Back Online and DoMorefor24 Giving Campaign

DoMore24After cleaning up from the hack attack and really ensuring things were scrubbed down, I took a bit of a digital break from everything — blogging, Facebook, etc. But nothing is more wonderful to come back online for like a community-giving campaign, so I’m pleased to jump online to be a part of the United Way of the Nation Capital Area’s DoMorefor24 community giving campaign.

Here’s the idea, as a community, we can pitch in and “Give Where We Live.” One 24-hour blitz of community giving to organizations who make a difference right here. I love it! When I was asked if I’d like to help by hosting a donation site, that part was a no-brainer.

The United Way of the Nation’s Capital Area  has offered to match dollar-for-dollar the first $500 we raise together through this special Caffeine and a Prayer link between now and the end of June 6. There are hundreds of non-profits involved, including at least three that I personally volunteer for, and I was starting to feel a bit torn — was I diluting efforts by not throwing my promotional efforts behind just one? The United Way graciously is allowing funds donated via this site to go to the 501(c)3 non-profit women’s volunteer organization of the Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV), of which I am a member and past president. This means the proceeds will be used toward their mission, and since JLNV members volunteer with Shelter House and the Children’s Science Center, two other organizations participating in the campaign, I felt like this was the best way for me to stretch contribution dollars — as it is a way to give “hands and dollar.” I love the JLNV because they train women to be skilled volunteers and leaders in our community, help other non-profits, and have more than 50 years of proven experience in Northern Virginia of pinpointing the needs of our citizens and then finding the resources and solutions to address those needs.

How can you participate in the campaign?

 

 

 

 

Nintendo Wii U Extends Social Experience, Family Fun #WiiU

Nintendo Wii U GamePad and Wii Motion remotes

Despite JavaDad’s protests, I began lobbying for a family gaming system four years ago when JavaBoy entered Kindergarten. I could see that video games would eventually be one of the factors in our kids’ social lives as to who wanted to play at whose house. By having a gaming system in place, I wanted us to become familiar enough with the games to know what our kids would be playing elsewhere, and of course I hoped we would become what used to be called “the Kool-Aid house,” a place where the neighborhood kids wanted to come play.

After much thought and consideration, we bought a Nintendo Wii console.. It seemed the most family-friendly of the choices, had what was then considered an innovative interactive form of controller, and it was a system I truly saw us playing with together. And I was right — my husband’s 40th birthday was a Wii Party!

Back then, I had no affiliation with Nintendo. Today,  I am a Nintendo Social Media Ambassador, which simply means their PR company sends me products from time to time to try out and while they hope I’ll talk about it, I’m not required to. If you are a long-time reader, you know my opinions are always my own.

Which is how I happened to have about 30 friends* and two very nice (and yes, I’ll say it, quite adorable) representatives from Nintendo’s PR team in my house last week, trying out the Wii U. It sounded fun. It was also great motivation for getting the whole family to pitch in and straighten up the house. Win-win, right?

Why would I worry, right? (Yes, this is the “give me your tiger/crazy face” shot.)

Shortly before the party, I became slightly panicky at the thought of 30 people in my house playing a game with five remotes. Especially since about half of those people were under the age of 10.  So in addition to the Wii U set-up that Nintendo provided, I managed to bring in another one and set up a “kids room” in one room and an “adults room” in the other.  Just wanted to bring that up so you didn’t get the crazy idea I normally keep a Wii U in my formal living room. Or a large gaggle of children.

This is merely half-a-gaggle of children.

In a nutshell, everything I liked about my original Wii — family-friendly, interactive, promotes movement rather than being a couch potato while playing — still exists in the Wii U.  However, enhanced features such as TVii, streaming video and Wii U Chat, both reduces the remote control clutter and extends the entertainment functionality of our family room.

What’s Different

Playing with the Wii U GamePad in Nintendo Land's Mario Chase.

My friend S. is very focused on the Wii U GamePad during a round of Nintendo Land’s Mario Chase!

The GamePad is the most obvious change between the original Wii and the Wii U, but more than just a fancy new remote, it radically alters the way games are played. In addition to allowing you to have a fifth player in many games, it is a touch screen with a camera, and allows you to participate in the game in a different way from the other 1-4 players holding regular remotes. For example, you may be the only one who can see the entire layout of a course — in Mario Chase (Nintendo Land), the player with the GamePad is Mario and runs a maze to escape the Toads. Only Mario can see the entire maze and everyone’s position. The perspectives of the Toads are divided onto the TV screen. There is an option that allows the Toads to watch live video of the face of the person holding the GamePad either for fun or to see if that gives away any clues as to Mario’s location (i.e. shifting eyes).

