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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our FOX Fashion Moments {Giveaway}

Our clothes from FOX Kids & Baby have seen us through lots of moments over the past couple of months. Here are some of our favourites:

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Thanks FOX Kids & Baby, for fitting us out so fabulously these past couple of months!

GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to our generous sponsors, one lucky family is going to have the chance to create their own FOX moments as I have a $100 FOX VOUCHER to giveaway! 

FoxKidsVouchers

To enter the draw to win this $100 voucher, you have to complete the following steps:

1. Like the Fox Fashion Singapore Facebook Page

2. Like the Life is in the Small Things Facebook Page

3. Like and Share this Facebook Photo, and tag a friend. Do make sure your post is public so I can see it!

4. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me about one of your favourite moments spent with your child, and leave your e-mail address.

You have to complete all 4 steps to qualify so don't miss any out! Use the Rafflecopter widget below to indicate that you've done the above. You can also get additional chances by completing the rest of the steps! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway ends on Fri 1 August 2014, 11.59pm and is open to Singapore residents only. Winners will be contacted by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. All incomplete entries will be disqualified.

Good luck!

 

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cleaner and Better-Tasting Water with 3M Water Filter Systems

With the weather being as hot as it is these days, one of the things we've all been doing a lot more of is DRINKING MORE WATER.

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I must confess that drinking more water daily is something that my husband has been nagging me to do for ages. I just don't have the habit of drinking a lot of water, which isn't great, considering that drinking lots of water has a whole host of benefits, including giving you great skin. I am really feeling my age these days and looking it. (Ahhh!!) So I'm diligently trying to up my water drinking routine, and make the kids do so too.

Something that has really helped is my recently acquired 3M Water Filter System. Why, you ask? For one, the water tastes better, and when it tastes better, I drink more.

I grew up drinking boiled water and continued doing the same in my own household. While tap water in Singapore is officially safe to drink, I followed my mother's practice of boiling tap water before transferring these into water pitchers ready to be poured out for drinking. I thought nothing of it and would have continued drinking boiled water but for my husband having a change of heart. He went on a business trip with a client who only drank bottled water and returned home convinced that our usual boiled water didn't taste quite right. That same week we went out to buy a water filter jug, and I had to agree -- the water tasted way better than our usual water.

But I never found a water filter jug very efficient. The filter was slow. You had to wait 5-10 minutes for all the water to pass through the filter. The jug capacity of 1 litre was also rather limited, which meant that if I needed a larger quantity of water, I would have to refill the jug several times and wait for the water to filter through each time to accumulate the required amount. The filters were also pricey, especially when you consider the amount of water they filter (ie. not much!).

With the 3M Water Filter System, I've finally found a solution that works for us. Having used it for over a month, I have to say I really like it and the husband has been telling everyone about it!

Here's why:

1. The water filter system is small and compact. We got the basic system (AP Easy Complete) installed and got a separate tap installed at one corner of our sink. The filter is a single cartridge under the sink, and a tube is run to link the it to the water source. That's it! The installation was quick and easy and took 45 mins. If you'd rather not have a separate tap, it is also an option to upgrade your existing tap to a mixer tap where, instead of choosing between hot and cold water, you can choose between filtered and unfiltered water.

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2. It is very convenient as you get filtered water straight from the tap. No more boiling water and waiting for it to cool down. No more filling a jug and waiting for the water to filter through either. If you need to drink, you can get filtered water instantly from the tap. It is also much easier for me to fill up the soup pot with filtered water when it used to be quite tedious previously as I would have to refill my water filter jug several times to get enough water.

3. We get much cleaner water to drink. The 3M AP Easy Complete water filter is certified by NSF International (an independent public health and safety organisation) to significantly reduce cysts, chlorine, sediment, rust, lead, mercury and volatile organic chemicals in water. It is the only home system in the market that is independently certified so you know that this is a product that delivers on its claims.

