Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review of "MasterCard MarketPlace - A Smarter Way to Shop Online"---and a $100 Gift Card Giveaway from BlogHer

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and MasterCard MarketPlace.



This is a review of MasterCard MarketPlace - A Smarter Way to Shop Online.

The registration process required a full name, an email address, and a zip code. It also required me to choose a title (the choices are Mr., Ms., or Mrs.), which didn't seem like it should be necessary.

Next it asked me to choose at least three of my favorite stores from their options, and there was also a way to mark stores I DISlike, which was fun. You drag the store icons into shopping baskets marked "I like" and "I don't like"---and as you choose, more stores appear for sorting. I could have played that game all day. Altogether it took well under 5 minutes to register (if you don't count the extra time I spent playing with the shopping baskets--WHAT?).

When I was done, it took me to the home page where I saw it was already reminding me of sales and deals at stores I'd said I liked, and also telling me about related offers (deals it thought I might be interested in based on the ones I said I'd be interested in). When I clicked over later, the deals it was displaying were instead the current Hottest Deals, which included deals at stores I had put on my Dislike list---so you don't have to worry that disliking a store means you'll miss out when it's something super-awesome.

There were tabs to see lists of the newest deals, the deals ending soonest, and the most popular deals---I love that kind of thing, because I love the feeling that I'm not going to MISS something accidentally. Also, sometimes I might think I'm not interested in something (like a tool store), but then it might show up on the most-popular list with something that would make me think, "Oh! Actually, we need one of those!" And there are other tabs for looking at the top deals by category, like in Electronics, in Home, and in Kids & Babies. That would be fun for browsing.

(It looked like this.)
(Screenshot from http://marketplace.mastercard.com/.)
(You can click the picture to see it bigger.)



In addition, each day at 1:00 p.m. EST, until December 24th, there are special daily Holiday Overwhelming Offers, available only to MasterCard cardholders and only for 24 hours each.

You can sign up to have deals emailed to you if you don't want to poke around on a web site every day or if you might forget to check. You can also customize it so it doesn't bother you with deals that aren't at least 25% off, or at least 50% off, or whatever. Each deal makes it clear how much time you have left to act on it.

To participate in a deal, you click the "Shop Now" button and it takes you to it. Some are sales that the general public can also participate in; some are deals only for registered users. Some deals are improved if you use a MasterCard, or available only to MasterCard cardholders.

Overall, it looks like a good "deal center" for keeping track of all the places you like to shop and all the deals they have---and a good way to get EXTRA deals while you're at it.


BlogHer is giving away a $100 MasterCard gift card. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post by December 31, 2010, saying which store's deals (ANY store) you'd want to be able to track.


Rules:

No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.
Sweepstakes ends 5 PM PST on December 31, 2010. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. For 19 more chances to win, visit the BlogHer Special Offers page.


From the client: "Overwhelming Offers (OO) are limited in quantity, reservation only and limited in time. Participating merchants and offers are subject to change. The OO discount is provided as a statement credit. See www.mastercardmarketplace.com for restrictions and complete terms and conditions."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winner! (Tassimo)

The winner of the Tassimo giveaway is Velocibadgergirl! I'll email you for your mailing info!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winner! (SmartyAnts)

The winner of the Smarty Ants and Phonics Reading Pup giveaway is AStarrA! I'll email you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tassimo Review, With TASSIMO GIVEAWAY MAYBE IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

Please imagine how exciting it was to get a Tassimo to review. Then please imagine how much coffee I have had in order to "collect data." Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I am going to make this quick (by which apparently I mean lonnnnnnnnnng), because I think we all know what a Tassimo is, right? It makes one single cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate at a time. You put in a coffee/tea/cocoa disc, and the Tassimo reads the barcode so it knows what it's making and you don't even have to mess with settings. You just press "go."

So all you want to know, probably, is does it WORK, and is it FUSSY to use, and is the coffee GOOD, and HOW DO I ENTER TO WIN ONE OMG TELL ME QUICK!!


First, here is how I was compensated for this review:


1. One Bosch Tassimo Single-Serve Coffee Brewer.
2. One 8-drink package of Starbucks Cappuccino Primo.
3. One 16-drink package of Gevalia Signature Blend (Mild).
4. An additional Tassimo to give away.


Second, it is easy and non-fussy to use:

They know you're not going to read the whole manual first, so they just get on with it.



You fill the water reservoir.


You run it through the cleaning cycle a few times.
(What, you don't have self-promoting mugs at your house? Sad.)



If you do need the manual, it looks a little intimidating at first,
but in fact it's easy to use and understand.




You put a disc in.
(I did the cleaning the night before, so that's
why it's a different mug now.)



You close it with authority, and you press the start button, and it makes you coffee.



The coffee is good. I first tried the Gevalia Mild, and found it strong---but I always make my coffee kind of weak, so my coffee palate is off. There's a button you can press to make it brew a little longer, which adds more water and makes it a little weaker; I'll do that next time.

My mom came over and we tried the Starbucks Cappuccino, and we both agreed it was EXCELLENT: exactly what we'd expect if we went to a Starbucks and ordered it. Perfect sweetness (i.e., BARELY, so that we had to check to make sure it really did have sugar in it), really good-quality cream taste, just perfect. We were trying to have a conversation but kept instead turning back to how good the coffee was.


To me, some of the highlights of this thing:

1. The fun of the whole deal. It really is fun to choose a disc, put it in, etc. It's even more fun than you might think. I feel eager to go out and buy lots more discs so I have more choices. It would also be fun to have a friend over and let her make a drink.

2. The way it brews into your cup. The platform comes completely out to make room for larger cups or travel mugs.

3. The cup platform has a container that catches spills.

4. The water reservoir, which means that unlike my coffee pot, I don't have to add water every time.

5. It is FAST.

6. It is EASY.

7. It is WELL-DESIGNED: little details like a place in the back to tuck the cleaning disc so you don't lose it, and the way the platform is designed to catch spills and be completely removable, and the way the disc tab helps you line it up so you put it in the right way, and the way the water reservoir has a nice comfortable handle to make it easy to carry and re-install, and how easy both the long- and short-version instructions are (with good pictures, too). It really feels like someone was trying to make it RIGHT.


Some of the lowlights:

1. If you're used to making coffee in a regular coffee pot, the T-discs seem pretty expensive. (But if you're used to getting coffee at a drive-through, they will seem unbelievably cheap.)

2. You might find yourself drinking way too much coffee, just because it's fun to make (though I suppose eventually the fun of it wears off a bit), or because you have to make a full cup when maybe you otherwise would have just topped off your mug with a little more.


