Wednesday, December 21, 2011

holiday gift guide: books

this is my last "gift guide" post.  i think no christmas is complete without some really great reading material.  this past year, i have come to know more about the publisher, lee and low books.  they are an independent publishing company focused on diversity. 

i was thankful to win a set of books through a blog giveaway.  while some of the books were better liked than others, overall, i really appreciate the mission and vision of this company to make books celebrating diversity more accessible and available.
lilianna's favorite book of all time is one that we received in our prize pack.  baby born takes the reader through the first year of a baby's life, month by month, comparing the developmental stages of a baby to the passing of the seasons (in october, baby's gap-toothed smile is compared a jack-o'-lantern's; at thanksgiving the baby can say "mum-mum-mum / when she sees the turkey come").  there is something about the really cute drawings and the rhythmic rhymes that appeals to lilianna.  she asks us to read this one over and over.
seeds of change is an award-winning book about nobel-prize winner wangari maathai.  when she had the opportunity to be educated, as few girls did, her mind sprouted like a seed as she learned more and more at school.  i can't say this is the top choice of any of my kids, but i want them to have exposure to the idea that for education is a gift that some people never receive.  i want them to see the strides that have been made, particularly on behalf of the girls to give them the incredible opportunities they now have access to.
as part of my involvement in the book club, teen lit rocks!, i received a free copy of under the mesquite.  this story is fascinating, in party because the whole thing is written as poetry.  in the book, i learned the story of a mexican girl who learned how to make her way in the united states while going through the trauma of her mother's cancer and ultimate death.  i think zoe will be ready for this in a year or two.  i love that she will learn about another culture, as well as gain experience in reading poetry in such an accessible format.

i highly value the mission and vision of lee and low books.  i hope that you will take a look at the choices they have available and see if any of them would be a good fit for your family.

while i have received all of the above books for free from lee and low books (as well as a few additional books), i have not been compensated for this post nor asked to write it.  i simply wanted to share with you a valuable resource in the form of a company that i think is worthy of my support.

holiday gift guide: toys (part 3)

i guess that i can't really make a gift guide without mentioning this last toy.  this is what tate is asking for from santa this year:

"slingers" are something like yo-yos (does anyone remember those automatic yo-yos we had when we were growing up? i can't remember the name but these are like those...). the nice thing (for kids like tate) is that they automatically return to your hand. each slinger is associated with a marvel comic book character.  there is spiderman, iron man, the hulk,captain america, and wolverine, etc.

the slinger also comes with medallions that can magnetically attach to the slinger when you "sling" it down just right.  this allows for a wide variety of play and competition between people wielding slingers.  while we were at the chicago toy and game fair, we ourselves played 3 or 4 different games.  you can see who is the first person to get the medallion with a certain character.  you can see who can be the first to get four (or any other agreed upon number) medallions.  or you can see who can pick up the most medallions within a certain amount of time.  there is even a game to play that was explained to me twice (and i'm still confused); somehow you can set a counter on the slinger and the "power" goes down for each time you hit the ground.  getting medallions of a certain type can raise your power again.  each hero has different power and speed levels (i recommend spidey or iron man if you care about those things--i think the hulk may be strong but he is slow).
by the end of our day at the chicago toy and game fair, i think this was declared the most popular exhibit (at least by our family).  even lilianna had somehow gotten her hands on a slinger and was picking up medallions like crazy (faster than i could, i'm embarrassed to admit).

based on the popularity of the booth, i really thought this was going to be the "it" toy for christmas, but now i have heard next to nothing about them. 

i think it is a worthwhile game, though on the pricey side for what you get ($14.99 for one slinger, $27.99 for a "battle pack" of two; $6.99 for 10 extra medallions (which you really need to have very much fun--the single slinger only comes with three medallions)).  it is a great and fun way for kids to develop eye/hand coordination.  it provides some version of exercise, and it really is just a lot of plain old fun.  we returned to this booth again and again, each of us trying to collect as many medallions as we could.

for boys or girls, this is a worthwhile option for gifts for christmas or for birthdays in the coming year.