4. It is affordable. $0.04 per litre, is I think, not a lot to pay for clean water. Especially since I don't need or use a kettle any more! Each replacement cartridge costs $110 and lasts for 6 months. As a comparison, it cost me about $0.24 per litre with my water filter jug and I needed to change cartridges every 3 months.

5. The water just tastes better. I keep coming back to this, because this has been the biggest, most obvious result. In fact, one great thing that has happened since we switched to filtered water is that the husband has stopped drinking cold water. He used to ONLY drink cold water, but he now deigns to drink room-temperature water as it isn't as unpalatable. I've found myself drinking more too.

If you're in the market for a water filter system, this is the best time to get your hands on the 3M Water Filter System as they are having a storewide 15% DISCOUNT on all their water filter systems during this GSS! This means that you can get the 3M AP Easy Complete (usual retail price: $600) for just $525. And there's more! All blog readers are entitled to an ADDITIONAL $50 VOUCHER which can be used to offset against the already discounted price of the system! Which means that you only pay $475 for the 3M AP Easy Complete.

To get your additional $50 voucher, just click on the following link and fill in your details and use the blogger code MY SMALL THINGS: Click here for your $50 voucher! This offer is valid till 31 July 2014.

If you want to see check out the range of water filters 3M has to offer or try a cup of 3M filtered water yourself, do drop by their showroom at:

No.2 Kim Chuan Drive #02-06
CSI Distribution Centre
Singapore 547080
Tel: 6288 8290
E-mail: sales@jestac.com.sg

Opening Hours:
8.30am to 5.30pm (Mon-Fri)
8.30am to 2.30pm (Sat)




* We were provided with the 3M AP Easy Complete Water Filter System, and drank many cups of water on our own for the purposes of this review. We genuinely love it! All opinions remain my own and are based on my own experience and on information provided to me by Jestac. (Mei is also dressed in her favourite dress, from FOX!)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

World Cup 2014: Germans Always Win

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After a month of excitement and too much late-night TV, the World Cup has drawn to an end, with Germany being the worthy winners. Guess I should have bought that Germany shirt huh! But I'm glad the Germans won. They were my 3rd team, after Italy and Spain. I was quite taken by the "new Germany" when Jurgen Klinsmann and his then-assistant Joachim Loew first unleashed Lahm, Schweinsteiger and gang 2006, though glad that they still lost to Italy in the semis. Since then I've sat up whenever Germany played. They were going to be the next big thing, I was sure of it. It didn't happen in 2010 though I was again impressed. There was nothing to stop them this time.

It was honestly one of the better World Cups I've watched in recent years. Highlights of the World Cup for me:

  • Colombia! When the tournament started, DD declared that he was supporting Brazil, Argentina and the first team that beat another team 3-0. Two days later, Colombia beat Greece 3-0 and they became the team he backed. (He insisted Netherlands earlier thrashing of Spain 5-1 didn't count because it wasn't 3-0. Also, DD doesn't like the Netherlands, period.) We laughed about it at first then stopped laughing, because they were so good! James Rodriguez was totally the breakout star for me, and his goal against Uruguay was the goal of the tournament. I wanted them to beat Brazil, I did, even if DD didn't!
  • Great goalkeepers -- Neuer the sweeper keeper, and I-can-save-anything-you-throw-at-me Ochoa, Navas and Tim Howard. It is rare that folks celebrate a goal NOT being scored, but these keepers did it in style and won the plaudits. Oh, and let's not forget the penalty shootout star Tim Krul!
  • Watching Messi light up the stage in the earlier stages. Given that I don't watch La Liga, I've never seen Messi in action. Or at least, I'd never seen him play well, since his previous appearances at the World Cup were really quite disappointing. But this time, I got to see why he's considered the best around.
  • Germany beating Brazil 7-1. 'Nuff said.
  • Miroslav Klose beating Ronaldo's all-time World Cup goals record with 16 goals. I've never thought much of Klose but he really just keeps scoring! Watch out for Thomas Mueller who looks like he will top Klose's record one day.
  • THAT advertisement by the National Council on Problem Gambling that even started making round in other countries. At least they had the good sense not to run it during the final!

