Friday, December 21, 2012

"sticky" situations in our house

i have been trying to give our house a cleaning overhaul in time for the holidays.  there are dust monsters (much bigger than dust bunnies) hiding under all kinds of furniture in our house.  laundry (both dirty and clean) is piled up like twin mountains in our laundry area, and the kids are complaining about being out of socks.  the situation is dire.

unfortunately, trying to clean with kids around is like trying to stop niagara falls from falling.  i feel like every room i clean, they go behind me and mess things up again.  it is a little discouraging.

i have decided the best thing to do is corral the kids in one room, while working on the others.  then, we all work together to clean up the final room (the kids just love that!).  

do you have tips for how to deal with "sticky situations" with kids?  wet ones is running a contest on facebook for us to share our best tips for cleaning up messes.  they are giving away an ipad mini or tickets to six flags.  check it out here.  it only takes a few minutes (i did it myself).  just think how happy you will be that you had to clean up that mess if you win one of these prizes!

i participated in a campaign on behalf of mom central consulting for wet ones. i received a promotional item as thanks for my participation. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

holiday gift guide: stocking stuffers

at the chicago toy and game fair, we had the opportunity to meet a real inventor.  have you ever wished that you had more versatility with your legos?  if you haven't, you had better believe your kids have!  greyson had this problem, and he decided to do something about it.  he invented reusable, removable and restickable cling decals for legos.  each package comes with a sheet of decals related to a different theme.  you can buy home, pets, signs, metro, space, transport, rescue, splats, shops or all of the above! you can stick a dog to a house, create an oil spill or provide various signs for your shop.  i love that these are completely reusable and give my kids flexibility and versatility for all their lego creations (they work for other plastic bricks as well).

if you are a fan of settlers of catan, you probably familiar with mayfair games.  they have a crazy little game called, "le boomb."  this game is appropriate for 2 to 16 or more players.  it last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.  it is small and portable, with only four rules.  players roll a die to see if the bomb stays, gets passed or explodes.

we have a lot of puppets, but we have yet to try the "puppet on a stick" by educational insights.  these are very sturdy and well made.  the puppets' mouths move with a small lever near the bottom.  i think these are a lot of fun for puppet shows.  i'm looking forward to seeing what kind of stories my kids can come up with using these.  they come in a package of three.  (educational insights also has great ideas for teaching units, whether you are a teacher in a classroom or if you homeschool.  i received a few trial items, and i have been intrigued to see how i can incorporate them into our own home learning).  

for awhile now, pillow pets have been must-have items for my kids.  everyone now has their own pillow pet.  unfortunately, they can get a little bit...yucky...if the kids sleep on them every night.  this is where petjamas saves the day.  they are "pajamas" designed for pillow pets that come in a variety of colors and textures.  tessa's pegasus has seen better days, so i'm excited to get her a pair of pajamas for her friend so she can enjoy sleeping with her again.  they are easy to put on and remove so you can throw them in the washing machine any time they need to get less...yucky.

if your kids have collected as many silly bandz as you ever want them to have, you should definitely turn to floppets.  like jibbitz for crocs, these are (adorable) rubbery icons that are attached to velcro bands, instead of a rubber button.  this means they can be attached to a wide variety of things.  they can go in your hair, on your backpack, on flip-flops or sneakers, on a bracelet, be worn as a ring,  on a pencil and/or notebook, or even in a buttonhole.  these will make great stocking stuffers for anyone on your list.

i received a sample of each of these products through my involvement at the chicago toy and game fair (to which i received free passes).  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: games (w/giveaway)

we had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend the toy and game fair.  this has become a favorite yearly event for us now.  we love getting to see (and play with) that newest and most fabulous toys and games on the market (at least, that's what we tell ourselves!).

here are some of our favorites:

from wiggity bang, we tried out magic feather.  it is described as "a nutty rumpus of a game for kids and families."  what i like about it is that it is a board game that encourages activity and actions so my littler ones don't have to sit for a long time.  "magic feather develops creativity and imagination; helps build problem-solving, story-telling, counting, reading and map skills; encourages physical activity; and exercises the sense of humor!"  players move around a magical neighborhood, trying to stay ahead of "pesky crows."  players have challenges like pretending to be a cat that swims, or having a conversation where you and another player talk like crows.  i'm looking forward to getting the kids to play this all together this holiday season.
wiggity bang has another game that i am personally interested in:  quao.  "what is quao you ask? quao (pronounced ‘cow') is the absolute, supreme ruler of an unruly wasteland at the edge of civilization where attempts at democracy are futile. quao is the ultimate dictator — an evil bovine with secret rules.
"what does it mean to be quao?  being quao means you know the rules and everyone else has to figure them out. as you play this fast and fun card game, you'll be challenged to discard all your cards first to win each round, as you try to become the quao."  i love dictator games!  i think this one would be tons of fun for all the cousins this holiday season.

