Learning Meets Fun at the KidzVuz Back to School Bash

Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios
Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios

This a sponsored post brought to you by KidzVuz and Microsoft 

Last month, Jordan and I had the chance to attend the KidzVuz Back to School Bash.  The party was held as the closing event of the two-day Blogger Bash, and I am happy to say it brought the fun, for kids and adults.

In case you’re new to this world, KidzVuz is a video review sharing site for kids age 7-12.  It’s the only online destination exclusively dedicated to letting tweens have their say and share their views about the stuff they love.  It’s also totally safe for the kids – you don’t share any personal information, all videos are viewed by the KidzVuz team before they are posted, and there is no bullying of any kind permitted.  Because of all this, parents can feel good about having their kids participate on the site.  

KidzVuz is also known for having the best parties around, and there was no way my guy was going to miss that.  At first, I couldn’t figure out a way to get from Blogger Bash in the city all the way up to Westchester to pick him up, and then turn back around to get into the city.  “Schlep” was the word that came to mind.   I took a chance and asked his day camp if they could bring him on one of their buses into the city, as I knew there were kids on routes not far from the venue.  Of course they could and it worked out perfectly for both of us.  I had to only walk a few blocks to get him, and shortly thereafter, he was able to experience all the fun of the party.  And experience it he did!

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Jordan has a KidzVuz account but hasn’t made any videos yet.  He does however love watching videos from other kids, especially if they are talking about video games or technology.  It won’t surprise anyone to know that his first stop inside the party was the Microsoft booth.

Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strass Studios
Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strass Studios

Maybe it was the candy?  There was a huge display of beautiful, tasty sugar, and since it was gluten free, Jordan dug into it.  At least at first.  Then, he saw an XBox console, and all bets were off.  As you can see in this quick video, he was all ears for the demo.

While he was monopolizing the XBox, I was able to chat with some of the Microsoft folks in attendance.  They have a lot of fun stuff going on, and shared with me some of their tips to foster growth, learning, and, of course, fun with kids.

  1. Fuel creativity and create your own video game world with Project Spark. Take it from me – I used to work with game programmers and I know you can actually make a living playing video games! With Project Spark, we are opening the doors to the development process, encouraging parents and their children to build their own game worlds that let their imagination go wild while at the same time, learning the nuts and bolts that make up video game development. Play Project Spark for free on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and check in on your game worlds on your Surface tablet.
  2. If they love Project Spark, try out a new kind of free summer camp at Microsoft Retail Stores. Microsoft YouthSpark Summer Camps are the perfect solution, with free camps at Microsoft Retail Stores across the nation. The camps include programming designed to teach kids computer science skills in fun and engaging ways including learning how to build, publish and bring mobile games to life, as well as produce and design their own digital movies.
  3. If you’re looking for something a little more physical, get extreme with Kinect Sports Rivals. With the new Kinect Sports Rivals game for Xbox One, your kids can experience their favorite extreme sports challenges! Kinect 2.0 registers the slightest flick of a finger to grab the hold on a rock or pull the throttle on your jet ski, making for a rewarding and realistic sports experience that may even get them breaking a sweat.
  4. Make online searches safer and more rewarding with Bing in the Classroom. With a new school year comes a new, interactive way to search. Encourage your child’s school to sign up for Bing in the Classroom, a program that provides ad-free, safer, more private search in schools, daily lesson plans that ask questions that inspire critical thinking and a Rewards program that you can use to earn Surface tablets for their school! No matter what your child is searching, you can be sure that they are seeing appropriate content and learning along the way.
  5. Write, type and play with Surface Pro 3. Help your teen tackle their assignments and stay organized as they pursue part time jobs, college applications and of course extracurricular activities with the tablet that can replace a laptop: Surface Pro 3. Its sleek, lightweight and durable design brings together the best of a laptop and the best of a tablet in one gorgeous package, making it perfect to take anywhere from the classroom to a friend’s house. Attach one of the colorful Type Covers to turn out a term paper, or open an OneNote page with the click of the all-new Surface Pen for hand-written notes or doodles. And with up to nine hours of battery life, it will last all day at school and be ready to take on a Netflix session when it’s time to relax.
  6. Have fun while learning with educational Windows Apps. School is out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean your child needs to stop learning! Windows apps like Where’s My Mickey introduces a whole new world of physics-based gameplay from Disney. If you want to test math skills, Number Tap challenges the player against the rest of the world in a fast paced number tapping math frenzy. To disguise learning as a game even further, try out BrainPop, where your child can watch a different animated movie every day about current events, historical figures, holidays and more.
  7. Want to be more active? Get fit with Xbox Fitness. For Mom and Dad, try Xbox Fitness, which offers the same great tracking technology as Kinect Sports Rivals for a personalized training experience in the comfort of your living room. Choose from a library of training programs from favorite trainers like Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson.
  8. At the end of the day, stay entertained with Surface 2. With the 1080p widescreen display, Dolby® audio, and built-in multi-position kickstand, Surface 2 is perfect for those nights when watching Frozen with your child is at the top of the to-do list. Or, if your kid is musically inclined, they can stream free music and even import their iTunes playlist. Your child can get the most out of their time with Surface 2 by using apps side-by-side; keeping an eye on their music downloads while emailing friends and family in Outlook. Surface 2 also comes with Office built in, making the perfect family device for having fun and getting stuff done.

