Friday, July 3, 2015

Google Maps Code The Road Tour: Celebrating 10 Years & Exploring the Community with Sesame Street

Sesame Street Workshop

If you grew up on or raised a child to watch Sesame street, the infamous, catchy sing-song question "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" is oh so familiar. As educational programming that teaches children everything from the alphabet and number recognition to who the people are in your neighborhood, a collaboration between Sesame Street and Google Maps is the perfect way to teach today's children map skills and geographic literacy. With lil' monsters having access to technology and kid-friendly apps at early ages, incorporating essential & engaging skills and tools to help them navigate the real world and everyday experiences is key!


Sesame Street Workshop

To celebrate 10 years of Google Maps API, the 14 stop Code the Road Tour invited media and their kiddies out for an afternoon of fun at Sesame Workshop earlier this month. I took my preschool lil' monster along to cover for my blogger babe Nancy Horn of TheMamaMaven.com & met up with my vlogger babe Betsy of ThatsBetsyV.com and her adorable daughter Z. On the subway ride there I'm not sure who was more excited to visit Sesame Workshop, but I for one was beyond giddy to meet Elmo, Abby Cadabby & Alan.


Sesame Street Workshop

We were greeted by our two favorite monsters, Elmo & Cookie Monster after posing in the trash can beside Oscar the grouch. Because Elmo and I share a birthday [February 3rd] I insisted we take a selfie. Clearly I need to remember to look into the camera, and step up my selfie game like my furry friend.


Sesame Street Workshop 

Sesame Street Workshop

We don't travel out of state often but the boys have a fascination with and collect maps from local NYC sites like Coney Island, The Bronx Zoo, Lincoln Center and the Subway system as they try to figure out how far away different locations are like the monkey house from the bug carousel or guests that visited the workshop were able to test their map skills by using sticker locators to place where family, friends or they themselves lived and put together a large, colorful floor puzzle of the 50 states. 


Sesame Street Workshop

Sesame Street Workshop

Sesame Street Workshop

    
As a stay at home Mama to Tristan the first 2 years of his little life and a preschool teacher I would always plan out themed lessons like ones on colors, the alphabet and transportation. So imagine how cool it was to hear Abby, Elmo and Alan sing our fave Sesame Street songs like " Going for a Ride", "Are we There Yet" and "Let's Go Driving" while incorporating essential map skills like counting our steps to measure distance.


Sesame Street Workshop

Sesame Street Workshop

Sesame Street Workshop


Sesame Street Workshop

Sesame Street Workshop

As they made their way from state to state, highlights of the Code the Road Tour were visitors testing out android navigation systems, and demonstrations of interactive technlogies from Walt Disney World, iFit, The Weather Channel and more! Check out the video below on how the tour kicked off in San Francisco and make sure to pop by the site for other video on how Google Maps celebrated 10 years. 

                

Disclosure: Opinions expressed are 100% my own and as guests we received a gift bag no other compensation was received. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

10 Tips on How to Power Through the Outdoors w/ Duracell Quantum from Climbing Expert Kevin Jorgeson

Duracell Quantum

Yepp, that's me on the bottom left, completely feeling myself for actually mustering up the courage to try indoor rock climbing. Oh man back in the day before being diagnosed with Crohns disease or juggling motherhood with grad school and work I used to run track and field, studied Ju Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do, and considered squats and crunches fun and had awesome rock-hard abs to prove it. These days I'm lucky if I can run to catch the bus without keeling over, undoubtedly out of breathe. But this year I've decided to make fitness more of a priority and my inner bad-ass was extremely excited to be invited to Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers by Duracell for a morning of rock climbing with climbing and outdoors expert Kevin Jorgeson. Most notably known for his record-breaking free climb of El Capitan's Dawn Wall, Kevin was there to explain first hand the rewards and challenges from outdoor climbing.


Indoor rock climbing is one of this year's biggest fitness trends, whether done at an indoor facility or braved in the great outdoors & with warm summer days in full effect it only makes sense that people are moving their workouts outside. I've always been in awe of watching the strength and power that help rock climbers persevere to the top & that afternoon I learned a lot about the challenges and importance of planning and proper gear.


To shine a light on taking your climb from the wall to the wild outdoors Kevin offered up some great tips on how to tackle the unpredictability of the outdoors no matter day or night:

One significant tip was the importance of dependable power "During my free climb of El Capitan's Dawn Wall, Duracell Quantum was the only battery I trusted to provide dependable power because it lasts longer in 99% of devices vs. the next leading brand."


