Friday, December 30, 2011

Disney on Ice - Toy Story - Phoenix - GIVEAWAY

*Winner has been chosen & notified! A sweet family from AJ will be there opening night.  Thanks for reading!*

It's time for a giveaway!!  This will be my first giveaway of 2012, since I will choose the winner on Wednesday, January 4, 2012.

I have FOUR TICKETS to opening night of the Disney on Ice presents Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 show in Phoenix on January 18th to give away to one of my awesome, local readers!

I wrote about the show earlier this month, and also shared a great discount code!

For this giveaway, you MUST be available on January 18th in the evening to attend the show at US Airways Center in Phoenix.  Please DO NOT enter the giveaway if you are not sure if you can attend the show.

To enter this giveaway, you must CLICK HERE and type your information onto my Giveaway Entry Form.  Please enter all the information correctly in order for your entry to be included in the drawing.  I will choose a winner on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 using random.org.  YOU MUST RESPOND WITHIN 24 HOURS, or I will choose another winner.

Name of Giveaway: Toy Story Disney on Ice
Mandatory Question: Who is your favorite Toy Story character?

Good Luck!! 

*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and sharing my opinion, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld Shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-show events.  No additional compensation is provided.  All opinions are my own.*

2011 Meme

I've done this for the last 4 years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) -- so I couldn't skip this year!  If you decided to play along on your blog, leave a comment so I can read your 2011 recap.


1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Was denied entry into a foreign country.  I don't think I wrote about it on this blog, but I was denied entry into Canada a few months ago because I didn't have all the paperwork they wanted to see.  I was supposed to teach a class, but had to cancel since Customs didn't think I had enough paperwork to prove that I was there for work.  It was a stressful couple of days until I got my passport returned and was able to return to the U.S.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept 2 of my 3 resolutions.  I am still thinking about resolutions for 2011.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.  No new babies close to us in 2011.  Dear family members are working on adopting their foster child, though, so I'm excited for them!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Nobody close to me died in 2011.

5. What countries did you visit?
Canada


6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Balance

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 5 - 8 and attending the National Stuttering Conference with Nate in Fort Worth, TX.  It was a wonderful experience to travel alone with Nate, and spend time with amazing people.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Having 2 articles published in a local parenting magazine. Recovering enough to take Nate to the National Stuttering Conference in Texas. It was up in the air as to whether I would be healthy enough to go, but willpower made it happen.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Nothing I would share with the Internet :)~

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I suffered some serious kidney issues over the summer that landed me in the hospital 3 times, 2 surgeries, and flat on my back for over 6 weeks.  It came on suddenly, and it feels like I'm still catching up from the time I lost.  Health is precious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I can't think of any outstanding purchases.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My kids.  They all stepped up and were amazing taking care of each other while I was sick.  My brother, who helped immensely when I was sick.  Also, Colin who stood up to the bullies that harassed his brother.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The kids who teased and bullied Nate about his speech.  I wouldn't say appalled, but I am disappointed with both boys' teachers this year and they have definitely brought about depressed feelings.  They're just not a good fit.


14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgages, medical bills

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My parents finally moved in next door.  Our trip to CA in October and the time I was able to spend on the beach. 

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Someone Like You  For no other reason than I really liked it, and I listened to Adele's 21 album quite a bit this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) about the same; b) about the same; c) about the same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Played.  Spent time outdoors.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
worried (this never changes, does it?  Maybe 2012 should be the year I work on changing that)

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Christmas was even better this year because my parents live here now.  They are thoroughly enjoying the time they can spend with their grandkids and I love watching their relationships develop.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
Never fell out of love.

22. How many one-night stands?
None.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Top Chef, American Pickers, Storage Wars (still a reality TV junkie . . . )


24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No.

25. What was the best book you read?
A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire  I picked it up for free over a year ago, but didn't read it until a couple months ago.  Got very interested in it, and read the next 3 in quick succession.  Felt that Book 4 got really long, with too many new characters, and was too frustrated to spend the money on the fifth book.  I'm sure I will read it when either the price drops, or I can get it from the library.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I was a little slow to the party, but I fell in love with Adele this year.

27. What did you want and get?
A new wedding band.  My wedding set hasn't fit since I was pregnant with Colin, and I got a little tired of being asked if I was married -- especially when I was traveling.  Bo found an absolutely gorgeous band and gave it to me for Christmas.  OH!  And he also found us a wonderful couple that cleans our house twice a month.

28. What did you want and not get?
Can't think of anything.  I'm pretty blessed.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Dolphin Tale


30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 44 this year.  Bo was in Vegas. I think I worked. Nothing exciting.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Can't think of anything.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Simple (boring)

33. What kept you sane?
My sister. I depend on her for quite a bit, and I can always count on her even temper and cheery attitude. Traveling for work, and sleeping in quiet hotel rooms.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Mark Wahlberg.  He's still my celebrity boyfriend and I'm excited he has a new movie coming out in January.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I'm not a big political issue type of person. I have my views, and I keep them quiet for the most part -- doing what I can to further what I believe is important.  Nothing stirred me enough to prompt me to post on the Internet about it.

