Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moving On…

With my expanding workload at EverythingMom I’m finding it difficult to maintain this blog along with the other things I have to do. Therefore, I’ve decided to stop updating this blog. You’ll still be able to read about what we’re up to in my EverythingMom blog. I’m also in the process of moving all the children’s book reviews from here into EverythingMom’s new Kid’s Book section on EverythingMom and plan to continue to expand on its content. Thanks for visiting.

Write a Review Wednesday: Banjo of Destiny

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Me and Rolly Maloo. This week I look at Groundwood Books’ Banjo of Destiny (age 10-12), written by Cary Fagan. I have to thank Trisha at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It’s music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

I’ll admit, I was personally drawn to Banjo of Destiny because of my love of the ukulele. I realize they’re not the same instrument but they are viewed in the same way: strange, uncommon, lowbrow. But like Jeremiah, I was drawn to its sound.

You may think a book about a boy playing the banjo wouldn’t be that appealing to kids, but Banjo of Destiny is more than that. It deals with growing-up and finding your own voice. Jeremiah has let his parents have control over all his life: where he goes to school, what he wears, the classes he takes, even the music he listens too. But when the sound of the banjo strikes a chord with him (no pun intended), he doesn’t let his parents’ desires get in the way.

When his parents won’t let him learn the banjo, he decides to do it in secret, even going as far as building one in shop class to ensure he doesn’t break his parents’ rule about spending any money on the instrument. Jeremiah’s best friend Luella, who isn’t rich and has a wilder, more relaxed view on life, encourages his desire. Knowing how much playing the banjo means to Jeremiah, Luella even pushes him to let his parents know, to stop keeping it a secret.

Banjo of Destiny is a great story for kids about finding your passion and pursuing it, not letting others deter you. It’s also a wonderful story about friendship. I love Cary Fagan‘s writing too (Thing-Thing from Tundra Books is still one of my favourite pictures books to date).

To add a copy of Banjo of Destiny to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, reach through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are your kids enjoying?

Picture It Picture Books – Illustrated by Your Child

Books are big in our house as I’m sure you can guess from the Write a Review Wednesday posts every week. I love how books encourage learning, discovery and imagination. So when the folks at Mom Central Canada told me about Picture It Picture Books, I was interested to see these first hand how these would work.

The concept behind Picture It Picture Books is to tap into your child’s creative imagination. The stories are already written and your child adds the illustrations, sharing their interpretation of the story being told. There are currently 6 different titles available and the subject matter varies depending on your child’s interest. For younger kids there’s My Alphabet where kids illustrate something for each letter, something that might be more personal to them.

For older kids (and by older I mean maybe six or seven), there’s Captain Zane or The Moon Story. These are closer to stories to actual stories you might read and your child adds the illustrations.

The sample we were sent was Imagining Me, a story about your child. This isn’t really a story but rather a collection of pages about your child’s interests: their job when they grow-up, a wacky hairdo, playing with their best friend. I thought the Picture It Picture Books would be appealing to my 8-year old who has a current fascination with illustrating her own stories, but the sample didn’t appeal to her at all. She has a few books like this, books that she can customize based on her preferences and she had no interest in doing another one. This wouldn’t be one of the books I would have chosen either. For a book about your child, some of the pages are very specific and are of topics kids might have no interest in.

My 6-year old decided he liked a few of the pages, like developing a vehicle or designing a new toy (as his job) but that was the extent of his interest. I would love to see one of the more story oriented books to see if there would be more interest; the kids would actually be illustrating pictures of a story versus more of a workbook type activity (like the alphabet or Imagining Me).

The finished books do make great keepsakes for your kids as they grow-up or maybe even something to give to grandma (a story to read together when visiting and something grandma can enjoy because of the personal illustrations).

You can find the Picture It Picture Books on their website or at other stores and markets across the country.

I want to thanks the folks at Mom Central Canada and Picture It Picture Books for sending the review copy along to me.

In the Dark with Franklin for Earth Hour (Giveaway)

Earth Hour is this Saturday and my kids are really excited. We spend so much time immersed in technology (iPads, computers, video game systems, TV) I think they’re actually look forward to a little quiet time. You never saw that coming did you. Actually, I think they’re looking forward to flashlights (checkout EverythingMom for this really fun rechargeable flashlight the kids will love). After making shadow puppets and telling stories we’ll be settling down to a few stories by flashlight.

If you plan on celebrating Earth Hour with little ones, why not enjoy some flashlight reading with Paulette BourgeoisFranklin in Franklin in the Dark. Twenty-five years ago, a little turtle named Franklin conquered his fear of the dark with the help of a night-light. Since the 1986 publication of Franklin in the Dark, Franklin has brightened story time for millions of children worldwide, selling over 60 million books in more than 30 languages.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the world’s most beloved turtle, Kids Can Press is marking the occasion with a special, larger-format edition of Franklin in the Dark that offers a fun behind-the-scenes peek at this Canadian classic, including an excerpt of the first manuscript and a selection of original sketches.

