A GeekMom’s 34 Goals for 2012

Number 17 on my list of goals: Have one thriving crop. This mutant carrot is the outcome of my last gardening attempt. Photo by Cathe Post.

A friend of mine recently published her professional website after months of preparation. One of her premier posts shared 30 things she would like to do this year in honor of turning 30. It’s not a milestone birthday year for me, but the idea made sense. In an effort to set reasonable goals instead of unattainable demands, I’m going to follow in IndieKate‘s blog-steps and create a 34 in 2012 list. Here it goes…

  1. Work on getting in shape – I just signed up for Fitocracy so I can log all of my Dance Central time in Workout Mode.
  2. Keep up with my blog – I would like to share more on my personal blog than a log of articles I write for GeekMom. Some blogs I read just share one moment from the day that their readers can identify with. I’d like to do the same, if I’m not cleaning up the mess from said moment…
  3. Social Butterfly – I want to put myself out there more. I am on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoodreads and Google +. I hope to cross share through all of these platforms at least once a week.
  4. Keep up with Phineas and Ferb this summer – There is a calendar. I printed it for my daughter last summer and we only did about a third of the things that we wrote on it (let alone the ideas that came with it).
  5. Watch less TV – My husband would probably not understand this one. I listen to Netflix shows while I’m on the computer. If I listened to audiobooks or podcasts instead, I would probably be better off.
  6. Read More – I HATE reading. Due to my astigmatism, I end up reading the same line in a book multiple times before getting past it. It makes book reading less than fun. It’s “better” now that we have a Kindle Fire, because I can show one paragraph per page and increase the font size, but it still hurts my eyes – I have to really be interested in the book.
  7. Learn at least one more of my husband’s miniature games – I played Warhammer Fantasy with my husband for a year. It was great fun. But, I played the season, won the tournament (and a really cool sword) and left it at that. So now I should catch up and learn Blood BowlHell Dorado, and Dystopian Wars.
  8. Learn an activity with my daughter – I don’t care if it’s Heroclix or something non-geeky – we had a lot of fun learning Pokémon together (have you heard the recent GeekMom podcast?). Mother/daughter bonding is good.
  9. Earn my Tournament Organizer’s title for Pokémon – Since I keep running computers for Pokémon tournaments, I really should have a copy of the program on my computer. In order to have that, I need to earn my stripes!
  10. Drink water – 8 glasses a day…blah…blah…blah…
  11. GeekMom – The responsibilities of a core contributor on GeekMom are not unreasonable, and yet I find myself fighting to keep up from time to time. I would like to work to 125% of what is required, because GeekMom is a great community to be part of. I keep find myself saying, “That would make a great article.” So, sit down and write the article already!
  12. Pre-school – This would be a goal for later in the year. As my youngest nears turning three, I look at the pre-school choices and cringe. The idea of teaching him myself is daunting, but doable – and he’d love it.
  13. Eat more veggies – I eat veggies twice a day on a good day. I could be better about it.
  14. Ride my bike – Even riding my bike once this summer would be more than I did last year.
  15. Edit out the virtual garbage – This would include cleaning out the backup hard drive, deleting old documents, and having everything backed up and organized in one location…instead of three.
  16. Make headway in the yard – We put in a playground (swings and a slide thanks to my parents) this last summer. We have a small rectangular backyard. I would like a third of it to be raised gardens and a stone oven for baking pizza/bread, a third lawn, and a third playground. It means DOING IT.
  17. Have one crop thrive – I have a black thumb. Enough said.
  18. Go back to church – I haven’t been in a year. Again, if I make it once this year, it will be a step in the right direction.
  19. Vote – I missed our last local election and felt guilty about it for weeks. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about how your taxes are spent.
  20. Date – My husband. I need to make that clear. I have known my husband since 1993. We started dating in 1998, and were married in 2003. Several times we’ve misplaced the romance. We seem to find it if we can go on a date.
  21. Pet the cats – Isn’t it scientifically proven that animals can reduce stress levels? I have four cats, so I should be four times less stressed, right?
  22. ADHD – I need to learn all I can about this. My daughter was diagnosed with it, and I think it is a HUGE source of the behavior issues we have had in the last three years. Learning how to help her deal with her symptoms will be a relief.
  23. Remain close to my parents – I am an only child. My parents live less than 5 miles away. I have tried very hard to be there for them this year as my mom has taken on difficult volunteer tasks and my dad has undergone chemotherapy. This year can only be better for them, right?
  24. Have a cemented financial plan – Being in a one income household is hard. I am thankful that my husband’s job provides a roof over our head and food on the table. GeekMom Judy Berna had a similar resolution this year.
  25. Learn how to fix one thing – My husband is very handy. He cooks, he sews, he fixes the stuff that needs fixing. Just once I should take initiative and learn to do it myself instead of asking him.
  26. Attempt to potty train – My 2-year-old wants to do everything his sister does. So, perhaps this summer I will have the guts to attempt to teach him how to use the potty. Isn’t it as easy as throwing cheerios in the toilet and having them do target practice?
  27. Write a book with my daughter – She loves drawing and telling stories. It would probably be a great geeky story – an epic tale even!
  28. Start a video podcast – The hubby and I have been watching Hank and Katherine Play Super Mario Brothers Wii! on YouTube. Where my husband is inspired to play his ukulele and make videos someday like the DoubleclicksMolly Lewis, or Pomplamoose, I want to make a board game blog. We shall see if I can get anyone to help me – I can’t really play board games by myself.
  29. Brush up on my sign language – I used to be fluent, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  30. Run a D&D campaign – I don’t know that RPG Kids would count. But I would run a one-shot game in a heartbeat.
  31. Add to my client base – It would be nice to have a couple more clients to tutor in the art of running a computer.
  32. Make one item out of one of my craft books – Complete a large fiber project  (like an afghan) or a project from a craft book. I have a shelf full of craft/fiber books that are fun to look at, but I haven’t done anything other than look at them. I have done a few projects from the GeekDad books, but I want to complete ALL OF THEM.
  33. Do one Arduino project – This is an intelligence challenge. Can I be smarter than the programming language? (I wasn’t in college – that’s for sure).
  34. Enter one photography show – Just one. Just enough of a commitment that I have to attempt to take artsy-fartsy shots throughout the year.

