Happy Forced Affection Day! My Reasons for Loathing Valentine’s Day.

For some, February 14th is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate your love for that very special someone…. ::ICK!::

Okay. I couldn’t even type that first sentence without feeling sick. Seriously. Let’s call Valentine’s Day what it really is…Forced Affection Day! And myself and fellow GeekMom Karen Walsh have plenty of reasons why our distaste runs deep.

1.) The endless supply of pink and red on everything from flowers to clothes to jewelry to food.

2.) Cards with, let’s face it, meaningless verses of love and devotion that will be thrown away by the next day, along with the hours you spent trying to find the “perfect” card.

3.) It’s a Hallmark holiday with the sole purpose of making money off of people who feel guilty if they don’t get a loved one something.

4.) Disturbing stuffed animals in all species and sizes with “I love you” or “I’m wild about you” or other cheesy pickup lines written on silk hearts. Talk about a creepy way of wasting $10. Continue reading Happy Forced Affection Day! My Reasons for Loathing Valentine’s Day.

Happy New Year!! Again. And Again.

The last week of 2015 was riddled with anxiety and depression. I was excited to start 2016 with the fresh start that a new year always promises us. One problem. I didn’t get a fresh start.

On New Year’s Eve 2015, I was in a very dark mental place. I held on to the fact that at midnight, much like Cinderella’s dress, my woes and pain would go away and I’d have a fresh start. Continue reading Happy New Year!! Again. And Again.

Review: Ant-Man Bonus Features — Small But Mighty

For those of us who are not Marveled out, Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man is a great film to add to our arsenal of movie night selections. You get all the greatness of a Marvel film with the added heist aspects of Ocean’s Eleven and shrinking comedy of Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a bonus shirtless-chiseled Paul Rudd. Continue reading Review: Ant-Man Bonus Features — Small But Mighty

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Winter Tour Review and Interview With Tour Manager Elliot Saltzman

Trigger Warning: Some of the videos below contain strobe effects.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is currently touring their brand new show, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, featuring the best of the past and the latest of the present. I’ve seen a couple of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s shows in the past and this year, I was thrilled to share my love of TSO’s amazing theatrics with my husband and son for the first time. Continue reading Trans-Siberian Orchestra Winter Tour Review and Interview With Tour Manager Elliot Saltzman

CloudPets – A Message You Can Hug

CloudPet a great idea for anyone with family or friends who live far away. Children with parent(s) on deployment, friends who have moved away, or other loved ones that aren’t near enough to give hugs in real time.

The toy is a stuffed animal with the ability to receive recorded messages sent via the Cloud Pet app. Messages can be up to 10 seconds in length and are transmitted to the animal via Bluetooth signal from the free CloudPets app.

When a message is received the red heart on the bear lights up and allows the holder to listen to the message with a press of a paw. In return, pressing another paw allows the child to send a message back to the original sender.
Continue reading CloudPets – A Message You Can Hug

Twas the Night Before Christmas, ICE Style!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Gaylord
Not a creature was stirring because they were all frozen solid.
The stockings were carved on the mantle piece there.
Ready for people to walk by in parkas to give them a stare. Continue reading Twas the Night Before Christmas, ICE Style!

‘Star Wars’ Saga Gold Box Unboxing with SuperHeroStuff.com

Just in time for The Force Awakens, SuperHeroStuff.com has debuted the latest in their HeroBox line, the Star Wars Saga Gold/Silver boxes. The Gold box promises $100 worth of force-filled joy for $79 and the Silver box has at least $70 worth of goodies for $49.

I jumped into my box with graby hands and the hopes of a few new Star Wars items I could take with my on my upcoming Disney Cruise.

Here is a listing of the items shown in the video with their respective prices:

Socks: $8.99
Han Solo in Carbonite Ice Cube Tray: $12.99
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Puzzle Tower: $4.99
Star Wars Cups: $5.99 (this item is only available through the HeroBox program)
Metal Earth Millenium Falcon Kit: $14.99
Poe and Ren Tote Bag: $6.99
Vader Pom Beanie: $19.99
Star Wars Badges Decals: $5.99
Star Wars R2-D2 Fuweet Women’s T-Shirt: $23.99
Grand Total: $104.91 before tax. 

I have to say that out of the other HeroBoxes I’ve reviewed, this one has the most promising amount of value for the money and I’m happy with what I was sent.

The Star Wars Saga Gold and Silver boxes are available for a limited time, so grab one while you can. If Star Wars isn’t your thing, check out the 13 other choices that they have on a monthly basis! Boxes start at $49 for a small box of goodies to $69 to a larger box.

Disclaimer: GeekMom was given a review sample. 

Top 10 Reasons to Visit SeaWorld During the Holidays

SeaWorld shines the brightest at Christmas time, and this year, I’m counting down the top 10 reasons why you should stop by for a visit on your holiday vacation.

10. “Elmo’s Christmas Wish” – This is a very popular show and fills up fast. I’d say this is mostly for the younger crowd, but if you have some time to kill, it’s an upbeat and air conditioned presentation that is full of fun.

Tasha and Yar were a blast to learn with. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Tasha and Yar were a blast to learn with. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

9. Dolphin training experience – SeaWorld replaced the feeding experience with a new interactive training experience. For $15 a person, you’re given a time and paired up with a trainer and two dolphins. This is a more intimate experience than hoping a dolphin will swim your way when you dangle a smelly fish over the water. Continue reading Top 10 Reasons to Visit SeaWorld During the Holidays

Ditch the Trees. Get a Wipebook.

An ode to the trees.
Ohh tree. So nice and pretty.
Killing you for your many uses.
I’ve wasted your trunk.
I’ve wasted your branches.
But no more.
I have a Wipebook now.

Okay, so Shakespeare I’m not, but nor am I a paper waster anymore.

While so many people are going digital, I still prefer to write with a pen and put my thoughts or notes down on something tangible. I usually have a small pad of paper handy in my backpack, my desk, my house, my car, and anywhere else I normally visit. It became taxing, though, because I end up with so many pads and notes. That forces me to would combine them all into one sheet of paper once a week or so. Then I would end up rewriting those notes to a new pad and rehashing my to do lists (because I can’t stand having complete items on the same page as to do items).

Take into account that I’m a full-time Network Administrator, wife, mother, student, and writer, and that equals out to a lot of notes.

It was a cycle of self-destruction.

Wipebook offered me a solution: one notebook of about 50 sheets of wipe off goodness. I could put all my notes in one notebook and after I was done with something, just wipe it off the page; instant blank slate to start over

Continue reading Ditch the Trees. Get a Wipebook.

Dakster Dances Anxiety Away With the “Macarena”

Anxiety and depression have prevented me from doing some normal day to day things for most of my life. Over the past five years, I’ve learned something very valuable; put me in armor or a costume and, despite my mental battles, you can see my natural personality shine.

This year, I started going back to school for my degree in Media Communications. The first week of my new class I was tasked with creating a video that showcased my goals and who I am. I had to upload it to YouTube as “unlisted” so my instructor and classmates could see it.

<Insert panic attack here>

I freaked when I read the assignment. I emailed my instructor, sent him messages on the classroom board, called his campus office, all because I was having a panic attack over making a simple 4-minute video with me as the main subject. Continue reading Dakster Dances Anxiety Away With the “Macarena”

Sit or Stand: With the Varidesk Pro Desk 54, It’s Up To You

I sit at a desk around 40+ hours per week at my office. My old desk was nothing more than a six-foot table that was not wide enough for me to stretch my long legs and not tall enough for me to sit ergonomically.

For the past four weeks, I’ve been using a Varidesk Pro Desk 54 and I love it.

The Varidesk Pro Desk 54 has the largest surface area of all the Varidesks at 54-inches wide and 32 inches deep and can accommodate multiple monitors and a laptop.

It shipped in two big and heavy boxes, but upon opening them, it only took a few screws, 20 minutes, and a second person to help me put it in place.

The Varidesk Pro Desk 54 in the wild (pardon the mess). \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
The Varidesk Pro Desk 54 in the wild (pardon the mess). \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

After I put all my geekery on my desk, I decided to take it for a sitting to standing position test run.

For the most part, it went smoothly. I realized some of my wires weren’t long enough and would need extensions, but other than that, nothing moved. It took a bit of force to go back to a sitting position, but after a few practice runs, I figured out my footing and it was smooth sailing.

My favorite feature is the ability to put the desk at virtually any height between its lowest point (28 inches) and highest point (42 inches). I use a drafting chair, so it sits a bit higher than a regular chair and the ability to adjust the desk to my chair height is a major plus.

Like most things these days, the desk has an app that reminds you when you’ve been sitting too long. You can adjust the default recommended times to suit your needs and while I don’t always do what the app says, I appreciate the reminder.

As an IT professional, this desk is a breath of fresh air for me when I need a break but can’t leave my workspace.

From a design standpoint, it’s very clean and easily fits in with the decor around my office.

Material-wise, the top part of the desk is made of wood with a synthetic overlay. It doesn’t feel cheap and easily holds up to the weight and pressure I put it under. Everything below the main surface is metal and, once in place, it takes two people to move it again.

The only downside I can see for this particular model are the holes in the side that allow you to move it up and down. I’ve had to cover them up when I’m sitting so I don’t accidentally put my drink or snacks through the hole and onto my floor.  Seeing as they are there to help you raise and lower the desk, I consider them a necessary evil.