36. Who did you miss?
Close, intense friendships.  I think social media has watered down relationships.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met a ton of people while traveling, and teaching. Can't single out one person, but there were lots of people that made my days go by easier.


38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Work can wait, and money can always be earned.  Enjoy the people in your life.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I'm not big on quoting song lyrics . . . 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Doll Hair Rescue



This is Celia.  She is a much-loved baby in our home.  She was a gift for Lydia's first Christmas.  She also has c-r-a-z-y hair. 

I have tried to comb it, and had very little luck making her look presentable.  Lydia says she's just a "rock star."  Apparently, rock stars have crazy hair.

I saw a post on Pinterest about rescuing doll hair.  It was recommended to use a Wig Wire Brush and diluted fabric softener to tame doll tresses.

I ordered the brush a few weeks ago, but since I switched to the fabric softener granules, I didn't have any liquid fabric softener.  Today, I finally remembered to buy a bottle, as well as a small squirt bottle.

I did a half and half solution of liquid fabric softener and water and sprayed it on Celia's hair.  Then, I started brushing with the wire brush.  I ended up wetting her hair pretty thoroughly, but you can see the results below!

Next, I'm going to take on some of the Barbies in our house!





Friday, December 23, 2011

Chex Party Mix Parties! (Giveaway)

 Have you ever hosted a cookie exchange?  I confess, they seemed like a lot of work to me!  I loved this idea from Chex Cereals, though, to host a Chex Party Mix-Change!

I know Chex Mix has been around for many years, but I didn't realize that they have come up with a ton of new recipes using Chex Mix to make fun party food!  I was lucky enough to recieve a gift pack with some cereal, as well as new recipes to try out with family and friends.

This year, my parents finally moved to Arizona.  It's been the first holiday season in over a decade when we've been able to spend it together.  This was a fun thing that I could finally include my mom in!

My oldest has loved pumpkin pie since his first taste of pumpkin pie when he was a year old.  So, when I saw the Pumpkin Pie Chex Mix, I knew that I had to make it!  It takes only 15 minutes to make, and it was yummy!!  It will become a holiday staple at our house.

If you would like to host your own Chex Party Mix-Change, I have the perfect giveaway for you to enter!  You'll receive 2 boxes of Chex cereal, recipes, take-out boxes to send Chex Mix home with your guests and a $20 gift card to buy supplies!  You know the drill -- CLICK HERE to jump over to my giveaway form.  Enter the necessary information.

NAME OF GIVEAWAY: Chex
MANDATORY QUESTION: What's your favorite party food?

I'll draw a winner on Friday, January 6 from all the entries that followed the instructions.  I use random.org to choose a winning entry.  Good Luck!!



*Disclsoure:  I received a gift package like the one I am giving away, thanks to MyBlogSpark and Chex Ceereals.  All opinions are my own.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Disney on Ice - Phoenix - Discount Code!

I posted earlier this month that Disney on Ice presents Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 was coming to Phoenix next month.  I still haven't told the kids we're going, but I DO have a discount code to share with my readers!

The deal is 4 tickets for $44 with the code MOMMYDEAL!

Valid only on Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 5:30 p.m. for the $14 and $18 tickets.  You can get the discount online, at the box office, and over the phone.

In the past, some readers have had questions about how to use the code online.

Here are step-by-step instructions to use the code online at Ticketmaster:

Type Disney on Ice and click the red search button
Scroll down to any of the following showtimes:
Thursday 7:30, Friday 10:30 and 7:30, Saturday 7:30 and Sunday 5:30
Click “Find Tickets”
Go to the “Advance or Promotion Ticket Selection”
Click how many tickets you would like
Click either the $14 or $18 price level (MUST SELECT ONE OF THESE PRICES TO GET THE DEAL)
Type code: MOMMYDEAL
Click the red “Find Tickets” button
Type in the security words
Click Continue
Select Delivery method, click continue
Log in or create a Ticketmaster account, click continue
Enter payment information.  If you click under Price Details, you will see that it is an $11 ticket (plus facility fees and convenience charges)

Restrictions – no double discounts, not valid on previously purchased tickets or group sales. Additional fees apply.

Keep reading!  I'll have a giveaway by New Year's for local readers to have a chance to win tickets to opening night!!

*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and sharing my opinion, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld Shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-show events.  No additional compensation is provided.  All opinions are my own.*



Wordless Wednesday -- Tradition




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Acts of Zhu -- Christmas Donation





My kids were amazed when these boxes started arriving at our house in mid-December.  A few weeks before that, I let them know that I had applied for a chance to give away a ton of Zhu Zhu Pets to a local charity.

My kids have had a great time with Zhu Zhu Pets over the years, and we have been lucky with the chance to play with the latest and greatest toys from Cepia.  So, when Mom Select contacted bloggers seeking some who wanted to share the fun with local charities for Christmas, I was hopeful that I would be one of the chosen!

The boxes arrived over 3 days, and I piled them up in the corner.  Cepia sent a variety of Zhu Zhu Pets and accessories.  100 bloggers across the country received 100 toys to share in their local community.