while upper deck was a major sponsor of the chicago toy and game fair, they did not give us free slingers, which i was very disappointed about!  i finally went ahead and bought one so tate can get his wish for christmas.  while i received a free pass to the chicago toy and game fair and some free trading cards from upper deck, i have in no other way been compensated for this post.  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: games (part 2)

one challenge that i have with four kids of such diverse ages is trying to spread myself out to spend quality time with each kid.  if i play a game with one or two, another one is either too old or too young to participate.  i really appreciate games that can be played alone or with the help of one other person.

smartgames fall exactly into this category.  we own the police blockade game.  bill and i have spent a lot of time playing this ourselves (there may or may not have been some competition involved!).  zoe really likes this game herself.  it has been a great one to bring on trips, since she can spend an hour or so trying to work out the different puzzles.

each game come with a book that provides challenges at different levels.  for example, in police blockade, you start with a board that has the buildings and the "bad guy" on the board.  your job is to surround the bad guy with police cars so that he can't drive out and escape.  each of the games has a similar booklet with all kinds of challenges that can fill a lot of hours!

until recently, i thought these were the kinds of games that tessa and tate would have to wait to play until they were older.  i was so excited to discover that this is not the case at the chicago toy and game fair.

for tessa, this castle game is a great way to practice thinking strategically.  the pieces are solid and well made.  she enjoyed trying to figure out how to put the castle together to match the picture.  the posts have to fit in the holes in such a way that the blocks match the picture.  again, there is a range of challenges from simple to more complex so this is a game that can grow with your child.

this truck game is a great entry-level strategy game for someone like tate.  the truck can be played with as a regular truck.  but it is easy to ask someone like tate to try the challenges of fitting the blocks in the truck to make the cargo level. 
i spent some time with this chicken game at the chicago toy and game fair.  the game has plastic plates with chickens on them in varying positions.  you place the challenge card under the lid and arrange the chickens to cover all the eggs.  i have to admit, i wasn't very good at this one.  i definitely need some practice!
even lilianna doesn't need to be left out!  i think she (and the other kids too) spent a really long time playing with these:

these are very large magnetic pieces that can be put together to build anything imagination can come up with.  lilianna liked using the curved pieces as a phone.  i can see how having these long term would help her develop fine motor skills and creativity.  i really hope she can get some of these some day soon.

i have not received any compensation for writing this post.  these are toys that we really enjoyed when we used our free pass to the chicago toy and game fair.  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: games

zoe is at an age where she wants toys like the other kids are getting, but she feels too old to be focusing her attention solely on toys.  i think games make a great gift for kids in this category.

i have absolutely fallen in love with out of the box games.  we received "pirate vs. pirate" last year and this has become a favorite game of the entire family (well, maybe not lilianna yet, but definitely for the rest of us!).  while strategy is definitely involved, i feel like this game offers a good way to learn strategy in a fun and engaging way (can you tell i'm not a big fan of checker and chess myself?).  if you want to develop strategy skills in your kids, i think this game is a great learning tool for that.

tate really wants to get the similar "ninja vs. ninja," which also is great for developing strategy skills.  this is definitely a game where he is going to need some help for awhile as he plays but i think it will be a great addition to our family game night collection.

tessa got the game "7 ate 9" last year for christmas.  this has been a great way to practice her addition and subtraction skills.  she is a little slow at doing this in her head so i think this game is good for getting those basic math skills cemented in her brain.  it is a very quick game that can be played anywhere. 

we played "shake 'n take" at the chicago toy and game fair.  this is another great game for the whole family.  the playing cards offer two different levels so tate and zoe can play together without too much of an age disadvantage (tate still needs a little help to be competitive, but not much).  one person has to circle as many of one shape as she/he can before the other player get the alien in the bubble to be face up (make sense!?).  it is a great way to practice learning shapes, as well as developing observation skills and eye/hand coordination.  we all really enjoyed playing this together at the fair.  this is definitely a game i hope to add to their collection.

this is all the experience i have had with games from out of the box.  i do feel confident about buying any of the games from this company because of their commitment to making quality, entertaining and prize-winning games (many of their games have won parent's choice and other prestigious awards).  here is a what they want from their games (from their website):

  • can be learned in minutes.
  • are colorfully illustrated and fun to play.
  • can easily be played in less than an hour.
  • are efficiently designed in smart packaging.
  • feature dynamic player interaction from start to finish.