The surface texture is a little bumpy when writing on it, but it’s not something I would call a deal breaker. I only notice the texture when I’m writing. I’ve cleaned my desk with alcohol, Lysol wipes, and water with no loss of color or long-standing smell/stickiness.

The Varidesk Pro Desk 54 is available through Varidesk and will run you $500 plus shipping and handling.

Practice Makes Easier Panic Attacks

It’s no secret here on GeekMom that I suffer from anxiety and depression. I’ve had it all my life, but it wasn’t until the past couple of years that I had a name to go with what I suffered through. I’ve learned so many tools to help me, but none of them offered any relief during the worst of my panic attacks. It’s kind of like learning a new math equation but only being given the opportunity to practice it during the test. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Have you seen the quote that goes something like this?

I drink green tea. I meditate. I burn candles. But I still want to slap someone. Continue reading Practice Makes Easier Panic Attacks

A Girl and The “Apple Demon” – My First MacBook Pro

The Apple Demon. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
The Apple Demon. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

This is a story about a girl name Dakster and her adventure into Apple Land.

Dakster loved Windows computers more than anything. They’re shiny. They’re easy to use. And if they break, her degree in Computer Engineering and day job as a Network Administrator gave her the skills to either fix it or turn it into a toaster.

She can take a computer apart, put it back together, and get it working again quicker than most people can take apart a pen and put it back in working condition. She’s tamed servers, copiers, laptops, and desktop PCs with her mad computer skills that she’s obtained over her 15 years of working with Windows computers. Continue reading A Girl and The “Apple Demon” – My First MacBook Pro

Reading Gives You Superpowers Giveaway!

The main character of the Captain Underpants series keeps my son in stitches, and I get a few good laughs myself from the writer’s obvious jokes concerning his critics.

The latest book, Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot by Dav Pilkey, picks up where the last one left off (and if you haven’t read it, you will be admittedly a little lost in the begining) with two Georges and two Harolds enjoying life because they each only have to attend school half the time while their other selves play video games in their tree house. Not all remains calm, however, when the stench of Mr. Meaner attempts to use mind control to turn all of his students into well-behaved children!

Wait! How is creating well-behaved children a bad thing? Mr. Meaner, call me; I’ll introduce you to Kickstarter!

My favorite lines in the book have been the jokes on the “old people with too much time on their hands” in chapter 2. I’m taking a wild guess that this is in reference to the Captain Underpants series being on the top 10 list of most frequently banned books of the 21st century.

Have no fear, fellow readers! Captain Underpants saves the day and today, he’s dropping off a Super Reader Prize Pack for one lucky reader.

From now through Tuesday, September 8, you can enter to win a super prize pack!

Super Reader Prize Pack \ Image courtesy of Big Honcho Media Used and with permission
Super Reader Prize Pack \ Image courtesy of Big Honcho Media Used and with permission

One lucky reader will receive:
· A copy of Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot
· A branded Captain Underpants T-shirt
· A $50 Visa gift card to fill out your super reader’s bookshelf!

To enter our giveaway, just log into the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address. (Use a valid email, so we can let you know if you win.) You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two additional entries! If you already like/follow us, it will still enter you in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget, so you can check back to see who won.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: GeekMom was given a review copy of this title.

‘Ghost Hunters’ Season 10: An Interview With Jason Hawes

Back in June, I was given the chance to talk with Jason Hawes, founder of T.A.P.S. (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) about his life in the paranormal and parenting worlds. Now, in celebration of the 10th season of Ghost Hunters airing this month, I’d like to share with you the second half of that interview, where Jason gives some behind the scenes knowledge about the show and things he has experienced.

GeekMom: How long does the average episode take from researching the case to end credits? What kind of research goes into each case prior to filming?

Jason Hawes: Cases can take a long time. We’ve had some “not on TV” that have lasted months.

Cases for the show take about two weeks to film. Then the editing process can take a few months to put it together. For every hour we film there are 4-5 production cameras rolling. So every hour equals 4-5 hours of footage for the editors.

The way the show is edited does make it look like we are in a location for a couple hours and then done. That is not the fact. We investigated the Stanley Hotel for five days, but you can’t tell that when watching the show. In infrared, all our shirts look the same color, so most of the time people can’t tell that we are in a different outfit from shot to shot.

We try not to research anything about a location until after the investigation and then see if our evidence matches or connects with any history or claims of the location. Doing things this way allows us not to contaminate ourselves.

Think of it like this: If we researched prior and found that a young boy by the name of Timmy died in a back room in a location, then we may automatically assume anything we catch is related to that boy. Instead, we go in with a clear head and see what, if anything, is in the location.

GM: What do you think about how the paranormal is depicted on TV in shows like Supernatural and in the movies?

JH: I have no issue with it. People are going to find some things they like and dislike about any show. The fact that it helps people connect to the paranormal is the most important thing. Just like with the other shows that have come and gone, everyone has their own style, their own method. It’s truly what helps propel this field.

Ghost Hunters Season 10 Crew! \ Image courtesy of SyFy Channel and used with permission
Ghost Hunters Season 10 Crew! \ Image courtesy of SyFy Channel and used with permission.

GM: What kind of tech do you take on the average case?

JH: I always take digital voice recorders, camcorders, thermal, and EMF meters.

GM: If you were stranded in a haunted house, what one piece of equipment (other than a flashlight) could you not live without?

JH: My common sense. Lots of times things are not always as they are perceived. Anyone can carry equipment, but if they don’t have enough common sense to be willing to truly look for an explanation then there isn’t any piece of equipment out there that will assist them in finding the truth.

GM: Is there anything about the upcoming season that you are particularly excited about?

JH: First, hanging with my oldest daughter Samantha. I’m so proud of the woman and the mother she has become in her life. Secondly, seeing how far Steve Gonsalves has stepped up since Grant’s departure. Most don’t realize I have known Steve longer then I’ve known Grant. We’ve been friends for over 20 years. I have pictures of him playing with my daughters Samantha and Haily when they were babies. We have had some incredible cases this season. Some unbelievable evidence as well. I’m very excited about it being viewed.

GM: How does the film crew react while filming? Do they ever get freaked out?

JH: We have had production crew members quit the show after seeing things that they can’t explain or having a startling experience. They signed on to be production members, most are far from ready to encounter a ghost or spirit.

GM: Have you ever had an investigation where something happened that was too personal or private for TV?

JH: I did. We did a case in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. While there I was given a reading by a sensitive “psychic.” Now, I felt he wouldn’t get anything so I was okay with it. He started really hitting points in my life that no one had ever brought up and I have always kept private. I had to cut the reading short.

GM: What are you doing behind the scenes when the rest of the team is looking over the evidence?

JH: Sleeping in the truck. LOL. No, Seriously I go over evidence as well. They just don’t ever show it. Most of the time because I take the evidence home with me and analyze it there. I keep the cameras away from my home and children for their safety.

GM: How do you handle situations when you’re on an investigation and find that the owners have rigged it to mess with you or trip you up?

JH: I show it. I figure it this way: You want to be famous, then okay. It may not be how you wanted to be famous, but you made the decision. Also, the fans and other investigators who have supported us need to know what we sometimes have to deal with.

Bonus question!

GM: My husband wants to know if you ever plan on going to the lighthouse in St. Augustine again and if so, do you have room in your truck to bring him along?

Jason: As long as he’s willing to help setup, break down and climb 200 stairs numerous times. LOL.

Make sure to tune in when Ghost Hunters returns to SyFy on August 26th at 9/8 Central.

Changing the World: One Panic Attack at a Time

You can usually tell what kind of day I'm having by the messages I write to myself on my arm. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
You can usually tell what kind of day I’m having by the messages I write to myself on my arm. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

It hasn’t always been easy to be open with my struggles. I would hide my pain and suffer in silence. One day, I realized that I was tired of being quiet. I realized that I have nothing to be ashamed of and it’s not something I do for attention. It’s a real struggle and I wasn’t going to be silent anymore. In fact, I would find a platform and scream about it at the top of my fingers. In comes GeekMom.

I started slowly by talking about my struggles on Facebook with “friends only posts.” This was an eye-opening experience, because as I shared, other people came out of the woodwork by commenting or sending me private messages. And just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore.

This small step turned into my next big step. Writing about it on GeekMom.

My first post about anxiety and depression went live when we were on Wired.com. You’d think that on a platform as big as Wired, I would have had at least one troll.

In truth, I didn’t receive one single negative comment. Instead, messages of support and understanding came pouring in.

It may seem like it’s easy for me to write-up about my struggles, but in truth, it can be rather difficult. Not the writing part, but putting the post in for editing and scheduling. Reading it on the site and promoting it. Those are the hard parts.

My post about my experience with Ashley Eckstein was one of the harder ones I’ve done and, in truth, I’ve nearly cried several times reading it after it went live. Reliving the painful experiences and panic attacks through writing can be hard. But reading them live on a website can be downright draining.

Despite the emotions that writing about my struggles causes me, I’m glad I do it.

I’m lucky enough to have a support system that surrounds me with love and understanding every time I have a panic attack or I’m having a bad day. Not everyone is that fortunate.

