Gentlemen—and Ladies—Start Your Consoles…

For many kids (and tweens, and teens, and—let’s face it—adults, too), gaming is a part of life. It can be a great way to unwind by yourself or (better yet) to log some major parent-child bonding time. As you put the finishing touches on this year’s Holiday lists, you may want to include a few of the following for your favorite gamers (or gamer wannabes).

wii deluxe bundleWii U Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set Bundle (Nintendo)
Do you own a Wii U yet? If not, you won’t find a better way to start than with the Wii U Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set Bundle, which includes the Mario Kart 8 and Nintendo Land games, an MK8 steering wheel, and, of course, the deluxe 32GB Wii U console, complete with a Mario-themed red Wii remote (or Wii-mote).
The Wii U is Nintendo’s sleek, new console, which has next-generation graphics that are comparable to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Images and textures are sharp, the sound is clear, and the characters look like they’re about ready to hop right off the screen to join you on the couch.

Speaking of screens, the Wii U GamePad controller, with its 6.2-inch touchscreen, is the star of the show. The GamePad has dual analog sticks, the usual buttons (A, B, X, Y, Home, Select, and more), as well as left- and right trigger buttons. Use it to control action on the TV screen or to access additional features such as in-game maps. Oh, and you can even use it as a TV remote control. If you’re just getting started, this bundle is a very good deal at $299.99. You’ll find it at your local retailer or http://happyholidays.nintendo.com

super smash bros.Super Smash Bros (Nintendo)
If you’re not ready for the Wii U or you just prefer to play on the 3DS, Super Smash Bros. is the way to go. This fighting game has a host of Nintendo and non-Nintendo characters who face off in multi-person, last-man-standing battles. Each character has different weapons, different speeds, different heights and weights, and different ways of attacking. That should make it pretty easy to decide who your favorite is—and who your arch-enemy is too. What’s especially nice about Smash Bros. is that there are just a few buttons, which makes it easy for players—even complete novices—to master their character fairly quickly. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is available now for $39.99 from all major retailers and the 3DS e-store.

pokemon art academyPokémon Art Academy (Nintendo)
For a somewhat less enervating gaming experience, take a look at Pokémon Art Academy, a Pokémon-themed version of Nintendo’s highly successful Art Academy. This one includes 40 lessons that will have anyone and everyone painting, sketching, and drawing the Pokémon characters you know and love. It starts with a stylus on the 3DS. But the Academy introduces kids (and their parents) to an incredible variety of media (including paint, pastel, pen, pencil, and a few others that don’t start with P), and teaches them skills and techniques that they’ll be able to use in real life and that go far beyond Pokémon. Pokémon Art Academy costs $30, and you can download it digitally or buy a hard copy at your favorite retailer or on the Art Academy website at http://artacademy.nintendo.com/pokemon/

New Articles for Military Families

I’m the Military Families Expert for About.com, and I post new articles every month

This month, we’ve got a couple of articles on retirement planning, one on the Strengthening Our Military Families Initiative, one on the age old buy-vs-rent dilemma, and one on support groups for servicemembers, spouses, and children.

You’ll find these and dozens more articles for military families at militaryfamily.about.com.

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

ugly sweater

ugly sweaterWhile you scurry about the house trying to hide presents in a spot that the kids haven’t discovered yet, you might come across that sweater. Yes, that sweater. The ugly one that has been tucked away, waiting for someone to appreciate its gaudy reindeer with the light-up nose. Well, with the growing popularity of Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, that sweater will finally have its day in the spotlight. On December 12th, thousands of people will celebrate the cheesy side of Christmas by donning their most garish holiday-themed sweaters. The best part of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, however, is its partnership with Save the Children. Those who wear their loud sweaters proudly can also donate to this charity as part of their “Make The World Better With A Sweater” campaign.

Save the Children is an incredibly worthy cause, having provided food, clothing, and education to children both within the U.S. and around the world for over 80 years. They are committed to giving children better opportunities, and have achieved amazing results. Currently, they are working hard to help the thousands of children infected with or affected by the West African Ebola outbreak.
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Parenting During the Holidays after Divorce: Naughty or Nice?

A guest post from Angie Hallier

The holidays can be a rough time for divorced families. Traditions that were established for the family during the marriage inevitably change. One parent may be without the children for a part or all of the holidays, and there may be less money to go around than there was when the family lived in one household. But the last thing you want is for your children to have bad holiday memories to grow up with – memories of fighting, anxiety, stress, and guilt. Believe me, bad holiday memories will stay with children into their adulthood. I recently met a successful TV talk show anchor who told me he never had a happy Christmas until after he was married. His childhood was filled with horrible memories of divorced parents ruining Christmas by fighting every year over who would have the children, and then acting so poorly the children felt horribly guilty going to the other parent’s house. He said he and his siblings actually had to split up once so each parent could have “some” of them.
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The Connection of Sound: Bonding with Your Kids through Music

I’ll never forget the day my mom called me into the living room and as I entered I noticed a recognizable box sitting in the middle… it was her vinyl music collection. We sat down for an hour digging through the old box as she told me all the stories she had about the music of the time.

That day was the day that I fell in love with music; it was also the day that I really started to bond with my mom on a new level because I got to know a lot more about her than ever before. Suddenly there was a “cool” factor to my mom.

Whenever I visit my parents you can bet that music is always one of those big conversation topics.

You see – music is one of those items that can really bond you and your child unlike any other type of activity or interest because music is so personal.
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