My Flickr Moment.

by sesame on April 19, 2014

Floating

It is week 10 over on Let The Wild Rumpus Last. We all met because of Flickr. I have said it many times, Flickr changed my life. 

Today they shared my story. 

See it here on my Flickr Moment.

Thank you to my virtual parent group (it wasn’t and still isn’t just moms!) for getting me through it all beautifully.

Just the other day, Gemma was texting with Madame. How fast a decade goes. I did not just make friends, but my kid did as well.

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Sponsored by Samsung and Nuffnang

As I have mentioned before, I have been struggling with my kids’ addiction to technology as of late. I was on the search for some practical ways to control the screen time as well as how I could leverage their love, enthusiasm and natural talent for this sort of play into learning. Only Gemma had her own tablet though and the twins were left to a dvd and/or video games. Samsung sent us their new GALAXY Tab 3 for kids. I am already a devoted Samsung fan girl, so I was excited to see what their tablet was like. 

GALAXY-Tab3-kids

GALAXY-tab-for-kids

GALAXY-Tab3-kids
In our family we are very technologically set. Our calendars are all online and synced to each other, we share books from a digital library on all of our devices and we believe in the good of being up to date with the world. The twins have never really benefited from any of that beyond getting really awesome at playing Angry Birds on my phone in waiting rooms while I run out of other options to keep them quiet. Until now they’ve been too young for much else. Honestly, I did not want to fill up my phone with games and learning apps and then have to deny them access as I needed to use my phone. I was concerned about over usage if we bought them their own tablet. I was also worried that they would only play games. 

Not-Just-Games

Samsung knows these issues and has built this tablet to both alleviate the worries of parents and engage the kids! The tablet itself is bright and comes with its own removable tough rubber casing to protect its edges against bumps and excited handling. It is designed to open in Kids Mode where the screen is set up with only the apps and games the parents allow their children to use. Everything is password protected so that the parents are in complete control. Since it arrived on a Friday, I allowed the twins to really play with it without many restrictions over the weekend. I let them test every app and game that was appropriate for their age. I’m glad I did because I discovered that one of the Samsung apps that came preinstalled on the tablet (Inventions 1 & 2) was a huge hit. This is a building app where the child has to figure out and put together a virtual device to solve a problem. It takes imagination and ingenuity. It isn’t an easy app and I was extremely surprised and pleased to find that they were very good at it. Of course I’ve also loaded their favourite games but here’s what I really love. 

GALAXY-Tab3-kids-time-limit

The parental controls can be customised so that the tablet can be used for certain set amount of time and when the time is up they get a friendly little warning from a cartoon character one minute before it gently turns off instead of me, their mother, screaming for them to put it down for the 14th time. When the timer went off, Kieran ran to me with the tablet and said that “a little dog” told him time was up and he was going to do something else. There was no stomping of disappointed little feet, nor rolling of angry little eyes. He was happy about it. I was pleasantly surprised, but I guess coming from a happy little cartoon dog on the screen is much better than when it comes from me. I wonder if I can program it to tell the twins to eat their vegetables as well? Or clean their room?! I digress, back to what the thing can do! 

GALAXY-Tab3-kids

GALAXY-Tab3-kids

GALAXY-Tab3-kids

Another time control I have implemented is that the device can only be used during certain times of day so that there is no temptation to play on it while they should be doing something else like getting ready for school. It is only on from 4-6pm which is homework or chill out time in our house. There is no more arguing with me. No matter how much they plead or try to get away with it anyway, the tablet is off until it isn’t and I am not really in control of that in their eyes. I don’t have to be the bad guy this time. That tablet doesn’t fall for any of their tactics. 

With the parental settings, I am also completely relaxed knowing that the twins can’t get to the internet, accidentally delete anything important nor access any areas where purchasing virtual stuff with real money happens. 

It is so easy and quick to configure what apps they are allowed to use. Ticking a simple check box is all it takes to add it to the menu available to them in Kids Mode. (It comes preloaded with eight best selling kids apps, but you can also download and install more from the kids app store! We bought a few from there and downloaded some I had already purchased from the Google Play store.) The checkbox system of app control has come in handy after I discovered they were quickly becoming addicted to one game. While I wanted them to use the tablet to practice some reading words, they would click back over and start playing that other game. Instead of having to uninstall it, I just logged into the parent control panel and un-ticked the box next that app. I have now decided that since it is so easy to manage this way, I would turn off all the silly games during the week leaving them only with the fun learning apps until the weekend. Now I know when they get their 20 minutes of screen time after school, it is put to educational use!

