November 28, 2012

Cutest stocking…ever! Meet the Clump-O-Lumps

Can you look at these guys and keep a straight face?  I know I can't!  Meet our new pals, the Clump-O-Lumps.  I recently stumbled upon these funny creatures while surfing the web and thought they were just the cutest, therefore I had to share them with you.  

knock knock, clump o lump, clump o lumps, clump o lump squid, clump o lump shark, interchangeable plush, clump o lump bee, clump o lump frog

The folks at Knock Knock sent this duo over for me to check out and I couldn't help but put them in Kayla's car seat to surprise her at school pick-up.  What makes the Clump-O-Lumps special aside from their irresistible looks and charm?  They're interchangeable and allow you to make some hilarious creations.  For example, meet our new friends Squid-O and Shark-O

You've got that, right?  Squid-O and Shark-O.  Now, wait for it…

knock knock, clump o lump, clump o lumps, clump o lump squid, clump o lump shark, interchangeable plush, clump o lump bee, clump o lump frog

Meet Shark-O-Squid-O and Squid-O-Shark-O!

If you're 4 years old this is a hilarious concept.  Actually, if you're 30 years old this is still pretty funny. Naturally, there is a whole family of Clump-O-Lumps that you can check out.

You know I'm not one to show you a product and go without telling you how I would personally use it soooo….how would I use a Clump-O-Lump this holiday season?  I'd stuff it!

knock knock, clump o lump, clump o lumps, clump o lump squid, clump o lump shark, interchangeable plush, clump o lump bee, clump o lump frog

Forget the stockings.  I think any child would be so excited about these cute stuffed animals and then even more excited when they went to zip them apart and found some hidden goodies.

Think you might just have to get one of these cuddly buddies for a child you know?  You can order them right off the Clump-O-Lump site or if you're an Amazon shopper (or a procrastinator) you can get them prime shipped from Amazon.

November 27, 2012

Wondering What's on a Kid Tester's Wish List?

Kayla and I are super lucky that we spend quite a bit of time testing out toys and games.  Therefore there aren't tons of "wants" in our home when the holidays roll around.

So, if you're curious about some toys that even kids who have everything will love, I'm sharing what's on Kayla's wish list this year.   Everything is $30 or under (many are far less) and there are no batteries, sounds, flashing lights or additional purchases needed to make them work!

Mommy Testers Hape Stormy Sea Balance Game, Hape Pirate Ship Toy, Hape Stormy Seas Balance Game Review

I love the well made wood toys that Hape offers.  This adorable pirate ship makes for a fun family game and a lesson in logic and balance.  I'm also picking up their incredibly cute pasta set to add to our Hape kitchen so Kayla can cook more of the same foods I do.

Mommy Testers Green Toys Jump Rope, green toys jump rope review

Known for their toys made from recycled plastics, Green Toys is a hit in our home.  We have their Sand Play Set which sports the same sturdy rope and I love that the handles allow you to adjust the length and keep the extra rope hidden.  I also LOVE their Build-a-Bouquet Playset .

Mommy Testers Toysmith Deluxe Root Viewer Garden, Root View garden review

I definitely lack a green thumb, but Kayla loves our neighbor's vegetable garden and this cute Root Viewer Garden seems like a manageable dose of horticulture.  Kids enjoy seeing what's happening under the soil and it opens up some interesting conversations so I know we'll get months of fun out of this!

Mommy Testers Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics, Orb Factory My First Sticky Mosaics

A while back I showed you the collages from Orb Factory and now I think we are ready for these cute stick on mosaics.  They make excellent restaurant entertainment and you get a lot for your money out of their sticky mosaics kits.

Mommy Testers Zingo Sight Words review, Zingo, Zingo Sight Words

You've probably seen regular Zingo! which is a picture version of bingo.  Because teaching Kayla to read has been important in our home for a long time I think this Sight Words version is awesome and a great follow up to children who have mastered the original.

