About oliochoa

Oli Ochoa is a freelance writer and avid tech geek living in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two young daughters. She can be contacted at SheWOW@gmail.com.

Websites To Teach Your Kids About Thanksgiving

November is halfway over, and for families in the United States, that means Thanksgiving is right around the corner. But many children seem to be under the impression that it is nothing but a chance to get together with relatives and eat turkey and pumpkin pie. What fails to come across for the younger ones is that there is a message behind the holiday, and a very specific purpose behind celebrating it. The younger they are, the harder it is to break it down. Which is why sometimes it is better to let an activity or game do it for you.

If you have a young child and want to teach them about the holiday in a fun way, try these websites that offer games and activities for them to enjoy.

Nation Geographic Kids – The main page offers a nice, easy to understand explanation about different elements of Thanksgiving, such as the first dinner and the reason behind it, the settlers and the Native Americans. Other links go to different traditions from across the United States to celebrate, and there is a nice list of activities. These are all crafts you can do at home, like pumpkin pie turkeys, wreaths and a pilgrim ship veggie platter. They have a couple of games, but they are mostly quizzes and puzzles, so better for older kids.

About.com Holiday Pages – About.com is always a valuable resource for parents. They have a great Thanksgiving page with links to coloring pages, study packets, little lessons, games, stories, poems, word searches, activity guides and educational crafts for you to do with your kids. It is one of the larger websites for activity ideas.

Kids Turn Central – With a short rundown of the holiday itself, you can get a nice, simple explanation here for little kids. But they also have links to activities and games your children will enjoy. There is a list of traditions and ways that your kids can help you prepare for them. There are also a number of tips on how to get them involved in the dinner planning, such as through making place cards for guests, and even a section on making traditional costumes.

Nick Jr – Nick Jr has a whole page filled with lessons and games from your child’s favorite characters, such as Moose & Zee, Dora the Explorer and more. They have great weekly lesson plans for your preschooler and younger children to teach about the gift of giving thanks, giving to charity, spending time with family, making new friends, transcending differences and other topics relevant to Thanksgiving.

Vicki Blackwell – This is probably the best comprised list of Thanksgiving childrens sites I have seen. If you scroll down the page you will find dozens of links to color book activities, print outs, online games, cartoons, interactive story books and more. All for different aged children, though not very well organized to that purpose.

Bill Bear – There are some great games here for your child to enjoy, like drag & drops and turkey hunts. But the site is pretty small, so don’t expect too much. They do have some nice coloring pages you can download and pull up in Paint.

Conclusion

There are a wide variety of websites out there that can be educational while being fun for your young child. Most of the ones above are regularly updated and keep up with current trends, events, holidays and curriculum specifications for you child’s age range. I would suggest putting them all in a bookmark folder and referring to them often, especially the sites like National Geographic, PBS Kids, Kick Jr and About.com.

The Sony Vaio Z Versus The MacBook Air

The MacBook Air has been one of this year’s biggest releases. Offering up the new standard for notebooks, it has a smaller and more lightweight design to give full function while being more portable for the user. It is definitely a flagship product for Apple, who are once again reasserting themselves in the computer world after moving more in the direction of handhelds in recent years.

But they are by no means the only guys on the block. Sony has also put out the Sony Vaio Z, and it is being named the largest competitor to the Air on the market. It is yet another step taken by Sony to dominate the ever widening market gap that has allowed for more brands to offer viable Apple alternatives in every category.

What They Have In Common

The question of the moment has been how the two actually come out when pitted against one another. Both are sleek and slim in design, both weigh under three pounds and both are exactly 13.3 inches in screen size. They also both feature a Sandy Core Bridge i Series processor, a Thunderbolt connector, a seven hour rated internal battery and and Intel Sandy Bridge graphics card. It is really starting to look like they went by the same damn blueprints.

That doesn’t mean they are the same, however. Already, word of improved features from Sony are being whispered at every corner of the Internet.

