Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Your kids will be hot stuff with Hot Wheels

As a little girl, I had a serious car fetish. I would spend hours and hours playing with Matchbox cars, drawing pictures of cars, memorizing facts about cars...even today, I am a car junkie. And I can't tell you how excited I was when Monkey Man developed a love for Hot Wheels cars at the tender age of two. I practically bought out the entire selection at every store I could find them in. It's a sickness, I tell you.

Parent Bloggers Network managed to hook us up with the coolest sets from Hot Wheels - the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Triple Stunt Starter Set (say that ten times fast!), and the Hot Wheels Power Loop Stunt Zone. The day they arrived in the mail, I let Monkey Man open the boxes and he just about went through the roof he was so excited! Heh, and I thought he had outgrown Hot Wheels...not the case at all!

The Triple Stunt Starter Set has three stunts that kids can use their imaginations to create any combination of stunts that they can dream up. They can speed around the loop, face the "Craniac", or fly out of the launcher - and any combination of those stunts. Monkey Man had lots of fun trying to create the most chaos possible with his Hot Wheels cars. I will warn you that some of the older Hot Wheels cars may not work with these sets, but each set comes with a car to use that works fine with the set and would be interchangable with any of the Trick Tracks sets.

The Power Loop Stunt Zone is also part of the Hot Wheels Trick Tracks line. It also features three stunts - with the centerpiece being the power loop stunt, a pair of loops that criss-cross in the sky and a power booster that allows kids to get a couple of cars going and then watching them crash. And really, isn't that what is the most fun for kids playing with Hot Wheels? This set does require two "D" batteries but the wow factor is well worth the trouble to put them in.

Monkey Man is seven years old - and was able to do most of the assembly by himself save for putting the batteries in. He did need a little help understanding how to reset some of the stunts, but after a few minutes he was on his own and was laughing hysterically the whole time at all the chaos and destruction he was creating. "This is like the best science experiment EVER!" he yelled at one point.

The sets are also easy to break down if you don't want to keep them up for a long time. We've moved it several times and it only took a few minutes to reassemble everything, and a few minutes to break them down again when they had to be moved. I appreciated how easy they were to move around and get going again without a huge hassle!

Both sets are in the $20 range and are available through Amazon as well as major retailers. And with everyone tightening their belt a little this holiday season, this would be a perfect gift for any kid that loves Hot Wheels. It's not only fun, but encourages creative thinking as they dream up their next big stunt!

Thanks again to my friends at Parent Bloggers Network for a great product and gift idea!

Parent Bloggers Network

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Have a blast with VTech V-Motion Active Learning System

We are serious video game junkies in this house. Okay, make that two of the three of us are. I'm a total moron when it comes to that kind of stuff.

The amount of gaming consoles we have in our house is embarrassing. We have a Wii. We have an xBox, an xBox360, and a Nintendo somethingorother. See, I just can't even get into it. Anyhow, this isn't about me, it's about the youngest gamer in the house, Monkey Man. He just loves video games and computer games. The kid has his own laptop, for pete's sake.

Parent Bloggers Network emailed a few weeks ago and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing the VTech V-Motion Active Learning system. Although we probably need another system in the house like a hole in the head, I told them to send it on so we could check it out. I knew about VTech from some friends that had purchased other items made by them, so I was pretty intrigued to see what all the hoopla was about.

The day it arrived in the mail, I eagerly tore into the box to see what it was like. Monkey Man, ever the skeptic, came into the kitchen and peered into the box. "That looks...boring," he said, dismissively rolling his eyes and plopping back on the couch with a resigned sigh. And since he wasn't that into it, I left it in the box until the following weekend when I had plenty of time to hook it up.

I had all these visions of the normal trials and tribulations that I have trying to hook anything electronic up. Let's face facts - I can build a building, but don't ask me to hook up a VCR because suddenly my brain will explode. So I braced myself, opened the box, and prepared for the torture.

What a surprise...I had the thing completely hooked up in less than ten minutes, and that included unpacking the system, inserting batteries, and hooking it to our TV. And as I unpacked it, Monkey Man wandered in and was clearly interested. "What's that?" he asked, his eyes glazed over in that typical Man Meets Electronics look. "Well, since you said it looked boring, I figured I'd hook it up and play with it," I answered slyly.

He was hooked. He stayed by my side the entire rest of the time. I played through a few rounds of the Action Mania game (which is the Smartridge included with the system) and finally he practically clubbed me with the cool wireless controller so he could commandeer the system.

