Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Between Friends North Austin Sale This Weekend!

Have you heard of Just Between Friends consignment events? There is one coming up in Pflugerville, 3/26-3/28, and I've got just the thing to get you in for FREE! The sale is taking place at the Pflugerville Lions Club at 500 N. Railroad Ave., Pflugerville 78660. Hope to see you there!

Animal Jam is OUR Jam!

Have you heard of Animal Jam, an amazing, interactive, learning-based game put out by National Geographic? I admittedly had not before being invited to come check it out when National Geographic Kids came to town for SXSW Interactive, but I've spent the past week and a half since the event checking it out and exploring it, and it definitely gets this mama's stamp of approval!

My five-year-old is obsessed with animals. Stuffed animals, baby animals, pets (ahem, that's part of why we have so many), animal books - you name it! She talks about aspiring to be a "doctor for animals" (veterinarian is such a tongue twister when you're little!), and who wouldn't encourage that love and goal in their child?

So what, you might wonder, makes Animal Jam special, in this age where there is no end to the apps and games in creation? What differentiates it from the other animal-themed games around? And why would I allow my child to spend time playing Animal Jam instead of pursuing other interests and activities?

For one, let me start with this. We limit screen time, but we do allow it - we're certainly not shunning it entirely. There is so much to be said for using computers, tablets and other technology to encourage learning in an active capacity, as long as healthy limits are set. Ava has a very active mind, and an equally active body to match, and sometimes it really helps her to sit still and occupy herself - and let's not kid ourselves that it really helps me, too ;)

As for Animal Jam, the first thing about the game that really piqued my interest was the security measures set in place. With internet safety forefront in the mind of every parent whose child does anything online, including games, the only way Ava is playing any game or spending anytime online is if I've vetted the security features and ensured that there is no way a predator could be lurking in the background. I know it sounds paranoid, but with all of the pros of advancing technology, there are some cons to be had as well, and better safe than sorry! National Geographic Kids has very vigilant chat filters and in-game moderators, ensuring that children are unable to use their names, any numeric feature that could be used to give out personal information such as age, address, phone number and more, and any sort of foul language, slang or otherwise. Because of this, Animal Jam has won numerous awards, such as Mom's Choice Awards, Parenting Publication Awards, and Reader's Choice Awards!

As for the game itself, safety isn't all it has to offer! With their goal, "to inspire children to explore and protect the natural world outside their own doors, making science accessible and fun!", how can you not want to play? Animal Jam is packed with information, videos, factual tidbits, and games - learning has never been so fun! There are also plenty of tie-in activities available offline as well, from coloring pages and other downloads and printables that will keep your child engaged and interested long after the computer is off!

You can play Animal Jam in association with National Geographic Kids Online here, or check out advanced features with a membership for even more options and opportunities for fun and games!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alice in Wonderland Exhibit at Harry Ransom Center.

A friend of ours recently alerted me to the fact that an Alice in Wonderland tribute exhibit would be showing at the Harry Ransom Center on campus this spring, and asked if we wanted to go. Um, heck yeah! In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm not actually the biggest fan of the Disney film, or the recent adaptations. It's not really my cup of tea (sorry - couldn't help myself!). But, I knew that Ava would find it interesting at the very least, and I never turn down the chance to indoctrinate my kids by bringing them to campus and drilling the fight song into their little heads, so we went for it! 

Despite not being the biggest fan of the film, the book is a classic, and books are kind of my thing (as well as my kids' thing), so we had a great time! The exhibit itself was very well done, and extremely kid-friendly from start to finish. The docent immediately greeted us and offered us a scavenger hunt of sorts, with the chance to find a stamp in each section to trade in at the end for an Alice activity book. Nothing motivates Ava like the chance for a free book, and she had Jack at the word "stamp" (thank you, Little Gym!), so that definitely helped to keep them interested and engaged.

They also had intermittent interactive displays for the kids, from tables laid out for tea parties, to activities encouraging the use of math and other STEM skills, to the chance to read some of the different forms of Alice in Wonderland books at the end - in short, it was really lovely! Jack was able to be his curious little self without anyone batting an eye, which is always a win in this mama's book!

Here are some of my favorite shots of the exhibit, which runs at the Harry Ransom Center until July 6, 2015.

The Harry Ransom Center is located on The University of Texas campus at 300 W. 21st Street, Austin, TX  78712 (near the intersections of 21st & Guadalupe Streets). Admission is FREE! Be sure to check out their Gutenberg Bible while you're there, as well as the rest of what campus has to offer! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Friday Night Live at Austin's Park & Pizza.

If you're looking for a family-friendly way to spend a Friday night in the Austin, Pflugerville or Round Rock areas, there's a new show in town that may be exactly what you're looking for. Catering to families, even those with young children like ours, Friday Night Live is the newest improv comedy show, hosted weekly on Friday nights at Austin's Park & Pizza.

Located off of Grand Avenue Parkway and IH-35, Austin's Park is situated just a short jot up the highway, and can be your go-to destination for family fun. Start your evening off right by letting the kiddos loose on the bumper car tracks, either as your passenger or riding on their own, followed by a ride on their kiddie coaster. If you don't feel the need for speed, grab some clubs and take a walk around the miniature golf course, or cool off as the weather heats up on the bumper boats! For when the weather gets too hot, you can still have a blast, heading indoors to the climbing wall, arcade games, bounce house for toddlers, and many other fun attractions! 

From there, since you've surely worked up an appetite, you'll enjoy their recently renovated buffet and new food offerings, from delicious pizzas and delectable pastas to salads and dessert offerings. We certainly ate our fill!

After dinner, head on into the Friday Night Live studio, where two teams of improv comedians will compete for your laughs. Unlike most comedy shows, however, these comedians provide family-friendly laughs, sure to keep it clean enough for the littlest of guests. My two (ages 5 & 1) were welcomed with open arms and nary a raised eyebrow, even when my 16-month-old got fidgety and wanted to continuously leave and return from the room. So much of a family-friendly environment is not feeling as though you're unwelcome, and I certainly never once felt that way during our time at Austin's Park & Pizza! In fact, my daughter has already asked when we can return and has talked non-stop about beating the "big boys" during her solo drive around the track!

 Austin's Park & Pizza is open daily at 16231 IH-35, Pflugerville, TX  78660. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kite Festival 2015.

A couple of weekends ago, I was watching my two favorite non-related girls on the weekend it happened to be kite festival. Seeing as how we were just down the road from where it would be taking place, it seemed like a waste to not attempt it, even with the yuck weather, and so into my Explorer we piled and headed to Zilker Park.

Let me be clear about one thing: it was freezing! This was both great and awful. Great, because the last time we had attempted kite festival, when Ava was two and a half months old, we were in traffic for over an hour and had to park miles away. This time, we got to park across the street and sat in nearly no traffic. Unfortunately, it was because some much wiser individuals had made the decision to stay home and let us suckers brave the cold alone:

While I'm glad we went, and Ava certainly had a blast, it is definitely the type of thing that I'll wait for warmer weather next time! Our teeth were chattering!

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