Saturday, August 28, 2010

date night movie review

since bill and i seem to have difficult finding time to have a date night of our own, we decided to watch date night the movie and try to live vicariously.

after watching this movie, now available on dvd and blu-ray from 20th century home entertainment, maybe we should be glad just to have a quiet night at home together!

for me this movie is a strange combination of displaying some of the issues that we parents go through when we get caught up in the daily grind of home, work and kids. sometimes it is hard to for my to know myself, let alone share that with bill while discovering who he is becoming as we "grow up." date night addresses that issue along with the fear that may somehow start to feel like a necessary option for us as it has for various friends of ours.

just as i was starting to feel like the movie was hitting a little close to home, it took this strange twist into something that i know (no matter what) will never, ever happen to us. perhaps in a rare moment of daring and rudeness, we could consider taking the reservation of someone else, but i'm pretty sure that wouldn't cause us to be chased around town by mob hitmen and dirty cops. nevertheless, we laughed, we cried and we hugged...

with the classic humor from our favorites steve carrell and tina fey, we can attest this is fun movie for husband and wife to enjoy together.

diary of a wimpy kid review

when zoe was born, i held her in my arms, looked her in the eyes and said, "i'm sorry that you are going to have to go through junior high."

is there anything worse than that horrible transitional time they call "junior high"? greg heffeley reminds us of all there is to hate about that time in the diary of a wimpy kid movie, out on blu-ray and dvd starting august 3 from 20th century fox home entertainment.

bill and i moaned and groaned and laughed out loud as we watched this movie together. i had already read the book to see if and when zoe could read it. i really didn't like greg's character in the book. i felt like i didn't see much redemption even in the end of the book.

the movie seemed much different to me. we will probably let zoe watch it before too long. i saw a lot more redemption in greg's character in the movie version. i think it will provide a great conversation starter for peer pressure, being yourself and dealing with the bullies. for zoe, i think it will even help us talk about how not to terrorize your younger brother and sisters!

this turned out to be a much better family film than i expected. i thought there would be a lot more bathroom humor and rudeness. i was pleasantly surprised by our experience of this movie.

i received a free copy of this dvd for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

yoplait splitz review and giveaway

if there is one thing our family likes it is sweet treats. we try to keep them to a minimum so i am always on the lookout for healthy alternatives that will satisfy my kids' cravings without loading them down with things i'd rather they didn't have.

yoplait splitz are a new yogurt variety that "tastes like a sundae." still 100% real yogurt offering a good source of calcium and vitamin d, this yogurt can satisfy everybody's sweet tooth.

you can even pop these into the freezer and your kids will think you are treating them to an authentic frozen yogurt experience. pick your favorite from strawberry sundae, banana split and rainbow sherbet.

i have a prize pack to offer to one reader (who doesn't live in california, idaho, louisiana, minnesota, new jersey, nevada, north dakota or tennessee). if you want to give yoplait splitz a try, leave me a comment telling me the flavor that sounds the best to you. one person will receive an insulated cooler bag, a picnic blanket and a coupon for a free yoplait choice. i will choose a winner using on september 12 (my birthday!).

i received a prize pack of my own from yoplait through myblogspark for the purpose of this review.  yoplait provided me with all the information, the prize pack and one to give away.

disney on ice returns!

all summer we have been reading, and re-reading and re-reading again (!) our disney on ice program brochure.  tate and tessa both love to look at the pictures, remember the stories they evoke and talk about when we'll be able to go to disney on ice again.  lately, tate has been talking about snow and disney on ice almost non-stop.  hooray for him disney on ice is back for another show!

the week of september 8-12, disney on ice presents princess classics at the united center.  quite honestly, i don't know if we have ever been to a show as well done as the disney on ice shows.  all the seats are great, the production is flawless and the kids sit enthralled through the entire thing without a whine or a whimper.

