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Reviews

I have done quite a few in-depth music, concert and movie reviews including:

Beyonce’s album Beyonce – The Lemonade Maker

Drake’s “Would You Like a Tour?” DC Stop – Posh The Socialite

“Safe Haven” Movie – Bellyitch

I am an Amazon.com reviewer, frequently reviewing children’s and family-related books and products. You can visit my page Here or just read a few of the reviews I’ve posted on Amazon.com below:

 

My Little Monkey (Snuggle-Me Stories)

 

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Lovely snuggle up and read with the little one book, November 12, 2009

This review is from: My Little Monkey (Snuggle-Me Stories) (Board book)

I loved that this book came with a small fleece blanket with an attached plush monkey. The author of the books, Sandra Magsamen, is an artist, mom, who lives in my state, Maryland!

As soon as I opened the box the book was shipped in, my 20 month-old, GG, grabbed at the adorable, soft plush blanket buddies that come attached to each book. She could barely wait for me to cut them from the books. Afterwards, we grabbed a quiet corner in the nursery and she made me read the monkey book over and over and over again. She loved saying “Monkey” at the end of the book. Then would shrivel her brow, sad that the book was over and say, “AGAIN”. All the while, she snuggled the little animal. I think she was eeked to see that her little stuffed monkey looked just like the one in the book. She talked to it, in baby gibberish of course. I think she said, “hey you are my little monkey buddy” or something like that if my baby gibberish is correct.

The fun sentiments in the story, about how valued and loved the little monkey is to his mom, and the use of playful words that GG could relate to helped hold her attention for the entire book. She loved it! It’s a board book, so I am cool with her going off and pretend reading and flipping the pages. My only worry is the tiny stuffed animals are easy to lose and I’ve had to search and scoop them up here and there since we’ve gotten them.

The book would make a nice addition to our board book collection and the added little gift of a stuffed blanket buddy was a plus! Perfect for bedtime or story time in a corner.

 


 

Gotta Catch Santa Claus

 

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Pretty Cool Christmas Movie for toddlers thru tweens, November 12, 2009

This review is from: Gotta Catch Santa Claus (DVD)

In a nutshell, the storyline is about Trevor, a 12 year old tween who recruits his two nerdy science geek friends to prove Santa does exist to this cute little girl he is crushing on but who doesn’t believe in Santa. They eventually succeed in doing just that, catching Santa, smack in the middle of Santa’s Christmas eve romp. Using a laser device Trevor’s wacky astronomer/scientist parents conveniently left hanging around unattended, Trevor & pals intercept a plan by a 100 year old goofball ice monster LeFreeze and his snowmen henchmen who were also trying to take out Santa for good themselves. Apparently, LeFreeze, from a new Ice Planet Trev’s parents discovered and who was awakened after 100 years, has a grudge with Santa and tries every 100 years to finally put Santa to bed, permanently. [Insert evil laugh here]

My challenge: Review the movie with a range of children, my kids
Cast of challengers: Me & My kids A.k.A. The Mischiefmakers
The Reviewers: Me eager working mom, blogger, wife
Cboy aka “the Tween” (7 ): cynical and snarky kid who is into video games, computers, tech gadgets & is too smart for his own good sometimes and other than an occasional Spongebob or classic Tom & Jerry, has moved on to kids shows with real people in them like iCarly (which I think is a bit too old for him, but that’s another post for another day)
Jboy aka the “Middle boy” (4) : classic angst-filled middle kid who has a wonderful imagination, is curious, energetic & loves movies and has the patience to sit through a movie 1 hour long or more
GG aka the “Toddler” (22 months): typical toddler who is easily entertained by moving sound, objects and music. She’s along for the ride.

With the toddler balanced on one knee gnawing on my rubber cell phone cover and the middle child barely staying on my other knee, we start the movie after I call up a dozen times for snarky 7 year old who thinks he’s too cool for a Santa movie to come up from the basement and review the movie with us. Reluctantly, Cboy watches the movie in true “teenage protest style” while sitting on the steps and peering into the room where we’re watching.

