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:



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



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!

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


The Gentle Cesarean: Yes, Please.

Parental Intel Monday, March 9, 2015

For months after having my emergency C-section, I had nightmares about the experience. Even now if I study the moment for too long, I can feel a shiver run up my spine. It’s legit surgery and it was a rough turn on both my body and spirit.

Happy Happy Mom | Nicole Blades

This morning, while my little cinnamon bun — now 6 years old! —  was having breakfast and getting ready for school, I heard this great health story on NPR about the gentle or family centered C-section. I stopped the everything and listened.

“And there were a bunch of little adjustments, such as moving the EKG monitors from their usual location on top of the mother’s chest to her side. This allows the delivery team to place the newborn baby immediately on the mother’s chest. In addition, the mother’s hands were not strapped down and the intravenous line was put in her non-dominant hand so she could hold the baby.” 

Wow. My whole birthing experience would have been vastly different had this option been available to me back then. It probably would have been less stressful and more joyful. A real celebration. Of course, not having a C-section and going with a vaginal  birth would have been Option 1 for me. But if a Cesarean was necessary, I’ll have mine gentle, please. As the NPR reporter said, “gentle C-section is not a replacement for a vaginal birth; it’s just a way to improve the surgical experience.”

I hope more doctors and hospitals move toward the family centered way.

What say you? Did you have a difficult birthing experience or C-section? Doesn’t the gentle version sound 10 times more humane?

As always, I welcome your comments below! Also, check in with us on MMM’s Facebook page.

The 7 Indisputable Rules of Little Kid Fashion

Parental Intel Friday, August 22, 2014

Good news! I’ve been asked to join’s writers’ circle. This means I’ll be posting more regularly on that lovely site. I dipped my toes back in those waters last month when I wrote about my daily morning debate between motherhood and runner. Then I got into talking about my recent awkward encounters with other people’s kids (and the parents, too!). This time around, it’s all about the “rules” of dressing them kids! Have a read, and let me know what you think. And, if you feel so moved, please share the link in your circles. Thanks!


Balance | Ms. Mary Mack

The days of dressing my 5-year-old son are over. Actually, they came to an end a few years ago, when speaking in full and clear sentences was no longer a mountain he needed to climb. He was there, at the summit, expressing how he really felt about the clothing choices I’d been making for him. No more cute, fly-guy fashions and themed outfits, like super-mini skater kid, tiny Harvard preppy, or the “Mad Men” Casual Beach thing I was getting away with for a stretch. Once this kid was able to express his likes and — as was often the case — staunch dislikes, the couture was cut down to a set of very basic rules. Rules that may not be bent or broken, for the retribution would be steep … and bloody annoying.

I learned the hard way and endured the battle of the morning get-dressed scene, and have come out on the other side. So, in the interest of each one teach one, I present to you the 7 Rules of Little Kid Fashion, as told to me by my son — who, for this exercise, we’ll call Maester ICanDoItMyself.

1. Band-Aids Take Priority. If there is ever a bandage covering a bump, scrape or cut [Parent edit: real or imagined ones], be sure that socks and sleeves do not cover this important plaster. Unless, of course, these things bring added protection to this most necessary tourniquet. In that case, pull the socks up all the way to the knee, making doubly sure they stay up, and drag those sleeves or pant legs carefully over the important bandage. Failure to comply will result in certain grumpiness and more than a few Band-Aids wasted in the “reapplication” process

2. Tag, You’re Not It! No matter how much I claim to like a shirt, if the tag scrapes or tickles the back of my neck, even just a little, we will have a problem. I will not think twice to demand that the offending tag be completely removed. It’s lay flat or go home. (Home being the garbage bin here.) And, Parent, it’s probably a safer bet that you memorize the wash and care instructions of all my shirts, as I have a zero-tolerance policy about tags that don’t follow the clear rules.

Honestly? I don’t think grown-ups really understand what The Weather is.