The new GALAXY Tab 3 for kids has the ability to turn into a normal tablet for adults, but this one will stay just for the kids. I like that they have their own device. While the twins will get a lot of use out of the Kids Mode, the tablet can change with their needs and interests. If you are considering buying this for a child at the older end of the age range, you will not be stuck with something they outgrow.  

The Samsung GALAXY Tab 3 for kids fills the exact requirements of the playful learning device I was looking for while being the toy that the twins are excited to spend time on.

Note to parents of multiple children: I did buy a headphones splitter for the tablet as the twins like to sit together and watch each other play. With the headphone splitter, it is easier to get them to “share” the one tablet as they feel they are still involved during the other’s turn.

GALAXY-Tab3-kids

Of course, I can’t review this with my kids without talking about the camera, now can I? While its resolution is not something that I would be able to use for myself, it is perfect for the twins! The built in stickers that they can add to people had them laughing for a long time. I have not added any extra editing apps to the tablet although I did install Instagram on the “adult” side so that I could share their hilarious creations. Samsung has made taking photos even more fun for my kids!

It was only fair... It was only fair that I let them photograph me too. Right?

To stand a chance of winning a $100 Google Play voucher*, please tell me in a comment below:
“How would the Samsung GALAXY Tab 3 for kids fit in your life?”

Get in quick as the contest closes on 25 April!

 

*This is a game of  skill and entries will be judged based on creativity and originality. Open to Australian residents only. Entries open 9:01am AEDT on Monday 14 April 2014 and close 5:00pm AEDT on Friday 25 April, 2014. Terms and Conditions apply. Please click here for full Terms and Conditions.

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Dreamworks comes to Melbourne

by sesame on April 13, 2014

Week nine for Let The Wild Rumpus Last is here and I submitted a frame from my mom/daughter date with Gemma to the DreamWorks Animation exhibition at ACMI.  It is always such a pleasure to spend some one on one time with each kid. The kids love those outings as well since they don’t have to fight for my complete attention. After hearing that the kids gala would be a bit crowded and busy, I decided it might be a bit much for Kieran. I am glad that he stayed home as it was so loud and super squishy. We had a blast though and the throng thinned out enough for us to easily enjoy the whole exhibit. Fantastic for kids, it is open now until October 5th. Make sure you take a virtual ride on Toothless the dragon, that was my favourite part.

acmidreamworks  

 

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diptych-portraits

I am finding out that there is a moment around five and a bit when the baby really fades from the child. Sure, there are still other moments, but for the most part I turn around and see a kid where I could swear I just put my infant down. 

Now, I don’t remember it happening so dramatically with Gemma. Then again, when she was that age there really were babies in the house. Two of them just learning to walk in the opposite direction of each other. I think I was a bit distracted. There are moments now with Gemma when I clearly see that her kid years are speeding towards teen territory. I’m not rushing her to grow up, but moments like the one this week when buying her new boots for autumn, I realised that next year we will be shopping for her shoes in the ladies department.  

And so I photograph. I record. Like tonight when I carried another load of laundry upstairs to be folded and saw that Clover’s hair had apparently grown about 3 inches when my back was turned. 

diptych-clover-portraits

I’m just thankful I get to experience it all and when these fresh moments are forgotten, I will have these photographs to remind me.

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As soon as we drove out of quarantine check upon arrival in Tasmania, we were on the road. If you missed that post it was the first in this series, so click to start there.

Christmas-Hills-Raspberry-Farm-Cafe A beautiful breakfast had been scheduled for us at the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm & Cafe. It was just under an hour’s drive from the dock in Devonport, so with the promise of coffee to fuel me, we headed there. This area at the north of Tasmania has organised a beautiful food and beverage tour filled with nearly two dozen option for you to drive between called the Cradle To Coast Tasting Trail. Our navigation system had a bit of a hard time finding the farm, but it is just off the main road, so easy to see once we got there. What a delicious way to start the trip! I had myself one of the famous raspberry lattes and the kids all had raspberry smoothies. The breakfast menu was big, so I asked them to bring me what they thought was the best thing on the menu. While we no longer eat bacon (I forgot to ask for it not to be included), I did have to admit that it smelled amazing and tasted great. The kids ate my bacon in the end. We were so full and the wonderful staff helped us get orientated to the area. They suggested we try to spot the platypus in their lake, but either we scared it away or the paddy melon that startled the kids did! No platypus spotting for us, but a lovely walk around the grounds before getting back in the car and heading off to see some cheese made! The Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm and Cafe is open every day of the week and a place not to be missed on your drive around Tasmania!

