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10 Best Offline Apps for Traveling Toddlers

Tablets have become a necessity for many families these days. After all, they can offer endless hours of entertainment along with educational opportunities for kids. It’s surprising then that kids still get bored with their tablets, especially when there’s no access to WiFi. For traveling families, this can be the situation more often than not, especially when they’re traveling to remote or rural areas, are on the road constantly, or on planes without free internet accessibility.

Although they outsmart us sometimes, my husband and I usually control our toddlers’ tablet time. We make sure that they often don’t get it for long stretches of time and that they’re not just always on YouTube Kids, especially before a trip. This helps when we are stuck in transit and let them have their tablets, it’s almost like they’re getting their devices for the first time, every time! We’ve also discovered that there are apps out there that keep them interested as much as YouTube Kids does, and these apps are actually both interactive and creative-something that the kids really don’t get when tuned in on videos. Here are some of the apps we’ve found to be both entertaining and appropriate for our toddlers.

 

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1. Toca Dance – iOS/Android – $2.99

Toca Dance is one among many of Toca Boca’s highly entertaining kid-approved apps. Kids can choreograph endless dance routines, make costume changes as needed, and even interact with app characters. This paid app also has a free version with limited features, but the paid version is well worth the money. Toca Boca also features a bundle package if you want to save money and purchase all their other apps on this list.

2. Mrs. Potato Head – iOS/Android – FREE

The digital Mrs. Potato Head is just as fun as the original toy, now as portable as ever. Mrs. Potato Head features tons of fun costumes that your kids can take photos of. Kids can be as creative as possible by mixing and matching costumes from different collections.

3. Endless Reader – iOS/Android – FREE

This app is free to download, but you’ll need to purchase a reader pack in order to get all the letters in the alphabet. This is great for learning on the road and is designed for kids aged 4 and older. My kids have been using this app since they were 2 though, and they find the graphics and sounds very entertaining. It’s also great for beginner readers to practice with.

4. Toca Hair Salon 2 – iOS/Android – $2.99

Kids can be stylists in this incredibly ingenious app. Toca Boca’s Hair Salon 2 is a hair styling app that features the ability to wash, cut, color, and style different characters’ hairdos.

5. Toca Kitchen 2 – iOS/Android – FREE

With the addition of new characters and kitchen tools, Toca Boca has made Toca Kitchen even better with its 2nd version. Kitchen 2 lets kids get creative in the kitchen (and messy too!) as much as they want.

6. Ocean Swimmer – iOS/Android – $2.99

This app from Sago Mini is probably one of the most interactive and comprehensive apps out there for kids. You can discover lots of characters and pretty much interact with all sorts of creatures in this app. Kids can swim the ocean all day with this one.

7. Hoopla – iOS/Android – FREE

Hoopla is a digital library app. You can download it and get access by putting in your local library information (as long as your library location participates). You can browse through thousands of available videos, music, and books and download ones that you like to keep on your device. Much like how a library works, you can only borrow a limited number of digital items at a time and have a set number of days to keep them. Also, take note that you must have internet connection at the time of download. After the download process, you can have access to your materials when offline.

8. Kids Doodle – iOS/Android – FREE

There are tons of drawing/sketching apps out there. My kids happen to like this one because it’s really easy to use. There are no how to’s or intricate designs. There are just tons of bright colors they use to pretty much just scribble away. I can imagine that once the kids get older, they’re going to want something with a little bit more capability. But for now, this works and it’s free!

9. Toca Band – iOS/Android – $2.99

Kids can put together their own bands and play an endless array of music they create with this app. There are thousands of instrument combinations you can make with this app; it can get pretty crazy. That’s a warning for parents, though, as the songs your kids come up with might be a little too catchy. You might find yourself wanting to play as well.

10. Photo Booth – iOS – FREE

This iOS app doesn’t need to be downloaded as it comes bundled with the rest of Apple’s standard apps. I can’t tell you how much time me and my kids have spent making faces and adding effects for this camera app. It’s even funnier when the kids learn how to use the app themselves. You never know what kinds of faces your kids make when you’re not looking.

