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!