Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Ride Up? Check. Wedgie Free? Check. Easier to Sort? Check Check. Prevents Boys From Grabbing Their Man Parts? Ummmm....

I'm too busy to review things these days. Yep. Too busy. Not enough time in the day, people. Oh - hang on. Was that a Hanes campaign? Oooh, girls, sign me UP. Sign me up and send those socks and underwear my way.

And so they did. The good people at Hanes and Parent Blogger Network have generously allowed our family to test run their line of socks and underwear for girls and boys.
And did we test run the heck out of these babies.

First, here is the normal state of the "sock bin" at Casa Get in the Car...

Sad, isn't it. What if...what if there were socks that were slightly easier to match? The girls would have cute pink toe boxes and the boys would have blue ones. And then my sock bin would look like this....
Okay, I'm not there. Yet. But Hanes has some great products. We reviewed the Hanes Girls’ No Ride Up Panty with their Comfort Fit Promise (and they have those handy printed labels instead of tags, which irritates so many kids), the Boys No Ride Up Brief, the Boys No Gap Fly Boxers, and the best part (for mom) their Shaped To Fit Ankle Socks for Girls & Boys.

When my youngest daughter wears skirts, she wants full coverage of her booty area. This is where the Hanes Briefs come in very handy. She has comfort, no wedgies (for real. No. Wedgies.), and doesn't give a second thought to her panties all day.

When she wears jeans, it's a totally different story. Any mom with girls over the age of six months knows that jeans only come in the low rider/hipster/where the heck is the zipper it's only an inch long variety. Which means normal panties stick over the waist band of the jeans. So. Not. Cool. Mom.

With the Hanes bikini panties - Chloe was covered and still cool in her jeans. Enough coverage to make me happy, lower fit to make her not humiliated enough to die a thousand deaths, OMG.

As for my son - he wore the bejeezus out of the socks. We have dark wood floors in our house, which means sticky dirty kid feet tend to make an impression on them. Hence, my "socks on the feet at all times" rule while in the house. Unfortunately, this also means that my kids invariably run outside with their socks on...and no shoes...and the socks end up looking like this in a few days:

We've been wearing the Hanes socks non-stop for the past few weeks and not a hole in sight.

In addition to no holes, Jacob has been sporting the most adorable boxer shorts just like his dad - which he loves. But when he's wearing jeans or tighter fitting shorts, the briefs we tried out were well-fitting, and again, wedgie free.

So, a Hanes mom I am, and will continue to be. And with a family of six, that's a lot of Hanes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Brainetics Review: Barbie Wasn't The Only One...

Who thought math was hard. Do you remember that? The Barbie who complained about math and created an enormous backlash within the feminist community? I was so furious to read about that at the time - well before I had children. I thought that half of the reason girls were failing in math and science was cultural. Girls weren't given a chance to excel in these areas, and the insipid marketing folks at Mattel weren't helping things along with their numbers reticent Barbie Doll.

Then I had two girls. One is brilliant at math - actually enjoys it, and other ranks it right up there with trips to the dentist. So when the wonderful women of PBN put out the call for BRAINETICS, the program that promises to help your child with math, I jumped.

Brainetics is created by Mike Byster, an uber-genius who's sole mission in life is to get kids excited about math. And he's not just any run of the mill math genius who started seeing patterns in numbers from the womb - he actually cares about children so much that he has dedicated his career to helping children get excited about numbers.

Brainetics promises that your child will learn how to compute with out pencil and paper, that it will improve their memory, concentration, and skill level. But most importantly, Brainetics promises to improve your child's confidence. Without confidence, it's pretty much hard to learn how to do anything.

Since my daughter is at the older end of the spectrum for this program, I gave her the box and said, "Have at it." Of course, I had to micromanage just a teensy bit, but for the most part she went to work on her own.

I was somewhat sceptical when I popped into her room and saw her watching television. It looked like she was watching a game show - and she was glued to the screen. Hello! Brainetics brings the lessons in five DVDs in a frenetic, exciting pace that keeps even the most reticent child's attention. This is NOT your dry math brought to you by a droning professor in the classroom. If there had been Brainetics when I was in school, I might have actually done well in math, too. This guy has a LOT of energy, and he's a lot like watching a figure skater: he makes it look easy. Maddie actually had her workbook open and in front of her as she reviewed these DVDs in her room. All I can say is, given her age, I was really surprised this held her interest. Typically, she's most easily engrossed in Teen Vogue or Harry Potter. Not math. And certainly not five math-related DVDs. When she told me how to multiply two two digit numbers in my head (not something I can do) I knew Mike was a genius.

Unlike figure skating, though, this is something almost anyone can pick up. My daughter has always liked card tricks, so Mike really spoke to her interests when he tied in mathematical skills and cards.

Most importantly, though, we have had AIMS testing all week this week, and I have been very nervous for my daughter. Yesterday I asked her teacher how she was doing.

"Well, the math section is quite challenging this year, so we'll see. But Maddie seems very relaxed and confident. Her whole demeanor over testing is different this year."