Mommy Testers Press Here Book Herve Tullet Review

This book is SO darn cute!  I can't stand kid's books that have buttons which play sounds.  They leave nothing to the imagination.  Press Here is filled with "buttons"and instructions telling your child where to press, but they are just printed and leave the rest to your child to turn the pages and make the magic happen.  Did I mention that adults love it too?

November 26, 2012

Something For Mommy - Wish List Magnets

Is gift giving a struggle in your house?  It is in mine!  I accept 100% of the blame for it too.  I'm "impossible to buy for" and that's a direct quote from one of my three sisters.  Two of them live in NYC, my old stomping ground and on my last visit back they wanted to hit up the Container Store to find some storage solutions for their apartment.

While I was not-so-patiently waiting for the two of them to make up their minds in the shoe storage aisle I wandered through the office supply section and stumbled upon these awesome Wish List Magnets
Wish List, Wish List Magnets, Holiday wish list tool, funny wish list tool, silly magnets, get the hint magnets,

Every year when the holidays, my birthday or more recently Mother's Day rolls around I can actually see the tension in my husband's face as he tries to play a cat and mouse game of figuring out what the heck I want that I haven't bought for myself and wouldn't be upset if he bought because it's too "indulgent"

Wish List, Wish List Magnets, Holiday wish list tool, funny wish list tool, silly magnets, get the hint magnets,

Most of us know that when you're married or in a serious relationship, gifts are never quite the same as they were when you were dating because they're almost always bought with communal resources that probably need to go elsewhere.  In our house that would be renovating the guest bathroom that I lovingly refer to as "the slum of our home."

Wish List, Wish List Magnets, Holiday wish list tool, funny wish list tool, silly magnets, get the hint magnets,

While being direct about gifts and dare I say...pushy is not really my style I'm pretty sure I saw a look of confusion and then relief while my husband watched me put these up on our fridge.

My guess is that he'd rather not play the guessing game and I know I'd rather receive things I really want rather than some malodorous bottle of expensive perfume like a friend convinced him to buy for me several years back while shopping for his own girlfriend.

Wish List, Wish List Magnets, Holiday wish list tool, funny wish list tool, silly magnets, get the hint magnets,

Plus, knowing how mature we both are I'm sure some of these pictures will get swapped out over time for inappropriate ones like adult diaper ads :)  If you can relate I'm sure you would get a kick out of these too.  They're fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of themes right here: Wish List Magnets   they'd even make a neat stocking stuffer for a very particular and hard to read person.   I don't know anyone like that though!

November 22, 2012

Forget Black Friday - Shop on Small Business Saturday

Sometimes I get caught up in my lovefest with for the ability to tap a few buttons on my phone and have things magically show up at my front door.  I think it would be insane to attempt to deny the convenience and sharp pricing that online shopping frequently offers but there are certain things that it just can't deliver.

So here is my reminder to you to do at least a little bit of your holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday, this Saturday 11/24.  I'll be shopping at my favorite local San Diego toy store, Gepettos.

Why will we head there?

1) Because there are things that Amazon simply can't deliver on, like watching the look on your child's face as they go skipping through the door with glee, much like you did as a child before the days of online shopping.

2) Because no online store has ever greeted Kayla by name and asked her what she's been up to lately.

3) Because I can't see in person just how much my child really wants something or doesn't care at all about it on the web.  The toy store reaction is worth a thousand words and then some.

4) Because if we forget about small businesses then one day when you need that very last minute gift and can't even wait for one day shipping on it, there will be no place to go get it and no stores for our kids to have that same magical experience we had as kids…and I hope I never see that day.

Do you have an American Express card?  Then you REALLY don't want to miss out on Small Business Saturday.  Geppettos is one of the thousands of small businesses across the country that will be participating in SBS.

Register your Amex card and if you spend more than $25 in a single transaction at a participating small business you will receive a $25 statement credit sponsored by American Express.  So skip the Black Friday big box store insanity and send some love to a small business on Saturday - you might just score a great holiday gift for free :)

Happy Shopping!!