While I’m going through an episode, I’m certainly not happy with my situation. I’ve screamed “WHY??” and waited for an answer. I’ve wished it would all end quickly and let the pain be over with permanently.

When it’s all over, though, and my son is there to give me hugs and my husband to get me a cold cloth to wipe my face, I realize how strong I really am. The panic attacks and anxiety do not define me. The strength I show by getting up after they are over with and going on with my life, do.

I show my struggles on Facebook, Twitter, and here on GeekMom because I know not everyone has the support system I do and I want others to know that I’m here. I understand.

For those who don’t have anxiety and depression, I show my struggles to teach them that it’s not all in our heads. It’s real. It hurts. And just like anyone else with an illness, we should be treated with kindness and respect.

Recently I took my mission to be open to the next level and shared a video on Facebook of me having a panic attack.

In the video, I talk to myself and say out loud what is going on in my head. I made sure to emphasize to my friends and anyone who saw the video that I was not in any danger and had no thoughts of hurting myself or others. To put it simply, I was scared. Terrified actually.

When I felt I had shown and talked enough, I turned off my phone, sat up, and realized I felt a ton better. My therapist said it’s because I acknowledged the feelings and by hearing myself talk, I realized how illogical my fears really were. My brain was once again playing tricks on me.

Unless you know someone with anxiety and are privileged to be close enough to them for them to let you in when the really bad times hit, you’ve probably never seen a panic attack or recognized what it was when you saw someone else having one.

By having my sharing start out small and by forcing myself to have the courage to take bigger steps each time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me.

All of this sharing hasn’t been easy, but the rewards of support and seeing others who have suffered in darkness coming into the light have made it worth it. When having a panic attack or going through a depressing day, it can make us feel like we are totally alone. By being open with my struggles, I’ve shown others they are not alone and, in turn, I’ve ended up with a support system stronger than anything I could have begged for in my darkest hour.

To see more posts that I’ve written about anxiety and depression, click in the search box at the top of this page and do a search for “anxiety.”

Dear Ashley Eckstein, Thank you. Again.

Her Universe Response \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Her Universe Response \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

This week, I had one of those moments that as a writer I cherish. I sat down, started writing from the heart and didn’t stop until my heart said it was time. The end result was a letter to Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars Rebels, thanking her for her help in making me realize that things are not always as bad as anxiety makes it out to seem.

I shared the post on Twitter and Facebook hoping someone would see it and it help them learn the same lesson that I was fortunate to learn.

The day after the post went live, I was sitting at my desk at work and my phone dinged. “Her Universe favorited your tweet.” My heart skipped a beat. She had seen it.


“Her Universe retweeted your tweet.”

Heart started beating a little faster. Continue reading Dear Ashley Eckstein, Thank you. Again.

Back To School 2015: Electronics, Gadgets, and Shiny Stuff!

Back to School \ Image: flickr user Jesuscm some rights reserved
Back to School \ Image: Flickr user Jesuscm, some rights reserved.

It’s time to head back to school and in this year’s planning guide, we have a little bit of style, a little bit of gadgets, and a lot of coolness. So let’s get started!

Electronic Accessories
Witti Dotti ($69.99)
This app-controlled pixel light will keep you posted on all of your notifications, with the added bonus of being able to customize the lights to suit your style.

Photo App Keyboards \ Image: Photojojo
Photo App Keyboards \ Image: Photojojo

Keyboard Shortcut Skins ($30)
Keyboard Shortcut Skins by Photojojo are one of my go-to accessories for my MacBook Pro. I have the one for Final Cut Pro and it’s a huge help when trying to learn the program. Shortcut Skins are also available for Photoshop (CS4/CS5/CS6), Aperture (2.0/3.0), Final Cut Pro/Express, or Lightroom (2/3/4/5). The available keyboard models include the MacBook with black or white keys, Macbook Air 13″, Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/o Numeric Keypad, and the Apple Ultra-Thin Keyboard w/Numeric Keypad. Use coupon code: GEEKMOM for $5 off!

Scosche’s freeKEY ($49.99)
For the student on the go, check out this roll-up bBuetooth keyboard.

Ultimate Screen Care Kit by Dust Off ($24.99)
Electronic users should have one of these in every bag they carry. It comes with a bottle of screen cleaner, a cleaning shammy, and a mobile cleaning pad.

Power Tap \ Image courtesy of Thumbs Up UK
Power Tap \ Image courtesy of Thumbs Up UK

Power USB Tap by Thumbs Up UK ($19.71)
The Power Tap is a fun and unique way to “turn on” power to your device for charging. The blue/red light tells you if the device is charging or not and offers a great little nightlight to any room.

Scanmarker ($79.99)
I’m not a fan of highlights in my textbooks because I usually end up typing my notes anyway. With the Scanmarker, I can just scan my notes in directly from my textbook without marking them up (makes for better resale value as well). The Scanmarker lets you capture text and then edit it on your computer.

Gunnar Optiks Gaming/Computer Glasses ($50-150 depending on whether you need a prescription)
These glasses ease eye strain for anyone who spends a lot of time looking at screens (computer or gaming). They really work. It’s not magic; it’s a combination of anti-glare coating and amber tinting.

Nyrius Aries Prime ($199.99)
Apple users have been able to stream their PC to a TV with the help of Apple TV and now Windows users can do the same thing with Nyrius Aries Prime. I use this at home when previewing my slideshows for class and I love it. My son loves it too because he likes to stream his Minecraft games to our TV.

Inateck MP 1300 13.3 Inch Macbook Air Sleave \ Image courtesy of Inateck
Inateck MP 1300 13.3-inch MacBook Air Sleeve \ Image courtesy of Inateck

Inateck MacBook Sleeve ($16.99)
A soft, felted sleeve for your MacBook. This gender neutral case allows you to transport your laptop in your backpack or purse in style.

Lumo Lift Posture and Activity Tracker ($79.99)
Posture is something everyone needs work on here and there. The Lumo Lift will tell you when you are slouching and keep a record of how much time a day you spend in a good posture. It’s a nifty little device for those of us who spend our day sitting at a desk and are not always aware of how we are sitting until it’s too late.

Kinivo BTH220 ($20.99)
I’ve had more than one pair of Kinivo headphones and for the price, they’re pretty good. These are over-the-ear headphones that work via Bluetooth, with buttons to play your music as well as make and receive phone calls.

Audiofly’s AF33 Headphones ($39.99)
If wired headphones are more your thing, check out Audiofly’s AF33. They may be on the pricey side, but they offer noise isolation and are comfy to wear.

Scosche’s goBAT 6000 ($54.99)
I love this little battery charger because it doesn’t require any cables. Just plug it into the wall when the battery dies and wait for the red light to go off. It’s also lightweight compared to other chargers and is small enough to fit into your back pocket.

Coffee Cup Power Inverter V2.0 ($34.99)
When my husband first saw this, he thought it was a mug you can heat up in the car. He was kind of close. It’s a charger that looks like a coffee cup and can accommodate up to two wall chargers and one USB cable. The best part is that it fits in your cup holder so there’s no awkward worrying about where to put it while it’s plugged in. 

Tablift ($59.99)
My brother saw this and thought I would be lazy for using it. He obviously hasn’t tried to lay in bed while watching lectures and taking notes. Not to mention, it’s great for keeping your hands free while watching a movie, so you can eat your snacks. I set it up the other day to hold my iPad to help me follow directions on a sewing pattern. Tablift helped keep it off the floor and out of my pup’s mouth. 

Stress Relievers and Fun

Recess for the Soul \ Image courtesy of Deepfun.com
Recess for the Soul \ Image courtesy of Deepfun.com

Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven
Meditations on the mind’s “inner playground” are perfect for teachers to practice with kids of all ages. Parents too. Check out the recording Recess for the Soul by Bernie DeKoven to practice exercises for “inner swing set” and “teeter-taughter teachings.” It’s $20 for the CD, $9.99 for the iTunes album, or $0.99 per track.

Oregon Scientific Aroma Diffuser Elite ($99.99)
Who doesn’t want to wake up to the smell of their favorite essential oil? Instead of waking you up with a noise you just hit the snooze on, this alarm clock wakes you up to the essential oil of your choice. If you are not allergic, I suggest starting the day off with peppermint. It’s my favorite.

DreamPad 26 \ Image courtesy of ILS
DreamPad 26 \ Image courtesy of ILS

Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 with Optional Bluetooth Receiver ($209)
Not everyone wants to fall asleep to white noise or music. Integrated Listening System’s Dreampad 26 has a built-in speaker that lets you plug in your device and listen to your heart’s content, while not disturbing those around you. If you want to keep your device charging while you sleep, pick up the optional Bluetooth receiver as well.

Lunch Box Jokes \ Image courtesy of Lunchboxjokes.com
Lunch Box Jokes \ Image courtesy of Lunchboxjokes.com

Lunchbox Jokes: 100 Fun Tear-Out Notes for Kids ($7.99)
Add extra humor to cafeteria time with Lunchbox Jokes: 100 Fun Tear-Out Notes for Kids. It’s especially good for 1st to 3rd grades.

Color Me Crazy: Insanely Detailed Creations to Challenge Your Skills and Blow Your
Pick up some colored pencils, make yourself a blanket fort, and color your cares away in this adult coloring book. I enjoy coloring in mine when I have a headache or when I’m anxious and it helps me forget the pain.