Various deals to be aware of:

1. If you register your Tassimo, you get two free packs of the T-discs of your choice.


2. Right now at Amazon (and I'm not sure how long this deal lasts), if you buy a Tassimo, you get a $50 Amazon gift card. Scroll down on the Tassimo product page until you see "Special Offers and Product Promotions," and there's a button to add both the Tassimo and the $50 gift card to your card. You DO have to add the gift card; it won't add automatically. But geez, that whacks FIFTY BUCKS off the price, bringing it from $130 down to $80. It's still not exactly FREE, but I can swing $80 in a way I can't swing $130. This brings it into what I consider "spouse gift" and "gift for your parents" range, too.


Finally, FINALLY, the giveaway part:

I want to do this FAST: I asked Tassimo, and they said that if I can give them the winner information on Monday, they might be able to get the Tassimo shipped to the winner by Christmas. So the contest will be open only until Sunday, December 19, at 5:00 p.m. U.S. Pacific time. It's open only to U.S. residents---or of course if you're NOT a U.S. resident you can still enter if you know someone in the U.S. you want it shipped to as the best Christmas present ever.

To enter, leave any comment. If that makes you feel tongue-tied, here's the optional prompt: say what you'd make first, if you had all the options in front of you: tea, hot chocolate, coffee, cappuccino, latte?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winner! (Similasan)

Do you remember the Similasan contest from long ago, with the $100 Visa gift card giveaway? A glitch at headquarters meant I couldn't announce the winner until now, but finally I can: the winner is fostertam! I'll email you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview With an 11-Year-Old About Texting, Cell Phones, and Other Technology

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed



In Part One I introduced you to Rob, my 11-but-almost-12-year-old. He's in sixth grade. A bunch of us are asking our kids of different ages questions about sexting and technology and Facebook and so forth, to see at what point kids are still like, "What are you talking about?" and at what point they're more like "Duh, Mom, a little late for this talk." Rob is my firstborn, and when I was his age technology wasn't this kind of problem, so I'm trying to find out from him what he already knows, what is and isn't a problem at his school, and what he and I still need to talk about.


Swistle: Ready?

Rob:
Yeah.

Swistle:
Does it bother you if I use your picture on my blogs, or on Facebook?

Rob:
I don't know.

Swistle:
Well, does it bother you to have your picture on the internet?

Rob:
No.

Swistle:
What if it were an embarrassing picture?

Rob:
Well, yeah, then it would!



Swistle: Why do you want a cell phone?

Rob:
Because everyone else has one and they assume I have one already.

Swistle:
But what would you use it for?

Rob:
Calling and whatever else it did.

Swistle:
Do your friends have cell phones?

Rob:
Most of them, yeah.

Swistle:
Are they allowed to use them in school?

Rob:
Before school and after school, but other than that, no.

Swistle:
Do they ever talk about people using cell phones to tease each other?

Rob:
No.

Swistle:
Have you heard of anyone at school getting bullied or getting in trouble for bullying?

Rob:
Yeah, no one in particular, though---they don't say names.

Swistle:
Did any of the bullying involve cell phones or Facebook?

Rob:
Facebook, yes; cell phones, no.

Swistle:
What was the bullying on Facebook you heard about?

Rob:
They just often tell us about it.




Swistle: Did you know that there's a problem with kids bullying other kids on Facebook and with cell phones?

Rob:
Yeah.

Swistle:
How did you hear about it?

Rob:
They just keep telling us about that kind of thing at school.

Swistle:
On Parents' Night, the computer teacher told us that the assistant principal keeps an eye out for students on Facebook---had you heard of that?

Rob:
YEAH! And also they told us that the police have 8 secret Facebook identities so that they can see when people are bullying other people.

Swistle:
Do you know what happens if they see bullying on Facebook?

Rob:
No.

Swistle:
They told us that they've gotten student Facebook accounts suspended---especially if the student isn't 13 yet.

Rob:
Wow.




Swistle: Is anyone you know on Facebook?

Rob:
Yeah.

Swistle:
Can you estimate what percentage of the other kids are on Facebook?

Rob:
Probably 90%.

Swistle:
NINETY percent? Even though they're not 13?

Rob:
Yep. They just say they're 21.

Swistle:
Really?

Rob:
*nods*

Swistle:
Don't they get caught?

Rob:
I don't know.

Swistle:
Have you heard of anyone getting caught?

Rob:
No. They say their parents let them---if that's what you're asking.

Swistle:
What about the asst principal and the police officer---don't they notice the kids?

Rob:
Yeah, but they don't bust them. For some reason.

Swistle:
Do you think it's because they only go after the bullying?

Rob:
Yeah! Probably! But then if they get caught bullying AND they're not 13 yet, they're REALLY busted.





Swistle: Are you on Facebook?

Rob:
No.

Swistle:
Why not?

Rob:
You won't let me because I'm not 13 yet.

Swistle:
When you're 13, do you want to get a Facebook account?

Rob:
Definitely.

Swistle:
Why?

Rob:
Because it sounds fun.

Swistle:
If you had a Facebook account, would you be Facebook friends with your school friends?

Rob:
Probably.

Swistle:
And would you want to be Facebook friends with Dad and me?

Rob:
Well, what can you do if you're Facebook friends with someone? Like, are they just on your list?

Swistle:
You can look in their profiles and see what they're doing on Facebook.

Rob:
Then yeah, sure.





Swistle: Do you know what sexting is?

Rob:
Nope.

Swistle:
Have you heard the word before?

Rob:
Nope. ...Well, just now, when you said it.





Swistle:
What would you do if one of your friends was teasing someone else using texting?

Rob:
Well, like what?

Swistle:
Like...what if kids were all talking meanly about some girl? And what if they sent around an embarrassing picture of her?

Rob:
*looks shocked* I don't know!

Swistle:
What if something was happening on Facebook, like everyone was talking on the wall about how dumb someone was or something?

Rob:
*more shock* I don't know.

Swistle:
Would you feel comfortable telling me about it?

Rob:
I don't really know.

Swistle:
Would you feel comfortable telling a teacher at school?

Rob:
I'm not really sure. I'd assume that someone else would say something.

Swistle:
And then there's those people at school already keeping an eye out.

Rob:
Right.

Swistle:
Does this make you feel safer, that people are keeping an eye out for bullying and trouble? or does it make you feel weird, like you're being watched?

Rob:
Kind of both.





Swistle: Do you get to go online at school?

Rob:
Only to look up library books and to get Google pictures for computer assignments.

Swistle:
Could you get onto the internet if, like, the teacher wasn't paying attention?

Rob:
I think they'd notice. And also, most of the sites are blocked. There is one place I go: I asked if I could go on [Wikipedia about a game he likes], and the teacher said, "If it lets you, go for it."