The boys get out of school early on Wednesdays, and I really wanted them to be part of this donation.  When they got home, we loaded up the truck with the boxes and drove them over to our parish.  Our church was collecting gifts and food for needy families, and we were excited at the opportunity to make a huge donation.   When I stopped into the office and let them know I had a donation, they were happy to take it.  When the four of us showed up in the office piled high with boxes, they were surprised!  Even more surprised when I let them know I had more boxes in the car!

The kids were excited to show them the toys, and explain the accessories, to make sure that the kids got a great set of Zhu Zhu toys. When we left, Nate turned to me and said "That felt really good!!"  And, it reminded Colin of our project years ago of donating birthday bags (bags with cake mix, frosting, candles) and he said he would like to do that again, but add small gifts to the bags as well.

I feel very fortunate that we were able to bless our church families thanks to Cepia and MomSelect.  It was great to include the kids in such a wonderfully large donation.  It's great, too, working with companies who are dedicated to giving back to the community in large ways.  I know kids across the country were excited with their new toys, thanks to the efforts of Cepia and Mom Select.

It was a great note to end 2011, and I think it was a push for us to be more aware of the needs in our local community. 


















Sunday, December 11, 2011

Disney on Ice: Toy Story Coming to Phoenix!

There's so much excitement surrounding Christmas, I'm not telling the kids yet about Disney on Ice's show that is coming to Phoenix January 18 - 22!  BUT, you can bet when the post-holiday blues hit, they will be thrilled to hear that we'll be attending opening night!

It's hard to believe that the first Toy Story came out in 1995!  My three kids have enjoyed the movies, and when Toy Story 3 was scheduled to come out in the theaters, Bo took the kids to see Toy Story and Toy Story 2 that were running on the big screen in anticipation of Toy Story 3's release.

We have attended a number of Disney on Ice shows over the past few years, and have always had a fantastic time!  It seems that each show is better than the last, but I guess the reality is that they are all so unique and well-done that they are very enjoyable on their own.

I am eager to see how they will transfer Toy Story 3 onto the ice, and I know the kids will be excited.  Tickets went on sale yesterday through Ticketmaster.   Opening night is Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  The show runs through January 22, 2012 at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

For a sneak peek of the show, visit www.disneyonice.com and click on Toy Story 3.  Come back in a few days for a special discount code for my readers!

*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and sharing my opinion, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld Shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-show events.  No additional compensation is provided.  All opinions are my own.*

Sponsored: What's for Dinner? (Giveaway)

I sometimes have the best intentions, but the reality is that I probably plan meals one week out of 10.  The rest of the time, I fly by the seat of my pants . . . meaning, actually, that we fly by the seat of my husband's pants because he steps up to take care of dinner more often than me.

Spaghetti is one meal that EVERYONE in our family will eat (well, Colin won't eat red sauce -- but that's an easy thing to leave off)  It is definitely our go-to dinner and we probably eat it a couple times per month.

What is your go-to dinner?  Ragu has some great conversations going on over at their Facebook page.    You'll find videos, comments and plenty of ideas on what to put on the table for dinner.  Heck, I may even watch a few videos before leaving work this week and surprise Bo by making dinner myself!

Ragu gave me five $10 gift cards to give away to my readers.  All you have to do is click HERE to pop over to my giveaway entry form.  Once there, fill in your info and the specific info listed below:

Giveaway Name: What's for Dinner?
Mandatory Question: What's your Go-To dinner?  

I will let random.org help me choose a winner Friday, December 17, 2011.  You'll have a gift card in time to help you plan your New Year's Dinner -- and maybe one of your resolutions will be to plan dinners in advance.


*Disclosure: Gift cards provided by Ragu to give away to my readers.  I received a package from Ragu to help me plan dinner. (Do you think Bo called them?)  No additional compensation was provided.*

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- random texts





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Review: Punchbowl Party Planning Site

Have you visited Punchbowl?  It's a website for party planning and e-cards and it is pretty amazing!  I have found myself sending out invites for simple things -- just to have the fun of sending them.  Their invites are unique, in that they arrive in recipient's emails looking like a snail-mail card, complete with envelope and postage!  A click opens the envelope, and the invite appears.

Guests can RSVP on the site, and hosts can track responses, as well as receive and send notes. There are tons of themes, perfect for kids or adults.  So much of their site is free, but you can also purchase a subscription to access more content.

In addition to sending invitations, you can do all your party planning through the site, including finding local vendors. You can also set up email reminders for important events (like birthdays).  And, finally, you can send unique and creative e-cards.

Another thing I like about the site is that they highlight special days -- like today is National Gazpacho Day!  It's a fun addition and while the information is on their home page, they also update their Facebook page with each day's special commemoration. 

I have had fun playing around their site, and the invitations and cards I've sent have been well-received.  I like the convenience of online party planning and RSVP tracking, and the ease of using this site has made it my online party planning choice.  I recommend you check it out!  And, now, I need to plan some holiday parties.

*Disclosure: In exchange for this review, I received a paid subscription to Punchbowl. No additional compensation was provided.*

Monday, December 05, 2011

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

In late September, I heard about NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program and thought it might be fun to do with the boys.  I contacted Katie Charland, the director at Gangplank to see if she had anything planned.  She ran an amazing summer journalism camp for kids as part of her Gangplank, Jr. program and I thought NaNoWriMo would fit right in.