  • i would say that this has definitely been the case with all of the games that we have tried from out of the box.

    i received free copies of "pirate vs. pirate" and "7 ate 9" last year from out of the box games when we received free passes to the chicago toy and game fair.  these are the games we enjoyed this year when we again received free passes to the chicago toy and game fair.  regardless, all the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.  i received no compensation for writing this post.

    holiday gift guide: toys (part 2)

    even though zoe asked for a set of dollhouse people for christmas, i recognize that she is a little young for most of what plan toys has to offer. 
    if you are in the same boat, you may want to take a look at horizon hobby.  all of my kids, from lilianna up to zoe love, love, love anything that is remote controlled.  zoe has a remote controlled robot, tate has an rc mater and tessa has an rc strawberry shortcake car (and lilianna just steals whoever's rc she can get and plays with it until someone takes it away from her).

    zoe is at that awkward age where she is ready for something a little more advanced, but not old enough yet for the investment that the higher tech remote controlled vehicles require.  when we came to the horizon hobby booth at the chicago toy and game fair, i started to think we might have found something that could bridge that gap.

    the blade scout rtf 3-ch heli is "the perfect place to get started" (as they say on their website).  for only $49.99, a major investment isn't required.  yet this is a quality helicopter that is great for working on eye-hand coordination and the finer points of remote controlling.

    zoe, tessa and tate all gave flying it a try (thank you to the very, very patient sales people who worked with my kids!).  with a little practice, it actually wasn't that hard for them to manage.

    i asked a lot of questions of the sales representative.  for us, $50 is a big investment, and i wanted to know exactly what we were getting ourselves into.  the more answers i received, the happier i was with this option.

    the helicopter is so light that it is only recommended for indoor use (no worries about telephone lines, etc.).  it is also so light that it can knock into something like a lamp without knocking it over (that is good because my kids have a lot of learning to do when it comes to controlling the helicopter).  the battery is rechargeable.  it is recommended to buy an additional battery so that one can charge while you use the other one, but this isn't necessary.  my fears of burning through multitudes of batteries were also put to rest.

    overall, i couldn't see any reason that this wouldn't be the perfect choice for zoe.  she had very quickly determined that this was the gift she really, really, really wanted from santa.  in our house, santa has pretty shallow pockets so i was a little nervous about granting her wish.  i am forever indebted to the sales representative who set one aside for me to take home for zoe.

    his generosity has in no way biased my review because i had already determined that we would find a way to get one for zoe.  i like absolutely everything i have heard and observed about this helicopter.  i think they have done a great job of accomplishing their goal of creating an entry-level remote-controlled vehicle for those who are considering entering the world of hobby flying (i don't really know the official name for this--that is how entry-level i am!) that is affordable yet technical.  i really can't wait to see zoe's face when she opens this present on christmas day.

    thank you, santa! (who, in this case, looks surprisingly like a horizon hobby sales representative!)

    while i received a free helicopter from horizon hobby, i have not received any other compensation for writing this post.  this is a toy that we really enjoyed when we used our free pass to the chicago toy and game fair.  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

    holiday gift guide: toys

    i recognize that i have put off writing this post until it is a little late for most of you to use this as a guide, but i love these products so much, that i'm going to write it anyway.  these are the things that i wish i had put on my kids' lists, although i learned about them a little too late.  for sure, next year, these are the things that will be at the top of our lists!

    i am not a complete plastic-ophobe but i much prefer the higher quality wooden toys we have over the cheap, commercialized plastic ones.  as i speak, i have wooden train track spread all over the floor around me.  i'm so happy that the kids (tate and lilianna especially) enjoy the (quieter) version and don't necessarily need to play with the battery-powered (louder) trains all the time.