Swistle:
Are some kids not allowed to go online, like because their parents don't want them to?

Rob:
No.

Swistle:
So everybody goes online during computer class?

Rob:
Yeah.

Swistle:
Can you get on Facebook from school?

Rob:
I don't know---I've never tried.





Swistle:
Have you heard of Myspace?

Rob:
Yeah.

Swistle:
Do kids you know have Myspace accounts?

Rob:
Yeah. Are you supposed to be 18 to get one, or is it 13?

Swistle:
I don't know. Do the other kids say what they do on Myspace or what it's for?

Rob:
Not really, but I guess it's like Facebook.





Swistle: Do they teach typing at school?

Rob:
Yeah: they did at the beginning of the year, and in fifth grade.

Swistle:
Wasn't it before fifth grade?

Rob:
Uh...

Swistle (to William):
William, have you learned to type in school? [William's in fourth grade.]

William:
Yeah.





Swistle: Do you ever get sick of technology? Like, sick of computers and stuff?

Rob:
Not really.

Swistle:
Do you like computers?

Rob:
Yeah! I'm glad I have it every day at school.

Swistle:
Do you ever wish there was a day without technology, or a project that didn't involve technology?

Rob:
No. But sometimes I think about living out in the jungle!

William:
That's new.





Swistle: Do your teachers mention Facebook groups, like they assume you use it or expect you to?

Rob:
No. I don't really know what "groups" is.

Swistle:
I guess since they specifically say they think Facebook is a problem with students...

Rob:
Yeah.





Swistle: What do you think of parents being friends with their kids on Facebook---so the parents can see what the kids are doing and saying?

Rob:
I don't know.

Swistle:
I think we'll probably want to be your Facebook friend so we can make sure nothing bad is going on.

Rob:
Okay.






To see interviews with kids in other age groups: the BlogHer round-up page.



From the client:

Have you had a conversation with your kids (or nephews/nieces, grandchildren) about texting, sexting and safety? BlogHer is matching LG’s donation of .50 to dosomething.org for every comment on this post, so please tell me about your conversation with your kids in the comments. Or if you haven’t had the conversation yet, what’s holding you back? Maybe another reader will have the perfect suggestion for how you can get your conversation going. It’s important for all our families, and dosomething.org will get a $1.00 for every comment, question or suggestion.

Visit LG Text Ed , where Dr. Rosalind Wiseman explains the dangers and consequences of this new form of flirting. You can also watch Emmy award winning actress Jane Lynch share a lesson on the sensitive stuff kids are sending around without thinking about the consequences.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smarty Ants and Phonics Reading Pup Review and Giveaway

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and SmartyAnts.


I think this is my kids' favorite review program so far: a FedEx truck delivered us a singing, talking stuffed dog. The Smarty Ants Phonics Reading Pup comes with 10 songs already in his fluffy repertoire, which was good news because it kept the children busy squabbling over it while I went to the computer to set up the included one-month membership to the Smarty Ants reading program.

If I'd known he would start playing with it before
I even recycled the box, I would have cleared off the counter first.
I mean, salt? a crumpled towel? an electrical plate? PROFESSIONAL.


When I see a computer-based toy, I always want to know what is involved in it: I can use a computer, but I want to know how much information the computer will need from me and how long/difficult/confusing/frustrating it'll be to get things working. So that's the part I'm going to tell you about now.

It had me start downloading some software, and then it asked me for my email address and my birthdate, and then for my child's birthdate (it's one child per membership) and whether the child should be represented by a boy ant or a girl ant, and what the child's ant should be called. I felt squirrelly about the birthdates but I just fudged it a few days: this still gives the game the info it needs, without bothering my privacy issues. I also used a nickname for my child's ant's name, instead of using her actual name.

The next step was one of my favorites, as you would suspect if you read my baby name blog: choosing a name for the dog. Furthermore, there is a LIST TO CHOOSE FROM. How much would I have wanted the job of making a list of possible dog names?? SO MUCH!! I spent probably ten minutes trying out each name on our dog to see which I thought was best. This would have been really fun for the kids, if I had let them help. (I chose Murphy.)

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


The next step is choosing three ant friends to play with, and I did call Elizabeth over for this part. There are three girl ants and three boy ants to choose from, AND you get to NAME THEM. Elizabeth chose the three girl ants, and she named them Kyra, Olivia, and Katie.

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


Then I chose her reading level from a list of possibilities and entered the free one-month membership code that came with the dog. And...that's where it stopped helping me. There I was, looking at my account info, wondering what I should do next. I looked in the FAQ (click the "get help" button at the top of the screen) and followed the directions to unzip the software I'd downloaded (by clicking on the SmartyAnts.zip file on the desktop), then I put it in the Applications folder as instructed---but it didn't start installing as it said it would. So I double-clicked it, and THEN it started installing. (Computery types are rolling their eyes and asking each other if in the next version they should include "Continue breathing while installing this game.")

It took over 3 hours to install. According to the web site that's about double the time it would take with a slow internet connection, but we have a fast internet connection. The downloading was done before I was finished registering, and the installation is what took hours---but the web site says the installation speed depends on the internet connection. In any case, if you're giving this as a holiday or birthday gift to your own child, I recommend doing the installation ahead of time just in case you have the same experience.

Fortunately, the children were still playing with the Pup.


This is where we have Sadness and Woe, because after struggling to get the installed application started, it turned out the problem was that my computer didn't meet the system requirements. There was a hasty consultation with my bosses, and we decided this was a good opportunity to tell YOU about the system requirements.


(click it to see it bigger)


The Smarty Ants game really does look cool. The kids were very excited as we were setting it up and reading about it---so excited that Paul and I had a couple of discussions about whether it might be time to upgrade my computer ANYWAY. It's a reading game for pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade reading levels (even if your child is older than that), the kind that adjusts itself to the child's ability level and learning pace. I thought this was a good summary from the handbook:
For children who grasp reading concepts quickly or have advanced skills, the program accelerates to keep them engaged and challenged. For children who are struggling, the system slows the pace and increases the educational support and scaffolding.
The ants are appealing, and all three of my little kids found it very exciting to get to choose and name their little ant friends. It would have blown their little minds to learn that playing the games would let them earn "Smarty Coins" to spend on ant clothes and ant accessories.

Also, GET THIS: you plug the Phonics Reading Pup into your computer and it will automatically download the songs that go along with what the child is working on with the Smarty Ants. Then the dog can go with your child as, like, a mobile review unit! Plus, the dog shows up in the ant games, and the child can use the Smarty Coins to buy toys for him.