Scrabble Twist ($19.99)
Scrabble Twist is my newest addiction. It’s small enough to fit into a purse and has multiplayer and solo game features. A single game lasts about a minute, so it offers a quick break from studying. 


Xventure SmartCord Sling bag \ Image courtesy of Brakentron
Xventure SmartCord Sling bag \ Image courtesy of Bracketron

Bracketron: SmartCord Sling Bag ($24.99)
The Braketron: SmartCord Sling Bag will protect your tablet/smartphone and other personal belongings from the weather and has a special holder to make sure your headphones are close by. Great for anyone who has minimal stuff to carry.

Zelda Eject Backpack ($54.99)
My favorite part of this Zelda-themed backpack is not that it’s Zelda, but that the lunch box is on the outside and comes off. If you want to carry just the lunch box, unzip the edges and attach the shoulder strap. Otherwise, you have a cooler and a backpack in one.

Pelican Elite \ Image courtesy of Pelican
Pelican Elite \ Image courtesy of Pelican

Pelican Elite Luggage ($505)
For the students with expensive stuff in their luggage or who plan on taking it white water rafting, check out the Pelican Elite Luggage. I use mine for carrying my costumes to and from events so I don’t arrive with a broken Bat cowl.

Build On Brick Bookends ($19.99)
Build your own bookends with ThinkGeek’s Lego bookends. Lego bricks not included.

Zoku Ice Cream Maker ($25.49) and Zoku Slush & Shake Maker ($17.95)
The Zoku Ice Cream Maker and the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker are a must-have for the dorm room refrigerator. My family loves pouring soda into the slush maker and getting a frosty treat within minutes. And with Pinterest having truckloads of ice cream recipes, it’s hard to pick which one to make first.

AutoSeal Kangaroo Water Bottle with Pocket ($12.18) and Gizmo Sip Kids Water Bottles ($9.81)
Keep your student hydrated with the Kangaroo Water Bottle or the Gizmo. Both have a great seal on them and won’t spill when tossed in your backpack. (I toss mine in with my iPad all the time.) The Kangaroo comes in a variety of colors and holds 24 ounces. The Gizmo model comes in four different colors and holds 14 ounces of your child’s favorite drink. Both are dishwasher-safe. My suggestion is to keep only water in them if your only option is hand-washing.

Slim Sack \ Image courtesy of Greenpaxx.com
Slim Sack \ Image courtesy of Greenpaxx.com

Slim Snack
($13.95 for a four-pack)

Talk about your eco-friendly, multi-purpose product. Slim Snack is it. These leak-proof silicone tubes are perfect for packing fruit, granola, applesauce, veggies, or whatever. When school’s out for the summer, use them to make your own ice pops out of blended fruit or juices. Each one is easy to fill, even for kids, especially if you stand one up in drinking glass.


Toothless Tail Fin Fighter Skirt \ Image courtesy of WeLoveFine
Toothless Tail Fin Fighter Skirt \ Image courtesy of WeLoveFine

WeLoveFine Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt ($25)
Get your dragon training on with this skirt inspired by Toothless the dragon.

Avengers Assemble Charm Bead Set – ThinkGeek Exclusive ($119.95)
Assemble the charms!

Rocket Raccon \ Image courtesy of SuperHeroStuff.com
Rocket Raccon \ Image courtesy of SuperHeroStuff.com

Rocket Raccoon Hooded Women’s Tank Top w/ Tail ($44.99)
This is one of my favorite pieces from SuperHeroStuff.com because I get so many compliments on it. I love the fluffy ears and the removable tail.

Superhero Belts from Superherostuff.com ($17.99)
Keep those pants where they should be with superhero style.

Batgirl Rhinestone Watch ($34.99)
Every superhero needs a watch and this one is sparkly and awesome.

Tote and Scarf \ Image courtesy of Uncommon Goods
Tote and Scarf \ Image courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Library Card Tote Bag and Literary Scarf ($20 for the Tote and $48 for the Scarf)
Uncommon Goods, which specializes in high-quality items from independent makers, offers this pair of stylish accessories for teachers, librarians, or book lovers. The natural cotton tote is printed to look like a vintage library card, instantly noticeable by anyone who has every checked out a book from a library. The silk-screen cotton infinity scarf contains passages from a choice of three timeless classics: Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, or Wuthering Heights. Both products are sold on their own, with the tote made in Brooklyn and the scarf by  Tori Tissell out of Portland, Oregon.

When it comes to back to school, you can never have enough gadgets. What items are in your students’ arsenal for the new school year? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: GeekMom may have received samples of some of these items. 

Dear Ashley Eckstein, You Saved Me

Star Wars Celebration VI \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Star Wars Celebration VI before I “embarrassed” myself. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Dear Ashley:

I’m not sure if you remember me; because of my anxiety, I don’t always feel like someone worth remembering. We’ve met a few times. The first time was when I embarrassed myself in front of you at Star Wars Celebration VI and a year or so later when you saved me.

A few years ago at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, I had the privilege of having a few minutes of your time at the cupcake party you hosted with Food Network.

During those short minutes talking with you, I felt I had embarrassed myself beyond forgiveness. After I left the party that day, my mind obsessed over those two minutes and that pain continued for months afterward.

You see, I have anxiety and depression and that’s how my brain works. I perceive myself as screwing up even slightly and my mind makes my feel like a complete waste of space and time until the next screw up I make.

A year or so went by and we met again. This time at the Orlando Science Center while you were helping to promote the “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” exhibit.

Ashley Eckstein on stage at the Star Wars Exhibit \ Image courtesy of Orlando Science Center
Ashley Eckstein on stage at the Star Wars Exhibit \ Image courtesy of Orlando Science Center, used with permission

I almost didn’t go up to you that day because of what happened at Celebration VI, but my friend Fletch helped me brave the stage and I took the opportunity to apologize to you for my embarrassing moment at Celebration VI.

You were a little surprised and waved it off like it was nothing, assuring me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about and you had forgotten all about it. From your side of the table, I’m sure it was just another fan interaction. For me, it was much more.

That moment that saved me.

It had never occurred to me that the interaction with you that I had been obsessing over for months and even so embarrassed about that I avoided you at Star Wars Weekends would be something that you thought nothing of. On top of that, I never imagined that you would forget all about it.

The other night while meditating, this moment came back to me and how you had made me feel so much better about what my mind perceived as a horrific moment. Then I started to remember when I met James Arnold Taylor at SWW in 2013 and an interaction with Michael Rooker at MegaCon this year. Could it be that those scenarios were the same and my mind was playing tricks on me to make me feel something that wasn’t real?

My guess is yes.

As I’m writing this post, I have tears starting to form because I finally feel free of the pain my mind has been inflicting on me over these brief interactions with people I’ve only met a few times. I credit this new found freedom to you and your kindness that day at the science center.

I have a lot of embarrassing moments to re-think about now and how those brief interactions may have either been forgotten or never seen as embarrassing to begin with. It won’t be easy to go through this exercise, but it’s necessary if I want to be free of the lies the anxiety has been telling me and preventing me from enjoying what should be happy memories.

I feel stupid for it taking this long for the light bulb to come on, but now that it has, I plan in making sure it doesn’t dim out again. The next time I have an embarrassing moment, I’ll think back to the science center that day and remind myself that my mind is a trickster and it’s more than likely not really as bad as my mind is making it out to be.


A grateful fan.

Back To School 2015: Books To Stock Your Shelves

Minecraft Enchantment Table \ Attribution Some rights reserved by flickr user brownpau
Minecraft Enchantment Table. Some rights reserved by flickr user brownpau.

It’s time to head back to school and I’ve compiled a list of books I recommend you stock your shelves with for a profitable reading year.

Books For the Very Young

The Flowers Primer \ Image Fair Use
The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer \ Image BabyLit Books

The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer, and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer ($9.99)
BabyLit, who specializes in introducing kids to classic literature with beginning reader board books, just introduced their latest pair to the series. Author Jennifer Adams and artist Alison Oliver celebrate “Little Miss Burnett” and “Little Master Cervantes” with The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer.

The Flowers Primer shows young readers flowers featured in The Secret Garden, accompanied by a small quote. The Spanish Language Primer includes characters and items featured in Don Quixote, in both English and Spanish. This book works for both native Spanish and English speakers, with phonetic spellings on the back geared towards speakers of each language.

Both of these little gift books are a great way to get first-time students excited about reading and literature, as well as the natural world and different cultures. [Ages two and up.]

Books For Ages 8 and Up

Hamster Princess \ Image: Fair Use
Hamster Princess \ Image: Dial Books

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon  ($6.49)
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible is my favorite title on this list. It’s a graphic novel that follows Princess Harriet who learns that she cannot be harmed until her 13th birthday, thanks to a Sleeping Beauty-like curse she received as a baby. It’s a fun story about a young girl who wants the adventure and action usually reserved for the princes. Available August 18, 2015. [Ages 8 and up—though younger children will enjoy this title as well.]

Hilo Book 1 \ Image: Fair Use
Hilo: Book 1 \ Image: Random House

Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth graphic novel by Judd Winick ($6.99) 
A young boy falling from space has no idea where he came from or why going to school in his underwear is a bad idea. Sound like your kind of story? Then, this is the book for you. My son’s only complaint is that the sequel doesn’t come out until next year. It ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, so if you have young ones who can’t handle waiting till next year (and who can blame them?), I’d use this as an opportunity to have them write their own sequel. Available September 1, 2015. [Ages 8 and up, although younger readers may enjoy this being read to them.]