The system is sleek and easy to operate. Heck, even Monkey Man was able to get it up and running by himself the next day. And I love, love, love the wireless controller - it's not like a Wii controller exactly, because there's far less motion required to get the characters to move. But he was just as animated as could be, swaying from side to side and moving around trying to get the characters to move like he wanted. His favorite games so far are "Street Race" in which you steer a car to find letters to complete words, and "Balance It" where you get the character to balance on a big ball while you go through an obstacle cource and find pictures of healthy foods.

Another feature of the V-Motion Active Learning System is that it includes the V.Link, which can be used in a PC to upload game scores to the internet and also download games. I thought that was pretty darn cool.

So, will the VTech V-Motion Active Learning System replace Madden '09 in our house? Probably not, but he's had a total blast...and honestly, I'm happy that he's learning something educational and getting a little exercise to boot. And compared to other gaming systems it's reasonably priced at $69.99, with Smartridges costing $24.99. That's a bargain, folks, if you're looking to get into a reasonably-priced gaming system. It's aimed at ages 3 - 7, but I think the kids who are in the 4 - 6 age range would probably like it the most.

Once again, thanks to my friends over at Parent Bloggers Network! Stop on by PBN and check out some of the other campaigns they have going on right now!

Parent Bloggers Network

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Build brain power with Yoplait Kids

Monkey Man is a yogurt fiend. He is, however, very picky about yogurt. No lumps, no funky flavors, no artificial sweeteners for my man. He just wants some good, creamy yogurt without all the drama.

Parent Bloggers Network asked if we'd like to try out Yoplait Kids and when I asked if he'd like to try a new yogurt, he kind of scrunched up his nose and said "yeah, sure," so I seized the opportunity to try out Yoplait Kids.

Yoplait Kids comes as both a drinkable yogurt, and then a spoonable yogurt. No chunks, which makes it not only palpable for my picky yogurt eater, but also for toddlers who could possibly choke on any chunks. The spoonable yogurt is thick and creamy, perfect for kids learning to self-feed. No runny mess! And the flavors offered have something for every kid - strawberry, mixed berry, banana, and so on. The portions are toddler-appropriate which is really nice - plus it makes the yogurt perfect for packing in a lunchbox.

But here's the magic about Yoplait Kids. Not only does it have 25% less sugar than the average kids yogurts, but it also has the magic of DHA in it. DHA is an omega-3 acid that is critical to brain development - it's naturally available in breastmilk, but as kids get older they have to find DHA in other sources like eggs and certain types of fish. Hello, have you tried to get your kid to eat fish lately? Mine will barely even touch an egg, and forget about fish! So this way, he gets DHA and possibly a leg up on his brain development. I like that. I like that a lot! And of course, you get the added bonus of not only a good source of calcium, but vitamins A and D. It's a total winner in the nutrition department.

So far, Monkey Man has wolfed Yoplait Kids down. No complaints that it's not sweet enough, no complaints about the texture, and best of all - no complaints, period. He loves it. And for my picky yogurt lover to enjoy it, I know it's going to become a mainstay in our refrigerator.

Right now, if you visit Yoplait Kids you can print off a free coupon for $1.50 off any Yoplait Kids product so you can try it with your own crew. What do you have to lose?

And now, for the best part. The folks at Yoplait were nice enough to send me some goodies that I'd love to throw your way. The first two commenters on this post will win a Yoplait Kids insulated cooler (it's the size of a small soft-sided lunchbox) as well as "Brain Quest" - a series of 400 questions to build your child's word skills, aimed at ages 2 - 3. Isn't that cool? So leave me a comment (and also your email address so I can contact you), and it can be YOURS.

Thanks once again to PBN for filling our tummies! Stop on by PBN to see what other cool reviews are in the works!

Parent Bloggers Network

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back to school in style with Hanes

Remember back-to-school shopping? I always got to start the school year with new clothes, right down to my socks and undies. And I do the same thing for Monkey Man, although being a boy doesn't necessarily mean that he is even remotely excited about shopping for school clothes.

Parent Bloggers Network emailed me a few weeks ago about some exciting new products from everyone's favorite underwear company, Hanes - Comfort Fit Underwear for Kids. They are introducing the new "Comfort Fit Promise" - if you're not 100% satisfied with the way they fit, you get your money back. How can you beat that? So I emailed and begged to be added to the campaign.