    with this in mind, i am absolutely in love with plan toys.  we had the opportunity to play with some ourselves at the chicago toy and game fair.  tate was instantly drawn to this drumset:

    since he has already shown a proclivity to drums and has signs of rhythm, i would love for him to have this to practice and develop his skills before we invest in a real set of drums.  i should say that, at the toy and game fair, the cymbal kept falling off, but it was easy to put back on.  i don't know if that is typical, or just because of the abuse it got at the fair.

    for christmas, lilianna will be getting this plan toys doll family.  zoe and tessa each have a family and lilianna keeps stealing theirs so i'm hoping this it will satisfy her to have her own set.  the people are poseable.  there are several different dollhouse choices (a bit on the pricey side) that are available along with a wide variety of furniture.  i really hope at some point we have this:

    ...because who can resist those adorable tiny vegetables?

    i also would love to have a set of these animals sometime (if the kids don't want them, i'll just have to get them for myself!

    even though these toys are a bit pricier than their plastic cousins, you can feel good about your purchase with plan toys.  this is their vision:  "we create toys that inspire children's imagination as well as promote their physical and intellectual development. we're also proving that it is possible to maintain superior quality standards while steadfastly following a path of environmental and social responsibility" (taken directly from their website).

    if you haven't looked into plan toys previously, take some time to look at their website.  they have some really great baby toy options that are adorable as well as safe for babies and toddlers.  i definitely hope my kids will spend some time on their website the next time they are making christmas and birthday lists!

    i really believe in the vision of plan toys and think that they make quality toys i would like for my kids.  i have not received any compensation for writing this post.  these are toys that we really enjoyed when we used our free pass to the chicago toy and game fair.  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    icaughtsanta review and giveaway

    (warning: you probably don't want your kids who believe in the magic of santa to read this post.)
    tonight, after a little finagling, and a whole lot of fun, bill and i took the picture from above and turned it into this:
    this picture is at walgreens, waiting to be picked up, ready for christmas day.  i'm pretty sure that tessa is getting to the age where she's fighting off the doubts about what happens on christmas eve.  this should help keep the "magic" alive for another year.  even zoe loves to have any confirmation she can that the man in red comes to visit us in the night.

    do you want to "catch santa" at your house?  just go to icaughtsanta and upload a picture of your tree, your living room or even a bedroom to get started.  there are a variety of santa poses to choose from.  you can adjust the size of santa, his position, the view and size of your room, and even the brightness and color of santa.  once you have santa in the pose you want, you can download and print as many copies of your print as you like.  as an added bonus, you will receive five videos of santa with your photo as the background, showing santa in your home checking his list, getting presents out of his sack, dancing and/or winking at the "elves" who caught him in the act.

    i found this website very easy to navigate, a lot of fun to play around with, and a way to give this kids a fun keepsake.  you can also catch the tooth fairy, the easter bunny and cupid in the act, if you like.  the process is a little pricey ($9.99 for one santa, $24.98 for four photos and a video) but you do get several fun keepsakes in the bargain.  you can download your photo, print as many copies as you like, share your photo on facebook or over email, and you have access to videos of santa in your home as often as you like.

    go to the website and play around with it a little bit.  it really is funny to see santa doing his job in your own home.  i also have five codes to offer to you all.  just leave a comment below telling me where you would like to catch santa.  i will choose 5 (count 'em--five!) winners on december 23 so you have time to print your photo before christmas.  must be 18 years old to enter but anyone in the world can win!

    edited to add: even though your chances are good for winning a free code, if you don't want to leave anything to chance, you can get half off your order by using the code SANTA50 when you checkout.

    i received 6 free codes from icaughtsanta for the purpose of this review and giveaway.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions are purely my own.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011


    the winner of the crayola prize package is...
    ...lili! congratulations. i can't wait to see your drawings of every room in your house! happy holidays to everyone else! i have another really cool giveaway coming up for the santa-lovers in your household!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    christmas card decisions

    it is always a surprise to me (though it shouldn't be) how hard it is to get the whole christmas card show on the road.

    all of my attempts thus far to get a family christmas picture taken have been shattered.

    you can't order the card until you have the picture.
    you can't take the picture until...
    ...everyone has matching outfits.
    ...everyone is in one place at the same time.
    ...someone is available to take the picture.
    ...a suitable christmas-y backdrop is available.

    this past sunday we finally had the matching outfits, the backdrop and the "photographer."  i didn't care how inconvenient my timing was, i was going to make sure that we didn't leave until we had our picture taken.

    i hate to give away the surprise, but...