My Brother is a Superhero \ Image: Fair Use
My Brother Is a Superhero \ Image: Viking Books

My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons ($10.61)
Two brothers are hanging out in their tree house, when the younger brother’s life is changed with the four little words: “I need to pee.” When he returns to the tree house, he finds that his older brother now has superpowers and he missed his chance all because “nature” was calling. It’s a fun story that my son loved so much, when I was too tired to read at night, he climbed into bed with me and read out-loud to me. [Ages 8 – 12.]

Mission Explore Food \ Image: Fair Use
Mission: Explore Food \ Image: Can of Worms Kids Press

The Geography Collective
Get kids moving and investigating with unique, pocket-sized books by The Geography Collective. Each one is packed with activities that are made to be marked up and smeared as they’re used. Try Mission: Explore Food, with over 270 pages of strangely enticing ideas. Other titles include Mission: Explore on the Road and Mission: Explore Camping. Perfect for home or travel, and teachers can use these ideas too. Also know that more titles are available in the UK. [Ages 9-12.]

Mission: Explore Food (hardcover $29.90)
Mission: Explore on the Road (paperback $7.99)
Mission: Explore Camping (paperback $7.99)

Medieval Lego \ Image: Fair Use
Medieval Lego \ Image: No Starch Press

Medieval Lego  by Greyson Beights ($11.06)
Take a journey through English history in the Middle Ages with Lego. Written with the help of medievalists and scholars, this title will keep your young knights and princesses interested in the medieval times. [Ages 8 and up.]

The Lego Adventure Vol. 3 \ Image: Fair Use
The Lego Adventure Book, Vol. 3 \ Image: No Starch Press

The Lego Adventure Book, Vol. 3  by Megan H. Rothrock ($18.46)
Follow the story of Megs and Brickbot as they face their toughest challenge: the return of the Destructor. On their journey, the two meet some of the world’s greatest Lego builders and show you how to build a Renaissance house, a classic movie theater, sushi, and much more. Available September 25, 2015. [Ages 9 and up.]

Young Adult

Smart Girls Guide to Privacy \ Image: Fair Use
The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy \ Image: No Starch Press

The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy by Violet Blue ($13.76)
In the digital age, everyone needs to be more careful about what they do online. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy takes young girls through the various ways they can protect themselves. It’s hard to believe how quickly a photo or video can spread, and this book covers what to do when you are a victim of a compromising photo online, how to fix reputation mishaps, how to act if your identity is stolen, and much more. A must-read for anyone.

Game Art \ Image: Fair Use
Game Art \ Image: No Starch Press

Game Art  by Matt Sainsbury ($28.03)
Video games are not just fun, they are a work of storytelling art. This book is ideal for art students, who will get a kick out of the art from 40 video games and interviews with their creators.

Automate with Python \ Image: Fair Use
Automate the Boring Stuff with Python \ Image: No Starch Press

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart ($22.86)
This title is perfect for anyone who has menial tasks they don’t want to spend hours doing. In this book, you can learn how to write simple programs that will help you rename files in bulk, search for text across multiple files, and add a logo to multiple files without opening each one. There’s also 18 chapters’ worth of fun programs to play with.

Math with Python \ Image: Fair Use
Doing Math with Python \ Image: No Starch Press

Doing Math with Python by Amit Saha ($15.79)
I’m all for anything that makes high school math easier. Doing Math with Python helps students learn how to do math with the help of a little programming. It’s like learning two subjects at once. Available August 25, 2015.

Start Where You Are \ Image: Fair Use
Start Where You Are \ Image: Perigee Books

Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Patel ($7.97)
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration is a hand-drawn, full-color journal by self-taught artist Meera Patel. Each left-side page offers an endearingly illustrated quote, while each right-side page asks the journal writer to answer a question in words, drawings, or both. This little book can fit easily into a backpack or dorm room, wherever it’s needed. You might want to include a package of colored pencils, because color.

Team Challenges \ Image: Fair Use
Team Challenges \ Image: Chicago Review Press

Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity by Kris Bordessa ($15.10)
Former GeekMom contributor Kris Bordessa has created the best activity book out there for teachers and parents, as well as leaders of groups such as scouts, 4-H, and other enrichment programs. It’s a perfect resource to keep on hand!

Shakespeare's Star Wars  \  Image: Fair Use
Shakespeare’s Star Wars \ Image: Quirk Books

The Royal Imperial Boxed Set: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy ($26.12)
This beautifully illustrated retelling of George Lucas’ Star Wars in the style of William Shakespeare contains Verily, A New Hope; The Empire Striketh Back; and The Jedi Doth Return. Han shooteth first? Forsooth! Also included is a full-color poster.

Do you have a favorite book to start off the school year? Let us know in the comments!

GeekMom received review copies of these titles.

Disney on Ice! Celebrates ‘100 Years of Magic’ On Tour Now!

Finding Nemo Disney on Ice "100 Years of Magic" \ Image courtesy of Feld Entertainment
Finding Nemo from Disney on Ice “100 Years of Magic” \ Image courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Disney on Ice! is on tour this year with the 100 Years of Magic. With 100 years to cover, I’m excited to see the over 50 member cast bring fan favorite characters to life on ice. Feld Entertainment is promising to bring an long list of Disney favorites to the rink. In the past, I’ve seen the Disney Princesses, Frozen, and Toy Story brought center stage and will see the addition of Finding Nemo, the Lion King, and other Disney misfits.

With 100 years to cover, there is also an impressive list of dance numbers and songs for Feld to pick from and it will be interesting to see which ones they decided were the most influential for this show.

For tour dates and ticket prices, head over to Disney on Ice! and see when they are stopping by a rink near you.

Stay tuned to GeekMom for a full after-show review in September!


Batman + TMNT = Awesome Ninja Action

TMNT and the Dark Knight
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing

When I saw a press release hit my email about the Dark Knight and the pizza loving ninja dudes were doing a six-month crossover series, I did a double-take.

So far, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have crossed over with X-Files and Ghostbusters and both of those had their quirks. Of the two, Ghostbusters crossover was my favorite, if short-lived.

I have just as many questions as I have squeals of excitement for what’s to come between my favorite mutants and the Bat. TMNT is known not only for its kick butt action but also for their one-liners. Batman is known for his serious tone and dark themes. Granted, the latest TMNT series is probably not that far off from Batman, but it’s still something I’d let my 9-year old son read. I can’t say that for the Dark Knight.

I have a few hopeful thoughts about what is to come.

Batman / TMNT Issue #1
Batman / TMNT Issue #1 \ Image courtesy of IDW Publishing

The return of Bruce Wayne – The cover art for issue #1 shows Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl again. Even though this won’t kick in until November, I can wait that long if it means seeing him suit up again.

Massive Ninja action – Batman is a trained ninja and samurai warrior. The Turtles are fully trained in the art of ninjitsu. I’m excited to see how their styles are the same in some areas and how they learn from each other in others.

Who will be the “top dog?” – In the Ghostbusters crossover, each Turtle latched on to a different Ghostbuster. Batman is a solo act, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the band of brothers and which one he will get along best with. My money is on Leo because he’s the leader, but Raph is a close second because of his rough around the edges attitude that Batman might radiate too.

So many villains and only six months to use them all. – There are so many villains for the writers to pick from for the Turtles to face off against. I’m hoping they don’t go with all mainstream characters and pull a few others that are not so well-known. My top picks at the moment are Riddler, Scarecrow, Firefly, Clock King, and Professor Pyg.

Who will show up from Batman’s world? – Of the allies I want to see drop-in on this mini-series, I’m really hoping for Red Hood because I think his attitude would match up with Raphael in a conflict causing way. Damien would be another good conflict character because the Turtles might underestimate his abilities (and get the floor wiped with their shells in the process).

Wanted. Ally for Shredder. – I’m curious to see where Shredder will fit into all of this and who he will align himself with in Gotham. There’s and abundance of villains he could associate with. Will he lean more towards the meta-human types or the mobsters. If I had to put a name in the hat right now, it would be Lady Shiva. Her attitude and mastery of the martial arts would make her a good fit as an ally for Shredder.

I do have one request for the writers… please put a one-liner here and there.

You can even give them all to Mikey and Alfred.

I don’t care!

Just throw a few in there. Please.

This being DC and IDW’s second crossover of the year (Star Trek / Green Lantern is out now), I’m thinking a third crossover might be fun. Maybe The X-Files and Martian Manhunter (too obvious?) or a more comical hook up would be Jem and the Holograms and Wonder Woman. Just a thought.

Scholastic Books Saves the Summer

All Images from Scholastic.com
All Images from Scholastic.com

This summer, I’m determined to keep my son from playing Minecraft, Roblox, Blocksworld, Eden, Terraria, Splatoon, Disney Infinity, and any other game he has an obsession with 24/7.

Instead, I plan on helping him keep this new found love of reading by stocking his bookshelf with interesting things to explore. It’s taken a long time for us to get him into the world of the written word and I don’t intend for him to slip out of it over the summer.

