Monday, December 20, 2010

e-z socks review

when i have four kids to get dressed, fed and suited up to go out the door for school in the morning, i don't want there to be any hitch in our routine.  unfortunately, with four kids, there is bound to be a hitch somewhere.  usually that hitch is found with tate.  although he is able to do many things on his own, it only takes one little thing to give him trouble for him to give me a lot of trouble!

lately, his socks have been giving him trouble.  i don't remember having too much trouble with the girls putting on their socks, but then, i only had two kids to worry about and probably just did it for them! to alleviate our problem, i thought about giving e-z socks a try.

i have been surprised at the ease and functionality of the e-z socks.  tate feels a great sense of success when he can use the loops sewn to the sides of the socks to dress himself.  i appreciate that we don't have the headaches and tantrums in the morning when tate gets frustrated by his inability to put his own socks on.

to be honest, i kind of thought that they were ugly when i first saw them, but somehow the faces on the socks are growing on me.  of course, the most important critic is tate and he loves the animal patterns (he's only a little disappointed that there are no lightening mcqueen ones to choose from) and he doesn't seem to notice the loops, once he has used them to pull on his socks.

if you have a three-year-old who wants to be independent but is struggling with the skills to be able to do things himself, you might want to give e-z socks a try.  you might be surprised, as i was, at how they can facilitate a happier morning!

i am happy to say that i have one pair to give away to one of you, my faithful readers. if you would like to win a pair, just leave a comment below telling me the hitch you are most likely to have in your morning. for a second entry, you can subscribe to this blog. just leave me a comment telling me you did so. usa residents only please. i will choose a winner from the comments using random.org on january 3, 2011.

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

holiday gift guide: movie ideas for that hard-to-please person on your list...

i don't know about you, but i can never figure out what to get the guys on our christmas list.  clothes seem a little mundane, and our fathers are the type who buy the toys that they want when they want them.  i am thankful that fox and mgm have come out with a bunch of great titles and collections of movies to make my holiday shopping much more simple.


if holiday movies are on someone's wish list, these are the titles that are now available:
the home alone collection (includes home alone & home alone 2 on blu-ray)
the christmas collection (all-new 4-disc blu-ray collection)
the holiday classics collection
(all new 2-disc blu-ray collection)
all dogs christmas carol
all dogs go to heaven

pink panther christmas
prancer
blizzard
march of the wooden soldiers
the bishop's wife
the secret of nimh
the greatest story ever told
Luther




if you want to have a good family movie title, try one of these:
chitty chitty bang bang
night at the museum
night at the museum: battle of the smithsonian
ice age
ice age: the meltdown
ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs
horton hears a who
alvin and the chipmunks
strawberry shortcake: the glimmerberry ball movie
strawberry shortcake: berrywood here we come



perhaps you are shopping for someone who enjoys the classics.  in that case, take a look at these:
rocky, rocky II, rocky III, rocky IV, rocky V
robocop trilogy
rocky: the undisputed collection blu-ray
james bond collection: volumes 1, 2, & 3
cher: the film collection
the sergio leone anthology
the man with no name blu-ray box set


if your gift recipient is making the transition from dvd to blu-ray, try these combination packages:
the good, the bad, and the ugly
the graduate
the princess bride
rocky



i don't know about you, but i have seen a few of these titles that i hope santa will put in my stocking!

i received the home alone collection , the christmas collection, and the good, the bad and the ugly, as a thank you for passing along this information to you.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

my favorite things from the toy and game fair (part one)

i received a free pass to the chicago toy and game (chitag) fair a few weeks ago.  our family really enjoyed surveying the latest and greatest on the toy scene.  the kids had a lot more things they wanted to ask for from santa after we went.

i also attended a special bloggers' luncheon where some companies had special tables out for us to see their products up close and personally.  these were some of my favorite things (that are now my kids' favorite things!).


at the absolute top of our list has to be the mega bloks thomas adventure on misty island.  thomas the tank engine is always high on tate's list.  if you factor in the fact that this thomas comes with tracks that you can build yourself in various combinations, and this gift is a trifecta that tate will love to find under the tree.  (in fact, he caught a glimpse of it when i was bringing it home so now he keeps insisting that it is christmas now! and he wants to open it and play with it.)  i really can't imagine a better toy to give tate this year.  i know that he will get hours of enjoyment out of building the track, running thomas around it and making up adventures for thomas and james.  i also like that the pieces you can add on to this set are so affordable.  tate can get another set to add to his collection each year.  i just hope he will share it with the girls sometimes!