 

A glimpse of some of the party fun - Photo Credit Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios
A glimpse of some of the party fun – Photo Credit Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios

Without a doubt, I was the coolest mom in the world that night, at least in Jordan’s mind.  He left the party in happy tears, crying out “I wish I could live here!”  Oh my sweet boy, so do I.

Top 5 Reasons Why I runDisney

1958061_10152399341898054_1217425668_nI’ve always been someone who loves fitness and exercise…with the exception of running.  Give me a hardcore spin class, an elliptical machine, or a grueling cross training class any day.  Running is for OTHER people.  The non-top heavy who don’t run the risk of getting a black eye on the straightway (I’ll let you ponder that image for a moment…go ahead, I’ll wait).

But then one day, I saw the bait and bit.  I blame a lot of people, but mostly Amy.  Amy is the woman I walked 26.2 miles through the moonlight streets of Manhattan, dressed in a bra.  During our 10 hour walk of shame bonding session, we talked about a lot of things, including her runDisney experiences.  It was then that I decided if I could finish the crazy walk, I could do a runDisney race.  After all, there were shiny medals to be won!

Amy and I before the 10K
Amy and I before the 10K

Since this was my first race, well, ever, I wanted to take it slowly.  I signed up to do the Enchanted 10K that was being held during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  Amy was going to do the Glass Slipper Challenge, which involved running the Enchanted 10K on a Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon that very next day.  I knew I wasn’t up to that, but running essentially 6 miles was.

The trip was originally going to be just me, but somehow the kids and my mom got added into the trip.  Sarah didn’t want to run herself, but I signed Jordan up for one of the kids races.  We ended up having a weekend we would never forget, and vowed to sign up for this year’s weekend.  Why was it so amazing?  Without much effort, here are five reasons.

1. runDisney races are magical affairs with liberal pixie dust all around.  I will always remember when “Let It Go” came up on my iPod shuffle at the beginning of the race.  I ran with a little bit more spring in my step, until I thought I heard the same song at a different point somewhere else.  I pulled out my ear buds to find out, yes, it was playing off speakers.  Speakers that were attached to a gigantic truck on the overpass, where Elsa was waving to all the runners, and sprinkling snow all over the course.  I turned to a runner next to me and she looked as struck by it as I was.  That was but one of the amazing moments I experienced during the race.

I found my name on the 10K board at the Race Expo.  I was officially a runner!
I found my name on the 10K board at the Race Expo. I was officially a runner!

2. People dress in costumes – I decided to create a very simple tribute to my favorite rodent, Minnie Mouse.  But during a runDisney race, people come to play. There were heroes and villains.  Thousands of princesses.  A few Olafs.  And this costume, which I think was probably my favorite.

One little spark!
One little spark!

My friend Ashley has worn some amazing outfits.  While I loved what she’s done, I wasn’t sure about running in costume, much less running period, so I kept it simple.  For next time, I’m stepping it up and have a grand plan I can’t wait to share it with you!

3. runDisney is about inclusion – Jordan isn’t much of an athlete.  He has hypotonia, which means he can’t run for long periods of time.  So why did I sign him up for a race?  I had a lot of questions very similar to that as we waited at the finish line.