I reached out to Scholastic Books for help and not only did they send me a few recommendations, but they nailed it by sending books that matched my son’s interests. In fact, he couldn’t grab one of the books fast enough.

The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp
“This is me. I is Pig! If you is reading this, you can read Pig, and you is very clever. Unless you is an Evil Chicken, in which case, don’t read this!”

Those are the first words in Pig’s diary and it only gets funnier from there. To get my son interested, I only had to tell him about Pig farting on the evil chickens in revenge. After that, I never had to argue with him to read it again.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12, but I’m positive that younger children will enjoy having this read to them.

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce
If Mr. Dolittle had a child with J.K Rowling, this book would be the end result.

Pip Bartlett is a young girl who can talk to animals. Not just any animals. Magical animals. Her gift gets her in trouble and in response her parents ship her off to her Aunt’s house for the summer. This was hardly punishment because Pip’s Aunt Emma owns the Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures and she was set for an entire summer of talking (without anyone else hearing of course) to the various creatures at the clinic. It’s a summer full of new experiences, new friends, and a disaster that almost destroys a town.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Any fan of Harry Potter will want to take a look into this new series. 

As an adult, the similarities between this title and Harry Potter are hard to ignore. A child, on the other hand, might take comfort in the fact that the formula of Harry Potter and The Iron Trial are the same. The familiarity of the story could be what keeps them reading.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12.

Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey
A superhero who runs around in his underwear and has hilariously heroic adventures? Sign my son up. 

When my son saw that Captain Underpants was included in the books Scholastic sent me, he screamed with joy. Apparently he had been introduced to it at school and he was hooked. I have no idea what the appeal is, but if it’s getting my son to read, I’m cool with it. In my son’s words, “It’s awesome. It’s about a principle becoming Captain Underpants and it’s got him taking down bad guys in it. Two kids come along to help him.”

My son was also quick to point out that he likes the full-color versions best.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12, but I could see younger children enjoy looking at the pages.

Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan and Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully by Jeffery Brown 
Star Wars + middle school = a year of catastrophe for the force and its students.

This is a comic book style series that has a journal like feeling to it. The pages are not in color, which I think is a hinder to my son, but it’s still a cute series that I plan on encouraging him to at least try. The main hero is Roan, a young Jedi padawan who is eager to become a pilot. He attends the Jedi Academy with various other students from other walks of life. There are some familiar faces in the series including Master Yoda and some other familiar faces with different names (T-3P0 and RW-22).

Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan is the second book in the series and The Phantom Bully is the third and final book in the series, covering Roan’s last and hardest year at Jedi Academy.

Recommended for ages 8 to 12

If you are looking for books for your incoming fifth grader, you can rest easy in picking up any of the titles above. My son loves them and that’s enough for me to scream from the mountain tops for everyone to READ THESE BOOKS!!

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review copy of these titles.

‘My Little Pony Friendship is Magic’ – ‘Cutie Mark Quests’

MLP Cutie Mark Quests \ Image courtesy of Hasbro Studios
MLP Cutie Mark Quests \ Image courtesy of Hasbro Studios

I’ve enjoyed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic since my son first introduced it to me. Each episode is filled with something fun that makes 20 minutes pass by fast. One of the things I enjoy is how subtle the writers make the lesson being taught. There’s no “lesson learned” speech at the end of the episode (well, not since Twilight stopped writing letters to Princess Celestia) and kids still get the point.

In Cutie Mark Quests, they take us back to five episodes about finding yourself and trusting your friends.

Image: Hasbro Studios

One of those episodes is the two-part episode, The Return of Harmony where the Mane 6 face off against the king of chaos, Discord. In 40 minutes of animated bliss, you watch as Twilight Sparkle and her friends put their studies on friendship to the test in an attempt to stop Discord from turning all of Equestria upside down (literally).

Another two-part episode follows the Mane 6 as they journey to a town where everyone is a blank flank (i.e., no cutie mark). While visiting, Twilight and her friends teach the townspeople that their cutie marks are a part of who they are and being unique isn’t something to fear, but instead something to be celebrated.

Not everything is about the Mane 6 though, and that’s where the Cutie Mark Crusaders come in.

In Showstoppers, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle continue their journey to get their cutie marks, and, as usual, they are going around their manes to get to their hooves. When the school talent show comes up, they all want to have a piece of the spotlight. It was a 20-minute train wreck, and, in the end, each of them learned a lesson in sticking with what they already enjoy instead of forcing new skills on themselves.

My son and I are happy that we are able to add Cutie Mark Quests alongside our other My Little Pony DVDs including: Equestria Girls, Canterlot Wedding, and Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks.

Cutie Mark Quests arrives in stores on June 30th. 

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review copy.

An Interview with Ghost Hunter Jason Hawes

Just in time for Father’s Day, I was given the opportunity to interview Jason Hawes, father, founding member of T.A.P.S (The Atlanta Paranormal Society), and one of the stars of SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters television series. My husband and I are huge fans of the show and I couldn’t have been more excited to ask Jason a few questions about his life in the parenting and paranormal worlds.

GeekMom: First of all, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to answer a few questions for me. My husband and I are longtime fans and your show is the only paranormal of anything I can watch on TV and not get freaked out.

Jason Hawes: That’s great to hear. To be honest, I’ve been to your blog site many times in the past. I like your science section! The only thing that makes the paranormal scary is Hollywood. Well, that and the fact you could see someone in your home or another location just walk through a wall. LOL. Continue reading An Interview with Ghost Hunter Jason Hawes

Father’s Day Gift Guide 2015

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

Welcome to the Father’s Day Gift Guide 2015! We have a great line-up of suggestions from all of us here at GeekMom. Whether your dad is into books, movies, clothes, or tech gear, we have something for everyone.

Books and Movies

Inside The SideShow Studio – $18.50
Inside The SideShow Studio gives you an insider’s look behind the doors of one of the best makers of collectibles out there. After flipping through the book myself, I’m a bit jealous of the offices and freedom the employees have in their workspace. Along the tour, readers get to see the offices of some of the influential and the creative minds behind their favorite collectibles.

Find Momo Coast to Coast \ Image Amazon
Find Momo Coast to Coast \ Image Amazon

Find Momo Coast to Coast – $10.49
Find Momo Coast to Coast is an adult version of Where’s Waldo but Waldo is a real dog and he’s hiding in real pictures his owner took of him on their road trips. It’s a fun and challenging book that will give dad a run for his money while looking at some great photography.

Ghost Hunters Season 9 on DVD Part 1 and Part 2– $24.99
Ghost Hunters is a fun show that my husband and I enjoy watching together. In fact, it’s the only paranormal show I can handle. Maybe it’s the geek in me that loves watching Steve and Tango set up the equipment. My husband enjoys watching them try to disprove before deciding if something is really paranormal or just normal. Jason and the team hit up well known haunts like Sowden House (The Black Dahlia Murder), Jennie Wade House in Gettysburg, and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum which features a guest appearance by Grant Wilson (co-founder of TAPS).

D-BOX Tickets for Jurassic World – Pricing varies, depending on theater
What could make your dad’s Jurassic World experience that much more enjoyable? If he could feel every stomp of that Stegosaurus, the Triceratops, and even the mighty T-Rex. The blockbuster action flick will be shown at several theaters that are equipped with D-BOX motion-enhanced seating, which can deliver vibrations that are in sync with the on-screen action. There are currently D-130 BOX-enhanced theaters in the U.S. and 350 locations nationwide.

The Royal Imperial Boxed Set: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy – $24.92
Short blurb: This beautifully illustrated retelling of George Lucas’ Star Wars in the style of William Shakespeare contains Verily, A New Hope; The Empire Striketh Back; and The Jedi Doth Return. Han shooteth first? Forsooth! Also included is a full-color poster.

 Image Folio Society
Image Folio Society

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Box Set (paperback)– $59.45
It’s possible dad’s got one or two of these, dog-eared and much-loved. A new set to share with the next generation of snowball-throwers and lovers of stuffed tigers everywhere may be just the ticket.

The Folio Society’s Dune by Frank Herbert (pre-order) – $125
This exquisite reprint of a beloved classic will arrive in the summer, Shai-halud willing. But knowing that it, like the waters of a distant homeworld, will someday come, will be a gift of its own. Illustrated by award-winning artist Sam Webber, the book is a standout of epic proportions. (GeekMom Fran swears this is a present for dad. She’s totally not stealing it the first chance she gets.)

Bags and Accessories

Humvee TacPacks – Transport Gear Pack – $49.99
Give dad the gift of an awesome backpack with the Humvee Gear TacPack. It has more pockets and straps than even he might not know what to do with.

X-Train 2 by OGIO – $80
This is the ultimate sports bag for dad (or mom). It has a separate compartment for shoes, clothes, and small items as well as a means of carrying around a workout mat.

Geeky Jerseys – Average price is $99 to $105, depending on design
These really nicely made hockey jerseys with geeky themes range from popular television and movie designs from Star Wars to Walking Dead, as well as some more lesser-known references like the “Roughnecks,” and “Zebes Hunters.” There is also an occasional baseball jersey design available as well.

