I’m in The New York Times (or at least my avatar is)

I got a super surprising Google alert today that I thought was a mistake.  There was my Twitter handle – @beccasara – and there was “New York Times” next to it.  So of course I had to click on over.  And my Harry Potter tweet was featured in the #trendingNYC column in the City Room Blog.  Screenshot and all.  My avatar will look familiar to those of you who play the Wii – it’s a Mii – or as my girls call it the Momii.

Fun way to start the day!  Does this count as press?

Just Dance Kids! Another Great UbiSoft Game Giveaway!

One of my fears as a mom is that as winter approaches my daughters will spend more and more time indoors being sedentary with unspent energy making all of us a little nuts.  So, I love Wii games that get my girls moving.  Just Dance Kids is one of those games.  First of all my 8 year old daughters are very wary of games that could seem too young.  Just Dance Kids has two modes – older and younger kid, which instantly put them at ease and garnered some “cool” points.  On the mom-of-the-80′s plus side there are songs like Holiday and Mickey in the dance list – though not sung by Madonna or Toni Basil unfortunately – but still some songs for a mom who remembers wearing leggings the first time around!

Just Dance Kids is not easy – and best of all not easy to cheat.  My daughters found out long ago that they could cheat the Wii by just moving the remote and not their whole body.  That’s hard to do with this game.  You’ve got to keep up and keep your body moving to get the remote going the right way and earn your points.  The only downside is that there is no practice or learning session, you just jump right and in and try to follow the lead dancer.  It’s not that easy to pick up even on the easy level.  Some rehearsing would have been nice.  But, overall the game kept them dancing, and moving.  On a cold, rainy day it was just the thing to work off those Turkey Day leftovers and keep cabin fever at bay.

Want to win your very own copy of Just Dance Kids for the Wii?  Just leave a comment below telling me your (or your kids’) favorite dance hit!  Want an extra entry?  Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did!

This contest is now closed.

Want to win even more?  Check out my UbiSoft Petz Nursery 2 Ninetendo DS giveaway too!

While Ubisoft sponsored this review, the opinions I’ve expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Ubisoft, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.


My Daughters’ Review of Sandlot Sluggers for the Wii

So, I’m not a big “reviewer” per se.  Opinions?  Sure I’ve got a ton of them, but I’m not a sit down and review a product kind of girl.  But sometimes a fellow fabulous momblogger and PR maven extraordinaire like Beth Feldman will invite me to an event with my kids like this one for Atari’s Sandlot Sluggers and it is too good to pass up.  One: because it sounds like a ton of fun, and Two:  because Beth asked me to, and I trust and like Beth, a lot.

So, my daughters and I trekked down to Midtown afterschool one day to the Atari offices for some good ol’ baseball, Wii style.  The event was fun, hot dog cart, Cracker Jacks, popcorn, screens and playstations set up all over.  And pinatas, can’t forget the pinatas, though I wish people would.  Anyway, even though my daughters bitched and complained the whole way there they had a blast and unbelievably enough for two mathletes, they really enjoyed the game.  Read on for the review…

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The Birthday Party That Almost Killed Me

Ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.  But every year I swear I am not going to have a big party for my girls.  I’m not going to knock myself out and spend a ridiculous amount time planning and executing a custom party.  And then with four days to go I find myself schlepping down to Economy Candy on the Lower East Side to find the perfect candy toppers for the 60 cupcakes I’m baking for their school parties.  And suddenly I’m hauling the couch across the living room, clearing out furniture and strewing crepe paper from corner to corner while standing tip toe on the edge of a chair.  No matter how hard I try I just have to give in to my inner Martha and create the party of my daughters’ dreams.

This year we did an (Almost) Sleepover complete with a spa set up in their bedroom with wind-chime music, a manicure station, scrapbooking with the super cool sticker pictures we printed on a Poloroid PoGo printer and a relaxation station stocked with back issues of Highlights and American Girl Magazines.  Once the girls were beautified and relaxed we herded them into the kitchen for an ice cream sundae bar with a candy bonanza of toppings.  These are the liberties you can take when they girls are not staying the night!  Then they headed into the living room/disco where the music was thumping (thanks Pandora!) the disco light was swirling and the limbo contest sent the girls into a frenzy.  Some Wii Karaoke with Disney Sing It!  And then, just when it seemed we couldn’t pile on yet another activity we brought out the awesome cakes that were topped with incredibly special and unique toppers courtesy of You Cake.  (full disclosure: the fab moms at You Cake gave me the toppers for free and I attended a super fun You Cake event at Moon Soup the following weekend – but I wouldn’t write about them if they truly hadn’t turned out a superior product!  I’m just not that easy.)

It was a smashing success, but the next day – Mother’s Day – I felt like hell.  Congested, coughing and exhausted for the next 4 days I pretty much swore I’d never do it again.  But I guess it’s like labor.  Give it enough time and you forget the true horror and only remember the well worth it result.  My daughters are already throwing out ideas for next year.  I just stare at them with a glazed expression and nod my head.