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


It's exactly the sort of thing my kids would go nuts for, and if I'd seen it before the review I would have bought it for them for Christmas. (Remember to install it ahead of time!) The dog comes with a free 1-month membership, and when you go online for the first time you're offered a 2-week trial; I was wondering if the 1-month would get ADDED to that, or if it was INSTEAD, and it's added---so you get a month and a half right off the bat, which might be as long as the child would play it (a Christmas toy lasting well into February is very good). If the child was still crazy for it, or if you have a child who needs either reading help or more reading challenges, a year's membership is $24.99 for 3 months, or $49.99 for 12 months (twice the money for quadruple the time) (you will not be surprised to discover I have a math medal) (from seventh grade, WHATEVER). The Pup is $29.99, and since the grey/white version has a boy voice, and since half the dog name choices are girl names, my guess is that the white version has a girl voice. (It isn't necessary to have the Pup to play SmartyAnts, and children can still have a Pup online even if they don't have a real Pup.)

One of my twins can read but is timid about it: lots of saying, "But I CAN'T!!"---even when he can, and reluctant (to the point of tears) about sounding out words he hasn't seen before. And yet when he plays video games (and he LOVES video games), he reads all the instructions easily. This is why Paul and I were thinking, "Maybe the computer could stand to be upgraded anyway...": Smarty Ants is practically custom-made for Edward, who would be frantic to play the computer games and wouldn't even notice it was helping him with his reading confidence.


The giveaway is for your own Phonics Reading Pup AND a one-year ($50!) subscription to Smarty Ants AND a $100 Visa gift card---all from BlogHer. To enter the giveaway, do one or two (two maximum) of the following by December 17, 2010, each with its own comment so I'll be sure to enter you the right number of times:

a) Leave a comment saying which Pup you prefer, the grey/white or the white (you can see both here: Smarty Ants store).

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post.

d) Follow this link and provide your email address and your response to the sweepstakes prompt, and then come back here and leave a comment saying you did so.


This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. For more information, see the BlogHer.com Smarty Ants official rules.

To read more reviews and get more chances to win, visit the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page.

For more about Smarty Ants, visit SmartyAnts.com, or go see Smarty Ants on Facebook. To shop, visit the Smarty Ants store on Amazon.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Think We'd Better Ask Someone Who's On the Scene

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed



This is Rob:

Hi, Rob.


He's eleven years old, nearly twelve. He likes video games, logic puzzles, Rubik's Cubes, sleeping in, SpongeBob Squarepants. He gets cranky because so far I won't let him have a cell phone.


Here he is watching our street get torn up this past summer.


Oh, and here he is with all the kids,
watching William do an experiment.



I don't show Rob's face very often on my blogs. This is because I haven't figured out yet where "my writing job" and "his privacy" overlap---and where they don't. When I was his age (You: "HERE we go"), there WAS NO INTERNET, and so it's not like I can think back to how _I_ felt about having MY mother post MY picture online, or whatevs. So until I figure something out, or until he starts objecting, I err on the side of UNDER-posting his face.

In fact, the whole issue of online privacy/interaction for kids is a confusing and uncertain one for me. I can't tell him funny/embarrassing stories-with-morals about how when _I_ was a child I mishandled texting, or email, or Facebook. I can talk to him about the issues I've heard about, but I can't think to myself, "Let's see, I remember the online teasing started around grade ____, so I need to be sure to ask him about it more often and make sure we're staying on top of his Facebook account and texts."

It really is hard for us parents to know what's actually going on---and sometimes we don't find out until something's gone very badly wrong indeed. But we can at least ASK, right? So here's the deal: this is a 2-post series, and on this one you can ask any question you want Rob to answer about technology at school and/or at his age: bullying via technology, cell phone use, texting, all that stuff. And on the second one, I'll interview him and post his replies.


To ask questions of kids in other age groups: the BlogHer round-up page.



From the client:

Each comment left on this post benefits DoSomething.org with a $0.50 donation! Because this topic is so important for our kids and their futures, BlogHer really wants to get the conversation about texting, sexting and safety going – both with our kids and among parents. It will match LG’s donation of .50 to dosomething.org for every comment on this post, so please give me your suggestions on questions for my kids. Dosomething.org will get a $1.00 for each and every one.

Visit LG Text Ed , where Dr. Rosalind Wiseman explains the dangers and consequences of this new form of flirting. You can also watch Emmy award winning actress Jane Lynch share a lesson on the sensitive stuff kids are sending around without thinking about the consequences.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Twelve)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Twelve giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is Sunnymum! I'll email you!

Winner! (Newman's Own)

The winner of the Newman's Own giveaway (a Newman's Own gift basket) is Dave! I'll email you!

Winner! (Ragu)

The winner of the Ragu giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is Amanda! I'll email you!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Idea for Managing Teenagers and Cell Phones

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed


My firstborn started sixth grade this year, which has sent me into a future-anticipating panic. I flit like a bumblebee from "What if I'm buying him clothes that will make him unpopular?" to "What if he gets teased so badly he Does Something Awful?" to "What if he's just one of those kids who is never going to fit in?" to "What if his grades aren't good enough for college?" to whole BOUQUETS of worries about EVERYTHING that could go wrong.

Which includes SEX and RELATIONSHIP worries. Fine, he's eleven years old, but eleven is sitting on the front steps of the Teenager Building. He'll be twelve in a few more months, and twelve is knocking on the door of the Teenager Building and calling out "Helloooooooo?"

I have what I would consider my primary fears for the next decade: (1) He'll get someone pregnant when such an event would plans-derailing; (2) He'll treat someone badly; (3) He'll choose someone bad for him.

And maybe more than the others: (4) He'll get involved in something I didn't even realize I was supposed to be talking to him about. Like sexting. I've HEARD of sexting, but I hadn't worried about it yet, and if you want HONESTY here, I wasn't completely clear on what it...IS. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to make sure I knew.

Rob doesn't have a cell phone. YET. Right now he doesn't need one, but as I understand it, pretty much all teenagers end up having them, is that right? And if I remember correctly from my teen years, it's not just a matter of setting up good rules, because SETTING rules for teens doesn't necessarily mean there is FOLLOWING of those rules, and therein lies the problem: How can I set rules AND ensure that they're followed---while minimizing privacy issues?

Here's my idea: What if we gave him a phone that would not be "his phone" but rather a FAMILY phone that anyone could use when they need to carry one along? This makes good sense for our family anyway: imagine if you will the cost of cell phone service for SEVEN cell phones.

This answers his complaint that he NEEDS a phone (by letting him take one to use when he needs it) and MY feeling that sometimes he needs a phone (so I can worry less, and so I can call him if I need/want to), but also allows us to keep better tabs on what the phone is being used for. It sure would be awkward to have a friend send a sexy text message if your MOM might have the phone that day.

