. Teach them that we should always honor and respect our soldiers, police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and everyone else who puts themselves before others. After all, isn't that what we should all remember about this day? That in the face of adversity, our country stood UNITED and refused to let the meanies win.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Jumpstart Virtual World
The kind people at Knowledge Adventure recently offered me a free membership, and asked me to try out and review JumpStart's 3D Virtual World for kids. I have used JumpStart products in the past, both as a teacher and a parent, and always have been impressed with their games, which reinforce and teach skills that children are learning at school, yet are fun to play. From their website: "JumpStart is an award-winning adventure-based 3D virtual world that is super-personalized, wildly imaginative and really fun, but don't let that fool you - it also teaches math, reading, and critical thinking skills so kids get a real jump start in life."
My girls have never been big computer or video game users, so I was curious to see how they would like the JumpStart website. We've owned a few of the popular gaming systems, yet they just don't ask to play any of them that often. They'd much prefer to play with their toys. However, after spending just a few minutes on JumpStart, they were hooked.
Boo played first and loved that she could create her own "Jumpee," (avatar) character, picking out everything from hair color to clothing and choosing a name. She spent quite a long time doing this, wanting her Jumpee to look just like herself. Instead of going off and doing something else, her older sister Kiki was right there next to her watching, and helping her as she needed it.
After Boo created her Jumpee, she immediately went off exploring. There are many areas to explore, including two virtual worlds, "Storyland" (ages 3-5) and "Adventureland" (ages 6-8). I started Boo off in Storyland, even though she is 6, since this was her first time playing. She doesn't play computer games that often and I wanted her to feel comfortable and get used to the game first before having more challenging activities thrown at her. I like the ease of navigation in this software. In Storyland, for example, the child can just use the mouse instead of navigating a keyboard to find her way around.
Kiki started off in Adventureland first, and had no problems at all figuring it out. Like Storyland, the child is first prompted to create a Jumpee character. Since it is geared towards older children, the challenges are a bit harder, and the keyboard and mouse are both needed to navigate the world. There is also more reading involved, and of course the learning games are a bit harder.
I really like the way JumpStart caters to different age groups. Storyland is very simple for kids to explore, yet challenging enough to keep their interest. I also like that they get oral instructions and can ask for help, just by clicking on a question mark symbol in the corner of the screen, as frequently as they need it. They also have tasks to complete and are rewarded with stars when they complete a task. When they finish one of the many learning games within their "land," they are rewarded with coins, which in turn they can spend on virtual clothing and objects for their Jumpee.
I also like that as the child completes tasks or "missions" the game gets a little harder, and keeps the child's interest. Because it is online, the game continues to change and be fun for kids to play, unlike CD games which often come to an end after a child completes all of the tasks.
The fun is just beginning, as JumpStart creators are continuing to add more to the site, including "Futureland," which will be geared toward kids in 3rd through 5th grade, and "Marineland," an extension of Adventureland. They also recently launched a multi-player feature, which allows the Jumpees to interact with each other and chat for even more fun. Because real names are never used, and the chat is "canned" (children pick from a menu of phrases, such as "Hello, how are you today?") this keeps the conversation safe and secure for your little ones. With all of these features to explore, I know my girls will never be bored again on a rainy day!
The wonderful people at Jumpstart.com have offered to give away a free 3-month membership (value of $24) to one lucky reader. Membership includes access into a members-only area, software downloads, and more!
To enter, go to Jumpstart.com and check out the free areas in the virtual world, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me what you/your child liked about it. You can also earn additional entries by tweeting about this contest/post using the hashtag #momexperience with a link to this post.
Contest is open to US residents, and ends at 11:59 EST Sunday, September 13, 2009. The winner will be contacted via email (so be sure to leave me a valid email address) within two days of the contest end. Good luck!
CONGRATS to DesignHERmomma for winning my first ever giveaway! Thanks to everyone who participated!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Our Fair Adventure
Well, now they are old enough that they know about the fair, want to go to the fair, etc. Boo, especially, LOVES pigs and knows there are some to be found at the fair, so of course she wanted to go and I figured, why not? However, mother nature had other plans in mind for us, since the best weekend for us to go it was 90 degrees with about 87 percent humidity. Needless to say, the pool definitely won out when it came time to plan that weekend's activities.
Weekdays are not a great option either, since school has started already. Yeah, you heard me right, school started here August 11. Seriously. Who is the brain child that thought early August would be a great time to start school, when it is 90+ degrees out? I could write a whole blog post about that since it annoys me so much. Anywhooo. . . so we can't go during the week very easily now that the girls are back in school. However, since the local paper decided to be nice and publish free fair coupons this week, I figured we could go for a few hours after school one day.
Yesterday after school got out, we ate an early dinner and headed to the fair. I knew taking
Boo of course was freaking out because she 1). hates storms and is terrified of thunder 2.) the weather was raining on her "pig parade" and she was afraid the races would be canceled. Mother nature decided to play nice this time, and the rain passed through quickly, just in time for the pig races to start. To say Boo was ecstatic is an understatement. That child was so happy she was speechless, and that NEVER happens.
The girls did enjoy the fair but I felt like we didn't have enough time to truly explore all it has to offer. We did see some of the kids stuff and of course toured the animal barns, but we only saw about half of what was there. And even though I enjoyed seeing the smiles on their faces, I was reminded I am not really a state fair kind of gal. So many people I know LOVE the fair with the animals, music, rides and greasy fried foods (chocolate covered bacon? Seriously?!). Me? Notsomuch. But I know for the girls' sake, we will be going back next year.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
A Donut for You, A Donut for Me
I've been wanting to try this with the girls and since the weather (Hello, July? Why are you so cool this year?) this past week was crummy, I decided it was as good a time as any. I wasn't sure exactly how we made these, since my forty year old memory fails me so often lately, so I did a little searching and found a recipe at Makes and Takes.
I surprised the girls one morning last week and let me just say they were a big hit. Kiki said they tasted almost like the funnel cakes she had at Holiday World. And since we don't have any donut bakeries close by (what happened to those places anyway?), this might just be a regular treat. Now if only I could figure out how to take the calories out. . .
*** my better late than never Show and Tell Tuesday post. For more yummy fun for your family, check out Mom's Marbles