Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tessy & Tab Reading Club

The Short Version:

Quinn loves, loves, LOVES The Tessy & Tab Reading Club Magazine. Go out and subscribe to it right now (or make the grandparents do it). It's totally awesome.

The Long Version:

As a parent, I have spent a good amount of time looking for the right magazine to subscribe my children to. The magazines were either too expensive for what I felt I was getting, or they were age inappropriate—usually far too difficult for my child.

Recently I found The Tessy & Tab Reading Club, and my search is over. I really like this magazine, especially for Quinn, who is currently 4 3/4 years old. Tessy & Tab Reading Club magazines come every two weeks instead of monthly, so its arrival is a regular enough occurrence for your kids to appreciate it. Seriously, Quinn freaks out when his comes. His grin makes my whole day.

There is a video on Tessy & Tab's website that explains the reasons behind the magazine, and because I was reviewing the product, I watched it. I suggest you do too. They make some great selling points in the video, but I was flabbergasted when I watched Quinn do every single thing they showed the kids in the video doing.

The video told me that the magazine comes in an envelope because kids love envelopes. And you know what? Quinn loved opening the envelope.

The video told me that kids will build a collection of their Tessy & Tabs—that when the new issue comes, they will run to get all their old ones. Well, a couple of days ago when Quinn got an issue in the mail, he immediately ran to get his stack of previous Tessy & Tabs.

The video also said a lot of other things, including that the magazines are built on the Six Skills for Early Literacy. Tessy and Tab promotes early independent reading for preschool children. Each issue comes in the same 10-page format, so even if kids can't read, they know how to use the magazine. I've watched Quin learn this. He knows that he looks for the pictures on the 11th page. He knows he has to count the objects on the back page, and he's always looking for the peek-a-bug, a cute little guy that makes an appearance in every issue.

The magazines are made with coated cardstock, so they are durable and can be treated like little books, which is basically what they are. Also, your gift message is printed on every address label, so each time a magazine comes in the mail, the child is reminded of who loves them enough to give them the subscription. See?

The suggested age for the reading club is 2-6. Quinn, at almost five, is way into these. Honestly, honestly, honestly, he adores them. When his latest issue came, he gasped, grinned a huge grin, and said, "MORE Tessy & Tab!" And then he ran off to get his old stack of magazines.

My nearly 7-year-old also likes the magazines. (He is autistic, so he's on a little bit different of a developmental trajectory.)

My 8-year-old is willing to listen to them once or so,
as long as someone very cool, such as Nana, is reading them.

As far as younger kids, I think kids on the younger end of the age range would also enjoy these books. The stories are short, the print is big, the characters are friendly, and the scenes are brightly colored. The situations in the magazines are familiar. The books specifically cover things that real preschoolers do: go to the grocery store, make friends, play basketball, go on a trip to the fire station, go on an airplane, and so on.

If you're looking for a particular situation, you can always browse Tessy & Tab's extensive back issue list and probably find what you're looking for. Will your young one be going to the dentist soon? Order the "Visit the Dentist" issue from February 2007. Going camping? Well, Tessy & Tab covered that in June 2009. (Download the back issues list by clicking this link.)

The Tessy & Tab website also features additional online activities, including coloring pages and learning games.

A year-long subscription of 24 issues costs $48, which breaks down to $2 an issue, which is far less than you would pay for a board book. If you're not ready to commit to an entire year, you can check out their gifts and kits section, with packages specifically for things like kindergarten readiness.

I'm thrilled that we have found The Tessy & Tab Reading Club. Quinn is delighted every time a magazine comes in the mail. Plus, I am thrilled because I get to see him excited about reading, letters, and counting. Win-win.

Honesty Clause: The people behind Tessy & Tab sent Quinn a number of back issues and gave him a year-long subscription to the reading club. I was introduced to them through a mutual friend. I feel like I've been given a year's supply of gold.

Not Just Spirited by Chynna T. Laird (and Giveaway!)

I get a fair number of offers to review things here that I turn down because they don't seem like they would be of much interest to either me or my readers. But when I got an email from the ladies at WOW! Women on Writing about Chynna T. Laird's new book, Not Just Spirited, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.

This book is the story of Laird's first few years with her daughter Jaimie, who has sensory processing disorder (SPD). This book was interesting to me not just because I have a child with autism and another with sensory issues, but because I have SPD.

My SPD is self-diagnosed, yes, but if you know me, you know that it's an accurate diagnosis. I saw a lot of me while I was reading this book.

If you have a child with SPD, this book can give you some real insight into what it is like to grow with a child who has this disorder. But even if you don't, I think you will still find the book to be a compelling story. It's easy to read and makes for dramatic reading. It really leaves you with an understanding of what it is like to live with this misunderstood disorder. Beyond that, I think it stands on its own as a fascinating parenting memoir.

In my experience, I think people tend to discount sensory problems. There seems to be a lot of wondering why the affected person can't just get over it. Even more than other special needs, this one tends to be discounted. This happened to Jaimie. Laird writes about how it was difficult to find places to help Jaimie because she was too "high-functioning." The book title refers to Jaimie's doctors' initial refusal to see her extraordinary behavior as anything beyond being a "spirited" kid.

But reading the book, you see that SPD is real, difficult, and needs to be addressed. Laird's daughter Jaimie has a pretty severe form of SPD, which manifested in intense meltdowns, a rejection of Laird's husband, and an inability to interact with other people. Honestly, it's frightening. I can't imagine what the first few years of her life must have felt like, both to Jaimie and her mother.