Duracell Quantum Batteries

Duracell Quantum Batteries

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little anxious about climbing this wall in the dark but it made me even more so impressed with Kevin's level of skill and passion that had developed as a child. Fortunately I was confident climbing alongside him knowing we powered up the wall with all of Kevin's favorite, dependable essentials from the headlamp and shoes to the pack you are carrying. He coached me up the wall (which I only made it half way up, but to my credit it was the most difficult side) and I could totally relate to him sharing how rock climbing was a way to relax with his dad after all the hustle and bustle of the day to day.

Check out this video of his story 

               

Duracell Quantum Batteries

Thank you to Duracell and Kevin Jorgeson for such an inspiring and fun morning! I'm not sure you'll ever catch me outdoors journeying through the wild, climbing walls but I look forward to experiencing it with my boys at a local indoor location and powering up with Duracell Quantum which will be great for all our high drain devices and emergency needs.


    





Monday, June 29, 2015

Leap Frog Introduces a Free Camp & Offers Tips to Prevent Summer Brain Drain for Kids

How to Keep Kids Busy during the summer


With kids across the country finished with the school year, they can celebrate summer and look forward to days free from homework, studying and reading logs. As a former preschool teacher and mom to two boys, I plan on balancing our weekly excursions and screen time with educational ways to keep my two busy bodies entertained while learning over the next two months thanks in part to LeapFrog who strives to continue exposing children to great themed lessons despite school being out. 

While vacation is exciting, it can also have a negative impact on child development – what educators call the “Summer Brain Drain” or “Summer Slide.” For example:
  • Kids can lose up to three months of learning during summer, especially in STEM subject like Math and Science. This can add up to four years of learning loss by 12th grade.
  • It’s worse in lower income communities. More than 80% of kids from economically disadvantaged households lose reading skills over summer.
  • At the start of school each year, teachers spend almost a full month re-teaching materials students have forgotten over the summer.

How to Keep Kids Busy during the summer
Luckily there are some easy ways to keep children’s minds and bodies engaged all year long. LeapFrog’s Director of Learning, Jody Sherman LeVos, PhD has created three simple tips for parents to avoid the Brain Drain and turn it into Brain Gain. 


How to Keep Kids Busy during the summer
 
LeapFrog is also offering a free virtual “Summer Camp,” that's designed for ages 3-8, where parents can sign up to receive eight weeks of resources like printables, activities, articles, videos, and more summer. Each week presents a different theme, with materials covering skills in math, reading, science, creativity.



How to Keep Kids Busy during the summer
  How to Keep Kids Busy during the summer

The site was a life saver today as I tried to juggle my first day of working at home with them, seriously it was a brutal Monday. So far 4 year old Tristan is loving the camp and the themes for the first 2 weeks which have highlighted two of his favorite topics: Maps and Animals. I'm confident that he'll enjoy it the entire summer because he's always asking for more worksheets and videos. How are you planning to avoid the Brain Drain this summer?

Disclosre: Opinions expressed are 100% my own, no compensation was received for this post.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Celebrating Father's Day: Why I'm Happy Facebook Reunited My Hubby with His Dad


There are so many people, including my hubby, who just can't get into social media: the liking, the tweeting the pinning and re-posting just aren't their thing for whatever reason. I swear up until a few months ago my hubby was hardly a fan of Facebook, Instagram or any other similar outlet because he thought they were just silly ways to burn idle time while riding the bus or waiting in the doctors office. In the past he'd give me a quick side eye if he caught me scrolling through my phone while we were having an Orange is the New Black marathon. 

Fast forward to the present and he'd probably want to run up to Mark Zuckerburg himself to give him a huge hug in gratitude, ok maybe not a hug but a pound and a pat on the back definitely.

Without a doubt if you let it, social media can suck you into an abyss of thumbs up and little red hearts but behind all that, there is a HUGE sense of connection to people all over the world and right down the block from you that years ago you wouldn't be able to access as easily.  In a matter of minutes with a click of a name, and a scroll down a list of friends I was able to help my husband fill a void that had existed for over 15 years by sending a message and friend request to his father.



I could NEVER imagine my childhood without my father; the piggy back rides, dancing to classic R&B tunes while standing on his toes and of course we can't forget the lectures about missing curfew. And everyone knows that my quick temper is all my father and I'm always sure to blame it on his genes whenever possible, but I also credit my poise, professionalism and outgoing personality to him too. Although he never really admitted it, or ever really spoke about it too often the fact that my husband's father wasn't in his life was difficult for him as a kid who even into adulthood as a father of two boys questioned why his father wasn't around. Not to say that he was without strong male role models in his life. Having been raised by his Jamaican grandfather and thanks to the father's of friends, he learned how to fish, all about natural home remedies, how to build furniture and what is was to be a Jehovah's Witness among other valued lessons.

