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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

lions, and tigers, and...dragons?! ringing bros. and barnum and bailey presents: dragons! chicago

every year at this time, the kids start wondering when it will be circus time.  i'm happy to announce that the circus is on its way to chicago and this year we'll be seeing...dragons!

to celebrate "the year of the dragon," ringling bros. and barnum & bailey®  will bring "dragon tribes" from all over the world to display their amazing skills in a circus "tournament of champions."  each tribe will prove that they have "virtues of courage, strength, wisdom and heart to arouse dragons which appear right before your very eyes"!  the whole performance is presided over by ringmaster jonathan lee iverson, the first african american (and the youngest) ringmaster in the history of  ringling bros. and barnum and bailey®.

the shows are running throughout the month of november.  from november 1 to november 11, you can find the show at the all-state arena in rosemont:

from november 14 to november 25, you can see the show at the united center in chicago:

these are the ticket prices:  
$90.00 (Circus Celebrity)
$60.00 (Front Row)
$50.00 (Front Row)
$40.00 (VIP)

you can purchase tickets here.  use code MOM when you check out to save 40% on weekday shows and 20% on all weekend shows.  the good news is that parking is free at all shows.

you won't want to miss the all-access pre-show.  doors open one hour before the show starts.  you can meet the stars of the show, try out your clown skills, get autographs, watch the elephant paint a picture, and get an early glimpse of the acts you'll see in the show.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

green giant steamers: edible vegetables in a snap (w/giveaway)

congratulations, nicole-lynn, you won the giveaway!

i will admit that my kids are better than average at eating a variety of vegetables, but i promise you that their vegetables are always the last thing they feel like eating.  every day i try to figure out more ways to get them to eat more vegetables--and, if i'm really being honest, i could stand to eat a few more vegetables myself.

with this in mind, i'm looking forward to giving the new green giant seasoned steamersTM a try.  these flavorful vegetables are made "without a drop of sauce." these vegetables are made solely with "chef-inspired" seasonings with "premium cut vegetable blends."

your family can choose from six varieties:  mediterranean blend, tuscan seasoned broccoli, brussel sprouts with sea salt and cracked pepper, honey roasted sweet corn, honey dijon carrots and backyard grilled potatoes.

if you think you would like to give the new green giant seasoned steamersTM a try, you can get a coupon for $1 off here.  the month of october is a great time to give these a try because green giant has a "love it or your money back" offer going on.  just go to green giant's website to check it out.

i also have a fun gift pack including a coupon for a free bag of seasoned steamersTM for you to try.  just leave me a comment below telling me your favorite way to eat vegetables, along with your email address.  i will choose a winner using on october 26, 2012.  must be 18 years old and a us resident to enter.

disclosure:  the coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by green giant through myblogspark. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

games and toys galore at the chicago toy and game fair! (w/giveaway)

it is just about time for my kids' all-time, top-favorite event of the year: the chicago toy and game fair.  each year i remind them to hold off on making their christmas lists until we can see what the latest and greatest toys and games of the year are going to be.

last year, after attending the event, zoe set her heart on a remote-controlled helicopter;  lilianna got herself a smartmax magnetic building set (which everyone around here loves); i fell in love with plan toys; tate mastered the marvel slinger by upper deck; and tessa whooped us all in shake 'n' take.  i still have no idea how we managed to walk around (without bill!) for the entire day then drag our weary bodies home on the train after making our way through the crowds for the magnificent mile lights festival.

this year we are going to do things right:  we are going to get ourselves in shape for a long day of walking.  we will bring pencil and paper to make our lists and check them twice.  we will plan to attend the lights festival, rather than trying to avoid the crowds, and, most importantly of all, we will bring bill with us!

if your kids love toys and games, or you yourself are a kid at heart, you will not want to miss this event.  you can play extra large versions of your favorite games, compete in tournaments, try out brand new items that have yet to hit the market and meet the inventors of popular toys and games.

i have a weekend family-pass to give away to one of you readers.  just leave me a comment below (with your email address) telling me your favorite toy or game.  i will give away a pass for each week between now and the event.  if you don't want to leave anything up to chance, you can go ahead and purchase your pass now and get $2 off.

since we can't live in the north pole, i figure, attending the toy and game fair is the next best thing!

our family receives a free pass to the chicago toy and game fair in return for writing this post.  regardless, all the opinions expressed here are purely my own.  in fact, all of the toys and games described here were purchased by us or our families for the kids after their experience with them.

parents just want to run too! stroller 5k (w/giveaway)

how often have you heard about a really cool 5k and then looked around at your four kids and wondered, "what about them?"

or am i the only one?

if you have been looking for a way to include your whole family in your efforts to getting exercise while having fun, look no longer.  sassy moms in the city along with urba baby, growing smiles, the chicago area runners association, mix 101.9 and time out chicago kids are sponsoring a "strollers in the front" 5k run/walk to benefit npn (the neighborhood parents network).

on sunday, october 28th, you can bring your stroller(s), your crying baby, your toddler prone to tantrums or your preteen who likes to pretend she isn't capable of enjoying herself with her family.  this race has been designed from beginning to end with the family in mind.  

you will find portapotties big enough for a parent and child together, nursing stations and changing stations.  there will be a kids' dash (they get their own race bibs) and other halloween-themed activities.

registration is $35 for runners, $25 for walkers (kids under 14 participating in the 5K get a $10 discount).  the registration includes a race bib, an amazing goody bag, race t-shirt and admission to the post-event familial festival.  the kids dash starts at $15 for one child, $25 for two to five kids.
um, don't you think the dad should take a turn pushing the stroller?
she looks worn out while he appears to be fresh as a daisy...