Boy is ready to run!

 

Parents are allowed to run with the kids, so I went out there with him.  When the starter pistol fired, he ran a little but very quickly announced he was tired.  I tried to encourage him to RUN RUN RUN, which he did.  And didn’t.  He was moving rapidly towards the back of the pack.  At the end when we could see the finish line, we saw Goofy waiting.  When Goofy spied Jordan as the last runner, he ran out and got him and cheered him (silently) across the finish line.  Jordan was disappointed that he finished last, but was thrilled that Goofy supported him.  Of course, when he got his medal, that was all he could talk about.

It seemed to take a really long time for Jordan’s race to start.  The time came and went, with no announcements other than “soon”.  I texted Sarah who was waiting at the finish line to see if she knew anything.  Then, coming from the finish line, I heard a huge cheer.  Sarah texted back right after to say the race was now over because the last competitor finished while pushing her wheelchair across the finish line.  Sarah said it was one of the most amazing things she had ever seen, and had mad respect for the girl who had pretty much won the hearts of everyone that day.  Mad props to Sarah Kate who rightly was the most amazing kid in the world that day.

4. runDisney is about supporting others – when I was done running the back loop of the 10K going around the lake at the back of Epcot, the final runner was coming out of Epcot to begin that same loop.  When I tell you that every single runner with me moved to the side to high five that runner and cheer her on, know that I am not exaggerating.

When I was finally done with the race, I could not walk.  No, really, I couldn’t walk.  My feet were killing me, and I was as sore as you can be.  I started shuffling off to the front of Epcot to meet my family.  I started to notice that someone was walking behind me and talking to me.  It was a woman named Trish, and she was telling me about all the races she’s run.  When I told her it was my first race EVAH, she insisted on buying me a latte to celebrate.  Just a wonderful act of kindness from a fellow runner.  Made me feel like I had entered some sort of special club.

5. THE SHINY MEDALS – when I tell you that I wore my medal around the whole day, I am not kidding.

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Minnie was most impressed by my outfit.

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So was the prince.  This year, I’m doing the Glass Slipper Challenge and when I finish, I will be wearing all three medals around my neck everywhere.  Let TSA try and pry them off me on the return trip home.  Ain’t gonna happen.

Have you run a runDisney race?  How was it?  And if you haven’t, tell me what race would you want to run?

The Cure for Soccer Fever is in New Jersey

WP_20140802_002Like many of my friends, I’m in a bit of a post World Cup hangover.  For a good month, we had access to the best soccer in the world, sometimes with more than one game a day.  While I am terribly nostalgic for those days of being spoiled soccer rotten, I know that there is a way to get my fix in.

In the NYC area, we have a top-flight MLS team of our very own.  Of course I am talking about the New York Red Bulls.  They have been members of the league since it’s inception, and play in an amazing, state of the art arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

We try to get to at least a game a year.  The Red Bulls are very involved in our soccer community and we usually find ourselves at events that they are participating in.  For instance, they were a part of the Verizon Wireless #vzwbuzz #soccerfever event that kicked off the world cup.

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Note, this post is NOT sponsored by Verizon or the Red Bulls.  Just sharing here people, just sharing.

Anyhow, we have several friends who are season ticket holders, and when one of them let us know he was not going to be able to use his tickets….well, I don’t think he got all the words out before we said YES PLEASE.  Sometimes opportunity has to knock before you take time out of your day to make something happen.

Our game was Saturday, August 2 and OF COURSE the opponent was a Boston team.  Yes, we were going to see the NY Red Bulls (who play in NJ) take on the New England Revolution.  Fine by me.  What’s another wrinkle in our family’s NY-Boston rivalry?

The seats our friend the season ticket holder has are considered club level.  I had never gone “club” before, so to speak, and I was curious to see what it was like.

On the day of the match, we ended up leaving A LOT of time to get to the arena.  How much time, you ask?  Well, the Bullevard opens 3 hours before the game, and they were just setting up when we got there.  In actuality, the drive from Westchester was 40 minutes.  I was prepared for traffic.  There was none.

Now, what’s the Bullevard, you ask?  Well, it’s a great assortment of family-friendly sponsor activities.  Jordan got to play a little FIFA ’14 thanks to AT&T and their truck o’video games.  WP_20140802_16_51_25_Pro

 

He also took a picture as a corporate shill.  As a loyal Verizon customer with a mother who loves her Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone (which, yes, was a prize won from Verizon), you know he was not happy.