of course, the girls will be busy enough with what they find under the tree this year.  the kids have really been excited about tattoos lately (if they get it out of their systems now, does that mean they will be less likely to go for the permanent ones later?).  it has been a little bit hard for me to keep up the supply to match their demand.  i figure the tattoo writer by roseart allows them to be creative while decorating themselves to their heart's content.  my favorite aspect of this is that they tattoos wash off with soap and water!  the kit comes with 3 tattoo markers, 8 rubber stencils and an instruction sheet.
while it is hard to think about being outdoors with temperatures the way they are right now (single digits, anyone?), i love the various backyard safari toys, tools and kits put out by summit.  my biggest fear about living in the city is that my kids will miss out on outdoor time and be less confident when they are outside.  the backyard safari items can make outdoor adventures both exciting and manageable.  the selection is great:  i saw a net that you can use for catching small animals (or your little brother if he's handy!), a bug vacuum that puts standard butterfly nets to shame and a periscope that can see over your neighbor's bushes or be used in the pool to see what is out of the water when you are underwater.  what i like about the backyard safari toys is that each one comes with a patch.  you can make your own sash or buy the backyard safari vest to iron-on your patches.  kids can mark their learning progress in a visible way.

i didn't wait until christmas to give the kids their belly washers and tummy ticklers sippy cups.  they were a fun surprise for our thanksgiving trip to tennessee and have been in constant use ever since.  these sippy cups/sports bottles come with juice but they are washable and reusable as water bottles.  the girls have princess and hello kitty tops while tate loves his lightening mcqueen and thomas the tank engine bottles.  lilianna even has her own princess bottle.  the tummy ticklers have a no-spill top with a less concentrated juice, while the belly washers have stronger juice and a sports bottle type top that pulls out when you are ready to drink.  i like that the kids are more likely to drink throughout the day when they use these extra-fun water bottles.  they are reusable but also affordable in case we lose one or two.  the lids are interchangeable and come in a wide variety to match the interests of any kid, young or old.

lilianna was not left out of the fun.  playtex had a few special goodies for her as well.  we have had some problems getting lilianna to eat and drink anything but my milk.  you can see in the picture how happy she is to have the playtex sippy cup with a straw.  i never thought she would be able to manage the straw when she wasn't even that good at drinking out of a bottle.  this cup allows you to press the sides as they are taking a drink to help them get started sucking from a straw.  i have found this truly ingenious!  lilianna seemed to get the concept pretty quickly when i pressed the sides and now she can drink from it all by herself.  i love this sippy cup.  one of my favorite things about it is that it is bpa- and phlalate-free.  now i don't have to worry about finding a pricey cup to keep lilianna safer from those toxins.  we'll be using these for awhile.  playtex also has a teether that is shaped like a pacifier that i'm hoping to find in lilianna's stocking this year.  she is good at taking her pacifier in and out.  i think this teether will be great for gnawing on since it is stronger and more durable than a pacifier.

i hope that you can get some good holiday gift ideas for your own kids from this.  i am looking forward to watching the kids open their presents this year because i know they are going to love what they find.


i received free items from each of these companies at the chicago toy and game fair.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday survival kit (w/giveaway)

a couple weeks ago, i was surprised to receive a package that i would have to call a holiday survival guide. each of the things in the package will make my holidays a little bit easier.




first, i found a big bottle of purell. with all the handshaking at church and christmas parties, and all the scary germs crawling around school, we definitely need an economy size of purell. i like to keep a little bottle in my purse and refill as necessary. this is definitely a must-have for getting safely through the holiday season.

i also received a box of emergen-c. with 1,000 mg of vitamin c, bill swears this heads off any cold that seems imminent. he takes the full dosage of this whenever he feels a sniffle approaching. just dissolve the powder in a glass of water and let the healing vitamins do their work. we have the cranberry pomegranate flavor, which seems extra festive if you ask me!

for gift wrapping, i can't imagine a handier item than a scotch adhesive dot roller. i always get my paper all folded and ready to tape and then realize i have to try to get myself a piece of tape using two fingers and my mouth while trying to keep the paper from slipping outside my grip. now i can just take the dot roller, roll a strip of dots where i need the paper to stick and i'm done. since the kids are having the best christmas of their lives this year, i'm going to need some help with all that wrapping! this is definitely the tool for the job.

finally, i have already had far too many holiday dishes flavored delectably with garlic and onions. unfortunately, my breath is not so delectable after sampling these items! i have already given my girls this spin-n-go toothbrush, so i think i'm going to keep this one for myself. surely i'm not too old to decorate my toothbrush just the way i like it. i feel like i need to do some deep cleaning after sampling the latest variety of sweet and sticky treats!

i have a holiday survival kit to give to one of you to help you get through this season easily and with your health intact! just leave a comment telling me your one must-have item to survive the holidays. i will pick a winner december 14 at midnight. usa residents only.

i received one of each of these items as a holiday surprise. the opinions expressed here are my own and are not influenced by the fact that i received this stuff for free.

veggie tales incredible singing christmas tree on amazon

just wanted to let you know (because i would want to know if i didn't already know), that this album is available for free as a download from amazon.  isn't that great?  my kids love the veggie tales albums.  i'll have to save this one for in the car on our way to tennessee.

