Saturday, July 31, 2010

sunmate winner!

congratulations erika! you will be able to gauge how much sun your baby is getting with your new sunmate!

thanks everyone for reading!  i will have another giveaway up when i get back from vacation!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

raging waves waterpark review

it's hot.

we tried to stay indoors to avoid the worst of the heat but that led to antsy kids all too quickly.  we finally hit on the absolute best thing to do outside, something that the entire family from mom and dad, to baby lilianna can really enjoy...

raging waves waterpark! this australian-themed water park, sitting on 40 acres, is the largest water park in illinois. it has 18 slides, a wave pool and a gigantic kiddie area. this is great, but, if you ask me, what really makes it special is the focus on providing family-oriented fun.

this is the first waterpark i've ever been too that has so many rides that let multiple people go down together: 90% of the rides are multi-person rides, some even carrying up to four people. all too often places like this means families split up and meet back together at the end of the day. at raging waves waterpark, families can spend the entire day together, riding multiple rides all together.

as we were planning our trip, i was a little nervous how the day would go with four-month lilianna and being in the sun all day. i needn't have worried. there is plenty of shade provided throughout the park: we arrived early enough to stake our claim in a shady area by the kiddie pool.

we then headed over to the kookaburra kreek, a lazy river type of ride. bill took lilianna with him in a single tube, the girls shared a double tube and tate and i were together in another. it was a perfect way to start the day. everyone could settle down and get a feel for the park, without feeling totally overwhelmed with no idea where to start.

when that was done, zoe and i set off together to try out some of the bigger slides while tessa and tate oriented themselves to the kiddie area. after awhile, bill and i switched places: he tried out a few other rides with zoe while i watched tessa and tate in the kiddie area.

we really couldn't have had a better set up for our family. lilianna was able to stand up in the kiddie area and enjoy the water while tessa spent hours going down the two slides that were just her size (and speed!). tate tried the slides too but he enjoyed just "swimming" around the pool (he walked on his hands, letting his feet float out behind him). since his previous pool experiences have involved just sitting on the side and throwing balls into the water, i was glad for him to gain so much confidence actually being in the water. i thought for sure that tessa and tate would get bored after awhile and want to do something else but that never happened. they were quite content to spend the entire day in that little area.

thankfully (for my sanity!), zoe was a lot more adventurous. together we rode almost every ride in the park. both of us were a little too nervous to try the "tasmanian twisters" and pj's plummet. those are rides that go extremely fast and for which you ride solo. instead we enjoyed the "three sisters" tube rides together.  this was a great place for zoe to start because we could ride together, the "scary" part is relatively short and the lines go fast.  this was probably zoe's favorite ride of the day.

my favorite was the boomerang tornado ride.  this is one you can spot before you even get to the park.  it looks like a huge cone lying on its side.  after a thrilling ride through dark tubes, you come out into the light only to discover that you are flying up the side of the huge cone.  this is a ride that four people can ride together.  when tessa and tate get older this will be a fun one for everyone to ride together.  this one was a little bit scary for zoe.  she didn't like the idea of going so high up the side of the cone.  i was glad she was willing to ride it with me after braving it with bill once already!

my personal favorite was the cyclone and the platypus plunge.  we called the cyclone the "toilet bowl" because you come out of the tube and find yourself swirling around and around a bowl that is reminiscent of a giant toilet bowl.  it is a lot of fun but the line to ride it is generally pretty long.  after giving it a try, we opted for the platypus plunge.  this one begins on the same tower but the line to ride it is virtually nonexistent.  we rode it over and over again, passing the same people waiting in line for the cyclone multiple times.

at lunch time, we left the park (getting our hands stamped first) and had a very enjoyable meal at a picnic table on the edge of the (free) parking lot.  we missed having some shade there but the kids had a chance to warm up (and turn their lips back from purple to pink) and eat.  the food at the park is fairly affordable, but eating food from home outside the park is also an easy option.

