Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Product Review: K'Nex Ambulance Rescue Set

My boys have lots of construction sets. The Rhino has just turned 13 and he will still grab some blocks and make a tank, or a tower for his army guys to defend from a tank, or an airplane to blow up the tank that's attacking his army guys...you get the picture.

But--and I don't know why, exactly--we really never tried K'Nex building sets. I think that maybe I was a little intimidated when they were younger, seeing the huge creations that some K'Nex sets made. I remember one set, in particular, with a roller coaster, that I thought was astounding, and very cool, but which I also secretly thought must be incredibly difficult to build.

Here's what I didn't know: K'Nex, first of all, has building sets for all ages, not just those challenging super kits. And, more importantly, K'Nex were designed from the beginning to be easier to put together than the more expensive name-brand construction sets.

So K'Nex sent me a couple sets, and I chose the smaller and, I hoped, easier one, to test out: The Ambulance Rescue Set.And, wow, was it easy! I had the Rhino, home sick from school one day (don't even get me started on the sick days we've had this year), time me on my trusty stop-watch, while I unhurriedly built the models in the kit. Let me start by saying that one of my favorite features is that most K'Nex sets let you build more than one model, and that includes this set, which retails for only $4.99. You can build either an ambulance or a helicopter, and I was able to build each one (starting from scratch, after having separated all the parts again and NOT cheating at all), in less than seven minutes.

The parts snap together easily, and they stay together. They don't, for instance, break apart in the middle while you are trying to snap on that top or bottom last piece, which I have had happen with other sets a lot. And the models are really cute when they're done!

We switched places, and the Rhino took his turn. He slipped up on one step, but still he was able to easily follow the directions, which are set out in colorful picture style, so your child doesn't have to be old enough to read (the Ambulance Rescue Set is intended for ages 5+). The Rhino finished the helicopter in around 9 minutes, which had him beaming, because he loves helicopters, and I couldn't even get him to take it apart and try the ambulance, because he wanted to play with the helicopter.

So he ran and brought some bricks from his other construction toys and made up a similar model out of them--and then he "crash tested" it against the K'Nex helicopter.

That's right, he "flew" them (basically threw them up in the air) and let them crash (BAM! Into the floor) to see how they did "under crash conditions". And you know, I didn't stop him, because that's how real kids play with their toys.

And K'Nex ruled the day! They, as the Rhino said, "Utterly Pwned." These creations really do stay together much better than their competition. Occasionally, a rotor would come off of the helicopter after multiple crashes, but the competition simply couldn't hold up at all under those conditions. It invariably broke up into a big crashed pile o' bricks every time.

My Take: K'Nex are easy to put together; we found them better than other construction sets for ease of connection. They are also very affordably priced, with the Ambulance Rescue Center running just $4.99. I liked that you could make either an ambulance or a helicopter with just the one set. Directions were easy to follow. A+!

The Rhino's Take (Kid's Point-of-View): The K'Nex Ambulance Rescue Center really held up to a lot of abuse! The helicopter didn't fall apart while I was trying to snap it together, and it didn't fall apart when I crashed it. I'm looking forward to making the ambulance, but I'm still enjoying the helicopter. A+!

We loved K'Nex so much, we're going to give some away! K'Nex has provided us with the coolest of the cool, the Dueling Racers 136-piece building set, complete with two motors! This fantastic kit lets your child build two model race cars at once and then pit them against each other. And you could WIN it! Stay tuned to Cool Moms Rule! for details on this upcoming giveaway.

Um...You Sure You Want to Go With That?

So, I've got the TV on this morning as I blog, and a commercial comes up for a training school called, "Universal Technical Institute." And the voice-over says, "Want a career where you work with your hands? Then UTI is for you!"

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of the initials UTI, my mind doesn't go to a happy place. I'm amazed no one thought to say, "Hey, do you think maybe people will associate us with urinary tract infections?!"

Friday, April 25, 2008

What Should Happen to the Kid Who Tried to Poison Her Classmate?

A big story in the news recently, being discussed, among other places, on Metafilter, is that of the middle-school student who put peanut crumbs in the lunchbox of a child known to suffer from potentially-deadly peanut allergies, just to "see what would happen."