Without getting into all nitty-gritty, It's insane how things work themselves out. My hubby and I have been together for about 13 years, and in that time there had been talks of trying to find his dad, hiring an investigator and all that jazz, but nothing ever came of it. I think once I even reached out to the Ellen show and Oprah but those were longshots. Funny enough, one detail we knew was that his dad was married and his wife was cousins with a childhood friend of my dad's. Small world, isn't it!

 Well despite this childhood friend's efforts to try to connect my hubby to his father and younger brother & sister he had never met, when word traveled to family members, some felt it best that they stay out of it all. In a FB message she expressed that if it were meant for them all to reunite, God would see his way to make it happen. That was nearly 2 years ago. Long story short, one evening last year my father's childhood friend thanked that family member [that wanted no involvement] and I clicked her name and searched her list of friends, only to find a handsome man that looked like my husband's dang twin.



All I remember was turning to him and saying "I think I found your dad, babe... on Facebook" and him looking at me like I had just lost my mind. In the past I remember even friending a man with the same first and last name who knew some mutual people but it was pure coincidence. I sent a private message pertaining to my husband's mom and neighborhood, along with a friend request and just waited. The very next day my request was accepted, and I stalked his page looking at their resemblances and matching names with faces of his siblings. If nothing else were to come of it, I knew at least my husband and his father would have the opportunity to hash out any misunderstandings.

This new chapter in their lives has introduced us to a family that seems even larger than the one I grew up in. With a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, a nephew and a grandmother [my hubby got choked up and teary eyed, knowing she was alive and well in the Bronx], we look forward to all the holidays and celebrations. Karaoke, Pokeno, dancing and all, we hope to be there! And it's just a joy to see our kids pick up their Ipads to face-time their Grandpops whenever they want and that they have cousins close in age that they can play and hang out with. I'm sure nobody knew what to expect on either side but thus far it's has been a beautiful experience.




Family trumps everything, it's one of the many things that strengthen our marriage because we prioritize it's importance. Knowing where you came from and why your are the way you are is just as relevant for you personally as it is for your children and heck, even your spouse. Now having spent time with my father in law I see glimmers of him in my husband and things about him make more sense, even if just coincidental. I understand why children naturally gravitate to their loving and gentile personalities and cheesy smiles. Both of them enjoy being behind the camera capturing everyday memories and now I can blame the fact that my hubby needs to leave the television on until 2am in order to fall sleep on his daddy's genes. 

This Father's Day I'm just beyond happy that despite how much time has passed our families have embraced each other and that our sons have another set of genuinely loving, supportive and funny people to call family.... and greatly in thanks to Facebook! Have you ever reconnected or met a family member for the first time through social media interaction? 






Friday, June 19, 2015

Lil' Monsters In NYC: Celebrate Summer at Luna Park Coney Island & Earn Free Rides for Good Grades

Things to do in NYC

Note: Opinions expressed are 100% my own, were were given media passes for a day at the park and a gift bag. No other compensation was received. 

Growing up my parents didn't drive, so over the summer there were no joy rides to Long Island to hit up the beach or to Jersey for any carnival fun, nope there was no need for any of that when a day of care-free amusement was only a ride on the F train away.

My mom would take us every Summer to Coney Island, it was a family tradition that we always looked forward to once school was over.  I remember the anticipation building up as we'd feel the sun on our face when the train would reach the stops that passed by outdoor platforms and we'd get on our knees to catch a glimpse of the rides before reaching the last stop. We loved to stroll the boardwalk while we smiled at strangers dancing with each other to the latest beats, smelled the classic Nathans hot dogs that we just couldn't resist, listened to the rattling cyclone climb it's way to the top and watched other kids spin around on rides like the Himalayan until they were dizzy.




Seeing my two lil' monsters get just as excited as we pulled into the station really brought back memories for me. My 4 year old positioned himself on his knees only to shout "mommy look the ferris wheel" and both boys leaped out of their seats before the train even came to a halt and raced to the door. Can you blame them? Alongside other NYC family bloggers, we were invited out for a fun-filled Saturday to learn all about Luna Park's awesome offerings & to try out the exciting rides.

Things to do in NYC

Things to do in NYC

Just yesterday we celebrated my 4 year old's stepping up from Pre-K to Kindergarten, and with most Tri-state area students wrapping up school this week and next, it's pretty great that Luna Park is honoring students with good grades by having them earn free rides. On June 27th there will be a School's Out Celebration filled with cool activities for the entire family.


In the past when we've visited Luna Park we've purchased discounted deals on sites like Groupon and Living Social for credits to ride. But no worries if you haven't spotted any of those because I'd suggest the purchase of the $35 4- hour wristband which allows unlimited rides at Luna Park {Not including extreme rides or B&B carousel}. It's totally worth it because in the 4 hours you will definitely get to enjoy the rides a few times over, even on a busy day. And if you're looking to host a memorable birthday party they've got you covered with packages starting at $449.00 and Deluxe parties for $699.00 for up to 12 guests.