GIVEAWAY

In celebration of 25 years of Franklin, I am giving away one (1) copy of the special 25th Anniversary Edition of Franklin in the Dark to one of me readers today (sorry, Canada only). To enter leave a comment below with one other Franklin book you’ve enjoyed (there are over 30 different titles).

For an extra entry tweet the following (be sure to leave a separate comment): Fingers crossed I win the 25th Anniversary Franklin in the Dark from @cbadov http://bit.ly/fLdgPd

Contest closes midnight March 24, 2011, after which I’ll randomly choose a name from those qualified entries.

For other great books for kids, read through my Write a Review Wednesday reviews. Enjoy your time in the dark this Saturday.

5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit

I know that adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to keep healthy and energized and believe me, with 3 kids I need all the energy I can get. Starting a routine is easy, especially at the start of the new year; keeping a fitness routine can be harder. It doesn’t help that I work from home and have my 4-year old with me at home for half the morning. I actually thought having my kids start school would free-up my time but the whole half-day kindergarten is turning out to be more inconvenient than I thought. Now I wouldn’t change that but that’s another post.

All said and done, my situation isn’t going to change. At first I would bemoan not having time to do my workout but the more I thought about it the more I realized I’ve been working out all this time. If you have kids, you probably are too.

So here are 5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit:

  1. Video Games. It may seem like 30-minutes of saving the alliance from the dark forces but if you’re like me and really get into playing videos games (especially on the Wii or Xbox Kinect) you’d be surprised how much of a sweat you can work-up. Bonus: you’re kids might even think you’re kinda cool. Kinda.
  2. Obstacle Course. My 6-year old son loves his hot wheels cars. He received a track extension set at Christmas which means he can make his own track with loops and jumps. Forget the standard loop with a hoop jump at the end, my son loves to make tracks that go over chairs, under book tunnels, around stuffies, all the way down the hallway on the second floor. Creative right? Sure, unless your office is on the third floor and the courier arrives and you have to dash and jump and swerve down the hall and stairs without killing yourself or ruining the track.
  3. Game Cupboard. I thought I was being smart, setting up our sideboard as a family game cupboard. The idea was that kids could easily pull out a game to play together or on their own to use right on the dining room table. This would cut-down on the requests for me to pull out a game and tidy them up. In theory this is great if you only have a few games but over the years we have amassed quiet a large collection. It’s like a puzzle to try to get something out of there and fit it back in, which means I end up back into the routine of digging out and putting away the games. Who wants to play a game after 20-minutes of digging out from the back of the Jenga game cupboard?
  4. Clean-up Chase. My 6 and 8-year old are pretty good at tidying up after playing with their toys. My 4-year old, however, is a work in progress. This usually involves me running around, looking under beds, in closets, behind doors, to find my hiding 4-year old. I think she takes the expression ‘out of sight, out of mind’ a little too literally when it comes to putting her toys away.
  5. The Clean-Up. Like I said in point four, my older two kids are pretty good at tidying up but no one’s perfect. This means there are books in the bathroom, boats and plastic sharks in the tub, pencil crayons and play dough pieces under the table and Lego everywhere. You can get a good workout slipping on, stepping over, bending down to pick-up, sorting out, reshelving these items all over the house.

Even if your kids are super tidy or don’t have toys, trying taking them grocery shopping. A trip to the grocery store can be a workout on its own (with or without kids). If you’re looking for more of a structured workout, checkout these hi-tech options on EverythingMom.

So next time you’re picking up the umpteenth piece of Lego buried in the shag carpet, remind yourself that this is for your own good, that you’re giving your body a workout so you can be around for years and years (and years) to come and your children are still living in your basement, unemployed. Hmm, maybe I’ll rethink this workout craze.

It’s only a Birthday

My son turned 6 recently. Leading up to his birthday we had all sorts of party plans and like most party plans that involve kids, they changed daily, some times hourly. This would be my son’s first organized party. In the past we’ve been fortunate enough to convince him that celebrating with the family was best (and last year it was). But this year he wanted to party with his friends.

Since my son goes to skateboard school we thought about doing a skateboard party. My son was keen on it because he wanted to show off his new skateboard tricks. But the adult voice kicked in. Some of the kids on the ‘guest list’ would be young and we wanted a party that all could participate in.

We nixed the skateboard party.

Then we thought about doing a movie party, taking all the kids to the movie theatre. Toy Story 3 would be coming out soon (sadly before my son’s birthday). Although there were a few movies on our families movie list – we’re counting down the days on a calendar to see The Last Air Bender — that persistent adult voice kicked in again. What we let our kids watch may not be suitable for others. I didn’t want my son’s birthday to be remembered as the event that sent some kids into therapy.