The picture to the left, from this story's coverage, is deliberately misleading, by the way: one of the students was a girl, and both were in middle school, not cute little tots as the somewhat inflammatory photo suggests.

Did this girl, this thirteen-year-old, really understand the consequences of her actions when she left peanut-butter cookie crumbs in the lunchbox of the other student, who she knew had allergies? Are the consequences, including possible death, being exaggerated in this case? Many kids these days do suffer from life-threatening allergies which could lead to shock and even death, while other allergies are much milder. The fact that the potential victim (who luckily discovered the peanut crumbs before touching them or eating any of his lunch) suffered from allergies was well-known.

According to the news coverage, the "bully" knew the victim and, according to her friends, wanted to "see what would happen."

I can picture how this started as one of the girls in a circle of friends joking, "Hey, I dare you to bring peanuts in and see what happens!" Just a dumb, harmless remark--until one of them actually does it, the whole idea having spiraled from some silly joke comment into a potentially life-threatening act. Was this girl actually intending to kill the allergic child or honestly ignorant of the potential consequences? I'd like to know what the almost-victim thinks. The "bully" maybe even imagined she would come forward if the kid was in real danger and point out the peanuts in the lunch box, ending up as some kind of hero for saving the victim's life.

The reality is that middle-school kids, and especially middle-school girls, run the gamut from best friends one day to "I hate you, I'm covering your MySpace account with profanity" threats the next. Very real consequences arise out of absurd situations at this age: where I live, we actually had a girl in the high school die after being stabbed in the chest by another girl. How did something like this happen? They were fighting over a boy.

This made me, the Mom of two boys, want to run and yell at them: Make sure you are very clear on who is your girl-friend and who isn't--and seriously, don't even consider someone who would carry a knife around as "girl-friend" material!

It can be scary as hell being a parent these days.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mamma Mia! You could win big with this one

Ponds is having a contest, and I just have to tell you all about it, because it is just for Moms over 40! That's right, all you young skinny popstars, get outta the way, because the soccer Moms are going to rock it. tee hee!

Now pay attention, because I want one of you to win this contest. And I'm about to tell you what you can win. Ready?

A trip to London!

Now I have your attention, don't I?

Okay, what do I have to do?
You and two friends (or two sisters, or two strangers, doesn't matter) need to get together and download a song from Mamma Mia! over here.

That doesn't sound so hard. What's the catch?
You have to perform it on video. Now wait, where are you going? Get back here! You can do it!

Do I have to?
Yes, of course! Pond's is looking for three 40-something and fabulous women to rock their world by performing one of these great songs in a video.

What if I'm nervous?
Remember, you'll only be competing with other Moms like you, not super-genius web tech guru teens. Make your video, "embody the sassiness, sexiness and confidence of Donna & the Dynamos from the movie, MAMMA MIA!!"

Really, that's all I have to do?!
Yes! And if your trio wins, you will star in your own performance in London!

Wow. That's so worth it!
I knew you'd love it. Now go ahead, get your trio together, pick your song, and get the show on the road!

What's the hurry?
The contest ends soon! You only have until April 30th to submit your video online.

Okay, I'm off to win with Pond's an Mama Mia! Good luck!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Flag Pin Lapels Do Not Trump Real Issues

Over at PopConsumer, there is an excellent post by Maria Niles on the whole, "What's up with the flag lapel pin?" issue, which has taken on this astronomical importance in the eyes of the media but leaves the rest of us, I think, wondering what in the world has happened to politics in this country.

For those of you who didn't watch the debate between Obama and Hilary Clinton this week, much was made of the fact that Obama doesn't go around wearing a flag pin on his lapel to show his patriotism. So much discussion went on about this non-issue and the semantics of the word "bitter" and Reverand Wright and all this other bunkum that nearly an entire hour passed before the state of the economy was even brought up.

Really. The economy, the number one issue on Americans' minds these days, didn't come up for 53 minutes.

But flag lapel pins? They got right into that baby.

Now, I don't agree with the view of the poster on PopConsumer that this is a racial issue, but the post is definitely worth the read, and you can check out my own take on the issue under the comments.


New look for Cool Moms Rule!

So, did you notice the new look?