On the TV screen you can see the perspective of the remote-holders in Mario Chase.

Outside of gameplay, the GamePad can become an interactive TV remote with Nintendo TVii;  provide access to video on demand services such as Amazon Instant video, Hulu Plus and Netflix (service subscription required); and bring YouTube and the rest of the Internet to your TV.

Wii U Chat allows you to video chat via the camera and microphone on the GamePad with another Wii U user. My kids enjoyed interacting with their cousins this way (the video can appear on both the GamePad and the TV) not only because of the video chat, but the added feature of being able to “scribble” on each other with the stylus. You must be approved “friends” in order to chat, and like most Nintendo products, there are ways to lock this down, so I feel pretty confident about giving my own kids access to this. They can’t add a friend without my intervention.

We haven’t explored everything in the Miiverse, but again, we have been able to keep the parental controls pretty tight, so we are comfortable with this interactive/social portion of the Wii U.

The Wii U console typically does not come with remotes other than the GamePad. If you had a previous Wii, although your old remotes will work, if you hadn’t already upgraded to the Wii Motion or Motion Plus remotes, I highly recommend doing so as some of the new games take advantage of the vibrations and other features of the Motion remotes.

Your regular Wii games will still work on this console, but the Wii U games will take advantage of the added dimension of the GamePad. It is difficult (for me, at least) to explain how much this allows the game developers to enhance the creativity and interactivity of a game — you really need to play it to grasp it.

The Games We Played

Nintendo Land appeals to me because it has a variety of games that use different types of skills. At the opening you walk into a virtual theme park with attractions based on different Nintendo worlds. My favorite is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion where the person holding the GamePad is the Ghost and can see all the other players in a haunted house and tries to scare them to death. Meanwhile, they have flashlights and try to shine it on the ghost. They work as a team, knowing the ghost is nearby if their (Wii Motion) remote vibrates, and try to zero in on its location. There are so many games on this disc, we haven’t played every level of every game — but it is a quick way to entertain any group of people (no matter what age or skill level).

Luigi’s Haunted Mansion in Nintendo Land is my favorite game. I am partial to playing the role of the ghost!

In Super Mario Bros. U, the whole gang is here, including your Mii characters! With new worlds and new power-ups, the changes aren’t merely in the scenery the GamePad player can help by adding bricks to block the bad guys or help the team get a lift.

I love how K. goes from "game face"...

I love how K. goes from “game face”…

... to laughter in a split second!

… to laughter in a split second!

SiNG Party was clearly the hit of the evening with the adults, but the kids loved it too. Unlike traditional karaoke where all eyes are on the singer, this party game has prompts for the dancers (that’s the rest of the crowd!) so everyone can get in on the fun. One or two special Wii U microphones can be plugged into the console.

The Results

Pure hilarity!

Can you guess which song we we were singing and dancing to here?

My friend J. wowed the crowd by crooning a classic Monkees song.

Oh sure, the kids are dancing, but notice who is REALLY into it. Yep… the adults!

I didn’t personally get much time to play during the party as I was running around taking photos and cheering like a maniac and making sure, for example, that children didn’t get chocolate cake on the white sofas. I had no worries that the kids would enjoy themselves — they figured things out quickly, mobbed the screen and yelled out instructions to each other. But the adults! Oh my! I loved watching them transform from cautious, polite parents (“Oh no, it’s okay, you can take the GamePad first…”) to singing and dancing rock stars. The laughter as they teamed up for games reminded me we are all kids at heart. Which is why I’m going to make a point to invite families over (not just kids) to play more often.

Resources

The Wii U game console is available in different configurations and bundles ranging from about $299 – $350 from a variety of big box stores/retailers/e-tailers. For more information and/or purchase, you may be interested in the official Nintendo Wii U site at http://www.nintendo.com/wiiu. If you are having trouble finding it locally, you may be interested in using my Amazon Associates affiliate link, which will allow you to support Caffeine and a Prayer at no additional cost to you.

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Wii U is a trademark of Nintendo. KOOL-AID is a trademark of Kraft Foods Groups LLC.

