family bonding

This is a typical holiday moment for most families right?

Why does a season that is supposed to be so merry cause so many damn curse words? Also, why do people get so hostile over the perfection of decorations, trees and wrapping paper? I’m not a crazy holiday decoration type person. I’m not a traditionalist in the slightest. I am pretty sure that is obvious. I also really suck at wrapping gifts. It’s pathetic.

I embrace this fact.

When we were picking out a tree I said to my honey that I’m all for getting a small tree and not making a big deal out of it. He gave me a kiss and said since it’s our first Christmas back together he wanted it to be special. I love him for that. I love despite his tough guy exterior he is a total sap.

So, I made a face and punched him in the arm. I’m so romantic.

The kids ran around like lunatics and our youngest collected bits of rope. Finding a tree always seems like a weird process. Is it crooked? Are there holes in it? Does it have bats in it? Is it full enough? Does it time travel?

Anyway… despite me missing something that makes me fully understand the holiday hype I have a crapton of fun with it in my own way.

He was this sure about every tree he passed

I told him to look happy. The look of “stop taking freaking pictures and tell me if this is the one you want” was so much better!

I just realized my son and his Dad makes this same face. I still say he looks more like me. 

They were so happy about the tree they all went crazy. 

Sometimes there are no words needed

I’m obviously a bit of a geek. I have the strangest mix of ornaments out there. One year I decided I wanted to do a “creepy christmas” tree. It was an all white fake tree with black and red ornaments. I added a Nightmare Before Christmas flare to it.

It was epic.

I love watching kids decorate the tree. They have absolutely no clue what they are doing. They put too many ornaments on one branch. They drop them. They almost knock the tree down.

It’s comedy. I just let them roll with it. It’s for them anyway.

This picture was my son’s idea. Daddy had no idea… until he saw me upload this just now

Over the years the kids and I have come up with fun ideas. We usually put my Harley Quinn doll as a tree topper. This year my daughter came up with the brilliant idea to use the Weeping Angel instead. Basically, she rocks.

I haven’t blinked in days.

I thought that the next step was only fitting. All of us that bring the Elf on the Shelf in our homes have that moment where we wish it would get zapped out of our timeline and out of our lives. However, we know that creepy little elf doesn’t blink. It stares at us. Watches us. Taunts us. But, we can hope…

That shit is amusing/creepy if you have an elf on the shelf and are a Doctor Who fan.

If neither of these things apply then I sound like a jackass.

I also embrace this fact. 

Either way this is how family bonding, the holidays and my geekiness makes me love and appreciate my quirky family. Tis the season, my ninjas.

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Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please click here to learn more about Ubisoft. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. #UbiChamps

I’m Just Dance obsessed. Just Dance is perfect for party entertainment. It’s also great to break up the summer routine with some indoor fun. I love Just Dance for fitness and getting my butt in shape. Just Dance is also great for family bonding and hilarious footage. Want to do a fun girls night in add wine and Just Dance.

We’ve had Just Dance 4 for a few weeks now and it’s the best version yet. The new features are AMAZING! The kids have picked this game over any others lately and the song selection is SO good!

The dances have stepped it up a LOT. You will really dance it up. It is much more challenging than the other games and I found that the choreography has improved dramatically.

Just Dance 4: New Just Sweat Mode

The brand new workout sessions and calorie counter is exactly what I needed. I’ve used the previous versions of Just Dance to get my sweat on but I just focused on the really hard ones… and I danced til I felt like my legs were jello. Now you get to personalize your workouts with different types of music and length of time for your workout: 10/25/45 Minutes.

Just Dance 4: Battle Mode

Are you competitive? I am… shocking, I know. The Battle Mode is rad because you get to dance off and try not to allow your health bar to deplete. It’s like an ultimate battle fighting game with dancing… no physical contact in this fight! Well, unless you are my Dad who tends to swing his grand kids into others in order to win. Seriously.

Just Dance 4: For Thanksgiving and Family Bonding

The holidays are here, my ninjas! We have entered massive calorie consuming time and we need to get moving more. Just Dance 4 has such a wide variety of music that anyone in your family or at your party will find a song they just love. The game is so much fun that you forget you are moving so you forget it’s like working out. It’s hard to play this game and not laugh and have a great time.

I dare you to select Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on Just Dance 4 and not laugh. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE! Ubisoft found a way to Rick Roll everyone… brilliant!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving aka Dancegiving and if you follow me on Instagram then you will be seeing many pictures of food and Just Dance 4 moments. I will probably be making faces… and I am hoping I get enough embarrassing family footage that I can put together a wonderful video to show at Christmas.