It starts with Trevor introducing the show and how it’s different than other movies….screeeech…before we get there, I must mention that the movie had 4 previews/trailers of other upcoming features which my 4-year old especially DID NOT APPRECIATE. He kept asking, “when is the movie going to start mom?” I eventually forwarded past the scenes, but it was a bit irksome to have to do that especially when there was an option to see the trailers in the menu screen. They would be better left there so that parents can “opt in” to see them rather having to “opt out”.

Anyway, it was a fun movie to watch (in my adult mind) because it was cute and I really enjoyed the voices of the characters singing the original songs in the movie, especially the character Veronica, the little hottie Trevor’s trying to convince Santa really exists. If there was a big lesson about anything in there that children were supposed to come away with, I missed it, but the CGI technology gave it a 3-D effect that I could appreciate, and so could the kids because the extra dimensions were eye catching.

The toddler loved the songs and bopped her head along. There were enough moving characters, actions and sequences to keep her attention for 35 out of the 66 minutes the movie ran. Not bad.

The Tween couldn’t help be snarky throughout the movie. “They’re trying to catch Santa,” I announce at the beginning of the movie. “I know, I just read that a second ago on the screen.” he retorts back. When did this kid turn into a full out teenager, I’m thinking at this point. Also, 10 minutes into the film after disappearing with the DVD box into his corner stair watching point, he comes back, sticks the DVD box in my face and says”see here, the entire plot is explained, can I go now? I get it.” Sheesh. “No!” I tell him. He returns after each song sequence to point out that this is one of 6 songs that is in the movie cause “he read it on the box” (then would proceed to point out the notation on the box indicating that there are “6 Jolly Jammin’ Songs!”)

Well, good thing I made him sit through it, eventually he did get into a couple of the scenes especially the action packed ones when the boys actually shoot Santa from the sky and the snow ball fight between LeFreeze and his snowmen and Trevor, Veronica and kids. So in the end, it did appeal to the Tween but only after being strong-armed to.

The movie was best suited for 4-year old Middle Boy. He sat still through all 66 minutes, bopped his head and hummed at the songs and followed all of the action, activity and dialogue from beginning to end. The perfect demographic for the DVD. Overall, it was a cute story, had fun characters and catchy pop tunes to keep young children entertained.

 


 

If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How to Know if Your Child’s Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency

 

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

Must Read for New Parents and Grandparents, September 1, 2009

This review is from: If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How to Know if Your Child’s Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency (Paperback)

If ever there was a super humorous take on dealing with us sometimese frantic over sensitive parents, this is it! I read this book from cover to cover and was cracking up all the way through. It is choc full of helpful descriptions and lay person explanations of common ailments and how we should deal with them, in a manner that does NOT require a trip to the ER.

I do wish I had this book as a resource to read BEFORE I had my first child. I vividly recall a moment when we had just come home with our first kid and out of the blue, he started to cry uncontrollably, turning red. I hopped all over the place, yelling at the hubby to warm up the car, unwrapped my head scarf off my locks and was heading to the ER for sure. All the fuss and ruckus to get the kid help induced the baby to burp. *Belch* …And then he was fine again. Womp Womp Wooomp! It was only gas!

So what Dr. Zibners does in this book is break down the anatomy of the infant, toddler and child. She explains, yes “his little piggy” will disappear into rolls of fat. That is okay. And, before you come in for a diagnosis of a blue mark, try a washcloth and soap. Yup. Funny, but true. It is a great book for a first time mom, dad or grandparents.

Dr. Zibners even offers natural remedies for common ailments that wouldn’t require a medical prescription, for example, like for constipation, treat the child with the “P”s = peas, plums, prunes, peaches. Aaaah! Yes. Put the infant Pepto away,you say?

She goes down the list of common products a child can safely get away with eating and not croaking: a bit of lipstick. No problem. A scoopfull of Vaseline. It will pass (literally and figuratively)…and of course there are mentions of the ones that should be treated with emergency care.

This book is very fun and Dr. Zibners matter of fact writing style gives the reader comfort in knowing, “no, you’re not an idiot, just a hypersensitive and worrywart mom/dad”

The best part for me are the sidebars dispersed throughout the book called “911” and “Emergency” which details scenarios when you ARE to call for help or take your child in and I made it a point to read every one of those tabs.

