Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happiness Runs...

That Baby CD and That Baby DVD came into our home via the Parent Bloggers Network. We are big music fans in this household, so I had high expectations. Luckily for me, these products lived up to my expectations.

I am a mother guilty of buying CD after CD for my kids in hopes of finding one that they love and I don't hate. I've found a few here and there that are ok, but most of them are still kids music through and through. The great thing about That Baby CD is that if you change the album art, it's a cover CD of great folk music any adult would buy. All of the music on the disc is right up my alley, and the performers, mostly by Stephanie Schneiderman and her sisters, are fantastic. She has a lovely voice, and the harmonies sent chills up my spine! I'm a little biased (I Will was our wedding song), but I think the song selection is awesome, too.

On to the That Baby DVD! In the past, Sam hasn't shown much interest in DVDs that simply have scenes set to music, but this one he really seemed to enjoy. Maybe it was all the kids featured in the video. While I find it a little creepy to watch kids lip syncing to Brass In Pocket by the Pretenders (a song I've always found bizarrely sexual) Sam L-O-V-E-D to watch it. And while I feel a little guilty admitting this, Lucy (my three month old) was quite content when I placed her in the bouncy seat in front of That Baby DVD while I made Sam dinner. The only small complaint I might have about That Baby DVD is that it has three less songs than the That Baby CD. Those three songs just happened to my favorites from the CD.

Overall I would give the That Baby CD and That Baby DVD a big thumbs up. I would buy the CD for just about anyone, kids or no! The DVD is fun, too, even though we don't watch much TV 'round these parts. And as an added bonus, moms and dads won't get annoyed when the songs get stuck in their heads!

Oh, and I almost forgot! Enter PBN for 20% off! at your checkout and receive 20% off your purchase price! Yay for coupons!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beauty Confidential: Ten Reasons Why Everyone Everywhere Should Own This Book

Beauty Confidential by Nadine Haobsh is hands down the best beauty book I have ever read. I could kiss the ladies over at the Parent Bloggers Network for bringing it into my life. Also, I want to find Ms. Haobsh and make her be friends with me. Not just because she wrote this awesome book but also because we have the same favorite band and TV show. As soon I read, "I don't enjoy Pearl Jam casually. They are my favorite band in the history of the world and I am besotted by them and they will be the soundtrack of my life until the day I die," I knew I would follow this woman's advice on just about anything.

Therefore, I present to you my list of ten reasons everyone everywhere should own this book.

10. Can you say funny? There is a reason only certain bloggers get asked to write books, and that is because they write well. This book is as entertaining as it is useful.

9. Men, you need this book. It has a million and one gift ideas in it. I guarantee that you'll find something that your wife/girlfriend/mother/great aunt Tessie will adore. The section of fragrances alone will keep you in steady supply of gift ideas for years.

8. Anniversary? Night out with the girls? Even if only once a year, every woman should know how to execute the perfect smoky eye. Chapter 4 gives you all the know-how for this essential look.

7. What I didn't know about skincare could fill a book. Well, at least a chapter of a book. Which is why chapter 5 was so great!

6. So far I've tried three of the twelve things on her 'Must List.' And? They've all been fantastic. More than fantastic. My eyelashes have never looked better, thanks to definicils. The other nine? They're on my Christmas/birthday wish list.

5. The product/pricing guides at the end of each chapter make shopping a snap!

4. I never knew how much to tip the shampoo girl at the hair salon. Now I do! Is it rude to read a magazine while getting a hair cut? Find out on page 43. Best way to change your look without any major hair commitments? Page 48 has all of your answers. Oh, and I finally figured out how to make my ponytail look chic!

3. I am of Hungarian and Slavic descent, therefore I turn a burn-y shade of red after three minutes in the sun. But self tanner has always been perplexing to me. With Haobsh's step-by-step instructions and product suggestions, I might just get it right the next time!

2. The detailed description of what to expect during a bikini wax made me wish I could go back in time and give myself this book circa 2001. Owwwwwww!

1. Because, finally, it's always nice to feel pretty. On those days when I'm feeling bad about my post-partum belly flab or my lack luster social life, a good blow-out or sexy scent can make my day. This book is full of tips and tricks, and it reads like your best friend is the one administering the advice.

As if this list wasn't enough evidence of how much I loved this book, I'm also buying it for at least three people for Christmas! So if you're interested, click over to PBN to read all the other reviews, or head over to the Beauty Confidential home page.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Daring Book for Girls

When I received The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz (compliments of the Parent Bloggers Network), my initial thought was that it reminded me of a hip throwback to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The textbook size, sparkly cover design and illustrations are so fun and retro! I think it's been well established that I am a geek. As a child, I was gleeful on the days we were trotted down to the library to write book reports using the old encyclopedias. Well, this book contains a wealth of entertaining and useful information worthy of any encyclopedia set!

The essential gear list alone is something that should be required reading. Beyond those first pages, the book delves into topics ranging from the rules of basketball to making your own paper to math tricks. In between the book is peppered with lots of female-centered history. I was delighted to finally figure out how to tie my hair up with a pencil, and to be reminded of the rules of TV tag. Also, the section on women inventors and scientists is a great list to have handy if your little lady wants to join the Science Olympiad Team and is looking for a role model. Not that I would know anything about that.

While the book is called The Daring Book for Girls, there is a ton of pertinent information in there for women. From negotiating a salary to what to have in your toolbox, many a topic in there is useful for us grownups. Honestly, this book would also be useful for boys! Everyone, regardless of gender, should know how to build a fort or change a tire. Which reminds me that need to re-read that tire chapter.

Overall, I enjoyed having this book around for those random moments when I found myself with some free time. Plan to read for five minutes, and you could easily find yourself in the same position an hour later. It would make a fun gift, too, for either a young lady or perhaps the mother of a new baby girl.

Want more info? The Daring Book for Girls is available on amazon, or head over to the Parent Bloggers Network to read all the other reviews.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Deceptively Delicious Lives Up To The Hype

Never mind my kids, my husband won't touch vegetables. At all. Ever. Well, occasionally I can get him to eat a small salad, but it's usually drenched in some yummy-yet-fat-laden dressing. When we order Chinese food, he makes me request it 'without vegetables.' As if it wasn't bad enough already! So when the Parent Bloggers Network offered me a copy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, Jerry's wife), I enthusiastically offered to do some experimenting. The idea of getting him to eat some roughage in the form of trickery was very appealing to me

First things first, I read the book. I wanted to know what I was getting into. Mrs. Seinfeld talks about her motivation for writing the book, and introduces the cast of characters, including Joy Bauer, nutritionist extraordinaire. She also gives a good rundown on kitchen equipment and pantry staples that are helpful to have on hand. It doesn't hurt that these sections are well written and easy to read. Plus, the book itself is delightful to look at. The photos are scrumptious looking and the illustrations are colorful and adorable!