Casual Vader Shirt \  Image: SuperHeroStuff
Casual Vader Shirt \ Image: SuperHeroStuff

The one big set-back is not all designs are in stock at all times. There are many very cool designs “on demand,” which means “wait and see until they come back in stock.” If only that TARDIS would come back in stock. Sports lovers should check back often to see what’s available, and don’t hesitate to get any available designs they like. They might be not be available for long.
Image: Geeky Jerseys

Casual Vader Shirt by SuperHeroStuff.com – $21.99
I picked up this shirt for my husband at MegaCon this year and he loves it. It’s the perfect lazy day shirt for any dad.

Toys, Games and Geek Swag

SuperHeroStuff.com Hero Boxes – $49.00
Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, but most have a theme that changes from month to month. SuperHeroStuff.com HeroBoxes work a bit different from that. You can choose to buy dad the specially themed box of the month or choose from a variety of character mystery boxes for him. And for $49.00 he is guaranteed to get at least $70 worth of goodies!

Star Wars Dagobah Shower Curtain – $24.99
When I put the Deagobah shower curtain by ThinkGeek up in our bathroom, my son declared that “Finally! This bathroom has some style!” And my husband wholeheartedly agrees with him. Now to add in some fake snakes and a Yoda statue to make it complete.

Cards Against Humanity Science Pack \ Image: Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity Science Pack \ Image: Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity Science Pack – $10 per pack.
The much-respected field of science is about to get a little more immature, as the hit Cards Against Humanity game’s latest expansion product to the popular party game. Each pack comes with 23 random white and 7 black cards on scientific theories. They also promise an appearance by Uranus. It does require the basic Cards Against Humanity set, so they won’t work on their own. The best thing about these, however, proceeds from each sale benefit the Cards Against Humanity and SMBC Science Ambassador Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship for women seeking undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Bondi Band Solid Moisture Wicking Headband, Black – $9.00
Keep dad comfortable while working out with the Bondi Band moisture wicking headband.

Customized Photo Story Book – Price: as low as $8.00 with coupon (google to the rescue!), $25.00 without
This is a typical gift idea. But you can do much more than just populate some photos and print. I made it a story about my favorite two guys, the things they have in common, and how much they love each other. A year later it’s still a favorite bedtime story in our house!

Nerf Mega BigShock Blaster – $7.99
Short blurb: The Mega BigShock blaster is a perfect “small gift” for Dad, perhaps from a younger child. Dad will love the small size, but the large darts featured here. Dad can play blasters in the yard with the kids, or take this one to work to hide in his desk, coffee table, or workbench for some fun in the off-hours.

Nerf FireVision Ignite light-up flying disc – $14.99
Does Dad enjoy playing Frisbee with the kids, the dog, or with friends? The FireVision Ignite is a battery-powered flying disc that lets his game go on for hours, right into the nighttime hours! The disc takes three “A76” batteries: not the most popular ones, but at least your first set of batteries will be included for you!

NERF Zombie Strike FlipFury \ Image: Amazon
NERF Zombie Strike FlipFury \ Image: Amazon

Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster – $19.99
Nerf has outdone themselves with this double chamber Nerf gun that has an impressive two chambers for a combined total of 14 ammo. This is my favorite of all the NERF I’ve ever tested and my husband loves using this in battles against our son.

Blast-off Espresso Cups – $23.98
Never enough rocket fuel in his rocket fuel? Try these espresso cups out. In the Wilde Household, GeekMom Fran says they’re tried and true.

Super Soaker FlashFlood water gun – $19.99
The Super Soaker FlashFlood offers victims a double-whammy of water: the 23 oz. reservoir feeds into either a traditional 40+ foot water stream, or into the “flood” section which blasts your opponents with a “whole mess of water”, in the words of my 12-year old. Dad will enjoy this in the backyard with the kids…or maybe even with the neighbors?


Leef Magnet USB 3.0 Drive – $26.24 to $52.49
In the words of Master Yoda, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.” That is the case with the Leef Magnet USB 3.0 drive. It’s small and slender in design but packs a quick fist full of power for dad to store up to 64GB of information on.

Vader 3D Light FX \ Image: 3D Light FX
Vader 3D Light FX \ Image: 3D Light FX

Star Wars 3D Deco Lights – $39.99
I’ve raved about the 3D Deco Lights in the past and now they have added Star Wars to their arsenal of decor options. 3D Deco Lights make a fun addition to any room in the house.

Refuel InVIctus – $99.95
Do you remember the time dad let you play on his phone and you drained the battery over Candy Crush? Yea. That’s what I thought. Help him keep his phone charged with the Reful InVIctus case. It has a built-in battery to recharge dad’s phone when you’re done playing with it.

SOUL Electronics: Run Free Pro – $129.99
Does dad need a pair of comfy and wireless running headphones? Pick him up a pair of the SOUL Electronics: Run Free Pro. The price may seem a bit steep for headphones, but they are comfy to wear and actually stay in your ears while running.

Griffin Technology: MOTO TC Rally – $32.99
Pick dad up a remote control car of his own and watch him go back to being a kid again. My husband agrees that this is the smoothest and fastest of the RC cars I’ve ever tested.

PEAR Sports: Mobile Training Intelligence System – $78.48
For the athletic dad, grab him the PEAR Sports: Mobile Training Intelligence System. With the free app, they can sync up the included heart rate monitor and watch their progress. The app also gives advice while he’s running. I’ll go ahead and tell you right off the back that the headphones that come with this system are not the greatest, so pick him up some skull candy ones while you’re out.

Boom Box Touch Speaker \ Image: ThumbsUpUK
Boom Box Touch Speaker \ Image: ThumbsUpUK

Boom Box Touch Speaker from ThumbsUpUk.com – $38.39
This speaker is really cool in the fact that you don’t have to hook it up or sync it up with anything before using it. All you have to do is place your device on top of the speaker and it will automatically pick it up and play. I tested this speaker with my iPod (out of a case) and my iPhone 6 plus (in a case) and both worked fine.

Martian Red Notifier – $129.99
I’ve bragged about this watch before and I’ll do it again now. The Martian Red Notifier is the ideal smartwatch for someone who wants the convenience of notifications on their wrist, without all the bells and whistles. The glass on the watch is also super durable and so far has withstood me walking into dressers, walls, and other sharp corners (and not a scratch on it).

SmartThings Smart Home Starter Kit – $199
The promise of home automation has finally arrived! SmartThings will jump-start your adventure on the Internet of Things.

Fitbit Charge Activity Tracking Wristband – $124.99
Whether dad loves gaming a workout or the comfort of data-loging every move (and sleep too), the fitbit tracker is an excellent choice.

JBL Charge 2+ Splashproof Bluetooth Speaker by Harman – $149.99
JBL’s immensely popular Flip and Charge series of Bluetooth speakers has now been taken to the next level with their splashproof versions! Dad would love a JBL Charge 2+, which takes the Bluetooth speaker complete with device charging and speakerphone capability and adds the ability to take the speaker to the beach, poolside, or out in the rain with confidence. The manual even claims you can wash the speaker off under running water! With JBL’s “social mode” up to three different users can connect with one Charge 2+ to take turns streaming their favorite tunes. The rechargeable battery is capable of providing over 12 hours of music and speakerphone support, and bass fans will love to watch the “Bass Radiator” in action at the two ends of the soda-can-shaped speaker unit. The Charge 2+ is available in 8 colors…be sure to get Dad’s favorite!

The Grillbox \ Image: Grillbot
The Grillbox \ Image: Grillbot

Grillbot – $119
Dad may love grilling, but cleaning up the aftermath is a whole other story. Forget getting him one of those floor-cleaning robots. This gadget is willing to take a funky ride on that BBQ grill–and clean it! Just push one button and watch Grillbot go. It also has a CPU chip, an LCD alarm and timer, and cleaning brushes that can pop off and go right into the dishwasher.

Striker Light Mine – $19.99
If your dad is into working on his car, he could always use a little help–and we’re not talking about an extra set of hands. Available in two sizes, this light can easily fit into tight spaces and even attaches via a magnet. More importantly, it packs in a powerful LED light, so dear old dad can actually see what he’s doing under the hood.

BioLite Camp Stove – $125.95
Dad doesn’t need to be outdoorsy to appreciate this handy camping gadget. In fact, this thing would get even the biggest hermit to come out of his (or her) shell. It’s got some patent-pending thermoelectric technology, which means that the stove doesn’t need sticks or fuel. Once you get a nice fire going, the CampStove can convert that heat into usable electricity to power up phones, lights, and other gadgets, all while Dad is rustling up some vittles.

littleBits Smart Home Kit – $249.99
This little package will allow Dad’s inner-DIYer to turn that home into a smart home. It includes something called the cloudBit, which lets you “snap the internet to anything.” That anything can be everything, from the coffee maker to the curtains to the refrigerator. The kit comes with a total of 14 Bits, which also includes the MP3 player, the Threshold, the Number, the Temperature Sensor, and the IR transmitter. And just in case Dad needs a little inspiration, the package has 14 project ideas and 11 accessories.

The Modlet \ Image: ThinkEco
The Modlet \ Image: ThinkEco

ThinkEco modlet – $50
Whether it tackles the TV, the DVD player, or toys, most dads love remote controls. Imagine being able to add that same type of control to almost any electronic device? The modlet (or modern outlet) is a magical device that makes remote control over anything electronic possible. Just plug the modlet into an outlet and plug your device of choice into either receptacle. Once connected, you can monitor and cut power to those devices using the modlet’s iOS and Android apps. It can even track usage, savings, and your schedule, so it can “recommend” ways to cut back on energy waste. Other features include built-in surge protection, schedule templates for common applications, an override function, and the option to download energy use data for further analysis.

