Friday, November 27, 2009

Modern Family

Stimey is watching Modern Family on ABC. Previews for this new sitcom made it look hysterical, but after the first couple of episodes, I wasn't sure how I liked it. It's been growing on me though, and now I laugh out loud at it. Who thought a sitcom with Ed O'Neill could be so funny, edgy, and heartwarming all at once?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eucerin vs. Lubriderm

Hint: The winner starts with a "Eucer" and ends with an "in." As in, "EU CER, have lovely skIN."

Okay. So after I got home from BlogHer a few months ago and unpacked my bags, I found a lot of beauty products given out by various sponsors.

Two of those things were tubes of lotion: Eucerin's Everyday Protection Body Lotion and Lubriderm's Intense Skin Repair. Because I have problematic facial skin that can require a prescription, I am always on the lookout for good lotions.

See, I ran out of my face cream prescription a while back and have been too lazy to go back to the dermatologist. So I looked at these two bottles of lotion and decided to use them.

I chose the Lubriderm first because it said "intense skin repair" on it, and trust me, I have intense skin.

I really liked the texture and consistency of it, more so than the Eucerin. I used it everyday, sometimes more than once. My skin stayed dry and kept peeling in its problem spots, however. I have had problems in the past remembering to use lotion every day, and now that I was using it daily, I figured that my skin was just the kind that would always peel from dryness.

And it was bad. Some days it looked like my skin was entirely trying to disassociate itself from my face. But it didn't occur to me that the type of lotion I used would make a big difference.

Until one day I grabbed the Eucerin because the Lubriderm was temporarily misplaced. And by the end of the day there was no more skin trying to peel off of my face. The Eucerin had done for me in one day what Lubriderm had not been able to do over a course of weeks.

Now, remember, everyone has different skin, and what works for me may not work for you, but for me? From now on, I'm a Eucerin girl all the way.

Honesty Clause: Both Lubriderm and Eucerin gave free samples of their lotion to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wii Fit Plus

Last year when Alex got me the Wii and Wii Fit for Christmas, I was beyond excited. Since then, we have used the Wii often and enthusiastically. But the biggest criticism I had of the Wii Fit was that it was really difficult to actually do a workout with it.

Yes, you could do the exercises, but between each one you had to go and select and set it up, which left a lot of down time in which you were thumbing through menus instead of working your body.

Nintendo has vastly improved all of that with their new Wii Fit Plus, the update to the Wii Fit. There are a bunch of new features to it, but the smartest are the ones that let users put together routines without having to recreate them every time.

Users can now put together a workout made up of their favorite yoga and strength activities so they can just turn on the TV and start moving.

As you can see, I don't much care to "exercise."

If you want to do a workout, but don't necessarily want to build it yourself, the Wii Fit Plus has some preprogrammed routines you can do based on your fitness goals.


There are a bunch of options. I didn't even bother to look at the routines for "Leaner Miis" and instead went right to the lists for—what is the opposite of "leaner"?—Fattier Miis. (Note: this is not how Nintendo refers to them.)

I wasn't exactly sure which one I should try first, but then decided to go with "Overindulged."


It just seemed right.


The Wii Fit Plus also tells you how many calories you've burned, and what that means in terms of food. When I checked it out prior to playing, I had burned 0 calories, which was enough to let me guzzle that glass of water I've had my eye on. Presumably, if you look at the calorie count after you exercise, you might see that you burned off that, oh, say, ice cream bar you ate earlier.

Ooooh! Oooooh! You can also create Miis for your pets. Which is AWESOME. Although you can't make them exercise. But you will see them running alongside you in some of the exercises. But you will have to pick up your 55-pound dog in order to get her a Mii, which, in our case, was highly entertaining in its own right due to the look of abject terror and confusion on her face when it happened.

Wake up, Quinn! Wake up, Nana!

Of course, the great thing about the Wii Fit is that it makes it fun to exercise. That's kinda the whole point. And the Wii Fit Plus adds a bunch of new excersises, including all of these super fun ones:


These new Training Plus exercises are so much fun. My personal favorite is the snowball fight, but a bunch of them were really entertaining. They include balance games, bicycling, karate, juggling, and even a Segway course, which was more strenuous than I would have thought.

And the Wii Fit Plus has a multi-player option making it SOOOOO much easier to take turns playing a game than with the original Wii Fit. I was really, really, really, really (REALLY) excited to see this. My kids always want to play with their own Miis, which used to make turn taking sort of onerous, but now it's a piece of cake!

All three of my kids love playing the new game. They regularly shout, "Can we play Wii Fit Plus?! Can we play Wii Fit Plus?!" Here is Sam skateboarding:

He needs to work on his stance.