if money isn't a concern, private cabanas are available for rent, offering a shaded, private patio, a server, lounge chairs, and a picnic table.  discount passes and packages are available including: season passes, family day passes, group passes, corporate event packages, birthday packages and more.  every monday is make-a-difference day.  when you bring food pantry and other household items to donate, you can get $1 per item (up to $4 a ticket) off of your ticket price.  every tuesday is "triple play tuesday:" for every two day passes you buy, you receive a third one free.  there are also special events with special discounts planned throughout the summer.

zoe was concerned about the amount of water she was being used throughout the park.  i was able to reassure her that the water is recycled to irrigate the park's landscaping.  the total water used for the season is the same amount as that used by 35 single-family homes in a year.

our final experience of the day was at the great barrier reef wave pool.  the kids relaxed in the zero-entry pool, letting the waves lap against them as we prepared ourselves for the ride home.  we were pleased to discover that there are a number of restaurants near the park that made a perfect end to the day and let the traffic disperse before our trip home.

we would definitely consider buying season passes to raging waves waterpark. we went to a local pool the next week and the contrast was startling. raging waves is so clean. the sidewalks are spotless. the bathrooms were just great; we showered off before we left. music plays on loudspeakers but it is not too loud and the songs are definitely family-friendly. overall, we had a very positive experience and we look forward to going again to beat the heat.

i received free passes for our family to experience raging waves waterpark. regardless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

oh be careful little ears what you hear...

i am all too aware that my kids pay attention to what they hear:  both from my mouth and from any media around them.

just yesterday, i was listening to a sample of a song on itunes.  i pushed play and all i heard was "oh my g--, oh my g--, oh my g--...."  i quickly hit the mute button and figured since the kids never hear me tell them to pick up their toys, they probably didn't notice the lyrics of the song.


zoe immediately said, "that song was saying oh my g--, oh my g--."  tessa mentioned that she heard it as well.  i reminded them that that isn't what we say but still, i wish they hadn't heard it.

i've even heard myself parroted in the way that they talk to each other at play time and during pretend.  it isn't that i've used bad language, it is just the tone of voice i have used with them when i have reached my limit of them not listening to me.  i hate to hear myself in the way they talk to each other about doing chores and leaving each other alone.

when i watched the webisode by evenflo about having to recover from a potty mouth, i had a hard time relating to the mom.  she seemed to be too extreme of an example, even for comedy.  i think the same idea could have been accomplished, and even be funnier, with a lot less offensive language.  even if i want to call someone an "idiot" while driving, that isn't the kind of language i want my kids to pick up.  i think they could have easily done a much more funny and less offensive video using this kind of language.

personally, i have experienced being called out for a very mild criticism of a driver by my kids.  it has made me aware all over again that, while i may not have to worry about big brother listening, i do need to worry about all 4 of my kids listening all too carefully--only when i don't want them to that is!

evenflo has just released the momentum 65dlx convertible car seat, with features that help make safety, installation and use as easy as possible for parents.  evenflo and juiceboxjungle sponsored me to write this post.  you can check out more about the car seat and see their other (funny) videos here. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

the joke was on us...wanchai ferry review (take 2)

you may recall that i did a review about the wanchai ferry frozen meals a little while ago.  our family enjoyed the beef and broccoli as much as the stir fry i usually serve.

as a thank you for doing the review, bill and i were invited to a special dinner at ben pao restaurant downtown.  since we can't even remember the last time we got a baby sitter and went on a date, we were excited for the opportunity.  this was my first time leaving lilianna with a non-family member so i was a little nervous but apparently everything went swimmingly.

we got dressed up in our best duds and made our way downtown.  we found the place easily enough and even managed to find affordable parking.

we had no idea what to expect when we walked in.  i wasn't sure if we would be sitting at a large table with a whole group of people, or if we would have to sit and listen to some type of presentation.  in other words, i wasn't sure how much of a "date" this date would be.

