Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rib Mountain State Park

Okay before I start telling you about this awesome park, I first want to brag that I planned exactly the right amount of food for dinner last night. We finished off every single bit, no wasted food, no "not quite enough to save." Now, I think towards the end the boys were having a who can eat more noodles contest...... But, still it was perfect.

So, if you're ever in the Wasau, WI area this is a great park for climbing and exploring. Here's their website: Rib Mountain State Park

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There's an observation tower that I forced the boys to climb up. They appear to of inherited my fear of edges, and the whole way up is quite wide open and I kept having horrid imaginings of someone slipping and falling right through the railing. Princess was lucky enough to ride up on Daddy's shoulders, and she thought that was the cat's meow.

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We had so much fun climbing on rocks and all over. Sadly there really isn't anything like this near us in Texas, or at least nothing I'd be willing to go to in 100+ degree weather right now.

So if you're ever in the area make a point to go. Now technically it's not a mountain, but to a 4 year old it sure is.

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Sigh, I do love big forests. That would probably be one of the few things to tempt me out of Texas.

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See the caterpillar, really it won't hurt you.

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The only one brave enough to have the caterpillar climb on her.

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Superman spent the last half of the hike with Daddy carrying him. Princess of course spent most of the hike being carried, the privelege of being 2.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wisconsin Cheese Factory

While I'm trying to post our outings on our trip more or less in order I figured I'd go ahead and post this one, because the other two I need to have better light and actually have a computer I feel comfortable (that means a screen larger than a postcard) being able to move between windows. I should be sleeping, but I'm not let's face it I'm an insomniac.

Okay, we all love cheese. That is probably a big understatement, but hey I"m allowed one or two of those. So one of our planned stops in Wisconsin was the Cheese Factory in Rudolph, sadly I can't find the website.

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If you go there head up the stairs and look down and watch as they make the cheese.

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First it goes into the big vats on the side. After it has cultured into curds and whey it is poured into these big trays.

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There it is stirred and the whey is slowly drained out. I tried to get a close-up of the stirring, but it came out all blurry.

Then it is poured into wooden boxes where the curds will be kept as it changes into cheese (I admit I do not know exactly how this is done, to some extent it seems to be just smashing it down). Sadly no picture of this because it was too far away for you to actually know what they're doing.

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After buying insanely large amount of cheese go and eat large amounts of really good ice cream. Notice Batman feeding Superman (how do I know who's who when they're dressed the same? Superman has the bandaids from a bad fall) ice cream, that's because Princess decided she'd had enough ice cream. It was too messy. HOw can you have enough ice cream?


Now the really cool part of all of this is you can get curds to try. They taste like cheese but are little blobs and as you eat them it squeaks. It's a real interesting experience. They have pretty much every type of cheese you could ever imagine (cheese with bacon? cheese with salami...... tomato basil cheese). And about a million different types of cheddar.

Picnic Talk: Entertainment on the Go

We are currently traveling cross country, so this really is a rather appropriate question for me. Here's what we're doing to keep them entertained from Wisconsin to Texas:

1. I won 2 Tag readers and the collection of most of their books. The really cool part is one is a school tag reader and it can hold all the books we own! This has been the most helpful thing for us because they can do it on their own, I just have to switch the books around. We're keeping them in a diaper box right next to my seat.
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obviously this is the wrong picture, this is a great reason not to try and do memes while traveling. I got it all wrong.

2. I got a whole slew of sticker books, stickers and other such stuff from Target and other such places over the last several months. Superman in particular loves to color and has filled up several of the books. We also learned not to let them have markers in the car. I thought they'd outgrown that particular problem, but apparently not. So, that leads to the next one.

3. Color Wonder books and markers. They are wonderful because they only color on the special paper. The downside is most of the cooler books only come as parts of sets and so you're constantly getting more markers. I wish I could just buy the coloring books. Yes, I know you can buy pads of blank paper, but Superman wants to color pictures not draw.