The key to the book is the purees. By adding pureed vegetables and fruits to everyday meals, you can boost nutritional value. I know there has been some debate about the effectiveness of this technique, but I think that you have to pick you battles. Both the author and the nutritionist recommend serving visable veggies along with the invisible ones, and I agree. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Some people might be scared off by the thought that pureeing all those veggies is going to be a pain. Honestly, it's pretty simple, and once you get the hang of things it's pretty quick work. I had some practice when I made baby food, and if you've ever done that, well, it's basically the same idea. Steam or roast the food, then puree. Clean-up is pretty simple as well. One pot and a blender. Mrs. Seinfeld recommends making purees once a week, which helped me with meal planning as well.

On to the recipes!

The first few dishes I made were all things that we usually eat around here, and instead of following the recipes to the letter, I simply made them our regular way and then added veggies. My first experiment was pasta with bolognese sauce, which gets a nurtition boost from sweet potatoes. Since we usually use a little sugar to cut the acidity of our bolognese sauce, no one noticed the sweet potatoes, and the dish was a hit.

Next I tried adding some butternut squash puree to our mac n' cheese. I served this to some guests and everyone cleaned their plates. Including Sam and SOB.

As a final test, I decided to serve a few dishes from the book at a party. I decided to keep it simple and make chocolate chip cookies, salsa dip and deviled eggs.


The cookies have chickpeas in them! In the past I had read other recipes that added chickpeas to cookies, and they always recommended pureeing them whereas Mrs. Seinfeld suggests adding them whole, like the chips. I decided to go the puree route, however, and I'm kind of glad I did. I've read a few other reviews of this recipe that said the whole chickpeas didn't go over so well. Either way, the cookies came out great, especially if you like your cookies on the cake-y side.

Both the deviled eggs and salsa dip contained carrot puree. And by the end of the night all three dishes had been devoured. A true testament, indeed.

Even more surprising to me was that the next day, SOB asked for more cookies, even though he knew what was in them!

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Interested in hearing more about Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld? Click over to the Parent Bloggers Network to read all the other reviews!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Warning! Not For Use By Idiots!

The previous owner of our house was kind enough to leave us a fire log in the fireplace.

Isn't he sweet? This is the type where you simply light the paper bag the log is contained in and then sit back and enjoy. However, the manufacturers want to make sure that you understand that by lighting this paper log on fire, you could be at risk of....starting a FIRE!

Really? Because it hadn't occurred to me that lighting a fire log could create a fire. Also, the flames on the bag don't really communicate 'fire' well enough. Luckily I have the fine makers of Pine Mountain Giant Size paper logs to set me straight.

Have you seen any ridonculous warning labels lately? The folks at Sick of Lawsuits and the Parent Bloggers Network are just dying to give away some cold hard plastic cash to the blogger who finds the best one by Friday! Get the details here! And get your cameras clicking!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Wheels In Mommy's Head Aren't Spinning Quite Fast Enough

One day Sam came home from Jesus School twirling his arms madly. He seemed very insistent on performing this task, but he was angry that I wasn't participating in some way. The trouble was that I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

The next week, he came home and put one hand on his hip, stuck the other arm out and walked around crooked. I tried copying his actions, but that wasn't the right thing to do, apparently. He would get noticeably frustrated when I couldn't figure out what he wanted, and meltdowns would ensue.

Finally, a friend was over and noticed Sam doing the arm twirl thing again. She casually asked if 'The Wheels on the Bus' was one of his favorite songs. I must have looked at her like there were lobsters crawling out of her ears, because she went on to explain that to her, it looked like Sam was doing the arm motions that go along with that song. Well, no sooner than the words left her lips Sam started dancing around like a wild man. We started singing and he was deliriously happy.

It still took me a few more days to figure out that the other dance was 'I'm a Little Teapot.' Rhodes scholar I am not.

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Scholastic wants to know, 'What are your kids learning in school?' Click over to the Parent Bloggers Network to find details on this blog blast and to read about what other kids are learning in school!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, and By the Way...



I nursed Sam for almost 16 months, and Lucy, too, is breastfed. In public, I rarely use a blanket to cover my child when I nurse, 'cause guess what? The baby covers the boob quite well. I'm more likely to use the blanket to conceal my flabby post-partum belly! This whole facebook thing is outrageous. If I had an account, you can be damn sure it would have been canceled.

Born to breast feed. And to read blogs.

Check out the League of Maternal Justice for button codes and more info on the virtual nurse-in!

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Dog Faces Downward Because She is Ashamed of Her Wardrobe

Despite watching waaaaaay too many repeats of What Not To Wear and Project Runway (I totally missed Tim Gunn's Guide To Style last night, but I am hoping that TiVo will save me!), I am 100% guilty of succumbing to mom-wear. If you add up all the pairs of 'yoga pants' I own, I'm betting the total would be more than the actual amount of yoga classes I've ever participated in.

So when PBN announced their big blog blast, wherein the winner gets $250 to spend at Coach, (where I have been drooling over this little darling) I almost died. Because I just took 17 bags of clothes to the donation center last week. As in the day before I got this announcement in my in box. And this time I did a really good job, clearing out all but maybe 15% of my wardrobe. So I have no embarrassing stuff left to show you. Two weeks ago I could have shown you my creepy-crawler dress. Or the combat boots I've been holding on to since 1995. Or the pair of pants I got at French Connection on sale that fit me for one day. Seriously, it was a comedy gold mine in my closet.

But alas, and alack, I cannot play along. So you do it! Win yourself something pretty. Then maybe since I inspired you, you might pick a little something out for me when you're out shopping!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Shake Your Booty

video

My parents and I took Sam and Lucy to the mall on Wednesday. The place was almost deserted, so they let him run free of the stroller while Lucy and I ambled along behind them. Sam L-O-V-E-S to dance, and whenever he hears music he immediately starts breaking it down. Well, since the mall was so quiet he could hear the music playing in every store. He'd run from door to door, listening for the beat. He'd dance for a few seconds at each shop before he run looking for the next tune. My father managed to capture a bit of this insanity on his camera. No one in our house is big into dancing, so I guess he picked up these moves at Baby Loves Disco!

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Click here for details on this PBN Blog Blast. Free shoes, people!

Friday, August 17, 2007

As If I Don't Divulge Enough...

Lora has tagged me for the '8 things' meme, so without further ado...

The Rules:
1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

The things, in no particular order:

1. As a youth, I was in a theater group that consisted of all females. Since I was the tallest, I always had to play the male lead.

2. I hate dogs. Sorry, but it's true.

3. Because my mother made me dust our entire house every Saturday for the first 18 years of my life, I only dust my own home quarterly. It can get kind of gross sometimes, but I don't care.