What Isn’t The Same

I am always a little bit annoyed when I see two products from different companies offering what is essentially the same product at vastly different prices. That isn’t exactly the case here, but it is close to it. To me, the whole thing looks like Sony took one look at the MacBook Air and said, “Well, we will do that, except we will improve a couple of small points.”

For example, while there is no broadband option for the Air, the Vaio Z has a possible compatibility with WAN (Wide Area Network). They also have the same hard drive, with the Mac having one larger version. But not by any amount so significant that it would be a deal breaker either way.

How Do They Perform

According to all accounts, both work just fine. But the Vaio Z has learned from the past by way of performance, and Sony really worked to provide something extra in both graphics and useability, not to mention speed. Professionals will probably be more eager for the Vaio Z over the Air, because it was just made for professional grade use. Casual users might prefer the user-friendly classics of the MacBook.

The Price

If there was ever something to get annoyed about, it is the price difference here. The slight improvements on the Vaio Z, such as the 1920×1080 resolution screen over the 1440×900 resolution max on the Air, do not justify the extreme jump in cost.

The 124GB (standard) version for the MacBook is around $1,200, which is on par with their usual Mac prices. They also have a larger version in 256GB for $1,500.

For the Vaio Z, there is only one option for the size, which is the 124GB. Despite this, it is around $1,900 from most retailers, and as much as $2,100 at others. What caused this? The features are not that much better that they would push the price up that much.

Conclusion

Based on the price issue versus the feature list and capabilities, I would go with the MacBook Air. Which is painful for me to say, as I am still not a fan of Apple products. Call it a bias from my youth as a Microsoft baby, but it puts a bad taste in my mouth.

If you are a professional using it for work, and you don’t mind paying an extra $600 for a laptop, then go ahead and go with the Vaio Z. In that case, it might be worth it.

 

Google Opens Up Online Music Service Beta For Sign Up

Google has taken another step into Apple’s domain, with the launch of their new beta service, Google Music.

The program is still in its early stages, with requests open for invitations. It is method of slowly filtering in users that Google is making policy, after using the same tactic for services like Wave and Google+. You can go to the link above and ask that they send you an invite when they are ready, which could still take a couple of weeks.

As for the service itself, it looks like it will be an uploader to put all of your music in one place. You download the program, put in your files and it transfers them to an online account. From there, you can access it through a PC or any Android device. It removes the need for any syncing, as is traditional with most media players.

They will also have two separate music services. One is an actual download page that will feature music from labels Sony Music Entertainment,  Universal Music Group and EMI Music. This will include artists like Drake and Maroon 5, Alicia Keys and Chevelle. The expected cost for most songs is $1 a piece, according to reports.

The second service is through Magnifier, where you can download free music. All bands are independent or small, and so have offered their music free of charge. The idea is that you can discover new groups and artists. The site has both a Song of the Day and a Video Feature section, as well as a channel that works like a music channel, a Google Artist Of The Week under the category Antenna.

All of this is still in the air, but with the launch of the new site we seem to have confirmation. What I want to know is how many people will trust their music to Google.

Don’t get me wrong, they are a reliable service. But they also have a reputation for selling or giving information to various sources, such as marketing agencies and government branches. Music piracy is illegal, but still common, and there are probably a lot of people out there who have files that aren’t licensed. They might also have songs stripped and converted from CD’s, because who hasn’t backed their older music up digitally by now?

It seems to be like some might be a little bit nervous about syncing it all up on a single program that can be accessed online. Especially when they don’t know if they preferences and catalog will be kept private. Even for completely legit files, it is a little daunting thinking of these giant labels and companies finding out what I listen to. I don’t pirate music, and I still wouldn’t want that lack of privacy.

Either way, I guess we will see when the time draws near for the invites.

Facebook Faces Porn, Violence Spam Virus — What Parents Can Do

Facebook is having a bit of a hard week. Since Monday, users have been leaving in flocks due to a new piece of malware that shows hardcore porn and graphically violent images of animals and people.