4. Small toys. We got several small toys that fit in their little backpacks that work wonders for keeping them entertained. It's also fairly amusing to us to listen to the elaborate plots they come up with.

Okay now to general waiting in line:

1. Find your ________ We play the touch game. It starts like this "Touch your nose, touch your chin. That's the way the touch game begins." NOw if you follow the script you go through all sorts of fun things, ending with "Touch youy elbow where it bends, and that's the way the touch game ends."

2. Sing the alphabet song and I will sign the letters, they're kind of starting to do it as well.

3. Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes- always popular and fun to watch them try and keep up

4. Truthfully, I also just have them practice sitting still. They need lots of practice at it, and I also have them put their hands on their heads because otherwise they put their hands on their brother or sister and that starts a whole new round of problems.

Also, in general anytime we know we're going to be going somewhere they will have to be a while I have them pack their backpacks with toys and books so we have something for them to do. THen I will pack my purse with an extra toy or two and some snacks. That and I've discovered an Iphone can have all sorts of fabulously wonderful things to entertain your kids. We entertained Superman for 3 hours in the ER with it, I love You Tube. YOu can find lots of old Sesame Street and other things on it.

Well, that's my rambling list of ideas, if you want more go here. Meh, Mr. Linky is closed, so I'll just post this for normal. But, keeping the link because that gives me a chance to find other cool ideas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God's Provision in the midst of a tornado

We stopped at the Welcome Center for Iowa and had a very friendly and helpful worker there warn us we were driving into a tornado storm and to listen to the radio to know what was going on. We did, and as we drove saw the sky darken to black at 2:30 in the afternoon. Soon we were driving in 50 mile winds and watching the rain fly across the road in sheets.

Each underpass we drove through had both sides of it choked up with people on both sides preparing for the coming tornado. Finally we decided to find a restaurant or somewhere we could stop for an hour or so. We did a quick search on our phones and found a place we could stop 16 miles away.

We drove slowly averaging maybe 30 miles an hour and after a long time we ran quickly into a pizza parlor. And in the 10 seconds we were outside got soaked.

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Princess and Batman crawling into their "cave"

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Superman running across the room.

Normally we don't let them run around at restaurants, but this was a special exception, and they had lots of fun eating pizza and running around.

Once we started driving again we truly saw God's provision. As we drove along we saw three semis overturned on the side of the road. We passed a power line that had come down. There were several emergency vehicles that were out there helping other cars. God provided a safe place for us to stay and warm up. We got a good meal and the children felt safe.

Yes Mom, we are safe and I thought you might like more details than I posted on facebook.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Union Station, Saint Louis, Missouri

One way we're avoiding buying too many random souveniers by getting postcards. THe boys found ones of Union Station in St. Louis and so we decided to make our stop for lunch that day there.
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This is my rendition of hte postcard they found. We had a fabulous lunch eating crackers and sausage. It had been a bit of a miserable morning with Superman throwing up all morning. He was feeling better and ate like crazy of course this is after he threw up all over the car and after he threw up all over Jeff.

They had lots of fun splashing in the fountain.
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Batman and Princess splashing. It was amazing how they found the one puddle next to the fountain and splashed like crazy.
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Union Station has been transformed into a very cool mall and museum. The great thing is it's free! We had a blast looking at the model trains.
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(Doesn't that photo look cool?)

Then we went by the coin rides and had fun pretending to drive helicopters and such stuff.
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I'm gonna try to post a quick reply to the Summer Picnic Question next. I'm so glad to have my laptop back and access to the internet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

10 Things You May Not Know About Me

I got tagged over at Orange Juice for this, and was having fun thinking of the different 10 things I could put in. I'm going to delay post this to come out while we're out of town, that way it doesn't look like I've completely forgotten about my blog.

1. I'm left-handed and during middle school I went through a phase where I wanted to know everything about being lefthanded. Interestingly enough none of my kids seem to be left handed

2. I hate being called mama. My kids don't call me that, the only people who do are random waiters and stuff and my Mom in front of my kids. It drives me NUTS! (this is a not so subtle hint Mom, STOP!)