I don’t think this list is unattainable. It will take some work, but there isn’t one thing on this list I can’t finish (maybe 33, but I will at least attempt it). What are your goals for 2012? Do you have some of the same crazy plans as I do?

Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Image: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/kinect

I love all things Disney. When given the choice between Las Vegas or Walt Disney World as a honeymoon destination, it took me about a second to decide on Disney. I’m counting the days until we can take my daughter to Walt Disney World for the first time, but that won’t be for a little under three years because we want to take her for her sixth birthday.


So when I heard about Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the xBox 360, I knew I had to have this game. While I haven’t been to Disneyland, I’ve read and seen TV specials about it. I hope that I will get to Disneyland someday. It is actually on my bucket list to visit every Disney park in the world.

My daughter, who is only three, is starting to know the Disney characters thanks to TV and movies. So when I fired this game up and got to talk to Mickey Mouse, she was so excited. In the game, one of the fun things you can do is run around the park and meet up with characters. You can give them hugs, take pictures with them, get autographs and more.

The characters will also send you on tasks. Most of the early tasks are to help you get around the game. You can run around the entire park but you can also access the menu to go to the parts of the park that you want. The tasks and riding the rides will give you the opportunity to get coins. You can uses these coins to buy things in the shops around the parks. Much like in real life, you can get clothes, autograph books, pins and more in the shops. You can use these in the game to outfit your avatar, interact more with the characters as well as help you with tasks.

As soon as I finished the beginning tasks, I headed straight to The Haunted Mansion, which is my favorite ride at Disney. The rides in Kinect Disneyland Adventures are mini-games. You are given instructions on what movements you will need to use for each game before you enter it. For The Haunted Mansion, you move through the mansion and you fight ghosts with a flashlight. With the way the mini-game is set up, it is like moving through the actual ride, especially since there is the Ghost Host talking in the background with lines from the ride as well.