And here is Quinn doing the flying game, which is quite possibly one of the most entertaining things I have watched in...ever:


I have to hand it to Nintendo for seeing the flaws in their system and making some terrific improvements.

We're still exploring the new functions and features of the Wii Fit Plus, so I'm sure there are things here that I've missed, but if you have a Wii Fit, it's definitely worth your time and your $19.99 to upgrade to Wii Fit Plus. If you have a Wii already, but not the balance board, you can get the Wii Fit Plus Balance Board bundle for $99.99. The Wii itself, which you need for Wii Fit Plus, is $199.99.

If you don't have a Wii, stay tuned for my next post here at Things. And Stuff. I'll be giving away a Wii and Wii Fit Plus with the Balance Board. (Edited to add: Okay, so not the next post. But soon.)

Honesty Clause: I am a Nintendo Brand Enthusiast and received a copy of Wii Fit Plus at no charge.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pedia-Lax Fiber Gummies

It is well-known among my friends, acquaintances, and blog readers that my four-year-old son Quinn has had problems with his...digestive system since he was about six months old. He's a kid who has trouble pooping, so fiber is really important to him—even more so than it is to the average child.

Recently I was contacted to try out Fleet's Pedia-Lax Fiber Gummies, and because digestive health is such a big deal at my house, I decided to give them a try. After all, some of Fleet's other products have brought some much needed relief to Quinn in the past, although at this point, we mostly rely on Miralax.

The Fiber Gummies are sugar-free, zero-calorie Penguin-shaped gummies, each of which contains 1.5 grams of soluble fiber. Pedia-Lax recommends one gummy three times a day for children ages 2-11. According to the website, three gummies supply an amount of fiber equal to 21 spears of asparagus or a half cup of broccoli.

My kids won't eat a half cup of broccoli or 21 spears of asparagus, so I thought this might be a good alternative. Unfortunately, my kids wouldn't eat the gummies either. I gave the bottle to a friend of mine who has a four- and a six-year-old to see if her kids would eat them. She reported back that they happily gobbled them down.

Her big issue with the Fiber Gummies—and I tend to agree with her here—is that she wasn't comfortable giving them "candy" three times a day. This is "not the healthy and whole foods message I want to convey to them," she reported.

Fiber Gummies contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. They are also gluten, milk, egg, peanut, and tree nut-free.

It is important to note that this is a fiber supplement—not a laxative. However, the bottle warns that sensitive people may experience a laxative effect. Which could be either a good or a bad thing. For my son, it would be a great thing.

There are definitely families who could happily and successfully use Fiber Gummies. After all, fiber is a very important part of a child's diet and sometimes it is difficult to make sure your little ones get all the nutrients they need from their diet alone. For instance, my kids each take a candy-like vitamin each morning. Unfortunately, the Fiber Gummies just didn't work out for us.

Honesty Clause: Pedia-Lax sent me a bottle of Fiber Gummies for free. They retail for about $7.99. You can get a $1 off coupon on the Pedia-Lax website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LeapFrog Zippity Learning System

LeapFrog has a lot of wonderful products that let kids learn while they're having fun. One of their newest products is the Zippity High-Energy Learning System.

This is a video game system that connects to your television and lets kids play learning games by jumping around on the mat and moving the "bopper" controller.

It's a cute game and I like the idea behind it—that the kids stand up and actively play a video game instead of sitting on a couch exercising their thumbs.

The game system comes with eight included games featuring Mickey Mouse characters, Tigger and Pooh, Handy Manny, and the Little Einsteins. Additionally, there are more games available for purchase.


While I do think the Zippity is a fun idea, I have to admit that it didn't work in my household. My kids have a Wii, which I believe to be the best example of an active video game* currently out there. Not to mention that if your child has already been exposed to something such as an Xbox or a PlayStation, the Zippity might be too basic for him or her.

Mr. I-Wanna-Play-Xbox

With this is mind, I decided to pass my Zippity along to a friend of mine who has a two-year-old and an almost five-year-old. It definitely fared better at her house. Her two-year-old wasn't able to follow the directions yet, but her older child enjoyed playing the game. I do not believe that they have any other gaming systems, so this was her son's first exposure.

She tells me that he liked it and that the Level Two questions were very appropriate for his age level, asking things such as which object begins with a certain letter and having him count objects. (Each game has one or two levels that the child can choose, based on their abilities.)

She did say that her son did get a little bored after a while and that the game might be better targeted to the 3-4 year old age range. She mentioned that at almost five her son was probably on the very upper edge of kids who might enjoy the game. Also, she wished that the system had come with more games installed to keep her son interested. (Additional games retail for $24.99)

I'm a little torn about this. On one hand, this is a very cute, age-appropriate learning game. But I feel like the Wii has done it better. A very casual search for Wii learning games came up with a few, such as Jumpstart Pet Rescue (which we have, and my kids love), but I can't think of any active learning Wii games. I think the Zippity is unique there.