I imagine one of your first thoughts was, "Mommy blogger on the edge" of what, exactly? Sanity, reason, everyone's nerves, a dangling precipice, take your pick. Hopefully, though, what you will find is that Cool Moms Rule is right out there with you, blogging about things you really want to know about (anybody catch all the ridiculous talk during the latest Clinton/Obama debate about flag lapel pins? puhh-lease).

Also, I hope you noticed that now you can follow me on Twitter over on the sidebar, or pop in and say hello. (Wow, Flickr and Twitter! I'm just all over the place these days.)

I did the artwork for the new look myself (because design-expensive=not in my budget right now), so that's why it is...ahem...perhaps less than professional. Please keep that in mind if you email me or post your comments about the new look--no, "My 5-year old could draw a better picture than that!" no matter how true that may be.

But really, please do let me know what you think! I'm looking for constructive criticisms, please, and any comments about the blog and its new look. Please don't weigh my mailbag down gushing over how hot I look in that Flickr photostream. I can only take so much adoration. ;)

Speaking of which, today is my actual, real, honest-to-goodness birthday. Which I am spending alone with the Rhino, who is coughing and sneezing all over me, home sick from school today. The Engineer and the Owl are at a robotics competition in Atlanta and won't be back until tomorrow. So you can see how glamorous the real life of a Mommy blogger is!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Camp Baby Photos are Up Over at Flickr

I just joined Flickr, too, btw, so please add me if you are a regular over there! Oh, and drop me a line if you have any suggestions about tagging photos, etc. I've seen people do great stuff with their pics over there, but I haven't even read most of the FAQ yet.

Here's the link to the photostream:


pluckymisha's Camp Baby photosetpluckymisha's Camp Baby photoset

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This Full House is Celebrating My Birthday!

Well, okay, not really, but she IS giving away a COOL flip Video Camera that would be the Best Present Ever, and you all need to go over and sign up to win it for me.

Yes, for me.


Because Friday's my birthday, so there.

TIA for the present!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Product Review: Kellogg's Wild Animal Crunch cereal

The folks from Kellogg's sent me out a box of their new cereal, Wild Animal Crunch, the result of a new partnership with Animal Planet.

Now, I'm already a big fan of Animal Planet, and my youngest son, who you will hear me call the Rhino, adopted an endangered black rhino called Piggy as a result of hearing about poaching from watching the Animal Planet channel, which is how he got his nickname. So the partnership is, as Martha Stewart would say, "a good thing."

So, how is the cereal? Well, first, the box is great. I know that the box sounds like a strange thing to focus on, but you know how, as a Mom, the first thing you do when you buy any food for your family is turn over the box and read the ingredients? Well, Kellogg's has this thing called Nutrition at a Glance. The top of Wild Animal Crunch has all the important nutritional info you want right there, in big numbers for those of us who usually have to hold things out at arm's length to read them (of course, the kids stick everything RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE when they want you to see it, don't they?!). So, right away, just by looking at the top of the box, you know the calories, sugar, protein, fat...all the stuff Moms worry about, and Wild Animal Crunch is only 100 calories per serving, with only 1g of fat and lots of vitamin C, so I was pleased.

The box is also great, btw, for kids, because we know that a lot of times they want us to buy a cereal based on how cool the box is, and the box Kellogg's sent me is in a "Marine Collector's Package." Now, I don't collect cardboard cereal boxes, but if I did, this would be the cutest ever, since it has two adorable seals, necks twined, on the front, with one of them looking soulfully into the camera. The Rhino noticed that right away and pointed out how cute the seals were. On the back, there's "trading cards", with pics of a sea turtle and an orca and a dolphin and fun facts about each. There's also a marine Word Scramble and a True or False quiz your kids can do while they are sitting at the table scarfing down the cereal.

My favorite part of the box, though, is the small section on the back, in the lower right corner, that invites kids to "Be a Voice for Animals!" I'm a sucker for wildlife activism, belong to the Audubon Club, adopted our poor pet kitty from a shelter and get updates from the Black Rhino Conservancy every month, so I completely endorse helping out animals whenever and wherever possible. Animal Planet has a program they call ROAR, which requires you to be 18 or over to sign up, but kids can definitely take part, and I hope that when you are done reading my insightful review : ) you will go check it out.