 

There are other Sago Mini and Toca Boca apps our kids love that are worth to check out. Just go to either iTunes or Google Play and type in Sago Mini or Toca Boca.  At the toddler age, they aren’t too interested in playing games on their devices just yet, and these apps provide just the right amount of fun and creativity to keep them entertained for a while. Enjoy and safe travels!

Has Homeschooling Ever Crossed Your Mind?

When I had my first child, I never thought I’d be a homeschooling mom. My goal back then was to get a medical degree, work diligently to help provide a financially stable life for my family, and give my daughter a life full of possibilities. That meant I had to go to school full-time with extra courses during the day, work the graveyard shift at the hospital for some experience, and sleep for a few solid hours in the morning while my daughter spent the day at her preschool. My husband usually picked her up after work so I could see her before I left for work until the following morning. It was difficult. I missed my daughter, and I barely saw her when she was only so little. But I was so determined to give her everything she deserved-the best life possible-that I was willing to sacrifice our time together.

How quickly things changed after I found out I was pregnant with my son, only seven short months after I gave birth to my daughter. In another nine months after that, I was to have another child. The thought of it troubled me so deeply. How was I to mother another child when I’d barely known my first? There was a complete mental shift in my perception of motherhood. It was so palpable; I knew something had to give. To me, it never felt as if I gave up a career path. It always felt as if I gave up on an opportunity to provide for my family, to be better off financially. This was because I didn’t know then what I know now about money. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Regardless, it was a clear sacrifice in so many ways. Living on a single income is not easy, but it is possible.  After a while, it became clear to us that there were many families who not only thrived on a single income but actually lived life the way we envisioned it should be: full of travel, discoveries, opportunities, and just full of time and moments spent with each other. Now, after being inspired by so many other families out there living a similar lifestyle, we’ve expanded our dream to one day allow my husband to work remotely just as I do now. Hopefully one day we can slow travel and really find ourselves and our children immersed in other cultures. For now, traveling in bouts and as often as possible will make do.

Homeschooling happened to us not by accident or because we didn’t have any other choice. My husband and I made the conscious decision to become the primary caregivers of our kids all day, everyday. There are many, many, MANY reasons why we choose to do our learning from home. That’s also a discussion for another time. But ever since we decided we wanted to be our children’s educators, the research has been nonstop! The amount of information available to those who are looking to go down the homeschooling path is unbelievable. There are hundreds upon hundreds of curriculums to choose from, a number of philosophies you can adapt or combine, and a multitude of resources at your reach-both free or not. It only makes sense because once you take learning outside the box of an institution, you can really see how high the sky is and how far the horizon stretches.

IMG_0005If it’s ever crossed your mind to homeschool and are faced with so much doubt, let me tell you that you’re not alone. Our children are still young, and we’re already asking ourselves if we can really pursue this for the long haul. We’ve already faced the usual judgments and criticisms from our small circle, and we expect there will be more as we go. That’s okay because people generally judge what they don’t know or understand. But you know what? The more we travel, the more we are convinced that this is absolutely the lifestyle for us. We want the world to be our classroom. I really can’t explain that any other way.

So if you’re thinking about homeschooling or are struggling with homeschooling, don’t give up on it-whatever point you’re at with your children. We understand your plight and commend you for what you do. If homeschooling is just an idea you keep playing in your head, I suggest you read up on what it is about and the opportunities you and your family can have with home learning. I promise you’ll be inspired whichever way you decide to go afterwards with your kids’ education.

 

 

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Hiatus

The site reminds me each time I’m on it that it’s been two years since my last post, one that was just a string of a few words that barely made a sentence. Two years. Life can change dramatically in a span of 730 days. What drove me to stop blogging here is not nearly irrelevant but needs its own entire section, so I’ll get to that when the time is right. I didn’t stop writing. I wrote mostly for work purposes, and I still managed to find some joy in it despite the lull that surrounded me. I’m slowly getting to a point where I can find balance in my life again.

