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. 


{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! :-| )


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

October, We Hardly Knew Ye. (Or, Time’s Moving Too Fast. Let’s Have a Giveaway!)

Pop Culture + Media Thursday, October 29, 2015

This month, man. What the hell? Where did it all go?

Here we are staring November — and basically the end of 2015 — right in the face. It kind of feels like the only salve for this whiplash we’re all experiencing from Earth’s rapid revolutions is a giveaway, right? Right.

In fact, let’s make it a double-deal, yes? Absolutely, yes!

Part 1: The beautifully restored 25th Anniversary edition of Edward Scissorhands Blu-ray. (Also: How is this moving 25 years old already??!)

Part 2: A slightly more modern coming-of-age story — Paper Towns, based on the YA novel by YA master John Green.

MMM-DVD-giveaway | Photo by: Nicole Blades

And to walk away with both of these Blu-ray sets all you have to do is tell me one thing (that’s not Thanksgiving) that you’re looking forward to in November. That’s it.

The randomly selected winner will be announced November 6!

Why You Should See ‘He Named Me Malala’ This Weekend

Pop Culture + Media Friday, October 9, 2015

“There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”– Malala Yousafzai

Back in the summer, I was invited to an advanced screening of the new documentary He Named Me Malalaabout the 18-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  The message in the film is strong: Use your voice. Speak out against injustice. Stand up for change.

And do it now.

I’ve long been fascinated by Malala’s extraordinary story and moved by her fight for girls’ education and empowerment around the world. So going into the film, I was prepared to be inspired. What I didn’t expect, though, was to find out how funny and charming Malala is! The documentary does an excellent job of going beyond her lofty platform and showing Malala as a person. A really sweet, sparkling, big-hearted young woman moving through a complicated world with focus and compassion.


After seeing the movie and talking with some of the good folks at the Malala Fund, I happily signed up to be an Ambassador for #HeNamedMeMalala.

It’s a movement I’m proud to be a part of, and I look forward to working with this group — long after the film has left theaters — to continue turning my compassion into action.

Here’s the official trailer:

The film opens this weekend in 400 theaters in the U.S., and I’m telling you, it’s a must-see. Take your kids*, especially. Let them see how one voice can roar and rattle that which is crooked, corrupt and unjust.

And to help parents start conversations with kids, the Malala Fund has put together a helpful Parent Discussion Guide.

Let me know if you and your fam head out to see the film this weekend. Drop me a line here or find me on Facebook and Twitter.

(*Parents should note that the film is rated PG-13: There’s nothing graphic, per se, in the film, but there are definitely disturbing images and themes around about the violence.)


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