All in all, you can’t go wrong in reading this book or giving it as a gift to the new grandparents, babysitter, new moms. It is a quick and easy read and worth being on every shelf!

 


 

Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure

 

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Good Resource that has bee running to live in a MUD HUT!, September 1, 2009

This review is from: Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure (Paperback)

Environmental engineer turned environmental lawyer Jennifer Taggart makes a hearty attempt to educate and assist Moms (and dads) with small children be Greener, be more aware of the environmental dangers in the typical household and live healthier and less toxic lives. She tackles all the usual suspects: Radon, Abestos, Mold, Lead, and the lesser known by products or derivative elements that make up some common toxins or contribute to toxic environments. For advice and tips for the PREGNANT mom, she goes beyond the typical mercury warnings and delves deeper into dangerous foods and household chemicals that could impact the mom or her unborn baby.

I must say while I pride myself on living a “Green” life, I shamedly admit that really amounts to using mesh grocery bags, recycling, using water delivery versus purchasing multiple bottles and purchasing organic when I can afford to…um yeah.

Imagine my surprise to go through Smart Mama’s GreenGuide and read about all the horrific toxins that pollute every bit of mine and my family’s existence. So the author started off a bit neurotic and compulsive about being toxic free. Being an environmental engineed didn’t help. I suppose her sensitiviy to toxins were also on account of the fact that she suffered early miscarriages and looking for sources was convinced that the environment must have been the cause. She had an uphill battle to learn all she could being that tragic momentous event happened in 2002. Fast forward to 2009, readers have the benefit of her research, background, education and resources in this book. The premise behind the book, especially for pregnant women, is that you are indeed what you eat and you can control what you are exposed to, once you are educated and become informed. Good try.

At times, the descriptions of the toxins and hazards caused my eyes to glaze over and I eventually skipped those sections where she tries to explain in a little too much detail about the hazard, its source, cause and potential side effects. Me=lazy reader. Also, to really live a Green life taking all the precautions outlined in this book one would need to have gotten at least a C in high school chemistry or have a small microbiology lab stashed in the den somewhere. Also, some of the stories between the covers of this book were horrifying. The worst is the case example of the woman whose breast milk became so toxic that it leaked a smelly and pungent discharge. Eeek! Smart Mama has tiny text blocks of “Scary Mama Facts” that I suppose are put there to alarm you into compliance, but in all honesty, the entire book got me cringing and ready to pack up my brood and head for a mud hut in Outer Mongolia where we can’t be impacted by all the Radiation and Poisons polluting life in America.

Most helpful were the tables and side bars which give you a cut and dry listing of the toxins, tips for reducing or eliminating exposure and her expert analysis of the real life practical effects of such exposure. I especially found helpful the “Smart Mama Tips” and wish there were more of them because they were simple, easy to follow advice that most could understand and follow. The latter chapters that dish out very real practical tips for being “Greener” are also very helpful especially Chapter 5-8. I know plenty of moms who are/were very neurotic about limiting their infant and children’s exposure to all things toxic and those last chapters provide a very helpful and thorough treatment to creating the perfect environment. *sigh* What a big undertaking and exhausting one, but I suppose our children are worth it. Until this book, I lived life under the “ignorance is bliss” category of apathy. Maybe I am…Ha!

If anything, this book is a very good resource book that deserves at least a pass over and a space on your library shelf.

 


 

Your Baby Can Read: Early Language Development System

 

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:

My Kids are Having Fun with This System, August 10, 2009

This review is from: Your Baby Can Read: Early Language Development System (DVD)

…so I was running on a treadmill in the hotel gym during a business trip, when the infomercial for the “Your Baby Can Read” system came on the tellie and I became captivated.

As soon as I got up to my room, I sped dialed the 800 number and ordered up a set for the $14.99 trial period. When the package came, I anxiously read through the introductory manual and nodded and “uh hmmm” my way through the first several pages. There, the founder talked about how a child’s brain is best suited for absorbing language and reading skills in the earliest part of its life and over time, the synapses for learning vocal and verbal concepts and skills, like reading, start to slow. It doesn’t become impossible over time, just more difficult, because the optimal time for that type of development, if stimulated, is from age 0 to 4 years of age.

