When Parent Bloggers sent our girls the Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera there was a small war in my kitchen.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
When Parent Bloggers sent our girls the Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera there was a small war in my kitchen.
Friday, December 7, 2007
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
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
“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.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Teen Whisperer, by Mike Linderman. At first blush, you probably think what many do. I don't have teenagers, this doesn't apply to me yet. Or My teenagers/preteens don't have serious problems, why do I need to "whisper" to them?. Do you have kids in the home? Do they fall in the age category of one day to eighteen? Trust me, this is a book you should be reading. As a mother of four, ages one through nearly thirteen, I can attest to the fact that in six blinks of an eye your little cherub who thinks you hung the moon will morph into a hormone-infused adolescent. It is always best to be prepared.
That said, not all teenagers are troubled. Mine aren't (knock on wood). However, there are times when I want to tear my hair out in frustration, times I feel like I just can't reach my daughter, and times when I wonder how I will survive the years until college. Communication is a vital element in any relationship, and with teens, how we communicate makes all the difference in the world. Ever looked at a teenager's behavior and wondered, "What were they thinking?" Mike has the answer: they're not. Or at least, not the way we think they are. Your sixteen year-old may look like an adult on the outside, but on the inside, they're not finished cooking yet. Believe it or not, their brain has not reached maturity. While 95% of our brains are developed by kindergarten, the most critical 5% doesn't develop fully until the twenties. Higher reasoning just isn't going on with our kids. It's our job to be the adult even when they look like one, too.
Mike, a rancher who has raised three kids of his own and counseled countless other troubled teens, has a clear approach to dealing with how and why the dynamics change between us and our adolescent as they reach maturity. Once he explains the why behind the behaviors, he has the how to back it up. His book shows parents how to:
*Create the right approach to positive change
*Use appropriate praise to establish pure intention
*Outline the right set of rules for your child
A note on what he calls "pure intention." This reached me more than any other part of the book. I grew up thinking that if a love was good, it was "unconditional love." Mike says that love does come with some conditions, one of which is respect.
If we operate from a position of pure intention, we are creating an environment in which mutual respect can thrive. To me, unconditional love can sometimes sound a little too pie in the sky: You can go ahead and do anything to me and I'll still love you, so have at it. With pure intention, we make the message plain: I will always love you, and I will always respect your needs and do what I can to help you see that they are met, but I won't always respect the actions you take or the choices you make. I also understand that you can say the same of me. But we also have to understand that underlying any of those disagreements and disappointments is a solid foundation of love and trust.
This book is one part child development, one part guide, and one part good reading. Truly, I hope that as many parents as possible have the privilege of reading this and benefiting from the lessons it imparts.
As for me, I am considering a move to a ranch in Montana. Conveniently next door to Mike and his family.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
I admit, when Parent Bloggers let me know I would be reviewing her book, Deceptively Delicious, I was a little skeptical. My initial reaction was: Jessica cooks? Really? She’s not lounging on her chaise, drawling in a Thurston Howell III accent for the hired help to do her bidding when she wants something prepared? No? Too much television then.
Actually, I can relate to Jessica: we both have children and we both care about what goes into their body. And clearly, we both have some experience with picky eaters. In fact, I should have named this review, How to Get Your Children to Stop Using the Phrase: My Food is Touching! Myyyy Foooood is Touching! I Can’t Eat That! But how do you get kids to eat things that are healthy? Especially if they’re past the “It’s not broccoli! It’s a tree! That dinosaurs eat! Raaarrr!” phase. Jessica has the answer: be sneaky.
Jessica makes you feel right at home the minute you open her book (which I love if only for the awesome binding, which enables you to lay it flat on the counter to read the ingredients without propping jars of peanut butter on the corners). She introduces her family with cute bios and drawings to help us get to know why she wrote the book. I’ll do the same, so you can know who, exactly, the test subjects for Jessica’s recipes were.
Meet Maddie: Charming pubescent daughter who eschews food that touches, food that doesn’t coordinate with the current seasonal palette for Abercrombie & Fitch, and at times, food that contains molecules, nutrients, or atoms.
Heeere’s Chloe: Preteen in training. Chloe likes food that doesn’t moo, oink or bleat. She is willing, however, to eat pasta salad, chocolate, and air.
Awww! It’s Jacob: Five year old adventurer. Will eat anything dangerous, evil, or imbued with super powers. Does not like fish, however still believes us when we say salmon is the thigh meat of Darth Vader.