*If we know each other IRL and you weren’t invited, it doesn’t mean you aren’t my friend. It’s because I don’t have a house large enough to invite everyone I wanted to. Ping me if you want to come play!

 

Readers – Please Bear With Me, Fixing Hacks

Hello Readers,

Please bear with me. For the first time in almost 5 years, my blog has been hacked and if you viewed my recent Nintendo Wii Post in Google Reader, you saw a lot of spammy links that I did not put in there. This is the result of a recent spate of hacker attacks on WordPress blogs. I have been working around the clock digging through code to fix it, but it is difficult to tell if I’ve fixed it without some deleting and reposting to Google Reader as you cannot see the malicious code elsewhere.

Please bear with me and know that I take the integrity and security of this site very seriously not only because of the time and money I invest in it, but because I don’t want to expose you or your machines to anything risky or risque!

Thanks for your support as I work to undo the unkind work of these hackers.

J.J.

 

 

Shot@Life Vaccination Campaign Celebrates One Year of Changing Lives #BirthdayBash

Disclosures: Photos provided by Shot@Life and Lindsay. Statistics for this post provided by the Shot@Life campaign and to the best of my knowledge are accurate. I was not compensated for this post, I just think this is a great movement.

 

Some ideas are so elegant in their simplicity they are awe-inspiring. For example, the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign. In a world where one child dies every 20 seconds from a preventable disease, the solution practically writes itself. Get those children the life-saving vaccines they need!

The Shot@Life movement focuses on just four diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio. These are diseases that can easily and inexpensively be prevented with vaccines and are widespread enough to merit targeting.

“Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two biggest killers of children under five, and account for more than one-third of childhood deaths worldwide. Polio has recently re-emerged in areas that had been polio-free for years and measles still kills an estimated 450 people each day—the majority of whom are young children,” according to the Shot@Life.org website.

Shot@Life’s first birthday — they like to use the term birthday rather than anniversary to mirror the act of a child reaching his or her first birthday — coincides with World Immunization Week. If you’d like to know more about the organization, you can see what I wrote about them after attending a local media briefing.

But in this post, in honor of Shot@Life’s own milestone, I was given an opportunity to interview one of their “Champions” — a blogger who took things up a notch, received training at the Shot@Life Champion Summit, and has blogged, tweeted, and spoken about the cause for several months. Lindsay from Laughing Lindsay kindly allowed me to interview her via email last week.

E-Interview with Lindsay of LaughingLindsay.com

Lindsay at a Shot@Life event.

JavaMom: How did you first learn of Shot@Life? Was it at the  Type-A Parent Conference 2012 in Charlotte North Carolina?

Lindsay: Yes, it was at Type-A. I visited Shot@Life’s booth and grabbed a blog prompt and then viewed their video on the last day which was very touching.

JavaMom: On your blog you said your Masters in Education compels you to stand up for all kids, but what convinced you Shot@Life was the right campaign to get involved with?

Lindsay: Healthcare is something that is very important to me… My dad had been in bad health for years. He was always worried about me developing some of his conditions and always made sure I received preventive care. Sadly, he passed away back in December. Since then, I’ve wanted to give other children the opportunity to survive and thrive, like my father did with me. I want to stand up for those children who aren’t as lucky as me.

 JavaMom: You went to the Champions Summit in DC — what was the most interesting or life-changing takeaway from that event?

Lindsay: The Summit was my first time traveling away from home since dad passed (I still live with my mom). The Summit forced me to finally talk about my dad and his passing (I hadn’t done it much prior to that). I still haven’t spoken much about it to people outside of my immediate family as it’s still hard to discuss. However, this cause has allowed me to discuss and deal with losing him around strangers.

 JavaMom: What was it like meeting the other Champions? Any surprises?

Lindsay: I’m initially a pretty reserved person. So, I didn’t say much when I was grouped with the other folks from Virginia. However, they called me on it and one of the first things I told them was about Dad. Those women instantly went from being strangers to some of the best ladies I’ve ever met. I didn’t think I would bond with other people so quickly there, but I did. The Summit was about learning about the cause/organization but also about connecting with other people right there.

 JavaMom: What have you been able to do as a champion to help further the cause of Shot@Life?

Lindsay: I blog and Tweet about it pretty often. I also spoke at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in West Virginia state conference last month (which also forced me to talk about Dad).