No one is sure where the virus came from, or even how it is being passed. What little info is available, it looks like one of those ‘click here’ link types, that takes you to a fake site, fishes your info and begin posting the images on your wall. It then shows up on your Facebook feed for everyone to see, along with more links to further spread the virus.

Among the images being posted online are photoshopped images of celebrities like Justin Beiber engaged in sex acts, hardcore pornography and pictures of people and animals that have been mutilated due to slaughter, accidents and other distasteful events.

In the last 24 hours, Twitter has blown up with complaints from users, many of whom say they deactivated their accounts, and forced their children to do the same as a result.

Indeed, one of the biggest concerns right now is dealing with those underage users who are being exposed to the content. The minimum age requirement for the social networking site is 13, and many other kids have lied about their age (often with parental help) to get a profile.

“Facebook management may have a duty of care to encourage anyone who is underage and has viewed this to discuss it with their family or a school counsellor,” Sally Leivesley of crisis consulting group NewRisk told the BBC in an interview this morning.

Already, fingers are being pointed to an organized attack group from one of the Chans, under the unspecific group heading of Anonymous. Which would be a major raid on their part, were it true. Still, Anonymous has shown the ability to come together for large projects before, such as the now infamous Scientology protests and site hacks.

What Can Be Done?

As a parent, you are probably concerned about your kids coming across some of this content. Especially the more violent images, which younger kids could find especially upsetting. But you might not be eager to force them to shut down their account, and so you might be at a loss about what you can do. But there are a few tips to follow that can help prepare you for the problem, until it is resolved.

  • Talk to your children about what is being seen, so they are aware before it happens. Then ask them to come to you if they find anything inappropriate, so it can be reported.
  • Instruct them not to click on any links, even those shared by friends. Give them examples of suspicious headlines, such as “90% of people who watched this couldn’t make it through the whole video!”
  • Put their account on hold until Facebook announces an end to the problem. You can do this through their ‘Account’ tab. As long as they sign back in within 30 days, they will be able to resume their account without losing any material.
  • Have them use their Facebook via mobile. There will be a most limited view on content this way.
  • Warn your friends list. Link them to official stories so they can see it isn’t just another annoying Copy/Paste, such as this explanation from security group Sophos, or this article from BBC News.

A Quick Warning

There is some evidence to suggest that content people posted on some profiles cannot be seen from that user’s account, but can be seen from other accounts via the friend feed. Which is another reason that contacting your F-List and letting them know the situation is very important. They might see something coming from your profile that you don’t.

The Best MMORPG’s That Aren’t WoW…And Are Free!

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Games (MMORPG’s) have had a place in gaming fame for quite some time. But with the creation of World of Warcraft, the genre that was once limited to people interest in games such as Ultima Online was flooded with newcomers. Everyone from the usual teenage demographic to middle aged housewives seemed to jump into the craze. It was even even powerful enough to push Blizzard to make a move that traditional Warcraft fans never thought possible: the real beginning development of a film.

But in the end, WoW – while impressive – is just a tiny little tip on the MMORPG iceberg. It is also the more expensive option in a world where there are dozens of free games to enjoy. Some with development and graphic capabilities on par with paid games.

Here is a list of some of the best around, some old and some new, but all amazing.

 

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)Anyone who doesn’t love the Lord of the Ring series, both the books and the incredible Peter Jackson films, is dead inside. For many (myself included), this franchise was a staple of childhood imagination. Who could forget the first time reading about the vicious Orc hoards? Or the excitement of the discovery of the Ents? Now you can relive it with this excellent official online game. While it started out as a paid subscription, it has since become free to play. Of course, there are paid add-ons that are optional. But the basic level is worth signing up for.

Graphics Style: Realistic 3D

Rise of Mortals – This is technically a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA). But they have taken what was a traditional MOBA format, and added additional social elements and groupings that create more of a MMO tone. It has its share of problems, but it is still in its early stages and updates are coming all the time. If you can stand to wait for the working out of the kinks, it is great fun.

