Thursday, November 15, 2012

10 Tips to Prevent You from Being the Next Victim of a Crime

All too often lately, I hear friends tell me that their car has been broken into or a neighbor has had an intruder in their home.  Often times, this can be avoided with a proactive approach on security for yourself, your family, your property and your neighborhood.  Below are 10 Tips to keep you from being the next victim of a property crime.

  1. When you leave the house, lock all doors and all windows.  Make sure your garage is closed too.  Often times, burglary is a crime of opportunity. If a criminal doesn't find an open window or door at your residence, he is likely to move onto the next home and try his luck there.  
  2. If you don't have a monitored home alarm system, at least get an alarm sign for your front lawn.  They can be purchased on ebay and are an excellent deterrent.  Again, if a criminal sees this in your front lawn, they are likely to move onto a home without an alarm since it's much easier to break into without being caught.
  3. Along the same lines are exterior video cameras and mock cameras.  Many residents are not able to afford an expensive video surveillance system.  If you can afford to purchase one and install it, it will be an excellent deterrent.  Not only does it prevent your home but it also protects property and people in range of the video cameras. This includes vandalism to vehicles on the street, theft from vehicles on the street. assaults on individuals, etc.  If you cannot afford a video surveillance system, invest in mock surveillance cameras.  They will not record anything, obviously, but serve as a great deterrent.  
  4. Don't leave anything visible.  This applies to your home and your vehicle.  When it comes to your home, try to close as many blinds as possible when you're not there.  If a burglar sees a large, gleaming flat screen television through the window, it makes your home that much more tempting.  If he's not sure what he may find in there, he may not risk it and move on somewhere else.
  5. When it comes to your vehicle, never leave your belongings on the seats.  If you have a purse, either put it under a seat, in the trunk or in a compartment not visible to the naked eye, or take it with you.  The latter being the best choice.  The worst place for a purse is the place it is most often left in by women everywhere, the front seat. If a criminal sees this, he's very likely to go for the smash and grab.  Smash your window and grab your purse.  This not only applies to your purse but your phone, backpack, sunglasses, computer and anything else you may have with you.
  6. Even radios and navigation systems should be put away.  It may be a hassle but, when you turn your car off, park and exit the vehicle, you should put away anything that can be removed.  If you have a radio with a removable face plate, remove it and put it in the center console or the glove compartment.  Do the same with a navigation system.  It may be a hassle but it will prevent you from spending hundreds on replacing these items and several hundreds on a deductible to replace a shattered window.  
  7. When you go out for the day, leave at least one light on inside and one outside.  Darkness makes it easy for an intruder to gain entry without being seen. Leaving a light on indoors gives the appearance that someone may be home. That's all a potential intruder needs to move onto a different target.
  8. Change your locks immediately if keys are lost or stolen.  You never know who may have found your keys and/or they saw you drop them.  This can lead them directly to an empty home with direct access inside if locks are not changed.  Do not leave spare keys under mats or any other "hidden" areas either. Intruders know to look for this and they will.
  9. Trim your shrubbery. If you have overgrown bushes, trees or plants around entrances to your home (front door, side gate, garage, etc), all it does is help hide an intruder as he is trying to gain entry. Keep all shrubbery trim and away from doorways and gates.  
  10. Be alert.  This cannot be stressed enough.  If you see any person or vehicle that does not appear should be in the neighborhood, don't be afraid to contact authorities. Often times, criminals case an area (check it out for periods of time to evaluate activity) prior to actually committing the crime.  An alert neighborhood will steer them away from your area and onto another.  ANY suspicious activity should be reported.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top 5 Tips for New Dads: Mom is #1!

As a first time dad, your toughest challenge is ahead but, at the same time, so is the absolute best time of your life. Being a parent is a gift that is not guaranteed so, regardless of the trials that come with it, enjoy it, be grateful for it and, most importantly, prepare for it. In order to do that, you'll have to know how to handle being a first time dad AND a husband to a first time mom! Mood swings will come and go so be ready for a roller coaster. I promise it'll all be worth it!

1. Although you'd think the baby is your first priority, in reality it's your wife
She's going to need you by her side for at least the first week or two. You should be there to comfort her and help her in any way you can. She may have mom, sister and best friend there but nothing compares to sharing the first few weeks (at least) of your lifetime as parents together. Post-partum depression is all too common and being there to share in the ups and downs of the first few weeks at home will help show your wife that parenthood is a team effort!

2. Always be preparedAs a mom in law enforcement, I have a small emergency bag in my patrol car. It carries all of the necessities I'll need in a true life gun battle. As parents in real life, my husband and I carry the same type of bag for our parent emergencies. It is a smaller version of our diaper bag with a diaper, wipes, rash cream, tissues, an extra pacifier, an extra outfit and some baby food or rice cereal. This ensures that, regardless of where I am, I'll be prepared. We have all run out of the house to make a quick grocery store or gas station trip. This won't change when you're a parent, other than you'll have a baby in the back seat that may decide now's the time to relieve him or herself. That's where having an emergency baby bag in your car (along with an actual emergency kit of course) will come in very handy!