a portion of the events net proceeds and 100% of fundraising will benefit the neighborhood parents network (NPN), a not-for-profit organization that connects a diverse community of families with the resources they need to navigate parenting in the city of Chicago.  you can learn more about the organization at  

our family is excited to do something like this together as a family.  i would love to see others of you out there with us.  i have one family-four pack to give away (2 adult runner/walker tickets and 2 kids dash tickets).  just leave a comment below with your email address.  i will choose a winner on october 21, 2012.  (must be 18 years old and us resident to enter.)
disclaimer:  join sassy moms in the city along with npn, urba baby, growing smiles, chicago area runners association, mix 101.9  and time out chicago kids for a chicago’s first and only family-focused 5k run and walk, at the “strollers in the front 5k run/walk” at montrose harbor on october 28th. i was selected to host this giveaway by sassy moms in the city and provided one complimentary race registration.

Monday, October 15, 2012

chicago children's theatre presents: harold and the purple crayon

one thing i love about living in chicago is getting to expose my kids to a wide variety of cultural events.  what i especially appreciate are those people who seem to know how to create an opportunity for kids to experience culture in a way that speaks to them at their level yet is still done with quality and attention to detail.

every production of the chicago children's theatre that i have seen fits this description.

the plays are performed with mastery and skill.  an enormous amount of creativity goes into the way the plays are performed (often with puppets, music and animation.

the production of harold and the purple crayon continues this tradition.  listen to the press release for the show:  "this imaginative musical uses breathtaking animation, inventive puppetry, video projections and live, original music to bring harold's purple-hued world to life. perfect for introducing young children to theatre, while simultaneously captivating their older companions, harold and the purple crayon will amaze, delight and entertain, while teaching youngsters that anything is possible with a crayon and a big imagination. "

i do not enjoy many of the children's movies that my kids want to watch.  but i have thoroughly enjoyed every single performance by the chicago children's theatre and it sounds like this one will be no exception.

i still remember when we received a copy of harold and the purple crayon when zoe was born.  i did not remember reading it myself when i was growing up, so i thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading it to zoe.  now all four of my kids have requested it be read to them.  i am so excited to introduce the book to them in a new theatrical experience.

if you think that you would like to take your kids to see the show (or "kidnap" some kid-friends so you can see the show yourself) check out all the possibilities for show times:

"to start, thursday is the new friday for families too, thanks to the debut of piece pizza party nights at harold and the purple crayon. starting at 5:30 pm, thursday, october 18, october 25 and november 1, families are invited to the ruth page to enjoy pre-show pizza courtesy of piece pizza, izze sparkling juices, and then see cct's chicago premiere of its new live musical based on the beloved children's books by crockett johnson at 6:30 p.m. tickets are only $20.

friday, october 19, october 26 and november 2 are pajama party nights with wishcraft at harold and the purple crayon. families can kick off the weekend at the 6:30 pm show, and enjoy a post-show party with the cast and crafty activities led by wishcraft workshop. tickets are $25. suggested attire? pajamas.

newly added thursday and friday evening shows are an expansion of chicago children's theatre's familiar slate of weekend performances for the public and weekday morning shows for school groups. the complete performance schedule for harold and the purple crayon, october 11-november 4, 2012, is:  tuesday at 10 am; wednesday at 10 am and noon; thursday at 10 am and 6:30 pm (including pre-show pizza party at 5:30 pm); friday at 10 am and 6:30 pm (including post-show pj party); saturday at 11 am and 6 pm; and sunday at 11 am.  exceptions: no 6:30 pm show on thursday, october 11. no performances saturday, october 13. press opening is friday, october 12 at 6:30 pm." 

i cannot recommend chicago children's theatre enough.  i am so happy that they have a permanent home at the 

ruth page center for the arts
1016 n. dearborn street, chicago
tickets: 872-222-9555 or  

my kids and i received complimentary tickets to the show in exchange for writing this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.  i love the productions done by this group and highly recommend them.

time to order tiny prints holiday cards (w/giveaway)

someone had a handy schedule on her blog telling us all how we could get ready for christmas with very little stress.  unfortunately, i am already behind the game, but i realized that if i go ahead on order my christmas cards now, it would save me all the stress of worrying about them arriving in time for us to fill them out and send them before christmas for a change.  what a novel concept!

i have never been good at planning ahead for things like christmas cards, but i would love for this year to be the year!

i love to send (and receive!) photo christmas cards.  the kids change so much from year to year.  i think photo christmas cards are a great way to update people about our family and the ways that everyone is growing up.  bill and i have both been happy to delegate the writing of the letter to zoe, but i think it is nice to give everyone a photo of us as well.

i can easily spend hours and hours scrolling through the choices at tiny prints. it seems like each year they come up with new and fresh designs so we don't have to send the same card every time.  this year, they have a new premium doublethickmatte paper, their most luxurious card stock yet.  i love to send a quality card at christmas, and i appreciate their affordable cost.

i am always impressed by their selection varying from traditional colors and embellishments to colors and designs with a more modern feel (i think you can tell which ones i prefer!).  there are also plenty of religious cards to choose from for both christmas and hanukkah.

check out the tiny prints special offers and promotions.  i am also happy to offer one reader $50 off your order (does not include shipping and cannot be combine with other promotions).  just leave me a comment below describing your favorite christmas card.  i will choose a winner using on october 22, 2012.
i received a promo code for myself as well as one to give away in exchange for writing this review and hosting this giveaway.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.  i would want to order my cards from tiny prints even without this offer, but i'm pleased to be able to share with you!

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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