Archive for June, 2013

Time Shift Your TV – Nik Wallenda

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Is there a daredevil in your family? You know, the kid who likes to jump off the arm of the couch? The one who isn’t shy about climbing up on the counters?

If so, maybe you don’t want to set your DVR to tape this show because it might give the little Evel Knievel some ideas, but for everyone else is will likely be fascinating.

Aerialist Nik Wallenda, who crossed over the Grand Canyon at 1,500 feet without any tether or net last Sunday, will give a step-by-step account of the event on Sunday night, June 30, at 8 p.m. on Discovery Channel’s Skywire: Nik Talks the Walk.

So if you missed it the first time around, this is a good chance to see it again.

When the event took place last Sunday, Nik could be heard talking to God during his 23-minute walk across Little Colorado River Gorge.

At one point, he said, “Golly, wind. Go away, in the name of Jesus …Thank you, Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, Lord.” On the Discovery Channel special, he’ll talk about how it calms him to talk to himself, and to God, as he walks the tightrope. He’ll also explain how surprised he was by the wind and other aspects of the walk.

The entire event could prove to offer many teachable family moments. About taking risks. About calming yourself during tense moments. About passion. About doing crazy things. Or maybe it’ll just be a great reminder of the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon.

No matter what, it’s worth checking out.



Friday, June 28th, 2013

Photo credit: Jeff Carlson.

Our generation’s equivalent to  the  guilt-trip story “I walked to school uphill both ways in a snow storm,” is now, “I remember watching The Wizard of Oz when it came on TV once a year!”

For kids today, even waiting a week–let alone a whole year–for a movie or family entertainment seems like a ludicrous, far-fetched idea. With advances in technology, just about anything you want is on-demand. Fast food, movies, friends via text, Instagram, and even Skype makes far away relations seem close by. These can be wonderful, time-saving, family bonding inventions.  But can they also eat away some of the joy in the anticipation? Is it any  wonder that our kids grapple with learning patience and delayed gratification when just about anything they want is a click away?

Setting reasonable boundaries is a helpful way to keep all of us in line. By placing limits and keeping expectations and actions in check, parents can actually free themselves and their kids from electronic overload. On-demand movies should be saved for movie nights or as planned events such as long car trips.  Making homemade movie snacks is not only healthier, it can broaden the whole movie experience. Better yet, take the experience outside and invite the neighbors.

How to you keep our on-demand world from taking over your life?


Time Shift Your TV – Homegoings

Monday, June 24th, 2013

It’s summer, a time that always makes our family particularly happy because it’s means sunshine, warm breezes, beach trips and the end of school.

But the light was dimmed in my world this week by two deaths.

The first was one that we all heard about – actor James Gandolfini died suddenly of a heart attack while in Rome. The Sopranos star was 51. As someone who writes often about television, I was surprised by the news, along with all of his fans. He was on a trip with his 13-year-old son, reconnecting with his Italian roots. Stars have a way, through their work, of making us feel as though we know them. I didn’t know Gandolfini, but my heart went out to his family as they must be struggling to cope with the loss.

The second death hit closer to home. The father of one our graduating high school son’s friends died while body surfing at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. He was 52. We didn’t know him well, but we had just seen his family at a year-end academic event, and we were seated not far from him and his wife at D.A.R. Constitution Hall as we wildly cheered our kids on as they accepted their diplomas. His family and our school community have been stunned and shocked by the terrible event.

So this week, I’m suggesting we all take an hour to watch a new documentary from the excellent PBS series, POV.


Told from the point of view of funeral director Isaiah Owens, Homegoings (airing Monday, June 24 at 10 p.m. on PBS stations; check local listing for repeat times) addresses the beauty and grace of African-American funerals. Filmed at Owens Funeral Home in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, the documentary offers a look into a world most of us rarely see. It’s a visit to the black community’s way of sending off loved ones who have died, with funeral rites that include rich tradition, history and celebration. Interviews, portraits of those who have passed and their grieving families offer a glimpse at the idea of “going home.”

