Everywhere, Everywhere, Everywhere

Real Talk Friday, July 15, 2016

It seems like every other morning we are waking up to heartbreaking, horrible, horrible news from this world. We start to really consider how much more our spirits can endure.

Man.

Photo by Nicole Blades

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

Warsan Shire

Play-Well TEK Knows the Way to Kids’ Hearts: LEGO

Life As Mom Friday, July 15, 2016

Last month, we hosted a little “School Is Out — Oh, Yeah!” gathering for our son. It involved some fun snacks, a little juice, a handful of his 7-year-old friends, and one key ingredient: LEGO. And lots of it.

Actually it was a workshop happily disguised as a party. But you know 7-year-olds and details. Uh, they don’t need ’em. Just pass that box filled with LEGO bricks, parent!

Photo by Nicole Blades

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Jokes aside, we were really pleased with all it all turned. Thanks wholly to Play-Well TEKnologies, a LEGO-inspired engineering group. Play-Well comes to your home and runs an Engineering with LEGO workshop. The group sends a master builder or two carting along approximately 20,000 pieces of LEGO to teach a 90-minute engineering workshop.

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The boys got right to work and did a fantastic job of listening to their master builder (who was super patient and kind). Like when it was time to clean up, they totally did. I think I even heard them singing the “Clean Up Song” and everything!

(Yeah … sorry about the Barney flashbacks.)

Though no one is paying me to say this, I highly recommend Play-Well to any parent looking for birthday party idea or a major Winter Is Boring Us group play date that has a healthy mix of fun and education. Two thumbs way up!

Reading, Writing and … a Giveaway

Parental Intel Thursday, March 24, 2016

If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I absolutely adore books. By extension, I’m big reader. Always have been. I’m also a bit of a book snob. For example, I like printed books, ones that I can hold in my hand and write notes along the margins of and — fine — sniff a little. (Don’t act like I’m the only one!) Basically, the whole e-book thing didn’t call out to me, despite how many times I was told how convenient or neat or cool e-readers were. I wasn’t budging.

Then my son started reading on his own, and this kid got deep into it. He’s officially an avid reader, and I love it. I so enjoy watching him crawl into a book and rest there until we have to practically pry the hardcover thing from his hands because it’s bedtime.

The thing is, he really likes having more than one book on hand while he’s reading — so he can switch it up as needed. This means stacks, short and tall, on tables, in backpacks and carry-ons when we travel. Not the best.

Yeah. I started giving e-readers a second look.

So when Amazon approached me with a partnership idea to help get kids hyped about books and engaged in reading on Kindle devices, I was like:

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Plus, March is National Reading Month and Ms. Mary Mack just celebrated its 6th blogiversary on Tuesday. Naturally, that brought even more of this:

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We got to try out Amazon’s Kindle for Kids bundle,* which includes:

  • a Kindle e-reader
  • a durable, kid-friendly cover
  • a two-year warranty on the device which protects against spills and drops.

Kindle for Kids Bundle | Ms. Mary Mack

I was impressed with the way my son, 7, jumped right into this thing. It’s similar to a tablet in its tap and scroll functionality, but the important difference is that Kindles (and other e-readers) are designed specifically for one purpose: reading. There’s no access to apps, games or social media. No distractions. I liked that there was a Minecraft-free zone where my kid could sink into a story or three. No square-life villagers or zombies popping up unannounced — unless he was reading and e-book about them!

Breakfast reading went a whole lot smoother. In fact, The Youngster’s initial reaction to the Kindle was: “Cooool! Mom, it’s way easier to turn the page without ripping it!”

Truth, child. Truth.

Kindle Kids bundle | Ms. Mary Mack | photo by Nicole Blades

“Mom, it’s way easier to turn the page without ripping it!”

Another thumbs-up from me came when I checked out the cool features:

  • Dictionary Lookups – Kids can easily find definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary without ever once leaving the page they’re reading
  • Vocabulary Builder – When kids look up words on Kindle, they are automatically added to the Vocabulary Builder on the device. With Vocabulary Builder, they can also use flashcards to learn the definitions and usage of words.
  • Family Sharing – Kindles let you share books with your partner and up to four children.
  • Word Wise – Short and simple definitions automatically appear above difficult words so kids can keep reading with fewer interruptions. Tap on a word to bring up a simple card with definitions, synonyms, etc.