November 21, 2012

I am thankful that my child is thankful...

Isn't it so easy to doubt yourself as a parent?  I'll be the first to admit that while I like to think we're doing an okay job raising Kayla there are always moments when I question my parenting.  We all know that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks for what you have and who you have in your life but sometimes it just doesn't seem that way.

Sadly, when I think of Thanksgiving some of the things that enter my mind are:

-I better get to the grocery store early to avoid the long lines and the insane yam hoarders.
-Is the DVD player charged in case of excessive traffic?
-Can I really cook a turkey and not poison people?
-Do I need a mercury glass turkey for decor?  Are the people at Target conspiring to get my husband to divorce me by selling them?
-Is this holiday ever going to just be about our family and what we want to do to celebrate it?
-What would Martha do?
-I can't believe that people still use cream of mushroom soup in this day and age (as I buy it anyway)

Don't get me wrong, I associate Thanksgiving with a fun night filled with family and lots of "remember the time when?" but it's all the build up and prep work that tends to cast those thoughts into the background and steal center stage.

The pre-Thanksgiving motions were just about to send me into a tailspin yesterday when I walked into Kayla's classroom to pick her up and her teacher informed me that "your daughter is thankful for the entire East coast!" Huh?  She showed me the wall where each child had created a tree of the things they were thankful for.  Most of them had 2 or 3 leaves on them and were looking like Fall had really gotten to them. Kayla however had apparently run out of room but wanted to keep going.

Thanksgiving tree thankful craft

So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that despite my and my husband's mistakes along the way (which I am sure there are plenty of) it seems that if nothing else we have a child who is thankful for the truly important things in life!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!  If you're traveling today or tomorrow be sure to buckle up.  Apparently it's the law, even if you are a turkey…at least according to Kayla.

buckled up turkey for thanksgiving

November 20, 2012

Rice Krispie Treat Turkey - yep, it's happening!

It's true,  I've been holding out on you guys with this one.  We don't have tons of Thanksgiving traditions in our family but one of them is this Rice Krispies turkey.  I can take exactly ZERO credit on this one because it's something my mother has been making for about 20 years now but it was time to share this bird because I can say firsthand that kids and really really overgrown kids go absolutely nuts over it!

Rice Krispie treat turkey, rice krispies treat turkey, rice krispie turkey, rice krispies treat turkey, rice krispie treat turkey for thanksgiving, cereal treat turkey

Just mix up unsalted butter, mini marshmallows (they melt more easily) and Rice Krispies just like you might for regular treats - super easy!

Where things get a little tricky is molding the turkey.  My mom always relied on wax paper to mold hers but (forgive me mom) I think it's still too sticky to do it that way.  Instead my big secret is to dump the batch out on a piece of wax paper.  Then I take a little bit of unsalted butter, coat my hands with it and get to molding.

The most difficult part of creating this turkey is that it has to happen quickly.  I shape the base in a fat teardrop shape and put it on plate or in a roasting pan for effect.  Then I quickly mold some legs and wings also using the butter trick and smush them into the body of the turkey.  So long as you are working quickly they will stick.

 Finish it off with a couple of paper frills made from plain white copy paper and serve it up asking people if they want white meat or dark meat.   You'll have a dessert that everyone will not only love but beg you to make next year….and don't you want to be in charge of the dish that takes less than 15 minutes to make?  I thought so :)

November 19, 2012

Travel Genius - GoodNites Disposable Bed Mats

If you’ve ever been the victim of a diaper blowout in the middle of the night, then you know how joyful it is to try to asses the mess, change your baby, remove soiled sheets and put new ones on.  All the while doing it without turning the lights on or losing your mind. The same thing goes for kids who are mid-pottytraining or recent diaper graduates.

I know some parents who layer things up by putting waterproof pads between multiple sets of sheets.  However this clever trick becomes less practical or even impossible to pull off when traveling and can’t bring a ton of spare sheets or won’t have a place to launder them.

