Tuesday, October 27, 2009

brandi carlile: give up the ghost

quite a while ago, i downloaded the weekly free song from i-tunes and noticed that the song was by somebody named brandi carlile (i may have had her confused with brenda carlisle from the go-gos).  anyway, i listened to the song ("the story" from the album, the story) and was surprised at how much i liked it (that doesn't usually happen with i-tunes!).

i was glad to hear that she was releasing a new album, give up the ghost.  it doesn't surprise me that she was inspired in her singing career by indigo girls, a favorite of mine.  she has toured with dave matthews band (another favorite) in addition to sheryl crow and ray lamontagne.  i think i could listen to this album all afternoon (actually, i have been listening to it all afternoon!  do you think i'm bugging my family yet?).

i-tunes describes her "incredible range" and "sense of drama" and i think you can hear that for yourself in the music (again, not always true of i-tunes!).  carlile achieved a dream of hers when she shared a duet with childhood idol elton john for the song "caroline."

if i had to describe her myself (which i do only after making sure everyone knows i am a total amateur at this!) i would say "soulful eloquence."  i have been quite happy with this album and i hope that you find you enjoy it as well.

you can find more about brandi carlile and her tour schedule at her website.  her album is available in stores, on her website, on i-tunes and at amazon.

i received a free download of this album from the one2onenetwork.  i have in no other way been compensated for this review.  again, i might get a few pennies if you use my link to amazon to order a copy.  those pennies might be worth a couple wishes!

is it possible to stay home and stay happy?

rachel campos-duffy believes it is.  she has five kids, and if she says that she knows some tips and secrets to "loving at-home motherhood" than i think it is worth hearing what she has to say.

just the other day i was noticing that i have a lot of books geared toward mothers and mothering that i'm not sure i have ever read, if i have even cracked open the cover.  so when i received campos-duffy's book, i have to admit to just a tiny bit of skepticism.  i mean, i am committed to staying at home with the kids, and i am not necessarily unhappy.  i do get tired of feeling embarrassed when people ask that that is all i do.

i have been surprised at how much i am enjoying stay home, stay happy.  her advice is fairly common-sense oriented and yet it has been a good reminder for me of the things that are necessary to do more than just stay sane but to treasure this time with my young kids. 

did you know that an aol study showed that moms actually accomplish 27 hours of work in 24 hours with all our multi-tasking?  no wonder i am so exhausted at the end of every day!  she has tips for how to address that exhaustion as well as tips for fostering healthy relationships and using those relationships to help you handle your load.

my favorite tip so far has been the first one:  recognizing our need for validation, whether we validate ourselves, accepting the validation of our spouses or finding it elsewhere.  sometimes i feel guilty for taking time for myself, as if i'm admitting to laziness instead of accomplishing more around the house.  campos-duffy really helped me to remember that the time for myself is necessary and essential and even that i'm worth it!

stay home, stay happy: 10 secrets to loving at-home motherhood is available now through amazon. if you are looking for a light read with good reminders about the importance of motherhood and tips to finding joy in our long days, i feel confident recommending this book. i'm even thinking about working through it with our moms' group here in town. i think it can help all of us have a healthier view toward ourselves and the role we are blessed to have in our children's lives.

i received a free copy of this book to review but have been in no other way compensated for this review.  this review expresses my honest opinion.  i might also get a dime or two if you buy this book using my link to amazon.  i promise not to spend it all in one place...

get ready for the ice age! (giveaway)

today is the day that many of your kids (at least!) have probably been waiting for...the release of ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs.  my kids had not seen any of the other ice age movies but that didn't seem to bother them any!

we had our usual sunday night family movie night a couple weeks ago and the kids were very excited to watch the adventures of manny, sid, ellie, diego and even scrat.  i was wondering what they would think since we hadn't seen any of the other movies but they tuned right in to the story.  i'm not sure i've ever heard so much laughing on family movie night.  scrat and his mishaps with a new love provided plenty of comic relief but there was plenty of comedy going on with the main characters as well.

i was wondering how tessa and tate would do with some of the scarier parts (there is a pretty ferocious dinosaur haunting the group).  occasionally tessa found a seat on daddy's lap but overall she seemed to think everyone was free enough from danger that she didn't need to worry.

i think bill and i thought the new character, "buck" (played by simon pegg who was "shaun" in shaun of the dead if you care about that kind of stuff!), was the most hilarious.  he had a lot of jokes that passed over the kids' heads but cracked us up (without being inappropriate).  i think the kids really like scrat (if you are interested, here is a link to an difficult to make scrat costume!)

ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs is rated pg for "some mild rude humor and peril."  i know that bill and i caught each others eyes a couple times wondering if the kids noticed the same "rude humor" we did.  so far nobody has been spouting inappropriate words.  if they do make "rude" jokes, i'm thinking they got that from bill more than from anything else!

ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs is available starting today at a store near you (or at amazon for $14.99).  you can get a single disk version, a three-disk pack that has a blu-ray version, dvd copy and a digital copy or the the scrat pack, which includes an extra disk with scrat shorts if your family are scrat fans.

i also have two copies available to give away!  to be entered for the giveaway, simply leave me a comment telling me the name of your favorite ice age character and/or your best halloween costume ever.  i will announce the winners monday, november 2.  (winners must be in the united states.) 

i received a free copy of the movie to review as well as some halloween trick-or-treating tips care of sid, as well as a glow stick.  i have not in any other way been compensated for this review.  if you buy the movie through my links to amazon, they have said there is something in it for me but i am not yet convinced...

smart sip(ping)

when both tessa and tate were ready to move from breast milk to milk, we had a terrible time with the transition.  for some reason, they just did not seem to like the taste of milk.  gradually, over time, with a sip here and a sip there, we got them to get used to drinking milk.

what i wish i had known about was "smart sips" by gerber.  smart sips is a beverage made with fat-free milk that is loaded with vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fat.  i know that the trend is moving more and more toward eating more natural and organic but i feel like this drink is a good option for toddlers moving toward milk drinking. 

i like knowing that it has extra vitamins and minerals, as well as the ever-popular omega-3 fats.  as i have wondered about the health value of regular milk, it is nice to know there is an option like this available for toddlers. 

tate loves the taste of this milk, and he loves being able to bring milk with him to his play group instead of just plain water.  i have to admit that, personally, i did not like the taste of it.  it is supposed to be vanilla-flavored but it tastes like vanilla soy milk to me (not my favorite, obviously!).  but i am glad to know that tate really enjoys it.  tessa and zoe are actually kind of jealous that tate gets to have it when they don't!

it comes in the form of a juice box, and it does not need to be refrigerated (although you are certainly welcome to do so).  i have never been a big fan of juice so my kids are always the ones with water bottles instead of juice boxes.  i'm glad to have an option for tate now where he can bring milk with him whenever we aren't going to be at home.

and if our next baby has a hard time transitioning to milk, i am definitely going to have this ready as an alternate option!

a new release by five for fighting

i in no way consider myself hip or "with-it."  but i am working on it...i figure that as zoe gets older i need to be up on what's cool and what isn't so that i can embarrass her more effectively.

here is how "un-with-it" i am:  when i heard that five for fighting had a new album available, i figured that it was something too heavy metal for me to enjoy.  i know, it's embarrassing, isn't it?

i received a free download anyway, and i am thoroughly enjoying it.  i am someone who loves billy joel's "the piano man" and also, five for fighting's "superman."  these songs remind me of those two songs.  i really like this cd.

the album has been described as a musical blog or diary, presenting snapshots of american families and even servicemen.  both john ondrasik and co-writer, steven schwartz (of wicked fame), had in mind the song "american pie" as they worked on a few of the songs.  there is a feeling of reminiscence of when times were simpler and life seemed easier, as well as a reminder (with "tuesday") of how the events of 9/11 are still causing incredible pain and havoc in people's lives.