(The low points were Suarez's idiotic biting of Chellini and Italy failing to make it out of the group stages.)

The biggest thing about this World Cup however was really being able to share it with my kids. We watched the highlights game in the morning and I would show them some of the highlights on my laptop in the day too. Noey supported Argentina all the way and was so chuffed when his team made it all the way to the finals. He even trotted out to watch the game with me at 3am! (He was really trying to make his usual break for my room in the middle of the night but curled up next to me when he caught me watching telly.) 

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He'd be 10 the next time it rolls round. I'm looking forward to that.

"Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win" -- Gary Lineker. Now, as true as ever.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Papa The Volunteer

Term 3 is Project Term over at the kids' kindy.

And of all the topics, what topic should Noey's class choose for their project after brainstorming with their teacher but LEGO! Mei's class chose Duplo. What are the odds of that huh! 

This is all right up my husband's alley of course, so when they asked for parent volunteers, I felt he was obliged to volunteer and contribute to his children's learning, and he gamely agreed to do.

That's how my husband ended up going to school to kindy to talk about his favourite topic.

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I think Daddies don't get the opportunity to get involved in the classroom as often as Mummies do, so I know it was pretty special to Noey to have Papa there to share. He was tremendously happy to see us and I thought it was very cute when his teacher got the class to greet the husband as "Uncle D" that at the end of the chorus of greetings, Noey quietly added "I'll call you Papa, ok?". He then happily participated in the session and his Papa and I were both glad to see that he behaved well, raising his hand when he wanted to speak and taking his turn.

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When I went to pick the kids up after school, Noey broke into a huge smile when he saw he and told me "I loved Papa's show and tell!" That was, I told my husband, the best validation ever. If I needed an incentive to volunteer to help out more often, well there it was. It was a reminder that we are partners in our children's learning journeys and every part that we can play makes a difference to them. We might teach them content, but more than that, when we make time to be present, we tell them that "you are important to me". (Which reminds me, I'd better check with Mei's teacher to see if she needs us to help out anywhere!)

I'm looking forward to seeing what Noey and his class come up with for their project at the end of term. I'm sure Papa would be proud!

 

Linking up with:

A Juggling Mom Motiviational Monday 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wink To Learn Chinese {Giveaway + Discount Code}

Teaching the kids Chinese - and getting them comfortable with the language - is an on-going endeavour in this household.

Among the things we have tried are:

1. Letting the kids to attend Chinese playgroups as toddlers -- Noey went to Mandarin Playclub at Julia Gabriel (now re-branded as Chengzhu Mandarin Centre) while Mei attended a similar programme with Bibinogs.

2. Attending Chinese cultural performances.

3. Attending Chinese plays and other kids' performances. 

4. Visiting Chinatown.

5. Sending Noey to Berries.

6. Reading them Chinese books (with help, of course).

7. Attending Chinese camps/holiday programmes.

7. Listening to Chinese music.

We have yet to conquer the last frontier of speaking Mandarin on a regular basis to the children. I'm trying but honestly, my vocabulary is currently so poor, I'm not capable of carrying on an extended conversation in Mandarin with them of any real substance. 

Recently I had the opportunity to try something new -- the Wink to Learn Speak & Read Chinese Programme. 

Wink to Learn is a Singapore home-grown early learning resource developer with a wide product range of early language learning resources like flash cards, DVDs and CDs, with the aim of helping children learn multiple languages from a young age. Amongst these, Wink to Learn's Speak & Read Programmes are one of the most highly-rated educational resources for helping children to learn to read using flashcard methodology.

Like any other parent, I have my concerns about exposing my kids to too much television, but the programme promised that the flashcard lessons were short and that it was only necessary for my kids to watch 1 to 2 lessons a day over a period of 6 months to recognise more than 500 words and phrases. Having heard a number of success stories from friends, I was keen to give it a shot. 