4. I used to have a tattoo of a ladybug on the nail bed of my big toe. You know, the one that is missing a toenail. Unfortunately, the tattoo artist didn't go deep enough and the entire thing fell off in the shower about three weeks later. I have one little black spot to remind me of my stupidity.

5. I like big butts, and I cannot lie.

6. I occasionally let my inner sancti-mommy out when I need to vent some frustration, and I don't want to dump on someone I know and love. For example, this morning we took Sam to the Little Jumping Bean again, and this 4 year old punk kept pushing on him and even on SSIL Allison. She kindly asked him to stop, but he was all about the rough housing. His mother was parked on the couch with her nose in a magazine, and she only got up once, and that was to buy him two bags of candy and a sprite. At 10:45 in the morning. I might have made a passing comment to her about how her son was making it difficult for other children to enjoy the activities. I'm a bitch, what can I say?

7. It's incredibly easy to knock me up. I wouldn't get too close if I were you.

8. I have several 'special cups' that I must use when I'm drinking water. And you all about how I love me some water. They are big and plastic and hold a great deal of liquid. My husband thinks this is hilarious.

There you have it. Eight things. I'm not sure who to tag, because most everyone I know has done this already or was already tagged by Lora. If you haven't and you want to, by all means jump in! I'm sorry, but I'm not up for digging through archives to figure out who's been tagged!

Love, Amy

Friday, August 10, 2007

Family Fun Time!

Since we've been living in Atlanta, family time has taken a hit. We don't have a dining room or a proper table, so we don't eat together. Sam eats in his high chair and after he goes to bed we eat at the coffee table. We used to take walks together almost every day. When Sam was very wee, SOB would carry him in the bjorn thingie. Then we started strolling him around. Once he got to walking, we would stroll him to the park and let him play all crazy-like. But now? It 107 degrees every damn day, and I can't go outside for more than three seconds without collapsing into a molten puddle of progesterone. At this point, I consider it good family time if we go to the grocery store together.

I'm hoping that once we move (and we have a fun new kitchen!) we'll start eating more meals together. Sam is getting older and we can eat more of the same foods, so meal prep won't be as complicated. And the baby will be on the tit exclusively until sometime in early 2008, so her meals should be a cinch to prepare. By the time the weather starts warming up again, we can resume our family walks to the park, too, since there is a playground nearby.

And maybe, just maybe, Sam and SOB can start playing boy games together. Like catch. And Phantasy Star II. Or, if we're lucky, Boogie!

This post is brought to you in conjunction with Parent Bloggers Network & EA's Wii-Boogie, a family gaming experience. Shake it. Sing it. Create it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Baby Can Read, Can Yours?

Previously on The Cheese Says....Mmmmm, we reviewed the Starter DVD and the Volume 1 DVD in the Your Baby Can Read program. If you read (or re-read) my original review, you might recall my initial skepticism. And then how that skepticism was shattered in the face of a baby that would clap when shown the word 'clap' on TV.

Well, We're still going strong! Recently the people at Your Baby Can Read and the Parent Bloggers Network provided us with the Volume 2 DVD and yet more word cards, both of the regular and sliding variety. And the verdict? Sam still loves them! The songs, the kids, the cards. He loves it all. We're still operating on the same routine of watching the disc during breakfast. On weekends, we try and review the Starter DVD and Volume 1. With the help of these videos, Sam can easily identify over a dozen body parts, make multiple animal sounds and sing along to several different songs. He loves to play with the cards, and flip them around to see the words on front and back. The only trouble we've had is with the 82 double sided word cards. These aren't quite as durable as Sam's age (17 months) requires. This mistake was learned at the expense of the word 'Happy.'

While I don't think Sam is truly reading yet, I have noticed some changes since the last review. Now when we read books to him, he seems to be following along with his eyes. In some books that only have a line or two on each page, he will actually point to the words with his finger, kind of like how they do on the videos. I've tested him a few times by reciting the text from future pages before I actually turn to that page, and he will find the appropriate page for me. Also, he will often point insistently to a word he recognizes until I say it. Honestly, I find this nothing short of amazing.

Also, as much as I hate to admit this, my kid loves the TV. Dear old dad gives into his adorable requests for Sesame Street all too often, me thinks. But the Your Baby Can Read program has helped keep the peace around here on more than one occasion. As long as these DVDs are playing, I don't get nearly as pissy when I come home to find that daddy has had the TV on for hours.

As a final testimonial as to how much we enjoy and utilize these DVDs, let me tell you that before PBN contacted me about reviewing the Volume 2 DVD, I had already ordered a copy at my own expense. That's right folks, I was more than willing to part with my own dough in order to continue Sam on this program. Luckily, I have a friend who I turned on to the Your Baby Can Read program, and she was more than happy to take the extras off my hands! I also intend to show these programs to Numero Dos once she makes her presence known. Which she better do soon if she knows what's good for her.

Truthfully, I couldn't be happier with this program, and I would have never heard about it if it weren't for the PBN peeps. I'll make sure he thanks you, along with Dr. Robert C. Titzer, Ph.D. when he's receiving his (first) Nobel Prize.

Monday, August 6, 2007

You Know Your Kid Is Narcissistic When...

Sam's favorite 'story' to 'read' at bedtime is the photo album I made of the first year of his life. Guess who is prominently featured in every single photograph? This little ham!

The kid, he loves himself. Most kids his age do. So the idea of putting his face in an actual story book that we could read was almost too good to be true. But ImagiTales and the lovely folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network made my dreams a reality when they offered me three personalized children's books.

I got to work building my ImagiTales on a lonely Saturday night. The first step, and by far the most involved, is finding a digital picture of the little one (and yourself or spouse in some cases) that works well with the process. This means that the subject is looking squarely into the camera. The ImagiTales web page offers the advice that both ears should be showing. A toddler who rarely sits still for the camera is rarely photographed head-on. Actually, most of my pictures are of the back of his head. Still, I managed to find two that would work.

Once you upload the photo to the site, just follow the easy instructions on how to outline the head. Word of warning: the instructions are easy. The task, not so much. This was, for me, the most difficult portion of the program. It involves making an outline of dots around your kid's head and hair. The more close together your dots are, the finer the cutout will be. If you have even a hint of perfectionism in you, this step could take you hours. The site advises you to 'just take your time and enjoy the process,' which I may have been able to do if I had the liberty to enjoy the process with a glass of wine. But once I got the hang of it, I was able to add several heads to my 'faces library' in a reasonable amount of time.

Once I had all my faces in order, I set about making some books. There are several titles to choose from, and each comes in a Beginner version and a Standard version. Even though Sam's been religiously watching his Your Baby Can Read dvds, we went with the Beginner version. I selected I'm A Big Brother, Nature Things and My Body. After a few minutes inputing names and pronouns, the books were ready for proofing! This part was really quick and easy, so once you have your 'faces library' in order the process is pretty effortless.