john ondrasik has done a lot of work on behalf of survivors and their families and performs in uso concerts around the world.  he has been recognized for his work in this area, as well as for his dedication to his family with a special fatherhood award (2009 military fatherhood award).  i think his experiences with his family and in support of 9/11 families shows through in the songs on this album.

if you like pop songs that have thoughtful lyrics, you should definitely check this album out.  slice
is available through amazon for $9.99.  you can check out his tour schedule here.

i received a free download of this album to do this review but have in no other way been compensated.  if you buy the album through my links to amazon, i may receive a little money, but not much!

lions and elephants?! oh my!

we don't have cable so we don't often have opportunity to take advantage of all the learning opportunities offered by animal planet.  all of us were pretty excited to receive two dvds from animal planet, one on elephants and one on lions.

we took advantage of a night when bill was off studying to eat our dinner in front of the television (a VERY rare occurrence around our house) and watch "a lion called christian."  this video tells the story of two boys who had a lion for a pet and who eventually released him into the wild and then, as you may have witnessed on youtube, were eventually reunited with him.  i was actually a little bit surprised how much the kids got into the story.  they are still informing me of different facts and bits of information they learned about lions as a result of watching this episode.    there is also "the lion's share" taking you right into the lion's existence in the serengeti.  "white lions" tells about the special white lions.  this one is interesting but i wish it was tied a little bit less to religion.  i thought this one wasn't as good to view with the kids because it has been hard to explain to them that other religions may worship lions but we will not.  there is also an episode on "rogue lions" that i found interesting but, again, not really something i want to worry the kids with.  overall, i was pleased with the learning opportunities provided by lions and am glad the kids had an opportunity to learn something with their video time.  lions is now available in stores (suggested retail price: $14.95) and also on amazon for $8.99.

we also received elephants.  in "africa's elephant kingdom" we had a chance to learn about elephants and their family structure while following them across the african plains.  it is amazing how they survive as they struggle to find food, water and a place for their family.  in "queen of the elephants" we learned more about the elephant's plight from conservationist mark shand and the only female elephant handler in india, parbarti barua.  again, it is hard for me to know how i feel about letting the kids watch this.  i want them to know that animals are struggling because of human actions that lead to global warming and resource depletion.  but i also don't want them to feel deeply affected by the needs out there while feeling powerless to do anything about it.  i am glad for myself to learn about the struggles that animals have as well as the actions that are being taken to protect and provide for animals like the elephants.  i am always glad for the learning opportunities that shows like animal planet provide and this video is no exception.   elephants is available in stores now (suggested retail price: $14.95) and is also available from amazon for $13.49.

again, while i hesitate to have my kids watch all the episodes on these two dvds, i learned a lot about each animal and am glad to give my kids the learning opportunity that the other episodes provide.

i received a copy of each dvd but have in no other way been compensated for this review.  if you use the links i've provided to buy either of these dvds, i might get a dollar or so from amazon.  i promise to use it wisely...

Monday, October 19, 2009

what is bubber?

i have a confession to make: i hate play-doh.

i know, i know. i tell my kids not to say "hate" and i am probably stifling their creativity by not letting them play with it. but it is SO messy. and they inevitably mix up the colors which shouldn't bug me but it does...so my kids don't play with play-doh very often.

as a result, when i was asked to review "bubber" ("the lightest modeling compound on earth), i was wondering how it would compare to play-doh. let me say, there is no comparison. even though it flakes and crumbles a bit like play-doh, clean-up is a breeze comparatively.

saturday was one of those days where i was wondering how we were going to get through the "witching hours," from 4-6 pm when the kids would be waking up cranky from naps and before we had to leave for a church supper.  that seemed like the perfect opportunity to pull out the box we had received from timberdoodle.

in our box, we had a 4 oz. bucket of bubber ($10.50), a mirett (a cool sculpting tool for $2.25), a spoon/knife ($.95) and a set of castle molds ($4.95).  when i opened the bucket i was wondering if the 4 oz. would be enough for all three kids, but it turns out it was plenty...and i got to play too.

