Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Sweet it Is

I recently got some games from Hasbro for National Game Night (which I missed on September 23 because I was busy packing for our trip to St. Louis). Among the games I received was a new version of Candy Land, Candy Land Sweet Celebration Game. Candy Land was a favorite of mine growing up and I was excited to see this new, updated version of it. Well, let me tell ya, some things are better left alone. I punched out all the pieces for this game - all FORTY-FIVE pieces! Then began the assembly process.

"Mom, can we play now?"

"Hmmm, let's see here. Insert tab B into slot A, see figure 1."

"Mom, is it ready yet?"

"Not yet, hon. Hmmm, snap the Snow Flake Lake into the plastic base. See diagram 529."

"Is it ready now?"

"Not yet. Hmmm how the heck do you put this parrot on the ship?"

"Can't we play yet? We've been waiting forever!"

"Parrot on a ship? Why is there a parrot? Why is there a SHIP? This is Candy Land, not the Pirates of Penzance! How on earth do you attach this stinkin' parrot???"

"Mom, can we play now? Mom, why are you throwing the parrot in the garbage?"

After I went back to school, got an engineering degree and spent a week and a half working on the game, it was finally assembled. Of course, the kids were bored and had already graduated from high school run outside to play in the sandbox by this point.

I decided to skip the 28 pages of instructions on gameplay and instead, I sneaked out and bought an original version of Candy Land. You know, the good ole Candy Land with Plumpy and Grandma Nut and Princess Lolly. No children's game should be that complicated!

Clayton and Brooklyn have been on a Candy Land kick ever since. Every day, when Clay gets home from school, the 3 of us sit down and play. We sit there and talk while we play. Clay tells me what he did at school. Brooklyn catches him up on the TV he missed while at school. She tells him what animal Diego saved that day. In fact, yesterday she talked about how hippos and Oxpecker birds have a symbiotic relationship. Symbiotic? My THREE-year-old was telling me about symbiotic relationships! Sheesh, when I was three, the only things I got from television was that "C" was for cookie and
the baker fell down the stairs with 7 pumpkin pies.

So, we talk and laugh and move our little gingerbread men around the board. And you know what? The kids take turns beautifully. And not only that, but they cheer each other on. And when someone else makes it to the Candy Castle, they say, "Good job!" to that person instead of throwing their piece across the room and screaming that it's "no fair!" In fact, while we were playing today, I looked away from the board for a minute and when I returned my gaze, I noticed that Brooklyn's piece, which had been way behind me and Clay, was suddenly right up with us. I said, "Wow, how did Brooklyn catch up so fast?" Clay whispered to me, "Well, she's a baby so I helped her out. I moved her piece up by us so she could win too. Shhh."

How sweet is that? It almost makes me forget all the times I hear, "You're doing it wrong! Stupid! I hate you! No, you're stupid! Mom, they called me stupid! You're an ogre! Go away!"

With as much fun as the little kids and I have been having playing games every afternoon, it has reminded me what fun it is to have a family game night. We've done this in the past, but haven't in probably over a year. I think it's time to institute game night Fridays again. My faves, Monopoly and Clue, are calling my name right now.

Does anyone else do Family Game Night? What are your favorite games? Do you have game night the same night of the week or do you fit it in whenever there aren't sports and other activities going on?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Survey Says...

Well, the majority of you who voted in my poll, said you'd like my reviews and giveaways posted on this same blog so you don't have to go to 2 separate places to read. That works for me. Some of you wrote and said you didn't like the reviews and giveaways at all. Here's the deal. I don't make any money on my blog. Now and then I have an ad or two on here and make a little bit, but for the most part, I only have PSAs and ads for friends on here. And that's fine with me. However, I do get approached by PR companies asking me to talk about/review/give away products every day. You might be surprised to know that I turn down more than half of them. I only agree to things that I really believe

A. I or my kids will like

B. are fun and unique

C. are a good value or great green idea

D. are things that my readers will enjoy

I don't accept money for writing about products *unless otherwise specified* because I want to make sure people understand that I only give honest opinions and am not being paid to say nice things. It's my goal to be transparant. I do take a free sample of the product because I'm not going to tell you it's great when I haven't even seen it. I'm not going to say it stands up to wear and tear by kids if my kids haven't had the chance to destroy it play with it. So, I take a sample and thoroughly check it out before writing a review and/or coordinating a giveaway. This is a little perk for my family. Like I said, I don't make money for all the time I spend working on my blog, so when I'm offered the chance to review a toy that my kids love or take them to events like Disney on Ice, I happily accept.

