For most families, summer is synonymous with road trips in the car.  But, those many hours spent cooped up can lead to boredom—and after a while, even iPads, MP3s, and video games can get dull.

Why not use this opportunity to introduce the kids to these classic car games? Not only are they fun for the whole family, they challenge the brain in different ways that today’s techno-generation may not be used to.  As an added bonus, they help develop focus, listening, memory, and attention skills—but, shh! Don’t tell the kids that!

And don’t forget! The rules are flexible and the point is to have fun and challenge the brain while passing the time together.

The Alphabet List Game

How to play:

Select a theme. Some good themes are: animals, cities, fruits and vegetables, sports teams, pizza toppings, underwater, etc.

The first person begins with the letter A and gives an example of something that begins with the letter A. For animals, it would be Alligator, for cities, Amsterdam, etc.

Then the next person gets the letter B, the following person the letter C. Take turns, each person coming up with an example for the letter that they land on, until somebody can’t think of an example.

The Listen-Backwards Game

How to play:

Say a series of random words—and have the kids repeat them back in the opposite order.  You: “cat, shed.”  Child: “shed, cat”

Start with 2 words and, as proficiency improves, increase the number of words. Try creating a backwards sentence so that when the kids say it back to you, they are decoding a message.

The I-Packed-a-Suitcase Game

How to play:

One person begins with the sentence: “I packed a suitcase, and in it I put…” followed by an item of that person’s choice, such as “a swimsuit.”

The next person also starts with the same statement, “I packed a suitcase, and in it I put…” then repeats what the first person said, and adds his or her own item, “a swimsuit, and a towel,” and so on.

Adjust the level of difficulty and absurdity, and play until someone forgets an item.

The I-Spy Game

How to play:

This easy-to-play game is always popular with younger children. Simply select any object in the car, or in the scenery and say, “I spy with my little eye, something that is [that color/shape].” Then the kids take turns guessing what the item is. Adjust the difficulty to meet the age of the child.

Tip: When kids are stumped, give them a phonetic clue. For instance, “it starts with the sound ‘mmmm’.”

Twenty Questions

How to Play:

One person selects something from the category of animal, vegetable, or mineral.

Everybody else has 20 questions in which to discover what that something is.

The trick is that all answers must be a yes or a no. This challenges the asker to phrase the questions in a specific way in order to get a yes or no answer.

This is a great game to develop critical thinking skills.

Oxford Learning provides supplemental education services across North America. It offers programs for young people from preschool through university, and its cognitive approach goes beyond tutoring to ignite a lifelong love of learning. Find out more at


We’re off to Hollywood

by Christine - From Dates to Diapers on January 17, 2011

Ethan, Zach, Julia, Josh, Timmy and I have been on a little adventure.

We started out this afternoon -
hit traffic on the highway,
stood in line at the airport,
traversed through security (not an easy task with five kiddos),
waited for our plane,

traveled through the air,

ended the short plane ride just as the sun was setting,

hit more traffic on L.A. freeways,
and finally arrived at our destination, hungry and tired.

Boy, has it been a fun day!

Why the adventure? Well, Frigidaire and Jennifer Garner have teamed up to get families preparing – and enjoying – nutritious foods together. The Frigidaire Kids Cooking Academy is an online school that features daily tip, fun recipes and how-to videos hosted by family friendly chef Mary Sue Miliken and we were invited to attend a special blogger event to celebrate the launch.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to share tomorrow, but for now I must call it a night!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


In 1718, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville founded what has became known as the Vieux Carré or French Quarter. Back then, this registered national historic landmark was nothing more than a sticky swamp filled with ‘gators, mosquitoes and malaria, but at three feet above sea level, it was – and remains – the highest land area within 50 miles. And given that it’s at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, that fact made it a valuable piece of real estate.

In 2010, it’s still sticky during the summer, but instead of malaria, you’ll find outdoor café’s serving coffee and beignets, unique shops full of antiques and collectibles and of course, the ubiquitous anti-BP shirts with words that this family friendly blog can’t publish.

Note – all of the crazy stuff related to Mardi Gras is pretty much confined to only one street: Bourbon. The rest of the Quarter is much more tame and family friendly.

After a delicious muffalato (a Cajun style sandwich) lunch at Café Beignet (off the beaten path and doesn’t have too many tourists) on Royal Street, we continued our leisurely sander up this historic avenue, enjoying the outdoor jazz bands, the colorful shop windows and elaborate ironwork galleries that grace the second and third stories of many of these buildings. I must confess that Royal Street is my favorite in the Quarter. It is so quintessential New Orleans.

We arrived in Jackson Square – named for President and Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson, AKA the dude on the $20 bill – via “Pirate’s Alley.” According to legend, the infamous Jean Lafitte and his band of swashbucklers used this area of New Orleans as a base of operations, often dividing up their booty in the bars along this backstreet.

As we sat on a bench opposite the Cabildo, the historic building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803 and where the death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte is currently on display, we were entertained by a street performer pretending to be Muhammad Ali. He was quite entertaining, shouting challenges to Joe Frasier and shadow boxing on top of a…soap box, but I’m not sure how Ali is connected to the Crescent City?

On a side note, there are many connections throughout New Orleans to Napoleon because some of his most ardent supporters were in the process of arranging his transfer to New Orleans from St. Helena where he was exiled after the defeat at Waterloo, when he died as they were finalizing plans. In fact, the Napoleon House on Chartres Street was intended to house the former emperor for the rest of his days, had he made it to Louisiana.