 

Disclaimer: I was selected to review Just Dance 4 by Clever Girls Collective because I am a UbiChamp. I was not compensated for this review. I was given the game to review. All opinions are my own and yes I am that much for a Just Dance freak.

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I’ve felt that one of the biggest struggles with raising children is teaching them selflessness in this instant gratification society. It can be a scary concept for children to know some of the struggles around the world but it can also be a wonderful tool for growth.

Even in the hardest economic times we should set aside what we can to give back. It’s good for us and especially our children. That cycle of selflessness starts with us and we pave the path of philanthropy for our children.

It’s especially important for our family to be involved with giving back since my daughter has regularly received the benefits of non-profits that help children who are chronically ill. We want to give back both to those organizations as well as others in different ways.

We are actively involved in community service and it is a huge part of our family dynamic. Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a $5 gift card and taking it to the women’s shelter or sometimes it’s as large as organizing a fund raiser for Japan Relief.

We are always looking for different ways to help. It’s really hard to find a connection with causes that seem distant from us. I want my kids to understand that they can make a difference with a simple act and it can amount to great things.

Then I was introduced to Members Unite and felt this was another amazing way for us to help.

Members Unite is a great way to fund projects. The decision on what to fund is in the member’s hands. As a member you vote on different projects which are all very unique and interesting. I’ve never even heard of some of these ideas!

The best part is what both my nine and four year old took from this. I explained what the project was and how our $5 donation is pooled together with hundreds of other members and we, as a team, make a difference. We are able to rate each project as a family and think on what projects we like the most.

There was also great dialog in “losing” if our favorite projects weren’t picked because no matter what someone is winning at the end of the month.

Now that my nine year old daughter regularly earns allowance she told me she wanted to become a member herself with Members Unite so we could be making a double difference.

Some of the topics can be hard like the project to help infants from Guatemala who struggle with pertinent nourishment… but it was also an opportunity to talk about how fortunate we have been to not be faced with that and more importantly, that we can help.

The easiest way to help is to give what you would spend at Starbucks or those impulse purchases at Target. But, to make that donation have a bigger impact on your family you can be involved in a community of giving.

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Post image for My Daughter Has Taken Hostage of my iPad aka Biography Comics for the iPad are Rad

Thank you to who?Comics for sponsoring this post and encouraging my child to read biographies in comic book form! Please click here to learn more about the app. And follow who?Comics on Twitter for updates

Most kids won’t be jumping up and down when they hear the word “biography” but after reading them in comic form… they will be! I’m all about the educational aspect of all things for my children. Having an entire collection of educational, enjoyable and fun reads for them on the iPad is really rad!

This comic has an anime/manga style that I really like and the easy to navigate layout makes it very child friendly. The drawings tell the story and the dialog keeps it interesting which is a great balance for the age range they target.

I personally love biographies but a lot of people don’t. There are so many different types of people featured in these comics that anyone is sure to find a few that really peak their interest.

My 9 year old daughter and I read the Bill Gates comic first. I was as sucked in as she was!

We looked over the list of the 29 titles trying to decide what to pick next and it was a tough choice. I love that there are sets for $9.99 that focus on different topics: Politicians, Activists, Artists, Entrepreneurs and Scientists. The sets have 5-7 books so it makes it a big savings with each priced at $4.99. After my daughter expressed how many different biographies she wanted to read I purchased the entire collection since there is a deal for $29.99. This was one of the best iPad purchases I’ve made since she has read a new one each day.

So far her favorite two are about JK Rowlin and Walt Disney! When she read the biography of Marie Curie she felt it was relate-able since Marie Curie loved science and reading as much as my daughter. My daughter found Jane Goodall’s love for animals inspiring.

With most people lives there are ups and downs and hardships to overcome… and these biographies address those struggles. This can be a great opportunity for important dialog with your child but some topics are harder for kids to process than others. The comics don’t sugar coat some of these moments. When my daughter read that a chimpanzee ate another chimpanzee’s newborn in Jane Goodall’s biography she was sad but were able to talk about how these moments in the wild really do happen and why. What I love about these comics is that we read it together and I know what to expect compared to when my daughter will come home from school with a ton of questions and I feel completely unprepared.

These comics are obviously a huge hit for us. They are about important people that I want my children to understand as well as being an educational read that my daughter enjoys. As I write this post my daughter is sitting next to me reading about Charles Darwin and telling me all about his life.