WP_20140802_16_52_16_ProWe spend a little time playing games (there are Red Bulls trainers doing skills drills and hosting kick arounds on the Bullevard) until the club entrance opened.  How did we know where it was?  Oh, the Red Carpet told us…

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We went inside, and after the usual security check and ticket punching, we were off to the races.  Or, rather, the club lounge.  It was a good thing we were hungry.  You could definitely make a meal with everything they had inside.  Food ranged from simple kid-friendly offerings like hot dogs and house-made potato chips to more adult offerings like carved loin of pork and a RB clam bake.  I was thrilled to see a salad bar with roasted veggies and other toppings.  We had time to kill in here, and I can say we put that time to good use!

Carving station and home of the RB Clam bake
Carving station and home of the RB Clam bake
Hot Dogs and chips with Old Bay seasoning, anyone?
Hot Dogs and chips with Old Bay seasoning, anyone?
SALAD!  VEGGIES!  HAPPINESS!
SALAD! VEGGIES! HAPPINESS!

Husband and I were quite comfortable in the lounge, but Jordan was getting anxious.  He wanted to see some soccer, and he wasn’t going to wait!

"Me Want Soccer!"
“Me Want Soccer!”

We figured he’d get antsy in the seats, so we walked around the stadium.  It really is one of the finest in the land, and I do believe it would rival anything that the rest of the football world has to offer.  Even though we were stuffed to the gills, we were impressed with the offerings of food and beverage outside of the club.  I remember when the Red Bulls played at Giants Stadium and it was slim pickings for grub.  No more.  Fantastic beer selection too.

Finally, after we did a lap or two of the stadium, it was time to sit down.

Pre-game festivities
Pre-game festivities

I still resent Keith Olbermann’s comments about the Red Bulls.  He said something in one of his rants tirades Special Opinions that when you went to buy tickets to a Red Bulls match and asked what time it started, you were told, “What time can you get here?”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Red Bulls have an amazing base of loyal and devoted fans who show up in force to support their team.  Attendance for this match was announced at 20,800 something, which is pretty impressive for any sport.

The match was a classic from the beginning.  The Revs scored first, but the Red Bulls came back with 2 unanswered goals and won 2-1.  Jordan just loved it.  Our seats had a great view of the action, but I think it’s hard to find a bad seat in that place.  The lounge was open throughout the game, so when the men looked a little tired, I was able to run up to grab them some more popcorn.  The Gersteins officially at our weight in popcorn that night.  If you were there and found no popcorn in the club lounge, all I can say is “Sorry.  Not sorry.”

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So, if you need that cure for Soccer Fever, you simply must head out to Red Bull Arena to check out a game.  We drove from Westchester, but there are many mass transit options available, as the Arena is easily accessible to fans via public transportation including the PATH Trains and NJ Transit to the Harrison Station.  It’s great for families or a bunch of friends who want a night out.  If you get a chance to go for club seats, do it!  In addition to the special entrance and access to the club lounge, you get practically on the pitch seating and VIP parking.  The next home game is August 23rd versus Montreal, but there are games in September and October as well.  Check the web site for information on special multi-game ticket packages.  Don’t wait, get your cure for soccer fever now!

Get Social with the Red Bulls!

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/newyorkredbulls

Twitter – @NewYorkRedBulls

Website – www.newyorkredbulls.com

 

 

Great Times with the Staten Island Yankees

InstagramCapture_1de76183-f4ea-44fc-94d7-3494e7b90ac4_jpg_1Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the Staten Island Yankees. I received tickets for the game as well as food vouchers to facilitate my review.

Living near New  York City, you find yourself positively spoiled by the array of sporting teams available to view.  We have not one but two major league baseball teams, 2 basketball teams, 3 hockey teams (if you count the Islanders, which I usually don’t) and 2 football teams (that have the name NY but play in NJ).  But here’s the thing – most of the time, it’s pretty expensive to go to these games, if you count admission prices, food, transportation, and parking.