Monday, December 6, 2010

holiday gift guide: action figures!

article first published as holiday gift guide: hasbro stocking stuffers for boys on blogcritics.

this year, shopping for tate has been a snap. hasbro has three collections of action figures to choose from that can keep little boys happy for many months to come.

spider-man can take on green goblin and venom, whether by sea, with dive attack spider-man; in the sky with sky-speed spider-man; or at night with might mission spider-man. tate loves to act out adventures with good guys against the bad guys, so i appreciate the low cost of these action figures.


if robots that transform into vehicles and vice versa are more likely to interest your boy, transformers power core combiners have a new assortment of figures that connect with each other in dozens of variations to create even larger combiner robots. each figure can form the body part or weapon of a larger robot. these robots come in two- and five-packs. tate is still a little young for these but i know the day is coming when i'll be tripping over piles of robots.

it is hard for me to know who is more interested in the new star wars action figures, bill or tate. everybody's favorite figures from episodes 1-6, as well as from the clone wars series are available in this series.  although these figures are fully functioning on their own, they can also be used in a game: each figure comes with a card that lists the character's unique battle attributes. roll the die and see who wins as two figures face off in a galactic battle. tate is still too young to make use of this part of his action figure, but  look forward to adding this dimension to his play when he gets older (bill and i might just give this game a try ourselves when tate goes to bed--we used to play pokemon when the boy we babysat for went to bed.)

never has it been so easy to figure out what to buy for one of my kids.  i know for sure that tate (at least) will be happy when he opens his presents this year.  and i know he is going to be entertained for hours and hours in the coming year with toys like these.

i received a spider-man figure and an obi-wan kenobi figure to give to tate for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

the true story of the three little pigs (review)

we love to check out scholastic storybook treasures dvds from our public library. everyone always has a favorite story that they can't wait to see come to life as the characters walk and talk around the pages of the book.

that's why we couldn't resist getting our own copy of this dvd with the true story of the three little pigs, by jon sciezcka, as the main story. with paul giamatti reading it, the kids sat glued to the screen as they waited to see what the wolf would do next. the combination of a great storyline and creative animation made for a great movie treat for all of us. the kids also enjoyed the interview with jon scieszka and lane smith at the end of the dvd. i was surprised that they were willing to sit and listen to how the book came into being as the two men joked around together.

we also enjoyed zach braff's narration of wallace's lists, by barbara bottner and gerald kruglik. we hadn't read this story before but we enjoyed watching as wallace learned to live a little more adventurously.

henry builds a cabin, by d.b. johnson was a great story about simplicity. afterward, we learned about henry david thoreau and the cabin he built by walden pond.

we love the rollicky-rhythm of this is the house that jack built by simms tabeck. there is a surprise character at the end of this one that no one was expecting (not even zoe!).

the only one we found a little strange was the pigs' wedding by helme heine. nobody complained about it, but when it was over, we all remarked on the strangeness of the story.

all in all, i am glad to have this dvd as a part of our collection. i look forward to more selections from scholastic storybook treasures.

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

holiday gift guide: yo-yos that actually come back!

(article first published as product review: yomega yo-yos on blogcritics)

if you had told me that you thought i should get my kids yo-yos for christmas a few weeks ago, i would have said you are crazy.  the yo-yos always unwind, the kids can't get them to work, and i'm left trying to wind them back up while the kids cry over the lame toy i bought them.
you won't hear any tears or cries of frustration from me with these yo-yos, however.  yomega has made yo-yos that return automatically!  Their secret is a centrifugal clutch system that can open for spins and sleeping and then close again to force a return.

my kids and i tried out the gamma brain wing.  this one has the auto-return in one mode but allows the user to switch to allow greater speeds and tricks.  i was prepared for tears and great frustration, but i was pleasantly surprised to discover that all three of my kids (ages three, five, and eight) were able to master it.

we also tried out the maverick which looks and feels different because it is an all aluminum yo-yo with a weighted perimeter and a new "super smooth rubber return system."  it can be seen as a step-up skill-wise from the gamma brain.  to be honest, i don't understand the physics of how these yo-yos work.  i'm just glad that my kids and i can figure them out for ourselves!


we may not be ready for more complicated tricks yet, but when we are, both yo-yos come with a demonstration video and explanation of what else can be done with a yo-you besides throwing it down and catching it again.
tate was also excited to try out the yomega quick-6.  this is a small football with a full football grip.  since he loves to play football, we are glad for him to have a football for practice-throws that is a good size for him.  it will continue to be a great football as he grows up as it is great for those "long spiral throws."

i don't think any of my kids would have automatically put a "yo-yo" on their christmas list based on our past bad experiences, but this year, they are all excited to see what can be done with a yomega yo-yo.

read more: http://blogcritics.org/gaming/article/product-review-yomega-yo-yos/#ixzz17MXagOhY


i received a free gamma brain, maverick and yomega quick-6 for the purpose of this review from yomega. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

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