She said that she would love it if I would do something!  Of course, I couldn't say no.

She helped publicize it, and I got the information out in my circle, and in the end we had a small group of young people get together.  I was so impressed to hear about their plans for their novels and how ambitious they were when setting word counts.

Even Lydia got into it, and was very excited to write her own novel.  (It was about a princess who saved a prince, in case you were curious.)   Thanks to NaNoWriMo's youth website, the writers were able to update their word count and I was able to watch in amazement at the number of words they were writing.  As a group, they wrote over 50,000 words.  Pretty amazing for a group of kids ranging in age from 4 to 12!

This past Sunday, I got together with them one last time to celebrate their success.  The majority of writers met the word count goals they set for themselves, but found that their stories were still not completed. I hope they continue writing and see where their stories end up.  I know I am very interested in reading what they came up with.

I was very fortunate that Bookmans in Mesa donated gift bags to all the young writers I worked with. They received a great canvas bag, a sticker, a pencil AND a gift card to spend at the store. The kids were all very surprised, and very thankful for their generosity.

It's a great program, and I do look forward to next year.  I didn't meet my personal word count goal, but for the first time trying, I'm not too upset.  I'll have a better idea next year and I hope to work with an even larger group of kids.




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- Happy Thanksgiving




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 13, 2011

He Can't Be 11

Colin turned to me in the car a couple days ago and said "Hey, Mom!  In 5 years I'll be driving!!"  When I told Bo the story later, he furrowed his brow and said "No, he won't."  Then, his face changed as he realized that . . . yes, he will!  (Well, if he's like his father he will.  If he's like me, he won't drive until he's 21.  But that's another story.)

My sweet, intelligent, emotional, intense, considerate boy turns eleven today.  What to say on such a day?  I could tell about my pregnancy (brief though it was -- well, my knowledge of it anyway), or I could tell his birth story (a bit dramatic, but the end result was a red-headed bundle in my arms), or I could tell stories of his first few years (always a tale to remember!)

Instead, this year I think I'll talk about the young man he is just this moment.  I have fond memories of the past 11 years and I look forward to the future.  Right now, though, I want to cherish.  Because he will never be 11 years old again.

At 11, he loves to read.  He prefers fantasy usually, and he especially likes books that come in a series so he can continue reading about the characters book after book after book.  That doesn't stop him from reading other types of books, though.

He loves Pokemon cards, and recently has started with Redakai cards. He enjoys playing games on his Nintendo DSi, and lately he has been building animations with FlipNotes more than actually playing games on it.

He has no care for fashion, or his hair, or anything like that.  It never crosses his mind to brush his hair or plan his outfits.  He'll take care of these things when prompted, but he really has no interest.

He has strong likes and dislikes, and knows his own mind. He is particular about how he likes his food, but mac & cheese remains one of his favorites from when he was tiny.

He is a strong student, but I think he finds himself a bit bored this year.  I need to help him find something to be passionate about (beyond Pokemon).

He loves his family fiercely, and enjoys his friendships.  He likes to be around people and is never shy to share his opinions.

He has a strong sense of right and wrong.  He is extremely sentimental and believes in following family traditions.  In fact, the picture you see is our traditional birthday picture in this family -- when he was 4 he saw this cake at the store and wanted it desperately.  Now, every year, each kid has their picture taken by the inflatable cake.

I'm a bit in shock today that I'm the mother of an 11 year old. I always wanted children, and we went through a time when we weren't sure how our family was going to grow. He was a surprise, a blessing, a miracle -- and he continues to surprise me, bless me, and remind me of miracles each and every day.

Happy Birthday, #1 Son!

Shutterfly Holiday Cards

'Tis the season!  Have you started thinking about your Christmas photo cards yet?  We have a wonderful neighbor who sets up his living room with professional backdrops and takes pictures for the families in the neighborhood every October or so.  I love that he does this, and the pictures he took this year are adorable (as always!)

Shutterfly is my go-to photo processing website, and has been for over 10 years. I have never been disappointed with anything purchased from them.   I love the cards and photo books I've created there over the years, and I appreciate knowing that they offer free storage of my digital photographs with no strings attached.

This year, they have new holiday card designs and I've been trying to figure out which design to choose for our family card.   Last year, I sent out Christmas photo cards and then photo "thank you" greeting cards after the holidays!  I've chosen a multi-photo style the last few years, and will probably go that route again this year. 

Not only do I enjoy sending out photo cards, I especially love receiving them!  It's fun to see the kids grow over the years, and I like to see the different spin everyone puts on their cards.

If you order by November 16, 2011 and use the code CARD40 you can save 40% off your greeting cards at Shutterfly.  Don't delay!  That's an awesome savings! 

*Disclosure: I received free photo cards in exchange for posting about Shutterfly's holiday cards this season.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Review: 1-800-Specs

I have worn glasses (or contacts) since I was 6 years old.  I can't see much of anything without corrective lenses, so there's never an option of leaving them behind.  As I've gotten older, I find myself needing bifocals in order to continue reading. 