I love a good baseball game as much as the next girl, so when I got the chance to attend a Staten Island Yankees game, I was all in.  The SI Yanks, nicknamed “the Baby Bombers” are a short-season A minor league team that’s part of the NY Penn League.  They were originally brought to NY in 1999 as part of a deal brokered by noted Yankees fan Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  They play their games at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark on the northern tip of the island.

A minor league game offers the same experience of attending a great sporting event, at a lower cost which makes it great to bring a crowd.  Like most minor league teams, the SI Yanks keep ticket and concession prices down to attract a family audience.  Last time we brought the kids to a game, we spent over $150 including tickets and food.  No souvenirs that trip – thankfully there was a giveaway so we didn’t have to pay out for that as well.

The SI Yankees ballpark is really easy to get to from lower Manhattan.  A quick, FREE Staten Island Ferry ride will get you to within a few feet of the ballpark.  Really!

There’s nothing like a Staten Island Ferry ride.  It’s one of my favorite tips for tourists, and frankly, us New Yorkers could benefit from a quick sea getaway too.   You board the Ferry at the terminal – during peak times it normally runs every 20 minutes, but check the schedule to be sure.

Waiting with the crowd for the Ferry
Waiting with the crowd for the Ferry

While the game is a great option for families, because we were going on a weekend, we decided to make it a date night.  My husband works in the city, so I met him in front of the Ferry after he took the subway downtown.  We had a quick 10 minute wait before we were able to board the boat.

Our vessel!
Our vessel!

We ran to the top of the boat so we could have some amazing views of the city as we pulled out on the 15-20 ride to Staten Island.

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Can you believe this was his first ferry ride?  The views were unreal, as lower Manhattan disappeared into the horizon and we headed out to sea.

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Once on the Island, we were pleased to see people were respectful.  They greeted my husband quite nicely.

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OK, so that’s really the Staten Island Railroad.  Who knew?  Plus, the terminal is one of the few places in the area with a DQ.  I miss DQ.

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The St George terminal had great signage that directed us to the ballpark.  It was a 5 minute walk, tops.  Once we arrived, we got our tickets and checked out the place.  Like most things, we arrived an hour before the game so we had some time to explore.  The park is right on the water, and there are some beautiful views and lovely breezes, perfect for a hot summer night.

Beautiful ballpark by the water
Beautiful ballpark by the water

The Baby Bombers even have their own mascot.  Heck, the Yankees don’t even have a mascot.   Meet Scooter, the Holy Cow (Yanks fans will get that one, instantly!)

HOLY Cow!
HOLY Cow!

We decided to get something to eat and head to our seats.  To our delight, food was quite reasonably priced.  We had heard they revamped their menu, and could definitely see some unique options at reasonable prices.

One of the many concessions stands
One of the many concessions stands

While I thought Mister would go for the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, being a New England boy and all, he decided fried food was more his style.  I got a look at the pizza and thought it looked pretty good.  Still, I went with a classic.

Yum.  Nom.  And all that.
Yum. Nom. And all that.

Yes, it was great.  A Nathan’s hot dog and fries.  How can you beat that?

Now, after all that excitement, we were still there to see some baseball!  Our boys were playing the Lowell Spinners, a farm team of the Boston Red Sox.  Which, in actuality, made them Mister’s boys, as he is a Red Sox fan.  Sigh.  There is no escaping the NY-Bos rivalry in our world.

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The game was fun, but MY boys struggled, eventually pulling to a final score 4-11.  You can’t win them all.  But you can get ice cream!

InstagramCapture_dfce0dfb-49bb-4672-abff-9ec8d9884017_jpg We collect helmets from ballparks around the country, so this was a great addition to our stash.

After the game, we made our way back to the terminal for the quick ride back to the city.  From there, we could have taken trains home, but I had parked our car at a garage right next to the terminal, making it extra easy.  But if you are in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, taking the subway to the ferry is just the ticket for a fun night out.

After attending a game, I can say for certain that a Staten Island Yankees game is a great choice for families, couples who want a different kind of date night in the city, or friends looking to get together after work.  They host giveaways and special events (where were we on Disney Pirates and Princess night?) so be sure to check out their web site – there’s something for everyone!

Use promo-code: mommy for $12 tickets to a Staten Island Yankees game! Visit: http://atmilb.com/1x4QL1c for game schedules and ticket information.

Get social with the Staten Island Yankees!