Wednesday, November 5, 2014

LeapTV Product Review {Promotional Post}

Note: I was provided with the LeapTV product, loaded game content, and an extra controller to review and keep for my use.  All opinions expressed here are my own and in no way influenced by those providing the LeapFrog materials.

Photo curtesy of LeapFrog
I had a great opportunity to use and review the latest product from LeapFrog.  LeapTV is an interactive gaming system geared toward a young audience, ages 3-8 years.  Generally, I hand over the LeapFrog products to my kids and let them go to town, and then provide you with a review of the materials as an observer.  I do often get in and use the products myself or let the kids show me how things work.  Today, I decided to go about this a little differently; my husband and I went to take the first test drive of the LeapTV gaming system, and here are our thoughts:

Pros:
  • As with all LeapFrog products, you can set different users to have different difficulty levels, which while playing together as a large group allows the younger kids to have the Pre-School questions while the older one have the Elementary school based questions. 
  • A large variety of games are available for LeapTV, filling interests in many categories; there is something for everyone.  And many of your favorite LeapFrog Characters make appearances in the games.
  • The camera picks up details of movement extremely well when using your body as a controller, as long as there is not a lot of clutter in the background.


Cons:
  •  The game controllers are a bit difficult to maneuver.  The post controller is at an angle, so occasionally when I felt like I was moving left or right, I ended up crouching or not jumping high enough – this occurred especially in the Spiderman game
  • Some navigation on screen when exiting games was confusing – I thought I was quitting games and ended up circling back and forth a few times before getting where I wanted.
  • There were also a few times that the controllers became disconnected in the middle of a game, while we were using them, causing a disruption in our play.  And when they seemed to interfere with the camera/body control.


When trying out the system, we played the following games:
  1. LeapFrog Kart Racing: Supercharged!: Initially, I bounced from walls to walls, but by the 3rd lap, I was starting to get the hang of it.  I am sure that the kids will have the racing mastered in no time, but I am glad that we played the middle level of difficulty.
  2. LeapFrog Dance & Learn: We did the jungle jam.  The sounding out of words was a bit difficult to hear, and there were times that a repeat would have been nice.  It was great to bounce around and grab the stars for extra points.
  3. Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man: There is so much to do on each of these levels – collecting pictures, defeating ‘bad guys,’ navigating through stages by crawling on walls, ceilings and jumping over holes.  This game is enjoyed by my older kids, as well.  The pointer play is great fun as you fling webs at the Octobots and cruise through the city like Spider-Man swinging from building to building.
  4. LeapFrog Sports:
    • Baseball, Home run Derby: After super charging your bat with math problems, each player gets a chance to hit 5 pitches at the different rings set up in the outfield.  The pitches were difficult to time, as some were very slow, some oscillated back and forth, and others were very fast.  I feel like the more that you play the game; the better you will be able to judge the correct time to swing.
    • Soccer, Goalie: This was super fun to use Body Motion to block shots from the ball blaster.  Water Balloons are also thrown in to see if you are paying attention.
Photo curtesy of LeapFrog

Bottom Line: The content is what you expect from LeapFrog – excellently tailored to the Pre-school and early elementary aged children to supplement their at home and at school curriculum.  The few quirks in the control and navigation of the LeapTV, are places for improvement, but not detrimental to the operation of LeapTV.




Don't forget to enter the giveaway here!

Make your day Fantastic! 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway

I have a super exciting announcement today...  About a month ago, I was contacted via Etsy Conversation by Maggie from The Love Nerds as she was putting together an Etsy Shop Holiday Gift Guide.  After considering the opportunity, I decided it was too good to pass up.  There are over 40 bloggers and Etsy shops participating in this event.  When you get a change pop over to her blog and let her know how awesome she is for the hard work she has put into making this a reality.

I have a few things that I am hoping to add to my shop in the next couple of days.

I have connected with fabulous Etsy shops and some of my blogger friends to bring you this Etsy Holiday Giveaway which celebrates the creative genius of these shop owners and their handmade items. Some items might be perfect for you to gift to your mother, daughter or even co-worker. Other items you might covet for yourself. Whichever you choose, we hope you will cherish the prizes the shops have donated.

Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! 

AND, if the prizes aren't enough, the bloggers have pooled together to offer one $200 Etsy gift card so you can purchase gifts yourself!!

Here's how it will work: There will be SIX winners! Maggie will contact each of the winners directly to choose their preferred prize. First winner will have first pick and so on. The prizes are a $200 Etsy gift card and 5 Prize Packages detailed below {Christmas, Kids, Family and Home, Kitchen/Baking, and Stocking Stuffers.

Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse!
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! 

Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! 
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! 
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse!

Now, to the giveaway!! With over 40 shops and bloggers, there are LOTS of entry options. They are organized by social media platform, so you can easily follow on your preferred methods. Plus, don't forget to check out the Etsy Holiday Gift Guide for some gift ideas!