what a thrill to notice that the whole restaurant was reserved for our party.  our thrills continued as we were taken to a table for two.  we had a great conversation as we enjoyed an incredible meal.  we started with a delicious hot and sour soup, followed by an amazing assortment of appetizers and then we got to choose from a variety of entrees. 

we looked over our choices carefully:  orange chicken, szechuan style chicken, kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli, sweet & spicy shrimp, sweet and sour chicken, spicy garlic chicken and shrimp lo mein.  we tried to eyeball what the people around us were getting so we could make the absolutely best choice.

bill ended up with the orange chicken and i got the beef and broccoli.  we oohed and aahed over our amazing meal, so thankful for time away from the kids and an opportunity to reconnect with such fabulous food.

dinner was quickly followed by a delicious lemon-ginger cheese cake and chocolate spring roll (i was glad this wasn't a "first date" since i ended up with a big glob of chocolate completely covering one tooth.  i was so into our conversation, i didn't even notice right away--but bill did!).

as we finished up, we were each given a fortune cookie.  neither of us could believe what we read on our fortunes:  "surprise! the entree you sampled this evening was a frozen dinner from wachai ferry."

you could have knocked us over with a feather!  seriously!?  we thought we had just had a gourmet meal from a fancy restaurant, not something we could have just as easily had at home.  in fact, we were regretting the fact that we hadn't asked for our leftovers to take home with us!

i felt like we had just been a part of one of those coffee commercials where you see people in a fancy restaurant and hear the guy whispering, "that person doesn't know she has just been served instant coffee!"  we had no idea we had just been served a frozen dinner!

the lady at the table next to us kept apologizing to her husband for taking him out for frozen dinner, but neither bill nor i felt gypped.  we had a fabulous time together and we never would have known we just ate a frozen meal if they hadn't told us!

if you are looking for a little stay-at-home date night meal, you might just want to try a wanchai ferry frozen meal.  it cooks up fast and easy and, apparently, brings the romance!  you can find a coupon for $1.50 here.

bill and i received a free meal courtesy of wanchai ferry and ben pao, as well as a $50 gift card to cover the costs of our date night.  we also received some coupons for free wanchai ferry frozen dinners and $10 off our next visit to ben pao.  i wrote this review as a "thank you."  the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

family game night: theme night

we recently took our kids to their very first, in-the-theater movie: toy story 3. we were wondering how the kids would do with their 3-d glasses but they not only gladly wore them for the movie, but still love wearing them around the house.

they still bring up different parts of the movie that they especially loved, even though it has been three weeks since we watched it.

one way to keep that movie magic alive is to take advantage of the wealth of movie paraphernalia that is prevalent at so many stores these days. we are excited about the toy story 3 games that are available.

for tate (age 3), i think he is ready for the game memory. toy story 3 memory has pictures of all his favorite characters on the cards.  it is hard to find games that we can play with all three kids.  i love the game memory because the playing field is fairly level.  zoe (age 8) may have the best memory but tessa and tate hold their own.  sometimes we let tessa and tate get an extra turn (so they flip over 3 cards instead of 2) and that seems to keep things fair.

for tessa (age 5), i am looking forward to introducing her to the game yahtzee jr.  this, of course, requires a little bit more strategy as you try to decide which dice to keep and which dice to put back into the cup.  this is another great game for a variety of age levels, but tate needs a little extra help making a good decision in order to win the game.

one of my favorite games of all time is operation.  i still remember when we brought home our first game (from a garage sale!) when i was growing up.  i'm sure i spent hours trying to perfect my "operating" skills, trying to avoid that fateful "buzz" sound. 

now zoe can experience the same thrills i did with her own toy story 3 version of operation by operating on buzz lightyear.  i'm excited for her to have this game because it will be fun for our family, especially when tate and tessa are more coordinated and able to join in.  for now, i think she will also enjoy playing this game on her own during "room time."  this will hopefully help her develop her coordination a little bit more!