JavaMom: What more would you like to do with the Shot@Life movement?

Lindsay: I would love to do an observation trip, like some other Champions have done. Also, I hope to get a mention in the local newspaper someday. Really, anything to get the word out there and get more people involved.

JavaMom: Please provide five key facts you like readers to know about Shot@Life and what they do.

Lindsay:

Five Reasons to Support Shot@Life

  1. 1.5 million children die each year of a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. We can change this!
  2. Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.
  3. Around the world, some moms walk 15 miles to get vaccines for kids. Shot@Life can make it easier.
  4. $20 can vaccinate a child against four deadly diseases.
  5. Immunizing a child helps us build a healthier world for everyone.

JavaMom: What would you like to challenge readers to do this week?

Lindsay: Here are three easy ways to help:

  • From now  until May 2, share a relay post from the Global Mom Relay on Facebook or Twitter to unlock a $5 donation (up to $62,000 per week) from Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to benefit Shot@Life.
  • Signup to join the cause at: http://shotatlife.org/join.html
  • Or donate here

 JavaMom: And since we’re talking about birthdays and milestones… Do you have any birthday traditions?

Lindsay: I must have cupcakes (preferably either chocolate cake with buttercream frosting or red velvet cupcakes).

 JavaMom: Did you reach any key milestones during your time as a Shot@Life Champion?

Lindsay: Well, the Champion Summit was my first trip to D.C. and while there I got to have my first ride in a taxi cab.

<end of interview>

The Shot@Life campaign has stressed milestones — what milestones can children reach if given the opportunity to when given a life-saving vaccine.  Throughout the campaign, we as US mothers have been asked to think about what milestones we dream of our children having and to think of what we hope their counterparts across the globe should be able to reach as well. One more child to lose a tooth. One more book reader. A shot at riding a bike. Doesn’t every child deserve the same? Of course they do!

In the past year, Shot@Life has ensured that thousands of children around the world reached the milestone of celebrating a first birthday by receiving life-saving vaccines, sent over 26,000 letters to Congress, and grew this movement to over 190,000 supporters. As if that weren’t accomplishment enough, as you can see by the interview, this movement not only changes the lives of the people it is trying to help, but of the volunteers as well. I appreciate Lindsay being so open about her father’s passing during our interview — obviously still a difficult topic to discuss — and want to point out the gift that this campaign has given of giving her something to help carry on the legacy her father gave her of feeling compassionate towards others and a forum for reaching outside of herself into something larger so that she could keep moving forward even in her time of grief and mourning. She not only continued to feel a sense of purpose, she found a supportive community. As someone with a long history with volunteer organizations, I feel this says a lot about the Shot@Life organization.

Please visit their website for a list of additional ways to get involved, follow the #BirthdayBash hashtag on Twitter to see more stories and tweets about this week’s activities, download the mobile app for a fun way to document your child’s milestone while raising awareness about the global vaccination movement, and spread the word about the Shot@Life movement with friends and family.

Daughter Knows Best

Before I became a mother and knew better, I thought I wanted two girls. Instead, God blessed me with a son and then a daughter. I learned to embrace all things boy with JavaBoy and while not holding to purely traditional roles (he cooks, he owns a tea set), I am not one to dress my son in princess costumes – those I saved for my daughter. I had hoped my daughter would share my love all things glittery and glitzy. The screaming over tights in baby ballerina classes may have been my first clue what the future held.

My daughter will look you square in the eye and say, “I am not a princess type of a girl.” Instead her dress-up outfit of choice is the knight costume from LEGOLAND — with its helmet, sword, shield and cape. She is a dragonslayer, running through the house on her invisible steed protecting us from an onslaught of scaly, fire-breathing monsters.

She has many beautiful princess dresses and costumes — gifts from well-meaning friends and family and things I bought before fully understanding her. When we had tickets to Disney on Ice, I made sure her Cinderella dress was in good shape to wear for the evening. Instead, it remained on the hanger. She had no interest in dressing like the princesses — even after seeing hundreds of other little girls doing so.

However, she’s not your classic tomboy either. As much as she loves digging for worms and playing with amphibians, she is quite vain about her fingernails and likes to sport a purple manicure and pedicure whenever possible. She enjoys her glittery lip gloss from a birthday party favor bag and has definite opinions about fashion. She’ll wear beautiful dresses — but only when she feels there is a reason to — for example she believes “fancy” dresses are only appropriate for church on Sundays.

