Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Suburban Obsessions #33 -- My Magical World

Step right up and getcher kiddie crack here, ladies and gentleman (only one guy reads this blog).

A few months ago, I promised my friend Jordan* that I'd take a peek at My Magical World and let him know what I and The Ambassador thought of it. Okay, it was actually many months ago, but a few minor things, like an aneurysm, a baby and a constant state of forgetfulness got in the way. Trust me when I say none of those hurdles is a reflection of how The Ambassador and I feel about Georgia and her friends in My Magical World.

Yes, it's a kiddie video. Yes, my kid watches TV. If yours does, too, then this is a good one.

Georgia and her friends, Abra, Louie, Chase, Hase and Sammy guide kids through a variety of everyday situations, imparting values like sharing and listening. Your kid isn't going to smell any of that do-gooder stuff though, because he or she is going to be so caught up in the singing and dancing. The storylines are easy to understand, and the characters are engaging, but it was the songs that really sucked The Ambassador into the show. He even wanted to watch the bonus segments that included just the singing. After a couple of viewings, I was shocked to hear him singing along and doing some of the dance moves. He requested the show for weeks, and more often than not, he followed along with the book that accompanies the video.

A couple nitty gritty facts you parents will love: My Magical World was the 2008 winner of the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, and it was approved by Kids First, which puts it in the same ranks of Baby Einstein and Leapfrog videos. If you can get past Georgia's wig, and the fact that her song about sharing is reminiscent of the Laverne & Shirley theme song, you'll probably dig the video, too. If I had one complaint to lodge, it's that they try to cover too much ground in a single episode. In addition to listening and sharing, they tack on a couple extra lessons at the end that don't get covered with enough depth to really have an impact. But I'd always rather expose my kids to more, rather than less, so as complaints go, it's a minor one.

The original agreement was that I'd review the DVD. But when I saw how much The Ambassador loved it, I called my BFF Jordan and asked him for another one that I could use in a giveaway. So this is your chance for some free kiddie crack! Leave a comment here, and on Friday evening, I'll draw a name at random and select a winner!

*Jordan and I have never met, I've never heard his voice, and he probably won't ever talk to me again via email, because I took FOREVER to get this review done. I hope he has kids and understands.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Suburban Obsessions #32 -- Light Up the Night

Not too long ago, those nice people at Parent Bloggers Network sent me a SYLVANIA PalPODzzz portable nightlight to use and review.

It's a well-documented fact that The Ambassador is not a great sleeper and hasn't been since he was born. We co-slept for the first couple years, because that made him feel safe and it made a lot more sense to us adults than dragging our sleep-deprived selves up and down the hall 2,334 times a night. Even during those two years, we made copious use of nightlights.

Nightlights suck. It's really that simple. They're either dinky little things that don't provide enough light, or they're as bright as strobes, which isn't really conducive to good sleep. We have rechargeable flashlights in every room of the house, and they have a nightlight function, so we've used them for a long time and just tried to duck and cover all night long to avert our eyes from the white haze. (I've also been known to strategically place throw pillows in front of them to mitigate the glare that threatens to sear my retinas through my closed eyelids.)

When The Ambassador moved to his own bedroom last year, I went on a hunt for good nightlights and found one that generally works for us. It's bright enough to scare away the baddies, but the light is warm enough that it doesn't amp up a toddler whose capacity for sleep is still quite fragile.

As any parent can tell you, changing the slightest thing in a little one's room can throw off their whole world, so I admit that it was with some reluctance that I gave the SYLVANIA PalPODzzz portable nightlight a shot. What made me do it? First off, the thing is CUTE. The base puts out a soft, blue glow that is bright enough to illuminate a bedroom, but not so much that you want to strap duct tape over your eyes to fend off the light. The rocket ship (there's a lady bug version, too) is a rechargeable flashlight that can be removed from the base, and again, those Sylvania people nailed the brightness factor. The flashlight's light is neither too harsh nor too dim, and it's the perfect size for chubby little toddler hands. Given that The Ambassador loves all things space-related, the excitement over this nightlight was palpable from the minute it arrived. And that, my friends, was the only major problem.

That evening, with Hubby out of town, I thought the novelty of a new nightlight might make the bedtime experience easier for The Ambassador. He deduced right away that the rocket was removable, so instead of placing the nightlight on his nightstand next to the bed, I had to put it up on the dresser out of his reach so he wouldn't keep playing with it. He jabbered about it for a bit, and then finally went to sleep. I assumed his excitement would abate with a little time, but when he woke up in the middle of the night, he wanted to play with the flashlight. After a few minutes of bleary-eyed discussion, I had to remove the nightlight altogether to get him back to sleep.