So, because the poll results said the majority wants everything on the same blog, I'm going to do that. But, for those of you who don't want to read about the products I review, I'll try to keep my product reviews to one day a week. I'll post a review and/or giveaway every Monday. If you don't want to see them, just don't check my blog on Mondays. Cool? Everybody happy? Now, if I could just send a nonfat double espresso caramel vodka latte grande to the 36% of you who voted for that...

* I was paid to write some articles for Goodnites and I'm being paid to do some work for V-Tech Toys.

Oh yeah! I suppose you all want to know the winner of the Whimsy ring. Without further ado :::drumroll::: the random winner is...

Here are your random numbers: 207

dgmommie said...
Night sky is beautiful!

Congratulations! Email me at with your shipping address and I'll get this out to you right away! Thank you to everyone who checked out these rings and left a comment. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Magic of St. Louis

We're on our way home from St. Louis as I write this.  We had so much fun and packed a ton of activities into our short time there.  St. Louis is a terrific vacation destination for families.  There's just so much to do for all ages and we barely scratched the surface.  Besides Six Flags, The Magic House, City Museum, the Gateway Arch, riverboat cruises, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the St. Louis Zoo (things we did this weekend), there's also a free Budweiser tour, Cahokia Mounds, Meramec Caverns, Purina Farms, nearby Hannibal, MO with Mark Twain's boyhood home, museum, cave, and the unsinkable Molly Brown's house (Titanic), and much much more.  The weather's pretty great this time of year too - not too hot and not too cold to enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities.  My kids are already asking, "When can we go back?" and since it's a fairly short 4 1/2 hours from Chicago, I'm sure we'll return again soon.  Well, that and the fact that Joe noticed they have Waffle Houses there and he didn't have the chance to eat at one.


So yesterday, we went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the morning.  I'm not big on gardens.  I don't like to garden.  I don't care much about flowers.  I'm allergic to bees and Savannah has terrible allergies to pretty much anything found in a garden.  Still, we walked around and thought it was a pretty cool place.  We especially liked the Children's Garden because there were interactive areas for the kids to play.  I have to admit that the older kids were bored here.  The younger ones could've stayed for hours, however.  They had a lot of fun in the Children's Garden.  If you live in the area, it's worth checking out with your little kids.  If you're vacationing in St. Louis and love gardens, go.  If you just have older kids and aren't really into gardening, you might want to skip this in favor of one of St. Louis's billion other attractions.


Cool garden with these giant lily pads.  According to Jackson, the lily pads will hold a person up if they stand on one.  Thankfully none of the kids tested this theory.


 The kids thought this was cool.  I was less than thrilled at seeing this guy in the garden.  But still, he was better than all the bees!


 exploring the cave in the children's garden which had a Tom Sawyer theme




 swinging like a monkey from some vines in children's garden




 feeding koi in Japanese garden





After the Missouri Botanical Gardens, we grabbed some lunch and headed to The Magic House which is a children's museum.  I thought the youngest 3 or 4 kids would like it, but figured the older kids would be bored.  I was wrong.  They all had fun there!  If I just had the teenagers, I probably wouldn't take them to this museum which is really geared for younger kids.  But if you, like me, have both younger and older kids, fear not - your older ones will be amused while the little ones play here.  And the little ones will go nuts with all there is to do!  Tons of fun, science-like exhibits and a lot of imaginative play will keep them busy for hours.  And now through January, 24, 2010, there's a totally cute Curious George exhibit.  We all love Curious George and my kids watch George on TV almost daily so this was a big hit with us.



Lexi the doorman


 Clay & Lexi playing with wind




This was the part the older kids really loved.  They probably spent close to an hour solving a mystery by doing different forensic experiments.  It was a total CSI thing and they really got into it!