Some of the mini-games are more enjoyable than others. My least favorite was It’s A Small World but it was mostly because it was a very active one. You are rowing around the world and stopping to do native dances on the way. I was pretty beat by the time I finished with it.

There are some buggy issues with this game that I’ve found. I haven’t been able to do the arm movement I need to with the characters to get their autograph and it takes a little to get walking when I’m out in the park. There was a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean where I had to row but also had to use my oars to whack alligators. I was doing more whacking than rowing, but it was more funny than anything because it really amused my husband and daughter.

All in all, I love this game. I really makes me feel like I’m in the actual park and the games are really fun to do. It does really make me want to plan a Disney vacation right now, but until my daughter is a little older I can get my Disney Parks fix through Kinect Disneyland Adventures. My daughter tried to play with me, but she didn’t really understand that she had to make special motions to move around. I do think that kids who are a bit older than she is would really enjoy this game. I would recommend it to anyone who loves Disney and wants to experience Disneyland in their own living room.

Note: I received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Praise From A Skeptic: Why We LOVE Kinect.

We weren’t supposed to get an XBox Kinect for Christmas. We specifically said we didn’t want one. And yet it turned out to be one of the most popular, most used gifts we’ve received in years.  Go figure.

Photo: XBox

In early November Grammy called and said she’d bought one for our family. She had heard they were going to be a hot item this holiday season and she wanted to make sure we got one.  She had the receipt, in case the kids didn’t want it, but she was running the idea by me while it was still early in the game. We’d seen the commercials and were intrigued, but the general attitude in our house was that it was not really our thing.

We had a long discussion at the dinner table one night, before I officially called Grammy back and said we really weren’t interested.  Our teen boys are more into the war/flying video games and little boy is a Lego Star Wars addict. My young adult daughter rarely plays video games anymore. The commercials at the time mainly showcased the dance games and the males around our table didn’t think they’d ever use a dance game.

Fortunately Grammy ignored our short sighted ignorance. She kept the box in the closet (still keeping the receipt, mind you), just in case we changed our minds.

We were at her house on Christmas Eve, where we exchanged presents with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. Then the house was quiet and it was time to go to bed. Grammy knew that my little one had stopped his Santa beliefs this year, but still wondered if maybe, just maybe, she should put the Kinect under the tree, one last gift from the round, red suited guy.

My thought was, “why not?” Maybe the kids would find other games, beyond the dance party, they could play. The whole idea is that they could play games without a controller, and I couldn’t imagine that there wouldn’t be games that came out in the future that we wouldn’t enjoy.

A very shocked ten year old found his surprise gift under the tree the next morning and couldn’t wait to get back to our house, so he could bust it out. I suspect he had wanted one but didn’t want to look like a baby in front of the older brothers.

Now comes the time where I tell you if we liked it or not. Boy, do we like this thing. No, more accurately, we LOVE this thing. It’s been turned on, practically non-stop, since we got home from Grammy’s house.  Little guy loves every one of the games and had the rest of us sucked in within an hour.

The game called Kinect Sports (an extra Grammy included) could have kept us busy for a week. It has six sports options (boxing, track and field, soccer, table tennis, beach volleyball and bowling). Now lest you think this sounds a bit too much like the Wii, let me tell you why it’s not.

We have the Wii, including the sports games. And they are fun. But the whole concept of having no controller, which sets the Kinect apart, is so much more entertaining than I’d anticipated.  The sensor scans your body and then you show up on the screen. Or more accurately, your avatar shows up (you can pick something crazy, like the sweat suit wearing giant carrot or just be one of the standard people).

But the fun part comes when this person on the screen mimics your every action. When you scratch your nose, it scratches its nose.  When you lift your arms, twirl around, swivel your hips, so does your guy on the screen. It’s so much more interactive than a game with a controller.

Notice the avatar not only matches his arms but she's jutting her hip out, just like he is.

Which means that while you’re standing on the track, waiting to jump the hurdles in the track and field game, you can stretch out, swing your arms around, high five yourself, or just do a little dance jive…and your avatar on screen copies your every move. You truly start to feel like you’re ‘in’ the game.