GoodNites disposable bed mats from walmart #HuggiesWalmart

Recently, after many months of going all night staying dry without an accident my husband exclaimed that Kayla NEVER has accidents and we’re so lucky because some of her little friends still do.  Of course that night Kayla had her first middle of the night bed wetting incident.

I’m fairly certain I was cursing him for opening his BIG mouth while changing sheets and reassuring an upset child at 2am. While I’m grateful that the bed wetting thing hasn’t become any kind of regular event it still has happened a couple more times over the course of the last few months.

GoodNites disposable bed mats from walmart in a queen size bed while traveling  #HuggiesWalmart

This month we had a couple of trips planned, one back to New York to see my family and one to Palm Springs with my Mother In Law and I have to admit that I was nervous about our new potential middle of the night issue.  Last week I was shopping for some toddler toys to bring back to New York for my niece when by chance I came across these GoodNitesDisposable Bed Mats.  Since Kayla is now technically out of the diaper stage I no longer stroll the diaper aisle and probably never would have found these on a regular shopping trip.

GoodNites disposable bed mats with adhesive stick to sheets with no residue  #HuggiesWalmart

What makes them so awesome? These disposable bed mats go right on top of the sheets your child sleeps on rather than below.  They catch any mess instantly and can be tossed in the trash without ruining the sheets.  Some very smart person over at Huggies also thought to put this great easy peel adhesive on them so they stay in place even if your child tosses and turns in their sleep like mine does.

sleeping on GoodNites disposable bed mats from Walmart  while traveling #HuggiesWalmart

Flying this holiday season with a baby or a child who is newly out of diapers? Most parents think to bring a spare change of clothes for their child, but what if the seat gets wet with several hours of flight time to go? I actually took one of the GoodNites Disposable Bed Mats and cut it to fit on the airplane seat Kayla would be occupying as a little insurance policy against accidents or leaking sippy cups due to cabin pressure.

using GoodNites disposable bed mats from walmart on an airplane #HuggiesWalmart

We were lucky on our New York trip and went accident free.  Being curious to a fault and running a site called Mommy Testers, naturally I wanted to see how well the bed mats would absorb a big accident so I set one up in our guest bedroom and poured a whole glass of water on it.

testing GoodNites disposable bed mats from walmart with water #HuggiesWalmart

The water got soaked right up and never leaked through to the sheets.  Where were these mats two years ago when we were facing leaky night diapers?  I would have used them on a regular basis without question!  Want a coupon for $2 off a 9 pack of the #HuggiesWalmart GoodNites Disposable Bed Mats (of course you do) you can find it right here.

GoodNites disposable bed mats from walmart keep sheets dry!  #HuggiesWalmart

Just so you know, I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Huggies. #HuggiesWalmart #CBias #SocialFabric everything you see is my own picky opinion and quite frankly, these are my new where-have-you-been-all-my-life product!

November 18, 2012

A wake up call to treasure the little moments

Strangely, the most accurate piece of parenting wisdom I have ever received came from a complete stranger waiting in the security line on one of my many trips with Kayla.  She was being pretty fussy as I tried to separate our liquids, take off my shoes an put our electronics in a separate bin.  He said "the days are long, but the years are short."  My goodness that is SO true!  That simple sentence has stuck with me for at least a couple of years now.

shopping at home for NIVEA lotion #NIVEAMoments

Recently I was ushering Kayla out the door to preschool while thinking about all the work I had to get done, the laundry and packing for our trip that needed to happen as well as the things I still needed to get done for a little girls night in spa party I was planning to have.  I had also completely forgotten that I had volunteered myself to cook for a party at Kayla's school the next day until that moment when Kayla said something.

I didn't hear her the first time because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, so I asked her to repeat herself.  A reflective question came from the back seat.  “Mommy are you not listening because we are in a rush again?” My heart sank.  I immediately thought of the man from the security line.

mother daughter bonding making cupcakes #NIVEAMoments

I hear all too frequently about how people wish they could go back in time and savor more moments with their children and I've always vowed not to be one of those parents who is too busy checking their email to actually pay attention to their child.

