Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thantsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Today and every day I am thankful for the support you have shown Parenting Geekly. When I started this blog (on a whim after talking to a dad in a comic shop) I had no idea that I would find such a great community of like-minded parents. I have enjoyed sharing with you the ups and downs of parenting Nate and Kitty, sharing the geeky products I find, and hearing about all of the cool things you and your awesome families are doing. So from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parenting Geekly's Holiday Extravaganza: T-Mobile's Phone Shopping Guide

Parenting Geekly's Holiday Extravaganza: T-Mobile's Phone Shopping Guide

Does your teen/tween have a cell phone on their wish list this year? Does the thought of trying to buy a smart phone send you into a panic attack? Post sponsors T-Mobile are here to help. Here are a list of their tips:

Tips for buying and giving a mobile device this holiday season
A smartphone or tablet is a gift with a personal touch that can help people stay connected long after the holiday season.
Shopping for one doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. Selecting the right device is simply a matter of knowing how to decipher the person’s mobile style, asking the right questions and talking to the experts! T-Mobile has a wide array of 4G smartphones and tablets this holiday season – so there’s something for every type of user. Below are some tips and suggestions to help make your holiday shopping even easier.
Here are some key questions to arm yourself with before your purchase and make sure to review with any sales associate:
  • What does my rate plan cover?
  • What kind of speeds/data am I getting?
  • How much will my monthly payments be and/or other charges?
  • What’s the exchange/return policy?
  • Is my/my recipient’s home and workplace covered by your network?
  • What are roaming charges?
  • What are your warranty/insurance policies?
Helpful Tips:
Below are some tips to keep in mind whether you are purchasing a device as a gift or for yourself:
  • Switching to a new phone doesn’t mean you will lose the information on your old phone. T-Mobile retail associates can use a phone-synching device to seamlessly and effortlessly move your contacts, pictures, calendar appointments, etc. over to the new phone so it is set up and ready to go! 
  • If you make calls to people outside the country, consider getting a prepaid plan to control your costs. T-Mobile offers a variety of international prepaid plans that offer great deals for people in the U.S. who want to stay in touch with people abroad.  
  • Do you want to know which data plan is best for your communication needs? T-Mobile offers a data calculator to help you figure out the plan you need based on your daily usage, check it out at http://www.t-mobile.com/Tools/MBCalculator.aspx 
  • Giving a child their first cell phone, especially a smartphone, can be a big decision for a parent. T-Mobile offers safety and control applications that empower families to keep each other safe and responsible by encouraging individual behaviors that benefit the whole family, and the flexibility to let parents maintain control on their terms, such as: 
    • DriveSmart™ Plus – Distracted driving is dangerous, especially with new drivers. DriveSmart manages distractions by silencing incoming notifications, sending callers to voicemail and auto responding to incoming text messages. With DriveSmart Plus, you get automatic driving detection, parental controls and notification of cell phone activity while driving, providing additional peace of mind 
    • FamilyWhere™ – If you’ve ever wondered where your kids are, this feature is for you. It allows parents to track the location of any phone on their family plan. You can even schedule alerts as a reminder to check where your kids are during the day and view up to 7 days of location history.
  • Not having strong coverage at places where you spend a lot of time can be very frustrating. Wireless carriers can help you avoid that situation by running a personal coverage check to see the strength of the network at your home, workplace, school, etc. 
  • Smartphones have become so advanced they can often serve multiple purposes. Several of T-Mobile’s smartphones have premium digital camera features offering consumers a viable alternative to their digital point-and-shoot cameras. They can also work as mobile hotspots, mobile music players and GPS navigators. Think about what devices you use most and consider a smartphone that can eliminate the need to carry multiple electronics
Don’t Try To Go It Alone – Talk To The Experts
T-Mobile associates are experts at finding the right devices to best fit the needs of every type of customer. All you need to do is
go into a retail store, explain the type of person you are looking to buy a gift for and how they would use their device and you’ll
be able to walk out with the perfect gift that will help the recipient stay connected.

Giveaway Time! 
But wait! T-Mobile wants to make it EVEN EASIER to give your loved one an awesome smartphone! They are offering one Parenting Geekly reader their choice of either a T-Mobile myTouch or myTouch Q. Both of these phones run on T-Mobile's 4G Network. They are both especially great for someone making the jump in the world of smartphones. They have an intutive Android based operating systems, and tons of features. For more information on the phones check out the myTouch Qhere and the myTouch here.
For your chance to win, you have to “like” Tmobile on Facebook and leave a comment below telling us which phone you'd like and who you'd give it to! (Please be aware that you have to go under the Rafflecopter entry form and actually leave a comment. Don't just click “I did this” and skip leaving the comment...you can't win if you don't follow the rules!).  You can earn an extra entry by following T-Mobile on Twitter and/or tweeting this giveaway on Twitter.