As delicate as it may be, life gives us so many reasons to be bold and empowered in the way we live it. I’ve come to realize in the last year or so what it means to live each day exactly the way you want to, with your own purpose and vision to realize. I’ve learned not to be scared to say no, and I’ve also learned it’s okay to say yes. I’ve learned that I have just as many strengths as weaknesses, and I’ve also learned that I’m not completely robotic and cold. Man, can these eyes cry.

With so many things to say, I’ll leave it at this: the hiatus is finally over. Time to get up and get moving, or we’ll miss the train. It was like a balloon popping. One day I couldn’t, and the next day I could. I’m looking forward to finishing up the site update and beginning to write again about our adventures and failures, discoveries, and dreams as a family.

I hope to reach some of you, as many of you inspire me everyday.

Go eat a live frog.

xo
Jenn


BBQ Pork Quesadillas

I am all about easy, breezy in the kitchen.

If there’s one thing easier than dinner with the crockpot, it’s probably dinner with quesadillas!  I love how these lovely folded things have lately surfaced into mainstream with the help of food trucks and the internet!  The internet is exactly where I got the idea of making these super easy BBQ quesadillas.  Enjoy!

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You’ll need:

1 lb or so of boneless, country style pork ribs
good amount of house seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup of premade BBQ sauce of your choice (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar)
8in flour tortillas
shredded Mexican blend cheese

optional:
sour cream
jalapeños
extra BBQ sauce for dipping

The process:

  1. Put ribs in a shallow bowl and pour the olive oil over.  Go ahead and splash a good amount of house seasoning onto the pork.  Rub a dub dub.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Set your slow cooker on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  Place ribs in the cooker and let it be for a while.
  3. With 30 minutes left in cooking time, pour your choice BBQ sauce all over the pork and mix.  Any shredding that occurs is okay at this point.
  4. When cooking is finished, set the meat aside and mash with a fork.  Heat a medium-sized cast iron skillet.
  5. Fill one side of a tortilla with the meat and a handful of shredded cheese.  Fold over and place on the hot skillet.  Cook one side until lightly brown and crisp, then flip.  Cook until heated through and cheese is completely melted.
  6. Cut in half to serve.  Enjoy with a dollop of Daisy or spice up with some fresh jalapeños.

 

A Darker Shade of Pale

An examination of our cultural obsession with skin color.

I grew up in the Philippines, a country whose colorful history is evident in the very faces of its people and the richness of its traditions.  The original indigenous Filipino population, characterized closely by native tribes that still occupy the northern and southern main islands of the country, are very distinct physically compared to the current mix of the population’s physical attributes.  These tribes are known to be descendants from the indigenous people of the prehistoric Malay Archipelago.  The present day Filipinos commonly associated with the country are a mix of different cultures.  With an outstanding historical influence from the neighboring trade partners in China and Japan to the colonizing nations of Spain and Portugal, the territorial acquisition by the United States of America and all other relative relations with approximate Asian countries, the Philippines has truly become an archipelago mold of different nations.  What does this mean?

This simply means that Filipinos these days may look like some variation of this:
(Both are television and film celebrities.)

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And the aboriginal Filipinos may look like some variation of this:

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They go by different names depending on where they naturally reside in the country: Aeta or Ayta or Dumagat or Igorot or as a whole, Negritos.

I opted to use photos of famous actors to draw the reality of extremes.  The physical differences are quite stark, and it’s important to point out because there’s a real problem that exists not only in this country but also in other parts of the world.  In addition, it’s pertinent to look at these comparisons without malice and subjection.  I’m merely addressing an issue that is deep-rooted in the nation.

Indigenous Filipino traits include a wider jawline, wider nose and flatter profile, thick and curly hair, and most obvious of all, dark-colored skin.  This is besides the shorter stature and smaller frame altogether.

With the mix of evolution and colonization, these Filipino traits have transformed the look of the nation completely.  Many Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures have always considered the Philippines home.  When the Spanish colonized the archipelago for 300 or so years, intermarriage was normal and expected.  Much of the current culture is owed to this Hispanic influence.  The same happened when the Philippines became America’s territory for 50 or so years.  All of these scattered events became the introduction of new traits and new genes.  Better genes, apparently.