Here are pics of the really amazing You Cake toppers.  You can see how creative and artistic they are.  Much different than the typical “photo” cake because they customize them to your theme or interest.  Also, you can take the topper right on over to your bakery and have them lay them on top and finish the border with icing, or you can do it yourself on a homemade or store bought cake.  Honestly, these were a huge hit.  My daughters adored them.

You Call This a Playdate?

Here’s the thing about the word playdate, sometimes the “play” part goes well, and sometimes, well, it just feels like a date.  An awkward, stressful, when-will-this-afternoon end date.  In the toddler years it’s usually a double date with the stranger mom or nanny in tow and then you have to make conversation, which in New York City usually centers around the awful school process, the teachers at your current school, or the kid who still isn’t potty trained or picks his nose and wipes it on other kids.

Thankfully, my daughters are almost eight years old so we are now in the drop off playdate stage.  These playdates have their own set of expectations.  I used to know what these rules were – give a snack to stave off any hunger related meltdowns, keep the playdate to an hour and a half maximum, and basically leave the girls alone with a bin full of Polly Pockets.  But, this year something changed.  This year everyone got a Wii.  And somehow, I have no idea when, the Wii went from a playdate taboo to a playdate must.

I was against the Wii as a playdate toy on principle.  Exactly what that principle was I’m not sure, but I did think that screen time is not interactive together time and isn’t that the point of a playdate?  Especially for my daughters who are identical twins, creating these one on one playdates with friends individually was something that I thought was really important.  How could playing on the Wii compete with the friendship creativity that arises from playing with their American Girl dolls and stuffed animals?  But then the inevitable happened.  We had a playdate with a girl who didn’t want to play anything.  She wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t interested in doing anything and it was making my daughter crazy trying to please and entice her into a game – any game!

Then this girl noticed the Wii sitting there on the floor winking its little yellow light at her.  At that point it was either the Wii or calling her babysitter to pick her up early.  So I struck a deal with my daughter, she could play the Wii but only if they did something active and together.  We plugged in the two Disney Dance, Dance Revolution Mats and they had the time of their lives dancing together.  And when my daughter let her friend create her own Mii at our house her friend exploded with happiness.  She couldn’t believe we would have a virtual version of her living forever on our TV.  Seriously, this was the tech  equivalent of giving someone one half of a “BFF” necklace, and it had the added bonus of implicitly saying, yes, you will come over again.

After that playdate I have allowed the Wii as long as the other parent approves too.  We’ve worked out new rules now for these playdates – they can’t be all Wii, they have to be active, and everyone has to be able to play.  And I’ve come to realize that playdates have to evolve, not just because my daughters are older but because the toys at their disposal have grown up too.  Although my poor downstairs neighbors would probably much rather my daughters and their friends stuck to playing with the dollhouse instead of dance, dance, dancing on their heads.

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

Sick Kid Equals Way Too Much Screen Time

When I was eleven I came down with mono.  I was staying in Michigan with my grandmother in August while my parents took their first ever trip to England.  After endless days of blood tests and doctor visits with no definitive answers a secondary infection allowed them to make the diagnosis and order me quarantined in my grandmother’s bedroom for the duration of the virus.  No cousins, no playmates, nobody except Erica Kane and the rest of the daytime soap line up.  And this was back when there were only about 5 channels to watch.  The one upshot of the whole debilitating month of sickness was that my grandmother finally had to give in and get a TV with a remote control.  It was a big step for her, a seemingly frivolous expenditure since her old TV worked just fine, but I could no more get up to change the channel than to run a marathon and the TV was my only company.

Now flash forward 25 years later and here I am at home with my daughter who is nursing a bad cold, nothing like the month long bout of mono I had, but still she’s basically a lump on the couch.  As I reconciled myself to the fact that I will now be spending the day at home and reshuffling all of my to-do list items for the week as well as appointments, my daughter planned her day around three things – the computer, the Wii and the TV.  First thing she did – caught up her DVR viewing with last week’s American Idol auditions.  Next, it was on to Club Penguin.  And before I knew it she’d been on the computer for 2 hours.  After a lunch break she wanted to watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  And now she’s trying to convince me that she should play the Wii even though she can barely move.  And I will probably let her.  I know you’re not supposed to have a sick day be a fun day since that just makes it all too enticing to fake being sick all the time, but honestly there’s little else to do when you’re sick than veg out and vegging out nowadays involves some sort of screen time.

So here we are in hour 4 of our screen watching marathon day, with Babe Pig in the City on HBO and my daughter cracking up between coughing spells and she couldn’t be happier.  And I don’t blame her.  The summer I had mono I learned how to play about 25 kinds of solitaire, my daughter on the other hand played, danced, sang and swam with about 25 other penguins today.  That I suppose is a 21st century sick day at its best.