And with thousands of titles from which to choose (of course he started with some books from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series), The Youngster was happily wrapped up in stories, without a stack of books at his feet.

The only hiccup for me is that this Kindle model doesn’t have a backlight, so when it gets dark in the room (or plane, train, automobile), it’s pretty much a wrap on the e-reading experience.

All said, I really the Kindle for Kids bundle; it makes a lot sense to me the parent of a Reading McReaderson. And now I’m happy to offer you a chance to get one for you family, too!

That’s right, one lucky Ms. Mary Mack reader will walk away with a bundle — totally gratis. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment with your favorite children’s book. Think: the one that you would download imeejetley after cracking open your new Kindle.

A winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 1. No foolin’. Good luck!

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*Special thanks to Amazon for providing me with a Kindle for Kids bundle to take on a test drive. 

 

{repost} I Just Need 21 Days For This to Stick (Beyoncé Told Me So)

Life As Mom Monday, November 23, 2015

It was our great philosopher in a bowler hat, Boy George, who said it best when he sang: Time won’t give me time. It’s one of those hard truths working mothers (hell, all mothers!) know too well.

And for us WAHMs … listen. The juggle is real.

I Just Need 21 Days For This to Stick (Beyoncé Told Me So) | Nicole Blades
 

I recently wrote a “y’all, there’s a better way” post for Cool Mom Tech offering up eight simple, smart tips to help work-at-home parents up productivity and get more done in less time. I’m talking legit, actionable tips that you could start using this. very. minute. Many of these tips were things that I knew were effective, but that I somehow — in the breathless swirl of deadline-juggling, tightrope-walking and other circus dark arts — stopped doing. (For ex., feeding myself properly and on time; turning off notifications.)

But then there were some newer ideas that made perfect sense to me, and I incorporated imeejetly, like this super smart one I picked up from book marketing whiz Tim Grahl called the 80-20 Rule:

Carve out 90 minutes from your busy workday — or 20 percent of an eight-hour day — to devote it to the most important tasks on your work To-Do list. So even if you squander the other 80 percent of the day on the Twittuh or mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest, you can still bank on those 90 minutes to focus on your top goals or priorities and get something important done that makes you feel satisfied at the end of the day.

I mean, come on. Brilliance, right?

However, even with my new and improved plan to be all, “It’s handle,” with my writing and editing deadlines, I somehow still felt like I was working triage with my vampire-like To Do list. I was still waking up tired, moving through the day with this spilling-over plate and trying to be a present, focused mother to my 6-year-old son. tl;dr… it was all tew damn much — still!

I kept researching, looking for ways that I could feel like I had a better handle on the day/my life. Then I decided to go old school with this. I took out paper and pencil (not pen, because there will be erasin’) and literally mapped out a schedule for myself — when I would wake up, what time I’d go running, eat brekkie, shower, write undisturbed, read books, mess with social media, etc. I even plotted out when I would stretch (something that was falling to the wayside too often), and what time would be Lights-Out so I could grab at least 7.5 hours of sleep.

Uh, you’re not an android, Blades. I know, I know. Some might think this level of detailed scheduling is a tad extra. But it’s what I needed to get into a groove, plant the seeds for a habit. And, you know what? It’s working. I’m one week into my new schedule and I’m feeling rested, prepared and focused. Sure, I haven’t watched any of my shows on the telly, but that’s why Al Gore created DVRs, yes? The point is, I feel more in control of my time and how it’s spent.

I’m going to see if I can keep it going and really make this stick. Remember, Beyoncé did tell us all — back when she was writing forewords for vegan diet books — that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. (Oh, who needs authentic scientific support for this? It’s Bey, people! :-| )

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Nicole Blades is a novelist and freelance journalist who writes about motherhood, identity and culture. Her second novel, THE THUNDER BENEATH US (Kensington), will be published November 2016.

This post was originally published on BlogHer.com

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