I have connected with fabulous Etsy shops and some of my blogger friends to bring you this Etsy Holiday Giveaway which celebrates the creative genius of these shop owners and their handmade items. Some items might be perfect for you to gift to your mother, daughter or even co-worker. Other items you might covet for yourself. Whichever you choose, we hope you will cherish the prizes the shops have donated.

Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="1050" />

AND, if the prizes aren't enough, the bloggers have pooled together to offer one $200 Etsy gift card so you can purchase gifts yourself!!
Here's how it will work: There will be SIX winners! I will contact each of the winners directly to choose their preferred prize. First winner will have first pick and so on. The prizes are a $200 Etsy gift card and 5 Prize Packages detailed below {Christmas, Kids, Family and Home, Kitchen/Baking, and Stocking Stuffers.

Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="980" />
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="980" />
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="980" />
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="980" />
Etsy Holiday Giveaway with 6 winners - $200 Etsy<span style= 
gift card and 5 prize packages up for grabs! PLUS, an awesome Etsy Holiday Gift Guide to browse! {The Love Nerds}" width="700" height="980" />
Now, to the giveaway!! With over 40 shops and bloggers, there are LOTS of entry options. They are organized my social media platform, so you can easily follow on your preferred methods. Plus, don't forget to check out the Etsy Holiday Gift Guide for some gift ideas!

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

100 Days of Happiness: 65 days in!

In the past few weeks, I have neglected to update the 100 Days of Happiness Challenge that I started at the end of July.  See below for the highlights since day 27:
Day 31: Two little boys while we camped for the final time this summer.
Day 35: The Back to School Ice Cream Social day!
Day 36: Watching 5 kiddos hop on the bus the first day of school!  Back to routine, and I LOVE it.
Day 37: Enjoying my delicious Keweenaw Coffee Works coffee in my new cup = Perfect Morning.
Day 41: I spent a couple hours in the blueberry patch. 
Day 42: The middle dude celebrated his birthday with 2 of his cousins.
Day 44: Road trip with my sisters - to meet the others.
Day 46: Large American flag along the highway that you could see for miles. 
Day 48: Got to see some of my favorites at an 8th grade football game.
Day 52: I looked up one evening and saw these small stacking objects in the railing.  Kids are so interesting.
Day 54: I caught my boys making faces into the mixing bowl -
I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid.
Day 59: I made these shirts for my girls last weekend. They think they are awesome.  
The knit was so easy to sew; I am looking forward to my next project!
Day 63: I was scrubbing the kitchen floor, so the chairs became a fort for the littles.
Day 64: My magic mom shoes.  My mom sent these to me, while I was expecting #8, occasionally I take them out.  The 5 year old is very skeptical of their magical abilities and insists they are not as magic as Santa!

Happiness is a choice!

Linked up to some of these Parties!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hug a Pillow - Saying Good-bye and Good Luck

Late this summer, we learned that a friend of ours was moving 500 miles south for a large portion of the this school year.  My kids were so sad, because she always made time for them - coming over to visit at sporting events, hauling them to get ice cream, even coming to our house occasionally to hang out.

I was trying to think of something that would let her know that we love her and would miss her, but also a bit unsure what a teenager would appreciate/use.  I finally decided a small pillow would be easy to fit, take with on trips, and cozy up with if she got lonely.


I started with red and blue jersey and some grey/white polkadots.
I had this jersey sitting around for a few months, and I was a bit nervous to try it out because of the stretchy/softness.  The pillow was a perfect project to try it out.  All I needed was 2 squares, so that should be easy... wrong! This particular knit stretched in both directions, making it difficult to make perfect squares.  Carefully laying the fabric out and not sliding the ruler, I was able to get the faces of the pillow cut out.  

I decided to add a  ruffled edge with the polkadots. I cut 4" strips of the fabric and sewed them together to make a long rectangle 1.5 times the perimeter of the cut squares.  Folding it in half, I ironed wrong sides together, and began creating the pleats.\

1. Lay the folded ironed fabric next to a ruler

2. Pull the fabric over 1/2" and pin in place.

3. Slide the new pleat to the 3" mark and repeat the process until the length of the fabric is pleated.

4. Baste pleats in place.

5. Sandwich between the pillow panels and sew together, leaving an opening for a pillow for or stuffing.

After stuffing or inserting a pillow form, it is the perfect gift to give someone you love - have the kids hug it for extra comfort!

Happiness is a choice!

Linked up to some of these parties.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LeapBand Review {Promotional Post}

Disclosure: I was sent a LeapBand for review after use by my kids.  All opinions below are mine alone.


I love that LeapFrog is expanding beyond handheld video devices for older children.  The idea of making a fitness tracker that includes child friendly challenges and motivation is brilliant.  However, there is room for improvement with this initial model.