    5x7 Folded Card
    View the entire collection of cards. be the judge. what do you think?  

    i received free christmas cards from shutterfly in exchange for this post. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own. in exchange for sharing my project with you, i will receive $10 off my next shutterfly order.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    we had an oral b/crest toothbrush party and lived to tell about it!

    what happens when you get 12 kids from three families in one apartment?

    pure chaos!

    ...but a totally fun time as well.

    we invited 8 of our friends to come have pizza, eat popcorn, watch cars 2, and learn about having healthy mouths together.  my kids had a great time preparing for the party by cleaning the toy room (well, not so much actually!), blowing up balloons, putting together gift bags and filling special boxes full of popcorn.

    our friends arrived ready for a totally awesome time.  we were thankful for the square footage of our apartment that provided the kids with plenty of room to spread out.  everyone matched up with someone his or her own age or close to it.

    we served three large pizzas and some healthy-for-your-teeth-and-bones salad.  everyone had plenty to eat.

    then we played "yucky mouth vs. healthy mouth."  every kid had multiple opportunities to decide which foods and products contributed to a healthy mouth and which would make for a yucky mouth.  we then enjoyed one of those "yucky mouth" foods: ice cream!  thankfully, we all had plenty of crest pro-health for me mouth rinse, oral-b stages and pro-health toothbrushes, cars 2 gummy vitamins and oral-b/crest pro-health for me flossers to keep our teeth healthy and strong afterward.


    we put in the cars 2 dvd and handed out the popcorn.  my kids were the only ones who sat and watched the movie from start to finish, and they had seen it before!  i guess the other kids were drawn to the toy room more than the movie.

    when the movie was done, everyone was having too good of a time to leave.  thankfully it wasn't a school night so everyone could stay up spending more time with their friends before having to say good-bye.

    you can see that the goodie bags filled with toothbrushes, flossers, gummy vitamins, coupons and mouth rinse were a big hit with everyone.

    thank you crest and oral-b for providing three families with such a fun and enjoyable evening together!

    i received the party kids filled with oral-b and crest products, balloons, popcorn and popcorn boxes, coupons, a game, and information from oral-b and crest through momselect.  regardless, all the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Holiday Gift Guide: You can't go wrong with Crayola! (w/giveaway)

    Sometimes I look around the toy room in despair. We have so many toys that the kids just "had to have" that now they hardly ever play with. yet i can be sure that the drawer where we keep our crayons, markers and other crafty things is always left open with all of it contents spilling out. the kids love to color, draw and create.

    that is why this year i'm making sure we have plenty of crayola products under our tree. i know from experience that these gifts will be used over and over again. for lilianna, i'm thinking the telescoping crayon tower with 150 crayons should keep her busy for quite awhile ($17.99). she likes to take a crayon, make a mark and then reach for another crayon. maybe with 150 at her disposal, she'll stay occupied for more than 5 minutes and i can get something done around here! (note: this product isn't recommended for children 3 and under--i will definitely be supervising her when she is coloring!) 

    the tower comes with a built-in sharpener and has three tiers of storage. i know it is too much to hope that lilianna will actually put the crayons away when she is done using them so i foresee some pretty big messes ahead of me. i have to admit, however, that i'm kind of hoping to take advantage of such a wide variety of colors myself. i never had more than 64 different colors. what could i draw with 150 different colors to choose from? maybe santa should place one of these under the tree for me as well!?

    tate always has big ideas of what he wants to draw and make. his projects always require quite a few different tools that we can never seem to find. i can't imagine a better gift for him than the ultimate art supplies all-in-one portable art studio ($16.99). this is a really nice plastic storage case with 8 markers, 24 crayons, 12 colored pencils, 8 color watercolor pan with brush, 30 colored paper sheets, school glue and scissors. i think with this, tate will finally have everything he needs to create his ultimate masterpiece! i know he will like having these materials for his very own, instead of having to use the family glue or zoe or tessa's scissors. this product is recommended for ages 4 and up, and i think it is absolutely perfect for 4-yr-old tate.

