Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aqua Sand Review

Aqua Sand Creation Kit - Mermaid
My kids watch more Nickelodeon than is probably recommended or appropriate.  And because of this, they see a plethora of ads for toys and things that they feel that they desperately need to have.

I am heartened that they are starting to realize that the things that they see on TV are not always as fun as they are made out to be.

There was a breakthrough starting with the notable Bendaroos experience.  They are fun.  But not change-your-entire-life fun like they make them out to be in the ads.

Then there was our experience with the Touch N Brush Hands Free Toothpaste Dispenser.  Tater was quite desperate for that one.  He hounded me daily for about a month before I found it at a store so that I wouldn't have to pay some crazy amount of shipping.  And he was SO happy when I finally brought it home, but then our toothpaste tubes wouldn't fit.  And it leaked. Crushing disappointment.

Aqua Sand Creation Kit Ocean AdventureOur most recent foray into the land of toys-advertised-on-TV-that-must-be-aquired-immediately was AquaSand.  Tater wanted to order it from the TV, but I talked him into waiting until we saw it in a store.  But the moment he saw the kit at Target, he had to have it.  He spent a big chunk of Christmas money and was very excited to get the kit home and give it a whirl.

On TV, they show all kinds of fun designs and things that you can make with this (admittedly cool) sand that never gets wet.  Quickly Tater realized that, if he wanted to save the sand to use again, he could only use one color at a time in the water tank.  Kind of like Play-doh - you can't make the really cool stuff unless you are ready to give up on keeping the colors separate.

Clearly this limits how much fun design-making you can do, but he still seems to enjoy the process of squirting the sand into the water tank and then fishing it out and funneling it back into the bottle to start all over again.

I don't know what the ingredients are, but it is strangely mesmerizing to see the sand emerge from underwater completely dry.  So weird.

I think the allure wore off after the first 10 times that he dumped all of the sand in and out, and in and out...etc.  And I am not sure it was worth the $19.95 he paid for it.  But he isn't complaining, so I guess he thinks it was.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Gift of Giving

If you are like me and look around at the heaps of toys and wonder what in the heck your kids need for Christmas, here is a great idea that will make you, and them, feel better about the world.

Oxfam America
offers the opportunity to give specific gifts (not just cash) to people around the world who need help getting their families and communities out of poverty. This is along the lines of the whole "teach a man to fish" philosophy. But more like, "if you give a farmer some chickens..."

According to their website, it works like this:

1) Pick your Gift: Browse the online catalog, and find a gift for your friend or loved one. With over 60 items to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect gift. (Example: $40 for a dozen baby chicks)

2) What you Get: You’ll receive a free card with the image of your specific gift. You can personalize the card online and have it sent directly to your friend or loved one.

Or you can have the card delivered to you to write your own message. All Unwrapped donations are tax deductible and you will get a receipt.

3) Where it Goes: Working with communities, Oxfam listens to what people tell them will help them change their lives. Whether it’s a dozen chicks or school uniforms, they fund what’s needed most.

Your donation will go to the people who need it, and where it will have the greatest impact: to improve the lives of people living in poverty.

4) How it Helps: Oxfam America is committed to creating lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. It’s a big job. But they’re not alone.

They rely on like-minded people like you to help them give poor people the support they need to change their lives.

In exchange for sharing this information, Oxfam is donating a dozen chickens on our behalf*. I am sure the kids, especially Tater, would prefer that they came and lived here for a little while. But they will go to someone who can raise them and then sell their eggs

Sprout and I were talking earlier today about people who live in circumstances that can cause them to make questionable decisions in order to take care of themselves and their families. (In response to her questions about why so many of the stories of crime that are being covered during current events at school seem to take place in the city.) Hard concept to introduce to a child. Both she and Tater needed a definition of "circumstances". I think that participating in a gift like this that helps to change someone's circumstances for the better could help her (and him) feel better about the world.

That is a great gift to be able to give my kids. And, no batteries!

*I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Oxfam America Unwrapped and received a credit for a gift on the Oxfam site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ultimate Laziness

I am all about convenience.

I only buy "just add water" pancakes.