Ashgrove-cheese Not far back up the road towards Devonport is the Ashgrove Cheese. We had a quick look inside for some tasting and watching. The kids were really anxious to get to the Freycinet Lodge where we were to stay that night and I knew it would be a pretty fair way, so we hit the road again.
Tasmania-with-kids It was a lovely day for a drive. We had fun admiring the scenery and spotting Tasmanian wildlife. A quick stop in Campbell Town for food, the loo and a run around the park before heading over the hills towards Great Oyster Bay and on to the Freycinet Peninsula. We did stop one more time to stretch our legs and Gemma found that the ground was covered in shells, so we knew we were close. 
Tasmania-with-kids I am really glad we decided to head right to Freycinet Lodge that day as we only had one night there. As it turns out, it was a goldmine for photography and an excellent spot for the kids to play in nature with just their imagination to entertain them. After dropping our bags off in the unit, we headed down the path behind the lodge and onto Honeymoon Bay. It was deserted and after getting their clothes soaked, the kids changed into bathing suits despite the chill in the air (and in the water) they splashed themselves into exhaustion. I took pictures and just enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves. I was even too tired to cook dinner in the kitchenette, so I just picked up a few delicious meals for us from the Bistro at the lodge and took them back to eat in our cabin.
Tasmania-with-kids The accommodation was beautiful. A perfect blend of rustic luxury. There are no televisions in the cabins, but the bath was huge and there was a stereo with beautiful music… So relaxing. With everyone tucked into their beds, we had a great sleep before the day that turned out to be our longest drive. Ever.
Don’t forget, the lodge is in a national forrest so if you drive your own vehicle there, you do have to pay for and display a permit. Here is more information on the National Parks Passes for Tasmania.

 
Stay tuned for our adventure over Cradle Mountain and two days in the west…

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Week 8 and a wee problem.

by sesame on April 5, 2014

A wee problem indeed.

LTWRL-week-8

Smalls is just too small still to make it through every night dry. She really is just a slight thing and apparently this is quite the common issue. I am not telling tales out of school here to embarrass anyone, but to start a discussion about why on earth the changeable bed protectors are so bleeping expensive. When I was little, my mother had some very unfancy but effective rubber pads she topped the sheets with and that was it. Now when I went to buy some similar things for Clover, I was confronted with a scant two different brands both with options to buy ONE overly packaged, multi layered piece of hype for nearly $70 PLUS SHIPPING. I will need two as I am not going to be doing laundry in the middle of the night to pop the one pad I could afford back on. Eventually I found one of those on sale for $50.00 in a store. No shipping, bargain, huh? And it also came with a kit featuring a program and a chart!

Hogwash. Here is my program (after ensuring all is physically well): Don’t make a big deal out of it, support her until she grows out of it just like my mother did for me and in the mean time have a stack of rubber mats to rotate so you don’t have to change an entire top bunk (filled with more stuffed animals that real ones on the ark) at 3 in the morning.  

So, I bought a big bathmat. One side is completely rubber coated. If it works, I will go and buy some more to swap out in the middle of the night. They are a whole lot comfier than what my mother used in the 70′s and a lot less expensive than what is out there to buy today. Those two companies make a point to install some fear in buying anything else out there because it might not be BPA free or what have you. I would just like to remind them that my child will be lying in pee on top of their mat, so who the F cares. 

*rant over*

You know who does care? Clover’s sweet little twin brother. He is so darling and waited outside the unplanned early morning shower for her holding a towel. She got out and he wrapped it around her so she would not be cold. My heart exploded into a billion happy pieces. The fact that my camera was right there at 6AM was a beautiful thing.

Here is an outtake from the morning and don’t forget to go and check out the rest of the images on the collaborative blog that I am a part of weekly this year, Let The Wild Rumpus Last!

Outtake

 Have you found a less expensive option for something and felt awesome for it? Share!

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Not playing favourites.

by sesame on April 2, 2014

With three kids it is hard to share images of them on here equally. It isn’t that I am playing favourites, it is just that there are periods of time where one child over the others fancies being in front of the camera. Right now it is Clover who loves being documented. So while you might see more of her here, on Let The Wild Rumpus Last and on my Instagram, I swear I am not playing favourites!

diptych-clover

I hope that when we look back on the photographs of our life as a young family there will be an overall balance of the kids. I think the cat might be feeling a bit left out though.

cat

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A friend was coming to visit from America and she loves a good road trip. After having spent a week traveling around Tasmania last year, I thought it would be the perfect getaway. I was excited to take her there, but unfortunately she had to cancel her Australian visit due to a family emergency. With the trip booked already, I decided to make it a time for some mom and kid bonding.
The best part was that we were going to get to Tasmania by ship! 