    these two products also come with codes to use at to do fun things like turn a picture of yourself into a cartoon.  i think all four of my kids will enjoy trying this out!

    tessa is definitely my most girly-girl. she will definitely love crayola's jewelry boutique ($24.99). using model magic modeling material and a jewelry spinner, she will be able to create jewelry that she can actually wear. the set comes with 3 pendant charms, 2 shape cutters, 5 bracelet charms, 4 earrings, 5 toggles sets, 18 gems, a bead dryer rack, bead glaze, 132 inches of cord, a bead punch and 8 packs of model magic. i'm looking forward to seeing how her creativity is set free by all of these options to choose from. i have a feeling we won't be seeing much of tessa once she opens this gift on christmas day!  once she runs out of options with this box, there are also expansion packs available, like "rock royalty" or "mock candy" that come with more accessories and model magic.

    finally, for zoe, i will be wrapping up crayola's glow book ($29.99).  the "book" come with four clear "pages" for drawing on with 6 glow markers.  when the artist has worked out her plan she arranges the pages in the desired order, then switches on the flashing lights to make her drawing appear to move.  zoe will be able to make her own cartoons, multi-message signs or layered drawings.  i'm sure she will come up with ideas for how to use this that i haven't even thought of yet.  she loves art products that let her come up with different ways to do things so i'm sure that this will be perfect for her.  i can already predict that this will be coming with us in the car for our long car trip to tennessee.  

    this is only a sample of all that crayola has to offer.  i have always preferred the quality of crayola products to other brands.  i think that these gifts will allow my kids to be creative in a way that they don't often get to be at school.  i'm curious to see what they come up with!

    i am excited to be able to offer a package of these four products to one of you readers.  just leave me a comment below telling me what you would love to draw if you had 150 crayons at your disposal (saying you are not creative or not an artist is not allowed!).  i will choose a winner using on december 14.  must be 18 years old and a united states resident to enter.

    the crayola innovative holiday prize pack, product information and prize pack for giveaway have been provided by crayola through myblogspark.   regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.


    the winner of the wet ones giveaway is...
    ...wen-yi! congratulations! i hope this helps you keep everyone happy this holiday season! for everyone else, i have a great giveaway of crayola products coming up that you won't want to miss!

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    tips for staying healthy this seasons w/wet ones giveaway

    you may have heard that we recently had a terrible bout with some kind of flu bug in our family. having four out of six down for the count is my idea of a nightmare, and i don't look forward to repeating that experience throughout this winter season.

    that is why i am determined to do everything i can to stay healthy and to keep my family healthy as well. i can only imagine that you have a similar goal for you and your family so i would love to share some tips i learned recently from parenting guru, stacy debroff, and dr. benjamin tanner, a microbiologist.

    stacy says that healthy meals with lots of fruits and vegetables can help keep kids' immune systems functioning well. thankfully my kids will eat fruits and vegetables, but a good chewable multivitamin can also do the trick.

    we have recently moved up everyone's bedtime so they can get a little more sleep this winter. stacy agrees that a consistent bedtime and nap schedule can really help keep little ones healthy.

    bill is obsessed about keeping the kids' hands clean at home and on the road. wet ones antibacterial hand wipes for at home and in a travel size are a great option for washing hands when soap and water are not available. wet ones promises to clean better than hand sanitizers (and are safer if you are worried about little ones trying to drink the hand sanitizer).

    dr. tanner says that the cold virus can be found in nasal secretions even a week after a cold's symptoms are gone. not only does this mean that we all have to remain diligent about practicing good hygiene at home, but at school as well when kids are returning to school healthy but contagious!

    i am starting to teach my kids to keep their hands away from their faces, thanks to dr. tanner's information that many viruses are transmitted when kids have contact with the virus and then touch their noses or eyes. discouraging face touching can reduce colds by nearly half (and now i need to take this advice myself as well!).

