HOT: 3 days to save 20% on the best Christmas gifts!

I love, love, love KangarooBoo. I know I’ve told you before, and I’m sure I’ll tell you again. I plan on doing much of my Christmas shopping for kiddos there; everything I get there is always a hit!

KangarooBoo is celebrating their 3rd birthday, and now through Monday, November 1, you can get 20% off all regular-priced merchandise online with the code BIGTHREE or in their store in West Des Moines. This is an AMAZING opportunity to pick up some awesome Christmas gifts for the kids on your list!

I’ll share just a few things that we’ve loved…

The Goodbyn Lunchbox is probably THE coolest lunchbox I’ve ever seen. It’s a little tricky to get the hang of how to properly close it (There are directions included), but once you figure it out, it’s a piece of a cake (which, by the way, you could put in your lunchbox without worrying about it getting smashed by all the other food). And the kids’ favorite part has to be all the super-cool stickers that come with the lunchbox. They’re even repositionable AND can withstand the dishwasher, along with the entire lunchbox!

I got What Makes the Wind Blow book, along with another Little Pirate book for Boy #3 for his 6th birthday, and he LOVES them. The combination of illustration and real images make it appealing to kids on several levels. They find the story entertaining yet also absorb all the cool information they learn as well. These are really interactive books, which are especially great for boys.

Boy #3 got the In the Hot, Hot Sun book for his birthday, too, and I was so impressed with how long it kept his attention! This is perfect for kids who are just beginning to read and write. First, they read the story. Then they “write it” by filling in the correct words during a retelling. And finally they get to “draw it” and use stickers to recall the content again. I already have several more of these books in my shopping cart for Christmas!

I picked up one of these Autoseal Kids Trekker Cupseach for Boy #2 and #3, and I’m sold on them. At 6 and 8, they are too old for sippy cups, but they are extremely careless and clumsy when it comes to eating and drinking. These are perfect because the boys have to push in on the button to take a drink, which is easy enough to do, but if they drop it on the ground it will not spill. Great for car rides or to take with us to ball games or doctor’s visits. Like a water bottle but NON-SPILL. They also sell insulated ones for cold or hot beverages.

When I went to KangarooBoo to look for gifts for Boy #3’s birthday, Jennic, the owner and an incredible person, highly recommended this game, Spot It. She said that it is the number-one game that her kids beg to play and that she and her husband actually like to play it too. I couldn’t believe how much Boy #3 loves it too! It’s really a simple game, although it comes with several variations to add challenges, but it’s super fun and actually kind of addicting! I love it, too, because it’s a game I can throw in my purse and we can play anywhere because it’s small and doesn’t have a lot of pieces.

There is so much more on the KangarooBoo website and in their storefront. I encourage you to carve out a few minutes this weekend to just browse and see what they have. Sales like this do not come around often (in fact, I’ve never seen a store-wide sale there before), so take advantage while you can!

A couple other notes about KangarooBoo: They donate a portion of every sale to a children’s charity. You can find more about the program online. They really are a generous and kind family.

You can read an article about Jennic that appeared in our local Moms Like Me newspaper this month here. She has lived one amazing life!

I also want to make sure I disclose that I am in an affiliate program with KangarooBoo and make a small commission off any sales that come through my blog. Whether that makes you more or less eager to shop there, at least you know… (And hopefully you also know that I only work with companies that I feel confident standing behind. I would never take advantage of my readers or compromise the trust I’ve earned from you!)

With all that being said…happy shopping!

My Beginner Puzzle Picks

As the mom of three boys, I’ve seen my share of toys cycle through our house. Some of them, unfortunately, have suffered pretty short life spans. Sometimes it’s because of the quality of the product. Other times it’s because my kids just aren’t that interested. Other toys, however, have stood the test of time. I’m finding myself finally parting with some of these now that my youngest is in school. And one thing I’m amazed by is how well certain toys have stood up, and also how many hours of enjoyment we’ve gotten from them.

One type of toy in particular that I’ve been cleaning out lately is puzzles. All of my boys have always enjoyed puzzles, but Boy #3 is especially obsessed. He’s to the point now where he can do a 100-piece puzzle by himself, in not too much time, and he’s better at spotting matching pieces than I am! So the wooden puzzles that have been in our house, some for 12 years, are not quite giving him the challenge he needs.