The Zippity sells for $79.99, which is substantially less expensive than the Wii, so it may be a good option if you're looking for a gaming system solely for young children and you're comfortable with them outgrowing it within a couple of years. Plus, if you want to keep them moving and learning at the same time, this might be your best option.

Honesty Clause: LeapFrog sent the Zippity Learning System to me at no charge. I have since given it to my friend to keep.

* I am a "Nintendo Brand Enthusiast." My family did, however, purchase our Wii—and fall in love with it—prior to my becoming an enthusiast.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Wave Enviro Products

I have been packing school lunches for my three children for a few years now. Over the course of those years, I have used probably 2000 plastic sandwich bags and a similar number of juice boxes.

That is an awful lot of trash.

I'm a little bit ashamed to say that this is the first school year that I've really put an effort into creating no-waste lunches for my kids. Happily, New Wave Enviro Products contacted me to try out some eco-friendly products that I could use to help reduce the trash produced by my kids' lunches.

New Wave Enviro offers a lot of great products, including BPA-free water bottles and containers made from food-grade stainless steel. They also sell water dispensers and water filters both for drinking and bathtub water.

I tried out one of their stainless steel bottles and a couple of their plastic lunch box bottles. All of these were great sizes for my kids and perfect for their lunch boxes. And instead of packing them a juice box every day, with all of the waste that goes along with it, they can use these instead:


Here is an example of my best (almost) no-waste lunch yet. Yes, I know those GoGurt tubes get thrown away, but I'm new at this. Cut me some slack.


While I've been using Tupperware for things like sandwiches and crackers, New Wave Enviro also sent me one of their stainless steel food containers to try. At 6" x 4.5" x 2", it's too big for my kids' lunch boxes, but it would work really well for an adult. Or it's even big enough to fit enough of a meal to feed a couple of my kids at a picnic. Maybe all three.

It does fit in my favorite thing that New Wave Enviro sent me to try out, which is their new Bamboo Lunch Bag.
This thing is cool. It is big and soft and made entirely out of bamboo, which I've learned is the fastest growing plant on earth, making it kind of awesome as a raw material. I really like this bag. Even though it's a lunch bag, I've used it to carry other things as well because it is large and strong and all-around way cool.

There are lots of environmentally friendly alternatives to sandwich bags and juice boxes. This is just one of them. But they seem like quality products made with safe materials. There is a store locator page on their website to help you find their products, which seem to be mostly available at organic markets and stores like Whole Foods. You can also buy them online at Amazon.

Honesty Clause: New Wave Enviro Products sent me several products at no charge so I could try them out. They are as follows: the 12 oz Stainless Steel Bottle ($14.99), two of the .250 Liter Lunch Box Bottles ($3.50 each), a Stainless Steel Food Container ($19.99), and one of the 100% Bamboo Lunch Bags ($19). (Prices come from Amazon.)

Gardens of the Night

Stimey is watching Gardens of the Night. This movie is all kinds of disturbing. In the first ten minutes, an eight-year-old girl is tricked into being kidnapped. And it gets worse from there. It wasn't terribly graphic or anything, but it is an absolutely terrifying movie. Terrifying. I just turned it off and I feel like I have a rock in my chest. Now I'm off to chain my kids to their beds and bolt all the doors closed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The White Stripes

Stimey doesn't know if you've heard of this little unknown band or not, but she is listening to the White Stripes. Seriously. Why didn't you people tell me about them? I've had Elephant for, like, three years and just started listening to it. Seven Nation Army? Are you kidding me? I love discovering something great that I already own.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Comparing Portable Gaming Systems for Kids

Reader Aimee at Smiling Mama had an excellent question for me the other day about whether a DSi would be appropriate for a four-year-old. She writes:
"...Someone recommended that Lucas would be a great age to get a DS and that it would be an uber-helpful distraction to have when the new baby arrives. He'll be 4 in December so this could be a birthday or Christmas present. He hasn't played any video or computer games except some find this letter/number/shape apps on Abel's iphone. So my questions are...is he too young? Are there games he could play, etc. Would you recommend it?"
I've reviewed several kids' portable gaming systems, so thought I would take this opportunity to compare them to each other. You can always read my original reviews for the Leapster2, the V.Smile CyberPocket, and the LeapFrog Didj. Although I haven't officially reviewed it, I've also included information in this post about the Nintendo DSi.