The entire experience made me realize I'm an idiot. Rather than wait for a time when things were at their most normal (i.e., Hubby was home to do the usual bedtime routine) and leave the nightlight unplugged and in The Ambassador's room for a few days so he could get used to it being there, I opted to jump in with both feet and just put the light to the test. Sorry, Sylvania. My bad.

So we've taken a few steps back, and the nightlight is now hanging out on our kitchen counter, which gives The Ambassador ample access to the flashlight that he loves and gives us the ability to desensitize him a bit to its presence. My next move is to put the base in his room and use it as a nightlight, and when he's just a bit older (in a few months) we'll put the flashlight back in its slot for overnights.

Overall, the SYLVANIA PalPODzzz is a really cool product that I'd recommend highly, and I can't wait until it becomes a standard part of The Ambassador's bedroom decor, which is already done up in a space theme. But it's clearly not made for sleep-deprived parents who aren't clearly thinking through their bedtime routine. That's not you, right? That's just me. So pop on over to the Parent Bloggers Network blog and enter to win your own SYLVANIA PalPODzzz.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Suburban Obsessions #31 -- Sparewear

That image pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Two shirts, a pair of pants and a handy carrying case. "Oh, p'shaw," you say, "I can pack my own outfits in the event of Axis of Evil-type catastropes." Can you? Can you really?

Look, I'm a mom. I know that you fully intend to restock the diaper bag every single time you go out. I also know that you manage to do it 99.99% of the time. But sometimes you forget something. Or, worse, sometimes your husband claims he restocked the diaper bag, but misses super critical items like... ohhh... say... diapers? Or a spare outfit. Tell me that hasn't happened to you. Exactly, and that's the point of Sparewear.

Made from super soft cotton, the clothes are exactly what you want next to your baby or toddler's skin. I don't know if I've made this clear, but I never, ever review anything here that I don't use myself or use with my kids, and my only complaint is that they don't make Sparewear in my size. They're that comfy. Added bonus: The nylon bag is cute and functional, printed with sweet modern graphics, sturdily made, and useful long after your little one grows out of their Sparewear.

In fact, if you wanted to, you could skip the diaper bag entirely for a short outing, stick a spare diaper in the pouch with the clothes and a travel pack of wipes in the handy pocket on the back of the pouch, and head out of the house. You know, for like 15 minutes until your newborn goes through more their second diaper. If you've ever had a newborn, you know I'm not exaggerating.

To purchase Sparewear directly for you or for a baby shower gift, head to RedSparks. While you're there, check out the rest of their clothes. They're having a great sale right now on some of my favorite kiddie clothing lines, including Tea Collection. Be sure to visit Matt and Aline's blog, The Playpen, which is how I met them and found their great store in the first place. (Look for some of Matt's work on Blog Nosh in the future, too.)

You know what's coming next, right? Yep... I'm giving away a Sparewear kit. Leave a comment and enter to win. Be sure to specify boy or girl, and the size you want:

0-6 months
6-12 months
12-18 months

When I announce the winner of the random drawing on Friday night, I'll include a photo of Little Girl wearing her Sparewear (assuming she hasn't already had an emergency that day and had to put it to speedy use).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Suburban Obsessions #30 -- Yummie Tummie

I know all of you are aware of body shapers and some of you might even own another brand that I won't mention, but rhymes with "thanks". As in, "thanks for rolling up on me when I bend over and reinforcing the magnitude of my muffin top, rather than minimizing it". Or "thanks for giving me a uniboob, because I don't have enough body image issues as it is, and I've always wanted to look like I was smuggling a stale loaf of sourdough bread in my bra".

Yummie Tummie is not that. For starters, it's longer than your average body shaper, which eliminates that problem of it rolling up every time you blink. But even better, it's meant to be seen. It looks like a normal tank top or t-shirt to any outsider, but the secret midsection panel smooths and shapes your rolls instantly transforming you into Kate Moss*. I ordered their nursing tank, and while you can't see it in these pictures, you can definitely spot the benefits:

Before (I want to read a few "that's pretty good for five weeks, Deb" comments in the comment section, by the way)


Notice the fabulous flat-like** shape of my jelly belly? Notice that I still have boobs, plural? No? Well, you can't see them from that angle, but maybe if you're nice to me in the comments, I'll send you a picture of the sisters***.