    did you know that droplets from sneezes can travel at 45 miles per hour and cover a distance of 10 feet? we definitely need to guard ourselves from these high-flying germs by practicing good hygiene all winter long!

    here is a summary of tips you are welcome to print out as good reminders:
    if you think that some wet ones antibacterial hand wipes can help you and your family stay healthy this winter, i have a gift pack to give away to one reader. simply leave a comment below telling me your top tip for staying healthy in the winter.

    i will choose a winner using on december 3, 2011. must a united states resident and age 18 or above to enter. i reserve the right to modify, suspend or terminate the contest, if the promotion is removed by the web server or is otherwise compromised by illegal acts or electronic bots.  

    energizer personal care is providing the prize(s) for this promotion at no cost to me.  this promotion is not being administered or sponsored in any way by energizer personal care or its affiliates, but solely by reviews from the crib. any questions or comments regarding this promotion must be sent to me at reviews from the crib and not to energizer personal care.  all information and the wet ones products were given to me by energizer personal care.  regardless, all opinions expressed here are purely my own.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011


    whew!  the holiday really got me off my game.  now that we are home again, i don't have to do extra baking (at least not for a week or two!), and people seem to have recovered from illness, i finally feel like i can get back on track.

    and what better way to get back into the swing of things than to announce some winners!

    the winner of the shutterfly christmas cards is...
     ...sherilyn!  congratulations!  i can't wait to see which design you pick out!
    updated to add:  i didn't realize i have three people who can win the cards so here are two more winners:
     ...lili won too! and...
      ...brooke!  i will be emailing you ladies the codes to receive your free christmas cards!

    the winner of the stacking bowls and snack cup is...

    ... katychick!  hopefully this helps with the cheerios, froot loops and cheetos problem!

    finally, the winner of the bellywashers and tummy ticklers is...

    ...janie!  hopefully you get some thomas to add to your collection!

    i have another giveaway coming up so definitely stay posted (or subscribe if you haven't already!).

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    belly washers and tummy ticklers review and giveaway

    as i get ready for the holidays, i start to think about what we need for our long car trip(s).  i know i will need some special snacks and healthy foods.  i also plan on getting belly washers and tummy ticklers for each kid. 

    the kids love the fun tops and getting to have juice for a change.  i love that the drinks are 100% juice, the bottles are bpa-free, and we can use them again and again as easy-to-replace water bottles. 

    belly washers and tummy ticklers and tummy tickler tots have a wide variety of themes, that appeal to all my kids from ages 1 to 9.  the tops are interchangeable with each size bottle so the kids can always have their favorites. 

    occasionally, lilianna throws her bottle to the ground and the top pops off.  that is a little annoying, but otherwise, i love these as water bottles for the rest of the kids, whether we are going to the beach (ahh, i miss the beach), downtown for the day or just a little grocery shopping.

    you can find these at wal-mart, k-mart, meijer and kroger stores.  they are available individually, in three-packs or a five pack with one reusable character top.

    if you would like to give these a try for your family, i have a sample pack to give away to one of you readers.  just leave me a comment below telling me what your little one's favorite character top would be.  i'll choose a winner november 28, 2011, using  must be a us resident and 18 year or older to enter.

    i received a free sample pack and the the information from in-zone brands for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011


    congratulations, atarah.  since you were the only one to leave a comment, you win the last pass to the toy and game fair!  just leave me a comment with your email so i can email you the pass.

    for the rest of you, don't forget this coupon.  we'll be there on saturday, so hopefully we can see some of you there (and if anyone wants to come along as a mother's helper, i'll be solo and would appreciate the help!).