3. Babies WILL cry....a lotThis is the only way they know how to communicate. All you can do is comfort them and give them what you think they need. Your instinct will kick in and you will know what to do once baby is here. Sometimes they'll need to be rocked to sleep, other times they'll just want the comfort of dad's arms. Regardless of what it is, don't freak out every time the baby cries. You'll know when it's something serious and, when in doubt, reach out to your closest veteran parent friends. My husband and I called the hospital one too many times in the first month for reasons we now can't stop laughing about.

4. Help your wife with the usual baby duties......this includes diaper changes, bottle making and even breast feeding. Breastfeeding is one of the toughest things to master for new moms and they'll need your help. Stay beside her and get her anything she may need, including lots of water since breastfeeding requires a lot of hydration. She may need help positioning the baby, checking for a correct latch from your vantage point or just a break while she uses the potty. A lot of moms want to try and do everything themselves. Don't be afraid to take on the 50/50 challenge of taking care of the baby!

5. Don't be afraid to leave the houseSure, the doctor recommends you stay indoors for a certain amount of time after delivery. Once you get the go ahead, get out and show your baby the world. Many couples think babies are too young to notice the animals at the zoo, the people at the mall or the kids at the playground. They actually notice A LOT more than you think and the expressions they'll make will be priceless. Traveling with baby is not the nightmare you've been told. Just be prepared and always leave the house with a stocked diaper bag, a stroller and a baby carrier when the stroller is not ideal.

For additional articles on parenting, pregnancy, health, nutrition and education, visit Ellie's contributor page at Playground Dad!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lights, Camera, Party! A New Family Game on Playstation!

Games that feature a variety of mini games incorporated into it seem to be the ideal choice for families. Compilation games such as Lights, Camera, Party! From Frima Studio is the latest of these games released on the PlayStation Network using the PS Move. Mini-games such as this tend offer something for everyone. The family can all play together and, most of the time, there’s little, if any, violence. There are also a variety of animated avatars to choose from, spiking interest in even your youngest family members. Now, getting beyond the type of game it is, let’s get into the real review. Is it something you should buy for your family?

Lights, Camera, Party! is geared towards families to play as a group, laugh and have fun. It cannot be played individually unless it’s play in challenge mode. The purpose of the game is to be played in groups of up to 5 to encourage competition and laughter frantically passing the one controller back and forth to each other. As with many games, you have to play a lot in order to unlock more games. There's not a lot of games unlocked when you first get the game but, once you unlock the rest (a total of 50 all together), you’ll have plenty of variety to entertain a good crowd. There are 5 avatars but, in party mode, up to 8 can play and there will be avatars repeated. Not a big deal but it’d be nice if there were at least enough avatars for the number of players that are play together.

The main characters (avatars) in Lights, Camera, Party! are the Funzini family. The games is based around their story and the day their life changed. They were hanging out in their yard when a tv satellite falls into their yard and crashed into their home. The tv studio owner tries to make amends with the family by inviting them to participate in a game show on his network. The game show features lots of wacky games that you as the player get to play! The prize for the Funzinis if they win is a dream house!

In the game, players compete against one another in a variety of mini games. The games are played with one shared Move controller. The game is divided into rounds and, whoever wins the round wins the chance to design a portion of the house with their selected character in mind. For example, Billy Funzini is a fan of cowboys so his room would be western themed.

There are 5 characters to choose from. When you chose a character, that character’s face will be on your profile in story mode and will be used to style the sections of the house that you choose. There are different modes to play in as well. In story mode, up to four players can play together. If you have a larger group, choose party mode where up to 8 players can play.

Each of the mini-games is played as most motion initiated games are played. Players move the control up and down, they rotate it, they swing it and they do whatever they need to in order to win that round. The game is similar to most PS Move, Xbox Kinect or Wii game involving motion controls and, honestly, this game doesn’t have anything unique about it that hasn’t been done before. Having had the Wii for several years before trying this game out, however, I was impressed by the response in the motion controls. They respond very well and as accurately as you could expect.

In addition to the usual shaking all around as with most motion games, with Lights, Camera, Party! players also have to perform some tasks that include motor skills including placing blocks into corresponding holes of the same shape and matching shapes and other somewhat educational attributes to it.
The game itself is fairly simple to play. Each game and mode is thoroughly described prior to the game starting. The games are all directed by an announcer that will guide you through and continue to “cheer you on” throughout. The game encourages competition between the crowd, cheering you on as you play. The ability to beat high scores on each of the events played keeps the intensity up and the boredom away, at least until each player masters the game.