The day the box arrived in the mail, Monkey Man assumed that it was probably a gift for him from his grandparents. " is for you, but it's not exactly what you think it is..." I said. He ripped the box open, and his face visibly fell as the packages of socks and underwear fell out of the box.

"Socks? UNDERWEAR? That's not a present!" he wailed.

"Yeah, but guess what? If you wear these, you can tell millions of people on the Internet whether they should buy them for their kids or not. How about that?"

He eyed me suspiciously. "For real? I get to say if I like them or if I don't?"

"Yup. It's that easy."

"I'm in. When can I try them out?"

So in the washer they went. First, we washed up the new Boys No Ride Briefs. They washed up like a dream, and boy were they soft. I compared them to the other Hanes Briefs that we already had, and they are definitely different - they have no-roll edging on the legs, meaning no riding up and therefore no wedgies! He liked the waistband too because it didn't rub his waistline the way some other brands we've tried do. And, double-stitching on the seams spells durability - and we all know that boys aren't exactly gentle on their undies. He loved those and said they were super comfy.

Next came the Boys No Gap Fly Boxers. And I don't know how Hanes did it, but there is an actual fly there that does not gap. Not one bit. I let Monkey Man run around one afternoon in his boxers and a t-shirt for hours, and no matter how much he squirmed, jumped, or danced around, there wasn't a single gap to be found. No peep show here! He loved the tagless design and the covered waistband. This was his first time wearing boxer shorts, and I think he loved them and all of the "freedom", if you know what I'm saying. I was just relieved that I wasn't being subjected to frequest flashes of his freedom. Ahem.

We also got to try the Hanes Shaped to Fit Ankle Socks for Boys. I hate kids' socks. The last set I bought, which were made by an athletic apparel company that begins with an R and ends with a K, washed up terribly and never seemed to look clean. Well, these wash up like a dream - they look great even after multiple wearings. They have extra reinforcing in the heels and toes but they are not bulky. The yarns are plush and cozy. The socks stay up without constant tugging. And I have yet to see any of the annoying little pieces of elastic poking out from around the top of the socks. I'm sure all of the moms reading this are nodding their heads right now, because those nagging little pieces of elastic can almost drive you to drink.

"Mommy, you need to tell those people on the Internet that they need to buy these underwear. They rock!"

Why yes, they do. Not only for the quality, but for Hanes' Comfort Fit Promise - how can you beat that? And if you look for specially marked packages, you can get a free pair!

Check back at Parent Bloggers on August 22nd for our Blog Blast featuring Hanes and a chance to win some of their awesome products for your own kids!

Parent Bloggers Network

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Git 'em good with the Discovery Store's Bug Net Launcher

I adore the Discovery Store folks. I mean, they have the coolest stuff for kids, so whenever Parent Bloggers Network sends out one of their emails with something new to try out, I jump at the chance. Who doesn't love a good toy that also helps you learn?

Recently, we received the Bug Net Launcher to try out. I thought it was going to be super cool, but when I opened the box it was greeted by the typical six-year-old eyeroll and the declaration that there was no way that it could be cooler than this cool bug thing that his friend Jacob had.

Oh no, my son, you are wrong.

It's easy to use. Take the net, put the darts that are attached to each corner of the net into the appropriate holes and push down until they pop into place. Aim at your target, and BAM! You are now the proud captor of a bug.

Let me tell you, the thing has some oomph behind it. We tried it out on some of the targets that are included in the set (funny pictures of bugs on laminated cardboard cutouts) and not only did we catch the cutouts, but with some serious force behind it. And let's admit it, how cool is it to shoot some big old bugs? Monkey Man adored it from the word go - and what red-blooded boy do you know that wouldn't like to play with a bug gun? I think the key part here is just keeping the aforementioned boys from shooting siblings or animals. Ahem.

The weather around these parts has been pretty crappy lately so we hadn't had much opportunity to do a lot of hunting for bugs - and as of yet everything has gotten away from us including a lizard that happened to be in close proximity to the gun. But he's had a blast just practicing and waiting for the moment when he can finally catch a preying mantis just like he saw on Animal Planet last Thursday night.

The Bug Net Launcher sells for $24.95 and would be a great gift for your little bug-lover so they can work on their collection all summer long! And don't forget to stop by Parent Bloggers Network where they will also have other reviewers talking about this toy as well as the Venus Fly Trap.

Parent Bloggers Network

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Were You Raised By Wolves? At least you don't have to act that way

Remember the first time you were truly out on your own? The giddy taste of freedom when you finally had your own place - no Mom or Dad looking over your shoulder, no siblings getting into your stuff and stealing your favorite sweater, no grandparents or aunts or uncles there to watch over you? Remember how great that felt?