My last pair of glasses was the least expensive I could buy at the local eyeglass place and I think they set me back about $300 because of the high prescription and the need for bifocals.  They also weren't very attractive.  Okay, I didn't like them at all.

I wear contacts most of the time, but I have a hard time reading with them.  I have planned for a while to replace my glasses with a nicer pair.

I was offered the opportunity to try out 1-800-Specs.com recently and jumped at the chance!  I found a copy of my last eye prescription  so that I could place my order. (I always ask for a copy so I can get the best prices on contacts and glasses.  Did you know that your eye doctor has to give you a copy if you ask?  Those prescriptions belong to you!)

There are lots of choices on their site, even when I narrowed it down to glasses that I could get progressive lenses.  I went back a few different times over a couple days to try and decide which pair I wanted to try. I finally narrowed it down to the pair you see above and entered my information.   I've ordered glasses online before, and knew that the hardest part was figuring out your PD (pupillary distance).  If you google it, there are plenty of sites that help you determine yours, or you can ask your eye doctor to measure it and tell you the number.  That number is never included with your prescription.

The ordering process was easy.  I entered my frame choice, my prescription and my shipping/billing information.  Two weeks later, the glasses were in my mailbox.  I took them out, tried them on, adjusted the nose piece, put them back on and was very happy!  They are so much cuter than my old pair, and I can see out of them perfectly.  I ordered progressive lenses and was a little worried about seeing -- but I didn't need to worry.

If you need glasses, I would check out 1-800-Specs and look at all the frames they offer!  I was very happy with how easy it was to use their site and how quickly my glasses arrived. The quality is better than my last pair of glasses purchased locally, are so much cuter, and cost more than 2/3 less!  Since 3 out of 5 of us currently wear glasses, I know I'll be ordering again!  It's much easier on our budget than local choices.


*Disclosure: In exchange for my honest review, I received a pair of prescription eyeglasses from 1-800-specs.com.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween Hijinx


Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Hexbugs



We were lucky enough to host a HEXBUGS party, thanks to HEXBUG and Mommy Parties.  I shared the kids' review video last week, and we shared the goodies with friends on Halloween.

I put together some fun goody bags that included Halloween soda, Halloween Pez containers, chocolate lollipops, and of course the new, limited edition, Hexbug Nano Glow-in-the-Dark Micro-Robotic Creatures.  I heard shouts of "All right!" when the boys saw the HEXBUGS in their bags of treats!

In addition to the little bugs -- which you can see the youngest of the crowd had a great time racing around on a tray -- we also had Nano Glow in the Dark Habitat / Race Tracks.  These tracks glowed in the dark really well ( but  didn't photograph well for me) and the kids had a great time watching their bugs whizz around the tracks.  I think this set of bugs is even faster than the last ones we had!






While most of the adults find them a bit creepy, the kids all squeal in delight about the HEXBUGS.  They are definitely a fun toy, and one that all the kids we shared them with agreed are FUN!

You can find them at major retailers, including Target, Radio Shack and Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received an awesome Halloween Party Pack, full of awesome toys, thanks to Mommy Parties and HEXBUGS. No additional compensation was provided.  All opinions are my own.*

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NaNoWriMo for Youth! (Local Event in Chandler AZ)

About a month ago, my sister asked me if I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year.  I said I wasn't sure, and then she asked if I knew there was a youth program as well.  I wasn't aware of that, so I looked into it (well, okay, she sent me the link and I clicked and started reading.)

The website has tons of great information, including an 126 page workbook that is free to download.  It also has writing prompts, and kids can create accounts to keep track of their word counts online and connect with other writers.

I thought it would be fun for Colin, and maybe Nate.  The more I thought about it, I thought it would be fun to get a group of kids together to work on novels in November.  Colin worked at Gangplank this summer on a journalism camp, so I contacted the director and asked if she had anything planned.  She replied that she didn't, but she'd be happy to provide the space if I would help get the word out and organize it. Of course, I said I would.

Our kick-off event is this Saturday, and we plan to meet again mid-way and then at the end to have a celebration.  I have no idea how many kids will show up, but I'm hoping for at least 10 (and shooting for at least 30).  I shared the information with Colin and Nate's teachers, as well as online, and now here on my blog. 

The event is all about writing.  The kids will set word count goals, and if they meet their goal by the end of the month, they have the opportunity to have their books published.  Adults are expected to write 50,000 words in November, but the youth will set goals between 1,000 and 20,000 probably. 

I'm hoping to find a few sponsors to provide prizes, but I'm holding off searching very hard until I have an idea of how many kids are participating.   I think it will be a great learning experience and I'm excited to read the stories that come out of this project.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?  What about your kids?  If you're local with young ones, contact me directly for more information about our Saturday event! 

Cereal & Justice League Giveaway!





Do your kids love cereal AND comic books?  Then I have some wonderful news for you!  In select General Mills cereals, you will find one of four collectable DC Super Hero comic books inside, as well as a fun hero mask on the back! 

Participating cereals include Cinnamon Toast Crunch (17 oz.), Lucky Charms (16 oz.), Honey Nut Cheerios (17 oz.), Trix (14.8 oz.), Golden Grahams (16 oz.), Reese’s Puffs(18 oz.) and Cocoa Puffs (16.5 oz.).  You will find them at most grocery stores.