I’ve noticed, as I’m cleaning out our puzzle and game cupboard, that the majority of our puzzles are from Melissa & Doug. It wasn’t intentional at the time, but looking back, I think it was because:

  1. The quality, whether wooden or cardboard, is excellent. They’re not going to fall apart easily and can withstand more than one hand-me-down.
  2. The selection is incredible. From beginning puzzles to more advanced, they have ability levels to meet the needs of any child. Plus, since the subjects aren’t actual cartoon characters or other commercial brands, they aren’t going to go out of style. They have a huge variety of subjects, all with appeal to kids. Many have an educational focus, which is always a bonus!
  3. The price is right. As with all Melissa & Doug products, in my opinion, you get the high quality without paying a high price. I have always found the products, puzzles included to be very affordable and definitely worth the price.

I wanted to share a few of the puzzles with you that represent the variety that Melissa & Doug produce. I’m going to start offering some select products in my own OpenSky shop here on my blog. I’m only going to promote and sell things or brands that we’ve used and found to be great products/brands, or things I personally love. I will make a little commission off anything I sell, so I want to be up front about that. However, please know that I would never endorse or sell anything that I didn’t think was a good product or worth the money.

That being said, I’m going to share some great Melissa & Doug puzzles for beginners in this post. If you’d like to know more about each puzzle, just click the little “See Details” button and it will take you to my OpenSky shop, where you can even order the puzzle. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping…

Beginner puzzles


I think this was Boy #1’s first puzzle, and it has been well-loved and still looks fantastic. Amazingly, we still have all the pieces too! I love the pegs on the pieces that make it easy for little fingers to pick up too.


This puzzle has jumbo pieces and pegs, perfect for even littler fingers!

This farm puzzle even makes the animal noise when a piece is placed correctly. So cute!


Kids who love their cars will love this puzzle that makes vehicle noises!


I like that the pieces can even stand up on this puzzle, so kids can continue to use it even when they’re beginning to read and spell words.

My boys are all very tactile, so they loved the board books that had things for them to feel. They would’ve loved this puzzle, too, that adds another sensory experience to playing with puzzles!


They can feel all the different textures on the vehicles with this puzzle.

This puzzle is great because kids can see the number and then see what the number represents when they pick up the puzzle piece.

I like this Safari Peg Puzzle because it’s a little bit different subject than a lot of puzzles you can find.

Another fun chunky puzzle, especially attractive to boys.

My boys LOVED these puzzles. This one lets you “catch” bugs with the magnetic net.


This puzzle lets kids go fishing in the ocean. I think these puzzles are also great for hand-eye coordination, a skill that boys especially struggle with.

Look for upcoming posts on my intermediate and advanced puzzle picks!

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Just Another Delightful School-Shopping Experience

This weekend marked a big event around these parts — Sales Tax-Free Weekend. And since I will soon have THREE boys (*sob*) in school, Husband and I decided to do something we try hard to never have to do . . . take the whole crew shopping.

First of all, let me remind you (if you’ve forgotten from my last post) how ungodly HOT it is here. Is it hot where you are too? Ugh. It’s like walking into a blast furnace, which is exactly what I want to be doing, especially if I have three boys whining on my heels.

Second, let me tell you that this tax-free weekend’s a pretty big deal where I live. Granted, if you’re just in the market for a pair of socks, you might as well stay home and pay the extra 18 cents. But if you’ve got three boys who’ve either outgrown or worn out their wardrobe, that 6% can really add up. So it was not only beastly hot, but crowded too. My favorite ingredients for a relaxing day.

Sidebar: One more note on this tax-free weekend here. Okay, I appreciate what the state leaders are trying to do, but I don’t really get the logic behind what’s tax-exempt and what’s not. For example, backpacks and bags are not on the tax-exempt list. However, if you’d like to get a wedding dress, it is on the list. Because everyone wants to wear a wedding dress on the first day of school. Oh, and it has to be under $100 too. Seriously, is that even possible? You can also purchase a tuxedo (but not rent) or clerical vestments, but not school supplies or belts without buckles (those with buckles are okay). Cleats? No. Fur coats and stoles? Yes. (Again, under $100.) You can get garden gloves but not welding gloves. Bowling shirts? Yes. Adult diapers? Yes. Watches and wallets? Sorry. I honestly think they just closed their eyes and pointed to a list and whatever items their fingers landed on were exempt.

Anyway, it started out relaxing, with me screaming firmly insisting that the boys stop touching each other in the backseat, which was resulting in tattletaling, flying elbows and even a punch or two. We took the car instead of the van because we thought it may be safer considering the van is currently riding on two front near-bald tires (it’s on my to-do list this week), but in retrospect we maybe should’ve just risked it for the sake of sanity. Boy #1 was still grumpy because we’d just come from Sports Clips, where he’d gotten his juvenile delinquent-esque hair cut to a respectable-looking length. All in all, it was a pleasant drive to the mall.