As Sam puts his arm out, his avatar matches, which makes the runner on his left flinch and say, "Hey! Watch out!"

We went through every sports game on the disc, and had a unique sports experience with each game. My daughter loved spiking the volleyball and I loved the constant volley in the ping pong game. My little guy challenged his dad to the full range of track and field events. The sprints are the most hilarious to watch, as a spectator, since the faster you run in place, the faster your avatar moves, and slow pokes are represented accurately on the screen. I’m not naming names, my sweet husband. Just pointing out that youth has its advantages.

The game included in the box, called Kinect Adventures!, is just as fun as the sports game. One of the five games on that disc puts you on a moving roller coaster platform and makes you jump over and duck under padded bars, allowing you to control your speed just by jumping up and down on the platform. My favorite game puts your avatar in a clear box, deep inside an aquarium. The box begins to leak randomly and it takes quick reflexes to reach out and plug the holes before they fill the box with water.

The whole idea of your body being the controller is fascinating to watch. To pick options on the screen you reach out and ‘touch’ the box, seeing your hand on the screen connect to the desired choice. When you need to pause the game, a simple stance of one arm by your side and one bent tells the machine to stop. The crowd in the stadium, ‘watching’ you play, can be forced to do the wave, just by waving your hand over their different sections. My son’s favorite feature is the voice recognition. He feels like he’s living in a sci-fi movie when all he has to do to start the disc is say, in a firm voice, “X-Box, Play Disc!”  He never tires of the feeling of controlling the machine with just his voice.

The one big surprise that we love more every day, is the Show Off and Share feature.  Remember getting your picture taken at the critical moment on an amusement park ride? This game does the same thing. Through the course of play the sensor takes pictures and video of the real you, doing all the wacky moves you’re doing, and then shows them off at the end of the game. If you want to share them with other Xbox users, you can subscribe to Xbox Live and they’ll be sent to an online site. But they’re also fun just to laugh over as friends and family play.

It's fun to see what you looked like playing the game.

(Warning:  everyone in the sensor’s view will be in the shot. I was in on the couch behind my son, reading the New York Post, through much of his first series of pictures.)

We’ve now bought the Dance Central game and my 18 year old daughter and her friends spent a couple of pretty hilarious hours in my living room yesterday, mastering some new dance moves. Her little brother snatched it from her when they left and danced away a few more hours of the day. If nothing else, this is exactly the kind of video gaming system that will get people off the couch.

As much as the Wii got people of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents, involved in the video game craze, I’m confident the Kinect will keep the momentum rolling. There’s a magical feeling to being literally on the screen – running, dancing, hopping, throwing and generally being in complete control of the video version of yourself.

Take it from a skeptic, who actually requested we NOT get this newest fad, it’s even more fun than what you see on the commercials. I can’t wait to try out the work out game. I have a feeling I’ll be much more motivated to do my daily exercise when I can watch my adorable avatar on the screen mimic my every move.

Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education

Backlit Lemon Slice by Neil Lloyd (Creative Commons)

Education systems are a mess the world over. We know this, but we are dauntless geek parents. When we’re given a lemon situation, we don’t just make lemonade; we make rocket fuel!

I don’t actually know if it’s possible or wise to launch a rocket using citrus, but if that’s what it takes to keep my kid hooked on science, I won’t shy away from the experiment. (Out of geek courtesy, I will warn the neighbors, though.)

Putting the oranges in orbit aside for a moment, we really do need to make the most of the lemon education systems we have. Given all the demands on our time and attention, it’s best if we first identify the simplest, most direct help we can give our little geeks, every day:






Beyond that, there are tons of things we can do to help educate our kids, at all ages. Children are never too young to learn. Even babies can grasp number, space, and time; parents just need to puzzle out how to engage their littlest ones’ mental rulers through play. Clapping along to music comes naturally, and as luck would have it, it’s a real brain-builder! As they grow, teaching them healthy self-regulation will pay off academically, too. And not every middle-schooler wants to be a scientist when they grow up, but for those who do, why wait? Continue reading Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education