I, for one, also welcome the lack of cheap plastic Corporate Mascot Branded Toy inside the box. I don't know about you, but I have enough of those things cluttering up my kitchen drawers already.

So enough about the box, on to the cereal. Which, yes, I ate myself, and I have to say Wild Animal Crunch is darn good! It comes in really cute animal shapes, like elephants and turtles (more kid appeal!) and says it is vanilla/chocolate flavored, but to me it just tasted like a slightly sweet whole grain cereal. The vanilla/chocolate flavor is not overpowering at all. I don't want the Rhino bouncing off the walls, so that's really what I'm looking for: something sweet enough he'll try it and want to keep eating it, but not really high in refined sugars because who needs that? The Rhino happily ate some and was glad to find it didn't "taste healthy," which to him would be a bad thing. ; ) He said he liked it and would have it again.

Those who worry about food allergies will want to know that Wild Animal Crunch contains wheat, and some soybean traces in the corn used to make the cereal.

Overall, I'm really pleased with Kellogg's partnership with Animal Planet, and I give Wild Animal Crunch cereal a big thumb's up!

Friday, April 4, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

Wow. Just wow. I never knew this program existed, and this is so vital, I'm putting the info here instead of linking.

What's it all about? No-cost (that's right, completely FREE) eye checks for infants. For everyone. You, me, any Mom with an infant.

Dr. Scott Jens spoke with all of us Mommy bloggers about the incredible InfantSEE.org program, and every Mom should know about it. A Not-for-Profit organization with more than 7000 doctors enrolled nationwide, with a grant from Congress of $438K last December (and it should have been more), Infantsee saves children's vision, and in some cases, their lives.

Dr. Jens made a compelling case for the need for infant vision checks. Infant's eyes go through a lot during their development, and recommended eye checks should also occur again at age 3 and age 6. Your pre-school may run these checks, but there is no substitute for an InfantSEE doctor early on, because these people are amazing, and have resources just not available to pediatricians.

We saw a video with several tearful stories of infants whose conditions were diagnosed as a direct result of this program, including one boy who had a dangerous tumor on his eye. It was just a small white spot, and his pediatrician ignored it or missed it entirely during his regular check-ups, but his Mom just knew something was wrong. You know that intuition you have when you just know something is up?

Anyway, she took her son to an InfantSEE doctor, who correctly diagnosed the tumor. This boy (I shudder even writing this) had to have his eye removed. If his Mom hadn't taken him to the InfantSEE doctor, though, he would, quite simply, have died. Even after he was diagnosed, the woman's pediatrician was defensive, claiming the tumor, which was large and growing, had basically appeared overnight, and not been there when he examined the boy. But the kid wears glasses now (cute sunglasses!) and he can see, and he's alive, so to hell with that pediatrician, and YAY! InfantSEE.

If you have an infant, get his eyes checked free. You'd be amazed; I spoke with a fellow blogger whose son had an eye problem that wasn't diagnosed until elementary school. The teachers felt her son was mentally handicapped. Turns out he was a very bright boy trying hard to compensate for horrible vision.

I could go on with more stories, but just go to the InfantSEE program's website or contact them by phone at:

(888) 396-EYES

(InfantSEE is a not-for-profit program which is only partially funded by J&J and affiliated with the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute. Grants from Congress also help fund their important, life-changing, and sometimes life-saving work.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm so-o-o-o tired...

Dr. Jodi Mindell, author of Sleep Deprived No More, delivers some interesting factoids on infant and toddler sleep patterns, as well as how to increase the sleep your infant or toddler gets every night through the use of the proper bedtime routines and consistent conditioning. If your kids can't sleep, you know you aren't getting any rest either.

Click-through to go to Viv's account of Dr. Jodi Mindell's talk at Camp Baby and find out how to customize a plan to fit your own toddler's or infant's sleep routine.

Ted Allen Dares to Pair, and Shares Some Dirt Along the Way

You know him from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Top Chef." But I had wine with him last night...

That's right, me and Ted Allen. And about 50 other Mommy Bloggers. It's all part of Camp Baby. Ted shared information on pairing wine with meals, without the snobbery. And he had some great stories about the chefs he works with on Top Chef. Read all about it after the jump--I promise you it's worth the trip!