3. Robots Are the Best, But Only Today. When it comes to designs, patterns, colors or animated characters that may adorn my shirt, I reserve the right to change my leanings at will. This week — for the entire week — I may desire all robot everything, but come Sunday that can change without any advance notice. Yes, from robots to stripes-only on a dime, and you will deal. [Parent edit: Don’t let a favorite shirt-of-the-week be found in the hamper — like, ever. #staywoke]

4. Buttons, NO! Snaps, Yes. I’ve decided that I don’t like buttons, and all your cajoling isn’t changing matters. Maybe it’s because they still kind of trip me up, making my little fingers do extra work, or maybe I just don’t like the looks of them, with their four holes that resemble judging eyes. Either way, not a fan. Keep them out of my sight. Note well: This rule can sometimes extend to cover your clothing as well. It’s arbitrary, yes, but it’s not a game. Tread lightly.

5. The Weather Is a Myth. Honestly? I don’t think grown-ups really understand what The Weather is. As much as you talk about it in elevators and in line at the grocery store, I’m not at all convinced that you have a firm grasp on this ephemeral concept. So no-thanks on any words of “wisdom” you may care offer on why I can’t wear my GAP hoodie — zipped up all the way — in the middle of July’s heat wave. Or, conversely, why a tank top with a rad surfboard motif isn’t “appropriate” attire for a Thanksgiving afternoon. Let me know when you work out the whole climate thing (and climate change, frankly). I’ll be over here … in my hoodie and tank top.

6. I Choose the Shoes. Sometimes I want to wear my light-up sneakers. Other times, I might fancy my funky, brown half boots with the faux-laces-and-velcro finery. Or today could be a Crocs and socks day. It really all depends on my mood at the given moment. But the point here is: I’ll decide what footwear I’ll flex. Please don’t question my choices, you’ll only get your feelings hurt.

7. PJs Are Always Winning. Whoever invented pajamas needs a grand award, posthaste. These things are comfy, cozy and completely charming. There’s also that undeniably compelling quality about them: Once you’ve nestled into a fine set of PJs, it’s a real struggle to find your way out of them. That’s why my mates and I are thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a global parade to celebrate all the prudent teachers who have instituted a Pajama Day at their schools. It’s genius, plus I have a sneaking suspicion that most adults (teachers included) are happy to rock their jammies for the better part of the day, too.

Originally posted on

My Cringe-Filled Experiences Around Other People’s Kids

Parental Intel Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good news! I’ve been asked to join’s writers’ circle. This means I’ll be posting more regularly on that lovely site. I dipped my toes back in those waters just last month when I wrote about my daily morning debate between motherhood and runner. This time around I’m talking about my recent awkward encounters with other people’s kids (and the parents, too!). Have a read, and let me know what you think. 


From the minute they bustled through the doors, I started holding my breath. It was a small family — a set of older parents with a 3-year-old child — descending upon the already cramped airport lounge. There was a storm brewing on the East Coast, delaying a large batch of flights out. The benefit of being able to recline in comfy seats with a kind buffet of warm pasta, cold sandwiches and simple snacks, and free Wi-Fi was not lost on me. I was ever grateful, specifically because I had my 5-year-old son along with me on this trip.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

We had just tucked into another bowl of cheddar fish when the trio — we’ll call them The Louds — stomped in. Kid Loud was high-octane, just whining and yelling and taking bratdom to the next level. Even my son said, “Mom, that kid is really whiny — way more whinier than any other person I’ve ever seen.” Word, li’l homey. Word.

The child’s parents looked completely exhausted and deflated: The dad proceeded to take out his laptop and fully ignore his kid, while the mother chased after and tried to corral the tiny human.

They picked the row of seats facing us. (Yay.) Kid Loud steamrolled over and started poking, talking, nudging, hugging, yelling, grabbing food and generally bugging my son. The two kids played, as best as they could. I must have heard Kid Loud’s name about 58 times in the span of 20 minutes, as the mother tried in vain to set her child straight. We still had another 90 minutes before our delayed flight was set to leave, yet I seriously considered fleeing the comforts of the lounge and heading to the sweatbox of the faraway, woefully neglected “satellite” terminal just to escape The Louds.

Instead I tried to focus on my newspaper, but ended up going over the same damn sentence on loop. At one point I was even reading out loud, in a stage whisper, to rise above the din of Kid Loud. Then I tried to zone out, get Zen, meditate. No luck. Listen, even Deepak Chopra would have given up and Namaste’d on out of there.

Read the full post here on

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