From the client:

"Each comment left on this post benefits DoSomething.org with a $0.50 donation!

Visit LG Text Ed , where Dr. Rosalind Wiseman explains the dangers and consequences of this new form of flirting. You can also watch Emmy award winning actress Jane Lynch share a lesson on the sensitive stuff kids are sending around without thinking about the consequences."   

Kellogg's, Week Twelve: Morning Rituals, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the LAST of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's.

This week's topic is Morning Rituals: Do you have any annual breakfast traditions? A special Christmas breakfast, maybe, or special birthday breakfasts, or a special Easter breakfast?

When I was a child, my family had a birthday breakfast ritual: the Birthday Girl or Birthday Boy was served breakfast in bed, which meant that she or he had to pretend to be asleep while the rest of the family clanged and clattered around and shushed each other. Then the family came in singing the happy birthday song and carrying the breakfast-in-bed tray (a white-painted wooden thing with two magazine-rack-type things on the sides and a center tray that could be propped at a variety of angles---this was also the sick-in-bed tray). The breakfast was always, ALWAYS, sweet rolls from a can, the kind with orange frosting, with lit candles stuck into them, and I'm sure that was perfectly safe to have around piles and piles of loose, fluffy bedding. Plus orange juice, and coffee for the mama.

I'm picking up a tube of those sweet rolls this weekend, don't think I'm not.

We also have a Christmas-related breakfast ritual, which is that the morning after Christmas we have leftover worstebroodjes (sausages in bread, dipped in, er, ketchup and eaten for Christmas dinner) for breakfast. I don't know if our Dutch ancestors used ketchup, but if not they SHOULD have because it is DELISH. Paul is theoretically half-Dutch as well, but uses MUSTARD, and has taught our CHILDREN to use mustard, and I think you'll agree with me when I say that makes him less Dutch.


Thank you for sticking around for twelve posts about breakfast, and I do hope you'll associate Kellogg's with BREAKFAST and CEREAL despite all my talk about sweet rolls and muffin scoops and autumn soups and kittens. And if not, I do hope you'll fake it so that Kellogg's doesn't regret hiring me.



To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, November 1, 2010 about an annual breakfast ritual, or else swearing to associate Kellogg's with cereal instead of with kittens. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old.

For a second entry, you can:
  • Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below), or
  • Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

Sweepstakes ends 5 PM EST on November 1, 2010.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Twelve.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



From the client: "Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com."

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Eleven)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Eleven giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is Meggan! I'll email you!

And in just a few minutes I'll post the LAST of the Kellogg's giveaways, with another $100 Visa gift card.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Winner! (French Toast)

The winner of the French Toast giveaway (2 tops and 2 bottoms) is Clueless but Hopeful Mama! I'll email you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kellogg's, Week Eleven: Good Things in Bowls, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the eleventh of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's. EACH POST will have its own $100 gift card giveaway. The plan is to have each giveaway start on Tuesday and run until the following Monday.

This week's topic is Good Things in Bowls: What's your favorite meal in a bowl? Soup? Cereal? Yogurt with granola and fruit? Oatmeal? Ice cream? Macaroni and cheese? Fried rice? Chili?


My favorite meal in a bowl is chicken-rice-egg-corn. It sounds icky and it looks icky, but it is SUPREME DELICIOUSNESS. I make one of the larger-size bags of brown rice (the kind that cooks in a bag), and I add a cup of cooked barbecue-sauced chicken breast cut into little pieces, a can of Niblets sweet corn, and four scrambled eggs, and I heat it all up in a skillet. And then I add, like, a FISTFUL of salt. It is so, so yummy.

My second favorite meal in a bowl is soup. I have a good autumn soup recipe (recently I've been leaving out the broccoli and putting in a can of black beans and a can of chickpeas, and it is even more good and autumny).

I hope some of you will say your favorite meal in a bowl is cereal, because otherwise I am going to feel a little awkward about using a cereal-sponsored post to write about soup. Oh: I CAN say that my favorite BREAKFAST meal in a bowl is cereal, for sure! (Unless I am eating leftover chicken-egg-rice-corn...)



To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, October 25, 2010 about your favorite meal in a bowl. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old.

For a second entry, you can:
  • Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below), or
  • Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)

Sweepstakes ends 5 PM EST on October 25, 2010.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Eleven.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



From the client: "Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com."

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Ten)

The winner of Kellogg's Week Ten ($100 Visa gift card) is Barbarawr! I'll email you!

And in a few minutes there will be the eleventh Kellogg's post, with another $100 Visa gift card.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: French Toast School Uniforms, With a Giveaway of Two Tops and Two Bottoms

(Disclosure info: For this review I was given four pieces of children's clothing plus four more for a giveaway, but not otherwise compensated, nor told what to write.)


My mother used to teach at a school that required uniforms. And you can tell the uniforms were chosen by someone who lacked children or common sense or both, because these uniforms:
  1. cost $50 per jumper, and that didn't even include the shirt, which was $30, and
  2. were dry-clean only

DRY-CLEAN ONLY! THIRTY DOLLARS FOR A PLAIN WHITE SHORT-SLEEVED SHIRT! And please keep in mind that children need either five outfits for a schoolweek or else they need someone to do laundry DRY-CLEANING for them several times a week.

I am in favor of school uniforms: they appeal to me because they're easy, because I enjoy buying little stacks of duplicates of things, because I love mix-and-matching, and because I think they're adorable. But if I had to pay $80 for ONE DAY'S OUTFIT, and it would need to be DRY-CLEANED at the end of that day, I think I might go slap out of my mind.

So before I review some school uniforms that are NOT dry-clean only and NOT priced all krazy, I would like to turn to the camera and speak sternly to those in charge of choosing uniforms for a school: for the love of all that is good, CHOOSE SENSIBLY. It is not necessary to spend a BAZILLION DOLLARS to get wonderful school uniforms for children to dribble ketchup down the fronts of. An expensive uniform looks THE SAME as the less expensive ones, and no one looking at your school's students on the playground will think, "Ooo, those uniforms are the EIGHTY DOLLAR ones---it MUST be a good school!"

My mom is the one who first noticed French Toast: she was looking for a school uniform for a doll (don't ask), and she got pages of school uniform sites---and this is when she realized that the kids from her school could have ALL ALONG been buying their uniforms cheaper, because other sites had the SAME PLAID and the SAME JUMPERS but for WAY LESS and also MACHINE-WASH. Those are my all-caps but they were also my mom's, when she was telling me about it. And that was my motivation for doing this review unpaid: my mom and I BOTH wanted to know how these uniforms compared the the ones she was familiar with.