But then remember the first time you had to have people over for dinner that you wanted to impress. Or your first day at a job that was somewhere other than Chuck E. Cheese. Or even better, the first day you discover that yes, you have overdrawn your checking account. Remember how crappy that felt?

Being on your own for the first time is extremely heady yet scary as hell. Facing the unknown before you without your family safety net is a pretty daunting time. Didn't you wish that you had a manual like "Growing Up for Dummies" to use?

Enter "Were You Raised By Wolves: Clues to the Mysteries of Adulthood" by Christie Mellor. If Christie's name rings a bell, she's also the author of "The Three-Martini Playdate" and "Three-Martini Family Vacation." In this book, Mellor delivers practical advice in a tongue-in-cheek manner that is funny yet gets to the heart of the matter - just because you're on your own for the first time doesn't mean that you're excused from acting like a civilized adult.

For example, the first chapter which is called "Home Sweet Home" discusses making a bed, cleaning your house (including a step-by-step list of directions of what to clean if you're, oh, having a few people over and only have a short time to prepare), and the importance of having a clean bathroom. I can honestly think of a few old boyfriends who could've used THAT advice. She then goes on to tackle topics like working in an office ("Your Wacky Boss!"), preparing food at home ("Getting Acquainted With Your Kitchen"), social graces ("You. In the World. Not Being An Embarrassment"), and generally what the responsibilities of an adult are ("If Your Mom Still Chews Your Food For You").

Is this book appropriate for anyone? Well, it's a fun read. It's probably a little too young for someone who's already faced all this stuff in their lifetime, but I think it would make a fantastic graduation gift for a friend or family member who is going out on their own for the first time. It's witty without being snarky, charming without any simpering, and lets the reader know that Yes, You Can Do It! And Keep A Sense Of Humor Too.

Make sure you stop by Parent Bloggers Network to see what other bloggers have to say about this book as well as what other hot campaigns are going on right now!

"Were You Raised By Wolves: Clues to the Mysteries of Adulthood" can be found at just in time for the perfect graduation gift! Check it out!

Parent Bloggers Network

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rule the roost with Mama Rock's Rules

When I found out that Rose Rock's new book, Mama Rock's Rules was being offered by Parent Bloggers Network for a review, I jumped at the chance. I am a huge fan of her son, comedian Chris Rock, and I thought that this book would be side-splittingly funny. I thought it was going to be a goofy, joke-filled diatribe about the trials and tribulations of being a mother.

Boy, was I wrong.

What I found, instead of the schtick that I expected, was an engrossing book filled with Rose Rock's advice for raising good, solid kids into responsible adults. Filled with anecdotes about her own experiences with a parent, the book is heartfelt and poignant without being sappy - you can tell with every page that Rock wrote this as a labor of love and as a testament to her family of birth children as well as 17 foster children.

Rock believes in raising children with a firm but loving hand. She advises against becoming "friend" instead of "parent", but also counters that with advice geared toward making children feel loved, admired, and proud of themselves as individuals.

Each chapter covers a different topic ranging from family traditions to sex - and at the end of each chapter, a summary of the topics is provided. Peppered throughout the book are quotes from her children and foster children about things they remembered from childhood and how their parents' love and discipline molded them into the people that they are today. Interestingly, although references to Chris Rock are sprinkled throughout the book, Rose Rock pays homage to all of her children and their individuality and you can sense her pride in their accomplishments.

Rock encourages parents to keep constant contact with their children. As busy parents, it's our duty to make sure we are there for our kids by having family dinners and attending special events in our children's lives even if we have to juggle things around to do it. In her opinion, children remember those things way more than a toy they bought or a TV show they watched once. Her description of their kitchen in their home, with all of the kids doing homework at the kitchen island while she cooked dinner, is just as clear as a photo in my mind.

One of the other sections that I enjoyed was discussing sex with your children. Her advice, "don't lie down with anything you don't want to live with forever" is advice that everyone can take! But she believes that keeping an open and honest dialogue with our children is essential in keeping them on the straight path not only with sex, but with all aspects of their lives.

Rose Rock deals out her parenting advice with humor, love, and pride. Mama Rock's Rules is a great book for any parent to read and would make a great gift for Mother's Day! Check it out at, and make sure that you stop by Parent Bloggers Network to see what other reviewers have to say about this book!

Parent Bloggers Network