WinktoLearn

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The Wink to Learn Speak & Read Chinese Programme comes with a set of 6 DVDs, and a Parents' Guide which gives some instructions for usage of the DVD lessons based on the age of your child. You can choose to have the lessons in simplified Chinese or in traditional Chinese in 2 versions.

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The flashcard DVD lessons are divided into 6 levels (1 level per DVD). Levels 1 to 4 are aimed at enlarging the child's vocabulary, while in Levels 5 and 6 the child learns to phrases and short sentences using the vocabulary acquired in the earlier levels. Each level has 8 lessons and a set of revision lessons.

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The said the lessons were short -- and they were right! Each lesson was only about 3 to 5 minutes long. I think it took longer for us to find the DVD, watch the intro and get the lesson started than it actually took for us to watch the lesson! In each lesson, a picture is flashed followed by the corresponding characters, and the whole set of ten words is cycled through twice. After that, there is a short song relevant to the topic which the children can sing along to. The lyrics are also flashed on screen. Sometimes a series of pictures relating to a place (like Paris, for example) are screened. Here is a short clip of one of the lessons on Animals (Level 1, Lesson 2) as an example:

 

As a result of the lessons being so short, I ended up letting my kids watch at least 2 to 3 lessons at one go since they started protesting when I wanted to stop the DVD after each lesson! In fact, I was glad that they were keen on it. 

We've been using this set on and off for about a month, and while I'm not a proponent of television learning, I have been quite pleased with it. What I like about this series:

  • There is a wide range of vocabulary introduced
  • The introduction of terms progressing on to phrases and simple sentences is very systematic. I like that the later phrases and sentences build on vocabulary that has already been introduced in the earlier lessons.
  • Clear enunciation of the Chinese terms and phrases. My kids, particularly Mei, love repeating after the voice. As it is clearly pronounced, she usually gets it right. I do watch it with them though so I am at hand to correct her when she doesn't get it right.
  • Good use of pictures. It is usually clear from the pictures what the words being taught are so you can probably follow along even if you know no Chinese.
  • The use of colours on the Chinese radicals to help the children break down the words and learn to read them.

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The proof of course is in the learning. Did it my kids learn from this set? I'm happy to report that even though I wasn't very diligent in getting them to follow the programme, they have certainly acquired the use of new terms. When we were having fruits just a few nights ago, Noey voluntarily told me that the kiwi fruits were 奇异果. Even more surprisingly, when I tested Mei and tried to get her to read some of Chinese words on a board, she could read most of them, some with some prompting. Not bad for a girl who still mostly makes Chinese -sounding sounds when asked to speak Chinese but doesn't actually say anything meaningful most of the time! I think we will be continuing use of this to see where it takes us.

GIVEAWAY!

Good news for you if you'd like to try the Wink to Learn Speak & Read Chinese programme for yourself -- I have ONE SET TO GIVEAWAY!

To win ONE SET of Wink to Learn Speak and Read Chinese (RRP: $99.90), kindly sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe, just follow the steps of the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note the following terms and conditions:

1. You MUST like The Groovy Giraffe's Facebook Page through the Rafflecopter widget in order to qualify for this giveaway.

2. The winner will have to self-collect their prize from The Groovy Giraffe (Everton Park) or pay $5 for shipping.

3. The giveaway prize will not come with the cover box.

4. No exchange of of the prize for other products or conversion to store credits will be allowed.

5. All entries will be verified and false or incomplete entries will be disqualified.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you'd like to purchase Wink to Learn's range of educational products, the good news is that they are now available at The Groovy Giraffe, our favourite remainder bookshop. Check out the full range here. In addition to Chinese, they have the Speak and Read series for English and other Asian and European languages too, amongst other products. As with all products at The Groovy Giraffe, you can be sure that you are getting the lowest price for these products. Wink to Learn Speak & Read Chinese for example is available for just $58.90, down from the usual price of $99.90!

