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I'm currently living in the calm before a technological storm. Those who know me well (or read this site regularly) know that I'm critical about the over-connectivity that modern kids have, a plethora of "devices" and "screens" lurking in every corner. I'm big on imaginative play - in keeping the youngest of kids away from the tech and apps as much as possible (it's all about careful moderation), and while my girls aren't yet old enough to truly understand what a computer does and could be used for, I know that eventually a technological terror will be on my hands. With that in mind... and seeing so many of the neighborhood parents dealing with kids and devices, I like to stay ahead of things and stay mindful of the future. That means making sure that the family will be safe online, and ESET Smart Security 6 is one of the tools in my digital arsenal.

It's funny how things work out sometimes. A few weeks back, we made a stop at Gurnee Mills to check out the first completed wing of their ongoing remodel. Among the new stores, I spotted one that caught my eye: RUUM American Kid's Wear. The store was fantastic, and only a few days old when we made our first visit. Colorful, and staffed by a friendly bunch, we ended up leaving with outfits for both of our girls (a treat from my Sister-in-Law). I was so immediately impressed that I actually started following RUUM's social networks before we were even done checking out. I tweeted a photo that I'd posted to Instagram - my daughter, Addie, trying on a cute little biker jacket. The folks from RUUM (pronounced "room," btw) noticed, and then asked if I'd like to go back there to explore their store in a more formal capacity as part of my Back-to-School Coverage here on The Rock Father. Mission accepted.

Well, it's official. Addie is signed up for her "fours and fives" Pre-K for Fall. I just got it all taken care of this past week, and now our first Back-to-School season is officially official, and we're getting ready to rock. Last year was "twos and threes" preschool, and while we kept her going through summer in "Duckie Day Camp" (same place, same teachers, largely same class), Back-to-School shopping should be an exciting part of the Fall ritual - one my wife and I both enjoyed as kids. A new stop for us this year was Gordmans, relatively new to our area, but known for their savings of up to 60% off the competition's ticketed pricing. Read on for our experience, The Rock Father's "unexpected" connection to Gordmans, and your chance to WIN a $1000 VISA Gift Card and a $100 Gordmans Gift Card to help with your Back-to-School Shopping!

This is the first year that we've done a real "Back-to-School" here at Rock Father HQ. Sure, Addie just turned four, but she's in "Pre-K" - coming out of "twos and threes" Preschool and getting into the "fours and fives." I registered her yesterday and paid the first month (this stuff is getting expensive), and we did some Back-to-School shopping. As I'm re-experiencing the school world again through my daughter, I can't help but think back to my own school days... and some of the mishaps and misadventures that took place. Including the preventable Mix-Up.

Tuesday, August 06 2013 12:57

Back to School: The CRAYOLA Color Explosion...

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Not long ago, I walked into Walmart and found my attention immediately grabbed by a colorful display that reached out to me and said, "Come here, Dear Consumer! Come, Rock Father! Explore my explosion of color!" Now, it didn't actually have a voice, but I'm anthropomorphizing it anyway, if only because it got me into trouble when I came home. This display, prominently-featured at the front of the Back-to-School department, was touting a new line of "Colors for Every Occasion" by CRAYOLA, and damn if I didn't let the "Collect Them All! (While Supplies Last)" tagline grab the crayon-loving kid in me. But it's for my children.

Last week, I got my Back-to-School coverage started here on The Rock Father with a dual-batch of Lunch Box Goodness (here and here). While we've already touched on style and edibles, one area that can often be a:) No fun; and b:) Wasteful, is napkins. Even though some paper napkins can be recycled, we all know that most kids are going to toss those right into the trash and onto the landfill they will go. Making things both fun and environmentally friendly, Funkins are reusable cloth napkins for kids. But they're not only "napkins," we use them as placemats, too. All the time.

Earlier this year, a package arrived here at Rock Father HQ containing two ShtankOut! Plush Toys. But were they really "toys," or are they a deodorizer? It's a strange concept that brings a few different elements into a new product, self-described as an "adorable plush clip-on toy that doubles as an odor eliminator – Perfect for smelly sports bags, lockers, backpacks and more." So what's the reality as experienced here in The Rock Father's State-of-the-Art Toy Testing Facility (our house)?

Earlier this month, you might recall that I featured some of my favorite local eateries right here on The Rock Father. That post was a small part of a larger initiative - a "Blog Hop" involving a group of bloggers that are part of the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community. These writers set out to feature local restaurants in the United States and Canada, as well as some selections from our friends in the United Kingdom as well. If you're up for some reading that will get your mouth watering, check out the roundup of posts below. You might find some new favorite bloggers to add to your daily reading!

A group of bloggers from across the U.S. and Canada have teamed up to profile some favorite local eateries as part of a "Blog Hop" presented by the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community. I threw my hat into the ring to represent Lake County, Illinois - a vast area in the far Northern Suburbs of Chicago, and the semi-hidden home of Rock Father HQ. In fairness, there's no way I could pull off an assortment for the whole county (too many towns, too many great places), so I zeroed-in on 10 Favorites - each holding a special place in my heart for an assortment of reasons. Are they "the best?" That's subjective, but these are some personal favorites... and you'll find that I lean toward a specific type of Chicago-style fare...

Back in March, the folks from O-Cedar got in touch to ask if I'd like to try out one of their new O-Duster Robotic Floor Cleaners. I like O-Cedar, and I have a mop from them that works just fine. I've also owned a few of their brooms over the years, so I figured I'd give it a go in the interest of seeing how it helps a busy at-home Dad like myself keep up with the fuzzies and grime that often collects on our laminate flooring. How did it fare? Well, I could end this quickly by saying that it's taken me three months to share some thoughts, and that my O-Duster was also recently sold on my garage sale... or I could go into further detail. Yeah, I'll go deeper...

The folks over at Oral-B are getting into the Father's Day spirit with a new video that celebrates the "Power of Dad." With over 115,000+ views on YouTube in just 24 hours, the video is a certified viral hit, and one that The Rock Father can get behind. Check it out below...

Hyland's Dad AmbassadorSpring has "officially" been here for just about a month now, but it's not officially here. I believe that the seasons are timeshifting, moving into other months as a result of Global Climate Change. After all, it's April 19 and as the Spring flowers (Tulips and such) are still trying to emerge from the cold soil outside Rock Father HQ, we had an icy mix of snow flurries, sleet and hail today. That said, when Spring truly breaks, Spring Allergies will be in full-effect, and we're prepared. As a Hyland's Dad, I've been using Hyland's Baby Products here for over three years now (with both daughters), and have begun using the "adult" line from Hyland's Homeopatic with increasing frequency. To get you prepared, I'm highlighting a few items worth stocking up on, while providing a $1 Off Coupon from the folks at Hyland's.

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