After one month, where I tried to show my youngest boy, 4, and GG, then 18 months, the video in the morning and once again in the evening, I began to notice that they picked up several words. We’d do the flash cards periodically and the book. I was gung ho to see if the system actually worked, because I was like many viewers of the informercial who were amazed at the tiny babies reading words.

Over time, like after a month, we switched to video 2 (and right on schedule promptly got a reduction in my bank account for the remaining cost of the DVD set). It was a seamless move and DVD 2 incorporated some of the words from the first set, but added on concepts and patterns. The idea is that children learn patterns of words and eventually pick up reading ability that way.

I admit given my busy schedule recently, I have slacked off a bit on going through the flash cards and books with the smaller ones, but when I played the flash card games and pick the word off the screen or on the cards games, my 4 year old got everyone right!

The baby does the gestures or says the words of all of the initial cards when she sees them on the screen or on the cards! Crazy! Well you know when grandma and grandpa came to visit from Trinidad, you know I had to break out the cards and show off my tricks!

I am still waiting and anxious to continue with the program and I am looking forward to the kids learning words not part of the video series. Right now, I am thinking the kids have just memorized the initial words.

If I can get a small break and do the system regularly for a month or two I hope to be able to test the system for real.

Until then, it is very fun to see my little girl and boy get excited over the words and the song that comes on in the beginning and the end. Their eyes just light up when I break out the cards and DVDs.

Those two already had an affinity and natural curiosity towards books. GG, at a mere 17 months would mimic reading sounds and pretend to be reading. She likes to pull books off the book shelf for me to read. Meanwhile, my youngest boy, also “reads” from memory his favorite books. He has a good command of language and a very expansive vocabulary for a boy his age. I figure he gets it from me being such a talker, him having an older brother and I suppose having two over educated, slightly obsessed-with-having-smart-kids, competitive-type parents! ha!

I’m happy the two of them are picking up the skills and going through the series has made me feel less guilty about not doing as much reading and coaching with the youngest two as I did with my eldest. He is a very good reader now and has great reading comprehension skills and did NOT receive early exposure that the “YOUR BABY CAN READ” system espouses is essential and key for all children.

That is all to say that your child will not necessarily be disadvantaged if you don’t run out and buy this system. If you provide a healthy learning environment for your child, expose him/her to reading and a variety of educational experiences, I guess your kid will be just fine.

But just in case, I’m super glad I invested in the series anyway because of the potential for putting them ahead of the pack and because the kids actually enjoy the darn thing!

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Parent-Child Book Club, The: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading

 

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Great Resource for Getting Kids into Reading for FUN!, June 15, 2009

This review is from: Parent-Child Book Club, The: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (Paperback)

With the onset of summer and end of the school year, many parents like me are challenged to keep the kids busy and mentally stimulated.

My 7 year old is great at math and other subjects, but is more challenged at reading comprehension and reading. Really, he’d rather watch TV or play video games. He is only just now getting into liking books for fun, thanks to a great first grade teacher who cherishes reading and did a phenomenal job at stressing the fund aspects to reading. It’s so important to me and my husband that the kids get into reading because we both enjoyed reading books for fun growing up. I was a spelling bee champ and lived in the library.

From cover to cover, “The Parent-Child Book Club” is a refreshing take on the challenge on getting kids into books and reading. It is unique in that it introduces the concept of a book club for kids run by their parents. How novel. I found the model, if effectively executed, could have a positive impact on getting a reluctant reader to embrace books.

The authors share that the concept behind a book club is to encourage communication with children. The model presented in the book is for children ages four to nine. By the end, through several rounds of book club sessions, children should learn to predict outcomes, contemplate character traits and motivations, think about plot and dialogue and focus on writing. Very impressive. I earnestly believe reading for fun and love like this is the building block and basis for all types of learning and for being a good student overall.

The book offers ground rules on the technicalities of the group: how many kids to include, where to meet, whether it should be coed or single sex. It follows with helpful suggestions on how to create questions and dialogue about each book. There is a very generous resource section with suggested titles and a little info about each title. Each chapter thereafter essentially shares various models using specific age-appropriate books as examples. I especially liked the ancillary projects: the trips, foods to make, and places to go that expands the experience of reading the book to real life.