I took it out of the package and directly handed it over to my children.  They seemed to figure out how to operate the watch without any problems, even though it is button operated versus the touch screen they are so used to from LeapFrog.

So far their favorite feature of the LeapBand is the stop watch and using it to time each other running different 'out and backs' through my house.  I have encouraged them to take it outside, but so far they have not attempted our 1/4 mi long driveway.

Here is my official list of pros & cons:

Pros:

  • Easy for kids to operate
  • Kid friendly rewards
  • A 'like mom has' fitness tracker
  • Large variety of challenge activities to hold interest.


Cons:

  • No step counter
  • Lacks volume control (even a loud/soft/silent would be nice)
  • Not touch screen (as they are used to)
  • Bulky band that is a bit sweaty on my hot children.


In general, my kids are active on their own, so encouraging movement is not really necessary, but the LeapBand is a fun accessory to promote physical activity combined with learning - healthy choices, telling time, and earning rewards.

{All photos are courtesy of LeapFrog}  A LeapBand giveaway coming soon!
Linked up here.


Remember: happiness is your choice!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kids Jobs {the Ongoing Battle}

Getting kids to participate in the daily household chores is an ongoing battle - at least at my house.  In their own unique way, kids do have a desire to contribute to the household, but they are also kids, so they do not see messes in the same ways that moms see messy rooms.  


Here I will share 8 ways that I keep my sanity while getting my kids to do their fair share.  I am no expert, so take these and apply them in your own way to your household.

  1. Weekly job lists.  Rather than try to come up with daily jobs lists or fixed rotating lists, my kids have set jobs for each week.  This is so much easier for me - I print a list one time with each child listed and the week number listed in a table, so all i have to refer to is the week number and they all know what is their responsibility. Also, weekly jobs allow kids to repeat tasks and in theory master a chore.
  2. Short list of tasks.  Under the table of jobs, I have a task list for them to complete for each job.  The daily items are just normal upkeep - sweeping & straitening.  The scrubbing and dusting are saved for Saturdays (or me during the week).
  3. No Rewards. I have tried to reward for cleaning and contributing to this house.  But I stink at keeping track of these kinds of things.  So, jobs are just part of their daily routine.  My older boys are on a salary every 2 weeks, but they are not directly rewarded for completing cleaning jobs
  4. Jobs for all kids over 3.  My 5 year old, although not in school this year, is part of the job rotation.  I keep all the same jobs for all 6 of my older kids.  Obviously this is with the realization on my part that when the younger end have bathrooms or kitchen duty, that I will need to help pick up the slack in that area.  But often times, the 3 or 4 year old kid WANTS to help - so why not capitalize on that attitude.
  5. Kitchen = Weekly Job.  In past attempts to have job lists, I did not include dishes in the after school jobs, but instead kept that as a daily rotating task - per my kids request.  However, midway through last school year, I decided I wanted to try it as one of the weekly jobs.  The. Best. Decision. Ever.  The minions grumbled about it in the beginning, but they quickly realized that they would have a 5 week break before they were in the rotation for dishes again.
  6. Bedrooms. These rooms are the jobs of the kids to keep tidy.  I truly believe that bedroom doors were invented for a reason - for me to close.  I was not a neat child (and struggle with neatness as an adult), so I tend to give my kids a bit of freedom when it come to their rooms.  It is interesting to see that some kids tend to be more particular and others not so much.  However, to instill some type of routine in their lives, I like to have bedrooms cleaned and vacuumed each Saturday.  There are also other jobs in the basement and outside that are randomly assigned to the Saturday (or weekday) job lists.
  7. Letting Go.  My sister once shared advice from her mother-in-law regarding kids cleaning and not quite getting it done as a mom would like: 'Half a job is better than no job.'  I try to remember this when they speed through with a lick and a promise.  There are days when that is all the attention their jobs get, because we have a list 5 bullet points long to accomplish elsewhere that evening - sports, school, meetings, etc.  If there is something that I notice not up to par, I try to point it out to them so that it can be rectified at that moment or in the future.  Raising a house full of kids (mostly boys), I have learned that not everything is going to be perfectly cleaned (and I really do not require it to be) and that there is not possible way that I can do it all myself.  
  8. Gender neutral job distribution. On the boys note, boys in this house are learning to clean a kitchen, scrub bathroom, bake brownies, make supper, etc.  It is out of necessity - their sisters are only 8 and 2.  As they grow and they girls are able to take more of the 'girly' tasks, I may change my way of doing things, but for now I would like to think that I am raising well rounded young men!
Here is a photo of my list this year.
Each time I institute a new method of job distribution in this house I hope that it will be the last time.  This school year is the first time I have used the same system as the previous school year.  I am thrilled with that.  It means that something is working, and for the kids they are not having to learn a new system at home this year.  Adaptations are sure to come on the future, but I think I may have finally landed on something that works.



Be Happy!

{Linked up here}
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