i'll be honest and say i have never had so much fun modeling and sculpting.  that two hours passed by so quickly and easily, even factoring in the kids' crankiness and difficulty waking up.  we made castles, snowmen, ice cream cones, houses, and modern art.  i could feel all my guilt about stifling my kids' creativity melting away as we played.  zoe told me over and over again how glad she was that we had received this product because she was having "so much fun."  i will say that even though two parts of the castle mold do not work with the bubber, it was the castle set that really made the bubber fun for everyone.  there are two molds that involve filling a tube and then pushing the bubber out.  all three kids (7, 4 and 2) liked doing this the best.  these seem to produce the best finished products as well. when it was time to leave for our supper date, clean-up was a breeze. we just used a big chunk of bubber to pick up the little flaky pieces. the table still looked clean and our hands didn't feel dirty (although the package says to wash your hands after, even though the product is non-toxic). the kids did have some powdery white on their clothes but that went away after a little while.

i think that this video may just tell you better than i can how much we enjoyed our bubber experience...

Untitled from mel myatt on Vimeo.

this is a mama buzz review.  i received the products from timberdoodle to review for this blog.  i was in no other way compensated for doing this review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

and the winners are...

#4 - amy from occupation mommy!

#2 - kristin from anyway!

#1 - glenna from  please don't call me for advice!

congratulations ladies!  you and your kids are in for a treat.  if you send me your addresses, i will make sure to get the dvds get put in the mail for you...

to everyone else, thank you for participating.  and stay tuned because i have another video giveaway coming up...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

sleepy sun (review)

Sleepy Sun Cover
sleepy sun
if you have been looking for a classic bedtime story that helps everyone reflect on their day while growing more and more sleepy, this is the book for you.  lavish watercolor illustrations reflect a multicultural and ethnic diversity that obviously stem from kathleen hanson's love for world travel.  tate really enjoyed pointing out the different faces of the sun that change with each location in the story.  i was impressed and surprised that tessa identified the eiffel tower on one page.

the illustrations are wonderful but it is the poetic words of mari hanson that really helped settle my kids down and think sleepytime thoughts as we prepared ourselves for bed.  the book follows the sun's journey around the world as it shines down on various landscapes and countries.  by the end of the book, we can understand why the sun might be ready for a break!

both tessa (age 4) and tate (age 2) seemed to enjoy this book, even though they are at different levels of understanding and comprehension.  they both stayed engaged from the beginning until the end, something that is rare with tate.

i really don't have any criticism of this book.  i can admit that i was wondering how the kids would like this story since the story is more abstract and the watercolor pictures are less defined than what they usually go for.  that concern was quickly put to rest as i started reading.  i'm sure this will be a go-to book for bedtime reading for several more years.

you can find this book on amazon (here: sleepy sun) for $14.99.  if you want to read other reviews of the book, you can look here and here.

i really think this book will be one that you and your toddlers or preschoolers will treasure.

this is a mama buzz review.  a free copy of the book was provided by mari hanson for this review. if you buy the book through the link i've given you here, i might get 50 cents or something...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

must...watch...elmo (giveaway)

Sesame Street: Elmo's Animal Adventures

if there is one thing that we go crazy for around here, it is elmo.  i honestly do not know how it happened.  we are hardly ever home when elmo comes on, yet tate must have us read every elmo book we own, over and over again.  he manages to wheedle us into finding elmo videos for him on the internet, and his speech therapist can't do a thing with him until she's gotten out her elmo book and let him pore over the pages.  it is actually hard for me to believe that elmo hasn't played as big a part in tate's speech development as his therapist has.  (surely his first word wasn't elmo?!?)

so you can imagine how thrilled tate is with our newly released elmo dvd.  elmo's animal adventures includes three adventures of elmo and his friends.  elmo and tilly must find little bo peep's missing cow by following clues.  animal facts (and you!) help elmo and abby "find the amphibian" and, finally, elmo goes camping while learning that sharing is fun and discovering the different food animals eat.

for those of you (like us) who simply must have this dvd, it is available now for $9.99 on amazon.com. (find it here:  sesame street: elmo's animal adventures).  if you like to play the odds (and i think in this instance they are pretty good), you can have a chance to win one of three copies of elmo's animal adventures right here on this very blog.

here's what you do:  leave me a comment telling me your favorite sesame street character and why that character is your favorite.  on wednesday, october 14, at 9.04 pm central time, i will choose three winners.  (you must have a united states address to play).

i received a copy of elmo's animal adventures to review.  i have been in no other way compensated for this review.  if you order this dvd through amazon using the link above, i might earn 50 cents or so...