After Beignets at a very busy Café Du Monde, it was onto the French Market on Decatur Street. This is a fantastic outdoor market with fresh fruit, vegetables, produce, toys, Mardi Gras masks and almost anything else you can imagine. In fact, because New Orleans allows open containers, Christine and I grabbed two ice cold pina coladas to sip as we wondered between the vendor stalls.

Next to the French Market, there stands a statue of the patron saint of New Orleans: the famed Joan of Arc. A carbon copy of the statue resides in Paris, France. Naturally, as the patron of Orleans, France, she became the same of New Orleans.

Next time you watch the world champion Saints play football, remember that the upper three leaves of the Fleur-de-lis that you see on the side of their helmets represents the Holy Trinity and the bottom three leaves the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and Jesus. This was Joan’s banner and was subsequently adopted by the French king after Ms. Arc defeated the English.

By the way, if you’re at Café Du Monde and need to escape the crowd to have a nice outdoor lunch – or just need an iced daiquiri to help cool down – walk down the block toward the French Market and stop in at The Gazebo. Great food and even better service, as well as a fantastic outdoor atmosphere with live music; I highly recommend it, especially after the sweaty, mediocre service you’ll receive at Café Du Monde.

But all good things must come to an end. After a gator-to-go order at The Gazebo, we headed back to the hotel, and with a sad goodbye, headed to Louis Armstrong International.

Until next time, New Orleans.


New Orleans {Day One}

by Ray on July 29, 2010

Ray and Chris - New Orleans Square

There’s a tenement building in the French Quarter that’s haunted….ok, according to our Ghost tour guide, there are a lot of haunted buildings in the French Quarter. But I’ll get to that later.

Chris and I had all day to wonder around the Quarter, before we planned to meet up with Trisha, Leah, and the rest of the BOBNOLA group, but ended up sleeping in and not leaving our hotel until just before Noon. We blame the time change since we lost two hours. We decided to shoot for Café Du Monde as our mouths began to water for the wonderful beignets they make.

On the way, much to our dismay, we were accosted by a crass local who claimed to be collecting money for needy children. I managed to get around him, but Christine decided to stop and engage him. It cost us $20, but we did get two cool hats out of the transaction and since it was sweltering, the hats came in handy.

When we arrived at Café Du Monde, it was jam packed, but we managed to find a table inside… one that needed to be bussed. I approached the waitress on duty – who appeared to be taking a break. She mumbled something unintelligible, made no move to get up to help us, so we eventually gave up and left. Much to Christine’s dismay, I might add.

Down the block, at the edge of the French Market we literally walked in to a great little outdoor restaurant, called The Gazebo Café, where we were warmly greeted, given a menu before we even sat down and proceeded to have a wonderful po-boy lunch.

Chris at The Gazebo Cafe, New Orleans Ray at The Gazebo Cafe, New Orleans

After our tasty meal, we wondered back to Jackson Square. As we were waiting for one of the many carriage drivers, we bumped in to the Naked Bartender who was shooting a scene for an upcoming show. After observing the shoot for a few minutes we climbed aboard our mule-driven carriage and enjoyed an hour of the driver’s regalia of the history of the Crescent City.

Prostitutes, politicians, voodoo mistresses, priests and saints. We heard about it all. A colorful past New Orleans definitely has.

We heard about famous people who lived in the Quarter, from Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to famous living people like Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who used to and still do have homes in the French Quarter, respectively.

Interestingly, the term “jazz” is derived from the music that musicians used to play at the “Jezebel’s” – aka prostitute’s – houses on the outskirts of the city.

Chris and Ray - carriage ride through New Orleans A street in New Orleans

After the carriage ride, it was a quick check in and change before our first official activity with the BOBNOLA group – dinner at Besh, inside Harrah’s casino. The food at Besh was wonderful – melt in your mouth steak, spicy meat pies, and more. At dinner we chatted it up with some of our fellow BOBNOLA peeps, but also had the privilege of sitting with our dinner sponsors – the sponsorship director and social media rep for Harrah’s, both of whom are great people.

We headed over to Jackson Square, after dinner, where we met up with our Ghost tour guide. Turns out that there are a lot of legends inside the French Quarter. Lot’s of ghosts who continue to haunt their old homes, including one story of a couple who did unspeakable experiments on their slaves, unbeknownst to others around town. {shudder}

NOLA ghost tour

I think our tour guide was a little too into the whole thing, but sweaty and thirsty, we managed to get back to the hotel and had cake and cocktails before we parted ways – some going to bed, others going to Bourbon Street.

For the record, Christine and I headed back to our hotel room…with a quick stop at Café Du Monde for a late snack of beinets. Chris finally got her beignets!

A huge thanks to the following BOBNOLA Friday night sponsors::


Highlights from our weekend in Southern California

October 14, 2009

Noah’s first airplane ride… He was a little nervous, I think Behind the scenes at Papaya Studios and the making of Ben 10 video game Trying out the yet-to-be-released Ben 10 game Entertained as we sat on the freeway in a bus that didn’t work A special martial arts training session with Matt Mullins, star […]

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Cruising for $30 a Day?

September 14, 2009

Since returning from our cruise, Ray has been researching cruise lines, deals, and family-friendly destinations. We are excited to keep our eyes peeled for the best cruise for our family for sometime next year. We plan to set sail when Noah is just a bit older, so we can take our kiddos with us and […]

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Things you should know if you ever plan to take your family to Las Vegas:

March 31, 2009

Being on vacation is more work than “working” If one of your younger kiddos starts crying in his sleep, while you’re driving through the middle of the desert, pull over as soon as you can, unbuckle him, drag him out of his seat, and make him walk around for a few minutes. Unless, of course, […]

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