French Toast sent me two tops and two bottoms of my choice, so I chose to dress the twins, who just started school this year. Because the only thing cuter than school uniforms is LITTLE TWINS in school uniforms. I chose:
  • Plaid Two-Tab Scooter in navy-red plaid (item 1397B, $11.98 in size 5)
  • Sweater With Ribbon Trim in navy (item 1390B, $12.98 in size 5)
  • Adjustable Waist Pants in khaki (item 1219A, $14.98 in size 5)
  • V-Neck Pullover Sweater in navy (item 1028A, $11.50 in size 5)

That dressed both twins in not even 2/3rds the cost of one school uniform at my mom's school. And I could have dressed them for even less if I'd taken advantage of the clearance section where there were, for example, skirts for $6. Or if I'd chosen regular short-sleeved shirts for $6/$7/$8 instead of zooming right in on the more-expensive sweaters.

I was going for "Casual pose from children's clothing catalog,"
but I think maybe what I got was "That poor girl is about to fall out of the tree
and her brother isn't even going to notice."



The clothes seem GREAT. The sweaters are the perfect weight: Elizabeth's is a nice lightweight sweater (like the weight of sweaters used in twinsets) that could go over a blouse (ooo, like with a peter pan collar!), and Edward's is heavier but not too hot to wear over his shirt. The scooter feels like nice quality and looked even prettier than on the site. I was really happy with all the clothes. And they are MACHINE-WASHABLE.



My kids' schools don't require uniforms, but I plan to place an order anyway: these are excellent school clothes, uniform requirement or no. And the clincher was that after their modeling session, both twins wanted to wear the outfits to school today.

Who wouldn't?


The Giveaway
French Toast is giving away two tops and two bottoms of YOUR choice. They have sizes 2T - 20, and regular khakis and solid skirts and plain polos as well as school plaids, so that's a lot of choice. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Saturday, October 23rd. Entrants must have a U.S. mailing address and be at least 18 years old.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kellogg's, Week Ten: The Secrets of Breakfast, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the tenth of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's. EACH POST will have its own $100 gift card giveaway. The plan is to have each giveaway start on Tuesday and run until the following Monday.

This week's topic is Breakfast Secrets: Do you always put vanilla and cinnamon in your pancakes? Do you know how to make blueberry muffins so the blueberries don't make soggy spots in them? Have you found the perfect whisk, or the perfect cereal bowl, or the perfect mug? Kiss-up points available for saying you've found the perfect cereal!

Here's my secret:


Do you hear the "heavens opening up" sound? WHHHHEEEEEOOOOOM! This is my disher: a #20-size scoop that has changed the way I feel about making muffins. Scoop, scoop, scoop, DONE. Paul bought it for me as a present. So much easier than spooning the batter in, especially for those of us who are not so good with spatial relations and estimating.

Also, I put cinnamon and vanilla and flax seed meal in pancake batter.



To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, October 18, 2010 about a breakfast secret---er, a secret you don't mind telling everyone, which I guess diminishes the "secret" aspect. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old.

For a second entry, you can:
  • Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below), OR
  • Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
Sweepstakes ends 5 PM EST on October 18, 2010.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Ten.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



From the client: Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Nine)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Nine giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is Champagne Wisdom! I'll email you!

And in just a few minutes there will be the next Kellogg's post, with another $100 Visa gift card giveaway.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Soothing and Cheering a Sick Child, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Similasan.



We have children in three different school buildings this year. We are doomed: we will get every single illness that goes around.

When one of the kids is sick enough to stay home from school, I build the child a "nest": the child can choose the couch or the recliner, and I bring out pillows and throws, stuffed animals and favorite blankies. A congested child gets a vaporizer nearby. A barfy child gets a bucket. Anyone can have a cat delivered to them, though it's up to the cat if the cat will stay.


The child gets to choose what's on TV, and can watch it all day long if he or she wants to. Or I can bring the child books, or clipboards with paper to color on, or handheld video games. And I bought one of those knitting spool things (the kind that lets the child can knit a long, useless rope), and we bring that out only for sick kids.


Usual meals are abandoned: barfy children get saltines, toast, rice cereal, bananas, applesauce; non-barfy children can have anything that appeals, which is usually graham crackers, cinnamon toast, saltines. Children who are not barfing can have as much juice as they want instead of the usual "one cup per day" limit, and children who ARE barfing can make frequent requests for small amounts of juice or water or even soda.


To enter to win a $100 Visa gift card, leave a comment on this post by November 18, 2010 with one of the ways you soothe/cheer a sick child---or one of the ways YOU were soothed/cheered back when YOU were the child who was sick.

For a second entry, you can:
  • Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
  • Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
  • Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old. For more details, see the Official Rules.

See the BlogHer offers page for 9 more chances to win.



From the client: “Similasan Earache Relief ear drops and Pink Eye Relief eye drops are safe and effective remedies to help relieve the symptoms of earaches and pink eye naturally. Similasan uses 100% natural active ingredients in their products. Pink Eye Relief eye drops relieve the redness, watery discharge and burning associated with viral and environmental conjunctivitis (pink eye). Earache Relief ear drops relieve the pain of earaches and are safe for all ages.” For more information, see the Similasan USA site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kellogg's, Week Nine: The Morning Rush, and a $100 Visa Gift Card

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the ninth of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's. EACH POST will have its own $100 gift card giveaway. The plan is to have each giveaway start on Tuesday and run until the following Monday.

This week's topic is The Morning Rush: Do you have tips for making the morning routine simpler? And are there breakfast foods that make the morning simpler?


Our morning routine is more complicated this year than in any previous year. My eldest child catches a bus at 7:00, and then my second child catches a bus at 8:00, and then the twins go to kindergarten at noon.

One thing that has dramatically simplified things for me is having a watch that can be set to beep at certain times. It beeps to let me know it's almost time for the first child's bus, and it beeps again when it's almost time for the second child's bus. This has already saved me from missing several buses.

I also have several morning milestones in a set schedule: I always wake the first child when I get up to take my shower 5:45, and I always wake the second child right after the first child gets on the bus.

A third thing that helps tremendously is SIGNS. I haven't put up this year's yet because we're still figuring out when each child needs lace-up shoes for gym and when the second child needs to bring his clarinet and how to make one sign include four different children, but here's an example sign from last winter when things were simpler:


This year we're adding lace-up shoes, clarinet, and remembering to brush teeth, but the gist of it is the same: a sign by the door lets us make sure we're remembering everything for everybody. IN THEORY, the children are supposed to check the sign themselves; what actually happens is that I say "Did you do everything on the sign?" and they say "Yes!" and I say "Including remembering your lunch?" and they say "Yes!...oh, er, no."