The next few hours were spent answering the question, “Do we have to go into ANOTHER store?”; telling the boys to quit chasing each other through the aisles; and trying to come to a compromise with Boy #1 on shoes that he would wear but did not cost $70 or look like clown shoes. (We talked him out of the bright purple skater shoes.)

Toward the end of the day, we had just hit our third mall when I experienced what would become the highlight of all of our day. Honestly, why do these things only happen to me? (And possibly Liz Lemon.)

We were walking down the middle of the mall, when I felt my flip-flop-clad feet slip out from under me. I tried to remain upright, swayed to and fro for a moment, but I just couldn’t hold on as my feet flew up in what I swear was slow motion and I landed on the ground, in something wet. I had been holding Boy #3’s hand but lucky for him let go so he didn’t go down with me. Nope, it was all me. Sprawled out in a puddle of who-knows-what.

And as I went down, what did Husband do? Rush to my rescue? Give me a hand up? Nope.

Grabbed his phone to update his Facebook status. I think the world knew what I did before I even had a chance to dry off my legs.

Fortunately, this happened at the least-populated mall in the city. Honestly, I think there were only about 7 other people there besides us. But still…the ones who were there were snickering.

But this wasn’t the worst part for me. Nope, it was when I stood up and started walking (trying to catch up with my family who I think was trying to pretend like they didn’t know me) that I realized something that only other middle-aged women who’ve borne babies can appreciate — my legs weren’t the only things wet.

Did I mention that my bladder had been full when I fell? Well, it wasn’t quite as full anymore.

I’m not too embarrassed to admit that I peed my pants a little bit. Well, maybe a little bit more than a little bit.

And as I steered my family toward the bathroom after relating my issue, Husband promised, as his face was buried in his iPhone, that he would keep that little nugget out of his Facebook update.

WARNING: IF YOU ARE A MAN OR ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT NATURAL BODILY FUNCTIONS, PLEASE SKIP THIS NEXT SECTION THAT I WILL SEPARATE (APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH) WITH A SUCCESSION OF PERIODS.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

If you’re still reading, you have probably already guessed what I discovered when I got into the bathroom: not only had I peed my pants a little, but I also had an unexpected visit from my Aunt Flo.

And even though I’ve been visited from Aunt Flo (aside from the months when I was pregnant or nursing) for 26 years, her visit always comes as a bit of a surprise every month. Which means I never seem to be prepared in terms of carrying the necessary supplies for her arrival. (Why plan ahead?)

So I used what supplies I had at my disposal (toilet paper) and rigged up a makeshift “feminine napkin” that would’ve made MacGyver proud (by the way, what is up with calling it a “napkin”? Gross!). Then I had to deal with the fact that anyone who was walking behind me would probably be able to tell that I’d had a bit of a leakage problem. Fortunately, I was alone in the bathroom, so I turned on the hand dryer, spun around with my eyes glued to the door, and bent over with my butt under the warm air in an effort to dry the wet spot on my shorts. Honestly, if someone would’ve opened the door, the first thing anyone would’ve seen would’ve been me, on my toes with my butt right under the air. The dryer could not have been placed any more directly in line with the door. Luckily, something finally went my way and I was able to spend a few solitary minutes with the dryer, which I had to keep turning on every 30 seconds.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

So after that little hiccup in our afternoon, we finished our shopping, and I served as the source of entertainment for the rest of the evening. While eating at Carlos O’Kelley’s, Husband read me the comments his update had gotten so far.

I told him I’m lucky he just updated his status and didn’t stop to take a picture as well.

He told me, “That you know of…”

Please tell me someone else’s school shopping experience at least somewhat rivals mine. Anyone? Anyone???

Image via Threadless

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4th of July Fashion—Do’s (and Doo-doos)

The 4th of July will be here before we know it — Have you planned YOUR wardrobe yet?

You may be one of those people who gets all decked out for the 4th, and if so, I’m envious. I just can’t pull it off. Bedecked head-to-toe in red, white, and blue is way too conspicuous for me. Makes me nervous just thinking about it. My personality is much more under-the-radar.

However, just because I can’t go all out doesn’t mean I don’t want to be patriotic. So I’ve been searching the web to see what I could find that’s a bit more subtle. I also found some things that you won’t be seeing me in this coming weekend. First, let’s explore those . . .

Although I totally admire the intricate details of this denim jacket, it’s just not me. Way too flashy for this body. However, if it’s you, go for it, girl! You can order it here.

Had I this woman’s body, I would definitely strut around the local pool in this bikini. Maybe even the parade. It’s retro-cute — but not on this mom-of-three. If you could actually wear this without making a fool of yourself, up yours, I mean, order it here!