3. I tend to think everyone can do what I do. So, when I run into someone who sews but can't freehand a pattern to put a cat applique on I'm confused. I also tend to think everyone knows what I do, this can lead to confusing conversations sometimes.

4. I'm a huge Star Trek fan. Once upon a time I knew the names of all the original series episodes, and the first 5 seasons of Next Gen. For some reason I never really learned the names of the last 2 seasons or Deep Space 9 episodes, even though DS9 is my favorite series.

5. I drink water and Dr. Pepper like a fish. My husband thinks I'm 99% liquid.

6. My thumbs are double jointed

7. When I'm pregnant about the only thing I can keep down for the first trimester is salsa and chips. There's a good chance my kids are like 70% salsa and chips, the other remaining percentage is probably breakfast shakes.

8. I don't like Diego. The songs get stuck in my head with little provocation, and nobody randomly throws spanish words into their conversation like that. HOwever 2 if of my kids absolutely love Diego and would watch it all the time if they could.

9. I love to eat cookie dough. When we go to Papa Murphy's I'll get a big tub of their cookie dough and spend the next week eating it. Not a single cookie will be made.

10. I'm a weird combination of procrastinator and get things done. If I'm not doing something I"m a little antsy and distracting people. Oh, and I'm probably ADD or ADHD to some extent. Or that's what several people have told me.

Not, who to tag.......

1. Mama Jenn
2. Cheerios Underfoot
3. Snail's Trail

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And we're off

Like that amazingly fast herd of cats that we are. We've almost to Wisconsin, but here's some pictures from our tip up.

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Everyone loaded up and playing with their TAGs.

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Supplies for the day. Each day I add a new coloring book and sheet of stickers, I also change around the books they have to read for the day. We also broke down and bought a DVD player for the car and they get to watch about an hour or two of movie. Yesterday they watched some old "Wonderful World of Disney" episodes about big cats. Those were very popular with my animal crazy kids. I love being able to check out movies from the library. The adults listened to Agatha Christie novels.


Okay, better go eat before we hit the road. I'll try and post about the cool spot we found in Saint Louis because of a postcard the boys got.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Austin Science and Nature Center

Yesterday we went to the Austin Nature and Science Center. I love this place, it's on the other side of Austin from us, so I tend to not remember how cool it is.

There are about five different areas in there to explore, and even spending 2 hours we did not spend anywhere near all the time we could have.

First there's a visitor's center with three areas:

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Princess exiting the cave

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I love the mural in the background

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Superman using his "spyglass."

1. a recreation of the natural habitat with a cave to walk into and rocks to climb on and a tree that you can lift up pieces and see what's inside. My kids have easily spent an hour there enacting different adventures they've come up with. It's really hilarious.

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Princess getting an artifact to explore

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Batman looking at his item

2. an explore nature center, you can pull cleaned animal bones, rocks, various other artifacts off shelves and look at them under big microscopes and feel them. Also you can bring in artifacts to be examined and earn points to take home some of the stuff they have on exhibit.

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3. An exploratory center with different animal skins, some animal bones (including a huge cow bone that my kids insist is a dinosaur bone), antlers, and turtle shell. There's a tripod magnifying glass that you can put stuff under and examine it.

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Exploring the creepy crawlies, and doing a very good job not being loud

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It is hard to get good pictures of your kids looking at animals. It really is. There's lots of back of the head shots

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As I'm sure you can guess, this is "Baby Jaguar."

This is the first time we actually looked at the animals they have here. They're all native animals that have been rescued, so there's quite a few birds and coyotes and such. There's also the world's cutest racoon that used to be a pet, and now loves to play games with the visitors. They had so much fun talking about the different animals.

