Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holy cow...I mean two cows...it's Noah's Pals

My son Monkey Man loves animals. If he's not pretending to be an animal, watching a show about animals, or asking a thousand questions about animals, it's not a regular day. Don't even ask me about the two months that he pretended to be Baby Buffalo. Really.

Parent Bloggers Network asked me if I was interested in reviewing Noah's Pals and I hesitated. We're not religious people. It's not like we don't believe in God and the Bible and all that stuff, we just don't attend church except on special occasions. So I kind of wondered how Noah's Pals was going to be received in our house. We've read the story of Noah before (we might be worshippers at the Almighty House of the Waffle on Sundays but we do read to him out of a children's Bible) so I knew it wouldn't be a total unknown to him - but what exactly was this going to be like?

The night that the package arrived, Joey and I had a business dinner so Monkey Man's former teacher was going to babysit. Marie usually brings her son Austin with her - he is four years old and when he and Monkey Man get together, they have a total blast playing. So I let the boys tear into the boxes (praying all the while that they wouldn't lose anything before I had a chance to check things over).

It was like magic. They carefully opened the boxes, identified the animals, asked for their names (each pair of animals is given a set of names), and then played with them. And played with them. And played with them.

Noah's Pals, developed by Caboodle! Toys LLC, are designed to not only be realistic but also educational. The Noah's Ark set comes with an ark, Noah, and 40 sets of animals. The animals are divided into three categories - Common, Endangered, and Vulnerable. Caboodle! has made only 10,000 editions of the endangered animal pairs, and 20,000 editions of the vulnerable animal pairs.

Each pair comes with a laminated identification card, which describes the animal, its scientific name, the average stats (height, weight, length), their habitat, and where they are usually found. Each pair also comes with a unique identification number that can be logged onto the Noah's Pals website in order for you to create a virtual "boarding list" and track what you have purchased.

Personally, I was impressed with the quality of the animals. Each pair is individually hand-painted and created from sturdy PVC, and managed to withstand some pretty rough play from two boys. The detail is really amazing - one set that we received was the snow leopard, and they are just incredibly well done. Some of the animals are very small, like the doves that we received in our shipment; however, the toys are aimed for ages 4 and up so people with younger children should keep that in mind and perhaps save the smaller figures for when the kids get a little older.

Although it's called Noah's Pals, that is the only religious connotation associated with these toys. They are really an extensive collection of animals from all seven continents that any kids that love animals would enjoy playing with. They have barely gotten a rest at our house since the day they arrived, and have happily taken up residence along with the Power Rangers and Transformers. And Caboodle! Toys donates 5% of the net profits from the sales of Noah's Pals to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which just makes it a win-win for everyone. There's also a blog all about Noah's Pets too!

If you're looking for a great gift for the little animal lovers in your house, scoot on over to Amazon and pick up Noah's Pets for only$269 - that's a $30 savings over the regular price. Not to mention that once you collect all 40 sets of animals, you get a special reward called a "Caboodle" from the manufacturer which is a box of special, exclusive rewards. The animals, the ark, and Noah are also available for purchase separately. And if you want to read more reviews on Noah's Pets, stop by Parent Bloggers and check out what everyone else had to say!

Parent Bloggers Network

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When Parents Hurt

I looked at the email from ParentBloggers asking if I was interested in reviewing this book and thought, "Well, I'll sign up for this and maybe it'll be kind of interesting."

Interesting indeed.

As I've written on my main blog off and on for the last year, my family has a pretty strained relationship with my oldest brother Paul. There wasn't a culminating, tragic event - but a series of small incidents that all added up into an odd kind of estrangement with him. Finally, things came to a head recently after a family gathering which was ironically right around the time that I received the book in the mail. I dug right in.

When Parents Hurt by Dr. Joshua Coleman is based on personal experience. After experiencing a painful estrangement from his own daughter, he felt compelled to write a book to help parents cope with these situations. As he notes, there are no manuals to deal with the complex relationships between parents and their adult children, and he offers advice to parents to help them "get back on their feet" again after estrangements occur.

Dr. Coleman pointed out a few things that really hit the nail on the head with our family's situation. First of all, he discusses how siblings within a family can have a completely unique perspective of their parents and childhood. In our family, my dad is the warm and fuzzy type to three of us - always the great, loving father ready with a hug and a kind word. To my brother Paul, however, my father is nothing short than his own personal version of the father in The Great Santini. And see, I totally don't get that at all and neither do my other siblings. It doesn't mean, however, that my brother's viewpoint is invalid - it's his viewpoint and is unique based on his perception of their relationship.

Coleman also brings home the point that sometimes parents can be as loving, giving, and nurturing as possible to their children and the relationship still doesn't work. He encourages parents to not only have compassion toward their children and their pain, but also compassion for themselves - a wonderful concept in an age where society has turned so many people into self-flogging parents who second-guess every move they make in raising their children. He does a great job exploring the societal changes in childrearing over the years and how it affects our relationships with our grown children in this day and age.

The book offers a very good chapter titled "Where Did this Kid Come From?" which explores what Coleman calls "mismatches" between parent and child. For example, he gives advice on relationships between an authoritative parent and a sensitive child, or a depressed parent raising a very active child. I hadn't given much thought to the idea of being mismatched, but the explanations and tips he gives for these situations are well thought out and listed as "Strive to avoid" and "Strive to".

I could go on and on about this book, because I believe it's not only a must-read for people in strained relationships with either their own parents or with their grown children, but also for people raising children who would like to avoid the pitfalls that come later on when the kids are grown. I even found myself quoting from the book this week when discussing a friend's marriage troubles with her, because I believe that a lot of the principles that he discusses are good for all adult relationships - not just parent/child ones. Dr. Coleman does an excellent job delving into this topic with a candor and sensitivity that is a rare find in this genre of book.

When Parents Hurt is available on Amazon. And be sure to check out the podcast with Motherhood Uncensored's own Kristin as she discusses the book with Dr. Coleman...as usual, Kristin does a great job!

Parent Bloggers Network