Laird pushed through all of this to find the right therapies, schools, and friends for her daughter—none of which came easily. The book ends as Jaimie is in kindergarten. She still struggles, but has made great strides in compensating for her SPD.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a child with sensory issues. Laird details resources and types of therapies that worked for her family as well as the way she was able to advocate for Jaimie. Laird has also written a children's book, I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD.

I'm giving away a copy of this book, so if you would like to read this book, leave a comment below. Make sure that I'll be able to find your email address from your comment or I'll have to choose a different winner. U.S. entries only (sorry). I'll be picking a random comment after midnight on February 5.

Be sure to check out my autism events website, AutMont, where I'm running a guest post by Laird on what your child with SPD wants you to know. It's a great post.

Honesty Clause: Women on Writing sent me a review copy of the book at no charge, as well as a copy to give away to one of my readers. List price for the book is $17.95, but you can find it for less on Amazon. If you'd like to read more of the reviews and posts about Laird's book and SPD, check out the blog tour post on Women on Writing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Stimey is watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stoke, which left him paralyzed and mute due to locked-in syndrome. He dictated the book this movie was based on by blinking out each letter. Incredible.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soft Clothing

If you have children with sensory issues or children who are particular about what they wear, you know that finding the right shirt can be a big deal. My youngest son, Quinn, is definitely picky about what he wears and insists almost entirely on wearing clothing that is pliable—no denim for him. He also refuses to wear any shirt that isn't a regular t-shirt.

Soft Clothing is a company that is trying to create clothes for kids like Quinn. They make clothes with flat seams, printed labels (no tags), wide collars, soft cotton, encased elastics, and veggie dyes and water-based prints. Basically, it seems that they have taken everything that might bother a sensitive kid and found a way around it.

They make shirts, pants (one style in two colors—I'm definitely interested in buying some of these), dresses, and cardigans. They are introducing seamless socks in April for those with sensitive feet.

So how did my family like it? Well, we tried out a tee for my four year old with sensory issues, Quinn. He happily put it on and wears it regularly now.

I know he looks weird and sickly in this photo,
but it showed the shirt well.

I really couldn't tell the difference in softness or seams between this shirt and most of the t-shirts we already have, although this is definitely a nice little shirt. Also, notice how wide the collar is. If your kid doesn't like constricting necks, this would be a good option.

This clothing is definitely high quality and with tees costing $10 for short sleeves and $15 for long sleeves, they're not a bad price. Pants, dresses, and cardigans range from $22 to $25.

Honesty Clause: Soft Clothing sent me two t-shirts to try out. Because one of them was pink, I passed that one on to a friend of mine who has girls. It was very cute and I'm sure is being very loved. Soft Clothing t-shirts sell for $10 each.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Stimey is watching Zombieland. I drove to another state (okay, Virginia) to see this in a movie theater. I loved it. It was hysterical. Not so scary, but laugh-out-loud funny.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Paranormal Activity

Stimey is watching Paranormal Activity. Omigod, omigod, omigod. Why don't they ever turn on lights in these movies? If you thought there was a demon in your house, why would you stay there? And if you did, why wouldn't you sleep with the lights on? Omigod, omigod, omigod. On the plus side, I scared the crap out of Alex by sneaking up behind him.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wii Shop Channel

You may have heard by now that I'm a Nintendo Brand Enthusiast. You may have heard because I won't shut up about it. Well, over the holidays I got a card from the fine people at Nintendo along with a card that carried something called "Nintendo Points."

Now, even though I use my Wii all the time and am aware that there are different "channels" available through the main Wii menu, I hadn't really explored them.

Well, it turns out that you can buy whole games at the Wii Shop Channel with your Nintendo Points. Kinda cool. And I had no idea. As long as you have an internet connection set up through your Wii (easy to do), you can browse and shop at the Wii Shop Channel.

But what's there, you ask? It turns out that there is a lot. You can download free demos of games (I downloaded a free demo of World of Goo) and whole games. You can save them either to your Wii hard drive or to an SD card you insert. Then you can access the games without a disc directly from the Wii menu.

I downloaded Frogger Returns, My Zoo, and My Aquarium. Oh, man. I was just looking at the whole list of available games and I kinda wish I'd seen Ant Nation. I might have to get that one. All the mayhem of an ant colony without the actual colony. (Yeah, I know that I'm a little bit of a nerd.)

I also downloaded Donkey Kong. Like, old school Donkey Kong. See, Nintendo has made some of the original great games from other gaming systems available so you can play them on your Wii with their "Virtual Console." I was just sad that they didn't have Joust, which I used to play on my Atari 400, and which ROCKED.

I do have to say that Donkey Kong, while a fun game, does not compare well to current games. Video games have come a long way in the past 30 years.

Each of the games I downloaded cost 500 Nintendo Points. The games I saw seemed to vary from 500 to 1500 or so points each. You can buy Nintendo Points for $10 per 1000. They are available in gift card form at various brick and mortar retailers, like 7-11, or you can use your credit card to buy them right on the Wii Shop Channel.

Kinda cool. I'm glad I discovered it.

Honesty Clause: Nintendo gave me 2000 Nintendo Points at no charge, which is a $20 value.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

District 9

Stimey is watching District 9. I rarely get out to the theater to see movies. When this came out I so badly wanted to go see it, but I couldn't make it happen. So I've been patiently waiting for it to come out on DVD. It was completely worth the wait. Such a good movie. Although I think it kind of emotionally destroyed Alex.