if this is something your kids are interested in, i want to let you know about a discount you can get on your tickets.  for the monday-thursday shows and the friday matinee, you can get a 4-pack of tickets for $44.  for the weekend shows, you can receive $4 off your tickets.  just enter the coupon code "mom" in the mcpromotions box on

our whole family will be watching with bated breath on september 8.  hopefully we will see you there!

our family received complimentary tickets for the show in exchange for passing this information along to you.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

the devil in pew number seven review

in the category of "books that make me glad bill isn't a pastor anymore" is this one by rebecca alonzo.  i honestly never thought i would see a genre that combined true crime and christian literature but here it is.

rebecca tells a harrowing tale about her family's experience in a small community where her father was the pastor.  at first it seemed like a perfect combination of community who needed a pastor and a pastor who was ready to devote himself wholeheartedly to a community.  unfortunately, just like a little bit of bad yeast can spoil a whole batch of bread, one person in the community wanted to do his best to break up the relationship.  while this man wasn't a member of the church, he had enjoyed exerting his control over the congregation until the pastor came along.

reading the book, it is hard to believe that one person could get away with terrorizing a family for such a long time like this gentleman did.  dynamite blasts, sniper shots and nightly phone calls were the norm for this family as a result of this man's anger toward them.  through it all, rebecca's parents teach her the value of loving one's enemies and forgiveness, even of such incredible wickedness.

i'm not sure that i would have been able to do the same if i had been in the shoes of rebecca's parents.  if i felt like my children were at risk, i think i would tell my husband to pack our bags so we could leave.  her parents made a different choice and in the process taught rebecca a great deal about faith and forgiveness.

to be honest, this is not the best written book i have ever read.  rebecca (with the help of bob demoss) tries to build a lot of suspense in the book by alluding to the events that are about to take place.  i finally reached the point where i just wanted the big event (described in the first scene of the book) to go ahead and take place.  there is so much backtracking and hinting about what is ahead that it is hard to keep track of the story's timeline. 

ifyou want to stick with messy storyline, you will read a gripping tale that will challenge your own faith and make you question if there is ever a person who is not worthy of forgiveness.

i received a free copy of this book from tyndale house publishers.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

pillsbury cinnamon roles contest (and giveaway)

if you were a bug on the wall at our apartment on a sunday morning, "sweet" would be the last word that would come to mind. since we both have responsibilities at church that require us to get there early, we generally find ourselves rushing around trying to keep from losing our patience with the kids. unfortunately, we don't often scuceed.

pillsbury wants to help us reclaim our sundays as a sweet family time. they are teaming up with melissa joan hart (starring in a new tv sitcom "melissa and joey"). in fact, they want to give you a "week of sundays" by giving you the chance to win a seven-day trip to california, including a visit to area theme parks and melissa joan hart´s sweet shop, sweetharts! enter today by visiting and telling pillsbury cinnamon rolls why your family loves sunday and why you want more of them for a chance to win.

in the meantime, our family is proof that pillsbury sweet rolls can be a great way to put the "sweet" back in your sunday (or something like that!). when i make these delicious rolls for us to share on a sunday morning, our whole attitude changes because we have shared something special together.

i have a great prize package with a coupon for free cinnamon rolls (as well as an adorable pillsbury doughboy, a spatula that makes you want to bake and a great silicone potholder) available for one person. visit the website and enter the contest. then come back here and tell me why your family loves sundays. i will choose a winner on august 31 using (usa readers only please!).

i received the same prize package mentioned above for myself, along with the information and a package to giveaway, from pillsbury in return for writing this post for myblogspark. regardless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own. unfortunately, i cannot guarantee that your sundays will be sweeter if you make the cinnamon rolls. we can only hope...

another revenue opportunity...

along the same lines as the savvy savings and scholarship widget is the one you see to your right from juice in the city. to me, this one sounds like it has a little bit higher payout and more cities available.