I have a set of comics, plus a box of cereal AND a Green Lantern figurine to give away to one of my readers!  My sons were so excited when this box arrived and all 3 of my kids pored over the comic books immediately.

If you want a chance to win this great giveaway, CLICK HERE to pop over to my Giveaway Form (comments left on this post WILL NOT be included in the drawing).  Once there, use this information to fill in the blanks:

GIVEAWAY NAME: Justice League
MANDATORY QUESTION: Who is your favorite superhero?

I will draw the winner next Friday, November 25, 2011.  Good Luck!!


*Disclosure: Product, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills and DC ENTERTAINMENT through MyBlogSpark.*

Review: Zombie Hexbugs for Halloween

Thanks to HEXBUGS and MommyParties, we got an awesome box full of creepy hexbugs to share with some of the boys' friends!  They are getting together on Halloween, but I wanted to share this video in case you were looking for a fun gift for kids this Halloween.

The Zombie HEXBUGS glow in the dark and are a limited edition.  They are packaged in coffin-shaped boxes and they are perfect for Halloween.  They also have glow in the dark HEXBUGS from the Nano Galileo collection and even glow in the dark habitat sets.

I'll be sharing more pictures in a few days, but here is the video review the 3 kids put together!




*Disclosure: We received a package full of HEXBUGS to share with our local friends in exchange for providing a review on this blog.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Tell Me Thursday - Speed Racer

Lydia was zooming around the track at LegoLand during our last vacation. She had a great time! Colin also enjoyed LegoLand, but Nate was a bit bored by the kiddie rides. He is more of a daredevil.

We wanted to go to LegoLand this year, because I was afraid if we waited any longer, the boys would be too old. I think I managed to make it at the perfect time. Colin & Lydia would both return, but Nate has no desire to do so. Colin was impressed with all the Lego sculptures, and Lydia liked all the rides.  I think it's a great park for kids ages 3 - 8 (preferably with some awesome discounts/coupons because it was pricy!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: LeapFrog Toys

Since my boys were little, we've been purchasing LeapFrog products.  We have been fans of the DVDs, and their educational products for at least 9 years. When we were offered the chance to share some of the latest products with local friends, I couldn't wait for the box to arrive.

We received a LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet that Lydia couldn't wait to get out of the packaging.  It took about 30 minutes to get it set up via my computer.  We already had an account set up at their site and on my computer because we have a few toys already that incorporate online features.  If we didn't have that already, it would have taken about 15 more minutes.  I think that's important to know for anybody planning to purchase one for a child, because it's something that should be done before giving it to the child, if at all possible.

Once it was set up, Lydia immediately began playing with it.  She has used our iPads and iPhones since she was 2, so the concept of a touch screen and navigating apps is pretty easy for her. She began laughing in delight and was thrilled to play with games that were definitely perfect for her.  We took it on a road trip, and she played with it during our trip and has continued to keep her interest. There are a number of games available for purchase via the website and retail stores. One of Lydia's favorite games right now is a cooking game, that goes along with all the cooking shows we watch on TV.

In the box, we also received a LeapFrog TAG Reading System and a set of books, as well as aLeapFrog Tag World Map. I gathered up the toys and headed off to her child care center to let the kids in her class play and observe what they did.  All the kids were immediately excited by the Explorer, but the map was a big hit when they realized they had to take turns. We also own the US Map and another LeapFrog TAG Reading System, so I took those along to give the kids more things to play with.

They needed only a little guidance in learning how to play with the toys.  The toys held their interest the entire time and they were disappointed when I had to pack up and leave.  It was a definite success. I have always recommended LeapFrog toys, and I am amazed at how well they continue providing high quality, educational toys that kids truly enjoy.

If you're looking for toys this holiday season for the preschool / early elementary kids, I can't recommend LeapFrog toys highly enough.

Lydia did a video review of the LeapPad Explorer.  (She was a bit tired when doing this review, because it's been crazy busy around here lately.)



*Disclosure: I received a party box of LeapFrog toys and activities in exchange for reviewing the products and sharing with local friends and my readers. No additional compensation was provided. Products were provided by LeapFrog and MomSelect.*

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nate's Thoughts on Stuttering

Today, Nate & I attended the NSA sponsored Stuttering Youth Day event at ASU.  It just happened to coincide with International Stuttering Awareness Day!

We had a wonderful morning at the event (I'll share more in a couple days) and then headed over to a pumpkin patch so the kids get find pumpkins, and then to the Phoenix Food Truck Festival to finish up our long day.  I tell you all of this as a preface, so you know that he made this video after a long day!  He wanted to share his message, though, so here it is!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Stuttering Awareness Day - October 22


October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. The sweet boy pictured above is the reason I even know such a day exists.

Nate stutters.  He has stuttered since he was about 3 years old, and has had speech therapy for the last 2 years.  His stutter never stops him from communicating with others, or sharing his story.  He just keeps trying until he finally is able to get all the words out.