{This contest has ended}
This advertorial  is sponsored by T-Mobile.  Parenting Geekly was compensated to run this post.

Teen girl makes video game history

Lexi Peters, a 14 year old girl in the Buffalo, NY is a big fan of EA's NHL video games.  Complaining to her dad that she couldn't play as a female character, he jokingly told her to write a letter. 

She wrote a letter to the CEO of EA Sports (way to aim high, Lexi!) who responded that it was an NHL licensed game and that it wasn't going to happen.  Shortly after that, though, Lexi received another letter saying that they had changed their minds and would include a female player in NHL 12....and she would look like Lexi who plays hockey in real life as well as in the virtual rink.

Congratulations to Lexi, who proves that one kid can make a difference.  Also a big thanks to EA and the NHL who realized that even though there are no women in the real NHL, the video game world is where many a kid lives out their aspirations.


via @GeekGirlCon and @melhowrad  To read more check out NBC 2 Buffalo's write up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He's not heavy...


Those of you who follow me on Twitter, or know me in real life know that we have been dealing with a few situations at Nate's school that have been causing our whole family a lot of stress. I don't want to go into too much detail in such a public forum, but to preface this story I will say that the issues deal with both a lack of respect for Nate's 504 (Students with Disabilities Act) plan and two situations that have threatened his safety.

Clearly as his parents SD and I are pretty mad. We have spent the last two weeks going to doctor's appointments, doing research, writing time lines, attending numerous school meetings, talking to psychologists and State Education representatives. But the most important thing we've done through all of this is telling Nate that we have his back.

Listening to Nate tell these people “I don't feel safe in school, they (the adults) treat me like a bother, like I'm garbage”, it would be easy to just get angry. It would be easy to tell off he school administration and enroll him in private school. As in most cases, what's easy isn't what's right.

SD and I have had to sit down and talk about our goals in this. Do we want policy rewritten? Do we want to involve the police? Do we want to pursue civil action? Our conversations always come back to: We want to make sure our son feels safe. As much as a part of us wants to stick it to the man, that isn't the goal here. Being an advocate for our child means that we have to keep his needs at the foreground at all times.

There are a few things I want him to learn from this experience:
  • You can fight an unjust system.
  • The adults in charge aren't always right.
  • That his rights are no less important because he is a child.
  • That he has a right to feel safe at school.
  • That knowledge is power. You have no idea how many times in the past week I had to tell school district officials what their own policies were.
  • That sometimes the people in charge are manipulative and will go to great lengths to have things work in their favor. Some people will also work extraordinarily hard to be lazy.
  • That surrounding yourself with a good support system is an important part of a happy life. If we hadn't already had a network of amazing physicians, psychologists and knowledgeable friends and family we would have had to go through this alone. As it is now when I don't know how to proceed, I have a whole notebook filled with people I can call.
  • Most importantly he should learn that when it seems that no one else cares about him his dad and I always will.

Being a parent is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Squinkies Giveaway

I'm still giving away my loot from the awesome Activision Games for Girls Summit!  Today, I have a few items from the adorable and popular Squinkies franchise.   This package includes Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize for the Nintendo DS and a pack of Squinkies toys.

The prize, courtesy of Activison.


From Activision:
GAME OVERVIEW
In Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize, players will explore the recently opened Adventure
Mall Surprize. As young gamers control their squishy, squashy character, they learn to
navigate the mall in a quest to invite the other lovable Squinkies to a fantastic Squinkies party.
Along the way, you get to collect magic coins which, when deposited in the Gumball
Playhouse, unlock secret playable characters. There are literally hundreds of Squinkies to
meet and greet, so get bouncing!
Features:
  • Unique Setting: The Adventure Mall environment is entirely new for the game and exploring the amazing environment is just plain fun!
  • Hundreds of Squinkies: There are 600 Squinkies in the game, some that are playable characters and others you simply add to your collection. The 40 available playable characters also have 10 “rare” and un-lockable friends that must be purchased with the Magic Coins found around the mall.
  • Unique Environments: Four distinct play areas, each with four stages of thematic backgrounds keeps the game feeling consistently fresh and distinct. Specific locales include: Aquarium, Food Court, Wedding Castle and Amusement Park.
  • Included Squinkies Toy: Each purchase of the game will include an exclusive, limited release and ultra-rare 3-piece Squinkies playset!
This game was a bit more reading heavy than Lalaloopsy.  Kit enjoyed playing it but needed guidance at almost every step.  This would be a great game to play together.  If that's not your sup of tea, if you save the DS for those "Mommy needs to go the bathroom ALONE" moments, save this one for kids who are literate.  If your child enjoys Squinkies, or enjoys collecting games such as Pokemon, this one is sure to be a hit.

