Saturday, November 22, 2014

Leap Into Gaming with LeapTV!

Disclosure:  I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog sponsored MommyParty.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

I have weird spacing in the ages of my boys.  The older two are 12 and 11; eighteen months apart, and that was on purpose, y'all.  Enter Bonus Baby #3 - he's 6.  That five year age gap was NOT on purpose.  He's gotten all kinds of "education" from his older brothers regarding video games.  He actually schooled his 11 year old brother on MineCraft last night.

Sometimes, though, it's hard for him to keep up with his brothers when they are gaming - the games are too difficult for him to understand or manipulate.  Sometimes, the games just aren't appropriate. My youngest gets creeped out by a certain game pitting horticultural specimens against the walking dead.



LeapTV to the rescue!  LeapTV is specifically designed for kids ages 3-8.  It's very similar to the Wii gaming system, but specially designed for little hands and minds.  There is a motion-sensing camera that allows kids to jump in and move with their game, getting off the couch.  LeapTV also designs their video games to provide an educational experience while your kids are having fun.

My youngest was so excited to try this out!  The system does require an HD tv for set up.  Make sure you have plenty of room for your child to MOVE!

In our LeapTV kit we received 2 games:  Sports! which focused on mathematics and Dance & Learn which focused on reading.

I loved how much the games incorporated movement.  Instead of just typing in an answer, or clicking on a button on screen, my child had to jump, reach and dance for these games!


When you are doing set-up, helpful tips are given onscreen.  Your child is instructed to stand in front of the camera for it to gauge the child's size so the games can be specifically tailored to the youngest of players!

We've had Leap Frog products in our house for around 10 years now.  When my older children first started to be interested in interactive games, we initially turned to the LeapPad games.  This was before the current edition of tablet-based games - it had the book and interactive pen.  When they got a little older, we moved them to the Leapster handheld gaming system.  I loved their educational games and the boys felt "big" even though they weren't quite ready for other handheld gaming systems.

I'm so grateful that we can continue our relationship with the Leap Frog brand and continue a love of learning with my youngest child.  Leap Frog continues to make quality products that this momma can feel good about giving to her children!

Disclosure: I received a LeapTV gaming kit for purposes of review and promotion. All opinions are my own!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll Savannah 2014 - Six Reasons to Love the VIP Experience!

Disclosure:  I am a Rock 'n' Blog Ambassador for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series.  I was given complimentary VIP access during the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon for purposes of promotion and review.  All opinions are my own.

I promised y'all that I would tell you more about getting the VIP treatment for the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon.  Let's cut to the chase - it was amazing.  Let me tell you the ways:


1) Pre-race warmth, real bathrooms and food.  We were in the South but it was still cold outside in November.  Having a place inside to hang out and await the race start was awesome. We had a dedicated bathroom inside the Hyatt hotel.  Yes, there was still a long line (for the women, natch) but it was NOT a porta-pot.  The continental breakfast was gold, especially for people like me who were travelling and perhaps forgot to grab something for breakfast.  My hotel's breakfast didn't open until 6am, long after I had gone.


2) Private Gear Check.  I didn't wait in line to either check my bag or retrieve it.  It was fabulous.  Gear check was inside the VIP Hospitality Suite.  Gear Pick Up was inside the VIP area post-race.


3) Private Porta-Potties.  This was one of the absolute best parts of the whole deal.  Behind the VIP tent was a row of porta-potties with, you guessed it, no lines.  You know what else?  There were the usual bottles of hand sanitizer out, but there was also a hand washing station for those who prefer the old school scrub.  Feminine supplies for the women.  The first picture is of the general public potties.  The second is of the VIP thrones.  It felt like a luxury to change clothes and take my time without feeling like I was hogging a bathroom and keeping it from someone in need.



4) The Bar.  Yes.  I know.  I'm supposed to be drinking chocolate milk, water, Gatorade, whatever.  And I did some of that.  But y'all, I just PR'd unexpectedly.  I was on vacation in Savannah.  Pass me a mimosa, friend.