Since I arrived here six years ago, I have gazed longingly at the Spirit of Tasmania. I have watched the ship sail off into the sunset on hundreds of evenings and photographed her docked many times. With a husband who gets sea sick watching movies about boats, I was doubtful that I would ever get the chance to sail on the Spirit of Tasmania though. Here was my chance.

I was a bit nervous about the logistics of traveling by myself with the three kids, but this was such an easy way to do it. Since we had the overnight voyage, the kids went to school like usual and I packed the car. I was able to fill the trunk with not just clothes, but food so that we would not have to waste time finding a grocery store when we arrived. You can’t take fresh fruit, but you can take all sorts of other things…and wine! There was enough time to pick them up, bring them home to change out of uniforms and get comfy for the trip. 

We drove down to the dock and got there early. It was exciting to wait in our car next to the huge ship. Alec even rode home from the city and timed it so he could wave goodbye to us as we drove on board. I was a bit nervous, but it was so easy and they run it so well (as they must do with so many vehicles and passengers to load and unload in a short amount of time) that before we knew it, we were parked.

I had packed us an overnight bag since you can’t access the garage after the ship leaves the dock. It was also once not to have to try to fit all our bags into the cabin. It is small, but comfortable and I was surprised at how big the private bathroom was. There is even a shower.

The kids were excited to spy on everyone out on deck through our huge porthole, but then they just had to explore the ship. We stepped outside to see the shore of the bay from an angle we have never had. Looking over the railings we spotted HUNDREDS of jellyfish alongside the ship. 

As the sun set on Melbourne, we went inside for our dinner reservations at The Leatherwood Restaurant. The meal and staff were wonderful. In fact, the staff all over the ship were great. There was someone to help you every where you turned. 

The kids were excited to explore the ship a bit more (especially the shop), but after a short time, I insisted we go get ready for bed. I knew that morning call would come early. We all got in jammies, the kids did homework and we read a bit before lights out. It was then that we could tell that we had passed through the heads of the bay and were at sea. The ship rocked gently and it was perfect for sleep.

Morning call was at 5:40am and by the time were were all up and ready, they were calling for the first garage. Since that was where our car was, I missed coffee. They quickly and efficiently get everyone off and through quarantine. We were on the road in no time.

There must have been something special on in Tasmania as we shared the ship with so many vintage cars. It was lovely to see them all together. 

I will write about our trip in another post, but it was a few days and we found ourselves back in Devonport ready to board the Spirit of Tasmania and head back home to Melbourne.

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This time we were only the second car to load and headed all the way down to the very bottom garage. We passed levels filled with cargo trucks and the kids found it very exciting. It is such a different feel down there from the top garage. 

We had dinner at The Captains Table, the other restaurant on board. This one was more of a cafeteria style. The kids got a huge window seat and ate their meal as we left the dock. The movies showing in the on board theatre were ones I would see, but not rated for the kids. Since the kids really wanted to watch something so we opted to take two “Ship Mates” entertainment units back to the cabin. There were plenty of things loaded on them for the kids to choose from. There are dual headphone jacks so that the twins could share and Gemma could watch something else. 

Now, leaving the shore this time around meant that we were in the open sea right away. This was a particularly rough night with 1-2 meter seas. There was a note at reception giving a warning and tips for helping with any motion sickness and the store is stocked with medication and those anti-nausea wrist bands. I love the movement of a ship at sea, but my kids? Not so much. When it started to get to them (despite having taken some medication), I called lights out and we were all asleep in minutes. The staff had advised what time overnight that the two Spirit of Tasmania ships would pass each other in their journey and when we would be entering Port Phillip bay, but while I had hoped to stay up and see those things, I slept like a baby until the morning call. It was suddenly 5am and we were home in Melbourne. This time we were last off, but again, it was all run like a well oiled machine. As we drove out of the gates, we crossed the traffic lined up to board for the day crossing. 

Such a wonderful experience and a great way to take the family over to Tasmania. Next time we go, I want to do the day sailing so that I can see what I missed at night!

Look here for the first post about how we spent our days in Tasmania and LOTS of photographs! 

If you are looking for a fun trip, get yourself, family and car on the ship! There are 50% off fairs until April 12th!

 

 

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Nikon Df, not just for hipsters!

March 27, 2014

When Nikon revealed the Df, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. It just seemed to be following the trend of making digital cameras look like the old film cameras merely so that the new era of old school photographers would buy them to wear like really awkward jewellery. A chrome and black […]

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Sesame Ellis Backyard Grampout

March 24, 2014

Sponsored by Aerogard, Mortein and Nuffnang When I first heard about the Gramping Association, I thought it would not be possible for our family to participate. Who are all these outdoorsy grandparents? Alec and I were not spring chickens when we had our babies and our babies are now kids, so… I just mean, if […]

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