Overall, my family and I found the game to be quite entertaining. The graphics are great, the story is funny and the competition is definitely there. It’s a fast paced set of games offering variety to keep players from getting bored. The whole game takes approximately 30 minutes to play and the mini-games are short. The more games you unlock, the less repetition there will be. Once all 50 games are unlocked, Lights, Camera, Party! seems like a game my family (and our guests) can enjoy for quite a long time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

5 Ways to Spend Better Time with Your Kid

As a parent, we always wish we had 48 hours in the day instead of 24! More quality time with our kids would be a treat for any family! I know for me, between work, housekeeping, homework, dance, swim, karate and soccer, I hardly have time to think…and I only have one 3 year old! I honestly don’t know how some parents with 2 or more kids do it, especially working full time! This thought is what has sparked some creativity in me! I’ve had to come up with creative ways to get things done while also incorporating my kids into the activities to allow for quality family time! I wanted to “spend better time” with my kids! Below are some issues many of my mom & dad friends complain they “don’t have time for”. Try them out and see how your day CAN include your entire to do list and your kiddos too!

1. I can’t exercise, I don’t have time! Your kids LOVE to be outside (usually) so, take them out on their bikes, roller blades or skateboards and keep up with them with a slow jog. Your kids are too young to ride a bike, put them in a jogging stroller and get to pushin’! Not only will you get a good workout jogging but the pushing will tone your arms! Too hot or too cold to go outside, pop in a workout video or go online to some of the many sites that offer free, short daily workouts! Do them while your little ones are napping or early in the morning when your family is still catchin’ zzzs!
2. I don’t have time to cook It’s true, when you get home at 6pm, there’s hardly time to shower, not to mention busting out the cookbook and apron and sweating it out in the kitchen. After all, dinner is supposed to be at 6-7pm not 6-7am! So, why not take an hour or two out of your weekend and make dinners for the week! Freeze them up in different containers, label them Monday – Friday and pop them in the freezer. When you get home from work, soccer practice, parent conference or just come home early in tired, pop it in and your home cooked meal is ready in 2-5 minutes!
3. I don’t have time for myself Many parents, mostly moms but some dads too, complain they never have time for themselves. They don’t have time to get nails done, get their hair cut or just treat themselves with a well deserved massage. Well, many spas and salons offer packages for mommy & me and daddy & me! Take your kids and turn it into a bonding activity! It will make your little ones feel extra special, especially if there are siblings involved and they can each have their own day.
4. I need alone time with my spouse but don’t have anyone to watch my kids Well, that’s a problem many of us have. Recently some friends and I have gotten together and developed a calendar. Two to four times a month we have one of the parents watch all of the kids for 3-4 hours. The rest of the parents go out for a parents’ night out! We take turns so we all get our night out and our kids get the fun with friends they love! Local indoor gyms and studios like My Gym also offer Parents Nights Out. You pay a fee, usually between $25-35 per child (with siblings at a discount rate) and they’ll watch your kids for 3-4 hours, feed them dinner and show them a good time!
5. I don’t even have time to clean the house Ok, so, few kids like to clean but, it’s all part of growing up. We all have to learn to take care of our possessions and take pride in our home. Starting early and teaching kids to help out is not a crime nor will it hurt your child’s upbringing. If you have toddlers, teach them where their toys go and to put them away (with help from you in the beginning). If you constantly clean up after them, that’s all they’ll know and you’ll end up doing the cleaning for many years to come. Elementary age kids can be given an incentive to help out. They can earn an allowance like a salary that we earn at work. Their room should be clean without compensation since it’s their own space (like our house is ours and we have to maintain it). If they help out maintaining the rest of the home by dusting, vacuuming or cleaning some windows, reward them in some way. Activities are usually a good option to money, like a day at the park or a trip to your local museum! You can also check out It’s an excellent online chore chart that teaches your kids to earn, save & spend and best of all it’s FREE!
So, you didn’t think it was doable but it is! You just have to make do with what you have and get creative to spend better time!
The Parent Center also writes for Playground Dad! Check out his blog & our article there!

5 Ways to Spend Better Time with Your Kids

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Family Chores: Creative Ways to Get Them Done!

Not everyone's home is going to be spotless, but, with a little help from everyone in the household, it can be close!  Below are some tips from Parents Magazine to help you get your family and your home clean and organized!