Follow the link to Camp Baby!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Follow the Link for LIVE updates from Camp Baby!

I'm blogging LIVE until the end of the week from New Brunswick, NJ, and you can follow this link any time to read all about Viv's Adventures at Camp Baby! The page will be updated every day, so keep checking back for the latest news and commentary.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In Memoriam

I had a horrible month last month, to be honest. I hate to sound so down and pessimistic but it really was the worst.

First, the Owl had four teeth (and his wisdom teeth!) pulled. The orthodontist went over with us at great length why that was necessary, poor kid. I was trying to find him soft foods he could eat, and just when he could have (maybe) progressed to the harder stuff, it was time for the braces! So he is back to soft foods. Thank goodness, he has a girlfriend that makes him happy (at 14!). They're very cute together (but I'm still keeping a close eye on them!)

During all of this, the Rhino was sick, and both the boys had FCAT all week, which they are not supposed to be absent for, no never never never, so I picked the Rhino up the moment his test was over and stayed with him until I could run and pick the Owl up, get some soft food the Owl could eat, get some bland food the Rhino could eat, and rush home again!

Leo, our kitty, was six months old and went in to get neutered, because I am a responsible per owner and that's what you do.

And then he got sick.

At first, I thought maybe he was just recovering from the operation, but he wasn't himself. He slept too much, and his eyes looked cloudy. I took him back to the vet for antibiotics; they thought it was a respiratory virus, which seemed most likely. It wasn't, and the antibiotics didn't help. I had managed to keep him eating, but still he was losing weight.

He got sicker, and with everything else going on I got very stressed. I caught shingles, which, if you ever have the chance to do? Don't. They're painful, and much worse than I remember my childhood chicken pox being. I still have red marks, and it's been three weeks now.

I took the kitten back to the vet, who had no clue; he gave us stronger antibiotics. I fed Leo his favorite foods, made sure he had lots of water, gave him lysine to make his immune system stronger. In response, he simply got worse.

His back legs stopped working; he weaved like he was drunk and couldn't hold himself up. We took him to the animal hospital. When I put him on the floor to show them how he was walking, he couldn't hold himself up at all: his front legs just slid out from under him, too, and he fell over on his side. Through all this, he had never whimpered or cried out or hissed or anything. He rarely even meowed; but we knew he must be miserable when he growled at the vet. I'd never heard him do anything like that. I couldn't stand the idea of him being in pain.

The vet at the hospital was honest, "You are at the point, now, of diving in with both feet for a whole battery of tests...or deciding that enough is enough and quitting." We were thinking now, were pretty sure, that it was FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). Which is invariably fatal. And which, since we only had the one cat and he was an indoor kitty, Leo must have caught from that first vet visit to have him neutered. Or it could have been Feline leukemia, or lymphoma, though cancer is rare in a kitten that young.

Just to run more tests, they would have had to catheterize him (he couldn't even walk), run an IV, and put him on prednisone (he was dangerously anemic). And if the blood tests weren't definitive, we were talking about blood transfusions and going after bone marrow...

He was only seven months old, he was a kitten, and I keep thinking, "If I hadn't taken him in to be neutered, maybe he would be okay..."


I felt that putting a kitten through all that was something we didn't want to do. Especially since the most likely diagnoses were invariably fatal. I felt that it was better just to be merciful, because he wouldn't understand why we were doing all that.

So they brought Leo in to me, wrapped up in a warm towel because his temp had sunk to 95.5, which is very low for a cat, and I said good-bye to him. I told him what a special kitten he was, how even the Engineer, so against getting a cat at first, had fallen in love with him, even laying down by Leo's bowl and feeding him with a spoon to get him to eat; how the Rhino had always adored him, and the Owl thought he was the most awesome cat ever. And I told him I loved him and he was my best friend, and I was sorry he had to go through all this. I reminded him of his soft shelf in the sun and the roast beef he loved and how he loved to play and couldn't any more.

And then I let him go.


I promise, my next post will be much more cheerful.
Cool Moms Rule! is in full compliance of the new FTC rules concerning Bloggers. I disclose on all posts where a product was received for free and/or if there was any kind of financial compensation involved.