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Superman is on the left (I put these labels in here because otherwise in 2 weeks I'm going to look at this picture and have no idea which child is which, it's really sad)

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Princess happily using her pink shovel
There's a dino dig site. They've made cast replicas of some dinosaur bones found in the area and you can dig it out of the sand and pebbles. There's a nice supply of shovels to be used. My kids love this area. Of course we did this backwards, we should have gone here first and then the water, but we just did the water twice.

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The excitement of this came when Princess discovered that if she let her shoes go in the water they floated down stream. "Uh oh! Wheee!"

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Princess noticed Miss Tami holding her skirt out of the water, so she had to do the same thing. So very cute.

The water area is really just a shallow stream that you can walk through and jump from rock to rock. At it's deepest it get to about knee level on my 2 year old. It's perfect.


Okay and for two of my favorite non-kid pictures:
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Now you see me

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Now you don't
The bob white quail came up just as I took the second picture, and it was just too cool. It's even cooler when you're tabbing between the two on my camera.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Art Supplies and what you use them for

So, I saw one of the people at the Picnic wanting to know what different arts and crafts stuff is used for and what to get and when and how and all of that stuff, so here's my list of what is what and what it can be used for:

PAINT
tempara paint or poster paint-this is my go to for paint projects. It mostly washes out, and doesn't really stain, and works for most projects you'll do through elementary age
finger paint- this like it says is intended to be painted with fingers, it spread easier to my mind and to me feels slightly slimy, it doesn't seem to stick to you as much as tempara paint does, it washes off your hands easier. You're supposed to use special finger paint paper, but in reality I don't think everyone does.
watercolors- this comes in 2 different forms, there's the cake form you remember from school, which I've never had much luck with, and there's the tube form that you squirt out, I haven't experimented much with it, but that's on my list to try at some point
acrylic paint- this is permanent once it's on your clothes it does not come off, so why would you use it with kids? well, making a handprint apron for a Father's Day gift, or other projects like that. This does not wash off with water like tempara paint, which can be helpful depending on the project
glitter glue- not really a paint, but I've used it similarly, it's glue with glitter in it, depending on the brand it does not dry completely and will stay slightly sticky (so don't use it in homemade books) and it has a nice dimensional quality, it tends to be a neat way to use glitter where it won't get everywhere

PAPER (in order of weight, more or less)
tissue paper- aside from being great for stuffing in gift bags, it's great for collages, paper mache, making sun catchers
copy paper- this is what you use in your printer, great for general coloring projects, and a lot of art projects
construction paper- this is slightly bigger than copy paper, if you cut it down to size it would run through your printer, but it's a lot of work. It comes in all sorts of colors and sizes. I tend to get the one that's closer to normal copy paper because most of our projects at this point aren't big enough enough to need the larger size
manilla paper- this may depending on the brand be lighter than construction paper, it comes in the large size paper 15x24?, I have no clue on the measurements. This is what the schools use all the time for projects. It makes great basis for making books.
cardstock-this goes through your printer, is the same size as copy paper and is a lot stiffer, it's like a really light weight cardboard. This is great for something you want to stand up on its own. Or that you think will get a lot of wear and tear
fun foam- this isn't really paper, but I use it in similar ways. It's a light foam that is the size of paper, it comes in lots of colors and textures. It doesn't really fold, or hold a crease so it can't be used for stuff with folds, but otherwise it's great.

Crayons markers and the like
Crayons- get crayola, go to the 20 cent back to school sales and buy all you want then, I like crayons more than markers because they don't bleed through, don't accidentally stain my carpet (thank you boys), and they can be cut into little pieces and melted into all sorts of cool projects
Markers- get washable, in theory it comes out, I like crayola brand, but Rose Art is starting to get some decent products as well
Color Wonder- this is a newer product that only colors on the paper made for it, my kids have never liked it because there is a slight delay while the chemical reaction takes place before the color shows up, that and it doesn't seem to color as well as regular markers
Sharpies- permanent, does not come out, great for making cool looking clothes, but in general that's one to keep way out of their hands
colored pencils-I love these, little kids don't like them as much because they don't cover as much as fast as crayons or markers, but they provide some really cool looking results
watercolor pencils- after you're done coloring with these you can brush over it with a wet paintbrush and it will blur slightly to make a watercolor effect. Kind of cool to my mind.