5) The Food.  Oh, my gosh, y'all.  The food that was handed out in the finisher's chute was great - bags of pretzels, bananas, bagels - the usual fare a runner expects after a race.  In the VIP lounge, however, lunch was served.  A catered lunch.  Hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, pasta, salad, fruit - whatever you could be needing was there.  I can't eat right after a race, so I grabbed a Power Bar upon first entering the race but ate a bigger lunch later when my stomach had settled a bit.  *I have to apologize for the quality of these pictures.  I took them right after I finished the race and clearly I was still a bit shaky!  But I wanted to give you an idea.*




I loved that it was easy access in and out of the tent.  As I mentioned, I couldn't eat anything substantial right after the race.  So I wandered out and caught the amazing Phillip Phillips concert in the park.  After that finished, I was ready for actual food and headed back in the tent for a sandwich, fruit and that beer that was solely for replacing the carbs I lost during the race.

6) Shuttle Service.  There was a special trolley shuttle for VIP's that ran regularly throughout the afternoon that returned us to the starting line.  I know I sound like a broken record, but I loved that there were no lines.  After you run a distance race, "no lines" becomes a pretty big thing.

I was truly delighted with the VIP experience.  They supplied everything I needed and I could partake of it in the most casual way.  No rush, no tedious lines - it absolutely topped off my race experience and allowed me to revel fully in what a great run I had!

Rock 'n 'Roll Marathon just announced their 2015 Tour Stops - check them out and see when you can Run Rock 'n' Roll and get the Rock Star treatment!

Have you ever paid for a VIP area with any race?  What was your experience?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Remix Challenge 2014 - 5K

Disclosure:  I am a Rock 'n' Blog Ambassador for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series of races.  I received free race entry in exchange for promotion and review.  All opinions are my own!

I woke up Sunday morning to every part of the lower half of my body hating me, hips to toes.


In my last post, I told y'all all about my glorious experience at the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon.  I busted it out pretty hard at the end, and I damn well felt it Sunday morning.  Rest for the wicked?  Maybe a little.  I was signed up for the 5K on Sunday but it wasn't until 1:00pm.


I made my first stop at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to pray that I could hobble through the race that day.  Even if you are not Catholic, you really should swing by here if you are in Savannah just to tour it during the week.  It's absolutely gorgeous and I really loved going to mass there.

Properly atoned for the bad words that I was thinking the last 5 miles of the previous day's half marathon, I headed over to Daffin Park.  Why would I run a 5K the day after a half marathon?  The bling, baby.  Rock 'n' Roll introduced the Remix Challenge, making Savannah and other tour stops a 2 day running festival!


The part in the middle spins, y'all.  I *might* have squealed a little when I realized that.

Daffin park shares space with Grayson Stadium - home of the Savannah Sand Gnats!


The Sand Gnats are a minor league team in the South Atlantic League.  Walking around the stadium, I had Bull Durham quotes flying through my head.

There were a LOT more people signed up for the 5K than I had imagined!  It was a great turnout.  I think it goes without saying that I took this run pretty easy.  Everything hurt.  It hurt to breathe at the beginning - as in, even my rib cage was sore.  The course was really pretty and perfect for a Sunday afternoon run!  It started out in a residential area, took us onto a local trail and ended inside Grayson Stadium.

A highlight of the run for me was when a couple of people noticed my Asheville Ambassador shirt and ran with me to ask me questions about it.  They had just signed up and wanted a little reassurance!  It was kind of fun to get called out like that!

After I finished, I picked up my snacks, free beer and of course, my medals.  That was the whole point, right?!?!


I hung around for a little bit as there was also a one mile run and a kid's run,  but I needed to head out and get home - it was a long drive and I was ready to see my family.

This was where my runner's high was severely trashed.

I lost my car key.

My only car key.  Four hours from home.  It must have fallen out of my jacket pocket somewhere.  I know it didn't happen on course since I didn't open the pocket the whole way.  I retraced my steps around the grounds, but it was a PARK - pine straw, leaves, sand, wood chips.  No way was I finding that thing.  I went to lost & found twice, but no luck.