Lexi's disguise


Mr. President, sir, you're looking rather, umm different today.


Can you guess who's who?


This part of the museum was a little town complete with pizza parlor, house, grocery store, electric company, TV station, fishing pond, auto shop, bank, and more!  The little kids could have played here all day!




And the highlight for the older kids...








Finally, we went to dinner at the Fountain on Locust.  This place was fun!  It's an old fashioned soda fountain that makes homemade phosphates, egg creams, ice cream martinis and so much more.  I had a bowl of the most delicious chicken & dumplin soup ever!  The atmosphere was cool, the waitresses were super-nice and friendly and the food was delicious.  If you're in the area, check it out!  Don't be fooled by its location - it looks like it's in an abandoned part of town with nothing else around, but it's a gem.




Brooklyn's chocolate goatee courtesy of their Zanzibar chocolate ice cream.



Then we hit the St. Louis Zoo today before heading home.  Again, we wish we'd had more time to spend there as it's a really nice zoo!


Hello, Mr. Hippo!




Very cool (literally) penguin exhibit


Clay made a new friend.  This chimp just sat there staring at him.  Kindred spirits, I say.



The St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Center paid for our hotel, meals, and attraction tickets, but I haven't been paid to write about St. Louis.  My opinions are my own and they're always honest.


Scroll down to read more about our trip to St. Louis

Sunday, September 27, 2009

City Museum

We've been so busy, doing so many fun things that I was too worn out to blog last night. So, let's see, what did we do yesterday? Oh yes, we had tickets for Six Flags for yesterday so we headed there even though there were dark clouds on the horizon. We went on 2 or 3 rides and the heavens opened and let loose. Torrential downpour. We tried to wait it out, thinking maybe it would quickly pass and we could go on having fun. No dice. It kept raining, so we called it a day. I felt bad because that was the one place the older kids were really looking forward to going.

Soaking wet

We went back to the hotel to change clothes and then grabbed some lunch. On the menu yesterday, was Imo's for "St. Louis style pizza". For those of you who don't know, St. Louis style pizza is a matzo cracker covered in ketchup and cheez whiz. Yes, we're partial to Chicago pizza, but we've had pizza in a lot of different states. Never have we had something quite like this, however. We're not fans. Sorry St. Louis. Love your city! Hate your pizza.

Brooklyn's new friend


After lunch, we headed to City Museum. This place is AWESOME and more than made up for the pizza. If you're planning a trip to St. Louis, you have to add this to your itinerary. It's very unique. None of us had ever seen a museum quite like this. When we walked in, we asked for a map and were informed that they don't have maps. "Go explore," is what we were told. and explore we did. There are a zillion nooks and crannies, tunnels, passageways, secret hideaways, paths, slides, stairs, and surprises around every corner. In many places, it looked like we'd just stepped into an "I Spy" book. It was like someone took a collection of junk and formed it into a play place for kids of all ages and the only rule was - have fun and exercise your imagination. I can't adequately describe this place, so I'll let my pictures do it for me...

I have a ton more pictures and video too. I'll put something together when I get back home. This place was just so much fun. All six kids (and Joe and I too) absolutely loved it and repeatedly lamented that they wished we had one in Chicago.

As we left, we witnessed the most beautiful rainbows I've ever seen. These pictures just don't do it justice. It was super-bright and stretched from one end of the sky to the other and even had a second rainbow right on top of it. Breathtaking to behold! How cool would it have been if I'd been at the arch at the time and could've gotten the rainbow going over the top of it?

We went to Rigazzi's for dinner. It was fine. Kinda pricey for the casual atmosphere and the food was ok, but nothing to write home about, in my opinion. After there, we stopped at Ted Drewe's for frozen custard. Tons of people milled around the outside of the place, eating their custard, talking, having fun. The frozen custard was DE-LISH, the guy who took our order remembered all 8 things without writing them down (impressive) and we had a nice end to our day, licking ice cream cones and hanging out on old route 66 in front of Ted Drewe's.

This, however, is what happens to kids who have been up and running all day and haven't gotten quite enough sleep and have been stuck with 7 family members all day, every day, for days...

They get a little wacky!

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