i love how hasbro takes something that my kids are already interested in and turns that interest into something that will help my kids develop great thinking skills.  (for older kids, there is also a series of shrek games now available).  i think a family game night is a great way for us to spend time together and learn and practice important character traits like patience, sharing, cooperation and good sportsmanship.

we are looking forward to this year's family game night on wednesday, september 29.  this will be a great opportunity for us to use our new toy story 3 games!

i received these three toy story 3 games from hasbro for the purpose of this review.  i have in no other way been compensated for  this post and the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

purely products review and giveaway

everywhere i look, i see people making the effort to live in ways that are more environmentally-friendly and eco-conscious.  unfortunately, this also seems to be a time when the environment is waging a battle against us.  sometimes i feel like i hardly dare to let my kids out of the house for fear of some horrible bacteria attacking them or the risk of skin cancer from all the horrible uva and uvb rays.

purely products has heard our concerns to be environmentally-friendly as well as our fears about what is out there and has come up with some products to help us out.

the pocket purifier ($29.95) is exactly that:  a purifier that you can fit in your pocket, your purse, your diaper bag, or a kitchen or bathroom drawer.  it comes in black (as shown) or in pink!

maybe you are like me and always worry about just how clean the counter or the cutting board is after cooking with raw chicken.  just pull out your pocket purifier, shine the uv light over the surface and feel confident that 99.9% of germs that cause colds and flu, e-coli, salmonella, mold, fungus and mrsa (staph) are taken care of, without the use of scary chemicals.

this is also a handy gadget for the bathroom.  no more fear about what is lurking on the toilet, especially with the kids since they haven't managed to grasp the concept of hovering!  now i can shine the light over the toilet and let them go without any worries.

i was interested in having this for lilianna's pacifier.  i've heard time and again the joke about how with your fourth child you let the dog lick the pacifier, etc. etc.  thankfully for lilianna we don't have a dog!  i do want to make sure she has a clean pacifier, however, but since she is always spitting it out, keeping it clean has been a real challenge.  presumably, shining this uv light on the pacifier will take care of the germs and make it safe for her to use again, without worrying about dangerous chemicals from other soaps, etc.

this was my intention when i signed up for the review, but i haven't quite figured out the best way to do it. you aren't supposed to shine the light on your skin so i can't hold the pacifier while i sterilize it. in addition, it is hard to feel confident that the pacifier is indeed sterilized just from the uv light. i haven't quite figured out how long to hold it on there. finally, i have had a few concerns about the other kids getting a hold of it. it looks like a fun toy to them, and i worry that they will play with it when i'm not around and do some kind of damage to themselves.

purely products has another product to help us in the battle with the environment. the sunmate ($19.95) is a small monitor that can alert you to the possibility of exposure to ultraviolet rays. an led indicator lights up a number from 1 to 5 to tell you just how intense the uv rays are, even on a cloudy day. now you know just how much sunscreen you need to slather on yourself and your kids, or if it is better just to stay indoors.

i used ours on our trip to tennessee to learn that i was exposed to dangerous uv rays sitting in the front seat of our van. i never really thought about wearing sunscreen for sitting in the car all day, but the sunmate tells me i should!

purely products supports diaperlove, a non-profit organization that provides diapers to children in need.

they also want to help you. this purely products link takes you to a special mamabuzz offer that lets you have 25% off of your entire order now through august 5, 2010. if you think you could use one of these products, take a look and get a bargain as well.

i also have a sunmate available to give away to one of you. just leave me a comment below telling me one thing you would like to purify with the pocket purifier. i will pick a winner on july 30, 2010. the winner must be from the united states or canada.

this is a mamabuzz review.  i received a pocket purifier and a sunmate from purely products for the purpose of this review.  the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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