As soon as you're finished, you get to see a proof copy of your book. Read it very carefully. I did not. Somehow I accidentally replaced the word 'sister' with the word 'sleeping.' One page reads, 'Daddy and Mommy hold the baby because my little baby sleeping is so little.' Another says, 'I read my favorite book to my baby sleeping.' What can I say? Pregnancy has ruined my brain.

After you verify that all of the words you entered were correct and the genders you assigned are right and proper (I also accidentally made Daddy a she on one page) you are finished! You can buy an E-book of your ImagiTales for $2.95 or a paperback version for $9.95. If you purchase a paperback, you get the E-book for free, by the way. The E-book is nice if you have a lot of folks you'd like to share with. Or if you've used a particularly funny picture of your spouse in one of the books, you can email it to all of his friends and family!

The books arrived in a very timely fashion. The site says to allow for one to two weeks, but I think ours came even sooner. More importantly, Sam ADORES these books. At bedtime, he wildly gestures to the shelf where we keep them, and as soon as we finish one he starts calling for the next. He loves to point to the pictures of himself, and when we read My Body, he even points out his real life parts as we read. We do have to keep them up on a higher shelf because they are a bit flimsy, and Sam is a ripper/shredder when it comes to paper pages. But if your kids are a little older (or have more respect for fine works of literature) then this shouldn't be an issue.

Overall, I think this is a great product. And since you can make your first E-book for free, you should really click over to the ImagiTales homepage and find out for yourself. I can't wait until Sam is grown up and we can pull these out to embarrass him in front of his prom date. He loves them so much now, I hope they last that long!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Steal This Post!

If you haven't heard about IBC from WhyMommy over at Toddler Planet, read on, and steal away!

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

teamwhymommy

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Check It, Yo!

Have you seen the new design over at the Parent Bloggers Network site? It's suh-weet! And if you were unconvinced about how awesome we are, just check out the testimonials!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gaining Insight

My husband doesn't speak to his father. This has been going on for almost four years now, but the problems began more than a decade ago when his father got re-married. I have foolishly tried to help mend the gap on several occasions, only to end up being on the receiving end of a load of bullshit, for lack of a more eloquent term.

Part of my motivation to fix things is selfish. I don't want to have to explain to my children why their grandfather isn't allowed to see them. But the larger thing motivating me is anger. I can't understand how a person could so cleanly cut off his own flesh and blood at the directive of a spouse. Even more, I can't imagine choosing to stay with a spouse who would force you to pick between your children (and innocent grandchildren) and them.

I was hoping that When Parents Hurt, by Joshua Coleman, Ph. D. would give me some insight into my father-in-law's decisions so that maybe I could let go of some of my anger. Because at this point, even if things changed and he wanted to see us, I don't know if I'd be able to do so. Because this book addresses troubled relationships from the perspective of the parent, maybe reading it could help me to understand some of my father-in-law's choices. Additionally, knowing how their damaged relationship had affected my husband, I was hoping this book could help me gain a little information on what not to do with our own kids.

One of the chapters I found most helpful was Divorce Wounds. My parents are still together, so I sometimes have trouble understanding the complexities underlying the relationship between my husband and his parents. After discussing potential effects on the family dynamics, Coleman discusses several key issues that may be upsetting to parents after a divorce, and includes things to 'Strive to avoid' and to' Strive to.' I immediately zeroed in on 'I made my child a lower priority than my new partner.' Reading this section did help, but it also made me realize that, at least according to the author, most of my father-in-law's actions were not made in the interest of preserving his relationship with his children. Does this make me more or less angry? I'm not quite sure yet.

Even if you don't have any family trauma/drama, there is some very interesting information in this book. Chapter five, Brave New Parents of the Twenty-First Century, chronicles the evolution of parenting from the early 1900's to the present day. Coleman points out how the addition of electricity, appliances and vehicles to the home in the 1930's lead to a significant increase in accidental deaths of children. Although I may have been able to make this connection on my own, I may not have though to link this to a major change in parenting norms due to the increase of parental guilt.

In the end, a part of me wants to ship this book off to my father-in-law, no strings attached. I think it could help their relationship immensely if only his wife would let him use some of the strategies therein. But I've learned my lesson, so I won't interfere.

Which is good news for you, dear readers! I have a brand new, hard bound copy of When Parents Hurt, by Joshua Coleman, Ph. D. to ship off to one of you. Please leave a comment or email me if you are interested. If more than one person contacts me, I'll have to do a random drawing, but fear not because you can buy the book on Amazon. Need more info? Check out all the reviews over at the Parent Bloggers Network.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Body, Soul and Baby

When I was pregnant with Sammy, I religiously poured over the pages of the traditional 'What To Expect' pregnancy tome. It provided me with tons of information, but little insight. I didn't notice at the time, because I was so high on excitement and progesterone, but the book seemed to focus more on issues or problems that can occur during pregnancy, while only giving a brief mention to the more positive aspects of pregnancy.

Now it's the second time around, and the excitement of the unknown is missing. Add to that the fact that I'm a little older, a little heavier and I have a toddler to chase and you can imagine why this pregnancy has been a little less the thrilling experience that my first was. When I went to consult with the pregnancy book, I came away feeling even more negative then when I started. I had read some earlier reviews of Body, Soul and Baby by Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D. but I wasn't sure a new book was the answer. I trudged through my first and second trimesters like a good little soldier, but I wasn't really enjoying being pregnant.

And then there was some sort of mystical intervention. The Parent Bloggers Network was looking for bloggers to review Body, Soul and Baby. I decided to give it a try, figuring that it couldn't make things any worse, right?

Once I started reading, I knew that this was not your normal pregnancy book. Dr. Gaudet stresses focusing on the experience of being pregnant, both physical and mental, instead of just playing attention to the 'condition' of being pregnant. She recommends the use of integrative medicine (combining 'the best of conventional Western medical practices with a careful selection from a range of other, less mainstream therapies') to help enhance a woman's ability to tune in to her body during this dynamic time.

Early chapters include questions and tools that can help with this process. While some of these tools seemed a little too 'new age' for me, others, like journaling (aka blogging) seemed to make good sense and were pretty simple to execute.

Preconception and conception are covered, but since I had mastered that part back in December, I skimmed ahead to the discussion of the actual pregnancy. Each trimester is covered over four chapters: Reflection and Observation, The Inside Scoop, Medical Care and Self Care. Labor and delivery and the postpartum period are also covered in the same way. This organization is helpful because say you have a question about labor that is of the medical variety, it is easy to locate the chapter where that information can be found.