So, I did a few things I normally wouldn’t have.  First I bought some pre-cooked things for Kayla’s school rather than toiling in the kitchen all evening.  Next I vowed to not touch my phone while with Kayla for the next 24 hours and actually stuck to it.  Lastly I did the unthinkable and contacted my friends to cancel the girl’s spa night I was planning to host with the promise of a girls dinner out (on me) the following week.

hot chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow frosting #NIVEAMoments

Then I started thinking about an extra fun, unplugged activity I could do with Kayla that wasn’t about learning letters, accomplishing household chores or anything else but focusing on just being silly girls together and hearing what she had to say.  Kayla, being the polar opposite of me loves herself a trip to the nail salon so I decided to plow ahead with the spa night idea but instead make it all about us.  While she was at swim class with her dad I headed off to Sam's Club to pick up some supplies.

Snowman hot chocolate #NIVEAMoments

The only things that Kayla likes more than getting her nails painted are hot chocolate, cupcakes and Christmas, so I knew I had to include those in our special day together. While I was shopping  I found some great spa day items including pampering spa kits, this NIVEA lotion, some snowman marshmallows and the holy grail - hot chocolate cupcake mix!

Kayla woke up insanely early the next day and wanted to wear a very dressy holiday dress from last year and I said okay….pick your battles, right? Then we went shopping in our living room  for spa day supplies as the sun came up and got to work baking cupcakes.  I surprised her with some special snowman hot chocolate instead of her usual milk or water choices.

Winter wonderland spa with NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

The night before I had set everything up amidst some holiday decor from years past to make it feel special for Kayla and let her choose what she wanted to do.  All she wanted was to have her feet soaked so I poured some of the salts into a bowl and added a touch of cinnamon to make it smell extra yummy.

This might look fancy, but between Sam's Club and Walmart I grabbed some great affordable essentials that you could use for an at home spa with kids and adults.  I found some spa kits with slippers, pumice stones and nail brushes for just $5 each in the gift section.  The NIVEA from Sam's club is a great value at less than $9 for 2 huge bottles.  Those sea salts that are front and center were staring at me from the Walmart dollar section as I cruised past it and did a double take.

cinnamon sea salt foot soak and NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

While we were soaking those little feet we chatted like two girls at the salon.  Kayla told me about her friends at school, how she is excited to move up the next class and be with the big kids soon and how it bothers her that our dog keeps taking her stuffed animals.  I  told her about our upcoming trip to Palm Springs to spend time with her Nana, how this year we would have Thanksgiving at our house and I would love her help cooking and that I missed having special alone time with her the last couple weeks.

curing dry skin and moisturizing with NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

When I rolled up Kayla's leggings to soak those tiny toes I realized just how dry and scaly her little legs had become with the sudden arrival of Winter.  She was all too excited to rub "grown up lotion" on her legs and while we did it together and kept talking and asking each other questions I felt my mommy guilt begin to melt away.

spa day at home with NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

Of course Kayla went overboard and took way too much of the NIVEA lotion , but those giant bottles left us plenty to spare and I didn't mind at all.  The lotion left her skin smooth and soaked in pretty quickly which was a good thing because we'd been having such a good time hanging out that I knew we'd be getting to preschool on the later side.   However, I wasn't about to rush this special #NIVEAMoments moment with my daughter who just might be my one and only.

moisturizing with NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

When I went to pick Kayla up from school that day her teacher told me she would not stop proudly telling her how she had "cinnamon feet." After school Kayla said she wanted to continue our spa day, so that evening once she had a bath we sat down as "mommy reindeer" and "baby reindeer." First Kayla wanted to put lotion on my arms, which she applied quite liberally again!

mother daughter manicures with NIVEA lotion from Sam's club #NIVEAMoments

Then it was my turn to give Kayla a special manicure with our favorite kid-friendly nail polish, Piggy Paint.  She requested pink with purple sparkles and I was more than happy to deliver on that.  After Kayla went to sleep I sat down to reflect on the day and realized that there had not been any whining, disagreements or threats of a time out.