Graphics Style: Mixed 2D

GlitchA group of eleven game developers (or “giants”) got together and came up with every funny and bizarre concept they could come up with. Then, they put it all into a game that is half MMO, half side scroller, and a little  bit like a demented Habbo Hotel. You can go around meeting other players, gathering skills and items, building up you character and “pleasuring the pigs”. By which, they mean pet them. Draw your own conclusions, but definitely play this one. It is hilarious and so addicting that you won’t work for a week.

Graphics Style: Cartoon 3D

Dead Frontier – There aren’t a whole lot of horror games available for MMORPG. But the genre is further cut down when it comes to zombies, as most undead games are flash first person shooters. This is possibly the first real MMO zombie game on the web. The combat is all in the third person with a whole slew of available weapons for shooting, melee and more. They provide real missions to complete alone or with a group. It is also playable in your browser without a download, which is great if you plan on stealing company time.

Graphics Style: Realistic 2D

World of TanksI have been disappointed by most in the category of historical MMO’s. They just don’t seem to get it right, and so I am always on the lookout for something better. World of Tanks isn’t quite perfect, but it is interesting. There are 150 possible tanks, all WWII era. You start with a lighter one, and then move up through the levels to get better tanks with more fire power. There are 60 battlefields, and some of those are historically based campaign simulations.

Graphics: Realistic 3D

 

Conclusion

There are plenty of great MMORPG’s out there. Check out any one of those above and you will be sure to walk away happy. Without having to spend any cash.

 

 

A Look At Panasonic’s Newest 10-Inch Tablet — The Toughpad FZ-A1

Panasonic has been known for awhile for creating technologies for those who aren’t very good at being delicate with their devices. Which is why they released their Toughbook series, a brand that was meant to withstand all of the bumps and drops of those of us who are more careless than cautious.

That kind of thinking has now been applied to a tablet, which is made to withstand the even more rough treatment some people afford their handhelds. The tablet is the Toughpad FZ-A1, the latest in industry-strong computing.

But there is a lot of curiosity about this tablet and the features that it has. Especially since the there has been next to no hype, which is expected in today’s age of direct-to-consumer communication. The reason for that, as it turns out, is that it is not made for the average consumer.

Before getting into that, let’s take a look at what it is the tablet has to offer.

Specifications:

  •  Runs on a 1.2 GHz, dual core Marvell processor
  • Android  3.2 “Honeycomb” operating system
  • 16GB on board storage
  • Up to 32GB optional storage, MicroSD
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 1GB LP-DDR2 RAM
  • Can be dropped from up to four feet while remaining fully protected
  • 4G
  • Two cameras, with a 5MP in the back, and a 2MP in the front
  • 10.5  x  8.3  x  0.67; under 2.5 pounds

 

Why You Won’t Want It

You might be thinking that the basic specs seem pretty sweet. At least, they are on par with most of the newer 4G tablets that will be hitting the market. The tougher exterior might also be a selling point, especially if you have children or just happen to be a little accident prone. After all, nothing is more terrifying to the clumsy than spending a huge amount of money on a product, and then accidentally dropping it into the sink while the water is running.

But this tablet is not made for general consumer use. It is actually an industry tablet created for business and government use. It has features such as a nice, large screen and more durability to stand up to scrutiny while on the job. It is also very heavy on potential work features, such as increased mobile management for IT-based consumers who want the ability to better customize their tablet for their work purposes.

In addition to this, there will be very little focus on entertainment applications, such as apps or streaming videos and music. In fact, there will be next to no real application on this front, making it useless to most people who want one for personal use.