Last October, I saw a mention of a "Stuttering Youth Day" at ASU someplace online.  I looked into it further, and registered for the event.  I had never heard of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) before then, but I wanted to learn more about how to help Nate stop stuttering.

I learned so much at that morning event.  Most importantly, I learned that the important thing is NOT helping Nate stop stuttering -- but to accept his stutter as an integral part of who he is.  I learned about research done about stuttering, and how it is unlike most other speech impediments.  I learned that people who stutter make up only about 1% of the population.  I learned how much my boy liked listening to others who stutter.

That doesn't mean that we don't want to help him learn tools to control his stutter when he makes the choice to do so.  Stuttering affects him physically and sometimes is very uncomfortable.  Many people don't want to take the time to let him finish his own sentences.  Others are just plain rude when he tries to communicate.  But, we acknowledge that he will probably always stutter.  And, that's okay!

Learning about the NSA, and the local kids chapter in our area, has made a huge difference in how we think about stuttering, and what we know about stuttering.  We happily attended events locally, and then made the effort to attend the National Conference over the summer.  Nate has now met tons of people who stutter and he is richer because of it.

Right now, Nate is struggling mightily with his speech.  The speech therapist he had been working with moved to a different school and he's not clicking with the new SLP.  He finds it hard to remember to use his tools and his secondary behaviors are very strong these days (physical manifestations of his stutter that cause him to strain his neck and shoulders and bob his head). We can always understand him, but more often he is asking us to order for him at restaurants to avoid the entire situation of trying to order a meal.

What I know, though -- thanks to the NSA and all the wonderful people we have met through the NSA -- is that his speech will get better, and maybe even worse.  But, there are those who will support him.  Help him.  Those who are just like him and struggle with fluent speech.  He can be in touch with others who truly understand what it's like to stutter.

Tomorrow , Nate and I are attending our 2nd Youth Day Event.  Nate is looking forward to it, and plans to wear his sea-green shirt (the awareness color for stuttering)  We'll both proudly wear our "Stutter Like a Rockstar" bracelets.  We'll learn more about stuttering.  Meet more people who stutter and those who love those who stutter.  Most importantly, we'll be reminded that we are not alone.

Click here to read more of my posts about stuttering

Totino's Fun Friday Nights (Giveaway!)

 Our schedule has filled back up now that school is in session and I'm healthy again!  Almost every night finds us with extracurricular activities, and since my 3 kids are all in different activities, it's pretty hectic.

We can usually count on Fridays being free for family fun, so I thought this pack I received thanks to BlogSpark, Totino's and Redbox was especially wonderful.

Not only did we receive coupons for wonderful Totino's pizza treats, but we received a coupon for a free movie rental from Redbox AND a couple fun pizza plates, a popcorn box and a fancy pizza cutter.

I don't know about you, but I love being able to relax in my living room, surrounded by my family, enjoying snacks and watching a good, family-friendly movie.  If you're like me, I'd love for you to enter my giveaway so I can send you the same wonderful prize pack.


Enter my giveaway by CLICKING HERE and filling out the form with the necessary information.  You'll need the information listed below to fill it in properly.  (You can also click on the link in the right column to read my giveaway rules)

GIVEAWAY NAME: Totino's Fun Friday
MANDATORY QUESTION: Which Totino’s pizza variety and movie is your family most looking forward to enjoying on your Fun Friday Night?

The giveaway ends October 31, 2011.  The winner will be chosen by entering the number of entries into random.org.  Good Luck!






Even if you don't win the giveaway, you can still save with Totino's and Redbox!

  • Look for specially-marked packages of Totino’s Pizza Rolls and Party Pizzas to stock up on everything you need for a Fun Friday Night: purchase 4 Totino’s Party Pizzas or 2 Totino’s 40 count Pizza Rolls to receive a free one-day redbox DVD promo code that can be redeemed at the following:

  • With more than 27,800 locations, and available nationally at Walmart, there’s always a redbox kiosk nearby! Find the closest redbox kiosk by checking redbox.com/locations.
ETA:  Winner has been selected and contacted.  Thanks for reading!!
Disclosure: The VIP coupons, prize pack, information, and giveaway have been provided by Totino’s through MyBlogSpark.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tell Me Thursday - Toes in the Sand

Last week, we were on vacation in California.  One of my absolute favorite places to be is the beach -- and since we were able to get away for 10 days, we were able to enjoy visiting new places AND relaxing on the beach for hours.

It was a perfect vacation.

And when I need to relax, I'll pull up my pictures of the sand and the surf and remember relaxing on the beach watching my kids play. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Star Wars Themed Cereals (giveaway!)

When I opened the box with these cereal boxes inside, Colin's first response was "Why are they sending you cereal?" But, when he pulled them out and caught a look at the Star Wars artwork on the back, he said "Ohhh, cool!!"

As you can see, when you get 3 of the specially marked boxes (available exclusively at Wal-Mart), you can have a neat panorama of Star Wars on your counter! You can also hear how disappointed the kids will be when you suggest that the boxes be put away in the pantry!