Monday, October 5, 2009

word wall words for second grade (a review)

Word Wall Words
i have always said that it would never work for me to homeschool zoe (age 7). she doesn't believe anything i tell her unless it is confirmed by an outside source. this doesn't exactly make for a good learning environment.

that being said, i am always on the lookout for good teaching/learning materials that let her get in some extra learning at home without requiring too much hands-on teaching on my part. word wall words for second grade seems to fit the bill.  in the package ($19.95 from MRM Classroom Connections, LLC) is a number of high frequency words for second graders all surrounded with a mosaic type of pattern.  they can be colored in by your child and then used for a variety of different activities (the package comes with a wide variety of suggestions).

the word wall words are available for first and second graders. some of the ideas for the finished pages are to make a book, hang them from a clothes line to make a banner or to put them on the wall. i thought it would be neat to use them as flashcards to practice reading, recognition and spelling.  words wall words is a 2008 iParenting Media Best Product of the Year Award winner and Mom's Choice Award winner.

zoe and tessa (age 4) both were very excited when the package came.  they love to get anything new.  as soon as they saw the words, they wanted to get out the markers and start coloring.  i think that this product is great if your kids are looking for a coloring project to work on in their own time.  it lets them be creative and artistic while they interact with words that are hard for them to learn in any other way.

the girls enjoy coloring and picking colors to make the words stand out.  but there are a LOT of words in this package, and it takes a long time to color each one.  we haven't gotten very far into the pile, yet their enthusiasm has waned quite a bit. i was disappointed that the words are printed on regular printer paper. for the amount of coloring involved and the different projects that are suggested, i think some form of cardstock would be a better choice.

to be honest, i don't think we are going to be using this product in the way it is intended.  to me it just looks like a lot of busy work.  i was surprised because i thought one of the main reasons to homeschool is to avoid the busy work that can be so prevalent in the public school system.  it takes so long for the girls to completely color one word that i certainly don't think they could do more than one a day.  i'm not sure that this is the best way to practice and learn the high frequency sight words.

if you need to offer your child something to work on while you focus on another child, this might possibly be an option.  otherwise, i think there are other options to make better use of your child's time.

i received a free package of word wall words for second grade to review and try out with my kids.  i was not in any other way compensated for this review.

Friday, October 2, 2009

maybe my best offer ever!

yesterday, i opened my door to find an innocuous looking padded envelope sitting outside my door. i ripped open the envelope only to discover one of the best packages that has ever been mailed to me.

tyndale publishers has recently released a new edition of the New Living Translation of the Bible. it is called Holy Bible: Mosaic. this is the description i found on the beautiful front cover: "encounter Christ on every continent and in every century of Christian history."

this Bible provides a full version of the Bible in the New Living Translation (NLT), as well as a series of devotional writings, prayers, hymns and artwork that follows the church calendar. this is exactly the kind of devotional i have been looking for: something with history, relevance, a calendar and writings that will help me to engage with the words of Scripture.

since i just got this Bible yesterday, i haven't had much time to explore it fully yet. i just wanted to let you know that this fabulous Bible is now available. you can check it out here:
i think you will be pleasantly surprised at all this Bible has to offer.

i'm going to be spending some quality time with my own copy. i'll let you know what else i find.

and, i'm very excited to be able to offer you a chance to get your own copy for free so stay tuned for more details!

i received a free copy of this Bible to review, and an opportunity to give away a free copy.  if you buy this Bible through Amazon using the link above, there is a chance i might get a dollar for referring you...

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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