I buy pre-shredded cheese. I don't even own a shredder.

I haven't bought a whole head of lettuce in years. I like the salad in a bag version.

Ditto baby carrots and carrot chips...why peel if you don't have to?

I do draw the line at "Fast Franks". I mean, how slow is a regular hot dog? Is the effort to put the hot dog IN the bun seriously too much for some people?

"I could really go for a hot dog, if only it wasn't for all that time I would spend putting it in the bun. Far too exhausting...I guess I will starve."

Does that happen???

Anyway, I have similar issues with the idea of pre-made PB&J. How hard is it to make a PB&J?

And yet - my kids have great affection for Uncrustables, the Smucker's version of pre-made PB&J. So much so that when I told them they would be in their lunches today (thanks to a generous coupon from Mom Central), there was much rejoicing.

Tater's first reaction was "But I don't LIKE peanut butter and jelly!" (He's a Fluff man.) But when I clarified that these were the round, crustless kind, he said "Oh!" and commenced his happy dance.

Sprout was on board right away. "I LOVE THOSE!", she proclaimed.

I had planned to get them the new wheat version. The kids, like all kids, LOVE white bread, but I try not to give it to them all that frequently.

Makes them too happy. Can't have that.

Unfortunately, the only ones I could find (after checking two grocery stores) were the regular white bread type.

Remind me sometime to tell you how much I LOVE the opportunity to visit multiple grocery stores to find all of the things I want. What fun!

Looking at the ingredient list for the wheat version, it is mostly white flour anyway - so pretty much the same nutritionally (3g of fiber v. 2g in the white version). I would consider these to be a "treat" anyway, so I will try to relax my overwhelming desire to whine about the partially hydrogenated soybean oil and the high fructose corn syrup. Those are all cool in a treat. Occasionally. See how relaxed and uncontrolling I am being? See??

Bottom line, the kids LOVE these. And it is insanely (like I question my sanity the whole time) easy to throw these into a lunch box. And you know the kids will eat them. And smile about it the whole time. And make all of the other kids jealous. And be the king/queen of the cafeteria. And grow up to be president.

Oh, carried away for a second there. You get the idea. Happy kids.

If you want to make your kids happy, you should go to for a chance to win a FREE box of four cute little round sandwiches.

Then the next day you can go back to the 100% Whole Wheat Bread and natural peanut butter and...well, Fluff.

Don't look at me like that.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Smucker’s Uncrustables and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Butterfly Treehouse

We got this...
And then we got this...

Get the full story over here...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brain Noodles

We went out for ice cream a few weeks ago and wandered into Becker's Teacher Supply Store. This is a surprisingly fun store that makes me long to be a teacher so I can decorate bulletin boards and have bins of little bears to teach counting with.

Then I remember the part where there would be a bunch of kids that aren't my kids and I am over the whole teacher fantasy.

But I still get sucked into all of the cool STUFF at the teacher store!

This time I got caught in the vortex of these HUGE pipe-cleaner-like things called Brain Noodles. They came in different colors and patterns and are really huge (like maybe an inch across?) and fluffy. We got the striped ones (as shown in the picture there). They were $14, which is admittedly insane. But I was hopeful that they would be SO FUN that I wouldn't continually question my decision.

You get 12 Noodles in the set, and really decent directions for how to make a few different projects.

Tater and I made this tiger. He insisted that we use the non-matching noodles. I squelched my control-freak tendencies and followed his wishes - but it would have been way cuter if it was all one pattern. Sorry, Tater.

We also made this flower. And Tater made a bunch of letters (that spelled out "I [heart] Mom").

I [heart]ed him right back...

Sprout got in on the action and made some huge contraption that used ALL of the noodles. This resulted in some disagreements about the appropriate distribution of resources. I was unable to get pictures due to my refereeing duties during the dispute. But let's just say - it ended up half the size it started out.

I guess maybe part of the assessment of how much fun a toy is could be the level of grabby-ness it inspires in the children. More hoarding = more fun?

When we were done creating, we untwisted everything and put the Noodles back in the original box for next time. They were relatively undamaged in the process and I love anything that can fit back in the box it came in for storage.

