Friday, December 06, 2013
So what exactly is uKloo and how do you play it? The game comes with 4 sets of cards (3 reading levels and a set of blank dry-erase cards). You set the cards up in various locations throughout the house according to what is on the card. Once they find one card it will tell them where to find the next card and so on. The last hiding spot reveals their surprise.
The surprise can be anything you want it to be. A dollar store toy, a certificate to get ice cream, a sticker, a card from mom or dad, a lollipop, etc. It doesn't have to be complicated at all!
Examples of each level of the reading cards from early readers to more detailed readers:
1) Look beside the milk
2) Find it in your helmet
3) Search on the bed under your dad's pillow
For early readers there is also a poster of all the words that are used on the card. If a child gets stuck on a word they can refer to the poster that has a picture with each word to help them figure it out. The poster is also sorted by verbs, preposition, helper words, and nouns. The words in each category are also listed alphabetically.
My kids love this game and frequently ask to play it. Sometimes I use it as an incentive when Kayla is a bit slow getting ready for school. I'll ask her if she wants to play uKloo when she gets home and that usually perks her up! She even tried telling her aide as school about a game she was going to play at home, but he had no idea what she was talking about.
They both enjoy running around to the next spot and seeing where that card is going to take them ... and wondering when they are going to find their surprise!
Here are 2 quick videos of each of them playing the game.
A short clip of Kayla. I had a couple more video clips of her reading her cards and finding her surprise, but they've mysteriously disappeared from my phone ... coincidentally after Kayla was looking through the videos!
9 awards (3 from Dr Toy categories), is available in Canada, US, and International, and available as a free app.
uKloo2 - Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game for ages 7+ was recently released and that is on my to-get list for Lucas's birthday. While Lucas does have fun with the Early Reader game, the Riddle Edition will be more challenging for him and I'm sure he would enjoy figuring out the riddles to find the next clue.
Disclaimer: I received a uKloo game for free to review, but all opinions on the game are mine and my children's!
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
I received a bundled pack of the Nordic Games We Sing 80's (to include 2 microphones) for review.
Since my husband is also a child of the 80's I figured this would be a fun game for us to have for the Wii. If you were a child of the 80's you know you loved the music from that decade! This game has 30 songs including 21 that were worldwide number 1 hits. There is a good variety of mixed genre including songs by Cyndi Lauper, Paula Abdul, Smokey Robinson, Cameo, Queen, Tears For Fears, Lionel Ritchie.
There are a couple of big names not on the list - Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson - but maybe there are copyright issues and they couldn't use their songs.
I thought I knew a good amount of 80's songs, but there were several songs I didn't know.
I figured this would be a game that only Joe and I would enjoy ... not our kids. Of course we couldn't try it out after they went to bed because they probably would have woken up from our singing!
Even though my kids know nothing of 80's music they were very anxious and excited for us to break out the game ... and they wanted to play it too ... even though we kept telling them these are EIGHTIES songs and you DON'T KNOW THESE SONGS!
That didn't matter to them. They wanted the microphones and they wanted to sing. They had a blast. Since they lyrics scroll through on the bottom of the screen this is also a great way to increase reading skills and reading fluency. It's so funny to hear Lucas trying to keep up with the lyrics of the song as he's reading the words scrolling through the screen.
Kayla's favorite song seems to be "Boys (Summertime Love)" by Sabrina (one of those songs that I didn't know). It's not easy for her to keep up with the flow of singing the lyrics, so this one she can easily sing "Boys, boys, boys" over and over!
They've asked to play this several times and Lucas has told me that his favorite songs are "True Colors" and "Smooth Operator"! Another day we were driving and he hears on the radio station "the best hits on" whatever radio station it was and he says, "No, that's not right! The best hits aren't on that station. The best hits We Sing 80's!" I guess he's turning in to an 80's music fan?
You can play up with up to 4 microphones and there are several ways to play - solo, party, karaoke, 8 multiplayer modes, original artist with video plays on the screen. There are singing lessons, replay features, and 3 difficulty levels.
I already know that I have no musical talent and should only be singing when I'm driving (ha!) and this confirms that, but it also made me realize how many of the lyrics I actually don't know! I find it much harder to sing along as I'm trying to read the lyrics.