you simply place the ad (they have three different sizes available) on your blog. when someone comes to visit your blog, the ip address (don't i sound technical? i really know nothing about this stuff) will dictate which city is promoted in the ad they see on your blog. if the person's city isn't targeted, they will see other fun default content.

i have worked with this company when they were "juicebox jungle" and have had nothing but the best experience with them. they are quick to answer my questions and eager to help make this agreement as profitable as possible for me. i can't honestly say i've earned a lot of money this way but i figure every little bit helps.

if this is something you are interested in checking out for your own blog, then take a look at this link. let me know if you have any questions or problems.

in the interest of full disclosure, i don't get anything in return for writing this blog but if you sign up using my link, i think i get some kind of percentage of whatever you make from your ad. of course, you can go ahead and get other referrals yourself after you go ahead and sign up so i think overall it is a win-win kind of agreement.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

looking for a little revenue?

you may or may not have noticed that i have added just a couple little things to my sidebar in a very (very) minor attempt to make a little money. so far, i'm not sure i've earned enough for anyone to want to cut me a check. but i figure it can't hurt to keep those things up there.

recently the savvy savings and scholarships has been getting ready to launch a new nationwide focus to their deals. they will be making deals available for activities in cities across the country.

if you like a good bargain, and you like to let others know about it, you too can place the savvy savings and scholarships ad on your blog. if you go here:

they can tell you all about it.

check it out.

you might be pleasantly surprised!

i get compensated if you happen to use my link to purchase one of the deals available from savvy savings and scholarships. if you use the code above to sign up, i will get a (very) small percentage of the earnings from the people who click on your ads. of course, if you sign up, you can sign up others and get the same deal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

monopoly contest and giveaway

if there is one game that bill loves, it is monopoly.  he is beginning to pass on that love to zoe.  she loves counting her money, organizing it and carefully choosing what to purchase and what to pass by.  one day she asked us, wouldn't it be great if this were real money?

well, the makers of monopoly (hasbro) must have heard her question because, in honor of monopoly's 75th anniversary, they are now offering a contest in which the winner will get exactly that:  the amount of money in the monopoly bank ($20,580).

all you have to do is go to and leave an answer to the question: what would you do if the money in your monopoly game were turned into real money?  (you can also check them out on facebook).

go leave your answer by september 2nd.  from september 3 to september 27, you can rally people to vote for your entry.

as if that weren't amazing enough, monopoly will be giving away a bonus game bank ($20,580) to s.o.s. children’s villages, a charity organization that builds houses for abandoned and at risk children so that they can grow up in a loving home. for 75 hours september 29 at 10:59 p.m. edt), the public can vote for the project they want to see funded. 

if all this talk about monopoly is whetting your own whistle for the game, you can leave a comment here and be entered to win your own edition of the game (pictured above).  just tell me what you would do if you won the bank and i will choose a winner at random on september 2.

i have not received an compensation for letting you know about this contest or holding this giveaway.  i just like hasbro and wanted to support them and let you win a fun game.

winner of sam's club giveaway!

congratulations! cheryl of lucky ladybug!  i hope you are able to get a lot of box tops for the school of your choice!  email me with your address so i can get that in the mail to you!

for the rest of you, i have a lot of giveaways right now and there is still time to enter!

ruby's school walk book review (and giveaway!)

since tessa will be starting (full-day!) kindergarten this fall, i have been on the watch for books to help her feel ready for this new milestone in her life.

for this reason, i was thrilled to receive ruby's school walk ($16.99) from barefoot books.  i have always heard about the quality of storyline and illustrations from barefoot books so i thought this book would be an excellent addition to our collection.

ruby is a little girl on her way to her first day of kindergarten with her mother.  along the way she sees things that are scary like alligators and a haunted house (the ghosts and witches in this story are not my favorite).  her mother tries to reassure her that they are just normal things like fish and sticks or an empty house, but ruby "knows better."  she is able to tackle the objects of her fear with her imagination.