This is perhaps why I have been so slow to understand the complexities of her strong anti-princess-and-the-like conviction. She likes purses and jewelry, enjoys picking out her clothes and trying to “match” things (though we’re still working on the difference between coordinating vs. monochromatic attire).

The social ramifications of her preferences come up more often than one would think. She politely declined to wear a tutu for an Angelina Ballerina party. When her friend was over and wanted to dive into her dress-up clothes and pretend they were princesses at a masquerade ball – JavaGirl finally declared firmly, “I don’t want to be a princess, but I will be a princess’s horse,” and began whinnying while walking on all fours. Upon learning about another friend’s princess party she bargained, “I’ll come as long as I don’t have to dress like a princess!” The girls worked out a deal between themselves and everyone was happy.

As much as I wish sometimes she’d just go with the flow, I have admired her immense self-confidence. When she was four, we entered the beauty salon in the Playseum and I asked her if she wanted to try one of the fun wigs. “No thank you,” she said. “I like my own hair. I like myself just as I am.” Wow. I remember silently praying that she’d always feel that way.

I try to remember that — the importance of liking one’s self — whenever I find myself wishing she’d be more like some of the other girls. And yet, another birthday party came up — a tea party at a tea parlor with a Fancy Nancy theme. I tried to cajole JavaGirl into wearing one of her beautiful dresses and accessorize as crazily as she would like. She’d have none of it. Instead, she got a Fancy Nancy book, paged through, and seizing upon what the character wore for a soccer game, decided to construct an outfit of her own.

She started with a Gymboree sequined whale shirt, because I had told her a few days ago when she had changed clothes for us to pot some plants that the sequined shirt was not “play” clothes and was too “fancy” for digging in the dirt. She added a pair of jeans and a ribbon skirt with jingle bells on the ends. Several plastic necklaces. Finally, as a concession to me, she agreed to wear a rhinestone tiara.

I looked at my daughter and her funky, jingly, glittery outfit and wondered if she’d look like a complete outcast at the party. I couldn’t help but flash back to a time when I made a poor choice of outfit as a young teen. I was in a local beauty pageant (the only one I was ever in) and having won for my town, I was now in the larger competition. I won my title in a very conservative pleated skirt and blouse — something not pageant-like at all. My mother tried to convince me to get a different dress for the next level, something more along the lines of a party dress. But I remained firm in my conviction, feeling like I had won in the first outfit, I should stick with it. I placed fourth — which meant I had no title or duties. First place of course had the title, second and third were essentially fill-ins who made appearances and rode on the float.

It got back to me that I would’ve placed higher had I worn a party dress like the other girls — although we were not judged on our clothing choice, the fact that I was not dressed like the other girls was jarring to the judges.

That is the first time I remember questioning myself and my judgment. So as JavaGirl and I discussed her wardrobe choice, I teetered between not wanting to damage that inner self-confidence and yet also wanting to shield her from a moment of feeling like she should have just gone with the flow. Don’t get me wrong, I was never one to bend to peer pressure and I don’t want her to either, but there are lessons to be learned about getting along in society as well. If we are always swimming against the current, we are too tired to fight when there is a real reason to. If we are always counter-culture, sometimes people are less likely to listen to us when we stand up to say that the current culture is wrong in a particular instance.

I asked her to try on a red party dress “just to see” in the hopes that she’d choose to wear it to the party. It’s a dress that she wore for a Christmas concert and felt quite confident in. But on this day, it merely made her frown. I could see her emotions on her face — she was fighting back tears and though she tried to hide it, the sadness was breaking out all over her face.  She was torn between wanting to please me and not wanting to wear the dress. I was equally torn between wanting to protect her from potential scorn and not wanting to make her miserable.

I hugged her and reassured her that I didn’t want her to be miserable. I told her I loved her just the way she was. I explained that she might be the only girl in jeans at the party and asked if she was going to be okay with that. She was.

We arrived early at the party as I was taking the birthday girl’s big brother out to an event with JavaBoy. The birthday girl opened the door and squealed with glee.

She was wearing leggings, a t-shirt, a tutu, jewelry, a boa and a feather tiara. Putting them side by side they had on very similar outfits.

My daughter is wise beyond her years. Some days, I try to learn from her.