My daughter seemed confident? She wasn't visibly riddled with anxiety on math day? This is the first time ever that a teacher hasn't expressed concern over Maddie's apparent fear and loathing over math testing.

That alone is worth its weight in gold. I don't care if she's a straight A student - I just want her to like the process of learning. And clearly, so does Mike Byster.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Ultimate Tea Diet

Mark "Dr. Tea" Ukra has written a book that is, you guessed it, all about tea. The Parent Bloggers Network is reviewing his new book, so sit back, grab a cup of you know what, and see if this is for you.

The Ultimate Tea Diet is a book that talks about a lot more than just drinking tea to get healthy and/or lose weight. If it were that simple, my skinny jeans would fit a lot better by now.

Dr. Ukra takes tea to a whole new level. If you weren't already aware, here are some of the amazing properties in that product that filled the Boston Harbor, as spelled out by Dr. Ukra.

* Boosts the immune system
*Lower blood sugar and cholesterol
*Prevent cavities and tooth decay
*Decrease high blood pressure
*Prevent arthritis
*Sharpen mental focus and concentration
*Reduce the risk of stroke, heart didease, cancer and more...

Sounds like a wonder drug, doesn't it? So what does Dr. Ukra recommend we do to take advantage of these miracle-like properties?

Eat or drink tea with virtually every bite placed in your mouth. This book has pages and pages of recipes that incorporate tea in ways I never thought plausable or palatable. Craving something sweet and bad for you? Have a cup of caramel flavored tea, instead.

Making chicken for dinner? Create a rub with some tea leaves and serve with Tea-bouleh, Tea-applesauce, and some iced tea to drink.

Every meal of every day can have tea in it of you follow this diet.

I decided I had to do it in baby steps.

First, I read and enjoyed thoroughly his discussion of tea versus coffee. I have long known that drinking a pot or two of coffee a day is not healthy. And I happen love tea, I just don't drink it all that often. So I have been enjoying a cup or two in the morning, and following it with my own favorite tea. According to the good Doctor, tea contains elements that help cancel out the negative effects of the coffee when consumed imediately following your java.

So since reading this book I have gone through four or five boxes of Tazo Zen green tea. And it has helped me largely kick my coffee habit. AMAZING. That alone is worth the price of the book.

As for the tea-infused food? I had to give it a try, too. I'll admit, I read his accounts of how we are supposed to eat if we are serious about tea, and it just looked too daunting. I don't think I could do it at this stage in my life. BUT, I did have a jar of loose white tea leaves, and so I made a spicy cayenne/tea rub for my normally boring chicken breasts and it was great. I didn't taste the tea, but I was supposedly reaping the benefits - a win/win.

If anything, I liked this book because he really is quite throrough about teaching what, exactly, makes tea so healthy. Trust me when I say L-Theanine is our friend. There are chemical compounds in tea that are truly wonderful and beneficial for our bodies, and I love that because of this book I am drinking green tea every day, instead of just once in a while.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera

When Parent Bloggers sent our girls the Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera there was a small war in my kitchen.

Who would be the first to use it? Who would get to take it to school? Who was the better photographer?

We all absolutely loved this camera. First, it's adorable. It's pink and white and you can wear it around your neck with an attachment that comes with it. My fifth grader loved that. Second, it's easy to use. The software installed in no time at all, and my girls were able to take pictures, upload them, and tweak them using the Discovery software literally within hours of opening the package.

Third, it's durable. It's a wonderful camera for kids who may not be ready for a grown-up digital camera, but who genuinely want to learn how to take, store, print, and edit photos. With it's low price of $39.95 it is a good transition camera for your children to learn with.

At first, we were dismayed by the fuzzy screen on the camera that shows you your picture. It appears as if all the pictures have a really bad resolution. Once you upload the picture you will see that this isn't the case, although be warned that this picture works really well in bright outdoor light with objects that are sitting still. Action shots taken inside of a fifth grade classroom are not the best subject matter.

On Halloween, my big girl camera broke and I used the Discovery camera to take their picture. I liked it so much I posted it on my website. The other shots you see are evidence of my girls learning the concept of subject, light, and composition.

We just adored this camera and even got one for my friend's daughter. It makes a great gift!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day Runner

I am a piler. My office has piles, the piles have piles, and it gets a little hairy at times when it is time for me to locate something I need.

As the Chief Operating Officer of this family, I am the one to whom the fliers for school activities come, the bills, the junk mail, and the miscellaneous pieces of paper that life somehow manages to distribute to me on a daily basis.

I was beyond desperate when the Parent Bloggers Network announced they would be reviewing a Day Runner family organization program. I would have begged to review this, but luckily I didn't have to.

The organization pack comes with a large wipe on wipe/off calendar, a day planner (for 2008, so I haven't used it but it is tucked into my diaper bag, waiting), five mini dry erase boards for door handles, and cardboard filing units with color-coded file folders.

The color coding is for each member of your family. Because I am a breeder and have more people in my family than Day Runner has colors, I chose to use the family plan for my office. I hope that isn't cheating, because if it is, it felt really good.