According to Panasonic, the point is really more about security:

“Enterprise-class mobile computing requires an enhanced level of device security that is not available in today’s tablet market. To address this need, the new Toughpad family is designed with security in mind. The Toughpad A1 incorporates security embedded at the hardware level and offer technologies like hardware and software encryption, enhanced VPN, dual factor authentication, trusted boot and device management. This enhanced level of device security means the Toughpad A1 will be compliant with FIPS 140-2 for Federal government use and HIPAA ready for healthcare environments.”

If that isn’t enough to persuade you against picking one up in 2012, the price should be. It costs a staggering $1,299.

I am actually kind of down about this. I would love a real, sturdy tablet that could withstand the horror that is my children, as well as my own carelessness. I have never found one, though I have bought two in the past that I was assured could withstand a fair amount of abuse. Apparently, I am just too rough to be trusted with any expensive technological device.

What People Are Saying About ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3′

Earlier this week we saw the much anticipated release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the latest in the online multiplayer, first person shooter franchise. From the moment the game was announced there has been massive hype, with game trailers and teasers driving CoD fans crazy with excitement. With that much heart-pumping expectation, it would have been easy for the game to fail to deliver. But a few days after the release, the consensus seems to be positive.

Let’s look at a few new features in the game, as well as what people are saying:

  • Mother of All Bombs – A lot of people were divided on the old Nuke feature from the past. This is an improvement on the general idea that you might enjoy. Rather than a weapon, it is a hidden reward for people who have a 25 kill streak. That streak has to be gun-based, and any air strikes won’t count. So keep it on the ground. Once you reach 25 kills, there will be a sudden bomb that takes down the opposite team. It’s pretty cool.
  • Support Selection. When you choose Support you will be given a list of non-aggressive, continuous assault methods. These are the only ones that will keep going after you die, rather than resetting, such as when you select Specialist or Assault. They have UAV’s, Advanced UAV’s, Recon Drones, EMP’s, Escorted Air Drops and more.
  • No More Mill Streak Centric Rewards – There is a new system on MW3 that allows you to accumulate points for kills, competing tasks, capturing flags, setting bombs and more. These points add up, with different amounts offered for different acts, and then are applied towards the usual streak rewards and upgrades.
  • Elite Mode. If you are willing to pay the insane $50 subscription fee, you can join Elite Mode. This is a social networking site, of sort. But one that offers you  various upgrades, downloads and special items. They also give you the ability to connect with other players on a more direct level outside of the game, update your Clans and upload replays. It probably won’t be worth it to anyone but the most rabid of gamers.

What People Are Saying

Which brings us to the general reviews.

Brett Molina of USA Today said:

“In many ways, Call of Duty multiplayer has become the Madden of first-person shooters. With annual releases, don’t expect the overall experience to change drastically. “

Adam Najberg of The Wall Street Journal said:

“I know impassioned Battlefield 3 fans won’t be swayed or converted by this or any other MW3 review, but I do think the new Activision game, with its strong single-player and continued excellent online and multiplayer modes is more well-rounded and is a more-complete game for the money, if you’re only going to buy one FPS game this season.”

Anthony Gallegos of IGN said:

“Despite its flaws, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 takes the fantastic series we’ve come to love over the years and iterates on it with great success. The multiplayer is hands-down the best it has ever been, with more features, more modes and a ton of new levels and ways to interact via Call of Duty Elite. The singleplayer campaign and Spec Ops mode add value to the overall package, creating something that may not be perfect, but is too damn addicting to pass up.”

So, there you have it. The general consensus seems to be that it might not be the groundbreaking, breathtaking, spine tingling brilliance that people have come to expect from the CoD franchise. But it is still a solid game with plenty of positive, larger maps, interesting new features and great game play.

All in all, probably worth a buy this holiday season.

Want To Run A Contest? Take It Off Google+

Despite the hype and initial mass sign up, Google+ is still going through some growing pains. Policies are still being written and pushed to subscribers, and some rules were more unexpected than most. Such as the one that doesn’t allow companies, websites or organizations using the new Pages feature to run contests on the social media site.