I’m pretty sure it would be impossible to blend in with the crowd in this hand-painted shirt. If you want to get noticed (and you will, you definitely will), get yours here!

Hmmm, even if I could fit into a backless, peekaboo belly halter top, I don’t know if I would. Fortunately for the world, it will never be an option. If it’s an option for you, pick up your own here.

Now, I think this puffy shirt is super cute. However, it made my “won’t wear it” list for other reasons: 1) It’s too dressy. The 4th of July celebration we attend isn’t exactly a dress-up affair. 2) I’m pretty sure that long tie would cause serious injury when it got caught in the gears of the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Again with the conspicuous. Instead of blatant patriotism, I prefer my patriotism to go a little more incognito. If you like yours loud and proud, order your jewelry here.

So just what will Miss Pickypants wear, you may be thinking? Don’t worry. I’m not that hard to please. Here’s what you could see me in (if I had the funds to do more than just window-shop) . . .

This piece of jewelry is a bit less “in-your-face” patriotic than others I’ve seen. I’d definitely wear George Washington around my neck. (Pick up George here.)

If  it’s possible to be in love with a powder wig pendant, count me as guilty. So stinkin’ cute in a 18th-century-retro kind of way. Get your own wig here.

What’s more patriotic than the Declaration of Independence? I mean, without it, the 4th of July would just be another day. So even though this T-shirt doesn’t sport the red, white, and blue, it doesn’t have to. Want to declare your indpendence? Get the shirt here.

I love the irony of this T-shirt. I would love to see how long it took people to “get it.” Plus, I think it’s pretty darn true. If you want to “get it,” get it here.

I think Thomas Jefferson looks a little sexy here. Claim Tommy for yourself here.

Okay, I realize this is a dress, but it’s a T-shirt dress, so that doesn’t really count as being “dressy.” Baby might have too much back for this dress, but if it didn’t cling in all the wrong places, I’d totally wear it. (Find it here.)

I’m a word nerd, so this T-shirt from Target speaks to me. It says, “Can’t you please take me home? I’m less than 10 bucks for crying out loud!”

A few other 4th of Julyish items of apparel worth mention . . .

If I had a girl, I would totally dress her in this for the parade. Doesn’t it look like fireworks? If you have a little girl to dress up all cute-like, well aren’t you special? go ahead, buy the dress and shatter my dreams buy it here. Go on, I insist.

If I had a boy, I’d dress him in this. Oh, wait . . . (Get your own here.)

My pet peeve: Shirts that have the year on them, like “July 4, 2010.” Why? Because they suck as hand-me-downs. I still have a 4th of July T-shirt that says, “Old Navy 2002,” but if I make one of the boys wear it to the parade, does it not scream, “THIS SHIRT HAS BEEN THROUGH AT LEAST 3 OTHER KIDS BEFORE ME”? That’s why I love this shark shirt. It’s cute, clever, and timeless. (Find it here.)

For another hand-me-down-worthy holiday shirt, order this one from an adorable shop called Crowsmack. Even the name makes me smile.

So what about you? Is your 4th of July fashion style more extrovert or introvert? What will you be wearing to the parade?

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Just Another Relaxing Trip to the Grocery Store

Why is it that a simple run to the grocery store with kids in tow is never—simple? You know how grocery stores use “shopper psychology” when they design stores, purposely putting the milk in the far back corner of the store so you’ll have to walk by the Oreos on your way there, or putting the sugar-crack cereal at children’s eye level, knowing that by Aisle 6 the parents have already been worn down and will likely give in to their kids’ begs and pleads? Well, I have a hunch that they also have some special gas that they pump into the air that makes kids go temporarily insane. Seriously. I mean, where is the one place you can always count on your kids throwing themselves down on the floor? Yep, the supermarket. It’s a conspiracy, I’m telling you!

Take for instance my experience today. I only needed a few items and had limited time, so I thought I was relatively safe for a quick stop at Hy-Vee with Boys #2 and #3 before Boy #1 arrived home on the school bus. In and out. Really, how hard could it be?

Well, I’m not kidding when I tell you that it started the moment the kids’ feet crossed the threshold of the automatic door. First, Boy #2 had to “help me” push the cart. (Imagine me doing big sarcastic finger quotation motions when I say “help me.”) Apparently “helping me” push the cart means ducking under my arm, which is attached to the cart handle, and popping up so he’s now in between me and the cart. So now we must try to walk and push the cart in unison, except I have to now walk with my legs about twice as far apart as I normally walk. And I have to walk twice as slow. And my vision is slightly impaired by the nearly 8-year-old who is smack-dab in front of me. And this left Boy #3 just on his own, walking off to the side. This was not necessarily an ideal situation for any of us. Finally I convinced Boy #2 that this really was not working (after taking several deeeeep breaths) and so instead he climbed on the back of the cart, and Boy #3 climbed on the side. And I attempted to push a combined 100-pound lopsided cart.