when she arrives at school, the reality of what she is about to face hits her:  "i wonder what i'll do today. i don't know what to think or say."  her mother helps her to see that her imagination can help her have a fun day at school.

i am saving this book to give to tessa when we are a little bit closer to school starting.  i'm hopeful that the specialness of a new book will help her feel excited about starting a new school with a new teacher.  i don't think the story is the best one in the world for thinking about what the school day will be like but i do love the colorful illustrations.  tessa does have a very active imagination so i think we can talk about how her imagination can help her overcome her fears.

this is a beautiful book that feels sturdy and solid in your hands.  i'm sure it is one that tessa will treasure for a long time. 

barefoot books has given me the opportunity to giveaway a copy of ruby's school walk for one of you.  to enter, visit the barefoot books website and come back here and tell me which book you would most like to buy for yourself or for a child you know (usa residents only, please).  i will choose a winner using on september 7, our first day of school.

this is a mamabuzz review.  i received a free copy of this book from barefoot books for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

how fun is this?

i don't usually blog about other people's giveaways (it always seems counter-intuitive...why lessen your own chance to win?), but this one seems extra special (plus i get three extra entries for telling you about it!). if you win, i definitely think you should share one of the headbands with me since i have a baby girl who looks like a boy and since you wouldn't have one without me telling you about it!

just click here and take a look at the awesomeness...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

seventh generation (review and giveaway)

as we get ready to get ready to get the kids back to school (hey! we are still three weeks out so we are only thinking about getting ready!), i have to remind myself that we aren't just getting the kids out of the house (bwah, ha, ha!), we are getting ready to welcome all kinds of bugs and germs into our homes (yech!). 

this year i know that lilianna is particularly vulnerable to what the other kids will bring home from school.  with this in mind, we are going to be more careful than ever to make sure the kids wash their hands when they get home from school.  but i have been wondering, what else can we do to keep illnesses to a minimum?

seventh generation, through myblogspark, recently sent me some ways to help the kids stay healthy this school year:

optimize the immune system
  • reap the benefits of probiotics like those found in yogurt. a recent study showed that children who received enough probiotics daily throughout the cold and flu season had a significant reduction in the number of illnesses they had and, when they did get sick, the symptoms were both milder and didn't last as long.
  • be sure your child is getting plenty of vitamin d from the sun, from food, or from a supplement.
  • build a strong foundation. good food, good sleep, and good physical activity all help the immune system to flourish.
be wise about reducing unnecessary exposure to harmful germs
  • teach children the key times to clean their hands in the classroom. the most important times include after sneezing, coughing or using the restroom, upon leaving "high-risk" places (recess, naptime, play stations) and before meals or snacks.
  • sixty percent of teachers surveyed said that they request that parents donate disinfecting wipes to the classroom. 
  • stress the importance of not touching their eyes, nose or mouth. germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • demonstrate to your children how to cover their mouth and nose for every cough and sneeze. this simple maneuver has spectacular results in decreasing the spread of viruses and bacteria floating about the room, waiting to be inhaled. 
with all the concern about being "green" and not exposing our kids to harmful chemicals, i was excited to learn that seventh generation now has disinfecting wipes.  seventh generation's disinfecting wipes kill 99.99% of germs* naturally using the active ingredient thyme, a component of thyme oil which is derived from the herb thyme (
*refer to disinfecting product labels for full details).

since it is healthier to use tissues than a washable handkerchief, i was excited to learn about seventh generation's tissues as well.  now my kids can throw away their germs and still be eco-friendly.

 we will also be disinfecting other surfaces with the seventh generation multi-purpose cleaner and seventh generation paper towels.  i am starting to feel much more prepared for the kids to go back to school.  of course, i might also need to make sure they have a few other supplies like notebooks, pencils and even clothes!

if you need a little help feeling more ready for school, my blogspark and seventh generation have a gift pack available for one of you.  simply leave a comment below telling me what you plan to do this school year to keep your child or your home germ free.  i will choose a winner using on august 31.