I'm still going to exercise once I get the nod. But in the meantime, I'm digging the extra help I'm getting from Yummie Tummie. Want one of your very own? Well, this is where sucking up to me in the comment section might benefit you. Leave a comment, and I'll enter you for a chance to win a $100 to spend on the Yummie Tummie web site. Get that? You leave a comment, and I make you look five pounds thinner like this:

How cool is that?

Hurry! The giveaway ends Friday night. Get your comments in by 5pm Eastern.

*Well, okay, maybe not Kate Moss. But a sleeker you, that's for sure.

**Flat-like. As in, not really flat, but appearing that way.

***But probably not.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Suburban Obsessions #29 -- Boogie SuperStar

The very cool folks at Electronic Arts sent us the latest version of their Wii karaoke game, Boogie SuperStar, and the Burbia family was pretty stoked to check it out.

To suggest that we are karaoke fans would be putting it mildly. While we don't get out to the bars all that often, Hubby and I have never been shy about embarrassing ourselves and our closest friends by putting our karaoke video games to good use at most of the parties we host.

After playing it, I have to say that of all the karaoke video games on the market right now, Boogie SuperStars is unquestionably one of the best. In this genre of games, it's pretty standard to pick your character and your song, and there are usually a few types of competitions from which to choose (head-to-head or multiple players). But Boogie SuperStars has definitely kicked it up a notch in every category:

- Customizing your SuperStar means head-to-toe customization, right on down to your shoes

- Making your sound your own means using some of the best and latest hits, including Natasha Bedingfield's Angel and Pocketful of Sunshine (one of Hubby's favorites)

- Then there's the element of the game that only a combination of EA and the Wii can provide. It's the kind of hip dance moves not seen since Kevin Federline performed with Britney Spears. Well, okay, maybe not that hip, especially since it was Hubby and I doing the dancing. But what makes Boogie SuperStar unique and particularly fun is that your score not only relies on your ability to sing, but you willingness to make a complete ass of yourself while attempting to simultaneously dance and sing. We had a blast trying to put it all together, and I can only imagine how much more fun this becomes when you've got four friends and a few glasses of wine added into the mix (we have a toddler and a regular babysitter, people. It's not like we're exposing adolescent children to booze-laden Boogie SuperStar parties)

The snarky judges make the entire experience very American-Idol-esque and totally worth the price of admission. This would be one of the hottest Christmas presents at your family party this year, so head to Amazon.com and pick up a copy.

Oh, and I can't convince you how much fun it is, maybe The Ambassador can:

The Ambassador Plays Boogie SuperStar from Missives Suburbia on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

76 Days Until Christmas

I discovered Rattle-N-Roll when I was looking for birth announcements for The Ambassador. They were making the hippest announcements imaginable -- they are more rock poster than baby introduction -- and Hubby and I instantly knew that's what we wanted. In fact, with every card order, you get a free poster-sized print. We framed The Ambassador's announcement poster, and when we have one for Little Girl, we'll hang them in the guest bedroom as a reminder to practice abstinence while staying at our house. (I'm just warning you in case you're ever invited to stay over. Your choice is refrain or wash the sheets yourself.)

Last year, Andrea emailed prior customers to let us know Rattle-N-Roll was producing Christmas cards and donating a portion of the proceeds to the victims of the San Diego fires. We lined up immediately to order ours, and the number of calls and emails I received from friends about our cool Christmas cards was a little overwhelming.

As I mentioned on Missives From Suburbia, Rattle-N-Roll does all kinds of great custom work, too, including wedding invitations and actual event posters. The quality is fantastic. Your cards come printed on heavy cardstock, with plenty of white space on the back for notes and child support requests.

So check them out, and tell them I sent you. They won't have the foggiest idea who you're talking about, because I didn't warn them I was going to gush about their work. But maybe they'll be polite enough to nod along with you. You know, like how you just grin and bear the rambling stories of your aging parents and work-obsessed friends. (Oh, please. As if you don't do that, too.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicken Soup Giveaway Winners

Thank you for all your comments! It was great to see some of my favorite bloggers responding -- I knew you were all a bunch of sentimental saps, despite your cynical, tale-wagging little blogs! Alas, I could only give away three copies, and the winners of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are:

Gretchen (Moms & Sons)

Soapbox Mom (Like Mother, Like Daughter)

Katerina (Moms & Sons)

When you get a chance, check out their blogs. These three ladies also blog, and their writing runs the gamut of chatter about daily kiddie fun to thought-provoking topics that affect every family.

Oh, and to my dear winners: don't forget to email me your address so I can get your books sent out to you this week. (missivesfromsuburbia at gmail dot com)