It really made me take a step back and think about my daily interactions with her and what my priorities are.  Obviously it's unrealistic for every moment together to be like the ones we had during our spa day, but I bet it is realistic for me to make sure we have more special days like that and to make a better effort as a parent to take advantage of our time together on a daily basis.

Have you had a wake up call like this before?  What's your way of spending special  time with your kids?  If you'd like to see how some of my peers get some special moments with NIVEA you can here.

Just so you know, I am a member of the Collective BiasTM Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective BiasTM and Beiersdorf for NIVEA. #NIVEAmoments #CBias #SocialFabric everything you see is my personal opinion and I'm so glad Kayla and I were able to have a few more special moments together!

November 16, 2012

Making The Holidays Brighter one donation at a time

Last week I told you how Kayla and I were working with Champions For Kids to donate light bulbs and food to a worthy cause.  We were headed to New York for some family time with grandparents and I couldn't help but feel as though we needed to do more to help out there after Hurricane Sandy.  

GE Smart Energy Light Bulbs for holiday season, #GELightingCFK

Originally my intent was to make a simple donation of GE Energy Smart light bulbs to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westchester County.  Their amazing team helps children in so many ways, but most importantly by simply letting them know that they have a safe place to go and people who truly care about them.  

What wound up happening is our donation evolved into donating food and supplies not to give to the children they serve there, but to actually have the children assemble into holiday donation baskets to be distributed to others in need.  What I loved so much about this idea is that while still very simple, our donation would help these children understand what it feels like to give to others and hopefully instill a love of giving for many years to come.

teaching kids about donating light bulbs, #GELightingCFK

As you might know by now, giving to those who just need a little help is extremely important to me as an individual and as a parent.  Kayla is still very young and while sharing with peers on a daily basis can be a challenge sometimes all of the talk about giving to those in need is really starting to register with her.

Generally speaking I shop alone so I actually go home with the things we need.  However, I wanted to re-create the feel of shopping for things to donate so Kayla could experience it and we could talk about what we were doing and why.  I set up a little store in our living room with all of the donation items and let her go around putting them into the cart.  Because there were no distractions like there would be in a real store I was able to focus on Kayla and the topic of giving rather than what I was choosing off the shelves.

GE Light bulbs and food from Walmart to donate #GELightingCFK

Our conversation also naturally flowed into talking about how we could save energy and money and then use that money to buy food and clothes to give to other people who needed it.  It was actually the perfect scenario to have a preschool explanation of the GE Energy Smart Challenge.

In my experience, once you find yourself in a giving mode you realize how wonderful it feels to give back in any way you can.  Our Champions for Kids SIMPLE Service Project really launched me into the spirit of giving for the holiday season and reminded me that it was time for our family to sign up to help a child during the holiday season.

In the end we wound up coming back to New York with an entire giant suitcase filled with our original donation items as well as a whole bunch of Winter clothes and a few "older kid" toys for the child we will be giving to this year.

our donation items packed to bring to New York, #GELightingCFK

Have you checked out the GE Challenge and entered a school, classroom or charity you know to win one of many $100 Walmart gift cards to help them serve children better?  It's incredibly fast and easy to do.  I just entered Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westchester County in the hopes that if they win that extra money can go toward those holiday food donation baskets the kids will be making to help make the season brighter for others in need.

How will you give back this year?  Do you have a special family tradition that revolves around helping others?  If you do complete a #GELightingCFK SIMPLE Service Project (which are so easy anyone can do them) be sure to report it to Champions For Kids so they know that you are one of 20 million people they hope to encourage to make a difference for children all over the USA.

Just so you know, as part of my partnership with GE, I received coupons for my GE light bulbs.  All opinions posted about my GE Lighting experience are my own. I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias Champions for Kids andGE Lighting #CBias #SocialFabric everything you see here is my personal and picky opinion.
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