Now, I have taken my PTA, my misc. volunteer, my bills, and my various writing projects and they are no longer in piles. Each category of my life has a color, and when there is something coming up in my life, like a review for example, I don't have to do anything more than lift my eyes from the computer and see my huge dry erase poster I've placed in my office for the answer. The cardboard filing units are neatly arranged near my desk, and I am now reminded of what the surface area of my desk looks like. It has transformed the way I conduct my personal business, and significantly reduced my time spent doing so as I now spend a lot less time searching for papers.

The one thing I did use for my family was the mini dry erase boards that hook onto each person's door handle. Because only two of the kids are reading, I write their chores, or that someone called for them, or a reminder on their board and place it on their door knob. It saves me a lot of yelling.

I do the same for my five year-old, only I use pictures, and it makes him feel like a big kid and prepares him for when he really is reading to look at his door for a message.

If only Day Runner made housekeepers, my life would be complete.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jump Starting Jacob

I am not a fan of video games. My kids will likely never own a Wii (I just can't get my mind around simulated activities like bowling. Go bowling.), they think a playstation is their desk, and I have only let my older two get on the internet a handful of times. Yeah, I admire the Amish a little too much.

But the concept of a "video" game (it's for your PC) that enables your young one to garner skills while "playing?" It really appealed to me when I thought of my five and a half year-old, Jacob. He was late to talk, late for a lot of things, actually, and I liked the concept of Jump Starting anything.

He's currently in a kindergarten that doesn't focus a lot on academics, instead lasering in on things like self-confidence, art, music, and the creativity of the child. We love it, but it also kind of freaks us out a little. Because I like to push the envelope, I had the good people at Parent Bloggers Network send me the Jump Start for first grade. Sort of a litmus test to see how far behind we were.

After loading the game (time consuming, but not terribly so) I sat Jacob on my lap. I showed him how to maneuver the mouse and to my surprise he picked it up in a few minutes and we were off.

He was hooked from the get-go. When he saw his name on the computer screen (I plugged it in as a part of the loading process) and got to pick his character, he was entranced.

Within ten minutes he was collecting "jewels" in a math game that had him clicking on the area that had "more than eight" or "more than four" with ease. He navigated a ship through treacherous waters in an attempt to crash into icebergs that all had three, seven, nine, (you get the point, no?) objects on them, or the actual number itself.

After an initial struggle with the arrow keys on the keyboard, I was stunned to see the hand-eye coordination pick up each minute, and the grin on his face grow larger with each success. The game is really good about positive encouragement, and when he successfully completed a segment of the game, the voice telling him that he did a great job and that he had mastered a level was like an air pump: I watched his little chest puff out with pride.

Two items that are great about this prouct: if your child is struggling somewhat, the game paces itself to your child's progress. When Jacob took a while to master a concept, he never felt left behind or like he was slow. And when he got something right, the praise and encouragement from the game (and me, I should add) spurred him on to want to go to the next level.

I've heard that games are very expensive, but for only $19.95 you can jump start your own K, 1 or 2nd grade child.

I can't recommend this product enough. Want a free download? Go, now, and watch your kid do something productive in front of the computer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Daring Book For Girls

On a recent phone conversation a good friend of mine shared with me something that stuck with me for long after she said it, her words lingering in my mind as I tucked my children into bed.

“Remember, Jen?” she said. Remember when we were young and we were told that we could do anything? Remember?”

I said that I did.

“Well you know what I figured out growing up? I figured out that you could go to Harvard, you could get your masters, but you were still going to earn 70 cents on the dollar to some guy. And I figured out pretty quickly that we couldn’t do everything. I knew that I couldn’t be President, for example.” Her voice broke, and she continued. “And you know what I find so wonderful about this upcoming election? That our girls will maybe be able to see that they really can do anything. That if they really want to, they could become President of the United States someday.” We were both silent for a bit after that, the thought of a woman becoming leader of the free world heavy like perfume for both of us.

This is exactly why I love this book.

The Daring Book for Girls is more than hours of entertainment for your daughter (or son, for that matter). My ten year-old and twelve year- old have devoured this book like I would wine and a wheel of baked brie on a PMS jag. They have argued over who gets to read it at night until lights out. They have ushered in sleep to visions of pirates, monarchs, karate moves, and how to tie a proper knot. They have been filling their minds with visions of strength, curiosity, empowerment, and fun.

For the past few weeks they have been reading about how they can. How they should. How to do, be, and learn. It is an astounding book, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to have reviewed it (truth be told, I haven’t had much chance to read it, as it is currently in the clutches of my ten year-old, its pages already dog-eared and stained with smudges of Halloween candy). My glimpses into its pages remind me of a thrilling adventure ride, of things I used to wonder about, or want to try, or know more of. It is like a treasure box. For my girls, who have long fancied themselves spies, this book is also like a secret manual.

Truly, if you have a girl of reading age in your home, or on your Christmas gift list, you couldn’t do better than to send this book their way for the holidays. In their hands, this substantial hardback book has enough information, illustrations and drawings to fill a mind for months (with everything - literally almost anything fun you can think of that you'd like to see a child doing) - and you will also be sending a clear message.

Yes, you can.