Sunday - all Honda dealerships are closed in Savannah.  A cop gave me the name of a lock & key place he recommended.  Their "car guy" was off for the weekend.  Panic was rising.  I had visions of my husband having to throw all 3 kids in the car, drive 265 miles to bring me a key then turn around and head back.  The 2nd locksmith I called, Digital Access Security, was open and ready to help!  They made me a new key and brought it out to me within an hour.  Thank God I was driving my husband's older car - one key for all, no chip.  The cost was ugly, but it would have been twice as ugly if I had lost the key to my van.

But let's look on the bling side - I brought all these lovelies home with me.



Overall, I ended up getting home about 2 hours later than I had planned.  When I got home, though, this was waiting for me on the front door, courtesy of my 6 year old.


Stress just kind of melts away when you know someone's been thinking of you, you know?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rock n Roll Savannah 2014: Miracle In The South!

Disclosure:  I am a RocknBlog Ambassador for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series.  I received a complimentary race entry and VIP access in exchange for promotion and coverage of the event.  All opinions are my own.


Y'ALL.  I've really not been training like I should have and I was worried about dragging my Ambassador ass across that finish line. I was also wondering if I would have fun outside the race - all by myself?  I like to travel in a pack, and I was solo for this one.


As was my pre-race tradition, I slept pretty crappy. The pizza guy who came to my door at 10pm didn't help, either. Um, no, you are supposed to be at the hotel across the parking lot. I'm sure the folks in room 214 over there will receive your arrival much better than I did.

Here was breakfast in my room, as I forgot to plan for that.


Champions, y'all. No Wheaties here.

I cannot stress enough how great it was to just park at the Convention Center and take the ferry to the start line. Traveling solo, I did not spring for one of the higher-priced accommodations closer to the start and I really didn't want to drive around an unfamiliar city looking for parking spaces on race morning. I reserved the parking online ahead of time at no cost. Easy-peasy!

I headed into the VIP lounge near the start line and that was one of the best things, ever. I'll give you the rundown on the whole VIP experience in another post, but I was so grateful since I knew that half of a candy bar wasn't gonna get me through this half marathon!

I met up with my co-Ambassador Abby from Back At Square Zero!


I left the loveliness of the VIP lounge and headed out into the COLD race morning!


The start line was rockin' and they did a great job of getting everyone pumped up! Spectators were already lining the streets. I made my way back to Corral 13 - lucky, right?!?!

Oh, not even a mile in and I'm already taking pictures. I posted to Facebook and announced not to expect a PR from me today if this was my attitude!


But - this was the only picture I took. Something kicked in. I felt good - really good. I had a pace band for a 2:30 finish and I was getting way ahead of that. Hmmm. I knew there was no way I could break my PR of 2:20:21 but if I could get under 2:30, that would be awesome. The phone got put in my pocket and didn't come out again until after the finish line!

I'll be honest - as far as scenery goes, the first five miles sent us through not the most attractive part of town. However, that area had tons of people who came out to cheer us on! They were yelling and clapping, had their kids waving to us out on their front porches - it was really awesome! Got a lot of shouts of  "Welcome to Savannah!"

I had been running intervals of 3/1 and that was working okay. As I crept closer to miles 7-8 and I realized that I was not only on track to get under 2:30 but could actually get pretty close to my PR, I kicked it in a little. I hadn't turned on the iPod yet, but threw on my "Gimme A Beat" playlist and cranked it up! I upped my intervals to run a half mile, walk a minute for the rest of the way.  It helped that the crowds were getting thicker and the scenery more beautiful!

With a mile and a half from the finish, when I felt like I could possibly die, I realized that I could, in fact, BREAK my PR. WHAAAAAA? While I was excited, I was also kind of scared. My calves were already starting to pulse (more than twinge!) and I was SO tired.

Screw it.  Let's go.


Holy crap - it's a PR, baby! Yes, by less than 30 seconds, but that PR was set 3 years ago. The most I had run to train for this race was 8 miles the prior weekend. This 44 year old momma was over the moon! I am living proof that when this race claims a "Flat, Fast Course" they are right on the money! Negative splits and everything.

I spent a few minutes posting to every outlet I had because, well, the world needed to know of my extreme badassery.