Overall, its a great concept and great that the authors have put together a system that can be copied in various contexts for the early and middle years of a child’s education. Wonderful for supplementing their learning in school and it will be a great addition to our summer home school curriculum!

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Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience

 

 

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful:

Must Read Before You Go into Labor, May 1, 2009

This review is from: Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience (Hardcover)

[…]
First Impressions:
I must say at a first skim through the preface and various chapters of this book, I immediately got turned off. At first blush, the book seemingly has a heavy focus on Natural Vaginal Births and that is a very sour subject for me, a woman who delivered each of her THREE children via C-SECTIONS. For a long time, I used to feel inadequate about not having given birth the “natural” way as God intended, if you will. I even used to get a rush of jealousy when I would hear of a friend who had a birth without medical surgical intervention. I belabor the point, but I did not think I’d come away from the book feeling good at all.

Second Chance:
Well, I decided to give the book a chance anyway and, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually liked it and would recommend it!

Ricki and Abby use a very conversational, down to earth tone and language to provide a matter of fact, real perspective of their personal experiences and the experiences of other women. They explain, without too much medical terminology and jargon, what a mother-to-be can expect during the birthing process. In any event, Your Best Birth is all about knowing your options and decoding the language of the hospital. The authors take the time to interpret some of the reasons hospitals give mothers for making their decisions. It is a useful resource even for that discussion alone, because it is a very stressful time during labor and who has time to psychoanalyze what’s being said at that very moment? Getting educated on some of these issues in advance is crucial.

Demystifying the “Hollywood” portrayal of Birth
The book opens with summaries of Ricki and Abby’s birthing experiences with their children. The remainder of the book attempts to address the stigma associated with “home births” by providing matter of fact and straight forward explanation of what they are like and what women considering these options can expect.

Mothers-to-be Giving in…
I do wish I had that type of book 7 years ago when I was about to deliver my first child, because I would have been more empowered and would not have succumb to pressure from my doctor to deliver via C section. One thing they point out in the book is that women are very eager to please and a too quick to not want to offend. We, as women, are often guilty of wanting to accommodate a doctor who has had a long night with you and may be eager to go home, or a nurse who insists you should get the epidural even though you feel you may be able to bear with the pain a little longer. For my first child, he simply was progressing slow and the doctor said she felt the labor was going to be too long for his poor little heart. I could have asked for medical or natural options to progress my labor and kept at it, but I gave in to the surgery because she said I could have my baby by noon that day! After 24+ hours of inactive and active labor, who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to know the exact time you’d be getting your baby?

What’s inside
Another plus about the book, one I felt there should have been more of, was the “red flag” side bars. For example, one side bar talked about signs about a midwife’s practice you should consider as a clear sign to not hire her. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the authors address sexual abuse victims and how the birthing process could affect them and cause to resurface old feelings about their abusive past. Like Ricki, is like as much as 40% of women in America who were victims of abuse and I, for one, could appreciate finally a pregnancy book that took a thoughtful approach to addressing a sad reality that so many women have faced and gone through. It is indeed refreshing and I appreciated the effort.

One negative aspect:
At times, their answers weren’t all the time helpful for me because they didn’t seem backed by enough statistics or researched facts. At one point, they argued that deceleration of the baby’s heart is not necessarily a clear sign of distress, and that a cord wrapped around a baby’s neck is not clear evidence that a baby would be born still. While I do understand that often times the fear of litigation and that the baby and maternal heart rate charts do end up in courts during malpractice law suits, it seemed a little reckless to me to suggest that the risks may be worth it. I wouldn’t want to be the mother who read this book and ignores medical advice that the baby may be in fetal distress and end up delivering a baby that later suffers from cerebral palsy. The authors didn’t back up some of their assertions with researched facts to make me comfortable on some discussions.

Indeed, this book is a good read because it empowers women with options. A more natural birthing experience either at home, at a midwife birthing center or with the assistance of a Doula trained to keep you calm and mediate your wishes with the hospital staff is and can always be possible and a very real alternative.

Aaaah! the beauty of hospital birthing! Thank Goodness for this very empowering book! It is indeed a worthwhile and quick read and helpful resource and I highly recommend it!

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