Since I started reading Body, Soul and Baby I have recommended it to several other pregnant friends. They also have had similar positive responses to the book. There are a lot of books out there aimed at expectant mothers, so it can be difficult to find one that appeals to a wide variety of personalities. However, because Dr. Gaudet combines complimentary and alternative techniques with her medical knowledge, her approach to pregnancy and birth can be appealing to many different types of women.

Usually after reading a book for a PBN review, I offer it up to one of my readers. Bad news for you though, because I think this one if going to stay on my shelf for a little longer. I'm betting it'll come in handy during the first week of September when my body is reeling from progesterone withdrawal!

Friday, July 6, 2007

August? Are You Sure? Well, Maybe You're Having Twins.

There is a line in the movie Annie where the orphans are fighting and someone yells, 'Can it, you twit!' That is my favorite line.

It's also the phrase that most readily springs to mind when friends/relatives/strangers have found occasion to comment on my current pregnancy.

Look, I know that my babies are going to be close in age. This may come as a surprise to you, but I took two semesters of calculus and physics as requirements for my biology degree. I think that I'm more than qualified to count the months between by kids' birthdays. Hell, I bet Sam can even count to 18 thanks to Sesame Street. And while I understand that this is the south, if one more random person at the Y/Little Gym/playground asks if I'm catholic after hearing that my kids will only be 18 months apart, I might invoke the name of the lord in ways that are inappropriate for children's ears.

Also, please understand that I visit the doctor regularly and I am certain that my due date is correct and that I am not having twins. I am painfully aware that I weighed the same when I got pregnant the second time as I did the day I delivered Sam. I am not happy about this, and I was planning to work on losing weight before I got pregnant again, but guess what? I got pregnant by accident! If you keep asking, I'm going to start giving a more detailed account, including dates, of the circumstances leading to my accidental pregnancy. Is that what you want? A very clear mental picture of me and SOB getting a little tipsy on our first real date in Atlanta and then going at it? Do you? 'Cause I'll go there.

So to you, Aunt Jo Ann. And you Uncle Scott. And you, Carter-from-Little-Gym's mother, and you random lady at the pool with the same maternity swim suit as me. I say, emphatically:

Can it, you twit!

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Don’t you wish you could have just handed them this?

What would you do in these situations? If you've got a witty comeback, click over to the Parent Bloggers Network and tell your story. You could win a new iPod Shuffle!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kaboom! An Aptly Named Product for Your Toilet

Before we get started, there is something you should know about me. I am lazy. In addition, I hate to clean. Anything. I can mildly tolerate doing laundry, but anything that requires scrubbing or a specialized tool of any kind (i.e. vacuum cleaner, toilet brush) I loathe. Clutter bugs me, so I'll organize and neaten. But when it comes to anything that requires the application of elbow grease, well, most of that gets done by SOB.

Imagine my delight when Kaboom sought reviewers from delightful pool over at the Parent Bloggers Network. When I saw the words 'NeverScrub! Toilet Cleaning System' in the email, I positively swooned. As a bonus, they were also throwing in their Shower, Tub and Tile cleaner.

The Shower, Tub and Tile cleaner works like most other cleaners out there. It comes in a fancy purple and green bottle. The cleanser is a thick-ish foam that you spray on surfaces and wait 1-3 minutes before wiping it (and hopefully the muck) away. The consistency of the foam helped it to stick to the shower walls instead of just running down into the tub. After a short soak and a brief scrub, my shower did look much nicer. There were still a few stains from the previous
slobs tenants that I couldn't get out, but the overall appearance was much improved. I hesitate to comment on the 'fresh great scent' that manufacture touts as a selling point because given my current condition (severely knocked-up) any scent is too much for me. But I will say that it didn't smell like chemicals.

Let's move on to the delightfully named NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System, shall we? You might already be aware of the fact that I am a tremendous geek. As soon as I volunteered for this campaign I started devising an experiment in my mind. Just like many homes, we have more than one toilet, so I decided that I would run a comparison study between two of ours. One would get the Kaboom NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System and the other would go without. The two toilets in the study get about the same amount of use, but one is nearly brand new while the other is not. Since I though that the newer device would be more resistant to ick simply due to its age, I decided to really test the NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System by installing it in the older toilet. According to the instructions, I scrubbed both toilets very well before installation. Observe...


Before: Control Toilet

Before: Kaboom Toilet

In the 'small complaint' department, I will note that upon installation of my NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System, I accidentally broke a small plastic thing-a-ma-jig and my toilet started leaking a little. This resulted several trips to the Home Depot for SOB. However, he informed me that it was more likely due to the fact that our landlord had the cheapest toilet ever installed in our unit and that it was not the fault of the NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System, or me for that matter. It was a very simple and inexpensive problem to fix if you know anything about toilets beyond how to flush them. Oh and installing the NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System was a piece of cake. On to the data!

As per the name, I NeverScrubbed either of these toilets for five weeks. Observe...

After: Control Toilet

After: Kaboom Toilet

The pictures speak for themselves. The toilet that had the NeverScrub! Continuous Toilet Cleaning System looked virtually unchanged from beginning to end, whereas the control toilet looked like something that you'd find in a gas station bathroom. The reason this study only lasted five weeks and didn't continue up until the week of this review, which was the original idea, was because I couldn't stand the sight of the nasty control toilet. Mind you, this was the brand new, recently installed toilet.

Additionally, this system is very affordable. The initial kit costs about $10 and lasts for three months. After that, the refills run about $5 and last three months. I would gladly pay $25 a year to never have to touch a disgusting toilet brush again. That's much cheaper than maid service, for sure! Both items can be found at grocery stores and any other place you can buy cleaning products.

Oh, and for those of you like me who are blessed with a toddler who thinks that putting his hands in the toilet water is the peak of hilarity, the Kaboom folks assure us that, '
with NeverScrub!, the bowl water won’t harm your pets or kids and the cleaning solution won’t harm your tank parts or septic system.' While that doesn't negate the grossness of toddler toilet hand, it does at least ease some fears of fingers burning off due to toxic chemicals.

In summary,

NeverScrub! = Throwing out your toilet brush = Happiness.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Vaccinated

Maurice Hilleman may be the most important person you've never heard of. World over, millions of lives have been saved by this man, and the living, breathing people he saved, going about business as usual, don't even know it.

Do you know anyone who has ever had the measles? The mumps? Rubella? Me neither. That's because Mr. Hilleman spent his life developing vaccines against these diseases, along with a whole host of others including hepatitis A and B and chickenpox. Besides his numerous scientific accomplishments, Hilleman lead a fascinating life. His mother and twin sister both perished due to complication from birth, but Maurice survived. His father, unable to look beyond the painful circumstances of his birth, sent him to be raised by his aunt and uncle. By doing so, his father unknowingly set in motion an astounding series of events that would lead to his son becoming the most important figure in microbiology and vaccinology.

Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul A. Offit, MD
details the life and circumstances of Maurice Hilleman. I found this biography fascinating from beginning to end. In a former life, I was a chemist for a large pharmaceutical company, and I have a degree in biology, so this was right up my alley. However you need not be a science geek like me to understand and enjoy this man's story.

Also, instead of simply detailing the history of one man and his journey, Offit also delves into the scientists, scientific practice and history that came before Hilleman. I was fascinated (and a little grossed out) when I read that the first vaccine against small pox was made by draining pus from blisters of a girl who was infected with cow pox and injecting the untreated pus into another person. The. Pus. Ok, so maybe I was a lot grossed out, but still! Fascinating! Offit also throws in fun bits of trivia and humor, which helps the book read more like a novel than a biography.

Science aside, several chapters deal with the politics of vaccines. Even though this is a touchy subject for some, I feel that Offit does a nice job of compiling the facts and presenting them in a way that few would find offensive. I have always been a supporter of childhood vaccinations. I've done plenty of homework to back up my beliefs, so I was surprised to find a lot of new-to-me information on the history of the vaccination debate. A debate that is still raging today.

Maurice Hilleman died in April of 2005 at the age of 85. Despite a laundry list of titles and awards, he never won the most coveted of scientific prizes, the Nobel Prize, which cannot be awarded posthumously. He developed cancer, and he spent the last few months of his life experimenting on cells he had taken from his own body. Not surprising, when you consider that this was the man who swabbed his own daughter's throat and used the resulting cultures to make his vaccine against the mumps. Unfortunately, Hilleman's final experiments were never completed.

Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases is a fitting tribute for Hilleman. "Because of Maurice Hilleman, hundreds of millions of children get to live their lives free from infections that at one time might have permanently harmed or killed them. In the final accounting, no prize is greater than that."

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To find out what others are saying about Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul A. Offit, MD click over to the Parent Blogger's Network where fourteen other bloggers will be weighing in!

Friday, June 8, 2007

I Think It Might Be In His Diaper

Last week, Sam decided that my watch was the coolest thing in the entire universe. No matter what his malady, if I just hand over my timepiece all is soothed. Since it's a $20 watch from Target, I don't really care about it being gummed or thrown across the room. It doesn't seem to have any small dislodge-able parts that could be harmful to the boy, so I let him have at it.

Unfortunately, this often leads to my watch ending up behind his dresser or under a couch or in a toy box, where I can never seem to find it. Consequently, we've been late for quite a few appointments in the past seven days.

Sometimes when I try and explain this to people without children of their own, they look at me like I have three heads. Why on earth would I let my toddler play with my watch? I can imagine that when I was pregnant I would have thought the exact same thing. I was so sure that I wasn't going to be that mother who let her kid chew her keys or cell phone. I was a sancti-pre-mommy. But guess what? I totally am that mom. Anything to buy a few more minutes with a friend, at the mall, in the gym, even to clean the house.

So from now on whenever I need to explain away my tardiness, I won't tell the whole story of Sam and his love for cheap wrist-wear. I'll simply state that my baby took away my time and hid it from me. People might think I'm crazy, but then they'll be less likely to ask follow-up questions, right?

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This post was brought to you by Light Iris, and the Parent Bloggers Network. These fine peeps are teaming together to send one lucky lady to BlogHer '07 free of charge. Well, you still have to pay for your transport, but you get a two-day pass, which is worth $200! I can't go to BlogHer this year, which is a sore spot for me, but if by some twist of fate I win this bugger, I will be glad to pass along my winnings to one of my lucky readers! Because I'm awesome like that. If you'd like to play along, click here to find the details!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Savory Chicken

Back when I was in middle school, I was on the fringe of the popular circle. I think I was only really included to even things out, since it was a small group. There were eight 'cool' boys, so there had to be eight 'cool' girls, too. At lunch, we all sat together at one long table. All the girls would sit at one end with four of us on each side, and they boys mirrored our positions at the other end of the table. Every other Tuesday, though, us ladies would sit at a table of our own. Why? Because every other Tuesday was Savory Chicken day.

Savory Chicken was basically rotisserie chicken with some herbs and spices. I never ate it, because us popular girls only brought lunch from home. The boys, however, had developed a passion for this cafeteria foul, and would come to school on Savory Chicken day with their pockets bulging and jingling with change.

Now you could buy an entire tray lunch for $1.25 back in those days, but these fellas were only interested in the chicken. They made an arrangement with the lunch ladies to buy individual pieces of Savory Chicken for 40¢ apiece. They would all pony up a nickel, and one kid would go and buy a single piece of chicken on a paper plate. When he returned to the table, he would place the solitary thigh or breast directly in the middle of the group of boys. They would all sit down, and then someone would issue the signal. For the next twenty or thirty seconds, the entire table turned into a flurry of arms. It was like some kind of primitive feast where they all fought and scraped over tiny bits of dry, commercially prepared chicken as though it were a fresh kill. When it was finished, they would sit back down and survey the remains. Then they would all put their nickels on the table and the next boy would go and fetch their next piece of chicken.

This would continue for the entire lunch period, every other Tuesday, the entire three years of my middle school experience. I wish I could make some sense out of their behavior, but I've never had the pleasure of being a pre-pubescent boy. At least I can look back and remember these guys when Sam hits that age and starts doing some crazy-weird shit, right?

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Check out School Menu and its parental counterpart Family Everday, two sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Light Iris Review

The Parent Bloggers Network peeps recently turned my attention to Light Iris, a new site devoted to expectant and new moms. Light Iris launched on Mother's Day, which is all too appropriate if you ask me. The first thing you'll notice when you click over to Light Iris is that it's soooooo pretty. If you read my other blog, you've probably noticed that I have a thing for the pairing of pink and green. The design is simple, but nicely put together. While the site is up and running, there are still a few features in the works. The most interesting coming feature, in my opinion, will allow users to perform a search of only blogs. iVillage, Baby Center and Parenthood.com may have lots of information, but sometimes you're more likely to find comfort in reading someone else's account of bleeding nipples or going 19 days without baby having a poop than in a sterile article.

The crux of the matter over at Light Iris is the special search feature, which is built on Google but filters out all of the crap new moms don't have time for. For example, I recently was wondering about Sam's teeth, or lack thereof. He's fifteen months old and only has six teeth. Because of this, he is very particular about eating foods which require anything more than minimal chewing. The phrase '15 month old only has 6 teeth' searched by both Google and Light Iris yielded very different results. The Google search results gave me articles about 10 month olds with 8 teeth and 15 month olds with diarrhea for 6 days. The Light Iris search provided more relevant returns. The first and third search results provided exactly the kind of information I was looking for. The top ranked article on the Light Iris search was the seventh ranked article on Google. You get less info per page on Light Iris as well. When you're holding a screaming baby in your arms and typing with one hand while your left boob is hanging out, less can be more, especially if you're getting quality over quantity.