After an amazing experience in the VIP lounge, it was time for the Phillip Phillips concert in the park. I will fully admit to only knowing one song of his - "Home". It wasn't until he sang, "Gone, Gone, Gone" that I realized he was the one who sang it. Y'all - I was blown away! He put on a great show and I'm definitely a new big fan! I'm obsessed with his song "Unpack Your Heart" from his new album. That I now own. My kids are gonna have to become fans, too, or find a new way around town.



The weather was gorgeous, the music was rockin' and I was high on my unexpected PR. I could not have asked for a better race experience! The logistics all worked - I didn't see a glitch anywhere. The fact that I was by myself didn't phase me at all, because I was having such a great time doing my own thing and chatting with other runners about their race experience. Overall, I would definitely recommend this race, especially if you are chasing a new PR!



Have you run one of the Rock n Roll series of races?  Is one on your bucket list?  Applications for 2015 Rock 'n' Blog Ambassadors are open now until November 16th, so be sure to apply!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Paula Deen Live in Atlanta - Ticket Giveaway!

Disclosure:  I was provided with two tickets to Paula Deen Live! to giveaway to my readers.  No other compensation was provided.  

Y'all - this Southern girl is barely able to contain her excitement this morning!

I had a crazy weekend in Savannah for the Rock n Roll Savannah Remix Challenge, and I'll be sure to tell you all about that soon! (It includes a surprise PR, a new devotion to an American Idol, and a lost car key - 4 hours from home.  Stay tuned!)

Today, though, I find it amusing that I have to come back to Atlanta to meet one of Savannah's most famous residents.  That's right - I get to meet Paula Deen today!

I'm attending a private event where I'll meet Paula, hear more about her journey (although you know that I read her book already) and watch her demonstrate a family-friendly, budget meal I can prepare at home.  I can't wait!



I'm happy to be able to share some of the Paula love with you all by giving away two tickets to her Paula Deen Live!  event at Symphony Hall in Atlanta for November 16th!  It will be a special holiday version, but all the same Paula Deen charm.  You'll hear Paula speak, watch cooking demonstrations and she'll even play interactive games with the audience!

This would be a great event to share with your girlfriends or family to take a break from holiday prep stress!

This is a short giveaway since the event is this Sunday!  Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How NOT to Hike

Several years ago, I got it into my head that I was going to be the Outdoors Mom.  We had been camping, so hiking day trips were no big deal, right?



Let me list for you the ways I was stupid.
  • I didn't tell my husband where we were going. If we had disappeared, he would have had no idea where to tell anyone to even begin to look for us.
  • The boys drank almost all the water on the drive up to the trail.  Really?  Don't put the food / water for the hike within easy access of Short People who eat and drink things just because they are there.
  • I can't read a map.  I had a trail map, but for some reason could not wrap my head around it.  I kid you not, there were Boy Scouts at the trailhead also who got me in the right direction.  God Bless the Boy Scouts.
  • Halfway up the trail, a huge dog lunged for my oldest and actually got its mouth on his neck before the owner was able to get him away.  What if that dog had really hurt him?  How would I have gotten him (and his young brother) back down the trail quickly?  I may have had some band aids in my backpack, but that was it.  

Luckily everything turned out fine.  I was cool and confident the whole time so my kids didn't pick up on a few slight freak outs I had internally.  Please - learn from my mistakes!  Take these tips to heart and your family will have a successful hike!
  • Let someone know where you're going and how far along the trail you plan to go.
  • Take PLENTY of water and more food than you think you'll need.  Make sure the kids are drinking enough water, but not guzzling it too early.
  • Be sure to do a check for ticks after the hike!
  • Stay on the paths - especially in the warmer months.  My son once wandered off a path while we were hiking and stepped right into a yellow jacket nest.  Ugliness.
  • Know the area.  Google the trail and see if there are reviews of the path - how well it's marked, if there is anything which requires caution.  
  • Take a First Aid kit.  Make sure you know some basic First Aid skills that will keep people in one piece until you can get help!  
If you are in Georgia, I found a couple of great books that can get you and your kids on some great trails this fall!  The following posts contain Amazon affiliate links - if you use them to purchase anything (not just these books) from Amazon, you'll be helping me keep up with some of my site costs!

 

This is a great book that includes urban sites as well as those farther afoot, so it's helpful for city dwellers who don't want to drive hours just to take their family hiking.