Thank you again to who? Comics for sponsoring my post. Please click here to learn more about the app. Visit who? Comics for updates. I was selected for this opportunity by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own. #CleverWhoComics #spon

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Last Minute Camping Trips in the Rain are Rad

by Leila on January 24, 2012

Post image for Last Minute Camping Trips in the Rain are Rad

Sometimes I just get the feeling that I need to go.

That desire to disconnect and find an adventure…

I’ve come to realize this isn’t typical and something most people think I’m crazy for.

Actually there are many other reasons people think I’m nuts.

Before I had kids I thought I was going to be a flight attendant and only own two bags of stuff so I could just take off whenever I felt that my roots were digging too deep.

Life with kids change a lot of things but it doesn’t change my desire for adventure. Now I am able to experience the adventures with them. Peter Pan was my favorite story, musical and Disney movie (aside from Pete’s Dragon) because I truly never wanted to grow up. Being a Mom hasn’t made me lose my sense of adventure… it’s just changed it.

Doesn't he Look Like Peter Pan?

I’m thankful that my kids have my sense of adventure! They take on these crazy trips with even more gusto than I. They are dreamers who aren’t afraid to do something new. They have just as much, if not more, fun as I do.

My Son the Dreamer

 

On a whim before our three day weekend I texted my friend Anna to see if she had to work on Martin Luther King Day. She was free… we found a spot at the San Mateo campgrounds which is inland by San Onofre… invited some other friends and suddenly I was unpacking my camping gear! I had two days to prep for a two night stay… and of course it could possibly rain that Sunday night but who was really thinking about that?

I admit that deciding to camp last minute with an already very busy end of week led to a crapton of stress. It made me realize that I need to reorganize my camping gear so I can just take off with minimal supplies if needed. I also realized sometimes I need to chill the crapsticks out and not overstress what I may forget.

Besides, all I really needed to remember were the medical kits, stuff to keep the kids warm, food, water and booze for me. Priorities!

Despite the stress of packing up and leaving on a whim and feeling unprepared I knew it would be a rad weekend.That is my process: I take something on. Overstress every possible thing that could go wrong and freak out. Tackle it all with a positive frame of mind and make the most of it. Sometimes I get bitchy along the way especially if there is a lack of coffee and/or alcohol.

There was no shortage of either.

Bottle Cap Stump: Offerings to the Hangover Fairies

We had so much fun with so many important people in our lives. The trip created many awesome feelings that were there and now amplified or new ones:

  • Knowing that we need to do that more often.
  • Life is about the memories we create.
  • Camping in the rain is a lot of fun but would be better with lots more tarps.
  • Pitbulls make the greatest campground fairies.
  • Sometimes you gotta just hope your 4 year old son isn’t going to eat shit when riding his brand new two wheeled bike on uneven dirt.
  • Making coffee the night before and storing it in a thermos is the GREATEST CAMPING TIP OF ALL!
  • Wood that got soaked in the rain will still burn if you create a giant inferno of doom.
  • Forts no matter where you are will always be great times for all.
  • My kids are helpful and awesome.
  • Camping with dogs is rad… and made me want one even more.
  • I’m a very lucky woman with a full life with amazing people in it.
  • Layers is the key to staying warm when it’s nipply cold out… and so is booze.

Despite the stress it may cause… take the adventures you can. Make the most of it. Prepare as much as possible and most importantly… just enjoy it! And if you can’t enjoy it at least let your kids enjoy it ;)

 

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Gardening with kids isn’t the easiest undertaking. Most kids love to get dirty and why not!? It can be fun when you aren’t obsessing over how all that dirt may damage your carpet. I grew up gardening with my Dad and Grand Parents. It is just a part of me and something I love but I didn’t always love the work involved in it. I think it is important for kids to enjoy gardening and it gives us a chance to disconnect, get outside and grow some stuff but we all need to remember to be cool about it so they are cool about it!

So how can you really enjoy gardening with kids? Follow these simple tips for a good start!

1. Remove all electronics and anything of value from you and the kid(s). Do not put it on the grass, porch or any nearby surface! Why? Because at some point you might not be the one in control of the hose so therefore everything, including your roof, may end up being soaked. Most kids will point the hose at whatever they are looking so just imagine where the water will end up if your kiddo is looking at a bird flying above. Rather than banging your chest like an angry gorilla if it happens be a little pro active and remove everything first.