you've probably heard of bananagrams by now, but did you know how many different new games there are now?  you can get jumbo bananagrams, double bananagrams and foreign bananagrams (what a great way for students to practice their foreign language learning!).  they have also added a few more fruits to the mix.
appletters lets early readers practice spelling words as everyone works to build a word worm.  whoever gets rid of all their letters first, wins.  as kids develop more confidence, they can play some of the other variations of the game.
this is also true for the game pairs in pears.  each bag comes with four sets of the alphabet, each with a different pattern.  this game has a lot of variations.  tate and i played by letting me make a word with my set of letters, and having him look for the matching letters with his own set of letters.  this was a great way for him to practice reading as well as to reinforce letter recognition.
tessa really likes the game zip-it, which also comes in a jumbo version now.  in this game, two players each get seven cubes with letters on them.  they race to see who can use all their cubes to make connected words first.  when you have used up all your cubes, you can keep score with the zippers on the bag.  the first one to score ten wins.

my favorite of the bananagrams games is fruitominoes.  even lilianna managed to join me and tate in this game!  the dominoes have different numbers of fruit on them (two bananas, three apples, four oranges, etc.).  you play just like regular dominoes, but the fruit pictures make it easy even for kids who can't count yet to play.  lilianna could see if she had bananas or oranges and make a match.
of course you won't want to miss game recently nominated as toy of the year by the toy industry association, don't rock the boat.  players take turn balancing pirate penguins on the boat.  be careful not to let any penguins fall off the boat!  zoe has actually asked for this game from santa this year.  i think that we'll all have fun playing this together.
for the younger set, goliath games has a number of great choices.  lilianna and i had the opportunity to play sonny the seal at the toy and game fair.  each person takes a turn trying to throw rings over sonny's head.
tate seems ready for something a little more challenging, so this year he will be getting pop! the pig.  players take turn feeding the pig, trying to be careful not to make his shirt pop open.  the kids like games that have more than just a board.  pop! the pig definitely fits the bill!
tate is just getting his first loose tooth.  we'll be getting a visit from the tooth fairy soon, i'm sure.  players in this game travel around the board trying to collect lost beth.  when they put the tooth under the pillow, the tooth is magically transformed into gold.  whoever collects four gold coins first, wins.  i'm looking forward to seeing the kids faces when the tooth changes into gold!

zoe spent quite a bit of time checking out the games she was most interested in herself.  she tried out a lot of different games, but when she left, there were two that she asked for in particular.  she really enjoyed the game, oversight.  the goal of the game is get four of your game tokens in a row.  for each turn, players can either place one of their token on the board, or slide an entire row or column of pieces to line up colors or mess up a player's game plan.  zoe is getting more and more intrigued by these strategy games, and this is a great one for her to practice careful and calculated strategy.

the other game zoe specifically requested was albert's insomnia.  this is a great game to help kids practice and develop their math skills.  tessa is just learning her multiplication tables so i hope zoe will let tessa play too so she can practice.  kids can play this alone or the whole classroom can get involved. players start with two cards with different numbers on them.  they try to come up with a math operation that will let them achieve the answer on the card in front of them.  they then progress to three cards, then four and so on.  i played a game similar to this in junior high that i really enjoyed.  i'm looking forward to testing my skills with zoe.
finally, i am always looking for games that can travel with us, since we spend so much time in the car.  tangrams by edustic is a great option.  each game comes with a variety of colored shapes, and laminated cards for each player.  in guess what! players create pictures with their shapes and try to get the other players to guess what they have created.  in pattern smart, players compete to copy the pattern from a flip chart booklet.  finally, in tangram smart, players compete to create the patterns in the flip chart booklet.

the nice thing about the tangrams pieces is that they can stick to a wide variety of surfaces.  the kids can play with them on the car window, the bathroom mirror or any glossy surface.  they don't leave any residue.  i really hope this helps to keep multiple kids occupied on our ten hour trip to tennessee from michigan.

i'm so happy to say that i have a tangrams game to offer to one of you!  just leave me a comment below telling me which game you are most interested in purchasing for a family member this holiday season.  i will choose a winner on sunday night at 8.00 p.m.

i received free copies of most of these games, as well as free passes to the chicago toy and game fair.  regardless, the views and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

princess stories: real bible stories of God's princesses review

we gave this book to tessa last year for christmas, and i have to admit i was a little skeptical.  i am nervous about all the princess stuff that surrounds our girls all the time.  while i was intrigued with the idea of letting my princess-loving daughter think about biblical princesses as opposed to princesses from that other popular industry, i wondered if the book would provide an accurate interpretation of the true biblical stories.