The Blogger kids could hardly contain their excitement as they patiently waited to jump-start the day on the B&B Carousel which features 50 beautifully hand carved wooden horses. My oldest CJ and I thought it was pretty cool that it's listed as one of 40 prehistoric properties in New York.

It was probably one of the best days ever, and such a care-free way to kick off summer. The kids raced from ride to ride laughing and smiling as us moms attempted to keep up. The photo a few pics above, of the kids on the boardwalk {taken by Denise of Boyzruleourworld} is my absolute favorite because it just showed how with maps in hand our kids were ready to explore the park and conquer the day.






Things to do in NYC






With the countdown to summer vacation being  just a week away for kids in the 5 boroughs and officially kicked off for everyone else, we wholeheartedly recommend you take a visit to Brooklyn for a day of family fun. Here's a few upcoming events you won't want to miss:

Luna Park, Coney Island Events:
  •  Friday Nights from June 18th - August 29th - Enjoy beautiful fireworks 
  • Saturday June 20th -  The Mermaid Parade is a day filled with sun, fun and sand with floats and mermaids.
  • Sunday June 21st - Celebrate Dad with thrill rides and racing & enter the sweepstakes in the park for a chance to win a new grill n tickets to see The Mets or Brooklyn Cyclones
  • Friday, June 26th - Coney Island Cyclone celebrates 88 years.
  • Saturday, June 27th - School's Out Celebration w/ Jake Miller FREE concert , face painting, Zumba, Super Soccer Stars and more. Remember to bring your report cards for up to 20 FREE credits!
  •  Tuesday, June 30th - School's Out last day to redeem those report cards for FREE rides.

Keep up with all of Luna Park's thrilling fun by following on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

#LunaParkNYC 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Off to the Races: Celebrating Mother's Day at Belmont Park

Americas Best Racing


Who doesn't love to receive gifts of appreciation from loved ones? Presents are nice to receive during holidays but I'm definitely the type who would prefer to experience something new with my favorite people. Anyone who knows me well enough knows i'm not very materialistic, a homemade card from my two lil' monsters and venturing off to see somewhere new is the best gift you can ever give me, and maybe a digital photo-book that has all the memories from the day in a book, opposed to living on my phone or on Facebook. Yepp, I'm super cheesy that way.

For Mother's Day America's Best Racing invited a few local mom bloggers and their families out to Belmont Park for a VIP experience at the park, cheering on horses and firing up the grill. I'd never been, so it sounded like the perfect way to spend the Sunday with my 3 guys and my blogger babes. Naturally, conversation among the moms focused of course on what we were going to wear. Whenever I think of horse racing I remember Julia Roberts in her polka-dot dress in the classic film Pretty Woman. I definitely chimed in and hoped everyone else was planning to wear gorgeous hats and fascinators. I mean, how often were we going to get to dress up like that, so why not?

My hubby made my favorite pasta salad to add to the potluck and we ended up renting from Zipcar so we didn't have to worry about the commute on public transportation. By now he knows my sissy and I end up a bit cranky after a long day out.  It's a quick ride to Belmont Park (in Elmont) from where we are in Queens but we definitely experienced a bit of traffic because it was a holiday. At least folks were out and about celebrating their mama's! 

Americas Best Racing

Belmont's backyard was filled with fans who were enjoying their picnics as kids rode ponies and jumped around in the bouncy house. Visitors are also able to see the horses up close before their race in the paddock.



Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

 As we toured the area with Dan Tordjman and Victoria Garofalo who are Brand Ambassadors  for Team ABR Live we watched each jockey ride around on their horse and some of the kids asked for pics. Meanwhile my animal obsessed four year old's inevitable meltdown ensued. If you could only see his face when we gently burst his bubble  when he asked to ride one of the horses. After explaining to him that they were too fast and he wasn't quite big enough he refused to meet the jockey who was standing nearby because he could race on the horse and Tristan couldn't. I felt so bad and tried not to laugh. 


Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

We only placed one bet and didn't win, but we did learn 2 great tips from Dan and Victoria: Look for a horse with your birthday to bet on and that you can bet on the all places a horse may come in, 2nd, 3rd etc not just the winning horse. 


Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

Americas Best Racing

The afternoon was fantastic! Everyone looked so poised and polished, the food was yummy and the moms truly had a great time! Thank You America's Best Racing for having us.
Make sure to Follow ABR on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Note: Opinions expressed are 100% my own and no compensation was received for this post.







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