Whoa! Jack is in the house: Jack is a fifteen month old who likes food that can be placed in his mouth and chewed. Favorites include pasta with fresh pesto, coq au vin, and anything Playskool.
I chose to cook something from two of her three recipe categories: mealtime and dessert. I skipped her breakfast section, but I can't wait to make her pink pancakes this weekend. While I appreciated her sections on equipping the kitchen, the basics of cooking, and nutrition, I didn’t spend a lot of time there. If you are a new mom or have little experience with cooking and haven’t read up on nutrition, this is a great place to start. The other reason I skipped it is because with four kids I only had 4.7 minutes to read the book at any given time
*Carrot Cake Muffins
*Whole wheat pita pizza
Hands down, my kids loved the muffins. We sprinkled them with fall-themed sprinkles and made it a healthy dessert. The mashed potatoes were also well-received, with the boys giving them the most enthusiastic thumbs up. The most lukewarm response was to the pizza, but hey – you can’t win ‘em all! I plan on making several more of the recipes from the book, and have the meatball soup slated for Thursday.
All in all, I thought this was a cute book. The pictures were great (I will not buy cookbooks without pictures), and again, why every cookbook doesn’t come with that fabulous ringed binding is beyond me. A suggestion: Many women run from recipes that call for cheese cloth, cognac, or puree. Jessica is big on sneaking vegetable puree into the recipes. This is a great idea. She dedicated four pages of her book to how you can also puree ahead of time, in six easy steps! With steps within the steps! So it’s actually twenty steps. Just a hunch, but some moms aren’t going to find this part of her book appealing. I am always in a hurry, and I found that in a time crunch, organic pureed squash (the kind in a baby food jar) works just as well. After all, it’s just water and organic squash, or carrots, or peas.
Monday, September 10, 2007
The closest I came to having a black book was a tattered Hello Kitty address book with the names of my volleyball teammates or newspaper staff. In college, I had met the man I would marry, and while we broke up a few times, let's just say the interim time slots were not worthy of even the pages of my Hello Kitty.
Then I got my hands on a copy of a black book I could really sink my teeth into. One that made me yearn for more than I have now, one that showed me with a few moves from its pages I could feel even more womanly. One that whispered, Grace? Are you in there? Come out. Or perhaps we're feeling a little Jackie O today, no? .....Those mamacitas over at Parent Bloggers knew the perfect book for me to review was this black book.
Have you ever seen Project Runway? Perhaps you've heard of a little fashion magazine called Elle? Then you know the obnoxiously gorgeous (and clearly witty) Nina Garcia. She wrote The Little Black Book of Style and I have already read the entire thing and passed it on to friends. I had to wrench it back from my girlfriend, Susan, today in the parking lot of our athletic club. Really, Susan. I need to get my review written. Heh.
The focal point of the entire book for me, the point I wish American Women would repeat as a mantra while in yoga class, or getting their car washed, or picking out their bananas at the Piggly Wiggly is this: ONE GOOD PIECE IS BETTER THAN A HUNDRED CRAPPY PIECES. Oh, if women only truly understood this. Because if we lived this truth in America? The French might not be so snotty to us (oh, they're snotty all right. Je ne comprend pas my ass).
The delightful Ms. Garcia shares with us the wisdom she's incurred from learning to walk alongside her Mama's Manolos, to the venerable offices of Elle and all the globe trotting, couture wearing in between. Granted, her paradigm is, er, how you say, plus raffiné que votre femme moyenne. In other words, this is a woman who grew up with a tailor, went to boarding school, and has seen more of the world already than most of us will ever see. However, her messages are still applicable. Anyone can have style, and you don't need to be an heiress or a socialite or an uber-fabulous television host to get it.
Think about all the money you might spend in two years on ill-fitting, trendy, inexpensive clothes that fill the gaps in your closet, but don't say much about you other than you don't like to spend more than $29.99 on any given piece of clothing. Now, take all the money you spent, add it up, and see how that same amount can yield an amazing, beautifully made classic white shirt, that paired with a great pair of jeans and a little something else (a scarf? those chandelier earrings you found on your honeymoon?) and suddenly you're a woman with a bit more je ne sais quoi. You'll still have money left over for great shoes, perhaps a classic trench, and a few more pieces you'll be wearing years from now.