2. Grow your food and grow edibles that your kids will eat! I cannot stress this enough. What is the point to growing cucumbers if no one likes them? Sure, there are a ton of phallic jokes you can come up with but ultimately you don’t want the food to go to waste. It is really enjoyable to see your kids raid the garden to eat something fresh from the vine. They get a better appreciation for food they grow and I’ve found that kids tend to eat more vegetables if they grow them.

3. Grow something fun! Have you ever seen those huge giant mammoth sunflowers? Or what about a topsy turvy tomato? Or if you have pace grow some pumpkins! Make it fun and they will enjoy it a lot more.

4. Grow it in a container! No matter if you are restricted to a patio space or a huge garden it is always fun to grow stuff in containers. Want to see root vegetables grow? Find a clear container to grow them in. Seriously. It kicks garden booty.

5. Make a game out of every gardening chore. Be creative! I feel that making things into a race or beating some kind of previous record makes everything more enjoyable. You can even make little matching cards with free images online of whats in your garden. Print the images out, put them on one side of index cards and every time you go outside to play in the garden have your kid(s) match the image with the plant in the garden. If you used seed packets then keep the images on them for cards! If you are making a game out of it your kids are less likely to bug you or speak whinese!

6. Get dirty. Seriously. Gardening is dirty so don’t freak out over the dirt. Wear appropriate clothes and get your dirt on.

7. End the your gardening time with water play because not only is it a fun incentive but it also helps prewash any messes they made. Have a yard? Do slip n slide or play in the sprinklers! Live in a condo, apartment or condo? Create a water play table and utilize that. You can use the water (so long as you don’t add soap to it) to water your plants after playtime.

 

Ultimately the kids will have as much fun as you do. Kid’s are amazing reminders that life is pretty simple and fun is the objective. So, get out there. Get dirty. Have fun. Create a game. Enjoy gardening with kids even if you kill all the plants and remember, “Don’t Speak Whinese!!”.

 

 

 

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I’m not a romantic person but I can appreciate the sentiment and the mushy crap involved. However, Valentine’s Day used to bug the shit out of me before I became a Mom because of the romantic expectations rather than the love focus. It’s like a rule that you are pathetic if you are single on Valentine’s Day… and why is that? I’m secure in myself and my life and I’m very happy with how it is… but Valentine’s Day seems to create judgment on Singles. Do we have the plague? I’ve got two kids that shower me with love and affection and we have created our own family Valentine’s Day traditions that have nothing to do with Smoochy Mc Smooches. I can’t ask for more than that.

Our Valentine Traditions:

Give back, spread the love to others and put smiles on a strangers face. Three years ago my daughter and I made cards for a Children’s Hospital and it was a great experience. I wanted to think outside of ourselves and do something for others and create a more positive outlook on this holiday for myself. The year following we had a few of her friends over and we made even more cards and again it was so awesome. This year we had this big crafting park play date and the kids made a massive amount of cards. It was truly beautiful. The parents participated as well! It’s amazing what cardstock, doilies, foam stickers, crayons, glue and miscellaneous pink/red/white craft bits will inspire.

Red Velvet Cupcakes! I like to think of holidays as an excuse to make stuff that I shouldn’t! Baking has become a huge part of our holiday traditions. My daughter’s previous severe wheat allergy made baking a challenge that we always took on but now that she can eat wheat we totally over do it! Red, cupcakey goodness and excuse to feed our faces seems like a perfect tradition to me!

Pancakes with strawberries and shaped like hearts. Yup, its nerdy but I love it.

Plant something! Red, pink or white flowers are always purchased on Valentine’s Day and put into our garden. I really like calla lilies so I usually convince them to go with that. It’s also cool to see them pop back up the next year!

Chocolate fondue with tons of strawberries to again give us an excuse to indulge.

Dress up in something ridiculous and take pictures. I’m on a mission to get my 3 year old son to dress up like cupid tomorrow. Sometimes he is overly enthusiastic about those fun projects and then other times he acts like a little diva and refuses! The search will be on in the morning to find outfits to make this happen. Bribery may ensue.

So the once supposed cynic who doesn’t believe in mushy crap has now found an amazing appreciation for Singles Awareness Day AKA Valentine’s Day. I vehemently believe that pity parties are bullshit and you should focus your energy on the things you do have instead of what you wish you did. Believe me there was a time when I felt incomplete because of the lack of romantic affection I was getting on February 14th but then I realized I am much loved and very happy. Life as a single parent isn’t supposed to be easy but we can all rock it and rock it well. Happy Valentine’s Day and love to you all!

And remember don’t stress not having a Valentine… I know I don’t… because mine runs on batteries!

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