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    that's how you use heelys shoes!

    my intention was to practice and practice until i became really good at wearing (and using) heelys ($54.99) so that i could write all about how heelys have changed my life; how i wear them every day when i go to pick up the kids at the bus stop; how i wear them around the house to while distributing clean laundry, putting away toys for the umpteenth time or chasing after lilianna.

    unfortunately, i have yet to figure out how to use the wheel parts of heelys without completely falling over or, worse, looking like a total doofus. thankfully, bill was willing to cram his toes into my shoes and show us how it is really done.

    bill really likes the idea of these for house shoes.  while clearing the table after supper, he can roll to and from the table while barely expending any energy.  thankfully for me, it is possible to wear these shoes both with and without the wheels so, until i'm really ready to get my game on with the wheels, i can still wear them around the neighborhood as a fashion statement.  it is actually very easy to make the switch from wheels to no wheels, using the handy-dandy tool that comes with the shoes.

    normally we would think of these as shoes for teens and tweens, but i want to challenge you this holiday season to think about an adult in your life who might really enjoy having a pair of heelys for getting around.  obviously such a person needs to think like a trendsetter.  once people see how great heelys are for getting around, more and more adults will want them for themselves.  imagine how easily moms could travel around the grocery store (i even think i might manage them if i had the shopping cart to hold me up!).  heelys have the possibility of making life a whole lot more simple, efficient and fun.

    here are a few facts and tidbits of information:  heelys have a mimalist design that features clean, sleek lines.  this means you can make a fashion statement while tootling around the mall.  they have a light-weight repstop nylon upper and high frequency molded logo on the heel overlay.  everyone will know that you have the real deal, not some cheap knock-off that will fall apart after a few wears.  i don't know what this means, but i find it impressive that they have a faux vulcanized wrap with ninja star bottom, as well as a fats low profile wheel with ABEC 1 bearings (how cool is that!?!?).

    if you've begun to think of a trendsetter or two who might be interested in finding a pair of these under the tree, heelys is throwing a black friday special!  between november 25 and november 28, buy any pair of heelys, get the second pair for $25. or buy a heelys nano inline footboard, and get a pair of shoes for $25, and get free ground shipping on all orders!

    there are a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from.  if you can't think of an adult who would like these, they make plenty of kid-friendly versions as well.  i know zoe would love to find these under the tree this christmas for her.  now that she's seen bill wearing them around, she wants a pair more than ever!

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

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    playtex snacker and easy stack bowls (with giveaway)

    this is the song i feel like singing every day...

    "cheerios here, cheerios there,
    cheerios almost everywhere,
    cheerios near, cheerios far,
    cheerios in my car..."  (sung to the tune of jim gill's, "driving here, driving there")

    i love to give lilianna cheerios and other cereals for a snack, but i hate to find them all over the house.  and when i say "all over," i really mean all over.  i have found cheerios in the bathroom, in our bed, and in the toilet (i really don't even want to know).

    playtex® has heard the cries, groans and moans of moms and dads who are tired of finding snack food crushed and scattered throughout the house.  they have come up with a new twist ‘n click™ flip top snacker.  we have been using ours for a few weeks now, i absolutely love it.  unlike some other snack cups we've tried, this one comes with a clicking lid.  i can fill it up, twist on the lid until i hear it click, then unsnap the top part of the lid and click it into the bottom,  lilianna can easily reach in and get her food without spilling (too much).  then when she's done, i flip the lid back to the top and seal it up until we need it again.  while she still drops a few cheerios, compared to our previous situation, this now seems minimal.  usually just a couple come out so she can easily pick them up herself right away, before i step on them!

    when i need to bring something more substantial for her to have for breakfast or lunch, i love the new twist ‘n click™ easy stack bowls.  after too many times of discovering i didn't get the lid on all the way for some of our other bowls, i appreciate hearing the click with these bowls so i know that the food will be safely kept inside.  these bowls have been great for snacks for tessa and tate too.  they love the size and shape.  i love being able to put a lid on them when needed.  the lids and bowls stack together for easy storage, which makes me feel better about collecting extras.

    i have been enjoying my flip top snackers and easy stack bowls so much, i'm excited to be able to offer a set to one of you readers.  just leave a comment below telling me which is the food you most commonly find underfoot at your house.  i will choose a winner on november 21, 2011 using  must be 18 to enter; united states residents only.

    i received a set of playtex®  twist ‘n click™ easy stack bowls and twist ‘n click™ flip top snackers for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

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