All in all my family has been having fun with this game and enjoying 'singing' together ... but I won't embarrass my kids (or myself!) with a video showing our non-singing skills. You can watch a trailer for the We Sing 80's game here.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
The donations are part of Walmart's bigger initiative "Welcome Home Commitment" in which they pledged to give $20 million through 2015 to help veterans and their families with successful transitions to a civilan lives through job training, transition support, and education.
Because of this donation, Operation Homefront will be able to more than double its reach for two of its main holiday programs:
- The Holiday Toy Drive where more than 25,000 toys can be purchased for military children, and
- The Holiday Meals for Military which will provide more than 17,000 meals to military families.
Walmart will also be flying more than 500 service members home to celebrate the holidays with family.
The donation to Fisher House will provide a grant for 50,000 nights of free lodging for families so they can be close to a loved one who is hospitalized. The Fisher House Program are several houses located near major military and VA medical centers. The houses allow family members to be near a loved one during hospitalization for combat injury, illness, or disease. Walmart's donation is half the cost to make Fisher House free for all families in 2014.
Deployments and separations are undoubtedly hard on military families; especially with multiple deployments and over the holidays. Programs such as Fisher House and Operation Homefront are vital to helping military families.
My family has experienced two deployments that each happened over the holidays. Joe was gone in 2007 and again in 2009. Fortunately we didn't experience any major hardships during either of the deployments (just missed the fact that Joe wasn't there to share the holidays with us!), but it was nice to know there are organizations that could have helped if we needed it for anything.
If you're looking for ways to help military families please consider these organizations and Join in our Holiday Salute to Military Families.
Friday, November 22, 2013
The blog hop is simple: Post 1 tip, 1 truth, and 1 picture about Down syndrome/disability.
1 Tip: Whenever the opportunity arises, like when you're with another family who has a child with Down syndrome, or reading a book about Ds, or participating in a Buddy Walk, simply point out to your child that they have Down syndrome. "You know your friend over there has Down syndrome? Just like you do." "See the boy in this book? He has Down syndrome, like you." "We're walking in the Buddy Walk because of you - because you have Down syndrome." That way your child will hear it in a straight-forward way, become used to the term Down syndrome and come to realize it's just a natural part of who they are.
Then one day you might have this conversation with your child, like I had with Kayla.
Me, "Kayla do you know what Down syndrome is?"
K, "My eyes."
Me, "What about your eyes?"
Kayla, "So beautiful."
1 Truth: Kids with Down syndrome can and do participate in extra-curricular school activities. Kayla was just notified that she she was accepted in to the drama club at school. I'm so excited for her because she had such a fun time this summer participating in Missoula Children's Theater production of Snow White.
1 Picture: She looks so grown up to me in this photo!
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I don't have a lot of nice, clear quality pictures of Michael from years ago, but here are a couple.
A sampling of pictures during Lucas's toddler years...
But then Joe's mom shared this picture of Joe as a kid.
My first thought, "Wow that could be Lucas!"
Kayla and Lucas both thought this was Lucas, "Who am I playing with?"
My sister realized this was an older picture and therefore not Lucas, but her response was, "That's not Lucas! That's Michael!" Ha!
And seeing how I think he resembles my brother, he must somewhat resemble me too when I was a baby.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The Radio Flyer Ziggle is the fun way to get the wiggles out and provides for outdoor (and even indoor!) fun activities.
When I first pulled it out of the box I sighed thinking it was going to be cumbersome to put together. By the time Joe got off the couch to help me, I pretty much had it all done. It really was pretty easy to assemble! The seat is adjustable to grow with your child, but unless I missed something, the only way I could see to adjust it was to unscrew it and put it on the next setting. It would be nice if there was something you could click together to move the seat forward/backward instead of having to unscrew it ... but other than that ... no complaints!
The suggested age is 3-8, but since Kayla is a little on the smaller size for a 10 year old she is able to comfortably use this too. Her legs are a little bit long for it, but for now she can still fit without her knees hitting the handlebars.
It doesn't take much for kids to figure out how to use it - you just move the handlebars back and forth and just wiggle!
It glides smoothly and easily and when you can gain some speed you can drift into 360 degree spins.
Joe and I both commented, as we were watching Kayla and Lucas try this out, that we wished there was one for bigger 'kids' because we wanted to try it out too!