we ended up reading through this book as part of our family devotions and we loved it!  it brings to life even the most obscure of women in the Bible.  princesses, slaves, heroes and not-so-much heroes all have a story to tell and a lesson for all of us.

like the my princess bible, the last story is about the reader as God's princess.  this is a wonderful way to highlight how loved each of us is by God and what it means to live like God's princess.

my only qualm about this book is that all the drawings of princesses are of thin, beautiful women.  sarah is pictured with white hair, but she looks like a very fit 40-year-old.

i still highly recommend this book.  it was great for our family, and it is great for tessa to read on her own.

i received a free copy of this book from the tyndale blog network for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

start off your holidays with a bit of sweetness: cali candy cane doll (review and giveaway)

edited to add:  congratulations, lili!  you won the christmas groovy girls doll!

in december, i will be posting a variety of holiday gift guides describing some of the toys and games that we have been learning about and asking for lately.  i thought it would be fun to start off the holiday gift guide writing with a fun, little giveaway.

isn't she sweet?

this doll is our family's first official groovy girl.  my older girls always liked the groovy girls, but never somehow, they never found one under the tree.  i'm thinking that lilianna needs a toy to call her own, something the girls haven't already played with and collected (and dirtied).  i think groovy girls is a good choice for her.

these dolls are great because they satisfy a girl's fashion consciousness (i'm sorry if that sounds "gendered" but i can already see this consciousness with two-year-old lilianna) without the sexiness of a barbie doll.  her skin is a nice, soft plush so she's nice and cuddly for sleeping with at night.  her hair is pretty and curly without getting too tangly or frizzy.  her dress comes off (with velcro) but not her hat (unless you want to snip the threads holding it in place).  she is listed for ages three and up.

cali candy cane is pretty holiday-focused, with her green and red outfit, so i'm trying to decide if we will keep her out year-round or if she will just make special appearances at christmastime.  i'm also considering using her as our "elf on a shelf."  i'm sure that offends the purists out there, but since we don't have an elf on a shelf, and i don't really want to pay for one, i thought she would make a fun alternative.

i have a cali candy cane to give away to one of you faithful readers.  hopefully you can find a sweet, little girl to share her with, or make her a part of your own holiday decorating.  just visit the manhattan toy website and tell me one other toy you would love to share with a special someone (i know someone who would also love a baby stella).  i will choose a winner using on thursday, december 6. usa residents only; must be 18 years old or older to enter.

if you just can't wait to win the giveaway, you can purchase your own cali candy cane doll (or choose from a wide variety of other groovy girl dolls) at the manhattan toy website or from your local specialty store.

i received a cali candy cane doll from manhattan toy (plus one to give away) for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, November 19, 2012

treat greeting cards have a treat for you! (free offer)

in an age when we "shoot" emails, facebook or tweet people, it can be nice to find a special something in the physical mailbox.

treat is shutterfly's new greeting card brand.  they want to make it easy for us all to create and send greeting cards.  they have cards for holidays, birthdays, congratulations, thank yous and just about any other occasion you can think of.
with the holiday season now upon us, treat wants to "treat" you to a free card to send to someone special.  do you want to say "thank you" for a great thanksgiving?  spread some holiday cheer?  celebrate the season's first snowfall?  now you can create and send a personalized greeting card for free.

this offer is only good for monday, november 19 and tuesday, november 20 so head on over and make someone's day extra special.  just use the code: TREATBLOGR when you check out.

happy thanksgiving, everyone!

i am receiving compensation for sharing this offer with you.  nevertheless, i love the card selection at treat and i believe you will too.  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

a pinypon party every day (review)

if there is one thing we love as a family, it is being able to share with others.

recently we were given the opportunity to share pinypon dolls with a whole group of our friends.  have you heard of pinypon dolls before?  we hadn't either, but now they are one of our new favorite things.

pinypon dolls come with a variety of accessories.  you can change everything about your doll:  hair, face, shirt, bottoms, along with a wide range of flowers, barrettes, "jewels" or bows.  of course, the more dolls you collect, the more choices you have.

i always appreciate toys that can keep all four kids engaged and occupied together.  while the pinypon dolls are marketed to girls, there is one little boy doll that consoled tate when he had to miss out on the party.  his little boy doll has had lots of fun adventures with his sisters' dolls.  not only can you collect the pinypon dolls, but the dolls can shop at the mall or take the caravan to the beach or invite all their friends to stay at the hotel.

the girls had so much fun at the party, trying out the different accessories and changing their dolls' faces.  at home, all four kids have had fun coming up with fun adventures for their dolls.