i received a package including seventh generation disinfecting wipes (2 canisters), paper towels, tissues, multi-purpose cleaner and a backpack from my blogspark and seventh generation.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

arm and hammer spinbrush myway! review

zoe and tessa love to do crafts.  i love to be able to provide them with crafts, but then i wonder what to do with all the things we end up collecting when we are done.  if only we could do a craft that is also useful...
enter, the arm and hammer spinbrush myway!  a customizable battery toothbrush ($6.99).  i gave the girls their toothbrushes at the beginning of their rest time one day.  i think it was the quietest they have ever been during rest time.    

each toothbrush comes with over 140 water-safe stickers that include letters to spell out their names, animals, phrases, rainbows, flowers, hearts, etc. as well as princess and rock star themes to choose from.  batteries are included.  dentists recommend changing toothbrushes every three months, so by the time the batteries die, we will probably be ready for new ones anyway.  right now, you can find a coupon for $2 off on the website.

i really enjoyed seeing how each girl made the toothbrush her own.  by the time they finished, each girl's toothbrush matched her personality to such a degree that i never had trouble remembering whose was whose.

while these toothbrushes are marketed to girls, tate was so thrilled with his astronaut shaped spinbrush for kids that he didn't even notice that his didn't have stickers.

as for teeth brushing, i don't think the kids have ever been so excited to brush their teeth.  in fact, we finally had to limit teethbrushing to just a few times a day, instead of all day long!  i was pleased how willing the kids were to brush their own teeth.  with the spinbrush, even if they aren't as thorough as i might be, i feel confident that they are brushing even more effectively with the extra spinning going on.

unfortunately, a few weeks into our tooth-brushing, the kids started to complain about sores on their gums.  i think the brushing was a little too vigorous with the spinning.  we have since put aside the spinbrushes until they are old enough to regulate a little better how hard they are brushing with the spinbrushes.

i received two arm and hammer spinbrush myway! toothbrushes (and a regular spinbrush for tate) for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

percy jackson and the olympians (review and giveaway)

in college, i was advised by a friend to take a little-known class on classical mythology.  this may have been one of the most beneficial classes i took.  who knew how many references and allusions there could be to the gods and the myths that accompany them.

i was excited, therefore, to learn that a book series was out that would make this sort of information accessible to young people.  i started reading the series percy jackson and the olympians to try and figure out when zoe could start reading the series.  since i was reading and enjoying the book, i was even more excited to learn that a movie based on the book was also coming out. 

while i never got to see the movie in the theater (we still need to figure out how to work out babysitting here in chicago), i have been anxiously awaiting its arrival on dvd and blu-ray.  now that i have seen it, i think it is safe to recommend this movie to you as well.

percy jackson and the olympians: the lightening thief is marketed as a family film.  i think it is still too intense for my kids (ages 8, 5, 3 and 5 months), but it is definitely one we will enjoy together when they are a little older.  because it was marketed as a family film, i was expecting the plot to be something geared more for young people than adults. 

instead, i was pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie was one bill and i both thoroughly enjoyed and will enjoy watching again.  there is plenty of action, drama, romance and comedy to satisfy all our desires.  if you are in love with the book, you may be disappointed that a lot has been changed to the plot.  i think, however, that the plot of the movie holds together well and seems to be consistent throughout.  i will be anxious to see if other movies come out based on the other books in the series.

if you think this is something you are also interested in watching, i have two copies available to giveaway.  just leave a comment below telling me which god or goddess you would most like to have for a parent and why.  for a second entry, you can subscribe to the feed for this blog.  simply leave me another comment telling me you have done so.  i will choose two winners on august 31.

i received a copy of this dvd for the purpose of this review from 20th century fox home entertainment and bender/helper impact.  regardless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

igo review

we're getting ready to leave for another trip to the beach. normally, when i pack, i have an entire bag just of cords, plugins and chargers for phones, cameras and ipods. lately, however, i have been able to whittle my collection down to one camera charger and one other charger for all other devices...