I am trying something new and managing this giveaway with Rafflecopter software, which seems like it's going to make my life and your entry a whole lot easier while still letting me do all of those obnoxious blog giveaway things like asking you to follow me on Twitter.   Enter using the form below (make sure you also actually leave a comment in the comment section!).  A winner will be chosen on Monday, November 21, and I will post the winner in an update on this page.

The Hunger Games Trailer and a LEGO movie?

If you were excited to see the teaser trailer for The Hunger Games that debuted at the MTV Movie Award a few months back, you are going to go nuts for the first "real" trailer, which was debuted last night.  I loved the books, I'm so excited for this movie, and the trailer does not disappoint.


Also, MSNBC.com is reporting that a LEGO movie is in the works.  There isn't much detail available other than it's the same production team as "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and that they have been spending a lot of time at LEGO's Denmark headquarters for research.  I'd love a job where you go to LEGO HQ for research!

What do you think of the Hunger Games trailer?  How about a LEGO movie?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lalaloopsy Giveaway

Congratulations to Amber who was entry #7 and won the Lalaloopsy prize pack!

I recently attended Activision's Games for Girls Summit.  The content was super interesting and engaging, but the best part was the swag bag. It was Suh-weet, loaded with all of the games we tried and some other licensed goodies. I'm feeling generous, and want to help my dear readers with their Holiday shopping, so I've decided to give it away!  I've split the swag into coordinating packs in order to give as many of you a chance to win as possible. Most have a DS Game and a related toy.  The Wappy Puppy, which is awesome, will be the grand finale giveaway!

The first prize pack I'm giving away is a pair of items from the super popular Lalaloopsy franchise.  For those not in the know, Lalaloopsy is a series of large dolls and small figures from MGA Entertainment.  The dolls are a modern twist on rag dolls, they're pretty cute, although Nate has called their button eyes "creepy" and "Coraline-esque".  The gimmick is that the dolls magically came to life, and have the traits that go along with the special fabric they were constructed after (the one made out of baker's apron is a baker, and the one made out of astronaut's flight suit is a scientist).

Activision has taken the popular property and created a game that Kitty sure seemed to love.  I was initally worried that her inability to read would really hinder her ability to play.  Thanks to the intuitive game play, she was able to navigate the game on her own for over twenty minutes.
Thanks to intuitive game play, Kitty was able to figure out that there was a lost pet that she had to find for her friend, even without the ability to read.

From Activision:
GAME OVERVIEW
The whimsical and magical world of Lalaloopsy has been brought to life on the Nintendo DS. As the
new girl in town, you start by selecting your very own playable Lalaloopsy friend. Reunite all the
familiar Lalaloopsy dolls with their lost pets to build incredible friendships and unlock exciting crafting
activities. Special surprises and cool collectibles make it a unique and exciting experience. There is so
much to do and so much fun to be had, it’s time to get sewing!
Features:
  • Play with Your Favorite Lalaloopsy Dolls: All 12 dolls are available to play with including: Mittens Fluff ‘N’ Stuff, Blossom Flowerpot, Bea Spells a Lot and many more!
  • Colorful and Whimsical World: The handcrafted feel and bright palette is preserved in the game. Every doll’s environment and items will feel familiar to all Lalaloopsy fans.
  • Build Lasting Friendships: Help the dolls find and care for their pets to unlock their specific craft mini-game; giving the finished crafts as gifts unlocks even more accessories!
  • Create Cute Crafts!: Twelve doll specific craft activities are made uniquely personal with various customizations and themes. 
  • Rewards A’Plenty: Frequent rewards, accompanied by distinctive animations, sounds and content, coupled with delightful hidden collectibles, make the game engaging and exciting.
  • Added Bonus: Included with each game purchase is a limited release Mini Lalaloopsy™ doll.


This prize pack includes a copy of the Lalaloopsy game for Nintendo DS, which includes a Mini Lalaloopsy and an additional Mini Lalaloopsy. Mini Lalaloopsy's box has a  hole in the back (thanks to Kitty who couldn't keep her hands off of it) but is otherwise sealed and fine).  These items were given to me by Activision during their Games for Girls Summit.

The fabulous giveaway!  Thanks, Activision!

To enter to win this item, leave a comment telling me who you'd give this set to below.
To gain an additional (optional) entry follow @ParentingGeekly on Twitter (if you're not already!) AND send the following tweet:  "Win a Lalaloopsy Nintendo gift pack from @ParentingGeekly : http://parentinggeekly.blogspot.com/2011/11/lalaloopsy-giveaway.html" Leave an additional comment here that you followed/tweeted.