  1. The Chore Wheel:  Make up a wheel with each of the family chores written on it.  Spin the wheel weekly to rotate the jobs amongst each member each week.  Avoids boredom and spreads the work out evenly to keep it far.
  2. Responsibility Chart:  Post a Responsibility Chart with daily chores on them.  Have your kids check off the ones that are complete and offer a treat at the end of the week if chores were checked off every day.
  3. Ready, Set, Go!:  Make everything a race. From cleaning up their rooms to taking out the trash and washing dishes.  Makes it more fun and everything's done much faster :)
  4. Make it Make Cents: Pay them! Teach them responsibility and how to budget their money at the same time. Pay them 10 cents a chore and encourage them to save the money up for a specific item they want.  They'll have a goal to reach and realize you have to work for what you want!
  5. Last but not least, use My Job Chart (click on the link):  My Job Chart is the free, easy to use, online chore chart and reward system for organizing and motivating your kids to learn first hand how to Save, Share and Spend. Kids earn money then they can set it aside to save, give to charity, or buy rewards you set. An incredible website that offers parents and kids an invaluable tool!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

10 Tips for EGG-cellent Egg Recipes for Kids

The incredible egg is a nutritional powersource for protein and other important minerals tha tfuel your child's brain and overall health.  Here are some ideas, outside of the same ol' fried and scrambled to get your kids eating eggs!

  1. Make an egg pizza! Toast an English muffin, add a slice of tomato with slices of hard boiled egg on top and drizzle with your favorite cheese for a nutritious start to the day for breakfast!
  2. Combine yolks with sauteed spinach and pieces of ham or turkey to make your own version of "green eggs and ham (or turkey) deviled eggs"
  3. Add slices of eggs or just egg whites to sandwiches.  They're an egg-cellent addition to BLTs.
  4. Mash yolks with pico de gallo for deviled eggs with some kick!
  5. Make egg-salad wraps for a snack or lunch staple.
  6. Sandwich a fried egg between a waffle split in half.
  7. Finely chop eggs and toss into macaroni or potato salad.
  8. Wrap scrambled eggs in a high fiber tortilla and top salsa and avocado.
  9. Mix chopped egg into tuna salad.
  10. Drizzle a little ketchup over a plain hard boiled egg & eat plain! Most kids love ketchup so much they'll eat anything with it :)

A HOT new Kids Product! Toy, Furniture, Educational & more!

BOBLES is an amazing new line of toys that double as furniture and tools to help your kids master motor skills!  Check out the different shapes, including a pig, elephant, fish, rock, snake and more!  They're made of toxin-free materials and they're soft to keep  your child accident free!  You can find them on Amazon and at!  Check 'em out!

Here's an excerpt from the website:
bObles is children's furniture with a simple and creative design shaped in a way that makes you eager to use it. The name "Tumbling animals" covers exactly what you have to do with this piece of furniture - the children have to tumble and gain some bodily experience, which can serve as the foundation for further development. They appeal to something human inside us as they look like animals - but they can easily represent whatever the child wishes during the play. The material is firm but still soft and it is also user friendly as it is easy to clean - wipe over using a wet cloth.

Healthy Tips for Formula Feeders!

While breastfeeding is the most nutritious option for babies, it's not always an option for every mom for a variety of reasons.  Bottle feeding with formula is always an option and here are some tips to to make sure it's nutritious and safe! 

  1. CLEANLINESS:  Wash yourhands well with soap and water before feeding.  Consider sterilizing new bottles and nipples before using them for the first time.  After that, washing in the dishwasher will due since the heat sterilizes on its own.
  2. ONE AT A TIME:  Prepping a days worth of bottles is convenient but, to be on the safe side, avoid it.  Toss an leftovers and start with a fresh bottle the next time you feed.  Bacteria from baby's mouth can contaminate leftover formula.
  3. WATER WORKS:  Only mix powder with plain tap or bottle water that's been boiled for a minute, then cooled.  Bottled water may also contain bacteria, depending on whether it's been opened and/or refilled. Boiling will remove anything harmful that may be in the bottle.
  4. THE FINE PRINT:  Follow directions on the formula container carefully.  The powder and water must be measured correctly so your baby gets the nutrient he needs.
Excerpt from Parenting Magazine April 2012

Martial Arts for You & Your Kids!

There are tons of activities to choose from when you're looking to keep you kids active & entertained. One of my favorites and definitely one of the most beneficial is martial arts. Not only does it keep kids (and adults) fit but it also teaches discipline, dedication & determination with its belt ranking system. Kids WANT to work harder and harder because they want to achieve that next belt. Most importantly, it helps with the ever rising problem called "bullies"! Bullies seem to be getting worse and worse and even more brazen. Getting involved in martial arts will help your kids defend themselves, not only against bullies, but also against anyone wanting to cause them any harm.

Having said that, there are many choices today when it comes to martial art studios. They seem to be popping up everywhere. One problem.....they're expensive and some don't tailor their classes towards little ones.  So, do research in your area and take advantage of FREE classes. Most studios will offer a free introductory class to see where your child is, if he or she is ready for the class and if you like the class for your child.  I tried 4 different studios before I found the right fit for my daughter.  Make sure to check out your local community's parks and recreation programs too!  They're usually taught at the high end studios but at a portion of the price!