As the name implies, this book covers the entire state.  If you reside far from Atlanta or if you are on vacation in another part of the state, this book can point you to some great sites for your hike!

Always remember to stay safe!  Know your family's fitness and skill  level as well as how "civilized" the trail is - is there water available anywhere?  Bathrooms?  Medical assistance readily available?  A little bit of preparation can get your kids enjoying healthy habits for life!




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem - Post Halloween Edition

Hey, y'all.  My name is Amy.  I.  Like.  Candy.

Like, really.  A lot.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I worked at Crate & Barrel.  We wore those black aprons with the big pockets.  Whenever anyone wanted candy, they would seek out the pregnant woman with not one care of developing gestational diabetes, as I always had a stash in my pocket.  Pockets.  Multiple stashes.  In both pockets.


Fast forward.  That boy child is 12 (I think you know that this child puts the "H" in ADHD); his brothers are 11 and 6.  I am still the candy girl.

I am employed for this school year at our church preschool.  Trying to make friends with the other ladies on the hall, I went around one morning offering up a bag of mini Caramel Apple Milky Ways. If you came to me with a bag of candy, you would instantly be my friend. More people turned them down than accepted.  I was a little concerned about the kind of people with whom I was working.  Were they safe to be with kids?  I didn't understand.

Halloween is my Cat Daddy Holiday.  Let's be honest - the entire month of October is my Cat Daddy Holiday.  It starts with our local high school's homecoming parade where they throw out oodles of candy.  It continues with a neighboring city's annual parade where we came home and filled a TWO gallon Ziploc with candy collected.  Yeah - we gave a lot of that stuff back out on Halloween.  If your kid got one piece of the good stuff and a handful of crap, it probably came from our house!


Then, Halloween.  This was the first year that my older boys went off trick or treating with friends.  Frankly, I was glad.  They both wimp out waaaay too early every year and I am disappointed in the overall candy haul.  I had hopes that their friends would shame them into hitting more houses.

Last year, my then-kindergartner was my Shining Star and hit the majority of our decently-sized neighborhood with me.  We would have done more if my husband hadn't sent me a text at 8:30 (on a school night) that contained one word:  "Seriously?"

I had high hopes for him this year and we set a goal (it being Friday!) of actually canvassing the entire neighborhood.  Dude.  He only made it halfway.  What the what?  Alright.  Let's get back home to see what your brothers got.  I felt a little like Fagin in Oliver Twist.

My oldest child knows no moderation.  I don't know where he gets this from; I'm sure it wasn't the steady stream of sugar he received in utero.  I went to do a candy drive-by in the kitchen the day after Halloween and saw that my husband has put all the candy bags up on a high shelf, out of reach of greedy boys.  And 5'2" wives.

Memeguy.com
Here is where I am forced to admit I have a problem.  The actual thought in my head was, "Crap.  Now I have to drag a chair over and someone will hear that and know I am getting into the candy."  Ding, ding, ding - first sign of addiction is hiding your shame, right?

Today at the grocery store, I saw the Magic Sign.  "All Halloween Candy 50% off."

God help me, y'all, I bought a big honkin' bag of mixed candy with the sole purpose of hoarding it.  I divvied out part of it in a plastic bag in my big purse (an extension of those long ago apron pockets) and put the rest in my closet.

Memecrunch.com
Like an alcoholic.  I am now hiding candy in my closet. I'm going to get the diabeetus.

I messaged some friends about this and got to what my real issue was:  what do I do with the empties?  I have 3 choices.

  • Stash the wrappers in my purse and then empty them into garbage cans all over the city every time I leave the house.
  • Bury them deep under other garbage
  • Leave them on top of the garbage in the can and throw the kids under the bus, blaming them.
I wasn't even going to talk about this because I didn't want my husband to know. Either he won't read this post or I will end up getting belligerent and self-righteously state that I run half marathons, I am 44 years old and if I want to stash candy in my closet, then I have a right to do just that.  YEAH.  

Y'all, I'm taking that first step.  I'm admitting the possibility that I MIGHT have a teeny problem.

But please don't take my candy.  And bring me a Diet Coke.