An even sweeter deal for all blog readers: Use the code "MUMMYBEAN" and get a special 20% OFF ALL WINK TO LEARN PRODUCTS! This special code is valid for 1 month till 11 August 2014. Also, the code GET5OFF is still valid to give you a 5% discount off all other products in the store so don't forget to use it! 

Happy shopping!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The P1 Registration Milestone

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I don't think I was quite fully prepared for this milestone of milestones: P1 Registration.

I mean, I was definitely fully prepared where the process was concerned. I read up on the documents required, marked down the relevant date, reminded myself many times not to forget, took out all the necessary documents and set them aside. (I forgot the photocopies but thankfully that was easily rectified at the school bookshop.)

I've been prepared for years, really, having discussed our options many times over with the husband. I was the one who asked him to sign up for his alumni school then practically signed up for him when he wasn't prompt enough with it to my liking. I read up on all the phases so I know them all and the permutations for balloting like the back of my hand. I considered all schools within 1km and 2km of my home, and again when we moved. I asked around and found out what I could about the school we decided on for Noey, even if it was more out of default than a real choice.

On D-Day this Tues, I woke up bright and early, and prepared myself to go down for the morning session to give myself a bit of a buffer just in case we had some issue with our documentation. I woke the husband and we brought Noey along for the ride.

(He spent most of the journey talking about getting $2 for pocket money and all the things he could buy with that. His kindy had arranged a trip to a Primary school for the K2 children  one and clearly the canteen was the big takeaway from the whole experience.)

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I was a little taken aback by the number of people in the queue when we got to the school by mid-morning, and we briefly discussed the possibility of a ballot, though I sincerely hoped there was no need for that given that fact that we had NO BACKUP PLAN whatsoever. This was already the earliest possible phase and I didn't expect there to be any prospect of a ballot at all. It was a bit of a nervy wait. Nervy for us, at least. Noey was utterly bored. Guess that's the first and last time I'm bringing a child along for the registration process!

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Our hearts were put to rest when we were informed by the admin staff managing the process that the number of alumni members they were expecting to show up for the registration process was less than the number of places available. This count was possible thanks to a very efficient system the alumni had of issuing letters to those intending to register their children for next year's intake. Since there were more places than letters issued, a ballot was not expected. We heaved a quiet sigh of relief.

Barring any totally unseen and catastrophic event, our P1 registration is done and dusted.

I guess that's when it started sinking in. I was prepared. But now, I realise, I'm not really ready. I'm not ready to take my baby out of the nurturing environment of kindy and shove him into the big bad world. How can it be that he's going to P1 already?? I mentioned these to my husband only to have him smile at my sentimentality. "He'll be alright, he'll grow up," he said kindly.

I know he will, even as I know that I will just have to entrust him to God, knowing that He who cares for Noey infinitely more than I do will walk with him down this path. It is an exciting journey. I just have a bit more preparing to do, this time, in my heart and on my knees.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

An Underwater Chinese Adventure with KidStartNow

Whenever the school holidays roll round, I am always caught in a dilemma when faced with the question of how to fill our days. Should I sign the kids up for holiday camps? Or should we wing it on our own?

When faced with the choice, my preference is usually for the kids and I to hang out together and do our own thing. After all, there's already too much to do!

But the one thing I never say no to is the opportunity for the children to get more exposure to Chinese. So when Noey was invited to attend the Chinese June holiday camp at KidStartNow, I didn't think too much -- it went straight onto his schedule for the month. How could I turn down a camp that promised that my child could "love Chinese in 4 days"?

I was wondering how to break the news to Noey that he'd be attending 4 days of Chinese during the June holidays when I found the task taken nicely out of my hands when an invitation card to the June holiday camp arrived for Noey in the mail. He was excited to get the card, which featured a shark in an underwater scene, in line with the theme for the camp. It gave me the opportunity to tell him what he would be doing and he started looking forward to the camp immediately. Hurray! I thought the card was a nice touch.