I'll post the randomly selected winner in an update on this post on Thursday, November 17.  Good luck!

Activision Games for Girls Summit and Giveaway!

Today I attended that Activision Games for Girls Summit.  It was a great chance to talk about games for families in a positive way.  The event was geared for the typical Mommy Blogger's audience, and so I seemed to be one of the few in the audience who was not surprised by findings that girls (and kids in general) who game with their parents experience a bevy of psychological and physical benefits.  People are finally getting what we geeks have known all along, video games aren't going to screw your kid up.

While geek culture has gone "mainstream" it seems that a lot of  parents haven't followed suit.  The moms in attendance talked a lot about restricting screen time, about not letting their kids play any non-kid games, and some seemed generally concerned about letting their kids play any video games at all.  At one point I asked Nicole Armstrong, the Director of Marketing at Activison to speak to current attitudes on advertisitng to women.  I brought up Battlefield 3's horribly allienting "99 Problems" ad campaign, and praised her for Activision's inclusive Call of Duty "Gimme Shelter" ad.  I had to stop to explain the games, the ads, and even the songs.  This was definitely not a room of gamer moms.

Jenny from Jenny on the Spot, Nicole Armstong - Director of Marketing for Activision and Suzanne Kantra - Editor in Chief of Techlicious.com
I was really excited to see industry juggernaut Activision identifying young female gamers as a priority demographic.  During the Summit we were able to try out six of the most recently released games that were developed with young girls in mind.

They were:
Lalaloopsy
Zoobles
Wappy Dog
ZhuZhu Babies
Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo
Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize!


The most impressive of the games was Wappy Dog.  It comes with a robotic dog that responds to commands through the DS.  It's freakin' adorable, I want one for myself! It was definitely the biggest hit with all ages in the group.

To help celebrate the launch of these games, Activision sent each attendee home with a bag full 'o awesome.  Over the next few weeks I will be giving away several gift packs, which are just in time for the gift-giving holidays!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Burning down the house

My phone rang tonight while I was making dinner.  I didn't recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail, but minutes later I heard Super Dad's phone ring.  Here's what I heard:
"Hello?  Yes, this is Nate's dad."  And then a looooooong silence.
"Okay, I'll talk to him about that, I know he's been on the receiving end of that and he didn't like it."
More silence.
"We'll talk about it with him.  Have a nice night."
Uh oh.

So I'm thinking that my kid has called a kid a name or excluded them from something.  Super Dad explained that it was much more dire: Nate has burned down someone's house.  In Minecraft.

We had a talk with Nathan and he confessed to the virtual arson, telling us he did it in retaliation when the kids (brothers) blew up a chest containing his valuables.  We discussed the golden rule, how revenge is never a good answer (c'mon kid, we *just* finished watching Moby Dick didn't you learn anything?) and how I never wanted to hear from another (overbearing) mother about how he destroyed something in Minecraft...on a private server run by a family friend, which Nate invited them to play on.

All was said and done until SD told me that the mom had told him that she planned on contacting the school about "this behavior".    WHAT?

I called the lady back and she told me "oh, I just spoke with your husband". 
"Oh, I'm aware" I said "I just want to follow up."

I explained to her that he had done it retaliation.  She insisted that her kids would never do that (for the record I hate when parents say 'My kid would never..."). Clearly my kid was Minecraft Satan running around and burning down the creations children had toiled over.   She told me that her precious snowflakes had been working on this particular creation for months (funny, since they've only had access to the server for a few weeks) and they were devastated.

I assured her that we had spoken with Nate about not retaliating.  That if someone were to destroy his things in the future that he would ignore it.  I also explained that they were playing on a PvP server, and sometimes people - often not Nate - would break things.

I then delicately asked "So...my husband mentioned that you were going to speak to the school about this.  I was wondering what you were hoping that would accomplish?"  She said that she wanted the school to talk to the "kids who were doing this" (my kid) about being kind and not destroying things the other kids (her kids) had worked so hard to make.  I told her that I really didn't think that the school could do anything about what happens in a video game.  She explained that before they came to this school they never had a problem with people destroying the kids' Minecraft stuff, and that because "some kids" at this school thought that kind of behavior was funny the teacher should talk to "those kids" who were doing the damage. I offered that I thought the way that we were handling it - parent to parent - was the appropriate way to handle an issue, and that ideally the kids would work it out themselves.  I assured her that if there were to be another issue like this that she could call me at any time and I would speak to Nate and give him appropriate consequences if required.   I don't think she's going to call the school.

The last time I had to call a parent was when his kid inappropriately touched my kid.  A slight that happened in videogame - as long as it didn't involve bullying - falls firmly into my "work it out yourself" policy.   What do you think?
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