Because we've tried so many, I'm frequently asked which gaming system I would recommend for kids. I'm going the easy route here and saying that I think it depends on your child and what you want from the system. But I will give you some pertinent information and pros and cons of each of the systems below.

V.Smile Cyber Pocket
($49.99)

This is a great little system that my kids have really enjoyed. It is simple for small children to use and the game cartridges are compatible with their console game systems if you already have one of those.

There is a good number and variety of game cartridges for this system, many of which feature much loved characters. Our favorites are Thomas the Tank Engine, the Wonder Pets, and Kung Fu Panda.

I've found V.Smile's customer service to be wonderful too. At one point, our Cyber Pocket just stopped working. I called the customer service line and the tech ran me through some troubleshooting. When nothing fixed the problem, he put a return label in the mail to me and they replaced it for free. You can't beat that.

I like this system because the games are educational, but not too hard. My four-year-old has really liked this system a whole lot, but it might be too young for the older set. My now eight-year-old will still play it sometimes, but he is far more likely to chose one of the other systems. I would say that you could get a good, solid two to three years of enjoyment out of this.


LeapFrog Leapster2 ($69.99)

The Leapster2 is the LeapFrog equivelent of the Cyber Pocket. Its games are also educational, and it has some nice features such as a drawing program that you don't even need a cartridge for.

Many of the people whom I've advised on the gaming system for kids dilemma has gone with the Leapster2 and been very happy with it. As with V.Smile, there are many games you can play with it that feature familiar characters. My kids have loved Jedi Math more than any other game.

One nice feature of this system is that there is room to create four different gamer profiles, so that multiple kids can play their own games and keep track of their own rewards. LeapFrog lets you upload your kids' progress to your computer in order to see what they've been learning, and also to download printable rewards.

I've found the Leapster2 to be slightly less intuitive than the Cyber Pocket. Your kids will pretty easily figure out how to operate it and work the different controls, but things like the volume control are easier on the V.Smile system.


LeapFrog Didj ($89.99)

The Didj is intended for a slightly older child. I don't think I would buy it for a child younger than seven. The games are more challenging and are still educational. If you want a system that a pre-tween will accept, but you're not ready to go to a system that offers fewer learning benefits, the Didj is a good way to go.

We've enjoyed Clone Wars and Indiana Jones games on this, and have mostly played math games. The math is definitely too hard for my 4- and 6-year-olds, and is challenging for my very bright 8-year-old. The games have age suggestions on them, which are pretty accurate.

My younger children have been able to play the action parts of the game, but have to hand the Didj to my eldest to have him unlock doors and gates by doing the math. We've also tried out a Hannah Montana reading game that my son sorta liked (you know, it was pink), but you had to have the sound turned up for it, which could be a problem in places like waiting rooms. As with the other games, however, there is a plug-in spot for headphones.


Nintendo DSi ($169.99)

The Nintendo DSi is pretty much the be-all-end-all of hand-held gaming systems. (I don't have, nor have I tried the Sony PSP, so I can't speak to how it compares.) This is a system that will grow with your child and will keep him or her happy until the day that it breaks. I have one, and I've been enjoying it as well.

There are literally hundreds of DS games, so if you're looking for young child-friendly or learning games, you will be able to find them. But there will also be games your child will want to play that have absolutely no educational value. (My son's copy of Math Blaster is sitting idle in its case while Lego Indiana Jones is getting a super workout.)

The DSi has so many other features as well, including a camera, online play, and more. Thus far, we've only explored the camera and games options. All three of my kids, ages 4-8, love the DSi and compete to play it. It is definitely the favored system at my house.

The downsides to me are that it is not inherently education based and that it is much more expensive than the other systems. (You can find games that are comparably priced to the other systems, and more expensive ones as well.) Although if you are looking for a system to grow with your kids for years to come, this just might be the one.

*****

So, Aimee (and everyone else), I hope that helps. I really think that all of these systems are good options if you're interested in a portable gaming platform for your child. To decide which one you want, I would definitely think about what it is you want your child to get out of such a system.

Let me know in the comments if you know of any other pros or cons of these systems or if there is another gaming platform that you think is great.

Honesty Clause: I received the Cyber Pocket, Leapster2, and DSi for free from the companies. (I am also a "Nintendo Brand Enthusiast.") I won the Didj from a blog giveaway. The prices you see listed above are the suggested retail prices, but you can generally find them for cheaper if you do a little bit of shopping around.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

FlashForward

Stimey is watching FlashForward. I am really excited by this show. It has a great mystery at its base coupled with some fun characters. I'm particularly interested in their portrayal of an autistic child. So far, he seems to be a pretty accurate version of autism. I like that the show hasn't gone with blatant stereotypes for him. I'm interested to see where they go from here.