meet the igo ($49.99):
this little gadget really has changed our lives.  now i can charge my phone and my ipod at the same time AND (get this), i don't even have to be near a wall outlet.  that's right, the igo holds enough charge that i can plug in both devices and charge them in my purse or wherever else i like.

if you know that you are going to be away from outlets for the day, you can just stash this in your purse (the dimensions are 2.28 x 2.52 x 1.46 in) ready to charge whenever you need, wherever you are.  when you buy the igo, just make sure to get the tip that works for your phone, bluetooth, mp3, digital camera or any other device that you need to charge.

i received an igo and tip for my phone for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

ecostoreusa baby lotion and rash ointment

poor lilianna has suffered with terrible eczema since she was about a month old.  literally, from head to toe she was a mess of itchy, oozy rashes and sores.  at many times, it has been painful to look at her.  i have tried just about every kind of lotion and cream i could get my hands on to help her feel more comfortable.

in my search, i have been looking to use something on her skin that is plant-based and healthy.  ecostore usa has a variety of options that are made naturally from plants and minerals.  i figure she can use all the help she can get without adding "nasty chemicals" and other additives that her baby skin just doesn't need to be exposure to.

when i received our sample of baby lotion and "nappy balm," i was surprised by the consistency of the lotion ($10).  it was runnier than i was expecting.  it doesn't have the thicker texture and consistency that i usually experience with lotion.  while i think it would be a good moisturizer for babies with healthy skin, i actually found the nappy balm ($10), which has a thicker consistency, worked better for moisturizing lilianna's skin, from head to toe.  while i can't say the baby lotion and diaper rash ointment have cured lilianna's problem (we had to rely on a prescription cream for that), i have been glad to have a moisturizer to use in addition to her prescription cream to keep her comfortable and itch-free.

ecostore usa also has household cleaners, pet products, and adult bath and body products, all made with natural ingredients and free from the chemicals that we like to avoid putting on our skin and into our homes.  they say that they are cost-effective because their concentrated products require you to use less than of other products.  i'm not sure that this is true of the lotion--i felt like i had to use more to make up for the thin consistency, but this has definitely proved true with the nappy balm.

our family is slowly, slowly making changes to use healthier cleaning supplies and bath and body products. i am relatively impressed with the offerings of ecostore usa. i am glad to have choices like this available, particularly for lilianna's sensitive skin. 

i received a free sample of ecostore usa lotion and nappy balm for the purpose of this mamabuzz review.  the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, August 9, 2010

box tops for education (with giveaway)

if there is one errand my kids are always excited about doing with me, it is going to sam's club. they just can't seem to get over the fact that people will just hand them food as we walk up and down the aisles.

of course when we go to sam's we have to buy the super large box of cheerios. with 3 kids (and bill!) having heaping big bowls of cereal every morning, it is hard to stay stocked up on cheerios.

to make me feel a little better about the cost, i always make sure to clip the "box tops" off the box of cheerios. with schools all over chicago facing serious budget cuts, i am happy to do what i can to support the schools the kids attend. what better way to help than to take something we are already purchasing and add to the funds their schools get?

for a short time, sam's club is helping us help our schools even more. from now through august 13, as long as supplies last, if you upgrade your sam's club membership to a "plus" membership, you can receive a gift certificate for 150 box tops for the school of your choice.

in addition, now through august 31, general mills is offering a bonus of 6 box tops on selected items. obviously, this is a great time to stock up on necessary items in a way that can benefit education in your area.

as if that weren't enough, one reader can receive a $25 gift card to sam's club. just leave me a comment here telling me your absolute must-have sam's club item. i will choose a winner using on august 15.

i received an upgrade to a "plus" membership at sam's club, a $25 sam's club gift card and a gift card to giveaway from general mills and my blog spark for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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