I loved the q & a's with some of the fashions greats, and as for the quotes that are peppered throughout the pages? Worthy of memorizing and dropping at your next party. This black book has fabulous tips, a history of major fashion trends throughout the past ninety or so years, and also gives the reader wiggle room to express herself as an individual. That's right, for nay, this book is not for the sheep who wants to be told what to wear and write a check and bleet along with the other victims of the season. Au contraire, she encourages a woman to find herself, and express it in an outward manifestation of class and originality.
My only complaint? That the book should be coffee table sized to showcase Ruben Toledo's illustrations. I would frame some of the pages of the book, and was disappointed that such a larger than life artist was encased in a smaller than satisfactory wrapping. Oh well, c'est la vie.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
The good people at Parent Bloggers have included me in their Ryka Athletic Shoe campaign and I couldn't be happier! The shoe is fantastic, and if you want your own, the folks at Ryka are giving away fifty pairs of shoes and shirts each day! So head on over to their site for your chance to win!
In the meantime, get comfortable, grab your Diet Coke, or sippy cup, or that gin and tonic you really should be sharing with me and watch my Ryka review!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
When the good women over at Parent Bloggers asked me to review a copy of The Dark Dreamweaver by Nick Ruth, my biggest concern was which child got to read it first. After reading the synopsis, I could tell this would be a popular book in my house.
Eleven-year-old David is suffering from nightmares. Over and over again, he dreams about a strange, bear-like man with black eyes. He's not the only one; an epidemic of nightmares seems to have infected the Earth. David takes matters into his own hands and embarks on an adventure to Remin, a land powered by dreams. Aided by a caterpillar wizard, a jellyfish-man, two wise-cracking water serpents, and several other unusual characters, he sets out to find and confront the evil wizard who is causing the nightmares. The challenges that he encounters will require all of his intelligence, his courage, and most of all, his imagination.
So I did what most women in my position would do, and I made the girls flip a coin. My ten year-old won the contest, and she disappeared with the book. "So?" I asked, after maybe a week of the book taking residence on her bedside table. "How is it?"
"Oh. I'm done. And I haven't had any bad dreams yet, so I know it was good."
This is high praise, coming from the girl who has only loved one other book with a male protagonist, which may or may not rhyme with Marry Wotter.
"Well, where is it? I want to read it now."
"Maddie has it. I think she took it to camp."
I can honestly say, this doesn't happen much in our house during the busy summer months. I had read the first two chapters to Chloe, before she told me I was reading too slowly and she wanted to know what would happen next a lot quicker than I could deliver. That says it all. Nick Ruth weaves a fast-paced unique fantasy storyline with a style that doesn't talk down to its audience. I was just as entertained as Chloe, and yet she followed along and wanted more. More than mom could deliver. Even better? This is only the first in a series known as The Remin Chronicles. Just like many of our favorite fantasy genre books, we know there is more in store for us to read.
The book is still circulating the younger set of my household, and I couldn't tell you how it ends if you asked. By the time I get it back, I imagine it will be dog-eared and worn, which is about the highest praise for a book you can get in our house.
For more information on The Dark Dreamweaver please check out the website. If you want to know what other kids are saying, Parent Bloggers has what you need. If you want to borrow our copy? Get in line.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
So when the folks at Parent Bloggers told us about Nozin, I was in.
Before my Nozin came, I started to rethink things. What if I had to spray stuff in my nose? That's pretty gross. Actually, doubly gross for me, since I had an aunt growing up that was constantly spraying crap up her nose. That's not exactly fluffy kittens and unicorns for most kids. So when the Nozin came, I opened it and found...ta dah! Swabs. How great is that? And not only swabs, but swabs that come in a neat case, streamlined enough to fit into a wallet, if you are so inclined.
The theory behind the Nozin is this. By swabbing the area (your nose) right where germs enter to infect us, you're reducing your risk of contracting an illness. It's not always feasible to wash your hands as often as you need to, and Nozin works for hours at a time. It's not an antibiotic, so you're not helping create the next super resistant germ, but it does contain plant extracts with an anti-virucidal quality.