Growing up back there, I was always considered average in the subject of beauty.  Coming from a mixture of a somewhat Indo-Japanese-Spanish mother and a predominantly Spanish father, I was pretty much just above the line.  My great grandfather was Spanish, so I had mostly Spanish features.  As a kid, my hair was black and straight; my nose was small and tall, and my eyes were big and round.  I was born with pale, almost transparent skin, but this changed as I got older.  By the time I was eight, my skin was darker than what the normal beauty standards preferred, and this is when it became troublesome.

Most people will tell me now how much they envy my skin color.  I have that natural tan, so they say.  Back then as a kid, I was considered dark.  This meant that I was less attractive compared to my fairer-skinned friends.  Even though my features were beautiful, my skin color made me less desirable.  Did it bother me then?  I’m not so sure I remember.  I know I couldn’t try out for the majorette team because I didn’t have the mestiza look.  Mestiza literally just means light and fair and all the features that come along with that, and basically not the opposite Morena, which just means brown-skinned but okay.  Then people added malice to the word Negrito and used that to describe someone with predominantly indigenous features, negatively.

51KhkZhYQQL._SY355_I remember having to bathe with soap that was supposed to make your skin lighter.  My brother even bathed in milk one time, thinking that it will make his skin lighter as well.  We weren’t allowed to play in the hot sun, as it would cause our skins to burn and get darker.  And if we walked home from school, we always had to use an umbrella not because it would protect us from dangerous rays, but rather it would help us keep our skins fair.  Even to this day, (no offense Ma) my mother still disapproves of me going to the beach for so long that my skin looks so dark.  She tells me to look at myself and see how much I look like an Ayta or Igorot.

It’s a cultural problem and a really big one at that.

Maybe it was the colonial influence.  Maybe it was the false truth established as governing rule by the Spaniards that came and conquered the little island nation and its men and women.  Maybe these men and women were forced to believe that everything colonial was just better.  Even the way they looked.  Maybe.  I don’t know.

Maybe it was the American influence.  Maybe it was the western notion of beauty that changed the way this small nation looked at itself.  If you were an actress in the Philippines, I guarantee you have light skin and a fair face.  If you don’t, then you must be a comedian.  Or a really talented singer.  I really don’t know.

For us expats, it’s a totally different ballgame.  Here in the United States, if we are ever ridiculed, it’s mostly for our slanted eyes or mongoloid-shaped heads.  We get the yellow skin stigma here and there, but that really translates to gray.  We could be brown, red, yellow, green, or pink, but the skin issue in this country is mostly black or white.  The more black people talk about white skin and the more white people talk about black skin, the more we are teaching our children that there is a negative distinction.  Much like how skin color in the Philippines falsely equates a person’s beauty and desirability, skin color here in the United States falsely equates a person’s complete being.  The tint of your skin should not tell me anything about your mental capacity or socioeconomic status.  The shade of your skin should not tell me anything about your capacity for violence or your musical preference.  True, it’s very easy to succumb to the prejudices and unquestioned traditions that history has almost forcefully engrained in the back of our brains.  But history is made in the future.

History is made in the future, not the past.  Maybe we should stop watering deep-rooted negative traditions of cultural hatred and separatism.  Maybe we should stop cultivating old, ugly notions of genetic supremacy and start learning how to really look at each other as equals in all manners of physical, mental, and emotional attributes.  Maybe we should start believing that we are all equal citizens of one beautifully diverse world.  Each one unique in its own pattern.  Each one with a solid purpose of positive nature.  Maybe it isn’t so difficult to do, to just simply get along and see past what light is reflecting back into our eyes.

Here’s a picture of our children.  I want to show you how beautiful diversity truly is.  Listed below it are all the different genes running through these three children alone.

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  • Mexican
  • French
  • Irish
  • German
  • Colombian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Filipino
  • American

A concoction wonderfully imagined and mixed together in varying amounts by God himself!

Let’s all stop limiting ourselves to one dimension.  You might actually just be more than what you think you are.