Lucas' review, "That was amazing!" Kayla thought it was pretty easy to use and she liked it too.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Last year we went to Savannah for the PurpleStride walk.
That was 4 months after my dad passed away. He had been attending the walks in Orlando and we didn't get a chance to go with him, so I wanted to honor his memory at the Savannah walk.
It was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. While I'm glad we went in his memory there is a small part of me that thinks it was too soon.
At the last one my dad attended in Orlando he told me spoke in front of the crowd as one of the survivors.
It was hard last year knowing he was no longer a survivor. Knowing he wouldn't be going to any more PurpleStride walks and speaking to the crowd.
I've been flip-flopping over whether I wanted to make the trip to Savannah this year to do the walk again (Savannah is the closest one to us). A part of me wanted to go to continue honoring his memory.
But a part of me didn't. I admit to being somewhat bitter. I didn't want to go to an event that would be a constant reminder that my dad is no longer here. I didn't want to go to an event and raise funds for treatment and a cure that is too late for my dad. Yes, just a little bit bitter.
I am absolutely not saying that it isn't important to keep raising funds for pancreatic cancer research, treatment, and cures for the people who are currently fighting this disease, and for the people who are yet to be diagnosed. It is important. The 5 year survival rate for this type of cancer is just 6%. (My dad fought it for 3 years). It's the only major cancer with a 5 year survival rate in the single digits and has remained that way for 40 years.
There are no early detection methods and the symptoms that do appear could be attributed to other medical conditions (my dad was first diagnosed with pancreatitis). More than half of the diagnoses are made in the latter stages. Surgery offers the best chance, but only about 15% of cases are caught early enough for this surgery...and even with surgery this cancer recurs in approximately 80% of patients.
So yes, more research is desperately needed. Only about 2% of the National Cancer Institute's budget is allocated to pancreatic cancer, the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths.
I'm not denying that there isn't a need in the pancreatic cancer community for events like PurpleStride to raise funds and awareness ... there is ... I'm just saying that I'm also bitter and still mourning for my dad and that I know my participating won't help my father. Sometimes that is still hard for me to come to grips with.
I didn't know if I could put my emotions aside and do the walk this year. But the decision ended up being made for me. The Partners in Policymaking class that I'm involved in meets the 3rd weekend of every month and the walk in Savannah is on the same weekend I need to be in Columbia for class.
I won't be at the walk this year, but I can still donate, raise awareness, and always, always honor and remember my dad.
Thursday, November 07, 2013
I know he's just starting to learn typing at school; he's told me about learning some of the home keys starting with F and J.
So I know he's not adept at typing away on the computer; he doesn't know where all the keys are yet. I wonder how long it took him to type these 2 notes using the 'hunt and peck' method.
I'm glad that he's so secure in the knowledge that he is loved!
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
My dad loved sports. He was a fan of the 4 major sports teams in the Boston area: Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. He followed them all and rooted for them all, but he was extra passionate about the Red Sox.
He played baseball from early on and continued playing softball in the military on base teams. I wanted to be like him and attempted to play softball in school. I touched on his love of sports on the eulogy I wrote.
As I mentioned, he was a huge Red Sox fan. His father was a huge Red Sox fan. And I'm sure his father's father was a Red Sox fan as well. I am my father's daughter; therefore, I too, am a Red Sox fan.
Sports was my connection with my dad. That thing we had. I couldn't, and didn't, play softball well at all, but I could sure talk about the Red Sox (or Celtics, or Bruins, or Patriots) with my dad.
When my dad joined FB our conversations became even more centered around sports. He was a coach from home - critiquing the game and coaches' decisions from the first play. He let his opinions be known of trades that happened during the season and during the off-season.
A glimpse into some of our FB conversations:
Aug 2011: Dad: I thought we had a chance to come back but not now after Napoli hit that home run. CJ Wilson owns the Red Sox. (I have to laugh at finding this one because Napoli was on the Red Sox this year and helped them win the WS.)
Apr 2012: Dad: Bowden is a young starting pitcher that started with the sox last year. He only pitched 3 inning this year and gave up 2 hits and one run and was sent down to aaa. Marlon Byrd is an outfielder with 3 singles in 43 at bats this year. The point I was making is that we don't need any more outfielders, we need any kind of pitching. I know we have 2 starters on the dl from the outfield but we have AAA to bring any up if we need one, but not to trade for one and have another contract.