The Pages feature is pretty much exactly like Facebook. Anyone can create a fan page dedicated to their product, service, event or general topic. Then users can join that page for regular updates and to show their enjoyment or support.

But unlike the Facebook fan page, there is a serious limitation on content that can be placed there. For example, social media’s use as a marketing platform that takes advantage of providing coupons, promotions contests and sale announcements has become an advertising staple. Customers like it because it isn’t as pushy or invasive, since they are choosing to join the page for the opportunity to save some money on something they would normally use. Or to win contests, which are often featured on the Sweepstakes page.

Google+ announced this week that with the launch of their Pages section, such things would not be allowed under general policy, and that breaking that rule would lead to possible account suspension.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a contest, however. But according to the press release:

“You may display a link on your Google+ Page to a separate site where your Promotion is hosted so long as you (and not Google) are solely responsible for your Promotion and for compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations in the jurisdiction(s) where your Promotion is offered or promoted … You release Google from any liability associated with your Promotion.”

They go on to say that all promotions will exempt anyone even mildly associated with Google as a corporation from having so much as been aware of the existence of your content, under penalty of being eaten by rabid ferrets. Or something like that.

Come on, Google! Wasn’t there some way you could release yourself of liability while still allowing promotions to occur through the social media site? After all, it is the social media part that extends the reach of the contest, coupon or deal in the first place. Why give companies access to your site in an official capacity if they can’t take advantage of the features that traditionally come along with it?

If you are a small business who wants to get into social media marketing, I would honestly suggest going to Facebook or Twitter, at this point. Even providing a blog in addition, to bulk up your exposure. Because having a social media page on a site that is already being deserted in the same surge of interest that led to the initial sign up seems pretty pointless. Especially if you are limited in what you can provide subscribers.

As for the users, what incentive will they really have to join those pages in the first place? I don’t know about you, but the only reason I join an official page is to get news and deals. I love sweepstakes and coupon codes, which is why I have a small list of Likes on Facebook from local shops and online stores I like.

But maybe I am getting too hang up on the old fashioned (as it were) nature of social media marketing. Google+ is supposed to be innovative, after all. Maybe going backwards is actually some clever scheme that I am not understanding. It wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t get the point behind one of their changes.

Will The Nexus Prime Be The Best Competition For The Coming iPhone 5?

With a tentative release date of 2012 for the latest addition to the Apple friendly floating around cyber space, there is some hype building already. The iPhone 5 is believed to have new features, new capabilities and a slightly different interface to go along with their updated iOS. It is no surprise that it is the most anticipated new toy for any tech junkie.

But not everyone is a fan of Apple, or their devices. I am in the camp the prefers to stick with alternatives, even if they lack some of the power and finesse. Anything to keep from giving my money to Apple. It is a strange conviction that doesn’t come from any real source, other than growing up with an intense hatred for all things Mac.

What can I say? I was always a PC girl.

But what will be the hottest piece of multimedia communication device to challenge the supreme king of all things high tech? Some people say HTC will continue to maintain the secondary spot. But with the Gmail application hitting iPhone, it doesn’t bode well for the rivalry.

I – and a surprising number of bloggers – feel that the real challenge will not come from Google. They think it will come from Samsung.

The Samsung Nexus Prime

The release date of the Nexus Prime (also known as the Nexus Galaxy) is still sketchy. Most people believe (and many leaks have confirmed) that it is coming this month. This is a smart guess, as the holiday season is just around the corner. There is no reason that the company wouldn’t hold out for a Christmas season release, especially with the iPhone 4S making the rounds since last month.

If you are looking for an exact date, reports are now saying that a UK release of November 15 has been confirmed. But others are saying that November 10 is a possibility.

Specs

The specifications, which were leaked in October, are impressive. The case is ultra thin, and measured in at just 9mm. It is sleeker in design, and the overall consensus of those who have seen prototypes is that it is pretty innovative.