So, all in all I would give Brain Noodles a thumbs up - although I do still question the sanity of paying $14 for 12 pipe cleaners!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


If you let your kids watch Nickelodeon, you know about Bendaroos. You have most likely experienced merciless begging and pleading for Bendaroos.

I feel your pain.

I too was begged. I was handed the phone and instructed to order. I was told how fun they were. How we must have them.

I was resistant. They were $19.99 + shipping. Which seems steep for wax-covered strings.

Then I found them on Amazon for $16 and had a gift card and got them for a total of $8 out of pocket - which seemed more reasonable to me.

They arrived in the mail today and Tater was so happy that he got all huggy and told me I was the best mommy ever. Which was so totally worth $8.

The kids busted open the box and didn't do much with them actually...migrated toward the TV after a little while.

I lured them back with the little booklet of projects and Tater and I made this cool guy with balloons, while Sprout attempted to cover the box with Bendaroos - unsuccessfully, but she seemed to be enjoying the attempt.

These are strangely fun, and yet sticky and icky. Sure to be a hit with the kids - although, as most things are, not as fantastically jump-out-of-the-box super fun as the commercial makes them sound.

The commercial (and box) suggest that you could stick these to the wall with no staining. Considering the haze of wax on my kitchen table and hands, I am not buying that claim and not allowing these on my walls.

And oh I am looking at Amazon and they are all priced at MORE than the commercial! Rude! I did see them this morning at Bed, Bath and Beyond (part of the "beyond"...) so you can at least save the shipping if the begging is getting to you!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coolest Mom - EVER!

A couple of weeks ago, a box arrived on our front step.

The kids love it when boxes come, unless the boxes have boring things like makeup in them (I love those boxes).

But this time, it was an especially good box.
It had Guitar Hero for DS in it.
TWO of them!!

Can you say "A mom with a blog is a COOL mom!" How about "thank you Mom Central for making me very popular around here for a few days"?

I don't usually get picked for the cool reviews. But this time, I did. Yay me!!

So, in our box was Guitar Hero: Modern Hits and Guitar Hero: Decades - each including the cool adapter thing for the DS. One for each child. No fighting. Yay for Guitar Hero!!

We have been rocking the Guitar Hero for Wii for a few months. I am especially excellent on the my mind anyway. Considering how fun that has been, the kids were super enthusiastic to try this new version.

Sprout was immediately completely addicted. She is generally all about accessories and the little plug-in fingerboard with a pocket for the "pick" was completely up her alley. She played for literally hours straight. Notice in the picture, she is playing WHILE watching TV - a multi-media extravaganza!

I eventually had to resort to threats of throwing the DS away if she didn't turn it off. I wouldn't (probably), but apparently it was convincing enough to tear her away, albeit temporarily.

I am not sure how troubled I should be that her favorite song is "Dirty Little Secret" - that's probably my own issue, right?

Tater was less enamoured of the DS version.

First, he's a lefty and was very upset that the game wasn't going to work for him. But VOILA, there is a lefty setting so no problem! Then it was hard for him to hold the game and push the buttons at the same time - small hands. And, he isn't all that proficient at the Wii version, resorting to the "beginner" mode, which doesn't require the pushing of the colored buttons. Alas, the DS version doesn't have that mode - so it was sort of over his head. I expect that he will eventually be into it, but for now, he is leaving it up to his sister.

Mike and I attempted the "competition" mode, which was sort of fun. You play one song on two machines. It was odd that it seemed to want us to take turns, so I never really got into the "groove" of the song and was completely horrible at the game. Yeah, it was that groove thing...not just incompetence on my part.

Couldn't be! I ROCK! Right?

I also felt a little carpal-tunnel-ish holding the thing in my hand at a weird angle - but I could have just been doing it wrong.

I should try it a few more times - maybe I can work out that groove thing and then Sprout and I can bond over our shared passion for Guitar Hero. Maybe we can go on the road...

She is still playing every chance she gets. And since we have been lax in our summer schedule this week, she has had quite a few chances.

Rock on Sprout!!