It was 3-0 when I started this post. Now they are losing 4-3 after the post. We don't have one reliable starter. Doubront seems to be doing the best. Their last starting pitcher.
The only 3 doing good on offense are Aviles, Sweeney, and Ortiz. Ortiz is leading the a.l. in batting average.
That is what I'm missing from my dad during the different sport seasons.
My dad has a brick at Fenway Park (as does his father), he was buried in a Red Sox jersey and Red Sox hat in his hands. He has this at his grave site.
So when the Red Sox won the World Series last week it was bittersweet. As a fan I was ecstatic. As my father's daughter I missed sharing that moment with him. It was hard not being able to talk to him, to hear the shared excitement in his voice, to picture the smile on his face as he likely would have said something like, "Wow Michelle, they did it! Another World Series! It took almost all my life to see them win 1 World Series and now they have 3 in 10 years!" to re-hash the Series. It made me miss him even more. It brought back the reality of him being gone.
When the Sox won in 2004 my dad sent me a World Series t-shirt and commemorative baseball.
When they won again in 2007 he sent me a couple more commemorative baseballs from the post-season.
Now they've won in 2013 and there won't be anything else coming from my dad this time. Bittersweet.
They finished in last place last season. They had a manager and players that just didn't mesh well. Which, in a way, might have been sort of fitting since my father passed away in July of that year. I wouldn't have felt like celebrating any post-season play last year.
But this team, this bunch of bearded-clad players ... my dad would have enjoyed them. He would have liked the players they brought in. He would have liked the coach. He would have liked their never-quit attitude. He would have liked their personalities. He would have liked the team mentality.
I guess he still did enjoy this team and this season and this World Series win ... it was just in a different place than here. And he got to enjoy it with his father. I know they were celebrating together.
Even though my dad is no longer here, I guess we do still have that thing, that connection between us. We still have it because I won't be able to watch the Red Sox without thinking of my dad.
Thank you, Red Sox, for knowing how to bring together a city, and also for making this daughter, who is missing her father, feel just a little bit closer to him.
Friday, November 01, 2013
Thanks to everyone for participating in the annual blogging challenge for Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
I know some people express that it gets harder every year to blog every single day in the month of October; especially about Down syndrome specifically. I know it feels like you've come to a point where you've said (blogged) all there is to say about Down syndrome.
But please don't be discouraged. From the beginning (Tricia) said that every single day didn't have to be a post that was Down-syndrome related; and that still stands today. The point of the challenge is just that - a challenge to yourself to blog every day. If you miss a few days - it's ok! - the blog police are not going to come get you!
And even if you feel like you've said all there is to say - just remember, you never know who all is reading your blog. Every day there is a possibility of a new family getting a Down syndrome diagnosis and they might stumble across your blog. You never know who you are reaching. You never know who might come away from your blog that day with a better understanding of life with a child with Down syndrome.
Maybe it's time to change the name to National Down Syndrome Awareness and Acceptance Month. I know there is some consensus in the Down syndrome community that awareness has been raised and we don't need to raise anymore awareness; that people are aware and what we need to be advocating for is acceptance.
I agree about acceptance, but I'm not so sure the intentions behind awareness have been fully met. Yes people are aware of Down syndrome. They know of Down syndrome, but there are still stereotypes. There are still misconceptions. There are still negative and false assumptions about people with Down syndrome.
For the new parent receiving the diagnosis of Down syndrome are they really aware of what that means today? Or do they still have an outdated image in their mind of what Down syndrome was years ago?
Has the right kind of awareness been raised outside of the community? The kind of awareness that paints a more accurate picture of the capabilities of people with Down syndrome? Or are people still not aware about Down syndrome until they have a reason to be - until they have a loved one with Down syndrome in their lives.
I don't claim to have all the answers, but I don't think we can totally stop the campaign to raise awareness either. I think we need to expand that campaign from awareness to include acceptance though. Hmm... should I start a change.org petition to get "Acceptance" added on to that monthly designation?
Since today is also the day after Halloween here are a few Halloween pictures of The Supergirl, The Pirate, The (not-so-bandwagon) Red Sox fan, and The Civilian!