It will be the first smartphone to run 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich from Android. There is no way smartphone lovers won’t be excited to see this puppy unveiled for that reason alone.

The screen is allegedly about 4.5 inches wide, which is a nice size. The resolution is what you would expect, at 720p. It shows the way that handhelds are really working their way into the same clarity of larger screens. There will also be a 5-megapixel video camera in the back of the phone, capable of capturing high quality videos and pictures. It is a definite improvement to the usual under-two megapixel quality of other phones.

An impressive feature will also be the step into 4G capabilities. So it will be faster at both browsing and downloading, not to mention streaming.

The Nexus Prime processor will be 1.2 Ghz, which is a .2 improvement on the iPhone 4S. But it is hard to say what that will compare to on the iPhone 5.

Conclusion

I like Samsung, and this is obviously going to be an awesome phone. Especially if the leaked details are completely right. With competition heating up, superphones on the way and ever-changing operating systems pushing the software forward, we are in for some serious stuff in the future. I can’t wait.

 

Great Twitter Accounts For Mom

Hey parents! Life is tough, right? You have responsibilities, jobs, bills, kids, a vague attempt at a social life…all of those bits and pieces that make up an adult existence. All of this on too little sleep and too much coffee, if you are like me. Which is why it can all seem just a tad bit overwhelming from time to time.

Thankfully, the Internet has provided all of us with a bit of solace. With a click of a button we can find others who are facing the same challenges, coming up with solutions and making it work. These Twitter accounts are all examples of moms who are kicking ass and taking names…then tweeting about it.

@ParentHacksThe Twitter account of blogger Asha Dornfest, @ParentHacks is a great place to follow to get updates on posts, find quick tips on saving money or just on life in a family in general. She is fun, smart and insightful, so you will be sure to enjoy her tweets. Until the end of this weekend, you can join a raffle for $2 a ticket. The prize is a $350 goodie bag, with all proceeds of the contest going to @charitywater. So even if you don’t win, you are supporting a good cause.

@PioneerWoman -Ree Drummond lives a life more suited for a romantic comedy or sitcom than reality. Growing up in the a corporate town to an upper middle class family, she moved to California to find herself and became a bonafide city girl. Until she went back home, fell in love with who she calls a “rugged cowboy”, and moved to the country to help run a ranch with her husband and four kids. Her tweets are short and sweet and very funny. Her blog is even better, and her tips on homeschooling are very helpful to those thinking of stepping away from the current public school system.

@DailyParentingTip -Every day (sometimes twice) there is a nice little parenting, marriage or family life tip posted on this Twitter. It is a bit impersonal, but more helpful than you might expect. My favorites are the little cooking tips that sometimes appear, as I am an avid food lover and enjoy experimenting with recipes very much. Almost as much as my own family likes to eat them.

@AMamasBlog -A cancer survivor, a runner, a mother of two and a popular Internet personality…Heather has quite the personal resume. According to her, she started her blog in 2007 as a way of showing her boys who she is and was during the time she was writing it. It became a platform for all things parent related, as well as a spot to vent her own thoughts. Her life as a runner is inspiring to those who like a good job.

@SarcasticMomLC -Run by Lotus Carroll, the slogan on this Twitter is “Survival requires humor”. Which is a sentiment many parents can appreciate and agree with. A photographer and blogger, Lotus combines good advice and stories of her own life with a touch of sarcasm that I personally find very endearing and amusing. But then, I am fluent in sarcasm.

@DrMommyDr Mommy is actually Daisy Sutherland, a chiropractor. writer, TV personality and motivational speaker. Her goal in life is to help people find balance and be successful in all they do. Her blog is filled with articles on self-help, parenting and spirituality. Her Twitter is much the same, with updated links and occasionally tidbits tweets to her fans. She is worth following for motivation alone. Just looking at her makes you wonder about her energy levels.

If all of this isn’t enough, you can always retreat to CafeMom or old episodes of Trading Spouses to at least take comfort in knowing you aren’t those people, right?