General cool stuff
glitter- high on the messiness factor if not carefully monitored. I think it works best to use it on a cookie tray and in theory contain the glitter. You shake it out onto wet glue and it will stick to your paper and give it some bling factor. I don't use it much because I have the worst luck with it getting stuck everywhere.
googly eyes- these are either a sticker backing or glue on, but they make animal projects look super cool
felt- this is sold by the sheet in most craft stores, it's a type of fabric that can have all sorts of fun textures and colors
stickers- I love these as a quick easy way for a preschooler to add color and characters, my kids still mostly just scribble, and this lets them add recongnizable characters, and they're fun to put on
pom poms or fuzzies- these are great for adding dimension, you glue them on, and they are fun, my kids love to stuff them in things
pipe cleaners or chennille stems- can be bent into most any shape, I"ve used them to make little dolls, they can be glued onto paper for a little texture, stuck into egg cartons to make legs or antennae, endless uses


That covers most of the obvious craft items you can buy in a store I can think of, anyone else have any to add?

How to make a bead snake

Here's what you need: felt, yarn, straws, buttons or googly eyes (I can't find my googly eyes)

1. Cut out 2 snake heads.

2. Cut 2 pieces of yarn, one in red for the tongue, and one really long one for the body (I cut ours about 2 feet or so). Lay the red one at the mouth portion and the other at the back of the head

3. Glue the 2 head pieces together, use lots of glue. Also, I discovered that felt soaks up glue like nobodies business. We used so much.

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4. Smash that snake real well so it gets good and glued.

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5. Choose 2 buttons for eyes. Glue them on. Mumble to yourself that you need to find those silly googly eyes.

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Notice you can see the glue has soaked through the felt. It's really sad

6. Take your straws, cut them into little pieces (I cut mine between .5 inches and 1.5 inches). This was a great way to use up some non-bendy straws I had accidentally bought.

7. Start threading them onto the yarn. To make it easier to thread tape the end of the yarn. After they've been playing for a while have a kid come up to you wanting to put "beads" on the tongue, and think, I should have taped that one as well.

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As a side note, I would like to point out how I was good and let the kids mostly guide this activity. I did not seize the felt take it to the sewing machine and get it done quickly as I was tempted. I was GOOD. Now later when the snakes fell apart because the glue doesn't hold it together like it should because of the ridiculous absorbency, then I sewed it together. But, that's another story. I also need to sew an eye on. They have been playing with these nonstop since we made them. We had to take them over to a friend's house just to show off our snakes.

Oh, and for more great posts of things people made go here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crafts we love

Okay, I'll start off this post with I love to do crafts with my kids. I recognize that most, I mean pretty much all of what we're doing is not art. But, we all enjoy it, and I"m learning to let them enjoy the process and not worry about the end result. It's a work in progress.

Here's my favorite art supplies: scissors, markers, glue, construction paper

Here's commonly used supplies: fun foam, fabric, buttons, ribbon, paint, cardboard boxes, old containers, milk cartons

I ran through lots of different ideas of what to include in this post. I've decided to go through and link the different crafts I intend to do with my kids at some imaginary point in the future when I cover that topic. So, here goes:

Bear
Our Homeschool Fun- there were several cool ideas here, not to mention a cool looking lapbook

Birds
Ramblings of A Crazy Woman- cool paper plate bird, she also hosts "We Made It Friday!" a showcase of crafts from the week, great place to visit every week
Sewing School- how to make nests, I love her site for inspiration

Bugs
Sewing School- these are so cute

Butterfly/Very Hungry Caterpillar
Orange Juice- butterfly matching game
Frugal Family Fun Blog- symmetrical butterfly