Simple breakfast foods: for us it's cereal or muffins. Both are easy to dish up, easy to serve in shifts, and easy for the older kids to serve themselves.


To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, October 11, 2010 about either (1) tips for making the morning routine simpler or (2) breakfasts that make the morning routine simpler. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old. One entry per post per person. To get an additional entry, blog or tweet the contest and then leave a comment with a link to the post or tweet.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Nine.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Eight)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Eight giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is bdiane34! I'll email you!

In a little while I'll be posting the next Kellogg's giveaway, with another $100 gift card.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ragú Traditional Pasta Sauce: A Review, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Ragú.



Ragú has updated their Traditional pasta sauce, from one serving of vegetables per 1/2 cup to TWO servings of vegetables per 1/2 cup.


Ragú sent us one jar of the old version and two jars of the new version, so we could try them. We did two blind taste tests.

Paul and I both first tried a little spoonful of plain sauce:

Paul
Background: Grew up with jarred sauces
Preference: New version
Comments: Liked both, but slightly preferred new

Swistle
Background: Grew up with homemade sauces
Preference: New version
Comments: New version tastes less like a jarred sauce; old version tastes more like what I'd expect the children to like.


The old version is a little thinner and oranger, and tasted a little saltier to me; the new version is a little thicker and darker. But they're very similar: if I'd switched to the new without telling anyone, I would have been very surprised if anyone noticed.


I gave the kids each two bowls of pasta, one with the new sauce and one with the old, none of the bowls marked. ALL the kids preferred the old version, but it took them a long time to make the decision and they all ate both servings.

But this is where I like to compare:

(Click photo to biggify it)

I would buy the new version, because I like it better, Paul likes it better, the kids won't notice, and I would be swayed by the two-versus-one vegetable servings. But I notice that when I compare the actual labels, not much is different. The ingredients list is nearly the same, with sugar and dehydrated onions switching places. There are 10 more calories per 1/2 cup in the new version (14% increase), 60 more mg of potassium (19% increase), 1 more gram of sugar (17% increase), 1 more gram of fiber (50% increase). Iron went from 4% RDA to 6% RDA. Vitamins A and C are the same.

Still, I would buy the new version, because I preferred it---and because, as I say, I'm influenced by the fronts of labels as well as the backs.

We also thought we'd try a recipe other than "add sauce to pasta," so I went to Ragú's recipe page, chose "Dinner" and "Kid-friendly" and "Red sauce," and....whoops, I should have checked this more than half an hour before dinner, because we don't have all those ingredients. So then I chose "Dinner" and "Red sauce" and "turkey," and I got Turkey Chili Mac, which I made without the green pepper because (1) the children don't like green pepper and (2) we didn't have any green pepper. And then I left out the olive oil because (1) I didn't need to sauté the green pepper. And then I didn't read very carefully so I didn't see the part about simmering it covered for 10 minutes, so I just brought it to a simmer and that was it.

Which makes it pretty much the easiest recipe ever if you don't include ordering pizza: I cooked 8 ounces of pasta (I didn't have elbow macaroni so used whatever that straight, diagonally-cut-ends tube shape is), and while it was boiling I browned and drained a package of ground turkey, then added a jar of the new Ragú sauce and a tablespoon of chili powder. And by then the pasta was done so I added it to the meat and sauce and it was done. At 4:30 I was searching the Ragú site, and at 5:00 the kids were already eating.

This is what they were eating.
(The polite person would pretend she didn't notice
I'd photoshopped some of the gunk off of the stovetop.)


It was yummy and easy, and I admit I was thinking "two servings of vegetables per half-cup times six half-cups equals twelve servings of vegetables in this pan!" I'd prefer it with the green pepper (and maybe with some crushed red pepper), but the kids liked it like this.


To enter to win a $100 Visa gift card from BlogHer, leave a comment on this post by October 31, 2010, saying if you grew up with jarred sauces or homemade sauces.

You must be 18 or older and a U.S. resident to enter. One entry per person. For a second entry, you can:
  • Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
  • Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
  • Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

For the more complete details, see the official rules. For ten other chances to win (or twenty, if you go for the additional entry on each one), see the BlogHer.com special offers page.

But wait, there is more:
Ragú is also having a non-BlogHer-Ads-related Meal Makeover Kit sweepstakes on their Facebook page, with HUGE cooking gift baskets (more than $300 worth of stuff) as prizes: Macy's cookware, Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma kitchen accessories/utensils, Ceriello of Manhattan pastas, and a bunch of Ragú sauce. Go over there for details on how to enter. (But leave a comment here first if you want to enter for the gift card.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Winner! (Juicy Juice)

The winner of the Juicy Juice giveaway ($100 Visa gift card and a juice prize pack) is clynsg! I'll email you!

Winner! (8th Continent)

The winner of the 8th Continent giveaway ($100 Visa gift card and 12 half-gallons of soy milk) is Sarah! I'll email you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kellogg's, Week Eight: Weekend Mornings, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the eighth of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's. EACH POST will have its own $100 gift card giveaway. The plan is to have each giveaway start on Tuesday and run until the following Monday.

This week's topic is Weekend Mornings: How do they differ from weekday mornings? And does your family have any breakfasts they make together?

Weekend mornings aren't much different at our house. I'm usually in my pajamas while making it, and it's more common for us to eat in shifts since the big kids are allowed to sleep in, but otherwise it's the same: five cups, five bowls or five plates, five vitamins, five muffins or five bowls of cereal. And then me trying to get out of the room with my coffee.

The kids do like to help make muffins, and in fact sometimes I make the muffins in the evenings after their bedtimes just to cut down on the number of sous chefs.

Edward stirs the wet ingredients; Elizabeth stirs the dry


Three of the five can help make cereal without getting more cereal on the floor than is worth it for me, and the other two can help carrying things to the table.


To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, October 4, 2010 about either (1) how your weekend mornings differ from weekday ones or (2) what breakfasts your family makes together. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old. One entry per post per person. To get an additional entry, blog or tweet the contest and then leave a comment with a link to the post or tweet.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Eight.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Seven)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Seven giveaway is Type (little) a! I'll email you!

And in a little while there'll be a NEW Kellogg's post, with another $100 gift card giveaway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kellogg's, Week Seven: Quality Mornings, and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg's.



This is the seventh of twelve weekly posts sponsored by BlogHer and Kellogg's. EACH POST will have its own $100 gift card giveaway. The plan is to have each giveaway start on Tuesday and run until the following Monday.

This week's topic is Quality Mornings: How do you start the day on a positive note? And do you always have breakfast in the morning?