We nixed the movie party.

Then I received an email on a water park weekend special at Splash Lagoon in Erie Pennsylvania. We’ve always wanted to go; it’s not a far drive and there’s a Target, Steak and Shake, and Chick-fil-a all at the same stop. We even convinced my son that maybe we should go away to celebrate as a family again this year; put off having the friend party. Well you guess is, adult voice. Seems my passport expired in April not August as I originally thought (why they have months starting with the same letter is beyond me).

We nixed the family water park adventure.

As I debated on what type of party to have, realizing we had to sort it out soon, I wondered why I was beating myself up over the whole thing. I think there’s so much pressure (self-imposed sometimes) on hosting a super cool party, the party everyone at school will be talking about, the party of the year. It’s got to be themed. It’s got to have games. It’s got to have prizes. It’s got to have loot bags. I remember how exhausting my daughter’s Webkinz themed party was.

When I stopped stressing about decorations and invitations and entertainers, I thought long and hard about what my son would really want for his birthday (besides more Lego). All he would want is to have his friends over to his house and play. That’s it. No clowns. No jumpy castle (though I’m sure he would have used it). Just running and jumping and screaming in the backyard.

So that’s what we did. We had a party playdate. We gave the kids a water gun and hot wheel car and they were set for the afternoon. Then we just had hamburgers and hotdogs on the BBQ. Even the parents hung around for a drink or two.

My son smiled non-stop and still talks about his party. Now of course my 3-year-old is planning her birthday, for December!

Sometimes the easiest things are the best things.

Flip Friday: Christmas Concerts and Wish Lists

I received my Flip Mino HD yesterday, just in time for my kids Christmas concert at school; what a perfect place to try it out. I had to charge my Flip before heading out and since my computer wasn’t turned on at the moment I thought I’d use my mophie USB dual charger or car charger, but neither seemed to work. So on went the computer. My mac’s USB was behind the screen so it was a little awkward to plug-in (I could use my USB buddy without a problem which helped).

At the concert I realized I didn’t look at the instructions on how to use my Flip Mino HD but it was pretty intuitive. All the buttons are on the back of the camera (except for the power button and the switch to pop out the USB). The placement works well as you’re holding the camera up in front of you and moving your thumb over the buttons. The record button is indented making it easy to find without really looking at the camera. You can zoom in a out easily, but the zoom is somewhat limited if you are shooting from a distance. Having the buttons back-lit really helped at the Christmas concert too (no squinting to try to make out where the buttons were) and I was able to record this:

You’ll have to excuse the shakiness. One thing I did discover that since the video screen is small it’s hard to detect hand movement when you’re holding the Flip Mino HD (and we were holding our hand up in front of us for a quite a bit). These small shaky movements seem to be exaggerated when viewing them in the editing software.

FlipShare (editing software)

A great feature of the Flip Mino HD is that it comes loaded with all the software you’ll need to edit and share your videos. The FlipShare software enabled me to trim my video clips by using a slider. Once all your clips are edited and saved to your computer, you can create a movie with either the one or multiple files. Just drop and drag them in the order you want your clips to appear, create a title and add credits, you can even include music and save. The FlipShare window has a status bar to let you know at what stage of saving your movie is at. If your movie has multiple clips, FlipShare automatically adds a dissolve treatment between each clip so the movie doesn’t seem jarring (though the smoothness of the dissolve is sometimes a little muddled on playback).

After filming distant activities, I tried a closer, one-on-one shot by recording my two daughter’s Santa wish lists (my son was at a Beaver’s Christmas party or else I’d have a clip of him also):

When I film I tend to talk and record a lot of material but I usually don’t keep most of it so editing is important. The FlipShare isn’t as easy to use as my iMovie software, but then again, my iMovie software didn’t seem that easy to use the first few times either. The FlipShare enabled me to take one clip and cut and save multiple mini clips and then put them all together into one movie.

Sharing on Youtube

One your movies are done, FlipShare gives you the option to upload right to your Youtube account (or other account) and like with making your movie, FlipShare will give you the status of how your upload is going. The only thing that’s missing with the upload is the option to add your video details (title, description, tags, categories). FlipShare adds information from Flip so if you want something different to appear you need to log into your account and update it. A minor inconvenience I guess.

Win a Flip Mino HD

As I mentioned in my original Flip post, pictures of kids are important but somethings are best on video. Capturing your child performing in their school concert (or goofing off as my son did) and the excitement when your child talks about what they want for Christmas, these things are best captured in video. Flip and Mom Central Canada want to give one of my readers their very own Flip Mino HD to record their own memories. To enter, visit my first post and comment as per that post’s instructions. After you’ve done, you can earn an bonus entry by commenting here, in this post, one thing you would record with your Flip Mino HD. And don’t forget, there’s one more Flip Friday (December 25) and therefore one more bonus entry to come.

Good luck. Let the flipping begin.