“Maybe if I give one of them a job,” I thought, “this will be easier.” Thus begans my boys’ introduction to the World of Coupons. It begins with a BOGO coupon for Wholly Salsa, an exciting find as this salsa is really good! I asked Boy #2 if he would like to be in charge of holding the coupons once we find the products. He accepted the challenge, but not before I warned him about how valuable those little clippings were. “If you lose this,” I told him, “it’s like losing $4.” “Whoa,” he said, obviously impressed at my advanced couponing skills. But apparently he wasn’t impressed enough to actually hold on to the coupons as we had to stop and look for one at least three different times before I finally said, “Do you want me to just hold on to the coupons?” and he answered, “Yes.”

In a further attempt to keep my boys halfway sane and also get some “good mom” points (from whom, I’m not sure, though), I incorporated a little math lesson into our jaunt down the cereal aisle. Now, you must understand that cereal is a staple in our house. Further up on the food chain than bread and maybe even milk considering the boys would rather eat their cereal dry than go without cereal just because we’re out of milk. So we spend a lot of time in the cereal aisle both because we buy a lot of boxes AND because unless I bargain-shop for our cereal, we could spend our month’s house payment on Frosted Mini-Wheats. First, I asked Boy #2 to locate the cereal for which we had coupons. To make it a little more difficult, he had to make sure it was the correct size by looking at the number of ounces. Boy #3 had to get in on the action too, which was fine except that he managed to run in front of every other person with a shopping cart while searching out the Apple Jacks with the “Whole Grain” symbol on it. And then he wouldn’t move, so engrossed in his quest, and so we’d create a little aisle traffic jam until I could grab his arm and finally get his attention so he could get out of the way. Boy #2 did enjoy figuring out how much one box of cereal would be when the sign said “5/$10,” which I realized he did when he said, “Mom, if we buy two boxes it’s $4.” And coupons started getting more exciting when he realized that if we bought two boxes of cereal that were 5/$10, and we used a coupon for $2 off two boxes of cereal, “Hey, we’ll get one box free!”

A few aisles later and I was seeing the light at the end of the dairy case tunnel. However, on the way we had to pass one of the boys’ most coveted items—string cheese. They could smell it an aisle away . . . and the whining began. “Please, mom? PLEASE?!” I know, I know, it’s not like they were begging for a 5-pound bag of jelly beans or a case of Twinkies. But dang! String cheese is expensive! Especially when they devour an entire $6.98 package in one evening. (Not to mention what all that cheese does to their digestive system!) But, worn down as I was (Curse you, shopper psychology!), I was convinced to purchase a smaller package of Twisted String Cheese with the promise that they would each only eat ONE piece per day AND they would throw away their wrapper instead of tossing it onto the floor. (I know, I’m so weak!)

Next it was on to the milk aisle where I had to give my prerecorded “We don’t need to buy chocolate milk when we can make our own chocolate milk” speech. By this time, the “insanity gas” must’ve really gotten to them because if it’s possible, I think they actually wriggled all the way to the check-out aisle, arms extended and grabbing anything within arm’s length on the way.

When we pulled into Aisle 9, I saw that the guy in front of me had 4 little kids with him, including a baby, all by himself. I was hoping that would make us, with only 2 kids in tow, look a little bit better. But probably not. Especially considering Boy #3 not only put a economy-sized bag of candy on the conveyor belt and then did the whole “What?” innocent act when I told him to put the candy back. And as I was trying to dole out my coupons and run my debit card through the machine, I had to also keep an eye on each boy with my peripheral vision because Boy #2 was pushing buttons on the debit machine while spinning and flailing his arms, and Boy #3 went from grabbing a whole stack of greeting-card sacks to standing beside the next checker over and acting like he was going to start punching numbers into the cash register to trying to get his fingers stuck in the conveyor belt to pulling out the little check-writing ledge so the next person would run into it.

By the time we got out of there, I was sweating and I’m sure my blood pressure had increased quite dramatically. The boys, however? They were oblivious. Again—the gas? It had to be because as I was giving myself some mental affirmations and taking my calming breaths so I didn’t flip out, the boys were all smiles, like they’d just had the time of their lives.

Oh well. At least I managed to get enough groceries so that I won’t have to go back until, well, tomorrow . . . Ugh.

Image courtesy of x-ray delta one on flickr

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