I am excited that I can send one of my readers their own special Star Wars Themed boxes, as well as a $35 gift card to Wal-Mart. My kids were very excited when the latest 9 disc, Blu-Ray release of Star Wars The Complete Saga that was first available for sale September 16.  They insisted that we put our gift card towards the purchase of a set for themselves. What do you think you will pick up with yours if you win?


If you would like a chance to win these neat boxes of cereal and a Wal-Mart gift card, please enter my giveaway by CLICKING HERE and filling out the form with the necessary information.  You'll need the information listed below to fill it in properly.  (You can also click on the link in the right column to read my giveaway rules)


GIVEAWAY NAME: Star Wars
MANDATORY QUESTION: What will you pick up with the gift card if you are chosen?

The giveaway ends October 26, 2011.  The winner will be chosen by entering the number of entries into random.org.  Good Luck!

ETA:  Winner has been selected and contacted.  Thanks for reading!! 


*Disclosure: The cereal, gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.*

Wordless Wednesday - Toes in the Sand


Friday, October 14, 2011

Be back soon





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Review: Weight Watchers Ice Cream Treats

I recently had the chance to try out 4 different Weight Watchers ice cream products.  I was sent one box each of:

·         New Weight Watchers Snack Size Ice Cream Sandwiches
·         New Weight Watchers Dark Chocolate Dulcé de Leché Dessert Bars
·         New Weight Watchers Strawberry Fruit Bar
·         Weight Watchers Strawberry Smoothie Bar

It's hard to declare a favorite, but I think the Dark Chocolate Dulcé de Leché Dessert Bar would top my list of favorites.  The chocolate coating was perfectly crisp, and the caramel swirls through the ice cream gave the perfect amount of added sweetness.

The treats arrived in a cooler full of dry ice.  I was pleased that even in the 105+ degree weather, all my treats were ice cold when I opened the box.  And, my boys were thrilled to play with the dry ice!  Their uncle came over the next day and did a few experiments with the dry ice with them and they had a blast.

One thing that I really appreciate about the Weight Watchers products is that the portion size is smaller than traditional products. The portion size seems much more realistic!  I am able to enjoy a treat, without worrying about a crazy calorie count.  The Dark Chocolate Dulcé de Leché Dessert Bar has only 130 calories (and 3 pts if you're following Weight Watchers plan).  That's a great snack or dessert that doesn't cause any guilt from enjoying.

My second favorite was the Strawberry Fruit bar.  I have always loved fruit bars, and this one wasn't too sweet and it also wasn't too hard.  I've had some fruit bars that are very hard, but this one had a great texture. It's made with real fruit and has only 70 calories per par.

My kids really liked the ice cream sandwiches.  I liked the smaller size, which meant that it didn't turn into a melted mess before Lydia could finish one.  The boys also liked that the box had both vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream options.  I confess I only got a bite of each bar and the kids ate the rest of the box (not in one sitting!!)

Finally, the Strawberry Smoothie bar was delicious.  These bars had only 60 calories each, but you would never know that they weren't a high calorie food.

We are pretty happy in Arizona right now that it's fall.  For us, that means that the high temperature may only hit 101, and if we're lucky the high may only be 96.  That means that eating ice cream as a treat is still a natural choice in our lives.  These Weight Watcher ice cream treats taste indulgent and delicious, but I know they aren't pushing my calories over the limit for the day. 

I have purchased Weight Watcher products for many years and have always been pleased by the flavors, portion sizes and variety that their products provide.  These new ice cream treats fit in perfectly!  


*Disclosure: I received 4 boxes of ice cream treats, thanks to Mom Select and Weight Watchers to facilitate this review.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tell Me Thursday -- Superstition Farm

This is one of the cows living at Superstition Farm in Mesa.  On Thursday evenings, they have a Farmer's Market with fresh produce, local honey (the kids LOVE the honey), grass fed beef, fresh ice cream, and more.

When you drive up, you can see the herd of cows.  That is one of Lydia's favorite parts of visiting.  She likes to talk to the cows and was pretty miffed last week when they backed away when she came up to the fence.

What made me laugh the hardest, though, was when she noticed the tag on each cow's ear.  She turned to me and said "They're all for sale!  Mom, can we just buy one?"
The farm also has a food truck -- Super Farm Truck -- and we enjoyed dinner last week from the truck.  Lydia and Colin enjoyed the kids dog plate, Bo and Nate enjoyed juicy burgers with potato puffs and I had a grilled cheese with apple slices (which usually also has bacon, but they ran out that night).
 
We're happy to support local businesses, and I'm glad they stuck it out through the summer and will continue through the fall season.  My boys always insisted they didn't like honey, until they had the raw honey from Made By Bees.  I'm glad, because honey is the best cure for a sore throat!

If you're in the area, I highly recommend checking out the Superstition Farm on Thursday nights.  You'll find friendly people, great products, and you can even have dinner.  You can find them on the web, or on Facebook.

*Disclosure:  Nobody asked me to write this post.  I did it just because we enjoy our time there! *

And one last note, I know I missed a bunch of "Tell Me Thursday" posts.  Life has been extremely hectic lately, but I'm hoping that it will slow down a little bit and I can keep up with everything.  Some of those Wordless Wednesday posts of the past need their stories shared, so I will get to those as soon as I can!
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