Now on to the double plus fun part! Light Iris has teamed up with the Parent Bloggers Network to give one lucky blogger a free two day pass to BlogHer '07! All of the info can be found right here, but the gist of it is you write a post on the topic of 'Where Does My Time Go?' on June 8th. Email a link to the Parent Bloggers Network at parentbloggers@gmail.com and you're entered to win! Lovely in its simplicity, just like Light Iris.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Blast!

Let me tell you why I need a couple hundred bucks to go on a date with my darling SOB.

It is our five year anniversary, and we celebrated by going grocery shopping together. Then, for a romantic dinner we had chips and dip, followed by cookies. Well, I had a lobster first, but that's not the point. I'm not even sure we're going to do it tonight.

God help us.

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This post was brought to you by E-Harmony’s new Marriage Wellness program and the lovely folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Now the World Don't Move to the Beat of Just One Drum

PBN has started a new monthly feature called Different Kinds of Parents. The first installment went live today, and it's pretty snazzy. For the kick off, the gals interviewed Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Pride - the national non-profit organization committed to securing family equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer parents, guardians, and allies. Definitely go and check it out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A New Point of Vue

Just a quick update! If you were at all interested in my review of the Saturn Vue Hybrid, check out the PBN mid-campaign round-up, where lots of people say stuff!

Oh My Heck!

The fine folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network have done it again! They are having another big fun Blog Blast, but this time, the potential rewards are off the flippin' charts! On Friday June 8th, write a post on the following theme: “Where Does My Time Go?” Then send your link in an email to parentbloggers@gmail.com. One lucky participant will be drawn at random to win a two day pass to BlogHer '07! That's over $200 bucks of stuff, plus you might get the chance to rub elbows with some super cool bloggers, and maybe even learn some stuff! Click here for the total rundown!

I am sad and weepy because I cannot go to BlogHer this year due the event being scheduled only a wee bit before my due date. I can't have my uterus exploding all over Chicago, right? But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't go! And not have to pay for it! Do it for me, won't you?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Becaues We All Like Free Stuff, Even if You Never Had a Baby Come Out of Your Vagina

Hey Inter-Peeps! There are approximately seven-hundred and forty-two contests going on in honor of Mother's Day (and anniversaries and what not) this week. And guess what? You don't even have to be a mother to win anything! I'm all for equal oppertunity contests, and loads of cool, free stuff. So to make your prize winning chances even better, I've assembled a list of all current give-aways that I am aware of for your clicking pleasure. Read on!

The delightfully talented (she just had her first gallery show!) and amazingly funny Pioneer Woman is having a spectacular 'Give that photo a name' contest. The prize? A bomb-ass camera. Hurry on this one, though, 'cause you only have until 7pm pacific time today to enter!

Real Mom Truths is having a fun contest with another awesome prize. You might recall my submission to the Real Mom's page from a few months ago. Just click on over and follow the steps to win a 4G iPod/Chocolate Gift Set worth $215, plus a plug on the Real Mom Truths home page.

Want something easier? Click over to Light Iris, which is launching this weekend. All you have to do is fill out a simple sweepstakes entry form and you are done! No essays or creative thinking required! Prize? Oh just $3000 in gift cards. It's the give that keeps on buying!

Design Mom is having an awesome Giveaway-A-Day from May 7th (today) until May 11th. All you have to do is leave a comment! Easy as pie!

Feeling generous? Head over to Helzberg Diamonds to nominate a mom you know and love to win the Mom's Month Off Sweepstakes. If you love me, you'll put my name in the Nominee's Information field.

Still yearning for more? Well, finally, my buddies over at the Parent Bloggers Network are hosting a Blog Blast this friday, May 11th, that ties in with the Light Iras launch. Julie sums it up nicely:

On Friday, May 11, write a post about what makes you a mother - what’s that personal defining quality of motherhood for you (whether you’re referring to yourself, your spouse or partner, or your own mother) - and send your readers back to Light Iris to enter the sweeps. Then e-mail us at parentbloggers@gmail.com with a link to your post, and you’ll be entered to win!

So there you have it. I've done the hard part for you. Now all you have to do is click click click your way to a house full of goodies. If that doesn't make me worthy of a nomination for the Mom's Month Off contest, I don't know what does!

Good luck!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Habla español?

Knowing a second language is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury these days, so when the lovely folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network put out a call for reviewers for the Boca Beth program, my hand shot into the air. Their program aims to teach children English and Spanish starting at birth and continuing through grade school. The program employs several different tools to help engage children across the age group, from coloring books and puppets to cds and dvds.

A few weeks later we received a package containing a cd, a dvd called I Like Animals/Me Gustan Animales, a Boca puppet, a coloring book and a maraca. Right away I noticed the big sticker declaring the program the winner of the Teachers' Choice Award for 2007. I was impressed.

We always play music in Sam's room, so the next time we were in there I popped in 'My First Songs In Spanish'. At first, I was underwhelmed. The recording was a little muddy, like your freshman roommate's demo tape that was recorded in your dorm room. Since I don't know Spanish, I found this to be a major issue because I couldn't understand what they were saying during the non-English portions of the songs. While lyrics aren't provided with the cd, they are available on the web page, but it took me almost two weeks to look them up. However, the songs were catchy. I found myself singing 'Kiss, kiss is a beso!' to the tune of 'Skip To My Lou' on more than one occasion.

The dvd program helped to make up for my disappointment with the cd. Sam loves watching it, and I love that the words being spoken appear on the screen so I don't feel like an idiot. The musical numbers always get his little bum shaking, and when I pull out the maraca for him during the songs he squeals. There is a sequence at the end that captures an entire Boca Beth class. We haven't had the patience to sit through this entire portion yet, but when split into two viewings we can usually make it through.

Sam loves playing with the maraca, but the puppet and coloring book haven't really caught his attention as of yet. He's still learning the ins and outs of crayons, so when presented with the book he simply tried to rip it to shreds. One very useful tool for parents, though, is the short glossary/pronunciation guide in the back of the coloring book. Every time I try and use the puppet, he thinks I'm playing peek-a-boo with my hand and pulls it off. Since he's only 14 months, though, I'll keep trying as he gets older. The program is labeled for birth to grade school, so I wasn't expecting him to love every single thing right off the bat.

The big question is: does it work? Well, folks, I'm sorry to tell you that you may have to wait awhile for the answer. The only words we get, grudgingly, from Sam are mama, dada and no. Check back with me in a few more months and maybe I can give you some more information. What I do know, though, is that my baby enjoys these educational programs, which helps in more ways than one. First of all, I don't feel as guilty parking him in front of the TV because I know he's potentially learning something while I pee. Secondly, I don't get as pissed at daddy when he has the this video on TV on all morning instead of Star Trek, which was their usual fare, when it's his day to get up with the boy. I doubt that Captain Kirk can impart as much knowledge to my boy as Boca Beth. Now that I've instructed him to watch I Like Animals/Me Gustan Animales with Sam in the mornings, I can sleep peacefully.