So. I did not spray, but I did lightly swab in and around my nostril. Then I headed to the gym, which is a petri dish with treadmills. Between the humid locker rooms, the nursery full of kids, and the closed quarters of the cardio rooms, I'm sure that place is a candy store to the folks over at the CDC. Obviously I can't say if it prevented an illness, but it did prevent one thing. Instead of taking in the awesome corn chip essence of the ladies locker room, I smelled only a nice orange scent. Now that's worth the price of admission right there.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The book proved to be quite a read. Suzy Cohen, R. Ph, has the professional and academic chops to make this book not only a fabulous reference tool, but also an engaging read. I cannot stress enough that this book is more than worth the purchase. It is so chock full of information, that to truly digest its contents, I would have had to read it three or four times. There is such a diverse abundance of information, that it's hard to imagine someone who couldn't benefit from this book. I doubt it's intended as a read it cover-to cover kind of book, although I found myself doing just that whenever the topic of vitamins came up. I have long believed in the healing power of vitamins, and Cohen not only elaborates on this, but backs it up with sound medical reasoning. What is immediately apparent is Cohen's marriage between traditional medicinal practices, and the increasingly mainstream of non-traditional herbal remedies. She also rates various known remedies from "good" to "not so good" and actually tells you where to get them. The resources section of the book alone could save you hours of fruitless internet searching.
The biggest positive in this book, presented over and over again, was the elaboration given on various issues. There wasn't just a section on how to treat insomnia. Cohen explored various causes of insomnia, the different types of insomniacs, and whether or not that was really the problem. Of course, as a reviewer, it was my duty to read through things thoroughly, and so I paid particular attention to Chapter Nine: When He Wants Viagra and You Want a Valium and Chapter Ten: The Condom Broke. I also picked up a lot of interesting trivia, such as the particularly piquant tidbit that in ancient Greece, women used pomegranate halves as diaphragms.
Want the book but don't have time to savor it? The Index should do it for you. Everything from Menopause and Milk thistle to Cervical Dysplasia and Proton Pump Inhibitors.
My only caution (and it is echoed within the book) is to ask your doctor before taking a list of herbs for what ails you. Herbs are drugs, and in that vein, there should be just as much caution exercised before taking a bunch of prescriptions as when you load up at the health food store.
If you don't have the book handy, and have a question or want to do a quick drug search, you can also go to Cohen's site, Dear Pharmacist, for your answers. Plus, spoiler alert, she sings.
And finally, does $50 sound like something you could use? Yeah, I thought so. Head over to Parent Bloggers and post a comment on the 24-Hour Pharmacist campaign launch(you'd do it anyway) for your chance to win a $50 CVS gift card.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
I moved a lot as a kid, but one of the constants was the cafeteria. To me, they all smell the same, evoking memories of milk cartons, turkey tetrazzini, and the coveted pizza day. To this day, when I walk into one of my own children's lunchrooms I am instantly transported back to Pat Benatar on my Walkman, and tater tots on my tray.
My earliest lunchroom memory is from second grade. My parents had divorced, we were living in a new city, and I knew no one. To make matters worse, I had recently chopped off my long, Breck Girl hair and replaced it with the hideous mistake known as the Dorothy Hammill. I was shy, miserable, and embarrassed. My mother was suddenly a working mom, and I had no one with whom to sit at lunch and commiserate over my wretched second grade existence.
My teacher, Mrs. White, had intervened, trying her best to smooth the road for the new girl. She bestowed upon me, prematurely, the coveted yellow ISM button to wear on my shirt. ISM stood for Image Self Manager. Kind of like student of the month (my school had the name Image in it). Instead of ingratiating me in to the sorority of previous ISM pin wearers, it made me stand out even more as an outsider. Rather than invitations to the cool kids' table (or anyone's table, for that matter), I simply invited hissed statements like, You didn't really get that pin. You've only been here a week. I had jumped the chain of command and was appropriately punished for my transgression, even if only for my compliance in wearing a button I hadn't earned.
I would have been swallowed up at that school, save for one small thing: pizza day. On pizza day, not only was I allowed to have hot lunch (I normally packed something in my pale blue Snoopy lunchbox), but my mom would come and sit with me in the cafeteria. On that day, I had someone to sit with. And pizza. It didn't get much better than that.
I invite you today to think back to the seventies, or eighties, or whenever it was (just don't depress any of us and mention the nineties) and recall your favorite cafeteria memory. And, check out School Menu and Family Everyday, two sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents. If you have kids in school and want to see if there is pizza on the lunch menu, you can click on your state and check out what's for lunch. I really, really like that feature, because as good as some of the food can be, I don't want to go hang out with my kid on turkey tetrazinni day (although I checked, and I think they stopped serving that back in 1981, so you're safe).