check out the pinypon website for special offers and coupons.

of course, we wouldn't want to leave out lilianna.  she had the opportunity to try out a nenuco doll, as well as share one with a friend.
the doll is cute and comes with a potty chair and bottle.  of course, any baby can make lilianna and her friends happy!

here are some other fun photos from the party:

you can also find pinypon on facebook and twitter and nenuco on facebook and twitter.

i received 12 pinypon dolls, 2 nenuco dolls, and 2 pinypon caravans to share with the girls for this party.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ringling bros and barnum and bailey presents: dragons! delivers thrills and skills

last night, found dragons "tatianna," "may belle" and "bianca" wrapped lovingly in children's arms.

this morning, swords were flying to defend our honor, our home and our happiness.

can you tell that we were at the circus?

the theme of this years ringling bros. and barnum and bailey circus presents: dragons has inspired a lot of creativity and imagination around here.  thankfully, so far nobody wants to set a circle of swords on fire and leap through it.

during the martial arts display of the shaolin troupe, i leaned over to tate and said, "please don't try that at home."

"i can do that," he assured me confidently.

hopefully he just meant jump around and wave a stick, not the wrapping steel rebar around his neck part, or the laying on top of a very pointy spear part.
we have been to the circus many times now, but every year, i find myself gasping in awe or holding my breath with fear as i watch the performers in the magnificent acts.

some favorites for us this year definitely included tatianna and the cossacks riding their horses around a 46 foot diameter ring at speeds more than 25 miles per hour, performing all kinds of amazing acrobatic skills and feats, including climbing under the horse's belly while he continues to gallop.  thankfully, everyone made it out of the ring safely!
for tate, the show just wouldn't be complete without the tigers.  while we missed taba, our favorite tiger tamer this year, alexander lacey amazed us all with his courage in the face of so many snarling tigers and lions.  i still say it is hard to think of anything more majestic than the king of the beasts, the mighty lion with his shaggy mane.
i was a little nervous about attending the show on a school night.  it does seem a bit long.  we ended up leaving during the intermission, in spite of the kids' cries and complaints.

i thought the best part of the show was during the "all access pre-show."  we were there early, we had a front row position at one of the rings.  we saw the performing poodles, including one hilarious (but very naughty) jackson.  i could completely identify with the trainer, trying to keep a happy face for the public while wanting to let that naughty and rebellious child, er. dog, know exactly who was boss.  we watched a goat practice riding on a pony, and, best of all, say kelly ann, the elephant, and newcomer, may belle, up close and personal.

the kids and i had a great time talking to some of the performers.  i learned that when viktoryia medeiros of the medeiros troupe hangs from the ceiling from her hair, it actually does hurt, "some days worse than others, just like with life."  knowing that made me appreciate her performance even more.  on the other hand, tessa asked a clown if it hurts when they slap each other and learned that they don't actually make contact at all.  i'm sure that helped her relax a little more during the clowns' performance (my personal favorite).

overall, once again, the circus was a highlight for the kids.  when asked what they were thankful for on the way home (as we get ready for halloween), the kids said two things:  1) i'm thankful my mom is a blogger, and 2) i'm thankful for the circus.

you can't go wrong with that!

my family and i received free tickets to the performance.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

a new favorite around here: jakks pacific's monsuno toys (review)

as you can imagine, with four kids around, we love toys.  we particularly love toys that are fun for a wide range of ages (in our case, ages 2 to 10), that are attractive to both genders, and, as an added bonus, encourage learning while having fun.

oddly enough, we have found the perfect combination of all those traits in the jakks pacific monsuno toys.  the monsuno cards and toys offer a wide variety of ways to play.

you can collect the packs of cards and play just with the monsoon card packs.  or, you can buy the collectible metal cores and play that way.  or, our kids' favorite, you can collect the two-packs of cores and figurines and play against each other with those, or, as tate currently loves to do, act out all kinds of stories and adventures with the figurines.  you can learn the monsuno story or find instructions for each of the game versions, as well as a list of retailers, on the monsuno website.

however you play, there is some math involved, as players need to figure out attack numbers and power loss, all while keeping score.

we had a gathering of the cousins this summer (all of whom were a variety of ages), and we spent a significant amount of time having a monsuno party.  a good time was had by all.

if your kids really want to get into the storyline of the game, they can watch the monsuno shows on nicktoons as well.

the monsuno toy collection will make great stocking stuffers for my kids this year; i can anticipate many more hours of (quiet!) play while they play the games!

i received a monsuno party pack to share with our cousins and friends (some of whom are pictured here) in exchange for writing this review.  regardless, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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