If you are interested in buying some Boca Beth products, click over to the Baby Center Store where they are currently running a big sale on Boca Beth products. Even better? Visit the Parent Bloggers Network page to win yourself a Boca Beth prize package valued at $45! Free stuff! What could be better?

There's no need to thank me. I'll just say 'de nada.'

Monday, April 16, 2007

Saturn Vue Green Line: A Hybrid For the Masses?

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A few months ago we bought a new car. During our search, we heavily considered a hybrid, but had trouble finding one that was both large enough for our growing family and priced within reason. I have always been a supporter of fuel efficient vehicles, but found it discouraging that the models on the market didn't fit the needs of the average American family. Saturn has found a way to fix that with the Vue Green Line Hybrid, which combines ample space for tots and their associated gear and a sticker price that won't force you to sell off a kid just to pay for it.

On a Tuesday morning, two guys from GM hand delivered a Silver 2007 Vue to my front door. The car looked pretty nice. Unfortunately, the delivery men did not. They were a bit surly and couldn't answer the few basic questions I had about the vehicle. They did help me transfer my stroller and car seat, though. Luckily, Sam was at Jesus school, so I had a some time to spend online getting info on the Vue. I found that the SUV gets an EPA estimated 27 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 miles per gallon on the highway, and has a base price of $23,495. When I played the 'Build Your Own' game and tricked it all out with a sunroof, heated seats, and satellite radio, it still only came in at $26, 750.

One way Saturn has managed to keep the shock off the sticker is by using a simpler version of hybrid motors that are already on the market. In the Vue, the battery assisted motor only kicks in when the car is at a stand still, or when you need a boost to pass another vehicle. Because of this, the battery packs are much smaller than other hybrid models. On the plus side, they take up almost no storage space in the car, but on the negative side, the car cannot run solely on battery power. This is also why the Vue has lower economy ratings than the other hybrid SUVs on the market. The battery also supplies power to the radio, lights and air conditioning when the gas engine isn't running. One piece of information the GM guys could have provided that would have made my driving experience more pleasant is that there is a small green button inside the vehicle that, when pressed, also economized the AC. I wasn't aware that this feature was on, and I found it mildly annoying that the AC cut out every time I came to a red light. Otherwise, my first day of driving was a satisfying one.

The Vue drives like a normal vehicle in most circumstances. It was only slightly noticeable that the gasoline engine stopped when at an intersection. The transition from gas to battery that occurred when going down hill was the only thing I found a little alarming. When the system would switch to battery charging, I noticed a slight deceleration. After a while, I got used to it. The standard stereo was fine, although if I were purchasing one, I would probably go for the upgrade. There was plenty of room in both the front and back seats for passengers, baby and miscellaneous stuff. There was less room in the trunk area than I would have liked, but I drive a looooooong station wagon and can fit three strollers in my cargo space, so I'm a little biased. SOB sat in the driver's seat as well, and he said that he was impressed that it drove like a normal car. Being on the tall side, he also appreciated the extra head room, especially when loading Sam in and out of the back seat.

At the end of the week, the GM guys came right back to my front door and took the car. Again, they could have used a touch more charm, but I can't really complain about door-to-door service. I'm glad that Saturn is making a car that has some environmental conscience, and a price that won't send most people running for the hills. Knowing that GM has the capacity to manufacture a car that runs entirely on electric power, it's a little disconcerting that we're not able to move further in that direction. However, I read somewhere that future models will have even better fuel economy ratings, so there is hope. This car is a great way to help spread the hybrid mentality to as many people as possible.

And? I got a free car for a week!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Sweet Dreams are Made of These!

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They say if you have plenty of vivid dreams, then you are getting good quality sleep. Last night I had a dream that I was taking a school tour through a museum that just happened to be haunted. And I was being protected the object of my high school affection, Todd W. The dream was filled with plenty of detail, and plenty of making out in dark corners.

Before I read Good Night The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health by Michael Breus, Ph. D. I don't recall dreaming ever since Sam started hanging around.

Long time readers may recall that I've mentioned my sleep troubles before. They might also remember my adventures with ear plugs. I've been a troubled sleeper since adolescence, and the situation has only been compounded by snoring sleep partner, a baby and a pregnancy. For a period during college, I spent some time in behavior modification therapy with the main intention of improving my sleep. While it helped, it wasn't as comprehensive as I would have liked. Now a few years later, Dr.Breus' book has provided me with all the information my therapist left out, and I've noticed a big difference in my sleep quality.

When I started reading Good Night, I was initially discouraged. There is a little caveat on page 57 that says pregnancy complicates the hell out of everything, and a discussion of such is beyond the scope of the book. However I decided to press on. I'm not going to be pregnant forever (only 20 more weeks!) and I'm sure I'll use the strategies I develop because of this book after the arrival of Numero Dos. Or at least a few weeks (or months) after the arrival of Numero Dos.

After the introductory chapter, the book goes into a series of quizzes to determine what type of problems, or disordered sleep, you are having. The book makes a clear distinction between true sleep disorders (insomnia and sleep apnea) and disordered sleep, which is what afflicts the typical person. After taking the quizzes, I determined that the root of my sleep trouble was anxiety and my sleep partners. Duh. After each quiz is an action plan to be put to use immediately.

The very first item on my action plan turned out to be the most effective sleep inducing technique I have ever tried. It was so simple it was almost elegant, the very definition of good science. All I had to do was count backward from three-hundred by three. On the fist night, I was asleep before I even hit two-hundred.

After some additional evaluation of my sleep environment, I jumped headfirst into Sleep Boot Camp, which is detailed in chapters 8, 9 and 10. While I wasn’t able to stick to the schedule exactly as it’s outlined, the book allows for a little personalization. I found it very useful that the sleep diary discussed in the book is clearly outlined in the appendices, as well as many of the retailers Dr. Breus mentions in the text. We ordered not one, but two white noise machines from the Ear Plug *Super* Store. All of these resources can also be found through Dr. Breus’ blog, The Insomnia Blog.

Overall, I was very pleased with the newfound quality of my sleep. Despite being pregnant and having to get up to pee at least once a night. Already. If I manage to keep up the good habits I’ve gained as a result of this book, I’ll be in halfway decent shape once F Squared arrives.

How about you? Do you think you could benefit from better sleep? Um, you’re lying if you said no. Leave a comment by Monday at 10am and WIN my gently used copy of Good Night The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health by Michael Breus, Ph. D. Winner to be chosen by my highly technical randomizer. Good luck!