This is an original beccarama.com post.

Can a Television Be a Member of the Family?



For the last five years my husband and I have researched TVs. Our steadfast and true 27″ picture tube set sat like a big ol’ lazy uncle on it’s stand and delivered perfectly fine viewing as far as we were concerned.  But, we had the itch.  The flat screen bigger-than-your-kitchen-table TV itch.  One by one our friends and families turned in their old model TVs for sleek and ever bigger sets.  But we held out, year after year, watching prices fall and new models come out, and not quite ready to splurge on something out of pure decadence.  After all, our TV worked perfectly fine.

Then this month something happened.  My husband was home sick and intoxicated by the endless promises of Black Friday sales, of the incessant ads and reviews on the web of all the TVs that were passing us by.   For the first time ever he didn’t just browse Amazon and Best Buy and cnet reading the reviews and saying, “what if?” but instead he made an Excel spreadsheet with all of the options.  Now, I knew he was serious.  If my husband could make a spreadsheet for every moment of his life he would.  Once it’s on the spreadsheet it’s real, it’s tangible, it’s going to happen.

And so it did.  We bit the bullet and bought a 50″ Samsung TV.  My husband came home from work to be here when the delivery guys arrived.  They set it up, plugged everything in, and left.  A calm fell over the apartment.  And I hate to admit it, but we turned on the TV and just sat down to look at it in awe.  It changed our entire living room – we both looked at each other and realized that the TV was nicer than any other piece of furniture in the room.  The TV practically demands a room make over.  Did I feel bad for the sad blob of a TV that now sat on the floor awaiting removal by our Super?  No.  It had been replaced by a much younger, thinner and sexier model, and quite frankly it was time.

All these years my fear of getting a TV like this was that it sort of announced to the world in all caps: “WE WATCH TV.”  You know what? We do.  I actually love TV.  My kids watch almost no TV, but even they walked in to the apartment after school in full giddiness and anticipation.  They couldn’t have been more excited if we had brought home a baby.  (Though still a distant second to a puppy)  And the Wii on this TV?  It makes me want to buy some adult games, or maybe even bust out the Wii Fit.  There is no doubt that our newest addition to the family has made us all ridiculously happy – and the fact that my husband and I spent a night watching both My Fair Lady and Star Wars with equal absorption on both our parts is pretty telling about the power of this TV to suck us in.  Eventually I’m sure the TV will seem ho hum and part of our everyday life but for now it’s incredibly fun to have something new and shiny that we all enjoy.  I imagine it’s how many people feel about a new car – but being a Manhattanite I could care less about ever owning a car in this city.  However, if I could just convince my husband to start a spreadsheet on dining room tables…

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

Wii Are Family

Rebecca Levey Wii mommii

Yes we are the last people on the planet to get a Wii.  I resisted not because I was afraid that my 7-year-old daughters would be hooked and play video games at the expense of their insane imaginations.  No, I resisted because I am a recovering addict.  I have fallen down the deep dark hole where Tetris blocks rain down on your head and I didn’t want to tempt myself again.  But, as often happens in the journey of parenthood my husband and I caved in to the incredibly urgent requests for the Wii as a seventh birthday present for my daughters.  And, we had grandparents who generously obliged.

My daughters immediately began to set up their Miis.  They are unbelievably cute and fun it’s true.  Couple that with American Idol and High School Musical 3 Sing It, and seriously I could video tape my girls performing at full blast all day.  It’s so interactive!  It’s so engaging!  It’s nothing like the video games of my past that sucked you in, dried out your eyes and invaded your dreams.  Yeah right.   The Wii may have my daughters up on their feet dance, dance revolutionizing or swinging their faux tennis racquets with gusto, but I have seen the subtler obsession begin.  One daughter wants to talk about her Miis at length, planning the new ones and creating worlds for them.  My other daughter is fixated on unlocking more sports, more exercises – anything that means “more.”

I guess I passed on the video game gene to my girls just like their brown eyes and voracious reading habit.  Though I won’t take all the blame.  My husband is a screen junkie, and makes his living in technology, so I guess my daughters were doomed from the start.  As their mom I can set boundaries and time limits so that the Wii is part of their “screen time” choices, not something in addition to the allotted TV and/or computer time on the weekends.  But, who is going to set those limits for me?  In college I had to take Tetris off of my computer ultimately or risk never getting my final papers finished.  Now, as a stay at home mom/writer I have to ignore that glowing Wii console that beckons to me as I sit at my computer.

For now I am safe – we don’t have any true old school games for the Wii, but I know that day is coming when Frogger or Ms. Pacman will present itself – or God forbid Tetris my old poison – and I will be have to be brave.  We might be a family with a weakness for gaming, but Wii can’t let that take over our lives.  (Though maybe just one game won’t hurt…)

This post originally published at nycmomsblog.com