Dinosaur
4 Crazy Kings- cool dinosaur fossil activity
Our Crafts N Things- construct a dinosaur skeleton
The Unexpected- cool dinosaur/dragon lacing toy

Farm
Adventures in MOmmydom- not to toot my own horn..... but here's the crafts we did
Pink and Green Mama- this is more of a "mommy craft," still it's so incredibly cool
Katie's Nesting Spot- feltboard creation about apples, kids could cut out all these pieces with help

Fish
I have lots of ideas marked for this, we're going to the coast in a few months and I want ideas to get them excited
Our Crafts N Things- crab
No Time For Flashcards- another crab, but included it because this is an awesome site
Our Crafts n Things- starfish, she must have been doing an ocean/fish theme
Just for Fun- lobster, very cute handprint craft my kids will grudgingly do when the time comes

Flowers
Ramblings of a Crazy Woman- and this is why I never throw out egg cartons
Teaching My Little Bookworm- super cute using a styrofoam cup
Ten Kids and a Dog- great stringing flower activity, my kids have just gotten into this, wouldn't Grandma love it?


That's my currently clipped crafts to do, that list will grow, and later today I'll post how we made a lacing snake. For more great talk about crafts go to: Picnic Talk

Real quick post on TAG

Christy wanted to know what I thought of the TAG reader, since I'd mentioned it in my last post. So, here's my real quick thoughts before I go corrall kids to go meet a friend at the park.

WE LOVE IT!

I first got one after reading a couple of reviews and seeing lots of people say glowing things about it. It looks like an oversized pen and you use special books with it. Your kid can touch things on the pages with the pen and it will read the books. Each TAG reader can store 5 books at a time.

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Princess loves the TAG. I have caught her sneaking into the schoolroom to get out the TAG and play with it.

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So, after we bought the first one I won a TAG from a giveaway, and got it in the mail and it came with 2 TAGs and all of the books. So, now I have almost all of the books and one TAG for each of my kids. This is wonderful because it cuts down on kids fighting.

Now, downsides of TAG:

1. It's small. You can easily lose it because like I said it's an oversized pen. I have to be real strict that they can only play with it at the desk. We have one other TAG reader that I can't find because they kids have hidden it somewhere. It's very frustrating.

2. I've either been very unlucky or they just have problems with it, but 2 of the TAGs we've gotten haven't worked. The first one Amazon replaced with no problems. The second one I just got, so I'm working with Leap Frog to get it replaced. I'm hoping to hear from them soon because this is kind of annoying.

3. If you have more than 5 books you have to remember which books are on the TAG at that time. This is a minor complaint because you could just set out the 5 books, but still.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Product Review: Kid Tough Camera

Christy over at Superheroes and Princesses tagged me for this product review. And like her I took a bit to decide on what to review. I have mostly decided (there's still a part of me tempted to write about the Tag). Here goes:



Kid Tough Digital Camera

I bought mine at Wal-Mart for at least $10 less than at Amazon, just so you know.

Now, why did I buy this? To protect my real digital camera from destruction at the hands of my photographer wannabe Superman. If he had his way he'd run around with my camera all the time.

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Here's what I like:
-it's not too heavy
-it's nearly indestructible, the thing is waterproof up to 10 feet for 30 minutes (read you can drop it in the puddle or the pool and your camera isn't ruined)
-you can drop it down the stairs and it will still work (we haven't tested that feature YET)
-easy to take pictures and delete them
-my two year old knows how to operate it. Aside from getting confused on which way to aim it.
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What I don't like
-the flash isn't the best, it doesn't seem to illuminate too well
-there's no stabilizer, so it can get blurry pictures if the kids are too excited

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So, all in all it's pretty much what I wanted for the kids camera. At first I had thought to go oveboard and get them each one, but I think it really works better this way.

All pictures in this post have been taken with the camera (aside from the one of Batman taking a picture)

Now, I'll have to think who to tag for a product review. For now, if you have something you've been dying to talk about consider yourself tagged. Otherwise, let me think a little.
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