On the first day of camp, I sent Noey into the classroom then hung around a bit to see how he would take to the camp. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in the waiting area there was there was a screen showing a live feed of what was going on in the classroom. How helpful! I certainly appreciated being able to take that first-hand look at how Noey was adjusting to the environment and the programme.

KSN1Parents in the waiting area watching a live video feed of the ongoing class. The whole school was decorated with an underwater theme in keeping with the theme for the camp.

I quickly figured out that I needn't have worried. He was obviously having a good time AND speaking Chinese. I couldn't ask for more than that! 

During the course of the next 3 days, Noey continued being very enthusiastic about attending class, and I continued to get good feedback from his teacher about his attitude and behaviour in class. I believe this was due to several factors:

1. The interesting proprietary programme

The premise of the camp was an underwater adventure in which the children on a mission to save all the fish from a fearsome shark. How apt for my little ocean lover. The focus of the camp was on oral skills and the children got to learn and speak Chinese through a role play, games, the use of animated e-books and art and craft. I was impressed to learn that the curriculum at KidStartNow, including the e-books and materials, is one that is developed in-house. Dan, who is one of the directors behind KidStartNow, shared that this allows them to cater the curriculum to the local context and make references to things or events that the kids can relate to. During the holiday camp, I could see that the variety of activities were fun for the kids and captured their interest. 

KSN3Circle time with Li Laoshi.

KSN2Playing a game of "Who's got my fish?" Anya's turn to guess.

KSN5Noey the magician in one of his favourite FOX tees. (The magician is the main character in the story who accidentally whisks himself into the underwater world.)

KSN10Loved the comfy setup in the corner with a clamshell throne and plenty of underwater creatures!

KSN6The cute characters the children meet over the course of the camp. Mei liked them very much and asked me to take this photo of her with them.

2. The use of technology or gamification

One thing that distinguishes KidStartNow's programme from other Chinese enrichment centres is the keen use of technology in its programme. In particular, the school uses gamification as an approach to grading. Each of the kids in the class has an account (with an avatar reflected a leaderboard) and they get to rack up points in the form digital gold coins in class by participating, speaking Chinese, and having good behaviour. The gold coins can later be traded for stickers. Regular students can also save them up for bigger rewards. This was a very interesting concept and I can tell you it was quite a hit with my son. Each day at the end of class, he would tell me how many gold coins he got and what stickers he got. It certainly served as a form of motivation for him!  

Like I mentioned earlier, KidStartNow also develops and uses its own e-learning materials, and these are provided to students who can use them for revision at home. Their bilingual eBooks have a Mandarin read-along function and easy to understand English translations so parents can learn along with their children too.

I personally have a love-hate relationship with technology and am highly wary of the overuse of it. This is something they recognise too at KidStartNow and I understand that technology usage only forms 30% of the class time and the remaining 70% of the time will be focused on activities like story-telling, song and dance. The idea is for children to reap the benefits of learning with technology without being overly reliant on it. That sounds pretty good to me.

KSN4The class leaderboard where the gold coin count is reflected. There was a nice tinkle every time a coin was earned too!

KSN8Choosing the stickers he earned for the day.

3. Good and enthusiastic teachers

At the end of the day, whether technology or other traditional methods are being employed, it is always the teachers who truly make the difference. Li Laoshi, who was Noey's teacher for the 4 days of camp, was lovely, warm and showed a lot of patience for the kids. Noey liked her and so did I.

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It was, all in all, a profitable 4 days for us. Time well spent, I say.

If you'd like to find out more about the programmes offered by KidStartNow, do check out their website for more information or to sign up for a trial class.

KidStartNow
CT Hub, 2 Kallang Avenue, #02-09, Singapore 339407
Web: http://www.kidstartnow.com/contact
Tel: 6444 8280 / 6444 6310 / 9820 7272
E-mail: enquiry@kidstartnow.com

* We were invited to attend the June holiday camp at KidStartNow for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain strictly my own.

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