While death may not be something you feel the kids in your house need to see a show about right now, Homegoings is a fascinating look at coping with and celebrating something that is, as Forrest Gump’s mama told him, “a part of life.”

Hot Topic: Summer Vacation

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Summer has turned into the busiest of  seasons for parents.  Orchestrating camp schedules, classes and vacations can be costly and time consuming. Timetables for the kids often don’t mesh with work schedules and even best-made plans usually leave some kids idle and others over-booked.  The workday routine for telecommuting parents can also suffer with a house full of bored kids.  How many times have you heard parents grumble about the onset of summer vacation? Has summer become more of a hassle than a relaxing, fun vacation? Is summer vacation just an antiquated tradition or necessary down-time?

The idea that summer break was created for farmers who needed help in the fields isn’t accurate, according to historians. As industry and jobs expanded, so did the school year. Workers needed some place for kids to go and at that time, school was eleven months long. The idea of summer vacation actually started before air-conditioning was invented. Wealthy city folk wanted to escape the heat to their summer homes, so school was suspended during the hottest months.

With education a big national topic, some people argue that kids need longer school years with breaks scattered throughout the year. Others argue that a longer school year may help struggling students but not those who are doing okay with the system as it. What are your thoughts on summer vacation? Should it stay or should it go?

GIVEAWAY: Restock Your Game Closet with 8 Parents’ Choice Award Winners

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013


Games Giveaway

This week, three fans of the Parents’ Choice Foundation and Absolutely Mindy of SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live will win the game prize package shown above.

Enter below by Thursday afternoon for a chance to win eight Parents’ Choice Award winning games, including ThinkFun’s Hello Sunshine! for toddlers and Blue Orange’s silly memory game Ooga Booga!

Entries will be accepted until 5pm EST on Thursday, June 20th. Winners will be announced on Friday, June 21st. Email addresses are collected solely for the purpose of contacting winners. Only United States residents may enter, please. Prizes provided by Parents’ Choice Award winning companies. For more details about the Parents’ Choice Awards program, including information about how winners are evaluated and chosen, please visit our website.

Best of luck to those who enter, and thanks to the companies who have made this giveaway possible! Because of them, each winner will receive the following:

Hello Sunshine

A plush sun with a sweet smiley face that contains a deck of doubled-sided cards. Draw cards and hide Sunshine for a fun game to play with toddlers.

SET Junior

SET Junior, a spin on the familiar version of SET, is a challenging board game for children ages 3 and up in which players must look at cards with different color items, shapes of items and number of items and determine if three cards make up a set.

Shelby’s Snack Shack

Shelby’s Snack Shack is a board game that teaches preschoolers numbers and counting, through the collection of bones each player retrieves after using a spinner spinning and picking that number of bones from the “beach” board.

Dreaming Dragon

The object of Dreaming Dragon is to remove as many plastic lizards as you can without causing any dragon eggs to fall off the dragon. The lizards and dragon eggs sit on top of a large plastic sleeping dragon.


Katatu is a modern version of an ancient Roman game that traveled to Egypt and then throughout the rest of Africa, where it is still played today as a way to teach children strategy and fair game play.

Ooga Booga

Ooga Booga is a lively and silly memory game. Players take turns reciting a sequence of nonsense syllables and emphatic actions that grows as each player reveals a new card.

What’s It?

What’s It is a guessing game in which players team up and play against a character called The Doodler, instead of each other. One player rolls a die to select the category, such as “You wear it” or “You use it.” Then a Doodle card is flipped over and all players write down what they guess the doodle might be, according to the category.


The concept of Ambiguity is simple—roll eight letter die, set the timer, jot down as many words as players can make out of the letters—but mastering the game isn’t easy. The letter dice are designed, as the game’s title suggests, to be confusing. Many of the die faces represent more than one letter, and it’s not immediately obvious what they are.