Spire – $149.95
Spire is a little device that clips onto your belt and monitors your breathing. When it senses stress or tension, it sends a signal reminding you to take a deep breath or do a short exercise to relax. Give this one to Dad to help him keep his blood pressure in check and stay focused throughout the day.

It’s Nerf or Nothing This Summer!

It's NERF or nothing in this house. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
It’s Nerf or nothing in this house. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Just in time for summer, my family was given the opportunity to try out a few new Nerf blasters. We like to put anything Nerf through its paces and that means testing its distance, ease of use, and (in some cases by accident) the pain factor. When it comes to the Super Soakers, we enjoy seeing just how wet we can get in a quick game of soaking.

Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster
The Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster is all mine. Mine. Mine. And I’m not sharing it with anyone in my family. Of all the Nerf blasters I’ve tried out in the past, this is by far my favorite. I love the ability to flip between two rounds of ammo and the cool sound it makes when you switch between them. It’s almost like a warning to anyone who messes with you to stop or pay the price. Each round holds seven darts, with a combined total of 14 before having to reload.

I tested the distance of this blaster one morning when trying to get my son up for school. He refused to get out of bed, so I shot at him from the living room (over 20 feet away) and hit him dead on. He got wise and went for cover under his blankets, which didn’t save him much from my Nerf parenting style. A flip change later, and he was getting up while waving a white flag of defeat.

As long as your aim doesn’t stink and you shoot the darts below the face, it doesn’t hurt as bad as the massive Nerf N-Strike Elite darts. If you happen to be in the sight of an opponent who doesn’t understand the words “NOT THE FACE” ::cough::my son::cough::, watch your language and be ready with some ice, because these darts will leave a welt (as my husband can attest to).

Recommended distance from opponent: 5 feet or more to avoid injury.
Retail: $19.99 (and worth every penny)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega CycloneShock Blaster
When it came to testing out the Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega CycloneShock Blaster, I had to add a new ground rule when these are in use. Since the Nerf Elite Mega blasters have darts that look more fearsome than anything else Nerf has put out, close range combat was off limits. The blaster holds six mega darts that have a diameter almost twice that of a normal dart. The power behind this one can launch those suckers up to 90 feet.

NERF dart size comparison.
Nerf dart size comparison. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Despite having a “no close range” ground rule, that doesn’t mean anyone listened to it. With that said, each of my family members can attest that these suckers hurt when shot. I’d almost say that any Nerf gun with these Mega darts should be off limits to anyone who doesn’t listen to the rules (and considering that my mother’s pups listen better than my 9-year-old son or my 42-year-old husband, it’s safe to say I’m the only one that can play with these now).

To avoid injury, make sure your target is at least 10 feet away when firing.

Recommended distance from opponent: 10 feet or more (preferably more) to avoid injury.
Retail: $21.99

Super Soaker Testing!!
Now, to introduce the Super Soaker part of this review, here is a music video featuring my brother and my son. At one point in the video, my son felt that his Uncle Doug wasn’t getting wet enough with the blaster in hand and resorted to using just the hose on him. Of course, Uncle Doug paid him back for that later.

Nerf Super Soaker FloodFire Blaster
My brother is using the Nerf Super Soaker FloodFire Blaster. This blaster is unique because it allows you to hook it up to a hose and have an endless supply of ammo. Using the hose attachment almost feels like cheating, but who really cares about that in a water gun fight? It’s reach was pretty impressive and it was able to soak my son quite well with little effort on my brother’s part.

Pay attention at the :20-second mark in the video and you can see my brother turn the hose feature on and off. He remarked that you can only keep the hose on for a minute and after that you need to turn the function off or the blaster won’t work properly.

The only issue I have is if you are running around the yard and attached to a hose, it creates a serious safety issue. Because of that, I would say if you want to use the hose attachment feature, make sure your shooter stays in the same place (or only moves from side to side).

Recommended distance from opponent: None. It’s water, so you’re not as likely to hurt someone with this one.
Retail: $25.99

Nerf Super Soaker ZombieStrike Splatterblast
In the video, my son is using the Nerf Super Soaker Zombie Strike Splatterblast water blaster. This blaster can produce four streams of opponent-soaking water at once. I found that some of the nozzles were glitchy, depending on the water level in the gun. However, if you aimed it up a little when shooting, you could get a good stream each time. It was the easier of the two guns for my son to hold and he loved being able to run around with it.

A cool feature of this blaster is with a couple batteries and the push of a button, the water tank can light up. Making this worth the batteries would mean playing at night though, so we are ignoring that feature for now.

Recommended distance from opponent: None.
Retail: $21.99

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Play It: ‘Sushi Go!’

Sushi Go! \ Image Gamewright
Sushi Go! Image Gamewright.

Every Monday night, we have family night. It’s a time that is designated for family interaction that doesn’t include electronics. More often than not, we put in a movie and sit down to play a game. And while Monopoly is fine and Uno is great, playing them every Monday night was getting boring. I decided it was time to dish up something new. It was time for a little sushi.

Sushi Go! by Gamewright was recommended to me by a friend over at The Read Pile. Knowing my 9-year-old son like he does, my friend told me it would be a good intro card game before hitting up harder titles, like Munchkin.

Looking over Gamewright’s website, they say that the game is for ages 8 and up and reinforces the ideas of probability, strategic thinking, and visual discrimination.

As the name implies, each card has a type of sushi drawn in an overly adorable fashion and a designated point value.

Who's hungry for some Sushi? \ Image Gamewright
Who’s hungry for some Sushi? Image Gamewright.

In terms of setup, Sushi Go! is as simple as Uno and consists of three rounds.

To start the game, the dealer gives everyone their first set of cards (the number of cards is determined by how many people are playing). Once everyone has their hand, they look it over, take the card they feel is the most valuable, and put it face down in front of them. Next, everyone passes their hand off to the player to their right and you pull another card. This happens only as many times as there are players in the game, so that everyone has a chance at everyone’s first hand.

Once the cards have made a full round, you turn them over, reveal your choices, and the scorekeeper marks down everyone’s points (and in case you’re wondering, yes, there is an app for this).

This is where the strategy comes into play.

After you see the other players’ picks, you keep that in mind when the fresh set of cards is dealt out. Since some cards are only worth points if you collect two or more, you can choose your card based on either stopping someone from getting a combo or adding points to your own set.

Each round there are fewer cards given to each player. After three rounds, the idea is that everyone will be stuck with two or three cards (and those will more than likely be the not-so-great ones).

My husband and I played a few rounds before letting our son in on the fun because we wanted to make sure the game was what my friend cracked it up to be. We were surprised at how much fun we were having with just the two of us. When our son finally jumped in, he got the hang of it very quickly and did pretty well his first few games.

He liked how the three rounds go quick enough to keep his attention and fun enough that he was hungry for more.

My husband and I agree that it’s a nice “strategy intro” game that isn’t overbearing (like Dice Masters), but still involves a little bit of luck (like Uno). It’s also enjoyable to have a game in our arsenal that’s fun and only takes 15 minutes to play a full game of three rounds.

Much like Munchkin though, you lose something when playing with just two players.

To spice things up, my husband and I made a few house rules:
• Maki rolls get zero points (with two players, it can be far too easy to win the game on just Maki rolls).
• The person with the most pudding gets six points and the second player gets nothing (instead of the -6 points that the rules call for).
• The standard three rounds goes by fast for two players, so sometimes we go with as many as seven rounds.
• At the start of each round, each player picks their card to keep and then picks a second card to discard so that their opponent can’t use it to their advantage.

We designed these house rules to work with two players, but feel free to modify them to work with more.

For those wondering what the replay value is, it’s really good. It’s similar to Uno and as long as you shuffle the deck well, you will have a unique game every time. If you feel like it’s getting too easy or going too fast, get creative and make up your own house rules.

Even though Gamewright suggests this game for between two and five players, if you get inventive, you could buy a second game and I’m sure you could make it work for more people.

Gamewright recommends this game for ages 8 and up because it might be a simple and quick game to play, but the strategy element could frustrate some younger kids. Of course, you know your child best, so feel free to give it a shot if you think they can handle it.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Leaf Your Way Into Health

I’m super excited that Bellabeat is debuting their new limited-edition Leaf smart jewelry this month. And if the product holds up to the advertising, my Misfit Flash will be getting hung up for a while.

At a glance, Leaf will track a woman’s activity, stress, reproductive health, and nutrition. On top of all that, Leaf will take the data and give you a trend report so you can see where you stand in certain areas.

Women who are trying to conceive will be interested in the reproductive health. According to the press release, it will be able to monitor your menstrual cycle and give you tips on when the best time for conception is.

Leaf \ Image courtesy of Leaf
Leaf \ Image courtesy of Leaf

I’m all for trying out anything that I don’t have to charge, and Leaf is promising that the battery will last 6 months.

The Limited Edition Leaf is being marketed at $250.00 and the original Leaf at $119.00. It comes in five different styles, and for the eco-conscious it’s made from a sustainable source of 7,000-year-old dark Marshwood.

Stay tuned to GeekMom for a full review when it arrives on May 27th!