I'll start with the second question because I already answered it in another of these posts: HECK YES we always have breakfast. Do _I_ always have it? Er. But the kids always do. Always! ...Although, this is not the superhuman feat I'm implying, because so far only one of them has ever wanted to skip breakfast, and we've let him try skipping and then he's complaining he's hungry when it's still 2 hours until lunch.

I know Kellogg's is paying me so you may find my cereal-related opinions of suspicious worth, but they haven't been paying me for the last ELEVEN YEARS and I've still given the kids cereal most mornings. I think of cereal as the good choice: many cooked breakfasts are high in fat and/or sugar, as are many "convenience" options, but cereal is full of, like, GRAINS! Grains are GOOD! And sure, you can get super-sugary or low-quality-grains cereals, but there are tons with very low sugar and/or very good grains, or ones where the sugar seems "worth it" to me (like in Mini-Wheats, where the little frosted part is the only way I'll eat the healthy good-grains part).



Now, for the other question. There's another mother who waits at the bus stop with me in the mornings, and she says she tries very, very hard not to snap or grouch at the kids either right before school or right before bed. She and I are both impatient types and would have a natural tendency to say things like "Come ON, let's GO, what is the PROBLEM here?!" in the mornings, but we try to work against our natural tendencies. It doesn't always work, since those also tend to be the two times of day when the children seem to need the most pushing and reminding and managing, but we TRY.

I also make sure to make my good-bye affectionate, even if my "trying" has been more like "failing" that day: I'll say, "Bye, honey, have a good day at school!" or I'll leave out "honey" if it's an older kid who might be embarrassed.


To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Monday, September 27, 2010 about either (1) how you keep mornings all cheery and positive or (2) whether or not you always have breakfast. Entrants must be U.S. residents at least 18 years old. One entry per post per person. To get an additional entry, blog or tweet the contest and then leave a comment with a link to the post or tweet.

For the complete rules, see The Complete Rules, Week Seven.

For more chances to win, visit the other participating bloggers.

For more about Kellogg's, visit their site.



Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.

Winner! (Kellogg's Week Six)

The winner of the Kellogg's Week Six giveaway is AmyNaab! I'll email you!

Later this morning there will be ANOTHER Kellogg's post with ANOTHER $100 Visa gift card giveaway.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Superpowers, and ABC No Ordinary Family

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and ABC's No Ordinary Family.


The assignment was to write about what superpowers I would choose, for myself and for the members of my family. I mulled this over. Soon I realized I was thinking TOO SMALL: I could be INVISIBLE or I could WALK THROUGH WALLS or I could READ MINDS---but instead what was I thinking of? I was thinking it would be great to have a superpower that would...rapidly clean my house. Er.

I have a superpower advantage at my house because I have more than the average number of family members to assign powers to. We can really diversify. But speaking of that same larger-than-usual family, the housecleaning thing really would be nice, because, really, we could clean the bathroom DAILY and not be overdoing it. Hm. If one of us is going to have the power of, um, Rapid and Thorough Cleaning, it seems like we should super that power up a notch by putting that person to work cleaning up oil spills in the ocean and earthquake-collapsed building rubble and so forth, too. A full-time job cleaning up disasters is not a career that appeals to me, so I'm giving the Power of Cleanliness (to be used for our own personal house as well as for major environmental messes) to Rob: a classic firstborn and also a pre-teen, he's big on environmental indignation. Plus, he should learn to clean a toilet before he grows up and gets married.

I think I should choose/distribute all the superpowers the same way: powers that would benefit our family or the individual person on a small and individual sort of scale, but ALSO let them make a fulfilling and world-hugging career out of their superness. Because that is THE SUPERHERO WAY. It is how superheroes ROLL.

The problem, then, is how am I going to "also benefit the world" with invisibility, because I would really enjoy all the snooping and eavesdropping I could do with that, but I can't find the philanthropic angle. Oh! No, wait, I change my mind: I want the power to explain anything to anyone, so that they understand and, ahem, agree with me. No, no, wait, I want to be able to do something with TIME! ...Can we come back to mine later?

I know what my husband Paul would want, because every time he catches anything before it falls, he flexes his muscles and says "Luckily, I have LIGHTING-QUICK REFLEXES!" So that's the superpower I'll give him: not just reflexes, but lightning-speed all around. The kind of superhero who sees a truck about to hit someone and can dart in, get the person, and dart out again, so fast no one even sees it. This would also be convenient when we're making dinner and realize we're short an ingredient. SHWOOSH to the store! SHWOOSH home again!

And now I know what I want: I want to be able to speak any language fluently. I want The Power of Babel, as it were. (Geddit, GEDDIT??) This would be great for traveling ("not knowing the language" is my number one fear), and I'd enjoy working in translating---both spoken and written. This may not be as AMAZING as invisibility, but I WANT IT. I'm already imagining myself delivering a speech to the United Nations that would bring everyone to tears, and peace to the world. And being able to understand any language gives me excellent eavesdropportunities.

I think SOMEONE should be able to go back in time to change things: it's just SO convenient on mornings when an alarm doesn't go off or we leave a lunchbox at home or we get in a fender-bender. Let's give that power to Henry: not only is he the youngest so he's easiest to contact and use, he lovvvves dinosaurs and could in his spare time go visit them. Plus, he already wants to be a "paleo-tah-jolist" (paleontologist), so this gives him a BIG edge over future colleagues.

It seems like someone should have invisibility or telepathy, too, but I don't like the idea of any of the kids being able to do that.

William, a fourth-grader who spends all his allowance on magic tricks, can have the power of elemental transmutation: being able to change one thing into another by changing the arrangements/combinations of molecules. Not only will this be excellent for college (he's interested in chemistry), I assume this would make him a pretty fast cook. And perhaps he could work with Rob on environmental issues afterward, if only he and Rob could stop their INCESSANT BICKERING.

That leaves Edward and Elizabeth, and it seems like twins need complementary powers, and Power Rings to click together to activate them. But instead let's give Edward the power to heal, which he can use for his own deeply traumatizing owies ("AAAAAAAAAAAAA, IS THERE BLOOD??, AAAAAAAAAA!!!") and also as a worldwide career later on. And Elizabeth, who likes to know EVERYTHING, can have one of those powers where the person knows something is going to happen right before it does, and can whisk someone out of trouble and/or stop it before it happens.

I suggested they put on superhero capes. I think they need more practice.


What superpowers would YOU choose for YOUR family?

We're discussing this topic because there's a new show on ABC called No Ordinary Family, in which all four members get superpowers: one super speed, one super strength, one mental telepathy, and one super intelligence.



To see the video better than my blog format will apparently let me show it: better version of the video.
To see stories by other bloggers: BlogHer.com special offers page.
For more information about the show: ABC No Ordinary Family show page.
To visit them on Facebook: No Ordinary Family on Facebook.